Author Quotes Week: Peter Straub

This has certainly been the week for great author quotes!



Camp NaNoWriMo Project Part 7


Previous: Leona struggles with the care needs of a newborn baby, but is reluctant to seek help from her community out of fear of the truth about Cathal’s identity being discovered. Cathal’s arrival in the village attracts attention from the local guard, who is aware of the disappearance of the baby from Galway Regional Hospital, and becomes suspicious of Cathal’s origins.

Cathal sat still on the examination bed in Aidan’s office, as Aidan peered through his otoscope into Cathal’s ear.

“His ears look fine,” Aidan confirmed to Leona.

“It just seems like he can’t hear me,” Leona insisted. “Whenever I get him to try and say a word, he just stares at me blankly.”

“It could be the cleft palate. Children with a cleft palate can have a higher chance of hearing difficulties. Fluid can’t drain from the ear well. It collects inside and can affect hearing and cause infections.”

Aidan moved his finger side to side in front of Cathal’s face, and Cathal followed it with his eyes.

“He should be speaking by now too, shouldn’t he?” asked Leona.

“Children with a cleft palate sometimes have problems with speech because they can’t make the usual sounds with their mouths.”

Sitting across the floor from Cathal, Leona rolled a small red ball toward him. He caught it, meeting her cheers of joy with a baby-faced glare.

“Cathal, can you say ‘Mammy? Ma-mmy?”

Cathal lowered his head, not breaking his cold stare. Leona huffed.

“Mam-my? Cathal?”


Leona sat back, stunned.


A wave of joy washed over her and filled her heart at the sound of his voice.

“That was so good, Cathal! So good! Now just say ‘Mammy’.”


Leona’s delighted smile slipped off her face as the cold seer of disappointment pierced her heart.

“Just say Mammy!” she exclaimed.


Leona scrambled forward and snatched the ball from Cathal’s grasp. His deadpan frown was screwed up as he cried.

“No toys until you call me Mammy!” she screamed.

She smacked him several times, and he howled in pain and distress. She took him by the arm and marched him into the nursery, throwing him against the wall and slamming the door behind him. She leaned her back against the door, sinking down to the floor with her face in her hands, wailing over Cathal’s screams.

She sat there for some time, and after a while her crying subsided, but Cathal’s did not. She stood up and opened the door. She looked into the room at Cathal, sitting on the floor, screaming and clutching his arm. Panic set in as she rushed into the room.

Leona sat silently in a chair next to Aidan’s desk as he fixed Cathal’s arm in a sling.

“It’s broken,” Aidan stated. “It will be in a sling for about six weeks.”

“He fell while I was changing him on the table,” Leona said quietly. “I had my hand on him, and my body close to the table as always, but he was wriggling around. I caught him before he hit the ground, but his head still hit the shelf.”

Aidan lent over in front of Leona and looked her in the eyes.

“It’s alright,” he insisted. “It was an accident.”

He stood up straight and put his hands in the pockets of his white coat. Leona smiled up at him.


“I’ll see you at home later.”

When they arrived at the house, Cathal ran ahead, going straight to the nursery. Leona followed him, entering the room and sitting down on the edge of the bed, where he lay curled up in a ball. She placed her hand down upon him, and Cathal flinched.

“Cathal, come here and give Mammy a cuddle.”

He didn’t budge, and was like a dead weight as she tried to lift him up.

“Listen, Cathal, what Mammy did was very wrong, and I’m so, so sorry.”

Cathal looked at his mother, frowning.

“I hate you.”

The alarm clock sprung to life on the bedside table, the trill piercing the predawn silence. Aidan lifted himself from the bed, taking his suit from the wardrobe. As he knotted his tie in the mirror, he observed Leona in the reflection: she remained in bed, lying on her side, the sheets tangled around her body.

“Leona, are you awake? Cathal needs to get up.”

