The Neal James Website

                                  Guest Author

Submission Guidelines

 

As an opportunity for fellow writers to have greater exposure, this section of my website is reserved for those wishing to make a written contribution to its pages.

Each month, a fresh third party will be given the chance to list here a submission of their choice, together with a suitable image for the piece of work. If you are interested send a message via the mailing address below, and we'll go from there.

Content will be scrutinised to ensure that it fits in with the rest of the site's tone and appearance, but every effort will be made to accomodate those wanting to take part.

Submission length is limited to no more than 5,000 words, and a suitable spellchecker should be used to remove errors beforehand. A personal photograph should also be included (no avatars please), together with a brief biography.

Mailing address is: georgius4444@hotmail.co.uk

                                  December 2018

Alberto Arcia & Paul Bussard

 

 

 

Alberto Arcia is a legal Panamanian immigrant living in Texas.

He came to Texas with his mother and siblings under a diplomatic umbrella.

He is presently married to Betsy and has written numerous books.

He has a penchant for bawdy comedy aimed at older adults and also writes fiction/fantasy for the dragons and wizards fans.

To view all his works go to: www.albertoarcia.com

 

 

 

After retiring from a thirty-year career in aerospace, then working another ten in communication, Paul A. Bussard is finally free to devote his time to writing.

He is an indie- and self-published author of hard science fiction and fantasy.

He earned a B.S. degree in Mathematics from Wichita State University and has a heavy background in the physical sciences.

Mr. Bussard and his wife recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. They live near Houston, Texas.

 

 

 

 View From a Pedestal

 

                                         
 
 
 ISBN 9781723100383
 

View from a Pedestal is a contemporary, humorous, tongue-in-cheek urban fantasy novel about a disgruntled American icon. Arcia and Bussard lampoon the government, religion, and other sacrosanct institutions to entertain the reader, while focusing on a serious issue: the fractured state of our country.

In a cold dreary day in New York City, Sebastian, a worker assigned to maintain the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty gets the surprise of his life. She speaks to him.

Is he insane? Is she really talking to him? Is God communicating through her? These questions and more dog him while he carries out the task she placed on his shoulders. Lady L wants him to announce her intention to address the nation on the Fourth of July.

 

 Buy at Amazon.com

 

 Buy at Amazon.co.uk

 

 Buy at Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

 

Preview

 

Chapter 1 

The Voice

 

Brooklyn, New York City:

A cold wind blowing across Upper Hudson River had thinned the usual ferry crowd down to some die-hard tourists and a few workers like Sebastian Bryant, headed for the Statue of Liberty. In spite of the weather, Sebastian loved this part of his day, riding the ferry. Water seemed to be his element, whether fishing, swimming, or sailing. All those activities gave him a feeling of freedom he couldn’t find anywhere else.

He slid into an empty seat next to Lynn, a befreckled, red-haired beauty who worked in the museum at the statue’s base. She didn’t have the clichéd green eyes, but her other assets made up for that omission.

“Good morning, Sugarplum.”

She laughed. “You and your names. Where did you get ‘sugarplum’? That’s a southern term. You’re from Brooklyn.”

“I am, but I like the South. It’s warm there.”

Rain began pelting the windows as they crossed Upper Bay, driving the tourists inside.

“What are you working on these days, Sebastian?”

“Trusses. Inspectors found a couple showing signs of corrosion.”

“Want to eat with me today?” She showed him her lunch bag. “Maybe we can share. What’d you bring?”

“A liverwurst sandwich, chips, and two dill pickles. Sure you want to share?” He grinned.

“Ew.” She wrinkled her nose. “You need to get yourself a wife, Sebastian.”

“No time. I’m too busy with work. Besides, any prospect I find will have to have an open mind.”

She raised an eyebrow. “How so?”

“I spend my days under another woman’s skirt.”

Lynn laughed again.

“She’s a statue, Sebastian. There’s nothing under that skirt except a spiral staircase, a service elevator, and metal—what did you call them?—trusses.”

