The Hawley Envisionist


The Hawley Envisionist by Lee Gerstmann

Ó2017 Lee Gerstmann

Cover image courtesy of Kody:


Stanley Ross had a strange premonition that today would encompass something unexpected. He was at a party hosted by his friend, Andre Frey, in the small town of Hawley where there was apparently one café but no one, not even the residents, could find it. The grocery stores were houses with vegetable produce on the front lawns.

Andre’s house was better looking than the others on that street. He had studied architecture at Columbia University when he lived in Harlem. When he made the move from New York to Pennsylvania, he settled on a remote place which was at that time cheap. He bought a house paid in full with cash from money received in an inheritance after his father died. Andre had been the one child, out of six, that did not ask his father for any loans or favors but was always willing to help him during the last years when Stephen was less abler to take care of himself. Andre received the bulk of the inheritance. He had thought of splitting his share equally with his brothers and sisters but he suddenly decided that his father had given him a gift. He would cherish the gift in his father’s honor.

Stanley said, “This is a nice area. I wouldn’t mind living here.”

Andre nodded. “You should have seen my house before I improved it. I have a car so I can go into Scranton and shop. You would have to pick nuts and berries from the trees and vines for your trail mix. There’s nothing up here and, after a few days of enjoying watching the birds flying around, you wouldn’t be able to stand it anymore.”

“Maybe I would like it if there were good looking women as neighbors.”

“This is the North East. Either people are very slim or very not slim. Whether or not the women in Hawley are good looking is up to interpretation.”

“In other words, I wouldn’t like them.”

“Not unless you like to spend a lot of money on food. Could you help me get everything set up?”

Stanley assisted Andre by putting chairs in the living room and rearranging other furniture so there would be plenty of room for people to walk. Stanley enjoyed doing so. He remembered that Andrew knew some interesting people. Probably, a number of them were good looking women and that would not be a matter of interpretation.


There were ten guests, other than Stanley. Andrew invited eight of them and guests invited two. Stanley somehow talked with a man named Lloyd Eugenides. He did not remember how that started. Perhaps Andre introduced them. Stanley preferred to think Thomas imposed on him. That seemed to be what happened. Lloyd talked about interesting subjects. Stanley was not offended but, while Lloyd talked, Stanley was looking at the women. Two were overweight. They wore dresses. Stanley figured they were neighbors. Three were slim. Two wore bulky sweatshirts and jeans. The other wore a sweatshirt also but it was tucked into belted jean shorts and the sweatshirt sleeves were pushed up. Stanley was aroused. He felt as if the situation was metaphysical. How often did he see a woman tuck in a sweatshirt? Most of the women in his neighborhood, back in California, did not even tuck in regular shirts.

Lloyd said, “The difference between rock and jazz is rock groups aren’t classic in the same way jazz performers are. Other than The Beatles who have become historic as well as classic and are an exception, most of the other groups, especially any group from the Nineteen Eighties, are more nostalgic than classic. People listen to them now but that won’t be the case twenty years from now, on account of how musical trends shift in the rock genre. But Miles Davis and John Coltrane will still be listened to and not simply for classic or historic reasons. People want to put on Kind Of Blue. People want to hear A Love Supreme. Jazz has more lasting power than rock. Would you agree?”

Stanley was looking at the woman wearing the pink sweatshirt and blue jean shorts. He heard Lloyd but he was not fully enthusiastic about having a conversation on music. He would much rather talk about women’s fashion but, if he did so, he might dispel some of the magic he sensed was happening. He figured something unusual would transpire. He did not know what it would be but he knew it would be something.

Lloyd frowned. “It looks like you’re preoccupied.”

Stanley shook his head. “I don’t mean to be. Let me ask you, do you live around here?”

“I live at the end of this block, yes.”

“I’m wondering if any of the women here live in the neighborhood.”

Lloyd turned his head. “Emma and Myla, the two wearing dresses, do. Emma lives next door to me. Myla lives next door to Andre. Why?”

“I was just wondering. I was trying to figure out if the women here are good looking.”

“You mean, the women at the party?”

“No. Well, yes but not. I know that a few of the women at the party are good looking. I meant the women in the neighborhood.”

