Please note that since this interview, the time frame has shifted from the present era to the early 50s.
Name: Beryl Ward
Home: upper Queen Anne, Seattle, Washington
Ancestry: Native American (mother) / German (father)
Appearance: It’s obvious that Beryl gets her looks from her mother’s side of the family. Her caramel coloring, round face, almost almond-shaped eyes and high cheek bones betray her Native American heritage. She wears her hair long and straight, usually pulled back in a loose pony tail or braided due to its thickness. Her eyes are a dark chocolate-brown that matches her hair. She has no distinguishing facial features, no tattoos, no scars.
Favorite color: black, of course
Typical Outfit: She appears to be the epitome of Seattle Grunge, with her jeans and a plaid button down over a tank top, worn laceless Vans on her feet. Her outfit looks like a hodge-podge of clothing she found at Value Village.
Today, I’m interviewing Beryl Ward, the protagonist in my latest–yet to be named–novel. Thank you, Beryl, for spending some time with me, for letting me expose you, who you are to potential readers.
So what do people call you?
[rolls her eyes at me]
You live on Queen Anne, right? Must be nice, living in that part of town. Lots of beautiful old mansions up there.
If you say so.
You’re not very talkative.
You’re the one who wanted to do this interview. Wasn’t my idea. I agreed, but I don’t have to be overjoyed about it.
Were you born there?
Yes. My father has owned that house since before I was born. I live in the guesthouse out back now, though.
You don’t live in the house with your father. May I ask why?
You can, but I don’t think it’s any of your business.
Okay. Let’s see… [check my list of questions] Who are the people you’re closest to?
That would be my brother, Jeryl. And maybe Mr. Denny across the street. He’s blind. Mr. Denny, not my brother.
Funny. Beryl and Jeryl.
We’re twins. I guess my parents thought it would be cute.
[another eye roll]
And your parents, you didn’t mention them when I asked about people you’re close to.
You’re right. I didn’t.
Would you care to elaborate?
Not really, but I know you’ll just keep asking if I don’t. My mother died when I was very young, five or six maybe. I can’t even remember now. To say that my father and I aren’t close would be an understatement. Let’s just leave it at that.
This Mr. Denny, how long have you known him?
He’s lived across from us since I can remember. I think he’s one of the Dennys, you know, the family that founded Seattle.
What is it you like about him?
He listens to me.
Well, I guess he has to since he’s blind. But, you know, he treats me like a person. He’s old, and loves to tell me stories, like my…
You stopped. You were going to add something.
I was going to say like my mother.
My mother told us stories when we were little. Me and Jeryl, she told us stories about Raven, the trickster. About Otter and Orca and Mink. Native American stories. If we were bad she’d tell us that The Woman of the Woods–a giant cannibal woman–was going to get us. But she never let us be afraid for long.
Was there any story in particular that she told often?
There is the Nootka legend of the twins, the Kwe’kustepsep who changed the world. I guess I remember that because of Jeryl and I being twins. But if I remember correctly, she always started her stories– Once, many many years ago, there was a Nootka chief who had a beautiful daughter, that was how most of my mother’s stories began.
[pauses again, turns away and looks out the window]
She didn’t mean to imply that she was good-looking or even a handsome woman—I came to understand that, only later—but she understood that the best stories are always about the beautiful daughter. She knew that girls are capable of getting into so much more trouble but as storytelling goes, an ugly daughter, especially a child of a chief, was not worth considering.
[still looking out the window, pauses, this time for so long that I almost ask another question]
I am the ugly daughter of the beautiful daughter of a Nootka chief. I wanted to be beautiful, but I only ended up being troublesome.
Beryl, you’re not ugly.
It’s not what you see. It’s what I see.
[pauses, turns back toward me]
Let’s talk about something else
Okay. [pause to look at my notes] So what do you do for a living?
I have a stall down at Pike Market. I draw medicine wheels and read spirit cards.
What? I have to teach you everything? Let me Google that for you.
In general a medicine wheel is a physical structure. I create a very small one in a sand tray with stones to act as the elemental points. It’s an introspective way of connecting with, with– That whole circle of life thing new-agers are so crazy about. You know, the elements and totems and such. I figured out a way to make money off of it. It’s not true to Native American beliefs, but it’s good enough for a bunch of wannabes.
That sounds a little cynical.
I give the customer what they’re looking for, a feel good session. Basically, I listen to their problems. And say supportive things. I think I actually have a gift for knowing what people need to hear. And for them, it’s cheaper than a psychotherapy session. I only charge $60 an hour.
Do you get a lot of customers?
Enough to support myself.
But you live on Queen Anne.
I live in my father’s guesthouse, okay. I would have moved away a long time ago, but Jeryl won’t move out of the big house. So, I stay there. And no, before you ask, I do not have to pay rent. But I pay for everything else I need, food, clothing, stuff like that.
I’m really not trying to be confrontational. Just to prove it, if you were [laugh] a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Wow, that’s original. Who are you? Barbara Walters?
Aren’t you a little young to know who Barbara Walters is?
Alright, let’s try something else, something that will hopefully give us a view of who you are. What’s your totem animal, or your astrological sign, or whatever you follow?
Leo. And my totem animal changes at times, depending on what I’m trying to accomplish. But usually it’s Raven.
Leo is interesting, all fiery and loyal, fierce and egotistical at times. [smile] I know because I’m a Leo too. But most of us know a bit about astrology, enough to recognize the signs or how to find more information if we want it. Because I don’t know as much about Native American mythology, I have to ask what it means to have Raven as your totem animal?
Raven is the keeper of secrets. But is also the trickster. With Raven, you never know if what you’re seeing/feeling is real. You never know what you’re going to get.
Okay, how about another one, one a bit more esoteric this time? What smell do you associate with the kitchen from your childhood?
[scowls, and then very slowly smiles]
Pancakes. My mother used to make pancakes for me and Jeryl. His favorite– our favorite, blueberry pancakes.
That sounds nice. So how about another easy one? What’s your favorite novel?
I don’t read.
May I ask why?
I’m dyslexic. Reading is difficult for me. But if I had to guess, something I’ve had to read in the past, I’d say Jane Eyre.
Ok. Just for me, let’s do a silly Barbara Walter’s type question. Please?
[sighs and then nods]
If you were a rock star, who would you be?
[gives me a look of long-suffering]
Ummm. Lady Gaga.
You don’t seem all that flamboyant, at least not from physical appearances. You remind me more of Sarah McLachlan, well with Native American coloring. So why Lady Gaga?
I want to be like her, unafraid of being who I am and showing it. Maybe she’s not like that at all, but she projects that.
So I’m about to wrap this up. Is there anything you would like everyone to know about you, something I haven’t asked already?
Yeah, tell them to mind their own business. No one likes their life being on display for everyone to dissect. Your life must be pretty boring if you have to examine mine so closely.
Alrighty then. So do you have any questions for me?
I do. Why are your words in bold and mine aren’t. What, do you think you’re more important than I am?
Well, I did create you.
Sure, keep telling yourself that.