Monday, August 15, 2011

Repeat Offender

"Dude, we should bounce some ideas around first. I think for the formal one it should say, 'To whom it may concern' and the fan-one should say 'Dear Dave Eggers or Dr. Haggis-On-Whey or Lucy Thomas."

"I think we should go get some donuts and cream sodas," I said.

"Ray, come on. Let's get at least some work done before we do something like that," Lester said, opening a black notebook and dropping it on the floor. "Do you have any ideas?"

I shrugged.

"Come on then! Think!"

"I can't. I'm hungry."

"You just don't want to work. You're being lazy, Ray. You quit your job, you're doing nothing. Surely you can work on this today. I'm working every day of the week and now I'm here on my day off, should of gone to church, but I'm here to work with you, dude." He sounded more serious than normal. As if this was a matter of life-or-death. Maybe it was.

"Dude, you wanna watch the Big Lebowski?"

"No, I want to work on this thing. I think it could be very good."

"I don't want to work. I don't ever want to think of writing as work. And now you're blatantly calling it that and making me feel like it is."

"I love to design. I do it on my own. But sometimes it feels like work, and I still do it. That's the nature of all art. It is good that it feels like work. So we can suffer and sacrifice for our art. That's the only way it's any good."

"Well, then. My writing must be terrible." I said this plainly, with no hint of emotion, which pleased me greatly.

"Dude, that's not what I'm saying."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying we should work on this."

"And I'm saying we should get some donuts and some sodas, then work on it. I can't write early in the morning."

"It's 11."

"Too early, man. I need about eight hours of fiddling around for every one hour of productive work."

"So you're gonna waste my time?"

"Dude, how are donuts and cream sodas a waste of time? And then we can watch the Big Lebowski."

"You hate that movie."

"I know."

"You're just procrastinating."

"Procrastination is a prerequisite for creating art. As a wise man once said, 'Procrastination is the creation of an exciting life by manufacturing tension, because suddenly you're off on this great adventure.'"

"Can't we just do a little bit of tossing around ideas before we do anything else?" he asked, earnestly blinking his eyes.

"No." I felt ruthless and alive because of it.

"Then I'm gonna leave, Ray. If you don't want me to help you, I've got better things to do."

He walked across the room and opened the front door. "Help me?" I called after him. He turned around, keeping his hand on the door frame. "I'm the one helping you write this thing."

"Right," he said. "Bye." He shut the door behind him and I decided I was ready to go.

I went out and walked to a store where I purchased a $100 backpack with the $134.11 I had left in my bank account. I walked back home and just sat for a few minutes on the floor shaking. From my closet, I grabbed a small, green sleeping bag and shoved it into the new backpack as small as it would go. Also, from my closet I brought out five T-shirts, two long-sleeve shirts, three pairs of jeans, seven pairs of underwear and socks, and a beanie and stuffed them all into my backpack. I added a water bottle, my wallet, a flashlight, my cell phone charger, a few pens, a sharpie, a small notebook, and an immense novel by Adam Levin. I zipped it up and set it by my front door.

In the morning I didn't take a shower, but dressed quickly and left my home with the backpack strapped to my shoulders. I started to walk.

In walking, I will get to new places. I won't give myself the illusion that I am doing something new and exciting by writing a blog. I won't fool myself into thinking I can be better friends with Lester or Anna, only to end up hurting them in repeated cycles.

As I walked across a bridge, my cell phone vibrated in my pocket. It was Emma.

"Hey, Ray. I really enjoyed catching up with you the other day. I bought this movie a friend of mine recommended yesterday. It's called Wendy and Lucy. I was going to watch it tonight, and I know how much you love movies, so I thought of you. And I can't eat a whole bag of popcorn myself."

"I've already seen that movie," I said.

She was silent for a slight second before saying, "Oh, Okay. Well-"

"Thanks for asking. I'll see you later. Bye."

I shut my phone and clutched it tightly in one hand, before tossing it over the rail of the bridge.

That was ten minutes ago, and now I've stopped by the library to write this post. As I look around at some of the patrons behind the computers, I smile, in anticipation of looking more like them.

And now I'm gone.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Sestina

I spent all day on this. Once I started, I couldn't stop. There was nothing else to do.

I Don’t Know About All This

The gals attending the annual bird pageant
peek through bead eyes, find it hard to swallow:
the lengths of men’s tails, leaving them to doubt
whether they might ever find any as long as a dog’s
and it is so very difficult to have so much patience.
The blind sages call all of this show a grave-sin.

Can there be with all of life, a beauty in the sin
or are all these attention-shows a meaningless pageant
the wise are forced to suffer through with patience?
Arise off of your perch, bright modest swallow!
Leave in the dust the world of chomping dogs,
fly free of pretense, false affection and self-doubt!

Be not like the famous ancient man Thomas of Doubt,
find the one redemption to free yourself from showy sin,
don’t let anyone find truth in calling you one of the dogs,
make your life the example, don’t attend the world’s pageant,
and be able to make the difficult decision to force to swallow
the phrase, “All good things come to those who have patience.”

The nurse-world has turned us all into her patients
kept in a hospital-cycle: from blissful hope to doubt
she sticks down our throats what is too easy to swallow:
the large, quick-acting, sleep-inducing, placebo medicine.
We pin a blue ribbon on the ugliest patient at the pageant
because the large pill lowers us all to the status of dogs.

We become bastards, bitches, sons-of-bitches, baddest of dogs
howling our complaints to our vets as we wounded patients
are criticized only because we enter ourselves into the pageant,
induced to see our own worth through the lens of doubt
and to never be able to forget our memories of naked sin
we ironically destroy what’s good, swallow the whole swallow.

We keep exchanging roles for one another: the swallow
to the swallower, the ruthless, toothful, chomping dogs.
So much switching must be what the sages say: a sin.
We must stop being so good at having easy patience
with ourselves and begin to forever seriously doubt
the value of our sticky lives at the long-lasting pageant.

If you can see it is a sin to swallow
the cotton-candy pageant, leave it to the dogs,
I have no patience left, and need a way out of all this doubt.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Café

Today I went out for coffee with Emma, an old friend of mine. My current friends are simply stale, not doing anything for me. In our conversation, she allowed me to have a sort of detachment from my current self, as I explained everything. She knows only the past me. Still, I have to pretend to still be filled by the current friendships I have. To that end, I must write that Eggers piece with Lester. Again, as a transitory piece of writing, I have written this poem about the in-between time of each of the circumstances with Anna and with Emma as I waited for Emma at the cafe. I think I'll try my hand at a sestina next.

A Café

As I sit in a twisted black metal chair
with a cup of Double Mexican Mocha
outside the café in the summer’s morning breeze,
I pull on a gray sweatshirt to hide a shiver
an hour after the discussion
discovering how we went wrong

Alone, except surrounded by various-sized dogs
tied to signposts and hydrants
who stare at me with blank eyes
no indication of whether they’d bite
if I tried to pet them

Alone, I feel like myself
for the first time in weeks

I wait for a friend I haven’t seen in years
as I listen to Tchaikovsky through big headphones
and wonder if she will remind me
of who I am or who I was
(or none of the above—

But mostly I think about
what will change after the discussion
If, in the naming of things
we can be renewed

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No Writing

I haven't felt like writing. I quit my job at PetSmart and have been staying at home reading Charles Simic's poetry. Lester keeps calling, and we talk, but he's super busy at work right now. Anna even called once, but I didn't answer. Lester came over a few days ago.

"Dude, I have an idea for a collaboration project we should do together."

"What kind of collaboration?" I asked.

