Beasty and the Beaut

Time capsule. Buried treasure. A lost story I’d forgotten was lost because I’d forgotten I ever wrote the story.

On Easter 2023 I received an email from my friend Richard Marks in Los Angeles. Richard is an entertainment lawyer. We are the same age and he represented me in Hollywood for a few years in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We’ve stayed in touch over the intervening decades and for the last several years Richard has been a subscriber to my blog and responds to many of my postings via email, which is a great gift to me.

Attached to Richard’s Easter email was a PDF of a story I sent him forty years ago. At the time, I must have felt the story would make a good movie, else I would not have sent it to him. I recognized the typeface of the IBM Selectric typewriter I used in those days before the coming of personal computers, yet I had no memory of the story.

Richard wrote: Do you have a copy of it, or did I rescue a piece of your past? Please let me know. In the meantime, Happy Pesach and Easter!

I was amazed by how moved I was by the story. When I typed the text into my computer, I resisted my impulse to rewrite the lines because I want to honor this story as a gift from the universe (through Richard), and I feel the roughness of the writing is part of the gift.

When I wrote to Richard to thank him, I said I was tempted to post the story on my blog. He wrote back encouraging me to do so. Here it is. Mazel tov!

Beasty and the Beaut

by Todd Walton


I’m a very large person. Around the middle I have maybe three or four pounds extra, but the rest is solid, which comes to about two hundred and sixty-five. I’m six-foot-seven. Except for a knee injury I would have no acceptable excuse for not having been on some sort of football team. But in actuality I dislike football. I prefer soccer. My father was a great soccer player. He was under six-feet and very thin, and extremely Irish. He played halfback and swarmed all over the field until he was sixty something. He died recently.

My mother was German and very small. No one knows where I got my size. I look, in the face, very much like my father, not that there was ever a question that he was the one. But there are no big people on either side. I don’t have any hormone problems either. I’m just extremely big.

My face is actually not too bad, but most people don’t ever really see my face. They either get preoccupied with my size or they see my face from below, which distorts it. Any face seen from below is not especially attractive, and I wouldn’t exactly be classified as handsome to begin with.

Because of my size, I have had to fight several guys in the plant. You would think my size would save me. Actually it makes me a target. Fortunately, I am quite strong. My father told me when I was twelve that if I was going to be big, I’d better have the strength to match my size. He started me going to Logan’s Gym and I still go there. I learned to wrestle, and best of all, to swim. I love to swim.

Except when the guy used a weapon, I had no problem defending myself. I don’t believe in attacking someone, but if they attack me I will hit and hit hard. Once a guy came at me with a pipe and I ran. He thought I was chicken, dropped the pipe and I knocked him out with a right left combination.

Another guy used a knife, and I should have run. He sliced open my arm. Forty stitches. I broke his jaw and pressed criminal charges. He did eight months.

The reason for these attacks is so stupid it make me sick. The reason is that I had a reputation for being invincible. I still have that reputation. Actually, I hate violence. I won’t go to violent movies. And though I may not sound it, I consider myself a cultured person. I like to read, to go to plays and to play chess with my neighbor, Isaac, who is a professor of English and totally accepts me.


I saw Walter for the first time at the company Christmas party. I didn’t want to go, but everyone in my carpool was going so I had no choice.

At first I was terrified of him. He towers over everybody, but he’s not just tall. He’s got broad shoulders and his arms are as big as my legs, which are not, I’m sorry to say, small.

He was alone. People spoke to him in passing, but he was really alone. I asked Carla who he was and she said his name was Walter and that he was a supervisor. She’d heard he was mean and very hard on the people under him.

I mixed in around the punch bowl and got talking to a guy who worked in Walter’s section. He started out saying what a goon Walter was, but when nobody else except me was listening he said that really the guy wasn’t so bad. He just had very high standards and was very sensitive about his size. I asked him if he was a fighter and the guy said that Walter didn’t look for a fight, but he could fight like hell if he had to.


