Interviews was a book born of a collection of mostly unrelated stories. When a friend suggested that Ursus Arctos exists in the Long Division universe, I decided that the books would be the result of a study in sociology that he was conducting.
Naturally, one of his best sources of information would be Sarah McIntyre.
I pressed the button and heard the soft sound of chimes filter through the closed door. Presently, the elderly lynx appeared. Her eyes widened and she held a paw up to her mouth when she looked out at me.
“Ms. McIntyre,” I said, “I’m Ursus Arctos. Tracy Becker sent me your way. He said that you might be willing to answer some questions for me.”
“Yes,” she said, “Tracy phoned to say that you were coming. Please forgive me for staring like that but, apart from your eye color, you look so much like Roy.”
I nodded my head. “Tracy said the same thing. I hope that doesn’t disturb you. I know that Roy passed away only two years ago.”
“Honey, don’t you worry your head about it,” Sarah reassured me. “It’ll be just like we’re old friends. Please come in.” She led the way into the small living room and gestured toward the sofa. “Have a seat. Can I get you something cold to drink? Some lemonade, perhaps? Or cranberry juice? I even have a few bottles of beer.”
“Thank you, Ms. McIntyre,” I replied, “maybe just a glass of ice water.”
“Ice water it is,” said the lynx as she moved to the adjoining kitchen. “But please call me Sarah,” she called over her shoulder, “if we’re going to be old friends.” She returned with a tall glass of water for me and pointed out a set of drink coasters that rested on the coffee table.
I selected a coaster and took the glass from her paw. “Thank you, Sarah.” That elicited a smile from my hostess. “Did Tracy tell you about the project I was working on?”
Sarah eased herself into a comfortable-looking recliner. “Something about sexuality in America, I gathered.”
I nodded, “Yes, specifically about issues such as age disparity, same-sex relationships, and inter-species relationships.” I took a sip from my glass and went on, “In a nutshell, practices that are gaining acceptance today but bucked the norms of society in the early-to-mid part of this century.”
The lady lynx chuckled. “Well, Honey, you couldn’t have picked a better case study than Tracy. Seems like he’s got it all covered for you. Not that I’m opposed to talking about sex, though.”
I coughed into my paw. “You’re right about Tracy,” I said, “he was very generous with his time and extremely candid about some very private experiences. But a good researcher doesn’t stop with a sample size of one. You offer a female’s perspective.”
“And I’m a lynx.” Sarah wasn’t simply referring to her species.
“Exactly,” I said. “Everybody knows that lynxes have certain standards when it comes to relationships…”
“Don’t be afraid to tell it like it is, Mr. Arctos,” the feline interrupted. “Everybody knows that lynxes are the least tolerant in the world when it comes to inter-species relationships.”
“Very well,” I said with a smile, “I’ll be as frank as you wish, provided that you call me by my first name.”
“Well, I won’t call you Frank,” Sarah laughed heartily at her own joke, “but I might keep calling you Honey.”
“We have a deal,” I said.
“But you’ll have to forgive me if I slip up and call you Willie.” The lynx shook her head. “By gosh, you do look a lot like Roy did back when I first met him.”
Sensing an opening, I pulled my notebook from my breast pocket and clicked open my ballpoint pen. “And when was it that you met Roy?” I asked.
“It was in 1948,” Sarah replied. She closed her eyes as she spoke. “I was working at Marty’s Diner back then and Roy had recently moved The Thread Bear to a building just a few blocks down the street…”
❖ ❖ ❖
That first interview with Sarah lasted well over three hours. She was most gracious with her time and far more candid than I expected from a female who had grown up in the 1930s and 40s. Long after I expected her to run out of steam, she paused to fix us some coffee and resumed her tale. Sarah was very open in her discussion of inter-species sex and likened it to the variety of treats available in a candy store (a simile that I fully intend to utilize in my writing).
But it was her special relationship with Roy Carrara that struck me the most. What the two of them shared was truly unique. The more I learned about Roy and Sarah and, by extension, about Roy and his other loves (Marco Russo and Tracy Becker) I came to realize that their story deserved to be told as a narrative, not a research project.
When our time came to an end, I shook Sarah’s paw and gave her my sincere thanks. I asked if I might return again with more questions. Her icy blue eyes twinkled. “Oh, Honey,” she said, “I’m just delighted to help you with your work. You helped bring back so many happy memories of my sweet Willie.”
I returned to visit Sarah again and again over the months that followed. Her recollections were an invaluable source of information regarding society’s attitudes toward sex and relationships in the mid-1900s. Even more valuable were her stories of Roy’s younger years, prior to his meeting Tracy. Roy’s life became the foundation that the Long Division book series is built upon.
This is not to discount the contributions from Tracy Becker and his companion, Lucy Williams. Indeed, Tracy’s story is tightly interwoven with (and I would even argue that it forms an extension of) Roy’s tale.
It is ironic that these couples: Roy and Marco, Roy and Sarah, Roy and Tracy, Tracy and Lucy were never married, yet they form a family as connected as any so-called “traditional” family. They have disagreed, fought, split up, suffered, lost, and rediscovered themselves and each other. But over the span of a century, love has been a constant theme. What began as a simple research project into the juicy realm of sexual taboo turned into something far greater than a statistical analysis.
I am so very grateful to have known Sarah for a few years. Roy told her on several occasions that she always knew just what he needed. Sarah seemed to have a knack for that. When my own inspiration as a writer was failing, a visit with Sarah helped pick me up again.
Sarah Louise McIntyre passed away in October 1998. She was 80 years old. I will miss her.
—Ursus Arctos, January 1999