"Writing. For McSweeneys Internet Tendency. I have this idea where we write two letters-to-the-editor. One is an extremely formal account of how we believe Dave Eggers was born in the wrong time and place and should have been born around us because he would be the perfect third musketeer of our duo. We will explain how his and our true genius and wit have not budded into complete fruition yet. That it is impossible to flourish without the other and that something has seriously thrown the universe off balance by us not having grown up together. The second letter will be about the exact same thing, except stripped of its formality and clearly revealing the unhealthy and crazed obsession of the two fan writers who desperately believe they are as cool and talented and as Dave Eggers."

So, of course I smiled then because it is a truly brilliant idea, but the more I think about the project the more I realize I don't want to do it. But I know Lester is only trying to look out for me. I am aware I have pretty much just summed up what Lester wants us to do in this post, but I'm hoping to build up to the more creative juices and do this thing.

Then afterwards I can do what I have been preparing to do with all that walking with all the books in my hiker's backpack.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I'm Not Lovin' It

When Anna called to say she wanted to meet me at McDonalds for dinner I was confused. On our road trip to California she convinced us to go to a Burger King drive-through instead of McDonalds because they sell a veggie burger.

When I got there, I stood in front of the counter and giant lighted board displaying all the foods in glorious pictures for small amounts of money with my arms crossed. When she came in she was smiling and I couldn't help to smile back, but only at first, and only for a short period of time.

She ordered an Angus Burger saying, "I thought the BigMac was the quintessential meaty meal here, but Todd told me it's the Angus Burger so I've got to try it."

"You've been a vegetarian since college," I said.

"Well . . ." She said, still smiling. "You know what happened."

"What happened?"

"You know, the whole story of how I met Todd."

"I'm sorry. I didn't hear it. I couldn't listen then. I felt all antsy for some reason."

She looked at me for a second, but I was able to keep my face plain, showing nothing, and I'm proud about that. "Well . . . do you want to hear it now?"

By this time we were seated at a small sleek table by a large window and I took a giant bite from a Double Cheeseburger. "Sure."

Her face became animated all the more. "Well, it all started when I rode my bike to the park next to Panera's and spent some time there reading this book, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. You know it?"

"Yeah. I know it."

"Well, I got to the part where Tod Clifton dies and the narrator makes that speech at his funeral and I got super depressed, angry, and all kinds of worked-up. I just couldn't beat, in that moment, thinking about how meaningless it is to even try to do anything, to make a stand, to try and change something. I couldn't read on, as I was so flustered. So I stood up and asked the nearest man where the nearest McDonalds was. He pointed me west, across the river, and the neighborhood it was in was in real bad shape. This McDonalds was next to the bus station so there were a ton of poor people milling about the place. In front of it, I was stopped by some bums. One was curled up asleep on the floor and the one with the mustache asked me for a dollar to buy a beer and I felt like I had to give it to him. Who am I to stop this man from dealing with his stuff however he wants? So I gave it to him, went inside and quickly ordered a BigMac, large fries, and a chocolate milkshake. I wanted to just go for it all the way. Anyway, when I was in that McDonalds this short stocky bearded man with tattoos and a bald head walked out the bathroom and grinned at me weirdly as he walked by. Then he quickly rounded back to me and asked, 'Do I know you?' I answered warily, 'I don't think so.' 'What's your name?' 'Anna McElhenney.' 'Anna. Anna. Did you go to Jefferson High?' 'No, I didn't.' 'Oh, never mind then. I thought you was someone you wasn't.' I smiled at him as he walked away and finished my food as I started to feel sick. That's when I decided to start going to help out at an after school program and to help at that writing lab and tutoring center. Todd was the one who signed me up and when he told me his name I just laughed. Of course, I had to explain myself so I told him about Tod Clifton and the entire story and I kinda just let loose a lot of stuff on him. After a couple weeks of working there he asked me out." Her smile had spread and begun to sparkle like in a dream.

I couldn't believe she was telling me all of this. As much as I didn't want to hear all of this, I did. So I just listened, but didn't look at her much, pretending to concentrate on my french fries.

"Do you have a problem with me?" she asked suddenly.

I adjusted myself in the chair, shoulders hunched forward and looked her straight in the eye. "No. I'm super-fine."

"How come Lester can treat me like normal, but you can't?"

I shrugged. "I really just don't know. I wish I could treat you the same." I paused and then said slowly, "Some days I can like you and can be fine with you, but some days I just can't."

"Well, that's sad," she said, no longer smiling. "I've felt like I've lost a friend."

I wanted to tell her that was all her fault or that it was all my fault. I wanted to tell her that I never wanted to speak to her again or that I still wanted to have long conversations with her. Instead, I said nothing.

"I don't know what to do about you," she said. "I don't even know if you-"

"How can you do that?" I said, my voice betraying the calmness I was trying to portray.

"Do what?"

"Be all smiling and telling me a story like you're a good buddy to saying you feel like I'm not your friend anymore?"

"Ray, I don't even know if you like to see me anymore. Every time you do, you look stiff, not yourself."

"When you came in I smiled at you."

"Yeah, I know you did." We stared at each other, me blankly, her concerned. "I don't know if we should hang out anymore if all I do is make you feel bad."

Instead of responding I thought about about an Incubus song.

To deal with how I felt I wrote this poem about Anna:

"The Importance of High Ideas and How They Affect Geography"

The university
hours of abstract high-talk
they talk at me about
expensive modest layering
and I decide to be a vegetarian
a sacrificarian
for those who are not here

Outside the McDonalds
next to the Greyhound bus station
with three wizened bums
the one in the middle huddled on the concrete
like a baby without a mother
they talk with me about
Harleys and life
and I give them $1 for a beer

Inside the McDonalds
with girls in small tight shirts
a short stocky man
with a bearded tattoo grin
mistakenly recognizes me
but at least we see each other

Two and a half years
after the big decision
I order fries chocolate milkshake
and a Big Mac

Before I even finished I feel sick

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Poem for My Current State of Mind

That night after the blueberry pie meeting, I wrote a poem. Also, Anna called and said she wants to talk.

"5:15 PM- Go Allow Love A Taste In A New Summer"

In the green stretch of backyard
like kittens on the quilt you sewed me
from your middle-school T-shirts
I stick a lemon-square through your lips
and we howl until it reaches the clouds

Inside the two-story house the kitchen mom
with her glovemits backs away from the heat
sucking her seared-raw wrist

In the oven the chocolate-chips dance
with the sugar and the butter,
the cult-ritual for the maternal love-pact
They are aware, unlike the jackal-lover-mom,
of the creatures that play outside

Inside the body the blood simmers because
of the way our sharp teeth bite

Of the way our sharp teeth will bite
into each other during the night

Worship-mom shouts out the screen-summer-door
“Honey, the cookies are done. Let’s prey and eat!”

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Blueberry Times

"She said blueberry is the best. She said we have to get blueberry."

"Okay, okay. Should we wait for them to get here?" I asked.

"Here they come right now," Lester answered, motioning behind me to the door.

I didn't look until she was through the door and spoke.

"Lester, Ray, hi!! This is Todd." She had her hand on his back. "Todd, these are my two good friends, Lester and Ray." He shook each of our hands and smiled artificially. His teeth were as white as I expected, but his handshake was less firm and his face was less good-looking. His facial hair made him look like a kid. The goat kind.

We each ordered a slice of blueberry pie. "My dad used to take me here when I was a kid," Anna said in her annoyingly cute, excited-about-life-and-just-everything tone.

I wondered why she introduced Lester's name first.