She dragged herself from the bed and shuffled to the kitchen. She stirred porridge in a large cast-iron pot over the wood-fired stove, and spooned a helping into two bowls. Aidan and Cathal arrived at the kitchen and sat at the table. Leona served them their breakfast and took her own seat. They pressed their hands together and closing their eyes.

“God, we thank you for you goodness, and you kindness,” Aidan prayed, “and for this food we thank you now. Amen.”

The moment she scraped the last mouthful of porridge from her bowl, Leona stood from the table and disappeared back down the hall. Aidan looked at Cathal.

“You can play in your room until you go to school, son.”

Aidan returned to the main bedroom. The door was slightly open, and he peered through the crack.

“Leona?” he softly called.

He listened for a moment, but there was no answer. He slipped into the room and sat down next to Leona, who was lying on her side, staring into her reflection in the mirror across the way from her side of the bed.

“Leona, what’s gotten into you this morning?”

Leona said nothing.

“It’s Cathal’s first day. At least get up to see him off.”

Aidan sighed, stood up and left the room, closing the door behind him.

The school was a twenty-minute walk down the road. Cathal was joined almost immediately by Ellen and Robert Higgins from next door, and more children tagged on to their group as they walked. The neighbouring properties and farms began to shrink and condense into colourful townhouses as they reached the edge of the village. At the school gate, Ellen turned to Robert and Cathal, looking down at them.

“Now, boys, meet me right back here at the gate this afternoon, alright?”

“Okay,” Robert timidly agreed.

Ellen beamed.

“Don’t be scared, you two. You’ll be fine. Behave yourselves, you hear?”

At lunchtime Aidan walked home to check on Leona. He had done this since they had married; Cathal had usually been asleep, and he and Leona would eat lunch together.

Aidan stepped into the house; Leona wasn’t in the living room or kitchen. He followed the hallway down to the bedroom.

“Leona?” he pushed the door open a little further. “Leona!”

She lay on her side, vomit dripping from her mouth.

“Leona! Leona! Wake up!” Aidan shouted, shaking her.

She stirred, her eyes fluttering open. She turned her head, shielding her eyes from the afternoon sun streaming through the curtains. She propped herself up onto her elbows.

“Leona, are you okay?” he frantically asked. “What have you taken?”

“Painkillers. And wine.”

Aidan wiped a tear away from her eye.

“I’m here now,” he insisted. “I’ll take care of you. Let’s get you cleaned up. We can’t have Cathal seeing you like this. He’ll be home in a few hours.”

Aidan helped Leona sit up on the edge of the bed, leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees. She was still wearing her nightdress. She closed her eyes and sighed heavily before standing to her feet.

“Easy, easy,” Aidan insisted. “Here, step into your slippers.”

She slid her feet into her slippers and shuffled across the room to the hall.

In the bathroom, Leona plunged her face into the basin full of water, shaking her head from side to side and blowing air out through her nose and mouth. She lifted her head, pushing her wet hair away from her face. She wiped her hand across the mirror, looking bleakly at her reflection.

The bell chimed at three o’clock, and as agreed, Cathal and Robert met Ellen at the school gate.

“How was your first day?” she enquired.

“It was grand!” Robert exclaimed.

“Come on, let’s get home.”

Cathal walked down the hill from St. Joseph’s with Ellen and Robert. When they arrived at their house, they turned into their gate.

“Bye, Cathal! See you tomorrow!”

“Bye,” Cathal called, waving as he continued on to his way.

Cathal found Aidan in the kitchen.

“Hey there, son,” he greeted. “Your mam’s resting; she’s not too well this afternoon. I’ll make you a malt milk and get you a biscuit.”

The following afternoon, Leona was in the kitchen when Cathal arrived home from school. As he ate his snack, Leona kept busy around the kitchen, and she spent the afternoon cleaning the house. When Aidan arrived home from work at four o’clock, she briefly acknowledged him and kept on with her work.

“Has she been like this all afternoon?” Aidan asked Cathal.

