The CREEPING OUT of LEAH NEUMAN
by Mark Wynn
Time spent in Alaska is refreshing and liberating. That's why upon release from federal prison after 21 years for rape and kidnapping, Neil Callahan decided the open space might do him good.
August 13, 2018 was a date that had hung over his head like a storm cloud for 21 dark years. In those years Neil worked through a lot of problems that certainly contributed to his being incarcerated. The long months of solitude turned into years of reflection. This along with the help of not a little counseling inside, Neil felt "equipped" and "confident" to deal with his release.
One habit he picked up in prison was writing. He was encouraged to keep a journal by his counselor. From this he discovered a hidden talent. When the opportunity presented itself to write an article for the prison newspaper he accepted it.
The first article he wrote was a review of a play performed by the inmates. It was a silly and meaningless story about life inside but upon writing about it Neil found that his mind expanded and was fully occupied for days. At the end of the week Neil submitted his story to good review. He felt pride for the first time in his life.
Neil had only felt that once in 47 years and he had to have more. He remembered feeling transported writing that first article. How it occupied his mind night and day. He didn't know how he would incorporate this into his life on the outside but he knew if he ever got out he would try.
Now here he was just a few days after release and walking down the Dyea road in southeast Alaska. It connects Skagway Alaska to the site of an old gold rush boom town called Dyea. As he walked along the quiet dirt road he wondered how the last 21 years had effected him. His impulses had certainly mellowed. He hadn't felt rage for so long that he couldn't even remember why he had ever been that mad. The moon no longer effected him like when he was young either. He hadn't the urge to drink in years and doesn't see that desire returning.
Now at 47 he feels like there's still time to salvage a life. A real life. He was still young enough to meet someone and start a family he thought as he walked. He thought about how after 21 years of doing the same thing everyday it was difficult to write the kind of stories he yearned to write.
Everyday he had dreamt of freedom. He longed to capture that feeling of freedom in his writing. He realized he hadn't lived free for so long he needed a refresher course. So when the opportunity to work in Alaska for the summer presented itself he thought of no better place to clear his head.
As he walked around a bend something in the road caught his eye. He approached it and picked it up. It was a New Yorker magazine folded in half. He also found a Skagway newspaper near by that he recognized from the hotel he worked at. He gathered these up to throw away when he found a can. He noticed that the New Yorker still had an address label. The magazine belonged to someone named "Leah Neuman Brooklyn NY".
His attention was immediately drawn to the date on the cover, August 13 2018. The day he left prison this magazine left the printer he thought, then we both came here. What a happy coincidence. He wondered if this was the sort of magazine he could get something published in. From what he read he certainly could compete with jim Carrey or Parker Posie. He resigned to listening to the quiet whisper of the wind blowing through the spruce trees.
When a big noisy tour bus came around the bend Neil stepped off the road and waited for it to pass. As he looked down at the magazine in his hand and from the date to the name Leah Neuman his mind inadvertently drifted briefly back to the event 21 years earlier that led him down this road.
After all these years the memory of the daughters of an employer he once knew crept up on him. He hadn't thought much of them for many years but now here on this quiet dirt road with nothing to distract his mind, the memories forced themselves on him. This memory that had crystallized after all these years was one like so many others of his youth that began with heavy drinking.
After an employee get together, a Christmas party he recalls, he offered the two ladies a ride to their parents house but he took them out the old quarry road and... he caught himself thinking too much on the subject and snapped out of it and back onto the road as the bus sped by.
As he continued on he opened the New Yorker and glanced at a passage underlined in pen that read;
"Long before Rome, the Etruscans measured time by something called a saeculum. A saeculum spanned from any given moment until the last person who lived through that moment had died. The extent of first hand human knowledge. The way it felt to be there."
That reminded him of a room he walked through this morning leaving the hotel. It was a tour group of senior citizens talking loudly and off to the edge of the room sat a couple teenage girls absorbed in their Iphones. Did this have something to do with this term he wondered to himself.
As he walked on wondering about how a saeculum related to this scene he had witnessed another bus came grinding around the bend. He stepped out of the road and turned to face the bus. He also wondered about the saeculum he was living through.
Stepping back into the road, he turned another page and a poem caught his attention entitled "Swallows". He was reminded of the chimney swallows that circled the old farmhouse he grew up in in Massachusetts. As he skimmed the poem he froze on the last verse on the page. It read;
"The origin of myth-a buried secret, rape,a cut out tongue Two sisters wronged, where there's no right, Till transformation fledges flight."
As he closed the magazine he detected the slight scent of perfume emanating from the pages of the magazine as he looked at the name on the address again... Leah Neuman.
On his long walk back to Skagway he thought about writing a story of someone finding a magazine with an address on it. He quickly dismissed this idea as unbelievable. He also wondered how much could someone find out about this Leah Neuman who lived at 321 3rd place Brooklyn NY. The thought of contacting her and chastising her for littering up this road crossed his mind earlier but now the writer in him considered the extreme scenarios this might manifest itself in.
After returning to the hotel for lunch he decided to Google "Leah Neuman, Brooklyn NY" and in no time found a Facebook post of a book signing in Skagway that same day for her. In fact it was happening at that very moment.
Leah Neuman was a writer! The idea struck him as an amazing coincidence. He also discovered after only a little research that she also started her own publishing company Led Balloon Publishing. The idea he could write something she might find appealing was a long shot but it was a shot none the less. He always felt he just needed a chance to prove himself. And he felt at his age he wasn't in the position to pass up an opportunity.
