Story Excerpts

The Storytellers’ Guild of Anchorage

Story Excerpts

Excerpts from stories by Pam McDowell Saylor

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From the original story “The Little Birch Leaf”

Meanwhile, each day the little birch leaf turned more and more golden. “We are quite beautiful,” he whispered to the other leaves. “But I am afraid we will have to leave with the others. Who knows where the wind will take us?”

“Have faith,” answered the cabbage in the garden. “I, too, am at my best. See how plump and purple I am? See how the sun shines in the water droplets that cling to me? But I have heard from the stones that my days are numbered. I will not be here next week. I will be gone. I could fear the worst, but I have courage.”

“Courage? What is courage?”

“Courage is what makes you happy even when everything changes. Courage is the cord to the unchangable.”

“The unchangable? What is that?”

“It is to be found within you. It shines like the sun.”

From the original story “Glow-of-the-Moon”

Up rose Raven, with a sly grin on his face. “Look at you, you are so heavy, your feet are sinking into the ground! You will never get to the moon in that condition! Ha, ha, ha!”

“You are my last helper, and you are failing me!” Glow-of-the-Moon cried. The tears fell from her eyes. Raven had no mercy. He laughed even harder. Then Raven began to cry, too, but only because he had laughed so hard. They were both crying. They cried and cried.

But then, like a glimmer, Glow-of-the-Moon saw that it was the laughter, laughter at herself, that was the gift. She began to laugh at herself and Raven crying there in the woods. They laughed and cried for laughing until they became so light that they began to float up, up, up. “There’s the moon!” shouted Glow-of-the-Moon.

Copyright © Pam McDowell Saylor

An excerpt from Betty Arnett’s true story, ‘Lady, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet’ by Betty Arnett

A personal account of the great Alaska Earthquake of 1964

It was close to five minutes of sheer terror. Down on the floor on all fours were all four of us. April, who was seven years old, had obeyed me and crawled under her bed in the adjoining room. Heather, my six year old, had crawled under the crib by her brother, who was three years old, and was nestled against my body. Had the walls come down, only April would have been protected because Hans’ crib would have crushed us with the weight of the wall. The floor jerked unceasingly up and down and back and forth. I felt helpless to protect my children further and so I cried out, “Pray! Children pray!” And in the next breath I prayed aloud over and over again, “Oh, God, please stop it! Please stop it! Please!”

The noise was such that it sounded as though the walls were falling in. In the midst of all of this movement and horrendous noise my young son was yelling, “It’s stopped, Mommie. It’s stopped!” I realize now that he had never seen his mother in such an emotional state. Perhaps that was his way of trying to bring this 9.2 earthquake to a halt. But it didn’t stop. It continued for another two long, interminable minutes. With the house dancing up and down, I feared it was the end of all of us. At long last the shaking subsided but the noise continued. We crawled out from under the beds and with great relief I saw that the walls were still standing. I was puzzled as to the source of the loud noise and didn’t realize it at the time but the basement walls had fallen in.

April called from the other room, “Mommie, come look! There’s a lot of people out in the street and they are staring at our house.” We joined her at the windows and I said, “Something awful must have happened to our house! We’d better get out of here!” As we ran down the hall and rounded the corner into the kitchen I glanced out the window and saw my neighbor’s two-story house sinking into the ground. I knew there wasn’t time to grab coats, boots, shoes or anything! I opened the carport door and saw two huge cracks in the concrete slab where the car was usually parked. It was March 27, and a light snowfall was on the ground. Hans and April were fully dressed but April had no shoes on. Heather’s feet were bare and she was wearing only a housecoat. I carried Heather in my arms and told April to grab her little brother’s hand. In the driveway we came upon two crevasses. I told April and Hans to jump and I attempted to do so myself but Heather’s weight threw me off balance and I landed on my tailbone. Fortunately, Heather’s feet never touched the ground. After successfully jumping the next crevasse, we reached the neighbors standing in the middle of the street.

“What is it?” I asked. “What has happened to my house?”

“Turn around and look,” replied one of them. When I turned to look I saw that the yard on the other side of my house had fallen into the earth 40 feet and all of the houses between ours and the bluff (a block and a half away) had fallen into the earth and were all tilted in all directions. The earth had stopped sliding into Turnagain Arm under one corner of our house.

Copyright © Betty Arnett

Excerpt from ‘A Flatlander’s First Night in the Wilderness’ by Roger Fuson

Terry and I were sleeping soundly after our first day of work on the trail crew. The Alaska wilderness was a far cry from our homes in Kansas, and, of course, bears were on our mind, but not from the usual source of general knowledge. The evening before, Fred, our stern trail crew boss, had assigned each of us to bear watch. Terry and I had the 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. shift, but we ignored it, thinking this was just a joke. At around 3 a.m. we were awakened by a loud scrapping sound; the sound a bear might make trying to get into our wall tent, whose floor and sides were made of plywood up to 4 feet, topped by a 10 by 12 foot canvas top. Both Terry and I were jolted awake at the same time, exchanged terrified glances, then yelled, “Fred, there’s a bear outside!” Fred raised up on one elbow, looked disapprovingly at us sitting in our sleeping bags, then looked at his pocket watch hanging from a nail by his bed. “Why aren’t you two on bear watch?” he said. Then he leisurely pulled his “toy” out of its holster. It was a cap-and-ball, long-barrelled, 44 magnum. He spun the cylinder to make sure it was loaded, crawled out of his bag and nonchalantly ambled out of the tent. A moment later, a single shot shook the plywood walls. Fred re-entered the tent, blew the smoke out of the end of the barrel, glared at Terry and I, shook his head and mumbled, “You cheechakos,” and crawled back in his sleeping bag without saying a word to us as we pleaded for more information. Terry and I looked at each other with jaws dropped. We weren’t about to go out and find out for ourselves, and we dismissed any possibility of making any trips to the outhouse for the rest of that night.

Copyright © Roger Fuson

Excerpt from Bob Sloan’s story ‘The Cry of the Banshee’

My road takes me alongside the buryin’ ground at the outskirts of town. ‘Tis a path I’m used to, mind you, its loneliness is no stranger to me. In truth, if I were afraid of ghosts, there’s not an Irish road I would travel by moonlight. All the same, the gravestones stood before me stark and cold, and I longed for the comforts of the hearth. Then came the long, anguished cry. Mournful it was, like the lament of an old woman who knew all the grief that life and death had to offer. That’s when it came back to me; it was said that the Banshee always cries for the Sloan’s at the end.

Copyright © Bob Sloan