She just walked up to me and introduced herself. I was talking to somebody from Management and she just waltzes up and says hi. The management guy evaporates and I say hello. She’s easily the most beautiful woman who has ever spoken to me in a social setting. I know there’s a catch, but what the hell it’s Christmas, give it a whirl. I figure she’s trying to get somebody jealous, especially when she asks me to dance, but I dance anyway. She’s so light, I lift her off the ground without even trying.

I’m thirty-seven. That’s what I was thinking when we started dancing. Thirty-seven, never married, barely loved. I make good money. I’m no dummy. I’m so lonely it hurts when I think about it, and yet I can’t ask her out because I know she’s doing this for a reason I don’t want to know about.

After a half-hour of dancing, we walk over to the punch bowl and talk a little. She’s in Accounting. Been there six months. Just rejoined the work force now that her kids are old enough for school. Wants to get a degree in counseling. She asks about me, but then her friends say they have to go. She asks me where I live and I tell her and then she runs off.

I am not much of a drinker, but meeting her made me kind of crazy, so I drink too much punch, hit a couple bars afterwards and wake up on Christmas morning with a terrible hangover. I go over to Isaac’s and we play some chess and he makes me drink tomato juice. I tell him about her and he doesn’t laugh at me. All I know is that her name is Luisa. She has light red hair, two kids, and I can’t wait to get back to work so I can take her to lunch.


Before I got home on Christmas Eve, I’d made up my mind to at least ask him. You can tell quite a bit about a person when you dance with them for a while. That he could dance at all surprised me, but he wasn’t bad. His sense of rhythm was good. With a little practice he could be excellent, though ideally he would have a very tall partner.

I confirmed his strength, but I got no sense of meanness. That was good and bad. I wanted a decent human being, but I couldn’t use a soft touch. He would be going up against the meanest man I’ve ever known.

People asked me why I stayed married to Wes. If I had told them the truth they wouldn’t have been able to believe it or accept it. No one can accept that a man will kill his wife and children rather than lose them, unless you’ve been there yourself, and even then it doesn’t seem possible. But that is what he would do. I left him twice. The first time, he beat me to a pulp. The second time he beat me, nearly killed a woman who was helping me, and kicked my three-year-old son. I would have murdered him, but I didn’t want to spend my life in prison, though even that didn’t seem so bad anymore.

I knew the chances were good he would come home drunk on Christmas Eve, and that he would try to hurt me and maybe rape me if he wasn’t too drunk. I’d arranged for the children to be at a friend’s. As I sat there waiting for him, I couldn’t believe this was what had happened to my life. On television the people on the talk show were laughing and teasing each other, and I was sitting there, bruised all over, beat up every couple weeks. For what? For marrying him. For his sickness. For my ignorance that it was too late to escape. I was at the bottom, but I thought of Walter and I had a little bit of hope.


I don’t remember what excuse I made for going into Accounting, but I went in there and there she was. She was wearing a ton of makeup, which seemed unnecessary to me until I looked closer and saw that somebody had punched her, and not just once. I got so furious I could hardly keep from screaming. She knew I saw the swelling, but she just smiled and before I could say anything she said she’d love to go to lunch.

Which was the weirdest, most amazing lunch I have ever had, or not had, since I couldn’t eat a thing. We sat down and she started talking. Two hours later she stopped and I couldn’t think of a single damn thing to say. I was incredulous. I took her back to work and then did my rounds in a kind of daze until somebody told me to go home, which I did.

Isaac wasn’t home, so there was no one to talk to except my dog Lucy, who was glad to have me home in the middle of the day, but could tell I was upset. She’s very intuitive. So we went for a walk and I just let Luisa’s story take me over for a couple hours.

She was a battered woman, that’s what she called herself. She had two kids. A girl four and a boy six. Her husband was a big bruiser, a heavy equipment operator, alcoholic, violent. She was afraid to leave him, but she said if she couldn’t escape somehow, she would either kill herself or him. She wanted to know if I would take her and her children in and protect them from him. In return, she would sleep with me, cook for me and be as good a friend as she could be if I would promise never to physically harm her or her children.