So as he hurried over to the Skagway bookstore he couldn't believe the coincidence that Leah Neuman was a fellow writer. He hurried up the wooden sidewalk to the bookstore and went inside. The shop was tiny and he immediately glimpsed a blonde beauty seated at the desk talking with a lady about the book she was signing. He stepped up behind the lady to wait his turn. When the lady in front of him stepped away he found himself smiling into the face of a beauty that he now felt he partly understood. Her eyes were slightly hidden by a baseball cap but he saw them sparkle. He noticed what he thought was an actual aura radiating from her. Like a soft white light veiled her. Neil was stunned.
It all happened so quickly he hadn't planned what he would say. As he stood there staring at her she laughed a little and said, "Hello?" He answered, "Hello Ms Newman I am so pleased to meet you." As he extended his sweaty palm to her. "I am a big fan." She seemed pleased to meet him and said so much. She made no effort to conceal the use of hand sanitizer upon releasing Neil's hand. She asked if he was interested in her signing a copy of her book 'Sometimes Points North'. He said of course but then he realized he had hurried over here without any money.
So, quite red faced he asked if she would be here awhile and added he would return soon he just needed to run over to the WestMike Hotel and get some cash. She smiled again and said not to worry she would be here for a few more hours but if he couldn't make it back she could be found at the WestMike herself as she was staying there tonight. He promised to return immediately.
As he hurried the few blocks back to the hotel he thought of all the events that had brought him and Leah together. And she was staying in the same hotel as he worked! His mind strayed to the thought of the master key card the house keepers kept to access every room in the hotel. He knew exactly where he could find it but how would he know which room? He quickly forced the thought from his mind.
He entered his room thinking of her perfect smile as he raised his hand to his nose he noticed the now familiar scent on his hand. It was the same scent that he detected on the magazine earlier. As he located his wallet he realized how sexually excited he had become. His movements were almost manic as he rushed breathlessly from the nightstand and back to the door.
He felt the old compulsion motivating him. The same one he had been warned of to watch out for. But it was too much. It always was. He made a beeline to the laundry services and located the master key card easily. Now he went to the front desk. It was empty so he quickly thumbed through the old fashioned register book and with no difficulty he found Neuman, Leah room 269.
It was the only thing on his mind now. The memory of 21 years of incarceration fell away into the abyss between his throbbing heartbeats. He was breathing heavily through his mouth as he walked down the deserted hallway. He repeated 269 to himself as he approached the door. Here he was just outside her room now. He looked up and down the hall as he pushed the card into the slot. CLICK!
He opened the door slightly and said in a low voice, "housekeeping?" No answer. He quickly stepped inside and closed the door. He was overwhelmed by a tingling throughout his extremities radiating into his groin. He stood in silence focusing on breathing softer now as he looked around at the organized clutter. He walked into the bathroom where he saw her toothbrush. He immediately put it in his mouth and bit down on the bristles. He tasted her breath in his mouth. It was sweet and minty.
He leaned his head back slightly as he took a deep breath smelling the air for her very essence as he looked around. He felt his heart pounding in his chest. He glanced down and saw a small pile of crumpled towels. He exhaled softly, "Oh yes" as he bent over and picked up the pile. It was a damp bath towel and when he held it to his face to inhale deeply a pair of panties fell out onto his feet.
He dropped the damp bath towel excitedly as he quickly grabbed up the white panties and located the sweet spot. As he held it over his nose he was instantly overcome with an explosion. A bright light snapped in his head as he involuntarily bent over at the waist and was completely absorbed in this rush of ecstasy. As the atmosphere in the room closed back in around him he was made suddenly more aware he was in a strangers room with a toothbrush in his mouth.
Acting quickly he forced the panties into his pocket to revisit later. As he removed the toothbrush from his clamped teeth the impulse occurred to him to unbuttoned his pants and wipe the semen out of his pubic hair with it and put it back on the counter like he found it. Then he slipped out of the room.
He immediately returned to the bookstore to see Leah again. Neil felt so alive at this moment. The rush was better than any drug could ever produce. He sprang once again onto the wooden sidewalk and entered the book store. There were a few others in the store so Leah didn't see Neil enter. He walked around a book stand and impulsively slid his right hand into the front of his pants and felt his damp pubic hair. He circled the book stand and stepped up to the table across from Leah and with a charming smile reached out this hand. "Hello again, Ms Neuman" she greeted him again with that radiant smile.
She grasped his hand. Her hand was cold but very soft. As soft as her panties he was holding in his other hand. When she released her grip he noticed she did not use the hand sanitizer like last time. In slow motion she brought her index finger to her tongue and he saw the glistening tip contact her finger as she flipped through the first pages in her book. She signed the inside cover as he casually asked, "Leah, do you worry the saeculum of the written word is nearing its climax?" Her eyes sparkled once again under the bill of her cap as she exclaimed, "Oh I hope not I'm really starting to enjoy it." Then she slid the book toward him saying, "Thank you, please come again." She smiled and gave a wink which set his extremities tingling. Without another word he paid for the book and walked out.
"Oh my god! What are you going to do?" This line Neil spoke to himself over and over all the way back to the hotel. He hurried to his room and stripped down as he walked to the shower. He stepped in and turned it on. The ice cold water struck him hard in the face. He stood there gasping loudly trying to catch his breath. He did not know what he was going to do but he knew he would do something.