At the table Anna said, "Lester, Ray, and I have been friends since we were kids. You would never see us apart all through middle school. I think people made fun of us." She grabbed the vase of real flowers set on the edge of the table and pressed her nose into them. "Mmmmm. I love daisies. I love this place. The blueberry pie is always amazing. Never gets old." She was talking faster than normal, as if she was more excited or more nervous.

"What happened to us?" I asked, looking at her.

Her smile dropped only the slightest. "What do you mean?"

"Why did us three stop always being together?"

Lester swooped in. "She got past her awkward stage is what happened," he said. "Remember your big hair and big glasses? As soon as ninth grade hit, you were transformed, and all of a sudden she had a line of boys wanting to talk to her."

"Oh yes, oh dear, the awkward stage!" She turned to Todd and pressed his arm. "I must show you pictures."

"I can't wait," he said, not as clearly or confidently as I imagined he would be.

"You were still loyal to us though," Lester added. "Just that you got a load of new friends."

"I was more confident in myself and ready to be sociable and branch out a little. As were you two." She smirked and tilted her head forward. "You guys made other friends as well."

"Not like you," I said.

"How about that Emma?" she responded as if I hadn't said anything at all.

I thought Lester should surely be offended at that, but instead he asked, "So Todd, what do you do?"

"I'm an event coordinator for the tutoring and creative writing center for kids downtown. And yourself?"

"I'm a graphic designer for a few different companies, mostly freelance."


"I work at PetSmart right now."


"So how did you two meet?" Lester asked.

I wanted to go use the restroom, but I was polite and pretended to listen while I thought about the similarities between David Lynch and David Cronenberg. I was the first to finish my slice of pie and told them all I had to get home.

Even though I felt like Lester wasn't on my side the entire time, he did let me go without making a big deal out of it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ray Walks

Instead of sleeping, I started increasing the frequency and distance of my walks with the hiker's backpack from Lester full of books. I even switched out some of the books with larger ones, like the anthology of Tennessee Williams, the "N" encyclopedia, and an artbook of Van Gogh's complete collection in full color.

When I come back home, I pull the straps of the backpack and let it crash to the floor as I collapse next to it, stretched out, watching my chest rise and fall quickly, licking my dry lips to make them wet like my sweat-drenched T-shirt, basketball shorts, underwear and socks. I like the way my arms glisten and I squeeze my calves because for a half hour after walking, they are firm and defined. I pretend like they are always like that and imagine girls noticing them.

I stare at the ceiling above me and imagine animals and plants in the swirls. When my breathing slows I stand up and spend twenty to thirty minutes in the shower and sometimes I just imagine everything I can that is sad so my tears can mix with the water streaking down my face and go down the drain. I bought a creme that is supposed to help with my acne and apply it meticulously every day in front of the mirror. So far I have seen no effects. But I made sure to buy the most expensive creme in the store, so I'm sure it will work in time. Sometimes when I don't walk, I do crunches.

On Friday night, I strapped the backpack to my shoulders and walked directionless around the town. Young people going out for the night in their nice shirts and summer dresses looked at me. Some kids pointed and one even ran up close to me in the wobble-walk small kids use. I smiled at her and she wobbled away into the arms of her young bearded dad who whisked her away. Two women around my age were standing outside a bar as I walked past them. They wore makeup and revealing dresses and eyed me and I thought about asking them if either of them needed a date for the night, and they'd giggle, and agree because I was so intriguing in my backpack and had romantic notions for a care-free and wild night, that certainly, someone who looked like me could provide.

Instead, I walked into a gas station and the clerk looked at me and I looked at the products behind him. "Give me a pack of Newports," I said, trying to sound like I was someone who purchased cigarettes often and had tried them all and could give opinions on the flavors and strengths of them all. "And a lighter."

Outside, in the dark, cool summer air I lit the cigarette and smoked it like a pro. The used cell phone I just bought a week prior rang in my pocket.


"Hey, Ray. It's Lester."

"Hey, what's up?"

"Anna just called. She wants to know if we want to go out for blueberry pie tomorrow afternoon. She wants to introduce us to her new boyfriend."

"And she asked you to ask me?"

"Yeah, I guess so. So, you want to go?"

"No," I answered.

"Well, you're going," he said."

"Okay," I said.

I put the cell phone back in my pocket and walked back home. When I passed a trash can, I tossed the pack of Newports inside.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Speaking of the beats . . .

When I wrote that Kerouac-esque poem I remembered in college I was supposed to write the college life's version of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" for an assignment. I have dug it up and transcribed it here:



I saw the best souls of my university destroyed by apathy, compromise, stubborn and easy ignorance, dragging themselves through books and friends looking for fulfillment,
hipsters plunging covetous for academic, physical, or emotional power into late-night libraries gymnasiums and coffee-houses
who read Sedaris out loud in public places under eyes and someone laughs
who walk the sidewalks and burst out into loud songs that do not glorify the self
who stretch arms with eyes closed and open mouths flooded with noise
who masturbate wild in bedrooms, bathrooms and prayer closets
who speak in tongues in small groups and share the latest visions of the night
who tongue their girlfriends in havens in Jackson with booze and marijuana
who intelligently discuss the news and God while drinking tea brewed in a teapot
who speak to God with each other for hours crying hugging and giggling
who sit around the tables eating never-ending attempts at making the others laugh
who pour chunky vegetable soup on bodies and beds with warning
who gather with new poems and Starbucks every week desperate for a line of worth
who walk calmly to the staircase at 3 A.M. and smash the great nerf gun into tiny bits
we keep telling our stories, the embarrassing ones we keep to ourselves, and we cry eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani because we know we are not who we are and this is just a few years and then we’ll be okay, but maybe forever we won’t and we don’t know what to do.


What clock tower shaded the base innocence and illuminated youthful pride and youthful desire?
Moloch! Pretense! Agitation and unobtainable peace! Misguided community!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the self-loving! Music Moloch! Moloch the way we dress!
Moloch who smiles too much or not enough! Moloch who doesn’t recognize God! Moloch in always being where everyone else is!
They are restless lifting Moloch up to where it doesn’t belong!


I’m with you in Ormston
where you’re with God more than I am
I’m with you in Ormston
where you battle against social rewards
I’m with you in Ormston
where you can sing only until quiet hours
I’m with you in Ormston
where you pray for revival
I’m with you in Ormston
where you cry O the condition of man
O call us Hebzibah O Shekinah come we want Your power
I’m with you in Ormston
in my dreams we leave with nothing and become pilgrims, like the true children we were created to be

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Have to Stop Sleeping So Much: An Ode to Jack Kerouac (In the Style of Jack Kerouac)

"Michigan Blues"

One is not grown in the night

One in the Night
Is not Grown
They know their Time
Is not limitless

But their Time,
Unknown to them
May end-

Which is Ruin

Careless men
Who sleep
Have Time
Of waste

Good men
Who are up
Have Time
Of ant

Bike are Gold Chariots of Heaven
Have come rescuing
Through the dark night
To see the lake of slight sounds

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Poem I Wrote


“I discovered that, owing to some deficiency or other, I was fit for nothing and I decided to be a poet.” –Pierre Gringoire

If I don’t believe she loves me anymore
and love always hopes
does that mean I don’t love her anymore?

I imagine what would happen if I replaced
heroes of old with the people around me.
If Anna were to replace Gandhi
or if Lester were to replace van Gogh
nothing is changed.
But if I replace Ginsberg
the world turns into a wordless mess.

She draws me deeper into the abysmal caverns of her life.

How can I burn the fat off of my soul
while I keep checking how much lint is collected from my laundry?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Lunch

I haven't written because I've only made quick trips to the library to check out more and more of Wes Anderson's movies. He is Anna's favorite director.

