F.J.Dagg enters our contest on a wing and a prayer

(Footprints in the sand at La Jolla Shores look suspiciously like those of FJ Dagg)

Good Evening,

For those of you helping with the countdown, this is story number 13 of the 24 I have sworn to post since Thanksgiving.

F.J. Dagg has finally found the woman of his dreams…but is it too late?  Here is his final entry into The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest.

In the Bittersweet By-and-By

by F.J. Dagg

I was unlucky in love–but, with the regret that attends one’s later years, there is the solace of resignation. While my twenties and thirties had their agonies of disappointment–as much my fault as anyone’s–and my forties, attenuated versions of the same, my fifties and sixties were blessed with a deepening serenity only slightly colored by melancholy. Somewhere along the way, I’d sworn I’d never suffer for love again.

In those later years, being a realist–at least in acknowledging my mortality–I diverted energy once devoted to seeking my other half toward a study of such authors as Moody, Myers, and Alexander, and their accounts of near-death experiences, alleged communication with the departed, and the possibility of an afterlife.

I reasoned that if death is personality’s annihilation, as our secular age holds, then, in the end, it wouldn’t matter. But if there is something after our mortal existence, why not attempt to prepare? What I read offered hope, the consensus, in part, being that the world to come is infinitely variable, and shaped by affinities and expectations formed during life.

As it turns out, Moody and the others are right. “…created mankind in His Image,” refers not to the flesh, but to consciousness, free will, and creativity, and after my death–and a fair bit of atonement–I found myself in a place that fulfilled my heart’s desire almost entirely.

I lived, as it were, at the edge of a seaside village that much resembled La Jolla, California, a town in which I’d spent much of my life, and had dearly loved, but which circumstances forced me to abandon. My days were filled with things I’d loved in life: music, surfing, birding, reading, meditation, friends, good friends… Paradise found.

And yet there was a haunting–emptiness–that came into sharp relief one autumn afternoon as I walked in the woods atop the cliffs north of town. A marine layer approached in fast-gliding shoals of vapor, so that the beach and the high surf far below were alternately bathed in light and plunged into shadow, an impression echoed by the sunlight through the sparse canopy of the woods.

This celestial La Jolla is thinly populated, so I was surprised to come upon a figure standing at the cliff’s edge, gazing seaward. Even at a distance, a sense of familiarity struck me, though I felt certain I’d not seen the young woman before.

“Enjoying the view?” I asked as I drew near.

She started at my voice and was clearly not pleased at my intrusion. She was about twenty, slender, with wavy, honey-blonde hair that fell past her shoulders. She wore an unseasonable white summer dress, and sandals.

The sense of familiarity deepened. A part of me wanted to walk on, but something held me there, so I lingered, awkward. The silence lengthened and I decided to go, but as I stepped away, she spoke.

“I… Can you tell me where I am, please?”

Her voice surprised me, low and dark, at odds with her blonde youthfulness, and it was to me as the sirens to Ulysses.

She faced me and I noticed that her eyes brimmed with tears. I saw too, or thought I did, a long filament, like spider silk, or a silver hair among the blonde, trailing off from her head to seaward.

“It may be La Jolla,” I replied. “Or, it may be Heaven.”

At “Heaven,” she drew a sharp breath and turned back to the sea.

Souls are more perceptive here than on earth, and the dismay that surged from her struck me like a great, cold winter wave. Without thinking, I offered my hand.

“Come. I know someone who can help you.”

She hesitated, but then took my hand. I led her down toward the village. I did indeed know someone, an old soul, who would know how to relieve her distress.

Her  name was Jennifer and as we descended the slope from the cliffs to the town, we shared some words. Among the things I learned was that she had been born the day I died. More than words, though, passed between us, and by the time we reached the Cove, I recognized her. She was the One–the other half for whom I had waited all my earthly life.

As we entered the village, the marine layer came ashore–a great, foggy cliff that blotted out the sun and reduced our sight to mere yards. The temperature plunged and Jennifer shivered in her thin summer dress. I knew, though, that her tremor had to do with more than the chill sea air. She clutched my arm and turned toward the thunder of the invisible surf.