Crazy, right? Right. But when five o’clock came around, and I imagined that crazy, sick bastard going home and hurting her and her little kids, my heart ached, I felt dizzy and sick, and I didn’t feel I had any other purpose in life but to protect her.


I prayed Wes wouldn’t come home that night. I had asked Walter at lunch if he would take us and I knew he was thinking about it. I wanted to concentrate my thoughts on him so he would say yes. But Wes came home, and after dinner he started drinking, and then he started cursing at the television. Then he yelled at me to come and do a strip tease for him. I said I would after the kids were in bed, but he said Now!

I was in the kitchen and the big knife was sitting there staring at me, and I wanted to grab it and kill him, but I used every bit of strength I had to restrain myself. I put the kids to bed and then came into the living room and he was asleep. When he sleeps he looks so harmless, puffed up, like a big fat boy, about five-years-old, only huge.


I didn’t sleep. I told her yes, first thing the next day. The only thing was, I didn’t want her sleeping with me. That was something I wouldn’t force on anybody. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, believe me. I was just not something I could feel right about. She started crying when I said that, the good kind of crying. Then she hugged me, right there in Accounting where several people could see us.

She took the rest of the day off and moved some things and her kids over to my place. I couldn’t work thinking about what was happening, worrying about whether everything was going okay, or if her husband had found out, so I took the rest of the day off and went home to help her. Production at the plant was dropping fast.

God, the kids were cute. They were scared of me, naturally. Lucy didn’t know what was going on and was verging on hysterics, so it’s good I went home. My apartment always seemed roomy to me, but it was suddenly small, especially until we got things squared away.

I’ll give her this. She was organized as well as beautiful. She lined up a Montessori school for the kids, figured out the bus routes and opened a new checking account, plus did the shopping, all that first day. Isaac came over and did some juggling to entertain the kids. He also balanced a yardstick on his nose, which I didn’t know he could do. I gave her my room, the kids got the other room and I took the living room. For dinner that night I sent out for pizza and they couldn’t believe how much I ate, though actually I was holding back.

Then when the kids finally calmed down enough to sleep, she and I talked about what was likely to happen, how her husband would probably follow her from work. So I said we’d just have to travel together until things got resolved. That’s when she told me about him in more detail. She said he was six-foot-three, two hundred and forty pounds of viciousness. He liked to hurt things, people in particular. He had no pride or honor. He’d use a knife, a gun, anything to make sure he won. I said I’d figured as much.

Which is when she asked why I had agreed to take them. I told her I knew she had picked me because I was big, but that was okay, because being big hadn’t been much good to me or anybody else so far, and I knew she wouldn’t have chosen me if she hadn’t felt there was something else there besides bulk, because I’m not exactly gorgeous. I guess I’d been waiting around for someone to recognize me for something deeper, and she had.

She relaxed then and became even more beautiful than she’d ever been, and I couldn’t help saying something like, “How could anyone hit somebody as wonderful as you?”

“Who says I’m wonderful?” she said, frowning at me. “What’s so wonderful about marrying a psycho? I could get wonderful, but I’m not yet.”

“People get into screwy situations,” I said. “You just look up one day and say, ‘How the hell?’”

“Exactly,” she said, reaching out and touching my arm, which made me realize she was starting to trust me.


It had been so long since I’d let myself sleep like that. I guess I must have felt safe. My kids were still kind of crazy and didn’t sleep so well, and Walter stayed up most of the night, I could tell, but I slept, and it made me feel so strong. I was absolutely hyper at work and everybody wanted to know what happened, and men were looking at me like they always used to, before I got married, and my girlfriends said they could see the difference in me. I had been living such a half-life, and my new life seemed too much like a dream and I made myself sick thinking about what might happen.


It was three days later when he came. I’ll give this to him, he didn’t wait until I was out. That he had two other guys with him struck me as a little unfair, but then I had anticipated that. I signaled to Luisa to call the police, which she did from the bedroom. Then she locked herself and the kids in.