We met for lunch on Monday at Panera's and both got cheese and broccoli soup in the bread bowl. I didn't even know that's what she was going to order.

We've connected in a lot more ways than that though. For instance, growing up, and Lester can attest to this, I enjoyed a nice bowl of Corn Chex and I have never met anyone else so inclined to choose those mildly healthy thatched squares for breakfast. But Anna loved them, perhaps more than me. One time, at her apartment, I saw her pour herself a bowl on her kitchen counter as I walked into the room. She was singing under her breath, "They're mild-ly delic-ious!"
"What did you just say?" I shouted.
She turned, looking perplexed and frightened. "They're mildly delicious?"
"Yes! Yes! About the Chex?"
"Are you kidding? I do the exact same thing! That's incredible. How could that be? I do it EXACTLY like that. WIth the sing-song voice and those EXACT words. How could our minds have been so aligned. Everything in your history has brought you to this place to do that and everything in my past has also contributed somehow to make myself do the same. What does this mean? How is this supposed to fit into my worldview? What does this mean for us?"

At first, during lunch, Anna just asked me about what books I was reading and what movies I was watching, but then she got real silent and spooned several mouthfuls of soup through her lips quickly. So I decided to go for it. "When we were texting you said something about feeling something. What was that?" She looked at me for years, prolonging my teetering happiness-in-question.

A baby started to cry to the left and Anna turned to smile at the quieting mother before turning back to me. "Ray, I have felt things about you. Many conflicting things. Sometimes I do like you in ways beyond friendship, but not anymore. I started seeing this guy. I like him. You're a good guy, but I could never date you."

The soup-soaked bread stopped in my throat and stayed there. "Why not?"

"There'd be too many problems. It'd never last. We're too different in ways that wouldn't work."

"Yeah." I said. Her face looked pained in a sort of I-feel-sorry-for-you kind of way. I imagined mine just looked pained. "I'm not sure I'd want to date you either." She just looked at me, her eyes looking more wet and big and beautiful. "You think I would want to date you?"

"Ray, that's been obvious for a long time." She sounded like a mother. I hated it.

A couple weeks after I heard Anna sing the "Mild-ly delic-ious!" about Chex, I was still talking about what that could possibly mean with Lester. "I can't take it anymore, man," he told me. "I was singing that earlier was Anna was around. I didn't have the heart to tell you what with you going crazy over it, but she was just doing it because she heard me doing it earlier. I'm sorry."

And my face became everything I didn't want it to be.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Love Always Hopes

As much as I wanted to know Anna's response to my last text, I didn't, so I devoted myself to my work, cleaning all the kennels and aquariums, reading a lot of books I won't remember, and sleeping for at least ten hours a night.

When Lester returned to town from work on Friday, he stopped by to make sure I was alright since I never texted him or called him. I explained the sitch and he went bonkers.

"Dude, you have to call her! Take my phone right now and meet up with her."

"I don't want to."

"You HAVE to, Ray. You have to. She obviously likes you."

"You think?"

"It's SO obvious."


"Yeah! Now call her and explain what happened and ask if you can meet with her to talk."

His voice was making me excited and more hopeful then I would ever be. I guess that is why he is my friend. Cuz he can lift me higher than I could ever lift myself. "Okay, okay. But you got to leave the room."


"I can't talk to her while you're listening. I'll freeze up and feel nauseous."

"Really?" He gave me a look.


"Really?" He gave me more of a look.

"I will. Now go."

He slowly left the room and I dialed. She answered. We spoke. We hung up.

"You can come back in!"

Lester shuffled in, grinning, and with his hands on his hips. "So?"

"So what?"

"So what did she say, moron?"

"We're gonna have lunch on the the second."


"Yeah, Monday."

"Alright, soon-to-be-dating-Anna-man. Good luck. I'll be back Monday night to see how it went. I gotta get some sleep."

When he left, so did my smile and I haven't stopped shaking since then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hauntings Down the Toilet

I was so tired from staying up texting Anna that the ferrets noticed I wasn't very playful at work. I think being sleepy allowed our texts to go to levels of our subconscious we couldn't have reached had we been having a wide-awake conversation. We were not as alert and our guards and walls were not up. We revealed what was real and not the disguises we usually wear in the light of day. As She Wants Revenge says:

This is the time of night when the moonlight shines down and we can reveal who we truly are
Within the darkest most depraved
Of joys

And gentlemen and ladies, I think those joys look good for me!

At one point I texted: Ive missed u. Havent seen you around

She responded: Yeah well ill be around. Sorry i havent been. You really threw me through a loop last time we talked

What do you mean? At my place?

Yes. When you talked about those feathers. I didnt know how to respond. I felt something tho and was scared of it

Scared of how u felt?


What did u feel?

She didn't respond for seven minutes. I started to read the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities, but I just kept reading the first page over and over again without even getting that it was the best of times as well as the worst of times. Every two minutes I thought I felt my Blackberry vibrate in my jeans pocket and took it out to see no new messages. My leg began to shake as if it had a mind of its own. I walked to the bathroom and started to micturate, for the snippet of relief it afforded me. Unfortunately in the middle of it all, my Blackberry actually did vibrate and I hurriedly pulled it out of my pocket. A little too hurriedly. It slipped through my fingers and fell forever into a splash of the urine/water mixture in the toilet bowl. Only for a second dd I hesitate before I thrust my hand into the light-yellow water to retrieve it. But it was too late. I dried it off with my bathing towel and tried all the buttons, but none worked. The screen turned to black, never again to shine brightly.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The New Mobile Hauntings

"Dude, you just gotta do it. For your own sake. So you don't make the same mistake."

I blinked. "Okay."

Lester was referring to the Anna-incident with which I didn't want a repeat. Lester was going away on another business trip, leaving me alone. I had his new number now, but he told me the week was going to be extremely busy and he wouldn't be able to talk very long over the phone. He suggested I get a texting plan because it was easier to communicate that way and no one cares if you text while you talk to them. But they would certainly care if you were on the phone with someone. I didn't quite understand how texting could be any better. It is still a blatant display of not fully paying attention to someone.

"Great, I'll drive you to the Sprint store right now."

"I've got a bad feeling about this," I said.

At the mall I tripped over a bench while trying not to look at the giant red lingerie-wearing model in the Victoria's Secret window. Lester tried not to laugh. A kid to my left screamed as he was being pulled away from Game Stop by his tired-eyed mother. I gulped the cool fake air, stumbling to the Sprint kiosk.

"Hello," the man in the yellow shirt, goatee, and spiked hair said. "How may I help you?"

I gripped the glass counter of the display case. "I want to get a texting plan for my phone."

"Sounds great. What's your account number?" After I gave him the required information and he typed away at his computer, he said, "Well, it says here you've had a plan with us for over two years now which means along with your new texting capabilities, you can upgrade your phone for free. And you're in luck. Today just so happens to be the last day of a special promotion where you can upgrade to the Blackberry completely for free."

"That's okay. I just want the texting."

"Hold on," Lester butt in. "The Blackberry is for free."

"Yeah, but my old phone works fine. I just wanna get outta here."

"Dude, the Blackberry is a better phone. It won't take that long. Just do it, man. I'll be mad if you don't."

He looked serious so I said, "Fine."

So now I am a Blackberry owner and a texter. I feel so unclean.

The first person I texted was Anna. I only saw her once after that fateful day. Her, Lester, and I went to see Water for Elephants in the theater. She seemed completely normal, but I couldn't look at her even when I talked to her.

Our conversation:

Me: Sorry about the other night. I dont know what i was thinking

Her: Who is this?