“Ah…that’s why she doesn’t respond to my advances.”

That earned him a derisive snort and a backhand to the arm.

* * *

Liberty Island:

Right before closing time, the last of the tourists clomped down Lady’s metal staircase, heading toward the elevator. Their footsteps and voices echoed in the cavern of the statue’s skirt. Sebastian directed the beam of his headlamp at the inboard end of the truss he was standing on. Heights didn’t bother him, but the dim light inside the statue made his job hazardous. Miss Liberty’s skeleton required constant attention due to corrosion and fatigue. While he didn’t wish her ill, remedying her problems kept him employed.

He made his way toward the central pylon, reattaching his tether at each crossbeam. Once down to the pedestal level, he shed his harness, hard hat, and tool belt. Security had finally agreed to let him store them overnight in the museum. That suited Sebastian; Lynn worked there. He looked forward to chatting with her on the ferry ride back to Battery Park.

Seeing a guy with a tool belt and headlamp come out of the structure made some folks nervous, so Sebastian usually waited until the elevator doors closed on the last load of tourists before making his appearance. He was wasting time, waiting for his ride to come back up, when a woman’s voice came at him out of nowhere.

“Sebastian, may I speak to you?”

He looked around, trying to locate the owner of the voice. No luck.

“Listen here,” he said, “whoever you are, the boat leaves in less than thirty minutes, and this is the last elevator before security shuts it down for the night. You better be on it.”

“Sebastian, it is I, Lady Liberté, speaking.”

Yeah, right!

He half expected some ditzy dame to come out in a Miss Liberty costume, complete with a spiky foam rubber crown, but no one appeared. Sounds bounced every which way inside the hollow structure, so pinpointing the source of the voice would be difficult. Frustrated, he addressed the prankster.

“Listen, lady. It’s quitting time, and I’m in no mood for games this late in the day. Please show yourself before I call security.”

“You will be wasting your time. Security can’t escort me out. I’m a statue. Besides, no one can hear me but you.”

“That’s it. I’m done here!” He would have glared at her if he knew which way to face.

Sebastian took the elevator down and looked around for Frank Mullins, head of Security. Instead, he found Lynn. She waved him over.

“What took you so long, Sebastian? The ferry is almost here.”

He told her about the tourist, hiding upstairs and said he needed to notify Frank. She pointed him in the right direction.

“Frank you’re not going to like this, but there’s a woman hiding in the statue. I tried to get her to show herself, but she wouldn’t cooperate.”

“Dammit, Sebastian, I promised Carol I’d be home in time for supper. Her brother and his wife are coming over.”

“Well, the elevators are locked down, now. Leave her up there overnight. Teach her a lesson.”

Frank glared at Sebastian with those dark eyes of his.

“You know damn well I can’t do that. They’d have my job!”

“Well, don’t kill the messenger. I’ll go back up and show your guys where she spoke to me.”

“Thanks Sebastian, but I’m head of security. I need to take the lead. I’d appreciate it if you point the way, though. Maybe we can flush the bitch out quickly, then call a police boat to take us back to Battery Park. With luck, I can still make it home for dessert.”

Frank overrode the elevator controls, and they took a few men up to search the place. Sebastian indicated where he had stood when he heard the voice, but the search proved fruitless. There was no one inside, at least not where they could find her.

“Sebastian, I told you—calling security would be ineffectual. No one is there to be found.”

He grabbed Frank’s arm. “There’s the voice!”

Frank turned towards Sebastian. “What voice?”

Just like before, it came again.

“Sebastian, only you can hear me. Let me prove it. Brace yourself.”

Sebastian looked all around, totally bewildered.

“Hello, down there!”

He slapped his hands over his ears, but it did nothing to diminish the voice. The sound was incredibly loud. For some reason, no one else reacted.

“Didn’t you hear that?” he asked Frank.

“Hear what?” He looked at Sebastian like he was nuts.

“The woman’s voice. It was deafening. You had to hear it.”

