Monday, March 2, 2020

Page 69: Treasure of the Blue Whale

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

We put Steven Mayfield's Treaure of the Blue Whale to the test. 

Set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read?

Page 69 is from “Chapter Ten: The Zenith Stratosphere, a monkey, and a jeweled commode.” It features two minor characters—Coach Wally Buford and his wife, Judy—who provide comic relief in the tradition of Dogberry in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. At this point in the story, the townspeople of Tesoro, California, believing themselves on the cusp of becoming rich, have borrowed money against their anticipated largess, instigating a buying frenzy that includes the commode with a jeweled seat cover that has finally arrived.

What is your book about?

In Treasure of the Blue Whale, a whimsical, Depression-era tale, young Connor O’Halloran decides to share the treasure he’s discovered on an isolated stretch of Northern California beach with the entire community of Tesoro, California. Almost overnight, his sleepy, seaside village is comically transformed into a bastion of consumerism, home to a commode with a jeweled seat cover, a pair of genuinely fake rare documents, a mail-order bride, and an organ-grinder’s monkey named Mr. Sprinkles.

Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the book is about? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme?

This excerpt from Treasure of the Blue Whale provides an accurate sense of tone, but not substance. Thematically, the book is, in part, about how money changes people and the Bufords’ desire to one-up their neighbors with an item that celebrates glittering uselessness is certainly an ingredient in that thematic recipe. However, this is Connor’s story, not theirs. In the sometimes languid, sometimes exciting days of that long-ago season, he discovers other, more important treasures. He is rich and then he isn’t. He shares in a great secret and a conspiracy. He learns to sail a boat and about sex. He meets a real actor. He sneaks into villainous Cyrus Dinkle’s house and steals his letter opener. He almost goes to jail. He loves Fiona Littleleaf. He finds a father. And best of all, he and little brother, Alex, reclaim their mother from the dark place that has held her for so long.



…on his front walk when he returned, anxious to ooh and aah when the thing was uncrated. Judy and Coach Wally happily accommodated the looky-loo’s and before long the toilet sat white and gleaming atop its palette like a king about to be crowned. Wally attached the wooden oval seat and then unveiled the coronet: a cover encrusted in fake rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. He held it up for the crowd to behold, like a boxer displaying his championship belt, and then fastened it in place, afterward puffing out his chest and squeezing Judy’s hand as they basked in the chorus of “Well, I nevers” and “Don’t that beat alls” that poured out of the assembled onlookers. After the hubbub settled down, Coach Wally had a couple of his high school football players haul the commode inside where he and Judy contemplated the dilemma of where to put it in a house without indoor sewer plumbing.

“Eventually, we’ll have a real, big-city lavatory,” Judy asserted, “so we should put it where we think a proper bathroom might go.” The Buford residence was a nice little house but had only enough space for a couple of bedrooms, a living room, dining room, and kitchen, so they put the commode under the stairs while Judy worked on design plans. She took over the kitchen table with a pad of paper and a newly sharpened pencil. A day or so later the pencil and its eraser were nubs and the kitchen floor was littered with crumpled balls of rejected lavatory drawings. “There’s no place to put a bathroom,” she complained to her husband. “We’ll have to add on.”

Coach Wally was a creature of habit and ordinarily blew a gasket if even a scent of change in his routine was in the air. However, he kept his cool when Judy apprised him of her conclusion because he never listened to his wife, and with his tacit consent, she set about planning the renovation. In the meantime, however, Judy felt the commode deserved a more prominent position in the Buford furniture hierarchy.


Steven Mayfield was born and raised in Nebraska, a place where people would prefer that you think well of them, should you think of them at all. He is a past recipient of the Mari Sandoz Prize for Fiction and the author of over fifty scientific and literary publications. After a hiatus away from creative writing that lasted almost twenty years—during which he published forty-two scientific articles, abstracts, chapters, and reviews—Steven resumed writing fiction in 1993. In 1994, his stories began to appear in print and have been published by Event, The Black River Review, cold-drill, artisan, The Long Story, and the anthology From Eulogy to Joy. In 1998, he was guest editor for the literary journal, Cabin Fever, and his collection of short stories, Howling at the Moon, was a Best Books of 2010 selection by USA Book News and an Eric Hoffer Award Finalist. His novel, Treasure of the Blue Whale will be released by Regal House Publishing in April, 2020.

Steven currently resides in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Pam, and three goldendoodles who can be annoyingly insistent around meal-time. He can order beer in four languages. His wife can say, “Pay no attention to this man” in five.

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