Me: Oh sorry ray

Her: Its okay ray. Lets just forget about it. Ok?

Me: Yeah ok. I found a dead bird outside yesterday.

And the conversation went on well into the night. It was a lot easier to talk to her via texting. I don't know how I got on without this technology before.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Sometimes I wonder if I mean anything. The parakeets at work seem to think so when I feed them, because they always greet me with a new song. But they never read anything I write. And I feel like that's one of the only things I've got. I'm afraid and selfish that they will be ignored, shrugged off, or yawned at. I'm afraid eyes will gloss over and what made my stomach church will, after processed through my choice of words, produce no effect. I don't even think Lester or Anna read my blog anymore. Here's a poem about it:

"A Possible Epitaph"

My life is filled with the tremendous
sounds of friends and enemies, chatting over
tea, discussing Monsieur Victor Hugo,
comparing me to Pierre Gringoire, the
poet and philosopher. I take a bow.
An exitlude. A kissed wave.

My life contains noiseless words,
masked gestures, scratches on the
record of an era when everyone was
someone, and no one was really anybody.

C'est en faisant n'importe quoi qu'on devient n'importe qui!”

I am the Best of Marcel Marceau.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Lost Art of Talking Introduced by Walking

Everyone has a story and one of the reasons I write this blog is to tell my stories and others' stories. Often I will say something profound in front of people like, "Werner Herzog knows nature like Dean Moriarty knows time," and the people will change the subject to weather or just walk away. I understand people don't have much time anymore to listen to each other, but I always feel discouraged when this happens to me.

And so I go on walks with my backpack full of heavy books. If no one wants to listen to me, why put myself in the position of being hurt by being with people?

Not to mention, when I walk alone, I have time to become coherent to myself.

Of course when I got to the library there was people there, but I still didn't feel like talking so I sat down on a bench next to an old man with a white beard and asked him about himself. I asked as many questions as I could and he told stories of his work as a truck driver, his family, and all about the glory days of hitch-hiking when he was a young man. He talked to me as if he hadn’t talked to anyone in weeks. He spurted everything as it came to mind, as if his life was at stake for the telling of his stories. He was made alive by the stories because they were him and he was the only one who could tell them. He spoke as if the hours he spent alone in the truck were spent in deep thought, cataloguing the hard facts of who he was and what he believed about the nature of himself and everything around him. His family was lucky to have this resource of such deliberate humanity spoken through words.

His speech was eloquent in its simplicity and revolved around him as if in orbit, never contradicting or unsure of its path. Unlike anyone else I have ever met, including myself, he knew how to speak. He was pure and untainted. He had no hidden motives, like the rest of us. I felt something in my body telling me this man was the only one who needed to speak and incited in me the desire to be like him. I wanted deeply to be an oracle, but I didn’t know if I have it in me. My desire already makes my words impure.

But I tried. He started to ask me the questions and I found myself talking more than I ever had before. The exchange of stories was now made complete. I spoke of everything all at once, but clearly and with wild gesticulating.

At the end the man said, "You are an excellent speaker."

My smile turned instantly. This was the first time I heard such a thing. In fact, I had heard often I was the exact opposite. "I swear I'm not," I said. "You can ask my family or my co-workers and they would tell otherwise. I do not tell them the stories I know."

"Why not?" he asked.

I thought for a moment. "Because I don't like myself and when I attempt to tell stories about my true-self they come out all wrong. I get nervous, I mumble, and say outrageous and peculiar things. I might as well be speaking a different language."

"I'm not sure I understand. What don't you like about yourself?"

I thought once again for a moment. "Because I don't think I can give others what they want."

He was silent. He let me speak, maybe more for myself, than him.

"And so I can only tell the stories of my true-self to strangers like you, because I don't want to give you anything. I do want to give something to those I care about, but since I have nothing to offer, I make up stories or tell others' stories so they don't realize how I'm not actually giving them anything. Then they'd see how worthless I really am."

"Your great gift of story-telling is being destroyed by the very fact that you don't feel like you have any gifts to offer people?"

"Yes!" And I was in tears.

"What can you do about it?" he asked as if he had no answers; as if only I did.

"I don't know if there is anything. The desire to be accepted and to be a story-teller of my true-self don't work together. How can I eliminate these desires if they are already in me? Desire comes from a longing of what isn't there. Of what I am not. It doesn't work to do anything about it because only if I eliminate the desire to be a great story-teller will I become a great story-teller."

I was silent, excepts the gasps of air I was swallowing. After a time, I explained further and he waited.

"It is like how I like this girl. The only way I can truly love her is to eliminate the desire I have for her. Otherwise I desire her for what she can give me. Once I abandon the idea of caring what she thinks of me can I give myself purely to her for her sake and not mine."

It is an untrue story of me to become a great speaker or a great lover. But maybe I'm in good company.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lester on Love

"Tell me more. What was it like with Emma?"

"Well." He scratched his head. "At first it was all just exciting. We liked each other, but not really in a very strong way. Sure, it meant something. But we only liked each other for the excitement we provided for each other. We were new to each other and the mysteries were fascinating. We made each other laugh and smiled until the early hours of the morning. We did this, not for one another, but for ourselves. After the excitement wore off and there was hardly any mystery left, we just annoyed each other. We saw each other making the same mistakes over and over again and never getting any better. We'd talk through all our problems like we were improving each other and the next day we'd annoy each other again. That's when she finally ended it."

"You think there's any worth in it? That all seems just . . . depressing?"

"Well, the excitement was fun and good, but it just didn't last. It never will between two people, I don't think. The second part was horrible, but I think you can find someone who will be willing to work through a relationship even while annoying each other. And maybe that's love. Instead of the excitement, a sort of sacred, quiet awe of that person. This awe, unlike the excitement, is inspiring enough to forgive and let yourself be forgiven while trying to be self-sacrificial. They are more than you, at this point, even though you don't act like it all the time. And then all that is left is worry. You know you won't stop loving her, but other things like geography or time or death might just tamper with it. So you remain silent in your worry, because you don't deserve any of this anyway, but everything is out of your hands. The best part is she will always remain who she is. There's nothing she can do really, because even if she leaves, you know she's still lovely."

"You sound like you're talking about someone specific now."

"Do I?" He looked at me like George Michael in "Careless Whisper." That scared me so I didn't press him any further.

Instead when I went back home, I tried to write a poem about what Lester talked about. I divided his ideas on love in five parts and only really came up with how to say parts three and four. I'll try to keep working on the others. So here are the two:

"This Is a Love Poem"


I've never felt the profound ordination,
in the pure naturalness
of the declaration,
"It is good."
Until now.


To know me is to
know your stories.
To know me is to
be sure of your divine beauty.

To know me is to
know and be sure of
the proper hierarchy—
Your name above mine.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I have decided to go on a journey, but not for some time. Irregardless, I am preparing now.

I borrowed Lester's giant hiker's backpack and filled it with library books. I looked out my window and saw more gray than blue and so put on a sweatshirt. The walk to the library was rough. After only a few minutes my back was aching and my steps had smallened considerably from when I first set out. Once I arrived through the large wooden doors of the museum of human existence, I unstrapped my backpack and sat on a chair in the foyer for a full seven minutes.

After the break I went straight to the computers to post my new poem and to print out a few of Flannery O'Conner's short stories. I stapled them together and the librarian gave me a plastic grocery bag for me to put them in.

