Maggie got settled in the chair in the middle of the room. Looking lovely as ever, she crossed her legs and looked straight at me. I had my tablet ready to go, but the cameras were off. She didn’t want an interview with cameras rolling even though I tried to talk her into it. Maybe we’ll take a picture. She hasn’t decided yet.
That’s when a golden retriever came in the door and pranced across the room. Maggie looked over at the dog and smiled, “Hey baby! Whatcha doing?” She reached down and patted the dog on his back, then looked toward the door, “I thought I told you to hold her?”
Gilmer looked in the door, “She wanted her mom!”
Maggie shook her head and sighed, “That boy! Sometimes, he just ain’t good for nothing. Isn’t that right Jake? Yeah. Good boy!”
Jake wagged his tail and licked Maggie’s hand. Then, he took a seat by Maggie’s side and looked at me. It lasted for an awkward second and then, he laid down and started licking himself.
“Is that Jake,” I asked.
“Yes, this is Jake,” Maggie answered.
“But, is that the same Jake…” I didn’t finish my question.
“Yes, this is the same Jake,” Maggie answered.
“But, he’s only mentioned in the book. I thought he passed away,” I asked.
“Well, that’s the way Mike made it seem. He didn’t want a dog and a little kid running around in the same story. Said it was too much. He wanted to keep the focus on Krista. He puts enough twists and turns in his stories, he doesn’t need anything extra to make them work anyway,” Maggie had her own way of understanding.
When she talks about Mike, she means Michael Allen, the author of A River in the Ocean, the novel that is available right now for free online now…click here: A River in the Ocean.
Jake stretched and then walked over to me to sniff around. As he walked out of the room, Maggie watched and then she turned her gaze toward me. It was stunning, but for an awkward moment. That was my cue. Time to get on with this interview.
I reviewed my notes, “Are you anything like the Maggie in the story?”
She thought about that for a moment, “I think I’m exactly like her. I like to cook. I keep a clean house. But, I think my life was pretty much defined by Gilmer and Krista.”
“How so,” I asked.
“Well, Gilmer is you know, the love of my life. Him and I make a team,” Maggie answered. “And when Krista came along, that became my life. I was a good housewife and then, I became a mother.”
“You were a good mother,” I said.
“What’s that,” Maggie asked as if she hadn’t heard me.
“I said you were a good mother. You said you were a good housewife and a mother. You left out that were a good mother,” I answered.
Maggie nodded, “I don’t know. I did the best I could I guess. I wasn’t perfect. I know I made mistakes.”
“You know, Mike wrote you very well. But, there were parts when you didn’t seem to know what you were doing.”
“Well, that’s because it’s true,” Maggie said. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I made it up as I went along. Krista was 3 or 4 when I first brought her to the house. I had no children of my own and I had never even raised a child before. So, I kind of had to figure it out as I went.”
“Well, you did a great job,” I interjected. “She grew up just fine.”
“Yes, she did,” Maggie nodded. “But really, she did most of that herself.”
“What do you mean,” I asked.
“She was on autopilot from about the time she was ten,” Maggie said. “By the time she was thirteen, it was like having another adult in the house. One day, she’s climbing trees and skipping rocks. The next day, she’s staring out of windows and locking herself in her room to draw.”
“Really,” I asked.
“Yeah, she taught herself everything. She taught herself more than what was in the books I was getting her. She grew into an artist all on her own. That wasn’t anything I pushed her into or even had to talk her into. She just reached a certain age and took off on her own,” Maggie said.
“Did that have anything to do with the time she was sick,” I asked.
Maggie looked at me for a moment. She was a little shaken. I could tell. That question was coming up, but it probably wasn’t the best time to ask.
“I didn’t mean to touch on a sore subject,” I tried to assure her.
Maggie looked at the floor, “I almost lost her.” Maggie looked up at me, “I had no idea what to do about that. I tried everything. Nothing was working. But, that’s another thing. She just pulled herself out of it. Then she changed after that. It was like she lost something. She went from a smiling, laughing child to a serious little woman. It seemed to happen overnight.”
I looked at her for a second and then went through my notes, “To maybe jump off that subject a little, what’s Gilmer like?”
“Well, he’s right outside. You want to talk to him,” Maggie asked.
“Uh, I do plan on interviewing him too. But, I wanted to hear it from you,” I said.
“Well, let me see. He is the nicest guy you can ever meet. He’d take the shirt off his back to help someone,” Maggie paused and thought. “He’s funny. Sometimes, his jokes come from out of nowhere. That’s what makes them so comical. But, it’s his actions too. You never know what he’s going to come up with.”
“So, he’s just like the Gilmer in the story,” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” Maggie said. “Gil is Gil.”
“But, there’s something about him though,” I said.
Maggie cocked her head, “How do you mean?”
“Well in all honesty, it’s hard to explain. But, he’s like a kid in a grown man’s body,” I struggled to make myself clear.
Maggie laughed, “Well, that’s a good way of putting it. He likes to invent things and play around with stuff. Some of the things he invents have no business working. But, he makes them work somehow.”
“What are some of the things he’s invented,” I asked.
Maggie thought, “When we first took over the house after his father passed away, I remember the washer and dryer being on their last legs. When they finally broke down, we didn’t have the money right away to replace them. So, I washed clothes in the tub and then hung them up outside. That’s when Gilmer came up with the dryer box. He built a closet like thing and put these cheap floor heaters in it that he got at a pawn shop. I hung the clothes up in the box and turned the heaters on. The clothes were dry about the same time it would take in a dryer.”
I shook my head, “Okay. Hey, it worked right?”
“Yeah, that’s the kind of stuff he comes up with,” Maggie said. “One time, he strung a regular fan up to the ceiling and made a ceiling fan.”
I shook my head and laughed.
“It worked pretty good,” Maggie said as she laughed with me. “He was sweating one night and he just hopped up out of bed. He went into the basement and grabbed an old floor fan. He ripped it apart and hung it from the ceiling by a hook. It did its job that night. But, he worked on it the next day. Made it more permanent with its own line.”
“He literally ran electric to it,” I asked.
“Yeah, he’s good at what he does,” Maggie said. “He understands electricity and cars. There are other things too. But, those are the two big ones.” Maggie’s eyes grew wide, “What time is it?”
“Uh, I’ve got two. Quarter after two,” I answered.
“I’ve got to go,” Maggie uncrossed her legs and grabbed her pocketbook. “I have an appointment. I didn’t think this would take that long.” She stared at me as if she asking for my permission to leave.
“Oh sure,” I said. “I understand. Maybe we can do it again?”
Maggie nodded, “Yes. We can. If you’d like.”
With that, she excused herself and left. She walked out the door and greeted Jake who was wagging his tail. Then, she kissed Gilmer and they were gone.
But, I did get the confirmation on a possible second interview one day. Definitely looking forward to it. I also finally got that picture. Overall, good interview if I can say so myself.
Russell Bartlet is a seasoned journalist of the New York Herald known mostly for the famous article “What’s In Your Beauty,” the news story that broke the truth about cosmetic companies using whale vomit in lipstick.
Read A River in the Ocean, the novel that made Maggie famous. It’s free online right now at … A River in the Ocean.