Note to the reader

This book is fiction. The characters are made up from whole cloth, and any resemblance to real people is imaginary or coincidental. A group of Alabama Quakers moved to Costa Rica in the 1950s, but I know almost nothing about them. A few other odds and ends are based on real happenings, mostly altered beyond recognition. The institutions in this book are real, and so are the places. For narrative convenience the supporting details are invented, modified, and creatively abused, including geography, weather, vegetation, and current events. It's a story. I made it up.

I apologize to the people on Fifteenth Street whose lots I have borrowed, to put on them entirely different houses populated with imaginary characters. I love your street and was compelled to use it. Honest -- the devil made me do it. There's room to share, I think. I've never been in the real houses, or met the people who live in them, so there should be no similarities, other than the nursery, and the horses. Sadly, the forest and the railroad tracks have been torn out and now exist only in these pages and in memory.

Any book is written by many minds, not only that of the putative author. The English language lacks the superlatives to thank the people who helped in various ways (mostly unwitting), none of whom I can repay. First, grateful appreciation to readers and listeners and inspirations: Alice A. (the cloverleaf Alice A.) for the comment on the Moncrieff translation; Alice W. for the buried bodies; Amy H., piano girl, for the hot cross buns and the intensity; Amy Z.'s mom for the two names; Ann for the nudity; Ashley for the comment on sex education; Barbara W. for showing me; Beth (the Penn Valley Beth); B-A, third-hand, for not being able to get away with anything; Bill F. for the touring tip and the circus music; Bruce Y. for the sonic boom; Carol G. (the Texas Carol G.) for the pneumonia and Casablanca; Carlos R. for the lab rats; Cate; Charley H.; Chuck R. for the archeology dig; Cindy; Cliff for the botany labs; Craig for the hanging; Dad for the children doing that; David R. (the Phoenix David R.); David U. for the algorithm and Princeton math; Deborah; Diane C. for the second-hand clothes; Diane and Lynn for the dance; Don M. (the Wichita Don M.) for the cafeteria; Ed B. for the photos, and the comment on what used to be known as jungle (Ed, where the hell have you disappeared to?); the farmhouse and crew for the floors, beams and mantel (you guys, too: call me sometime); Jamie for the tomato soup; Janell for the comments about aliens and anthropology; Janis for the kidnaping and the gardening; Jeff for the cast; Jim K.; Jim R.; Joe J. for the human race; John G. for the solitary confinement; John M.; Joyce H. for the pressure; Kell for the proofs and the hypothermia; Lauren; Lenore C.; Lenore H.; Lisa M. for room at the table; M-Z's web journal for inspiring Sarah and Dougal; Margot; Mary M. for the skillet; Meghan W.; Marilyn C. for inviting me in; Marilyn O. for the sinning, and the firm ones; Melodi for loaning her name; Mom for the hospitalization and the cemeteries; Muriel; Nancy N. for the imaginary friend, the blanket, and the late-night calls; Olga (the Russian Olga); Paula K. for the pseudo car collision and the e-mails, and the rehearsal; Rachel M. (the Hattie's Rachel M.) for reading to me; Rebecca O. for the midwifery; Rebecca R. for rehearsing; Reva for the scraps of paper and not getting it right; the rookery for itself (though I moved it); the Santo Tomas for itself; Scattergood Friends School for the last name; the snow watchers; Sue F.; Susan above all, for everything, including the blue motmots and the robin and the life goals, but more importantly for love, encouragement, candor, more offhand remarks than I can remember, for tending MaryAnn while she was dying, and for (most of the time) patience and understanding; Tammy for the big rock, and being forward, and all the little details; Terry; Tim C. for the first-hand account; Tim T. (the Tim T. of Tim-and-Val) for the little babies; Tom R. for the raccoon eyes, and mentioning the ass-kicking; Tom W. and family for the rose garden; Tuesday for being flattered; Val for the circus and the thyroid; Valorie for the all-night conversation and the rain dance; Wan-Chin for the chicken fingers, and XiaoYu for naming them; Whitney; the stranger on the web for the pipes; the Scriptorum group; and the Rockhurst bunch. The Tuesday night group rates alpha double plus special mention: you are my mentors, and though you've been known to mislead me from time to time, you've given me far more than I've given back. Also the staff at Hattie's -- thanks for your patience during the hours I nursed a drink and wrote, and also for talking with me when I took a break and ran on about my odd preoccupations. I bow to you all, a full prostration, forehead to the floor. Ditto Kansas Zen Center and the retreats, full of pain, gratitude, courage, and inspiration (not least of which is Fifteenth Street itself). Even deeper thanks to Penn Valley Monthly Meeting, both friends and Friends. Lastly, eclipsing all else, my family. The debt is endless as sea and sky.

This story is dedicated to my son, with love and hope.