I knew I wasn't about to walk all the way back home so I opted for the city bus instead. Luckily, I had eight quarters in my pocket and the bus only costs six of them. At the bus stop, I took my backpack off and set it beside me for the wait. I held the plastic bag in my hand. A young man in a black coat sat on the bench. I stood and shivered. The outside was a lot more cold now that I wasn't walking. The glass barrier inside the bus stop helped a lot by blocking the wind. I shuffled my feet to and fro. Nine minutes passed and I began to spin slowly in place. A young man with a scrappy, almond beard, accompanied by a young woman in a ponytail walked into the bus stop. They both had vacant eyes. "Hey guys, how's it going?" the man asked. The man on the bench remained soundless as I slowly rotated around. The man with the beard looked at me and said, "Wassup?"

"Wassup?" I returned.

"Oh, you know, just barely gettin' by in these times."

I nodded and continued my rotation.

When I was no longer facing them he said, "I'm just trying to help this lady out. She needs to buy diapers for her kids, see."

Again, the man on the bench remained soundless and I felt the two extra quarters in my pocket. I wasn't going to say anything, and besides, by the time I had spun completely around again, the couple was gone.

By the time I made one more circle, the bus was already pulling up. The man on the bench stood up and walked to the curb as I placed my plastic bag on the bench so my hands were free to strap on the backpack. I lifted the pack and swung it, eying the bag and the bus as the same time. The bag was on the edge of the bench, slowly tipping forward. The bus doors swung open. A man ran from out of nowhere to board the bus. Just as I got my arm through the second strap the bag fell on the ground, spilling the packets of stapled papers on the floor. I bent to pick them up as the two men paid for their tickets on the bus. Once all the papers were gathered, I straightened up, and the bus pulled away. I ran and waved my arms, but it kept going. I cursed the man from the bench who knew I was waiting, but said nothing to the driver.

There was no way I was waiting again for the next bus sedentary so I started to walk around the block. Once I turned the corner, the couple with the eyes were there, walking towards me. When they were close, the man tried to be more direct. "Hey, can you spare some change?"

"Well, I need the bus." I fished the quarters out my pocket.

"I can getchya there."

I imagined some scam where he would take me in his car to a secluded back alleyway where he would beat me and steal everything I had on me. "No, uh, I will just take the bus."

"No, I mean, I can get you on the bus." He puled out his wallet. "I've got a pass with two rides left on it." He handed it to me.

I looked it over to make sure it was what he said it was and handed him my full stack of quarters. Now, I was penniless, but if the pass worked, I would have saved two quarters next time I needed to ride the bus.

After another fifteen minutes in the cold, my body angled forward under the weight of the backpack, another bus came and I was ready for it. The couple was long gone. Aboard, I put the pass through the scanner and it worked.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Poem for The New Times

"I Put on Shorts"

It is the time of year
when the Sun calls
upon me to sail

to the isolated mountains
and white islands

amongst the green seas

to aid in His conquest

I propel my feet
like a nuclear missile
power enough to
obliterate an entire country

until it is all wiped away

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lester Talks

I slept for eight minutes shy of ten hours and was late for work for the first time in my life. I still had four days until Lester returned and besides working, sleeping, and eating I read J.D. Salinger's complete collection of works. Sometimes it is easier to be concerned over Zooey or Holden than real life.

As soon as I knew Lester would be home, I pedaled my Schwinn right on over. He graciously let me enter and talk about what happened with Anna instead of what he did on his work trip. After, I told him he poured me a bowl of Lucky Charms with milk.

"Do you like her?" he asked.

"I don't know. I think I may have started liking her." I started digging through the bowl for the grain bits, eating them separately. "It kinda just hit me and I wondered why I hadn't ever thought about her like that before. I don't know what happened to me."

"You didn't have me around. You think you were just lonely?"

"Maybe. So feelings or attraction are contingent on environment?"

"Definitely, dude."

"So how do you know if they're real?"

"I don't know if they're any less real because they were influenced by . . . eh . . . stages of life?"

"But I will stop liking Anna now that you're back?"

"I don't know. Maybe not."

"I hope so. This is terrible." The grain part of the cereal was gone, and I started spooning what was left: all the marshmallows.

"Is it?"

"Is it?" I eyed him suspiciously.

"I mean, she's a cool girl."

"But she's Anna."

"She certainly is."

"Maybe I've missed other cool girls simply because I wasn't lonely enough to need them, to pursue them."

"You make it seem like that's the only reason to date someone."

"Isn't it? Isn't that why people get married? To be comforted by the fact that at least one person is supposed to be with them through the rest of their life?"

He fidgeted a little. "I don't know."

"Why did you want to date Emma?"

"Cuz she . . . she was a cool girl, I guess. I thought she would make me happy and that I could make her happy."

"Did you?"

He didn't say anything for awhile, and poured himself a bowl of Lucky Charms. I was tilting the bowl, slurping the remains of green milk. "Sometimes."

"I don't think I'm ready to date anyone."

"Me neither," he said.

"We never will be."

"No, we won't. But then, neither will they."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Beginning of the Hauntings

I made two horrible mistakes. The first was to forget to get Lester's new phone number before he left for a week and a half on a business trip. I usually call him every other day to update him on what movies are worth watching, which are not, how the ferrets are fairing at work, and the ratio of cute girls to people who look like they are probably sex offenders at the library. The ratio is rarely pretty.

The second mistake was to invite Anna over. It was six days post-Lester-departure, a day off of work, and I had just watched my fourth movie of the day, Edward Scissorhands. That's when I thought about Anna, and considered inviting her over. Instead, I tried to put on I'm Not There which I had just got from the library, but couldn't get past twenty minutes of it. Quickly, I dialed Anna's number and casually asked her if she wanted to come over for a bit. She agreed and said she would need half an hour to get here.

In the meantime, I got out my two peacock feathers and practiced balancing them simultaneously on each palm of my hand. I should have thought about a plan for being with Anna. We have never just hung out alone together. She was no Lester.

"Hello," she said at the door, stepping in.

"Hello," I said.

She took off her shoes, balancing herself with a hand on the wall, and left her jacket beside her shoes. I've never been more aware of her body until that moment.

She sat cross-legged on the wooden floor, opposite the television. I sat in the same manner opposite of her and she smiled at me.

I thought about telling her how many days it had been since I showered, but decided against it. "How was work?" she asked.

"I didn't have it today." She blinked. "But in general, well. Some of the fish are getting too grown up and fat to be sold. Some birds are molting."

She didn't say anything. I was about to ask her the same question, but she pointed across the room and asked, "Are those peacock feathers?"

"Yes. I just took them out before you got here."

"Why do you have them?"

I smiled, happy she found something interesting to talk about. Sometimes I don't think I'm eccentric enough to be friends with two fine artists like Anna or Lester. "They're very useful in relieving stress. They help calm me when I'm nervous. All I have to do is try balancing them, one on each palm. The only way to maintain balance is to reach a state of unconcentration. If you focus on one more, the other will fall. But then if you try to concentrate on the falling one, the other you had been concentrating more on will fall because you are now concentrating on the falling one. You must concentrate on neither or both to obtain balance. So when I find my thoughts unbalanced, dominated too much by any one thing, I break out the peacock feathers."

"So why did you break them out before I got here?"

My smile left. She had me. "No reason."


"No reason."

"Why would you need those peacock feathers for me?"

"I guess I've been thinking too much."

"About me?"

I was silent.

"Is that why you invited me over?"

"No. Lester's gone."

"You invited me over because Lester is gone?"

"I don't know."

Her tone of voice was something I have never known. "I'm gonna go," she said and I watched her silently, as she put on her shoes and jacket.