I let Lucy do her deep growling act and then I asked politely who it was. Wes was calm at first. Actually, if his buddies hadn’t been there we might have just talked, but his masculine bullshit was on the line, so after a brief exchange he started chopping the door down.

I was scared, but I was also confident. It’s weird, but I was. I had talked to a friend on the police force, a guy I know from the gym, and we’d arranged for our call, if and when it came, to take priority. The cops arrived a couple minutes later and arrested Wes. While he was in custody, Luisa’s attorney served him with a restraining order, which he tore up in front of witnesses. But even if the cops hadn’t come I would have handled it. I know I would have, because I could feel the kids and Luisa behind me and it was like I was being transfused with strength, because I felt like Hercules.

She wanted to move afterwards. She had very romantic notions. A new life in Arizona. I said she was free to go, but that I was staying. I had realized something while Wes was chopping down the door, while I was getting ready to break his arm when it came through. I realized that he was a big hurt lonely person who had nothing. The only thing he thought he had was Luisa. And he thought I had taken her from him. And I realized that the only real difference between us, besides being different people, was that I grew up with love and he didn’t.


My biggest fear was that Wes would try to get the children. Walter sent them off in a cab every morning, and he paid the cabby extra to do all sorts of tricky maneuvering to lose Wes if he was following, which I don’t think he ever was. It was expensive, but Walter said it was worth it. He kept saying it would be over soon anyway, but I didn’t believe it.

I guess I started falling in love with Walter at the end of that first week. He’s such a gentle person, it would be hard not to like him. He’s a little self-conscious and somewhat eccentric, but that comes from too much aloneness I think.

After the door chopping I would have married him. I know it sounds stupid, but I felt that way. He was protecting me with his goodness. He was putting his life on the line for me and my kids. Why? Because he was bursting with love, and I had given him a place to put it.

And the kids. The kids were crazy about him and vice-versa. After just a few days, Tommy would fall asleep in Walter’s arms every night, and Jenny, who is really terrified of most men, started bringing Walter things, unsolicited. Beer, the paper, sweaters. She likes to dress him. They were losing their fear because of him and that made me love him, too.


I was afraid to make love with her. I was afraid I would crush her, among other things. I was afraid I would disappoint her. She said I didn’t. I guess I didn’t. She kept wanting to. That’s a good sign.


He can lift me with one hand. He is so gentle, but every once in a while he gives a hint of his strength and I go crazy.


I arranged to meet him at Logan’s Gym. I told him he could bring friends if he wanted. I have plenty of friends there. I said I wanted to talk.

He is not much smaller than I am. And actually, I think he’s handsome, in a dark Slavic sort of way. He’s maybe thirty pounds overweight, but he’s incredibly strong. We talked, but then the pain boiled up in him, in me, too, so we wrestled. My idea. We wrestled for a long time, and then we talked some more.

I told him the story of my life, as much as I could, and he told me what he could of his, but there was so much pain in his past, so much anger at himself, there was nothing to do but wrestle again. And this time I thought he might pin me. I have never felt such strength, such hatred in anyone. But I dug down and held on, and finally he subsided and we just lay there exhausted, trying to figure things out.

And then he cried and I cried, and he said he was going to get some help, see somebody. I said I probably should, too. And then he begged me to forgive him, and I said he would have to beg his wife because except for wrecking my door I had nothing against him, unless he hurt her or the kids again, because they had become part of me.

Then we wrestled some more.


We were sitting on the bench in the park, watching the kids play on the swings while Lucy chased them, when I saw him coming. I started to get up, but Walter held me in place. I struggled, but he held me. “It’s okay,” he said. “I asked him to come.”

This seemed completely insane to me, impossible. It was like a nightmare. I could feel the blows. Walter had told me about meeting with Wes, talking, but I just didn’t think Walter knew how crazy Wes could be. “Please,” I begged him. “He might have a gun.”

“No,” said Walter, getting up.

“Where are you going?” I asked, terrified.