“You think Emma and Myla are good looking? I agree. Do you want me to introduce you?”


“Why not, if you like them?”

Stanley did not want to say any more but he had to clear up the misunderstanding. “I think the other three are good looking.”

Lloyd nodded. “Well, they are friends of Thomas Berriault. Thomas has known Andre since they were kids. One is Martha and the other is Stephanie. I don’t particularly think they are attractive but if you do I can introduce you to them.”

Stanley figured he would appear strange if he did not allow Lloyd to introduce him to the women. He said, “That would be good.”


Of course, neither Martha nor Stephanie was wearing the pink sweatshirt. Martha’s sweatshirt was blue and had a hardware store slogan on it. Stephanie’s sweatshirt was yellow and had a picture of a kitten on it. During the course of the conversation, Stephanie pushed up her sleeves, which looked a little bit sexier, but he was more intrigued by the other women whose sweatshirt had the name of a college on it. She talked with an older man who was bald plump and wore a three-piece suit and glasses. Stanley figured she was being polite. She could not be attracted to the man.

Martha did most of the talking. Stephanie would occasionally tell Stanley he was cute. He wanted to excuse himself. Whatever happened would be blocked if he did not alter the course of the situation. He needed to go out the front door, alone. Then, after ten minutes of solitude, he would feel refreshed and let the thing happen. He did not know why he made that conclusion but it seemed right so he would not mess with it.

Martha said, “It’s better to eat organic food, like cruciform vegetables, like kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, parsley, beet tops, radishes. All that good stuff… My brother has a fatty liver. It’s from all the processed junk food he ate as a kid. Yuck! No wonder he’s pudgy. You don’t have a pudgy belly. Do you eat healthy?”

Stephanie smiled. “You’re cute.”

Martha continued. “Tiny houses are becoming popular. Get rid of the clutter and live simply. I have an uncle who’s saving the money and he’s going to buy a tiny house. He has tons of books and he plans on giving them all to me. What am I going to do with them? They’re all about how to start your own business and how to borrow money from banks. Do I want to relax outside and read those for fun? The answer is no.”

Stephanie said, “You’re cute.”

Stanley listened while they spoke to him. They misinterpreted his indifference for rapt attention. As Martha talked, she tapped the back of his hand with her finger many times. Finally, he blew on the back of his hand as a symbolic gesture meaning he received enough energy. Every time he did it, she touched him again, as if to say she was replacing the energy he blew off. Finally, he said, “I enjoyed talking with you but I have to do something.” He walked quickly outside.


Stanley needed only ten minutes and then he would be able to face everybody again. He attribute his weird feelings to the change of environment. He was not used to being around surroundings such as what he experienced during the present moment. He grew up in Antioch, California, with a mother who had not married and was not good at holding a job. Part of the time they lived in cheap apartments and other times they lived with his uncle, his mother’s brother, who was four hundred pounds, spent most of his time in a wheelchair even though he could walk, and his wife, who was slim, and their daughter, who was three hundred and fifty pounds. Antioch had very few trees or parks. The area was filled with dollar stores and gas stations. People were generally as obese as his uncle. Everyone ate cheap canned foods and soda. The vibe was mostly that of depression. Occasionally, drunks would hang out by a bench close to a parking lot, blaring loud music from a radio with bad static sound, yelling and singing out of tune to the music. Andre had been his one friend, his next-door neighbor, until Andre moved to New York, He suggested Stanley do so, as well. Finally, after enough time working odd job and saving his money, Stanley decided to visit New York for a week. He called Andre to tell him. Andre mentioned he now lived in Pennsylvania. Stanley changed his plan and flew to Pennsylvania, instead. Andre came tot the hotel in Scranton where Stanley was staying so Stanley could attend Andre’s party. Stanley was sensitive to the difference between Pennsylvania and California. Everything seemed so new. Now, after spending a few minutes outside, he would be able to rejoin the party.


As he turned to face the door, he felt something lick inwardly in him, as if an answer was given. The woman he liked was outside, with her hand extended. She must have noticed him earlier and planned to talk with him. Since she looked so good, he had trouble reacting normally. His instinct was to just stand there and wonder what she wanted. However, he knew that would not be the right move.