The fog swirled and shifted until a scene coalesced before us, hovering: A hospital room, a young woman in the bed, slender and honey-blonde, still and pale as death, surrounded by bowed shadows.

An older woman’s face came into view, distraught. She clung to the girl’s hand, crying, “Jenny, oh dear God, Jenny, come back, come back to me, I can’t let you go, oh God, my Jenny…” endlessly. Others there cried and called to Jenny, and to God, a dark, heartbreaking chorus.

I saw again the silver filament, now stretching from Jennifer to the pale form in the bed. She looked at me, then at the desperately weeping woman below and began to cry, too.

“I can’t stay!” she sobbed. “Try to forgive me…and them…”

She threw her arms around me and kissed me as I had never been kissed–and then I was alone in the fog.


Time, as it is here, passes, and I remember, and wait. I’ve learned that we die from this world to yet another, as we die from mortal life to this, so I cannot say I have “all the time in the world” to wait for Jenny.

But it’s not too late to hope that we’ll meet again. I swear, it’s not too late.



F.J. Dagg
Branch 92 Books
Email: FJDagg@Branch92.com
Website: Branch92.com
The Lowlands of Heaven on Amazon: Amazon: http://amzn.to/lyi526

The feathers of angels make the best writing quills, I suppose.  I swear it’s not too late to order his award-winning novel from Amazon in time for Christmas.



29 thoughts on “F.J.Dagg enters our contest on a wing and a prayer

  1. Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    I am loving the scenery, and I am loving the…well, love. I wonder what she will remember when she wakes up–if she remembers there is someone waiting for her on the other side. The odd thing is that there is still hope. Though she will live the rest of her earthly life, she will one day return to him, to the other side. This was so lovely <3

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    Here is by far my favorite of your entries FJ. There is a richness of words of descriptives, environment and sentiment that actually is human and humane. I’m not a woman who applauds violence, war stories, male ego or might makes right. In this story you prove to me that you do have a very sensitive side that I can embrace and treasure. Your story is compeling, your language usage is lyrical, at times romantic and tender. What I don’t get in this story and in others is the use of “-” where it is illogical to do so. The way I was taught to count words is that five characters including spaces is equal to one word. Am I wrong? I doubt this was the intention, but I am at a loss as to what using this device allows or promotes.

    With all this being complained about, your story is very softly engaging, caressing and one I enjoyed very much for the storyline, subtext, meter and emotional commitment.

    • FJDagg says:

      Thanks, Parisianne, for your thoughts and good words. Concerning the hyphen (“-“) that concerns you, it is (pardon me, Thorn) a glitch, or an anomaly in the way the site processes uploaded texts.

      In the original, the hyphen is an “em-dash,” (or, improvising, a double hyphen) which, in my way of doing things, provides a sort of comma-but-with-a-longer-breath. Or, a way to isolate clauses that…you know…need to be isolated. (Hah! So why not use the ellipsis? Because I use that in dialogue–not in narration.)

      Anyway, here, em-dashes and double hyphens appear as hyphens. Life’s like that. You kindly used the word “lyrical.” I do try to be so, and the balance between sentence variety, comma, em-dash, and paragraph break all play their parts in achieving that. But sometimes, you don’t get the Veuve Clicquot. And sometimes, you don’t get the em-dash.

      • Mac Eagan says:

        Interesting about the em-dash being a site glitch. I first saw it here on one of Chuck Chuckerson’s stories and wondered why she didn’t put some space around the dashes; now I know she probably did. I do appreciate how you use the full range of punctuation to pace your story. Also interesting that you reserve ellipses for dialog – my rule of thumb is not to use contractions in narration, but it is a necessity for realistic dialogue.

        • FJDagg says:

          Next time, I’ll try to remember to use the actual em-dash character you can get with “Insert Symbol,” instead of doing the quick ‘n’ dirty double hyphen thing. Wonder what the site will make of it? And yes, I concur entirely re your use of contractions.

          • Mac Eagan says:

            I’m not sure what word processor you are using but I write all my stories on MS Word 97 (yep, it’s old). I went back to my first two entries and found I have em-dashes in them but they have not been subjected to “glitchitis.” I am thinking it has to be related to how the em-dash is created. I do not use double hyphens but just type a word, spacebar, single dash, space bar and next word and Word 97 turns the hyphen into an em-dash. if your word processor does this it may solve the problem easily.

