Nude swimming is a collection of stories about love and romance in the lives of an eclectic group of individuals. From physicist Jack Joseph, caught in the space between his love for the beautiful Marilee and his famous General Theory of Non-Existence, to the manic Loonsfoot and his possessive love for Esther who has left him to be with a woman. These short romantic fictions explore relationships from the extreme peripheral to the intimate inside of affairs of the heart.
The single thread that binds the stories together is our need for love, compassion and companionship in spite of our variances in ideas and ethics that separate us. I want the reader to experience why a young Maggie Harrington, on the eve of her wedding to one man, surrenders her virginity to another. Or what propels a self assured Rosemary to request her lover to dominate her in a spanking episode. I am hoping, within the framework of these not so ordinary characters, to connect you as a reader to the not so ordinary conflicts that exist in your own relationships.
I look in the mirror at the face of a guilty person. I see a happy face on a day it should be sad, and I’m feeling guilty about it. Today, they’re going to bury James Stetter, and I am happy.
I have not liked James Stetter for a very long time; he took something away from me, and I haven’t been able to forgive him. Ten years have passed since I last saw Tommie Stetter and looked into his beautiful, glistening brown eyes, eyes that enter me right where I want them, and know me, Maggie Harrington, for who I really am. So, even on this sad day, when they are going to bury Tommie’s father, I am happy. I am going to sit in church once again with my beloved Tommie, but I feel guilty about it.
I look at my face in the mirror—the same face, with the same blue eyes, of the same girl that loved Tommie Stetter with all her heart when she was thirteen. I am twenty-three years old now, but I am the same Maggie Elizabeth Harrington. I am a little taller, my bosom is fuller, and my hips are not as straight up and down, but I am the same; I am no different. I still live here in Central Mine with my father, who works deep under the earth digging copper. I am a teacher’s assistant at the Central Mine School. I teach the first three grades, and I like teaching little children. They are pure, and their minds are not as cluttered with things as adults’ are. So, unlike many of the people here in Central Mine, I am at least satisfied with my life, if not completely happy.
Ten years ago, when Tommie was sent away, I was sure in two years, when he finished school, he would return to Central Mine to work with his father as a mining captain, and we would be married. I lived with that dream for two years. I walked with Tommie in my head; I talked with Tommie no matter where in the world he was. I was still with him; we were together. Two years later, I learned from my best friend, Annie, Tommie’s sister, that he planned to stay in the east and continue his education. He was going to college. But I am a very determined person, and I still believed Tommie, my true love, would come back to me. I never gave up that dream. I never left the dream world Tommie Stetter and I lived in, and I don’t think I ever will.
After graduating from high school, I began to assist Mrs. Daume with the younger children. Eventually, I was allowed to teach them by myself, and I have been teaching the first three grades ever since. I feel very fortunate, and I really like Mrs. Daume. She continues to help me, teaches me all kinds of things about literature and philosophy. I like learning about people like Plato, who spent their whole lives thinking. After all, I believe I spend my whole life either thinking or dreaming. I feel I have a lot in common with Plato, who spent so much time thinking and talking about things like truth.
In addition to teaching at the school, Mrs. Daume is the organist at the Central Mine Methodist Church. Nothing much has changed in the church. Reverend White is still there, still preaching his sermons with great fervor, the sweat rolling off his temples, his voice screeching through the air, and all the people listening and saying, “Amen.” No, nothing much has changed at the church.
But a lot has changed at the mine. About the time I began helping Mrs. Daume, the mine began to fail. The few remaining copper veins they could find were very deep and very poor, and a lot of miners talked about how they couldn’t make any money. The ore was poor, and they were mostly just digging barrel copper to be stamped. Then, in the fall of 1899, the Philadelphia Mining Company announced they were going to pull out. They were losing money; the return on the capital simply wasn’t worth the money they put in. Central Mine was finished, closing down for good. They held meetings, and lots of miners soon quit their jobs. Officials came out and closed down the office, and work came to a halt. The winter of 1899-1900 would be a very dark and cold winter. A very frightening winter as the miners looked at their futures. The mine started operating in 1863, and up until then had always been profitable. Located in a very remote area, and quite a few miles from the other mining ventures still operating on the Keweenaw Peninsula, Central Mine employed quite a few miners whose families had settled there, and they knew little else. Some of the later arrivals, the French and Italians, left once the mine closed, but the Cornish teams, the Cousin Jacks, had been there the longest and their roots were there. This was their home, and they continued to stay.