“To play with the kids,” he says, leaving me there.

And then Wes sat on the bench, not looking at me. We didn’t speak for a long time. Then I’m not sure why, but I said, “I will never come back to you.” I guess that was a fear of mine, that he would ask me.

He said he didn’t want me back, that he understood it would be impossible, even if he really could change himself. He said he wouldn’t contest the divorce and he wouldn’t ask for any visitation rights. What he hoped was that someday I would forgive him. I said I didn’t know if I ever could. He said he could understand that, but that he was truly sorry for hurting me and making my life so horrible.

And then he said something that seemed to confirm everything I’d ever thought about him. He said, “You know, it took a guy that big, that strong. I woulda chewed anybody else up.”

And as I was nodding in agreement, I said something. It made Wes laugh and look at me in amazement, and I have to admit I was a little bit amazed, too. I said, “So would I.”


You Are the One from Todd’s CD Lounge Act In Heaven


Golden Memory

Corners produce

Today I was in Corners, the small grocery store in Mendocino where I shop two or three times a week, and a song emerged from the music mix they were playing on the store stereo that reminded me of a song I wrote circa 1996, otherwise known as twenty-seven years ago.

The song I was reminded of is entitled Golden Light, and I remember when I wrote it because I had just moved to Berkeley in 1995 after living in Sacramento for fifteen years, and being in a new place starting a new life inspired a bunch of new songs, one of which was Golden Light.


Spring in Mendocino

Driving home from town in my little old pickup with two baskets of marvelous groceries, I was trying to remember why I never recorded Golden Light, when I noticed my speedometer had stopped working and said I was going zero-miles-per-hour when I knew I was going much faster than zero, and the disparity made me laugh.

Arriving home, I remembered I did record Golden Light a couple years after writing the song, but chose not to include the tune on the album I was making at the time because… I couldn’t remember why.


Little Lake Road

After I put the groceries away, I went on my daily walk, and a few minutes into my walk I had the thought Maybe I didn’t include the song on an album because the lyrics were sexist. Could that be? I certainly didn’t think the lyrics were sexist when I wrote the song, never having been one to consciously write sexist songs. However, a few years into my Berkeley sojourn I sublet a room in the house I was renting to woman named Z who had identified as a lesbian for twenty years and was beginning to think she might be bisexual. She and I had several long talks about sexual identity in a sexist society. So maybe those conversations figured into my decision not to include Golden Light on an album.

Then again… what were the lyrics to Golden Light?

I started to sing the song as I walked along.

Late last Tuesday evening, after midnight one or two,

I was sunk in bitter loneliness, fighting those killing blues

Came a flash outside my window, a burst of golden light

Lifted me from my despair, launched me into the night.

Something made me, something made me go

Went on down to Jackie’s joint, thought I’d tip a few

There she was playin’ slide with her band and…

That was all I could remember. Hmm. There she was playin’ slide with her band and…


faint geese lines in sky

I walked on and heard the sound of geese, hundreds of them, calling to each other, and I thought Migrating geese! Where are they? I was just coming out of a heavily wooded stretch of road and caught sight of a crooked V of hundreds of geese high above me. I got out my little camera and tried to get a photo of them, but didn’t have time to zoom closer before they were gone.

Then I remembered another line from Golden Light. Oh my God she could play those blues.


Fabulous hummus

For the rest of the forty-five minute walk, fragments of lyrics came to me, but not the entire song. When I got home, I busied myself with bringing in firewood for the afternoon-into-evening fire, and while building the fire I wondered if I might have the lyrics to the song in a Word document on my computer.