“Yes,” Cathal replied.

After dinner, Leona served dessert and cleaned up the dishes. Aidan put Cathal to bed and then returned to the kitchen. Leona was vigorously drying the plates and placing them noisily on the shelves.

“I’m glad to see you’re so lively today,” Aidan commented. “Don’t you think it’s time to stop for the night?”

Leona didn’t stop.

“Leona, you’re making a lot of noise!” Aidan exclaimed firmly. “I’ve just put Cathal down to sleep; he has school and I have work in the morning.”

Still Leona didn’t look his way. Aidan sighed.

“Leona, what’s wrong? Are you angry because Cathal is going to school?”

Leona stopped and rested one hand on her hip. She couldn’t look up at him.

“I’m sorry,” she said gently. “I know I shouldn’t be so upset about it…but I’m just so scared for him. He can hardly speak, let alone hear.”

“He’ll be okay,” he insisted. “He’s a very brave boy.”

Aidan touched her shoulder.

”You’ve had a long day. Go and lie down. I’ll bring you a cup of tea.”

Leona and Aidan sat opposite Father Braden in his office at the church.

“The aim is for children to have good quality, understandable speech by the age of five or six, so they can start school already able to participate fully in class and communicate with their peers. Cathal has a problem speaking and listening, so it has become apparent he has a learning difficulty.”

“Father, Cathal has a cleft lip and palate,” Aidan explained. “He can’t properly close off the mouth and nose while speaking…”

“Unfortunately these problems are outside the knowledge of my teachers. I suggest you educate him at home or place him in a special school, where they will be better equipped to handle him.”

“Father, he’s not retarded. His condition doesn’t affect his mental ability.” Aidan revealed a stack of papers, placing them in front of Father Braden. “These are his drawings. He sits at the table for hours after school doing them; I can hardly keep up the supply of paper from work. He’s a very clever child, his art skills are outstanding. He’s been drawing detailed pictures since he was three years old; he’s talented beyond his years…”

“There will be no more discussion on the matter, Doctor Kelly. My teachers simply do not have the time or resources to focus on one child and let the rest fall behind.”

Aidan looked at Leona, then back at Father Braden.

“Very well.”

Aidan dragged the desk into the middle of the living room, and pushed the chair in

behind it. He stood the blackboard on its easel in front of it.

“All set,” he said. “The blackboard is broken, but still usable.”

Leona smiled.

“T’anks, Aidan.”

He stepped up to her and kissed her on the forehead.

“I know you’ll be glad to have Cathal home again.”

“Yes, I will.”

“Just kept encouraging him and telling him he’s doing just fine. He’s only in the first grade after all; there’s nothing to worry about just yet.”

Cathal sat by the living room window, gazing out at the road. The children passed by the house, laughing and chattering on their way to St. Joseph’s. Leona appeared in the doorway.


He turned to look at her, his brow furrowed and lips pouting.

“Why can’t I go with them?”

“Because you’re staying home with me now,” Leona said, stepping into the room. “It’s what’s best for you, Cathal.”

“But I want to go with them!

“You’re not doing that anymore, Cathal. Now come on and do some drawing at the table.”

Leona sat next to Cathal, watching on in fascination as he drew stick figures on the

piece of paper before him.

“Your art skills are outstanding, Cathal.” Leona leaned in closer. “They’re telling a

story, aren’t they, Cathal? Would you tell it to me?”

“No,” Cathal grunted.

Leona sat back, sighed.

“I’ll make you something to eat.”



Camp NaNoWriMo April Project Part 4

Leona’s naive delusion about her new role as woman of the house has resulted in an incestuous relationship with her father and an unplanned pregnancy. Rather than fearing for the freedom of herself and her baby at the hands of the Catholic Church, Leona maintains her fantastical vision of family life with her father and baby on the farm. The secret is kept safely hidden from the close-knit village community, with Leona being confined to her attic bedroom. However Leona’s dream of motherhood is shattered when it is discovered she has experienced a phantom pregnancy. 