    • Mac Eagan says:

      When I took typing class I was also taught five characters/spaces counted as a word (and used thusly to calculate one’s typing speed) but modern-day word processors count words automatically. They seem to base it on empty spaces and groupings of characters, not characters/spaces used, as I checked the word-count on one document, then replaced some words with shorter synonyms – which should have reduced the word count – but the count remained the same.
      I am not sure how Thorn counts the words in story entries. I imagine he prints out the story, times how long it takes him to read it, performs a mathematical computation based on the timing and the number of pages that were produced, then asks one of the interns to find out for him how many words are in the story. But that’s just a guess.

  3. Parisianne Modert says:

    Since you were the one who introduced us to “Mary Had A Little Lamb Protest” FJ, I wanted to add that at this point my picks up through this entry are 1) Kristy Webster (by a wide margin) 2) Gary Clark (by a wide margin) 3) Kyle Katz (by a lesser margin over Michael Stang & Caitlin Howderland). I haven’t a clue who I would put as number 6, because I am not a number (“The Prisioner” joke) I believe this with confidence, but I am not the judge. There is a lot of talent in this contest with amazing stories and less talented stories which I have read and reviewed. To suggest the other three is an absurdity as far as I can figure out, because only the top three get in for sure. The other three are from a drawing in a most originally masculine way. I’d be interested in every other’s writer’s picks for the top three. I encourage the editor in chief to let us know after the first round who the top three were in his opinion rather than leaving it a mystery.

  4. KYLE Katz says:

    I had to sit with this a while, then went outside to take pictures of the sunset. I always wonder James, that thin veil between heaven and
    earth, the tender pictures of nature that is ever, changing. The love we meet
    or yearn for opening our heart, sweeping us away in-between the veil. That
    tenderness you speak of in death in life, in stories and fairytales or
    Godtales. And never having to suffer for love again. Suffer and love seems to
    walk the boundaries, only teaching us to love again over and over. What else is
    better? “Creativity, free will, and consciousness.” Sometimes I find it
    difficult to soar in this body. Thank you for allowing me to grab your other
    hand and show me the view to the other side through your eyes. Beautifully

  5. elizabeth sloan says:

    What a lovely and surreal and other-worldly narrative. I love the possibility this story gives us. Makes me think of an early Lance Olsen novel, “Live from earth.” I hope this story enters my dreams tonight.

  6. Mac Eagan says:

    Somehow I missed the narrator’s death near the beginning of the story but by the time I got to Heaven being specifically mentioned there was no real surprise. Your writing and descriptions lit the path much like the rising sun lights the day – without realizing it, you are there.
    Masterful work, as always.

  7. Cheryl Cohen says:

    Holy crap — all this about word count, em-dashes and quotation marks, when this sweet story is all the pause needed to capture a moment of love lost — for the time being, anyway. Great job, Jaime. Loved it.

    • FJDagg says:

      I’ll save you a drumstick, Mike! Just kidding…given the quality of so many other entries, I’m certainly not counting on being a finalist, let alone the winner. But I certainly appreciate your appreciation!

  8. Laura G says:

    The spider silk and silver threads are the most stirring images to me. The topic (life after life) is also a fascination of mine: read Moody as a child, continue now with all of the scientific tomes including “evidence of the afterlife.” Thanks for sharing your beautiful dream/reality!

  9. Diane Cresswell says:

    Mr. Dagg…you surprise me completely. This is so right on in your descriptions. Funny I have met and know Dr. Moody – took a class from him and got to know him well plus a number of other people in this field. I have been trained (certified clinical hypnotherapist) in past life regression and also certified in life between lives journeys (Dr. Michael Newton). There is no end to our lives only the physical one. You have presented a beautiful realistic story that gives hope and knowledge that life goes on and on and on. We do meet up again – many times again. Thank you.

    • FJDagg says:

      Thanks, Diane! How cool is it that you know Dr. Moody? As you no doubt guessed, I totally concur regarding “There is no end…” As to the line in the story, “…world to come…affinities…during life,” the writings of F.W.H. Myers was influential. So glad that you enjoyed the story.

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