Greg Provost and the River of Fate
Robert P. Fitton Audio
Do you believe in fate? I do but it depends which timeline and universe you’re operating in… I am not, however, parachuting into writing about multiverses or specific parallel universes in this post. I wish to get slightly creepier, focused on one predetermined timeline and people caught up in the whole scenario. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.
Before you leave. The Calvinists were religious Protestants in the 1500’s. John Calvin went into great detail specifically defining the interpretation of the word of God. I’m focused on predestination. So, if you are a rat then leave the ship now. God has predestined your loathsome self. You’re a sinner and you are out of the club! If God chooses you- you’re in… you lucky dog. It’s unconditional. I must have been a Calvinist in another life when I wrote The River of Fate because what happens to Greg Provost is fixed in concrete.
The three Fates spinning the web of human destiny, sculpture by Gottfried Schadow, 1790.
The goddesses who determine human destinies: i.e. The breadth of a person’s life and his quota of misery and suffering.
“The fates lead him who will; him who won’t they drag― Joseph Campbell
The River of Fate
An anniversary of sorts. Caroline a young woman and her husband Greg. With a little too much hard liquor Greg begins a long ramble of his early life in Reedsville, Pennsylvania. Caroline is shocked as Greg reveals new revelations about an accident that occurred in the basketball game at Paul Revere High School in Reedsville. Although Greg is a successful realtor, he is downtrodden that he had not achieved his basketball goals as a youth in Pennsylvania.
Caroline reminds Greg they are heading for Chicago and a Christmas symphony concert. On the way out of the Hearthside Restaurant Greg notices the mausoleum-faced gypsy revealing the fate of individual restaurant patrons. But the gypsy spots Greg and something within her being tells her that the river of fate is not flowing safely for Greg Provost. From within she summons a warning that Greg will not heed. The gypsy warns him not to go into town because it will cost him his life.
Although Greg dismisses the gypsy’s prediction, Caroline if shaken. They enter the symphony hall and the pomp and circumstance of Handel’s Messiah. The threat of death instigated by the gypsy dissipates into the winter night as Greg and Caroline enjoy the festive season. Leaving the hall arms in arm they are treated to a brilliant and colorful light display in the trees. Greg isn’t sure but he will insist that he just saw Marco St. Germaine from his high school class back in Pennsylvania.
In the cold air they move slowly toward the crowd in the direction of the CTA Subway line. Out of the crowd comes an evil that dwells within a middle aged man with receding black hair. He grasps a hand gun tightly and buries the muzzle in Greg’s body, sending Greg in a bloodied mess to the pavement. He dies in Caroline’s arms.
You can’t just walk back a terrible break or the cold finally of death. Moving forward for Caroline requires grieving and rearranging her life without Greg.
Any change in life requires adjustment and a sense for the future. Caroline has a sense for the past. For weeks she visits Greg’s grave, clutching his yearbook from Reedsville, Pennsylvania. She marvels at the young and slender Greg and his basketball prowess at Paul Revere High School. That was years ago in another part of the country. Greg’s basketball career at U.C.L.A. and beyond was squelched on a winter afternoon. If only she could change the past.
Diverting loss is often accomplished by time away and that is just what Caroline and her uncle are going to do. Flying away from Chicago six months after Greg’s death would allow her to rest. Caroline is to meet her uncle at the airport but she is running late and about to face a violent thunderstorm. I assure you ladies and gentlemen there is much more going on here.
One of the Twilight Zones that really rattled my cage starred Inger Stevens. Stevens was driving across country and repeatedly encountered a hitchhiker she had first seen at a gas station, dozens of miles back. The episode is called appropriately The Hitchhiker and it was first broadcast by CBS on Jan 22, 1960. This hitchhiker is mysterious. We don’t know who he is or what his intent on Miss Stevens could be. Yet, he has a mantra that has ramifications beyond a few uttered words.
So damned simple and with huge deadly implications. Serling wrote the teleplay based on Lucille Fletcher’s radio play.
If you’ve read up to this point you know who is going to be popping up in the River of Fate like a duck in a carnival arcade. Add the loud threatening storm to that trip to the airport and even the strong-willed Caroline is afraid. Again, and again Caroline crosses an old iron bridge in the pouring rain and thinks she will be safe over the next hill. I asked the Hitchhiker in the Twilight Zone if Caroline would be safe. He merely laughed, stuck out his thumb and said: “Going my way?”
Well, are you going my way?
On the bridge not only does that old gypsy seem omnipotent in the deadly storm. but she is able to surreptitiously enter Caroline’s car. The doors lock shut. Then the handles fall off the door side panels. Hey, she just wants to make a deal. That’s simple, too. She can bring Caroline back to change the river of fate. After what seems like hours the gypsy vanishes and Caroline continues to the airport in the thunder and lightning.
Caroline races toward the airport and barely joins her uncle before the jet takes off. Why was the gypsy on the opposite escalator. Caroline is sure she has missed her flight. Somehow the gypsy has become involved with the flights. Her uncle reveals that the gypsy has spoken to him on the flight. They will have to redefine Greg’s death. And as the plane starts on its course a wild transformation occurs hours later. They are not in 1993 but 1968.
Yes, the story evolves into Reedsville, Pennsylvania 1968.The evil in the human form of Marco St. Germain awaits them in the small town. So, does the youthful Greg Provost. The large Department store in Reedsville is based on my own experience as are snippets of the plot. The evil Marco is the driving force of the book and the obstacle to Caroline preventing Greg’s life changing accident.
Let me help. A hundred years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He’ll recommend those three words even over I love you. Centuries from now? Who is he? Where does he come from er, where will he come from? Silly question. Want to hear a silly answer? Yes. A planet circling that far left star in Orion’s belt. See?
This novel has nothing to do with Peggy Sue Got married. I know of the movie but never saw it. Rather, I was more influenced by Harland Ellison, the Star Trek episode City on the Edge of Forever in this way: The main characters interact back in time to resolve an inexplicable variance in time.
Kirk stops McCoy from saving Edith Keeler
“The Great Curmudgeon” Harland Ellison
Let’s get in the weeds. Only a few lines from Ellison remain in the final product. That must have gone over really well with Harland. Steven W. Carabatsos wrote a draft from Elision’s original–Not used. Gene Koon got involved. Didn’t work. So, they get Ellison back. Nope-wouldn’t fly. It was Dottie Fontana’s version, tweaked by Roddenberry that made it to America’s TV sets on April 6, 1967. And Fontana literally never got credit for the effort. But she gets it here.
Seeing time evolve in some past epoch is as Kirk said looking at the Guardian in City on the Edge of Forever: Strangely compelling, isn’t it? To step through there and lose oneself in another world. Just watch the first Back to the Future and Marty marveling at what’s going on in 1955. There is an inane security about being back in the past. Be forewarned that security is like a defense mechanism, seemingly the be all and end all. But what is left, as for Caroline and Greg, is dealing with the evil force swirling around the River of Fate.
Okay I have to give a taste of the epitome of the dark side, everybody’s punk-Marco St.Germaine. And yes, yes, yes-City on the Edge of Forever is my favorite Start Trek episode ever.
Hello Lovely Lady.