“Sebastian, are you serious? I didn’t hear nuthin’, and neither did anyone else.” He waved an arm, encompassing the rest of his crew.

Frank gave him a dirty look, then called his guys back down.

“False alarm, fellas,” he told them. “Nothing here except Sebastian’s warped sense of humor.”

Looking at Sebastian with squinty-eyes, he said, “I don’t know what you’re trying to pull, but I don’t appreciate it. I’m going to have to report this upstairs. Come on, guys, let’s get out of here before the ferry leaves.”

Sebastian avoided the ugly looks the security crew gave him, riding down the elevator. Thinking back on the woman’s words, he could only draw one of two conclusions. Either the Statue of Liberty is talking to me, or I’m going crazy! Or both. It could be both.


 

Chapter 2

Lady Liberté

 

Brooklyn:

The next day Sebastian rushed out of his apartment, found an “out of order” sign taped to the elevator door, and took the stairs. He was running a bit late so he took the steps two at a time, holding the bannister, just in case.

Outside, a nicer day than yesterday greeted him. He didn’t buy his usual paper, preferring to go straight to Trixie’s Coffee Shop.

Simon, his friend and neighbor, occupied the same spot as yesterday. Sebastian greeted him.

“Well, did you tell Martha?”

“No, not yet.”

Simon had lost his job the week before and had not accumulated the courage to tell his wife. Sebastian decided to cut the conversation short. He offered his friend some unsolicited advice.

“It’ll go easier on you, telling Martha the truth, than if she finds out you’ve been lying to her all along.”

Simon pressed his lips together and nodded. Probably already came to that conclusion himself.

“Take care. I need to speak with Maria this morning.” Sebastian left him and slid onto a stool at the end of the coffee bar.

“Sorry about yesterday,” Maria said as she poured him a cup. “I was busy and didn’t realize you were here until I saw you leaving.”

“No problem. Can we see each other tonight?”

“No. Sorry. I have to take Abuelo to bingo.”

Sebastian’s wounded puppy eyes must have been working today, because she relented.

“Okay, I’ll have my sister do it. Pick me up at 8:00, and be on time.”

He drank his coffee, then dashed out the door, not wanting to be late for the ferry. After the fiasco yesterday with the strange voice and Frank, Sebastian wanted to find out what the heck was going on.

He knew he wasn’t crazy. Someone had spoken to him inside the statue. The voice claimed it was her, Lady Liberty. Uh-huh. And the other weird thing—no one but Sebastian could hear the voice. What was that all about?

He went through the security check, boarded the ferry, and looked around for Lynn.

She waved. “Yoo-hoo! Sebastian, over here.”

“Hello, Sunshine,” he said. “Nice morning today, huh?”

“Yes, it’s beautiful out.”

She cut her usual amenities short and dove right in.

“Tell me, Sebastian, what happened yesterday? Did you find the mystery woman? Who was she? Why did she hide there and want to talk to you?”

“All good questions, Lynn, none of which I can answer yet. Just understand that Frank’s opinion of me suffered a bit.”

She laughed. “Frank has a low opinion of everyone. Join the club.”

She touched his hand, showed him her brown bag, shook it, and smiled.

“How about lunch today? I brought two ham and cheese sandwiches. Can we eat together?”

“Thanks Lynn, but I’m really busy today. Tomorrow for sure. I’ll bring something other than liverwurst to share. Maybe by then I’ll be able to explain the incident yesterday—a better explanation than that I’m crazy. Deal?”

“Tomorrow,” she said, pointing a threatening finger at him.

Lynn didn’t know about Maria, and Sebastian saw no need to enlighten her. He enjoyed talking to her on the ferry, and she was easy on the eyes. Besides, she only wanted to eat lunch together.

Inside Lady’s skirt, Sebastian came straight to the point.

“Okay Miss Liberty, yesterday you said it was you talking to me. I didn’t believe you then, and I still don’t, but none of the other explanations make sense. If it’s you talking, then convince me.”