And she was gone and I didn't really know what I had done. Her tone scared me though and I went immediately to bed in order to escape thinking about it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Teller and the Listener

Most of the homeless people I encounter in the library are either old, missing teeth, or mentally unable to follow the simple structure having a conversation requires. Most are all three. That is why I like to talk to them. But Adam was none.

I found him lying on his back on an old, wooden bench in the fiction section, under a large window, the sun illuminating his dirt-stained shirt and torn-in-both-knees jeans. His legs were bent up with his shoes flat on the bench and he held a book above his face, as if it were some sacred text that he felt the need to raise higher than himself. His 90s jacket and blue cap were discarded beside the bench, along with a cloth satchel spilling bruised apples and scraps of scribbled paper.

"What are you reading?" I asked.

Without looking at me he answered, "Survivor. By Chuck Palahniuk.

"I've read it," I said carefully. "You like Tender? You on the run?"

He stuck a papyrus bookmark in the book, set it next to him, sat up and leaned forward while looking up at me. "How'd you know?"

"Why else would somebody so young be homeless?"

"There could be plenty of reasons."

"What's your story?"

He scratched his beard and stared at the bookcase behind me, folding his hands together, arms resting on his legs. "I'm only telling you this because I've had no one to tell a story to in a long time."

"That's all I'm living for right now. To listen to stories."

"The telling of them only gets old if the teller becomes bored."

"The listening of them only gets old if the listener becomes boring." We spoke the same language.

"I was a soldier in the Reserves right out of high school and went to weekend trainings once a month while going to college. While I was there I studied and became best friends with a girl who was in love with someone else. Alicia. She was deeply moved by, who she called, God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit. And so it was only natural for her to be in love with a guy moved by the same, a guy she called John who was spending a year in Malaysia as a missionary.
We were in a lot of the same sociology and history classes and knew each other's intelligence. We could debate and argue and always convince each other to see another view other than our own. We taught each other how to see different while everyone else was trying to see everything the same.
I figured out I loved her the day she got a phone call from John's sister. She told Alicia that John was in a boat on a river when a girl fell into the rapids. John and another boy had dove in after her. When the three bodies were finally pulled from the waters, they were torn from the rocks along the way.
She cried for days and wouldn't tell me why. She told me this was one thing she couldn't make me understand. I've never been more pained or angry. She wouldn't talk to me. She wouldn't let me tell her I just found out my unit was going to be activated soon, that I was going to be fighting in Afghanistan within five months."

"What did you do?"

"I made the mistake of blurting it out when she wasn't ready. After she told me her story I knew I couldn't go to Afghanistan and so here I am, on the run, running away from her for her."

I think my story is to tell other people's stories. I'm willing to see all at once what is beautiful and horrendous.

Here is a poem I wrote:


The girl’s fingers are strong when they pump the keys on the piano,
her brain also, when she writes an A paper for Politics of Africa,
she laughs for a long time when jokes are told, but stops suddenly
when no one is looking, stifled by some memory, her big eyes

How was I supposed to know the boy she was in love with died
nine months ago while he saved a girl from drowning

when she said, I just watched Black Hawk Down. Please don’t go

I answered, I’m sorry. I have to. And maybe I will die,
but then maybe I’m supposed to.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Old Poems

I wrote the following poems during high school back when I thought Emma (see Nov. 8 and 10) was perfect, through discovering she was not, and wishing she could see me as clearly as I did her. I will post my new poems soon.

"Good Memories"

It was that red sky in the Appalachians
Burning the stretch of healthy trees—
so easily forgettable.

It was your eyes, icy pools of water—
converting to ugliness.

—my mind forgets everything beautiful.

"A Trip Back from Music"

I am a writer but you don’t read my poems
they are not close enough to your melodies
the lyrics are too lonely, naked, and dry
can’t you see how I make the words wobble
with vibrato, how I make sentences progress
like chords and how people dance under the
influence of the themes, cry with the climaxes?

You have missed the connection
out of O’Hare
but fail to see you can
still catch the Wolverine
all the way back to me
in Ann Arbor tonight

"A Trip to the Heart and We’re Both Coming Back in Coffins"

I devour you like ice cream.

I break the ice-shield around our Oldsmobile
chip at the windows, in negative degrees
no gloves, no hat, breaking plastic, big breaths,
red, raw, pry door open, out on the ice-roads,
slide towards incoming traffic, park at the store
to buy you ice cream.

I prey on you, swallow you whole, for my satisfaction,
but not my nourishment.

"When I Am Tired My Mind Works Better"

because I understand better
that I don’t understand anything at all.

Like when I stumble through endless
responsibilities that make meaning
and put to death the peace of a
filtered mind.

There is no perfect balance of
energy or sliced up pie-chart time.

And I wonder why my girlfriend
doesn’t cry when I talk about sad things
but the girl who won’t let me touch her does.


I am talking to you.

My words splatter
cough up dark red
my throat constricts.

I breathe and say:
I had a bad day.
I was alone and selfish and
I don’t think
I’ve ever had joy in my life.

Why can’t I tell you these things,
my darling,
without you thinking they have
everything to do with you?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Alexander Supertramp is King

So here we are all back home. Lester had to switch his phone number because Tobias kept trying to call him and whenever that happened, he wouldn't answer, but always looked horrified. When I asked him if he enjoyed the trip he said, "I think it was adventure enough for me for awhile." I'm glad I could help him feel better and give Tobias a better story, but I must confess I felt no better myself. I thought I might get something from the big trip, but I was too busy helping everyone else. Now that I am back at home, I don't feel right, and maybe it's Cormac McCarthy, but I feel lonely.

Not that anything is different now. I have Lester and Anna. I have the animals at PetSmart. I guess I realized how much I am alone and I used to be okay with that. I had my movies, I had my music, I had my books, I had you readers of my blog and that was enough for me.

That was enough beauty for me. Now I'm not sure, but I sure hope it is. I'm scared that if I go out and try to look for anything else, I will find nothing.

I want to be okay alone.

"It is true that many creative people fail to make mature personal relationships, and some are extremely isolated. It is also true that, in some instances, trauma, in the shape of early separation or bereavement, has steered the potentially creative person toward developing aspects of his personality which can find fulfillment in comparative isolation. But this does not mean that solitary, creative pursuits are themselves pathological. . . . Avoidance behavior is a response designed to protect the infant from behavioral disorganization. If we transfer this concept to adult life, we can see that an avoidant infant might very well develop into a person whose principal need was to find some kind of meaning and order in life which was not entirely or even chiefly, dependent upon interpersonal relationships."
-Anthony Storr in A Return to the Self

I am going to write some poetry.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Invitation to a Journey Pt. 3 (Actually, we are on the journey at this point!)

I haven't written in a long time to give you time to digest my Gothic story. And because I've been busy with my new girlfriend: Cormac McCarthy. His books take some time getting through, and I don't recommend reading them unless you want to get a headache. I also don't recommend getting a girlfriend unless you want to get a headache.

I was right. It was a long and unhappy trip. By the time we got to Hollywood Tobias completely changed my story into some sort of cheap horror flick with a lot more blood than necessary, I vowed never to consume another energy drink in my life, and Anna did the most mind-boggling thing ever: she actually used an obscenity! Fuck! I can use those kinds of words. Lester can. Tobias certainly can and does. But Anna? I've never heard her say anything like that in her life, though to be fair that minivan did come very close to cutting us off of our only way forward while she was driving. And it's not as if the stress level in the car wasn't already thick as cream.

As we passed through states, as the sun became more prominent in the western skies, we shelled layers. We were too cheap to pay for any motels, and so we rotated driving through the two nights, forgoing beds and showers. We stopped only to micturate and to purchase the necessities for our diets: corn nuts, granola bars, and beef jerky.