Sins of the Son: Camp NaNoWriMo April Project Part 4

Copyright© Kate Kelsen 2019. All Rights Reserved.

The sun was peaking over the horizon. Leona was standing at the stove making porridge. Her father appeared, dark circles embedded in the pale skin under his eyes. He was frightful to look upon. Leona served up the porridge into two bowls and set one in front of her father.

“I’m going into Galway today,” Leona stated.

“Why,” Colm grunted.

“For medical reasons.”

Colm gave his daughter a quick glance between shoveling mouthfuls of porridge.

“Can’t you just see Aidan?”

Leona shook her head.

“Are you alright?”


A few hours after Colm had left for work, Leona stepped out of the house and headed in the direction of town. The walk took around twenty minutes. The morning bus to Galway left from Main Street at 7.15. She would be in town by 8.00.

Leona stood beside the crib, which had been positioned next to the hospital bed. She reached in and lifted the bundle of blue into her arms, gently cooing to the baby boy as she cradled him. She could feel his tiny movements through the confines of his tightly wrapped blanket. His fragility warmed her heart so deeply it was like nothing she had ever experienced before. She turned and left the room, the woman still sleeping in the bed.

Leona followed the steps to the street, stopping, looking frantically around her. It was as if the world was spinning, people coming and going, rushing this way and that. None stopped to take a second look at Leona as they rushed past. The infant in her arms started to grizzle. The clock was ticking. A bus pulled up nearby, and passengers began to embark and disembark. Leona stepped on board and took a seat toward the back. A man sat next to her, and other passengers filled the empty spots nearby.

On the road out of town, the baby was becoming increasingly distressed. Still no-one in the seats around paid much attention, except for the man, who cast a mildly irritable glance at them from time to time.

“Is he alright?” he finally enquired.

“Yes, he’s just hungry,” Leona stammered.

“Do you have a bottle to give him?”

“No. I did have one earlier, but it broke and spilled.”

The man sighed, crossed her arms and looked away.

Gently bouncing the screaming newborn, Leona cooed softly to him in an effort to sooth him, but it was no use. He knew the arms that cradled him were not those of his mother. He could not be fooled. Leona’s heart was racing with panic; his howling was so loud, it went on and on. She didn’t know what to do, how to make him stop. She was trying to comfort him as a mother would, but he did not care about her efforts. He did not want her, and Leona knew it. The anger churned deep in her belly. She was his mother, and he was going to love her as such.

Leona heard the front door open and close, and looked up to see her father at the entrance to her bedroom. He stood there for several seconds before speaking.

“Where did you get that?”

“It’s the baby I was pregnant with,” Leona snapped.

“What do you mean?”

“That’s why I went to the hospital today.”

Leona laid the baby boy down in the bassinette in the corner of her room, collapsing on the bed nearby.

She sat up suddenly to the sharp cry from the other side of the room. Untangling herself from the bedsheets, she stumbled over to the bassinett and carefully lifted the baby boy. She laid him down on the changing table, pinning a fresh cloth nappy into place. She gently stoked his tiny hand with her thumb, and touched her finger to his button nose.  She lifted him up, the nappy hanging loosely off his body.

Leona paced the room, gently bouncing Cathal and softly hushing him. His cries were short, sharp and urgent. He had just had a bottle, but he was still fussing. The cries escalated. Leona laid Cathal down in the bassinet, pulling at the drawstrings of her robe. She sat down in her mother’s rocking chair next to the bassinet and lifted Cathal out again, cradling him over her right breast. She pulled her robe aside to expose her bare skin. Cathal latched on to her nipple, suckling peacefully for a few seconds before his squwarking started again. Leona sighed.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She squeezed her eyes closed and screwed up her face, her own tears trickling down her cheeks.