After I got the fire going in the woodstove, I made some fabulous hummus using sunflower seed butter instead of tahini to go with the garbanzos and lemon juice and garlic and hot sauce and a splash of white wine and curry powder, and whilst eating the good goo on crackers, I remembered what Golden Light was about and thought maybe I hadn’t included the song on an album because the storyline of the song was a male fantasy cliché, which might have felt somewhat sexist to me in 1996, though why I would have felt that way I couldn’t imagine: lonely man meets fabulous woman, takes a chance, fabulous woman dances with him.


old Word doc symbol

After gorging on the superb hummus I went to the computer, looked in my long neglected Song Lyrics folder and found a Word document for Golden Light. However, it was a strange looking little file symbol, different than the others, and when I tried to open the file, a message appeared on the screen saying my computer and current writing software were unable to read the file because the file was ancient, a modern synonym for more than ten years old.


looking inside

So I spent some time Googling how to read old Word files and learned that my current Word is considered antique and the newest Word app should be able to read the old file. However, to get the newest Word app I’ll need a new and more powerful computer and the new Word app for which I must pay an exorbitant monthly subscription fee. Can you say greedy amoral creepy jerks?

Then I thought I’ll just send this ancient Word document to my computer-wizard brother and he will make a new copy for me that is readable by my seven-year-old antique computer.

I started an email to my brother intending to attach the old Word document when I felt a pang of frustration and annoyance and a touch of anger, and decided to try to remember the lyrics without resorting to anything other than my memory.


lyrics to Golden Light

To that end, I sat down at the kitchen table with a blank piece of paper and started writing out the song lyrics. Once again my memory hit a wall at There she was playin’ slide with her band and…

I continued humming the tune and went on to the next verse, and more and more lines arose from the archives of my memory, with several large gaps remaining.

I remembered She had big men at her elbows and rich gals buying her booze.


guitar and piano

Time to add another log to the fire. Whilst adding the log, it occurred to me I could try to play the song and sing it. Surely that would jog my memory. I haven’t played the guitar for several months because I’ve been working on a new suite of piano tunes. Thus the guitar callouses on my chord-making fingers would be wimpy and my fingers would hurt when I played and my playing would be lousy because I’m out of practice. And I hadn’t played Golden Light in twenty years. Nevertheless, I got my guitar and my thumb pick and sat down to see if I could remember how to play and sing Golden Light.


thumb pick on thumb

Interesting Tidbit: It turns out I do not, independently of my right thumb, know how to play the many songs I’ve written for the guitar. If I try to strum the chords without my thumb pick on, I can’t remember the chords or how to play any of my songs. With my thumb pick on, I can play the songs. I’m not kidding. My thumb is a genius.

I began to play and sing, and here it was, the song in her (or his or its) entirety. As I played, I thought This is a rock soul classic waiting to be covered by singers and bands and choirs for generations to come. Nor did the words or the story seem sexist to me. Was the song a fantasy? Yes. A fairy tale? Yes. Implausible and verging on silly? Perhaps.


Todd’s fabulous nut butter and raisin cookies

Then it occurred to me that anyone who felt this song was sexist would probably not be someone I would invite over for hummus or cookies, though I would, of course honor his or her or any other pronoun’s opinion about my wonderful song.


Todd circa 1996

Here are the lyrics to Golden Light. Maybe someday I will include the song on an album, though now I’m thinking of changing the title to Something Made Me. What do you think?

Late last Tuesday evening, after midnight one or two,

I was sunk in bitter loneliness, fighting those killing blues

Came a flash outside my window, a burst of golden light

Lifted me from my despair, launched me into the night.

Something made me go, something made me

Went on down to Jackie’s joint, thought I’d tip a few

There she was playin’ slide with her band

and there was nothing I could do

She had a wild mane of long long hair, luscious tiger’s eyes

She was everything I would ever want

if I only had the strength to try

She had big men at her elbows, she had rich gals buying her booze

She had pretty boys blowing kisses,

and oh my God she could play those blues

Something made me go, something made me

I moved past all her suitors and asked her for a dance

She looked at me for a long long time,

Then she put down her guitar and gave me my chance.

Something made me go, something made me

We held hands on the dance floor

Her band was burning bright

And I could tell by the way she moved

She was the maker of the golden light

Something made me go, something made me


Hey Baby Todd’s guitar song on YouTube with Todd and Gwyneth

Links for Todd and Marcia’s new CD Through the Fire