When James Stetter offered to reopen the mine under his own direction that spring, the Cornish miners welcomed his offer. Work began that summer to pump the water out of the shafts and put in fresh timber. The miners respected and liked Mr. Stetter. They worked hard, everybody remained in good spirits, and that fall, they began to bring small amounts of copper to the surface. But the ore was not rich, and despite further exploration, they were unable to discover any large, new veins.
For the last three years, half of the miners worked old shafts that still produce some barrel copper, and they shared the money earned with James Stetter. Stetter used that money to keep the other miners busy, by financing the exploration for new and richer veins. Things were not good, but everybody worked, and life managed to go on in Central Mine much as it had for the last forty years. The miners spent Monday through Saturday under the earth, and Sunday mornings, they and their families attended the Central Mine Methodist Church, where they listened to Mrs. Daume play the organ, the choir sing, and Reverend White preach his sermon.
I have been busy teaching children, doing the chores, and cooking dinner for my father, who is just as silent as before, just as quiet and hard as he has always been, but somehow his attitude isn’t as important to me anymore. I’ve been happy working at the school and dreaming of Tommie Stetter, knowing someday he will come for me.
“Maggie, are you ready? It’s time we walked up to the church,” my father says from downstairs. I feel no different than I felt those many years ago, when I was a child, and either he or my grandmother would call me.
I cast one last look at my guilty face in the mirror. I am happy and sad at the same time, and I find that so strange. I never have understood how I could feel that way. But it is exactly how I feel this Sunday morning as I prepare to walk over to the church and listen to Reverend White speak about James Stetter. We will all pay our last respects and then follow the pallbearers as they carry the coffin to the Eagle River Cemetery for the burial. I know at some point, I will get a chance to see Tommie. I will get to look him in the eyes. He will look at me, and we will know where we are, where we have been, and where we are going. I will know my waiting was not the foolish daydream of a schoolgirl, that what passed between Tommie and me ten years ago was real. It was as real as all the things I dream about, and all the things I believe in, and all the things I live for.
This is what I am thinking as my father and I walk up the hill toward the church, up the street with no name on it, past the Stetter’s house. I look to see if anyone is there, but I see no one. I had hoped to get a glimpse of Tommie, or even Annie, before we got to the church. It has been many years since I have seen Annie, too.
Not long after we finished high school, her father sent her to the university in Hancock to study business. Annie, being very practical, as I have always known, must have figured out rather quickly she didn’t have a head for business. Less than a year after arriving at Hancock, she married a young man called Edward Leiblein, whose father ran a large, wholesale grocery there. It was a good, practical decision by Annie. Edward, with help from his father, opened a store and a warehouse for receiving and storing supplies in Eagle River, and Annie moved there. The following year, Annie had a little boy, Edward Junior, and a year later, another son, who she called James, after her father. I stopped to see her a few times after the children were born, but she was always very busy and had new friends and in-laws to contend with, so we drifted apart.
That made me sad; not only did I lose a good friend, she was also my only contact with Tommie, and I have not heard anything about him since his first few years in college. I assumed he was trying to get himself established in something else, being that the mine wasn’t doing very well. I was sure this was why he hadn’t come back to Central Mine. But I knew he would be here for his father’s funeral. I know he will come back to help his mother, and I am anxious to see him, anxious to see them all. I would like to walk with them, the three of us together—me, Annie, and Tommie—as we did so many years ago. Go back to that summer when I was thirteen.
Those days are still so vivid in my memory . . . spending time with Annie, doing girlish things, growing up a little, and falling in love with Tommie. And certainly, there were the wolves, my beautiful, furry, little wolves I loved with all my heart and that Mr. Stetter took away from me.
As I walk, my mind drifts back to that summer, as it often does, and carries me away in my dreams.