In the bathroom, Leona plunged her face into the basin full of water, shaking her head from side to side and blowing air out through her nose and mouth. She lifted her head, pushing her wet hair away from her face. She wiped her hand across the condensation on the mirror, looking bleakly at her reflection.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time. The desire for a baby had consumed her; she couldn’t think of anything else. Nothing was going to get in the way of her getting what she wanted, but now that she had it, her new reality was hitting hard. What she had stolen was another living, breathing human being.

She could just drop him on the step of the garda station in town, she thought. She could do it at night; no one would ever know it was her. But then it would mean she had failed, and she would not be the mother she had so desperately longed to be. She would become the failure everyone had thought she was.

No, she would not give up. She would not surrender Cathal; she would keep him, and care for him as best she could.

The crying went on and on; the baby boy refused to accept that he was not going back to the woman in the hospital. After a time his persistent distress eased, and he submitted to the notion that Leona was his mother. She sat with him often in the rocking chair, holding him close to her body, looking into his eyes and talking to him. He was so precious to her.


Slumped on the floor beside her bed in her nightdress, Leona rested her head upon the edge of the mattress. The length of rope was tied one end around the leg of her bed, and the other around her ankle. A food tray was discarded nearby. Cathal’s whimpers started softly, quickly escalating into screeching cries. Leona stood to her feet and approached the bassinet, stopping abruptly as the length of rope pulled taut.

“Daddy!” She looked back at the bassinet. “Daddy!”

She leaned her body forward, reaching her arms out, her fingertips brushing the lace along the edge of the bassinet. The rope pulled on her ankle, stinging as it cut into her skin. She growled in frustration, dropping to the floor and prying at the knot in the rope. But it was no use; it was tied tight. Panting, she sat back, looking around. She scampering back across the floor and snatched up the serrated knife from the food tray, sawing away at her restraint. The string of rope was not very thick, but tough nonetheless, and the small teeth on the knife seemed no match for it. But still she sawed, sawed, sawed as Cathal howled.

Her was hand red raw from grasping the knife’s handle as she discarded the utensil and crossed the floor. She reached into the bassinet, her arms quivering in weakness as she lifted Cathal up. She returned to the food tray and picked up the small cup of milk, tipping it ever so carefully against Cathal’s lips.

Leona sat down on the edge of the bed, looking up to the bedroom door as it opened. Her father stepped into the room, and she lowered her head. He reached down and gently lifted Cathal out of her arms, turning and laying him back down in the bassinet. He turned back to Leona, placing his hand on her shoulder. He nearly took her breath away as he shoved her backwards. She gasped, and he grabbed her, pushing her over onto her stomach, pulling her arms behind her back.

“Daddy, what are you doing?” she shrieked. ‘Daddy!’

He wrapped the length rope around her wrists several times, tightening it firmly. She thrashed her legs as he grappled with her ankles, tying them the same way. Her shrieks reduced to sobs. He passed another length of rope between her feet and wrists behind her back, pulling them together, forcing her knees to bend and her ankles to rise. Hog-tied, he left her in the centre of the bed, leaving the room and closing the door behind him.  The room was silent. Leona moved her arms, her legs. Her heart was pounding in her ears, her breath quivering. The past few minutes played over in her mind. What had just happened? Had that really been her father who had come in and tied her up like this? Would he come back? What would he do then?

The strain of her arms and legs intensified by the minute. Her hands and feet were throbbing as the blood struggled to reach them. Leona rocked herself to cause herself to fall to one side, and there she laid, her gaze cast across the way to the bassinet. A feeling of dread festered inside her. If her father had done this to her, what was he willing to do to Cathal?

This could all be over in a second.

The thought loomed through the fog of confusion in her mind. All she had to do was confess to her father the truth about Cathal. It was such a simple solution, yet despite her current predicament, still she hesitated at the thought of giving Cathal up. Through her shock and terror her pride found its way. All she had ever wanted was a baby, and even being imobilised and imprisoned in her own home, she was not about to give him up.