She said, “Come shake my hand, Stanley.”

He was embarrassed. He should have approached her without his needing instructions. Perhaps next she would inform him that he should speak and smile and breathe. Finally, he snapped out of his daze. He walked towards her and they shook hands. He asked, “How did you know my name?”

She shrugged. “I asked Lloyd.”

“How did he know my name?”

She looked at him as if to say she had no answer.

He laughed. “Probably Andre told him. What’s your name?”


He noticed her grip was firm and she was still shaking his hand. He was going to comment on it but did not know what to say.

She asked, “Want to come inside?”


They walked in together. She stopped the shaking motion but still held on. Stanley was intrigued.

Andres smiled. “So, you’ve met Kate.”

Stanley said, “Yes.”

Kate said, “Stanley’s going to like where I take him, later. He hasn’t been to Okinawa, the Japanese restaurant, has he?”

Andre shrugged. “I’m guessing he hasn’t.”

She nodded. “The next few days will be easy to fill with things to do but, after that, we’ll just have to wing it.”

“I know. It’s hard when you live in this area as opposed to New York. Scranton is okay but it’s nothing like Harlem or Manhattan. But I think he’ll adjust pretty well to the change.”

“I know. I just need to remember the discipline I am following. As long as we stay attached, the universal flow will be balanced.”

Stanley felt odd hearing the conversation. He asked, “What do you mean by staying attached?”

Kate said, “Our hand pairing. According to my religion, as long as we stay like this, I’m your wife.”

He became extremely nervous and tried to pull his hand free but her grip was like a vice and he could not escape.


He was not experiencing the situation. He had to believe that. Now, everyone was seated at different chairs, in the form of a circle, as if a meeting had taken place. Kate was sitting on a chair, gripping Stanley’s hand. Stanley stood up, as if in the middle of the circle, occasionally twisting and turning his hand one way and the other, hoping to figure out the solution to the puzzle lock. Everyone was discussing his situation.

Andre said, “The damage of Antioch has been already done. That town was poison when I lived there. He can’t go back.”

Kate said, “It’s a good thing I practiced those exercises combining physical and spiritual energy. I can keep my hand like this forever and no one can break the grip.”

Thomas said, “It’s a good thing Emma knew Kate. From what you told me, Andre, Kate would be perfect for Stanley.”

Emma said, “According to the Envisionist doctrine, we have inner knowledge we can tap into so we can already know what’s so.”

Kate said, “I was feeling empty with no direction so now my life has a purpose.”

Andre said, “That’s the advantage of living in Hawley. We are all Envisionists so we help each other.”

Stanley kept trying to pull free but to no avail. If only he could have not felt as though a change was going to occur, maybe it could have been avoided. However, he now realized that everyone at the party, including Andre, was part of a strange religion called Envisionism and part of their religious doctrine had to do with holds hand forever as the means of being married. If he screamed for help, any person outside who could come in would probably be an Envisionist also. That person would decide everything was okay. Stanley had two options. He could either panic and keep trying to escape or feeling lucky that he was attached to a woman wearing a tucked in sweatshirt. He could not decide. Both solutions seemed wrong and right.



The Eye Command (work in progress)

Cover image courtesy of Feni Rathod:

William Fitzpatrick was annoyed enough he had to work as a janitor at Ferris, Callender and Goldberg. Now, his boss, Peter Ferris, wanted him to wait for Neil Callender at another law office for some papers that were not important. Dorrestein, Gladwell and O’Brien was located in a nice looking part of town but, whenever William walked in that neighborhood, he felt awkward as if he would be questioned by a police officer. He accepted the janitor job on a temporary basis, so he could escape the chaos of his uncle’s house and buy healthier food than what his uncle prepared.

Uncle Raymond, from William’s mother’s side of the family, was obese and depressed, at least from William’s observation. That side of the family, the Gold’s, grew up under strict Jewish traditions. William’s mother, Hannah Gold, never officially gave up her beliefs but she did not practice them either and neither did her brother, Raymond, who became a Christian just to make his parents angry. George and Yvette Gold, whom William never met, were known to be tyrants. There was a lot about that side of the family he did not know but he knew his mother and uncle both became obese. Hannah died a year ago and Raymond was in bad health.