“What do you want me to do that I have not already done? Climb down from my pedestal and do a tap dance for you?”

“Would you?”

“Sebastian, be serious. Do you see any legs?”

“Well no, but I hear you talking. If you can do that, then maybe you can do other things.”

“You can hear me talk, and others cannot. Is that not enough for a Doubting Thomas?”

“Okay, don’t get pissy. I believe you.”

 “Good to know you have come to your senses.”

“Come to my senses or lost them—one or the other.”

Now he was really worried. Either someone was playing an elaborate joke on him, or he had lost his mind. He ruled out the first possibility. Ever since 911, security had been tightened to the point that no one could have snuck in and installed a loud speaker. Well, he allowed that Frank and his crew could have. They were Security. But he hardly knew any of the crew, and Frank was a no-nonsense kind of guy. He ruled out a practical joke.

He found himself in a state of controlled shock.

“I was hoping it was a prankster…or a miracle—anything better than that I’m becoming delusional.”

“You are quite sane, I assure you, Sebastian. I am speaking to you, but only to you. I apologize for the trouble that I caused you yesterday.”

Great! An imaginary voice is assuring me it’s not imaginary. That makes me feel soooo much better. Fine. I’m crazy. But I’m also curious. I’m going to play along with whoever is talking to me and see what develops.

“All right,” he told her. “Apology accepted. But why are you speaking to me? What do you want from me? And what do you think I can do to help you?”

“Let me answer one question at a time, no need to tax your brain.”

“Don’t push it Miss Liberty, be grateful that I am talking to you.”

“Sebastian, instead of calling me Miss Liberty, please address me as Lady Liberté. Although I am a miss, I now have the maturity to be referred to as a lady. Also, my countrymen sent me as a gift to the United States of America to commemorate and symbolize freedom. I want to be called Lady Liberté in recognition of that heritage. Now, as to the ‘why’…I need your help.”

 “Umm…what sort of help? And why me? Don’t get me wrong. I’m always happy to help a friend in need. A talking statue, not so much.”

“Sebastian, your president is dismantling all the safeguards built into our form of government, and no one is challenging him.”

“Okay, first, let’s get something straight, Lady. He is not my president. I didn’t and never would vote for him. I’m an Independent. And second, it isn’t even him. He’s just the head of the pimple. Both sides of congress and the Supreme Court have enough members who have been bought by Big Money to approve everything he does. And third, you’re right—he’s destroying the middle class by promoting divisiveness, and there’s not a darned thing we can do about it because the same people control the elections. So I repeat my question. What can I do to help?”

“Sebastian, you are right—divided in so many ways, it is in danger of succumbing to forces of evil. I want to prevent that from happening. Evil forces are at work on me, too, but you dedicate your time to keeping me healthy. I chose you because I know I can trust you.”

Sebastian had never thought of that. Lots of people worked inside the statue. A few worked outside, but most, like the inspectors, stayed only a few days, then left. She was right. He worked full-time, keeping her in good repair.

“Okay, thanks...I think. While I agree that our nation has problems, I’m not sure I could list them all, let alone help you fix any of them. What specific problems do you plan on tackling? Are you going to address the treatment of immigrants and veterans? Those are problems.”

“They are symptoms of our division, Sebastian, but only two among many. I prefer not to become mired in details at this point. Without first obtaining your commitment to help, discussing details would be pointless.”

“Yeah, well, before I make a commitment, I need to know what I’m committing to. I may be out of work for a while soon. I have my own problems.”

Sebastian heard a soughing sound coming from somewhere above him. Wind did that sometimes, but no wind blew today. It was her, sighing.

“Sebastian, the schism between political parties is only one example of how our nation is fractured. Look at the news. It is full of stories about one group in conflict with another—discrimination, mistreatment, even killings. I fear the country will soon fall into a pile of shattered fragments.”

 “Miss Liberty…uh…Liberté, why do you feel you need to tell me things I already know? I see the same things you see.”

