Saturday, December 18, 2010


Welcome--to those who love family stories--in fact to those who love to read everything (even the backs of cereal boxes), and are drawn to real life tales, especially one family's collection of intriguing, often zany but true stories.

Starting today, and continuing every two weeks, this blog will consist of stories drawn from my book, "A Circus Without Elephants." Depending on length, I will include either a half or a whole chapter in each of my bi-weekly blogs.

"A Circus Without Elephants" starts with the day I met my unpredictable husband at Stanford, and continues into the early '80s. Assuming I don't run out of time and energy, I'll finish that book and go on to the sequel, "A Clown in the Trunk."

Of course, both of these books can be purchased from Stephens Press (link included) or, for an autographed copy, by e-mailing me at Maralys@Cox.net.

Here, then, is the beginning of "A CIRCUS WITHOUT ELEPHANTS."

Chapter One: The Maverick "Hawaiian"

I DIDN'T GO to Stanford University to find a husband.

I went partly because of the wondrous Stanford mystique and the thrill of calling myself a Stanford Indian . . . and partly because it was such an exclusive, snooty-tooty institution, if you got accepted, you certainly had to go.

Before long, though, I was swept away by classes like Western Civ, where we dug around in the archives to unearth surprisingly modern truths from Plato and Aristotle, and by Russian History as taught by a guttural Russian. The campus beguiled me with its genteel Spanish Mission architecture, and I was soon rooting passionately for the plucky and gentlemanly, if somewhat inadequate, football team.

But I didn't stay long, only a year and a half, not nearly long enough.

And what I got out of it, eventually and to my surprise, went far beyond what I expected.

IN MY TREMULOUS teens before Stanford, I dreamed private, sensual dreams, conjuring up the man I would someday marry. My imaginary suitor never had a face, only dark, passionate eyes that consumed me with admiration and unspoken longing. His key trait, if not intensity, was surely unending kindness, for some part of me was searching for the ever-loving father I never had.

Among the qualities I sought in my unknown faceless lover, "oddball" had never made the list; it wasn't a trait that would even occur to a serious-minded girl.

Yet oddball was what I got.

I'D BEEN AT Stanford nearly a year when my life changed. I first saw Rob Wills at a summer get-acquainted dance euphemistically called a Jolly-Up.

At eighteen I wasn't expecting much, since so far the campus men seemed to fall into two categories--the nerds or the party animals--and those who didn't spend our date lingering on the mysteries of subatomic particles, were inclined to squander it instead guffawing with friends over last weekend's drunken bash at Mama Risotti's. (Never mind that to those who held such hi-jinks in high esteem I was certainly one of the nerds.)

To put it more accurately, Rob first saw me at the Jolly-Up, and I never saw him at all. The flirting I did with the men observing from the sidelines had a kind of high-water mark, based on the fact that I'm tall, over five-ten, and resolutely never made eye contact with anyone shorter than six-foot-two, or even noticed they were there. All my little smiles and coy glances went to the men who towered above the rest. It's faintly possible that sometime during the evening my eyes flicked across the top of Rob Wills' head, but I certainly never saw his face.

The truth was, I didn't know he existed until he cut in on me.

He introduced himself, and when he took my hand to begin dancing, I saw at once that he wasn't up to my height standards, his eyes being only slightly taller than mine, and when he looked at me it wasn't with anything close to desperate unspoken longing, but something nearer amusement. He seemed awfully tan, too, and more so because his teeth were so white. Furthermore, he didn't fit my physical ideal in other ways; instead of the comfortable filled-out shape I'd envisioned, he was as skinny as a mop handle.

All in all, he didn't seem promising.

"I tried to catch your eye," he said as he guided me across the floor, "but your eye wasn't catchable."

That's a novel opening line, I thought. Having no fitting response, I fell back on a conventional tack and asked him to repeat his name, learning he was called, formally, Robert Victor Wills.

"Where are you from, Robert Victor Wills?"

"Call me Rob," he said. "Where am I from, you ask? You mean last week or last year?"

Once again he threw me, and been an intensely-bookish type in those days and absolutely no good at fast repartee, I was still fumbling for words when he grinned and said, "I'm from Hawaii."

Well, that explained everything: the dark skin (I learned later he tans if he walks past an open window), the gaudy aloha shirt, the owlish glasses. What the glasses had to do with such an assessment has now escaped me, but I said, "Oh, you're Hawaiian!"

"Not exactly," he said. "That's just where I lived last. I'm transferring back to Stanford from U of Hawaii. My dad's a Naval officer, so we traveled. Never stayed in one place long enough to tire of it." He smiled again, a generous smile that conveyed uncomplicated enthusiasm for his nomadic life. "How about you?"

"I grew up in lots of places, too. Los Angeles. Denver. Rochester, New York. A ranch in Mt. Shasta, California." Unlike him, I'd hated the moving around. "My dad's a doctor, but I've never lived with him. My mom divorced him when I was two. She's not your normal, everyday mother, she's sort of a Bohemian." And she's been married seven times, I thought, which only my mom considers amusing.

The music changed temp and we danced faster. I was glad to see that the mop handle was graceful, that in spite of his shortness and not being an inch over six feet, I felt good dancing with him. When the piece was over he seemed reluctant to let me go, and instead pulled me off to one side and asked urgently, "Is anyone taking you home?"



I gaped at him, so surprised at his bluntness that all decent answers melted away. "You want to know his name?" Flustered, I suddenly couldn't remember the name myself.

"Never mind," he said, "I withdraw the question." And then an abrupt switch. "Do you like to swim?"

"You mean in a swimming pool or the ocean?"

"The ocean. It's the only swimming that counts. I used to be a surfer, learned how at Waikiki Beach." He gave me that smile again. "What are you doing tomorrow?"

Another blunt question; he was so full of them. Well, that depends, I guess, on what you're offering. Before I could figure out a way to hedge and be cool about it, he said, "How would you like to go to a beach party?"

"A beach party?" I was beginning to sound like a parrot, echoing every word he said, but I needed time to think and he never gave me any, he just kept peppering me with questions and throwing me off balance.

"That's right, at Santa Cruz beach. We'll go about eleven. You should come, it'll be fun, I promise." He said it with a smile, with conviction, as if there could be no doubt.

I guessed then he was a fraternity man and he'd waited until the dance to nail down a date. But he seemed pretty sure of himself, not at all concerned, and in fact all his words were positive and definitely self-assured. He was looking at me with an intensity that lent his thin face a kind of radiance. Rob Wills was awash in youthful energy and high spirits, but I doubted he'd be serious-minded enough, long run, or mature enough to interest me.

Still, one little date for the beach wasn't a lifetime commitment, and I thought, What the heck.

"I think I'm free," I said. "A beach party sounds fine, I'd love to go." In fact it sounded more than fine, because above all I'd heard the word "party," which meant I'd meet other men, some of whom would no doubt be taller and less frivolous and wouldn't ask blunt questions.

In due course I went back to my dorm with the somebody else, and whoever he was, he'd already become indistinct and shadowy, dimmed by the brightness of Rob Wills.

The next day everything changed.


Well . . . here's half of Chapter One. Hope you've enjoyed it.

There has to be a quicker way to do this. Look for the rest of the chapter in two weeks--the first week of January, 2011. By then I'll have learned how to scan--or how to cut and paste.

But more will be forthcoming, I promise.


Thanks to all of you have gotten this far. Maralys Wills . December 18, 2010.


  1. I've read this chapter a dozen times and I still love it! Carolyn

  2. Now I've read it twice and off to find part 2!