William’s father, Patrick Fitzpatrick, left the family when William was five years old and never visited him but William talked to him on the phone during Williams eighteenth birthday and then his twenty-first birthday. William would have been angry at him but, knowing how screwed up Hannah was, he figured his father was smart to stay away.

When Hannah died, Raymond offered to let William live with him. That was nice of his uncle to do that but Raymond’s living habits were enough to annoy the most patient person on earth. Now, William did not want to think about it. He wanted to get the papers from Neil Callender and then get back to mopping the floors where he worked.

He had not entered the law offices of  Dorrestein, Gladwell and O’Brien before and he was impressed. Too bad he had a stomachache from eating a cheap turkey pot pie Raymond served him. Not only that but Lily Lowell, Raymond’s next-door neighbor who always wore huge sweaters that smelled like cigarettes and mold, visited. Her voice was extremely loud and gave William even more of a stomachache. That was probably why he was upset now. He wanted the security of mopping floors without having to talk with many people.

The woman at the information counter looked like Lily Lowell and that made William angrier. Seemingly, he was surrounded by the type of people he wanted to avoid. She asked, “How may I help you?” Her voice was pleasant. That was a relief.

“I’m here to see my boss, Ned Callender.” 

She nodded. “Yes. I know Ned. I suggest you ask to see him where he works. If he’s your boss, wouldn’t he be there? Wouldn’t you be, also?”

He was getting angrier by the minute. “I’m supposed to refer to either Mr. Ferris or Mr. Callender or Mr. Goldberg as my boss because I’m just the janitor working part time and I’m not a part of the union. My real boss, Peter Ferris, said Mr. Callender was here.”

She smiled. “Oh. In that case, he’s probably talking to John Gladwell. I don’t think they want to be disturbed. You should go back to work. Your boss is probably wondering why you wandered off.”

Jonathan was about to scream but, suddenly, he felt calm and he had no more stomachache. That never happened before. At best, his stomach might feel fifty percent better over a gradual period of several hours but he always had a pain of some sort, even if less intense than on other days.

Another woman’s voice said, “It is okay, Gladys. He is here to see me.”

He turned his head and noticed a woman with very long hair. That intrigued him. He remembered when long hair was in fashion and considered a sign of beauty. Most of the women in his neighborhood were getting what was called summer cuts. The women looked like men. He was noticing someone different. She was wearing her sweatshirt tucked in which was another rarity. He liked how women looked when presenting neat and tidy appearances, especially considering most of the women he knew were his uncle’s age and looked like him. Her sweatshirt had an unusual design of eyes all over it, as if the eyes were watching him. He did not know why but he smiled and said, “Thank you.”

She nodded. “Come with me.”

Gladys made a face that looked like a failed smile. 

The woman opened a door and walked inside. William followed her. She shut the door and asked, “What is your name?” 

“William Fitzpatrick.”

She held out her hand. “I am Anusha Cheema. I will help you with your problem.”

He walked towards her and they shook hands. He said, “I am supposed to see Ned Callender and get a paper from him.”

“I understand. What good is the paper?”

I was told the paper was not of any importance.”

She nodded. “So you were looking for something that is not important.”

He felt embarrassed. “That’s not exactly what I mean. My boss, Peter Ferris, told me to come here. I’m doing it because it’s my job.”

She was still gripping his hand. He just noticed that. He was not bothered by it. She had taken away his stomachache, somehow. She said, “You have loyalty to your boss. That is decent, even if he is putting you on a wild goose chase.”

“How is he doing that? He is merely telling me what he wants done. I do it so I can get paid.”

“He pays you by having you do things that do not need to be done.”

“No. He pays me with money.”

She smiled. “There are more ways of getting paid than money. That is what I can show you.” 

He was not sure how she meant that but he became nervous. “Can I see Mr. Callender?”

She shook her head. “I do not believe you really want to see Mr. Callender.”

He looked at the eyes on her sweatshirt. They seemed to be speaking to him also. They were telling him he did not want to see Mr. Callender. He asked, “What’s going on? What are you doing?” 

She said, “You looked frightened. There is no need for that. Your eyes see everything. It is called The Eye Command. It is when you get the feeling from what you see. Right now, your mind is controlling what you’re thinking. We will work together on how to remove the fright.” 