Although he wondered exactly how she saw them.

“Because you asked what you would be committing to. I have a role for you to play in saving the nation. Listen and don’t talk. Not yet. Let me finish.

“Although I am French by design, I have been here long enough to become an American like many other immigrants. I love it here. This is my home, and it is in dire straits at the moment. I want to change that.”

“Okay, I share your sentiments, and I want to change it, too, but you’re a statue; you have no pulpit, and neither do I.”

“That is exactly why I’ve asked you to help me,” she explained, “and you are wrong. I do have a pulpit…right here. It’s an audience I need.”

“You have an audience…every day. If you can talk to me, surely you can talk to your visitors the same way.”

Wait. If I don’t believe the Statue of Liberty is talking to me, why am I standing here arguing with her?

“Sebastian, only two-hundred and forty people are allowed to ascend my staircase per day, ten at a time. I need to address the entire nation.”

“Lady, you need a publicist or an agent for that task. Better, yet, a messiah. Not me.”

“Sebastian, you are fighting me. Why? You said you shared my goals. What is the problem?”

“The problem is that I’ve only mentioned to two people that I heard you talk, and I’m already likely to lose my job. You want millions to know?”

“‘He who would accomplish much must sacrifice much.’”

“Quote your quote to my landlord.”

“Sebastian Bryant, are you going to help me or not?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Man had a choice as early as the Garden of Eden. Do you want to walk in Adam’s shoes, or would you like to elevate man’s stature?”

Geez, this woman has more comebacks than a stand-up comedian.

“Okay, answer me this: if you’re going to talk to the entire nation, you must have the logistics worked out for that. So talk! What do you need me for?”

“Sebastian, when I first spoke to you, what was your reaction?”

“I thought I was hallucinating or someone was playing a prank on me.”

“And your coworkers?”

“They thought I was crazy.”

“Exactly. If I start speaking without preparing people, that will be their reaction, too. Furthermore, they won’t know it is I, Lady Liberté, addressing them. I need you to let them know it will be my voice they are hearing. You must stir their interest—create a buzz.”

“Whoa, lady, stop right there. I don’t like what I’m hearing.”

“Sebastian, are you bailing out on me already?”

“No Lady, I’m just concerned that you are setting me up for ridicule. Telling the nation that the Statue of Liberty wants to speak to them is a bit much, don’t you think?”

“Sebastian, the task is hard. I give you that. It’s precisely because it’s difficult that I wanted a military man to help me, but one who has not bloodied his hands—a man of both inner and outer strength. Your parents raised you right, and you walk the moral high ground as well as the political middle road. I need an intelligent man with patience and perseverance to take on this task for me. Now what do you say? Will you be my harbinger?”

“First of all, Lady, you are right. I’m an ex-military man—a National Guardsman. Second, in the military hierarchy, guardsmen rank just below merchant mariners. Third, I didn’t kill anyone because I never saw active duty. I was called a tit-less WAC.”

“Explain yourself, Sebastian. I’m not familiar with that term.”

 He smiled. Taking advantage of her ignorance of English idioms was going to be fun.

“I was a man, doing a woman’s job—a typist. No gun for me.”

“Did you have to wear a skirt?”

“No, Lady. Don’t get funny. I’m not that kind of a man.”

“That’s good to know. Now, will you help me?”

 “Okay, fine, I’ll do it, but just the promotional part. Don’t ask me to make any speeches for you. I don’t do speeches. That’s a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.”

“Thank you, Sebastian. We are a team. Now go spread the word that Lady Liberté wants to speak to the nation in the summer.”

“Summer? Why then? Why not spring?”

“Sebastian, who am I, and when would be the most logical time for me to speak? Don’t make me think I misjudged your intelligence.”

Oh. Oops. Okay, score one Lady Lib.

“Are you really going to speak to the whole nation? How and where?”

“Where else? You work under my stola. Have you seen any legs there? I am not going anywhere.”

 

 

 Back to Top