By K. Cross on March 5, 2014
I looked forward to this book the moment I finished the first one. While it didn’t start out like I expected, it still fulfilled my expectations.There’s a definite Anna Karenina feel to it, only in a poor class of Cornish immigrants instead. Maggie’s thoughts, her heart, her emotions, and her actions, are really quite fascinating. She moves through it all with a realistic sense of having loved, and having lost. The characters were consistent with the ones that I knew before, no mean feat in a second book.
My only complaint is that I felt the thought repetition I noticed in the first story could have been cut down more now that Maggie was older, and it would seem less likely to thing in such a circular way. But it was only every now and then, and never distracted from the story.
I was not at all let down by this book. I enjoyed myself, and sought opportunities to read it.
By Hotcha on September 17, 2012
Since she was thirteen, Maggie Harrington had loved Tommie Setter, until they ran away trying to save four wolf pups from bounty hunters and were caught. She had to endure the screams of her loved pup wolves while Tommie was sent back east and away from her without saying good bye, but Maggie knew he loved her and he had promised to return and she waited for him. Ten years later, he did with a wife and a little girl!D. J. Swykert spins an intriguing love story that spanned a ten-year absence, Tommie returned to Central Mine Michigan to take over the copper mining operation his dad managed until his death. Tommie had never stopped loving Maggie, but he was lonely in college and Stephanie helped him get over his loneliness then one thing led to another and she got pregnant. Tommie was jealous of Jeremy Paul’s attention to Maggie and when he heard Maggie was to get married to him he asked her not to do it, that he still loved her even though he was married and they got caught up in a love affair which neither one couldn’t give up their secret tryst. Then the mine collapsed………
By Eleanore T. on November 19, 2014
Author DJ Swykert is nothing if not dedicated to the industry; he’s already published MAGGIE ELIZABETH HARRINGTON, a coming-of-age novel. ALPHA WOLVES is the sequel, rejoining Maggie Elizabeth’s life a decade after the events recounted in the first novel.Maggie Elizabeth, now known as simply Maggie because she’s become a young woman, remains the point-of-view character in the work. Her voice is older, more mature, as she relates her continuing love for her childhood crush, Tommie Stetter, and her growing interest in Jeremy Paull, a young man who is clearly smitten with her.
After Tommie promised to return for her one day, he went away to school. Ten years later, he finally returns to town for the funeral of his father. At the very sight of him, Maggie knows that she has always loved him, despite his absence, and will continue to love him.
But his arrival also causes her great pain, for Tommie is now married with a beautiful young daughter. Not only did he lie to her in promising to return for her one day, he also betrayed her through marriage to another woman.
Nevertheless, perhaps naively, as Maggie herself admits more than once, she commits to continuing to love him, even when her relationship with Jeremy turns into an engagement and then into marriage. She falls into a kind of double life, leading one in public as the happily married Mrs. Jeremy Paull, and one in secret, meeting Tommie in one clandestine rendezvous after another to maintain their childhood love for one another.
Then she turns up pregnant. An accident at the mine where both Tommie and Jeremy work forces her hand. And her conscience awakens and begins to protest the double life she’s been leading.
The final revelation is as comfortably familiar and inevitable as it is strikingly surprising.
The manuscript is tightly written, and Maggie’s voice remains fascinating. She lives a detailed inner dialogue with the reader, explaining, justifying, planning, wondering, musing, and by the conclusion of the novel, she has matured even more than she clearly had at the beginning of the story.
Whereas, in Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, the antagonist was an external force (people within the community who wanted to harm the wolves Maggie was trying to protect), in the sequel, the antagonist is Maggie’s own conscience and her sense of right and wrong. Is it right to continue to love both men in her life? Is it wrong to give herself to another man when she’s already married? Is it wrong to want to be happy?
Such questions are those that drive the narrative forward and keep the reader, who by now empathizes with Maggie’s dilemma and deep emotions, turning pages.
In a future edition of the work, a close line-by-line edit and work to break up the repetitively long paragraphs (which weighed down my interest in the story) would benefit the story line greatly, as would, perhaps, further effort to round out the other characters in the novel, like Jeremy Paull, in particular, as he’s such a large part of the narrative.
Nonetheless, an admirable sequel to a memorable coming-of-age novel.