He tried pulling his hand free but her grip remained tight. “I believe I should go now.”

“That is fine. We will go where you want to go.”

“No. I want to get away from you. I’m going back to work.”

“What is your concern about me?”

He sighed. “We can’t stay like this. I have things to do. The eyes on your clothes are making me nervous.” 

“That is only because you have not dealt with inner issues of yourself. Your feelings are a mirror of your interpretation. You see the eyes as causing nervousness. They are not. You are causing your own nervousness by what you are telling your mind.”

He tried paying prying her hand open with his other hand. He could not do so. “Can you please let go?” 

“I can’t let go. It won’t come off.”

“I hope you don’t mean you’ll be holding on forever.” 

She smiled. “I won’t answer that right now because you might panic and that is not good. You will learn everything in the time it takes for you to learn it. I will not steer you wrong. I will be your healer. I am your good luck.”

He realized the situation was unusual and he had no clue how to make it normal again. First, he was sent to see a boss in an office where that boss did not work. Next, he dealt with a secretary who acted like he was not telling the truth about why he was there. Finally, he was physically connected to a woman who was making his pain go away and who was good-looking and dressed attractively but refused to let go of his hand. He felt like he was in a puzzle he could not solve. He asked, “What will happen when I go back to work and you come along with me?”

She nodded. “Everything is connected in the universe. There are solutions in things we do not see. Nothing is out of harmony. You will discover this.”

He figured he might as well see what happened. She did take away his stomach pain. Maybe there was something truthful in what she said. He nodded. “Okay. I’ll go along with it, for now.”

New poem


Another typical Saturday 

during the afternoon,

I was feeling hungry 

and wanted dinner soon. 

Close to Eighth and Webster, 

a place serve beef chow fun. 

Good location overall 

if I talked with no one.

Too many times I’ll walk by.

A friend sees me and says, “Hi.”


I wish I could determine 

exactly how and when 

I could attract more women 

and avoid annoying men

but now, as I walk out,

streets are bare and quiet.

A good time for adventure 

but I don’t want to try it. 

When I play a different song,

trouble then tags along.


Several blocks away,

the scene changes style.

Young people walk, happy.

One runs with a smile.

The women look similar 

in sweatshirts with pushed up sleeves 

ready for college classes 

as each parent believes.

Learning with passion 

becomes trendy like fashion.


The Asian-Pacific Mall

is just one block away.

A pleasant place to visit 

as a breeze blows my way. 

There’s benches by the fountain 

where I can sit and rest,

thinking of the restaurants 

and who looks well dressed.

There are many around 

in this part of town.


Suddenly, like magic, as I walk down the hall,

I see a site so rare.

Could it have happened at all?

A woman approaches me,

quick like water flow, 

looking into my eyes 

and then saying, “Hello.” 

Her sweatshirt’s tucked in jeans 

like the best beauty queens.


She introduces herself, 

holding out her hand.

I tell her my name 

and try to understand.

Am I supposed to shake

or do I just hold on 

with my right hand or left?

I don’t want to be wrong 

but I extend the latter 

to resolve the matter.


She holds on quite tight, 

suggesting that we walk 

without letting go 

and avoiding talk.

The moment is surreal 

but I accept the plan 

until I’m overwhelmed 

and I no longer can.

Her grip’s like sticky tape

of which there’s no escape.


I forget about my food 

as we stroll every block.

How long, I can’t determine. 

I cannot find a clock. 

Finally, I stop and pull 

with all my might,

causing an awkward struggle 

that does not feel right 

but I manage to break free 

while she’s screaming at me.


I run off, relieved 

but have a change of heart 

realizing I ruined 

a most promising start.

I retrace my steps,

return and wave. She grins. 

I suggest we try 

the whole thing again. I hold out my hand, ask, “Yes?”

What happens next? You guess.

Awkward (work in progress)

“Thanks.” She extends her hand. 

“Sure.” We shake. 

Her expression changes to alarm. She is looking past me. I turn my head. Richard is there. His arms are folded.

Stephanie asks, “What?” 

Richard nods. “Hello, Joseph.” 

I return the greeting. 

He shrugs. “What are you doing?”

She frowns and then notices our handshake. “I’m just thanking him.” 

“For what?”

“That stuff Zack brought over, Joseph was good enough to help me put it away.”

“That’s nice of you, Joseph. You can go now.”

I start to walk but Stephanie is still holding on. 

She says, “You don’t have to leave.”

He says, “We have things to discuss.”

“Just a split second after I thank Joseph for helping me, you walk in.” 

“You say that but you’re holding his hand.”

“I’m shaking his hand.” 

“Okay. Now, let go.”

I try to let go but she tightens her grip. 

She says, “You’re not the boss of me. I can thank someone without you getting all strange.” 

He says, “It’s strange what you’re doing. Let go of him.”

“If I want to shake his hand, that’s what I’ll do. Thank you Joseph.” She employs fast up and down movements. 

I say, “I don’t want to be in the middle of anything. I should go.”

“Richard won’t do anything as long as you’re here.”

He says, “That’s enough.”

She sighs. “I’ve had it. I’m not putting up with it, anymore. Today’s the last day. No more mind games. No more threats or jealous bullshit.” 

He shrugs. “Who’s doing the mind games now? I come home and see you touching our neighbor and you’re still touching him.”

“If I want to shake his hand all day, that’s when I’m going to do.”

I say, “I didn’t know any of this was going to happen.”

She says, “You don’t have to explain yourself. We should leave. Let him stay angry in an empty room.”

She walks towards the door. Richard moves out of the way, almost apologetically. As he looks at me, his eyes seem less aggressive and more nervous, is if my presence prevents him from reacting another way. She and I walk outside, her pulling me with a firm grip.

Meeting Alyssa (work in progress)

Arnold Thompkins was sitting comfortably in his living room, waiting eagerly. The show, Brentwood’s Big Stars, were named ironically. The artists were well-known in town but obscure in most everywhere else. Arnold saw a video for one of Alyssa Donegan’s songs called, “As I Go.” She was dressed in a tucked in T-shirt and belted jeans. He thought she looked great. Whenever he saw female singers wearing their shirts tucked in, he liked their style because most singers nowadays, whether male or female, preferred looking sloppier in loose shirts. He figured the situation was a matter of preference. Just like food: some people enjoyed linguini and clams with Alfredo sauce. Other people avoided pasta, fish and dairy. As far as he was concerned, he could not understand why more entertainers did not dress well. He was equally puzzled why more people did not agree with him.

After Alicia’s video was shown, there was a small interview segment called, “In The Studio.” She was the featured artist that week. She was shown playing piano, singing. She was wearing a plaid shirt tucked in. Arnold was pleasantly nervous. Did she usually dress like that? After the interview segment was over, he went into the bedroom and logged onto his computer. He looked up her name and what appeared with her name was under the category of singer songwriter. There were a few pictures, all showing her wearing the tucked in T-shirt look from her video. He clicked on the images category and saw some pictures just of her face or the top part of her body but not enough to see the whole outfit but he noticed, in the pictures of her whole outfit, her shirts were always tucked in. Some pictures were T-shirts and others were plaid shirts, always with rolled up sleeves and belted jeans. There were also pictures of other people, one of whom looked a little bit like her but not much, wearing a blue sweatshirt and jogging pants. He clicked on it and the caption showed, “Allyssa Little from Donegan County.” The computer showed results for anything with the words Alyssa  and Donegan, including a church with the caption, “Alyssa’s and Donegan’s wedding.”

He looked at websites that posted interviews with her. In one interview, she said, “I don’t care what other people do. I do my own thing. That goes for my music and how I look.”

She was apparently from Brentwood. Arnold could not recollect if he saw her anywhere in town. He had just heard of her yesterday, when Brentwood’s Big Stars showed “As I Go” during the closing credits, indicating she would be featured tomorrow. There were a few other female singers who wore their shirts tucked in who Arnold liked but they fluctuated in their styles and sometimes wore dresses or cut off T-shirts. So far, Alyssa was the only one staying constant in her appearance. Arnold wondered if she only dressed that way for when she was promoting her career. Perhaps in private the situation was different. Howard wondered about the possibility of meeting her.