Los Angeles greeted us like an in-law: any excitement of seeing them or the city quickly evaporated into boredom as the traffic jam stalled us for hours, spending way to long on any one subject or skyscraper, praying our exit was soon.

"Anna," I said. "Don't you think this is just so horrible?" She turned around to look at me, but said nothing. She was not smiling. "If you could describe how you're feeling right now with one word wh-"

"Long car trips are stressful," she said.

"At least we got the screenplay finished," Tobias added. None of us said anything. I didn't ask Lester or Anna, but I'm pretty sure they weren't pleased with it either.

Finally we got off 101 and onto Vine and I had an epiphany. "Tobias," I said. "We're not going to waste money on parking. We'll drop you off at your connections' and drive around. See if we can spot any celebrities. Call Lester when you're done and we'll pick you up."

"Alright. Just drop me off there. His office building is just across the street from Trader Joe's."

We all exited the car. Anna handed Tobias the new manuscript we printed out at a library the morning prior and Tobias took it as if he were accepting the One Ring from Elrond at the council. He stood, staring at us, squinting in the sunlight as it haloed his shaggy, blond hair. He looked excited, as if he really was in his element. He looked as if he belonged to Hollywood. I thought it was appropriate to make a speech. I shook his hand firmly and said, "Tobias, your fate was in our hands until today. Now we pass off responsibility to you. Use everything you've got, grab a hold of your fate. Go on. Win this thing. Go on, and good luck." I thought it was a pretty inspiring speech and Tobias must have thought so as well because he saluted me, and without words, darted into the office building.

"Anna," I said. "Switch spots with me in the back. I'll drive."

When the doors were closed, I drove South on Vine, turned right on Sunset Boulevard, and then right on Cahuenga Boulevard back north. "Where are we going?" Lester asked.

I waited a few seconds before laying it on them. "Home."

"Home?" Lester asked. What do you mean?"

"Ray, you can't!" Anna looked like she was about to cry.

"We did what we came here to do. We set Tobias free. We gave him a story."

"I won't let you, Ray!" Anna said. "We can't leave him here without anything, with no place to stay, with no way back. I won't let you do this!"

"How are you gonna stop me?"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Invitation to a Journey Pt. 2

Lester was driving. Tobias was riding shotgun. I sat behind Tobias. Anna sat behind Lester. Between us sat a pristine edition of "The Occurrences at Kingsley Manor," freshly printed from the library that morning and placed carefully into a clear plastic sleeve. You could tell we cared about the condition of this manuscript because we only let Anna touch this edition. We were heading west.
"Candace just doesn't sound like an older lady's name to me," Tobias was shouting back at me, flipping through his own copy of the manuscript.
"Acts 8:27," I said. "She was the queen mother."
He was silent for awhile so I looked out the window at my thoughts. "I think Raymond should have a mustache." It was my turn to be silent. "Look, if you want this to work, you're gonna have to accept my help. I know movies, man. I know what's gonna work."
I wanted to tell him that I knew movies better than him and that he was just a stupid kid. I wanted to tell him that I was a brilliant writer and my story was perfect. Not that I really believe that, but this punk was annoying. I reminded myself that I wasn't doing any of this for me. I was doing it for Lester. And for Tobias.
We were headed for California, where Tobias had what he called "connections". We were headed out to see if we could sell a script to a producer and get our own movie made. Our script would be adapted from the Gothic short story I had written earlier. The four of us would work on it in the car, all the way to Hollywood, converting the short story to screenplay. Initially, Anna said she had work, but there was no way I was going without her, and once I explained the idea of helping Lester and Tobias live a better story she said, "Well, there's no way I would want to miss that." I didn't ask her how she got out of her work, but she seemed real happy to be with us. Even with her next to me, though, I knew it was going to be a long ride.

The Occurrences at Kingsley Manor by Raymond Timmerwilke

Early in the night, though everyone in the house had laid in bed for a couple of hours, Candace Kingsley, the mother of the household awoke from the sound. This sound, incessant in nature, had a rhythm that only just sparked the idea in Candace’s mind that the cause was unnatural. Until now she had surmised the continual knocking, the infuriating tap tap tap had been a tree branch scraping against a window or a wounded jackal attempting to put himself out by dashing his head against the stone building, relieving his pain. The sound had continued for the past four nights, but until now Candace chose to ignore the origin. Snatching her overcoat and donning her boots, Candace tromped across the wooden floor of her chamber, out into the hallway and down the steps to the only door of entry and exit.
Flying out of the house and into the cold, night air, she pulled her coat closer around her and walked around the left side of the great house where, this close, the tap tap tap was more of a thud thud thud. The moon was full and the sky cloudless, allowing for enough sight without a lantern. As she turned the corner, she raised her hand to stifle the scream, for what she saw was an entity like a tall man in the dark shadow of a tree with a large pile of rocks at his feet and in his arms. These stones, he flung at the side of the mansion, one after another, as if in a trance, locked in a continuous cycle. “Lord, protect me.” With gained courage Candace walked over to the man who she could now see was an elder, as herself, but of a strong build. His eyes stared ahead of him, at his arduous task, until Candace spoke and released him from his rotation. “Sir, forgive my intrusion, but you are in fact an intruder yourself of my house and of my sleep.”
It took him a few moments to reply, as if he had to recollect himself and turning to her said, “Forgive me.” Candace gasped when she saw his face, but the stranger continued, unaware. “I have been wandering these grounds for the past few days with no recollection of any life I have lived before. I only know that I am here and that I would very much be pleased to have a place to rest. I huger and I thirst and feel peculiar. I believe I would be a worthy houseguest and conversationalist, as long as you do not inquire of me to become a manservant. I do know that I do not have that in me.”
His speech was slow and his pale eyes appeared as if they looked nowhere at all times, but he held his shoulders and head as if he was of a noble family. Even still, he was strange and a stranger at that, and if it were not for his face, Candace would have never invited him in, which she did presently.
Leaving him on a chair in the kitchen, she woke the servants and sent them at once to make up a room and a small dinner. After these necessities, she roused her three sons from their separate chambers and the four descended the stairs together to meet the stranger as one. As they entered the kitchen, the three sons indicated their astonishment with their faces and took chairs opposite the stranger.
The stranger already had a plate of eggs he was halfway finished with and a glass of brandy set before him. His face was more full of colour than it was outside and his austerity gave way to kindness. Preston, the oldest son, leaned forward on his chair, his face still marked with perplexity. Lennon, the middle son, could not keep from smiling, though he crossed his arms. Abner, the youngest, held a tear in his eye and peered at the stone floor to conceal it. Candace remained standing and said, “Sir, please may I inquire of your name?”
“Dougal,” the stranger answered cheerfully, dabbing his beard with a napkin. “And might I say—” He stopped as Candace sighed, Preston threw up his arms, Lennon’s smile diminished, and Abner lifted his head. “May I ask what is the matter?”
“You will have to forgive us,” Candace answered. It is just that you look very much like my husband.”
“And is it possible I am he?”
“No. He died years ago. So you can imagine why you have sent us into some sort of shock.”
“Indeed. And yet I have no knowledge of who I am. Is it possible that you are mistaken about your husband’s death?”
The three sons turned to see their mother’s face as she said, “No. It is quite impossible.”
“You must forgive my questioning then.”As Dougal said this, Candace walked to his side and sat beside him. At this scene, so well-remembered and yet so long gone and thought gone forever, Preston and Lennon began to let tears flow freely, all the while apologizing and trying to cover their faces with their hands.
“Forgive us! Our father, we have not yet grown accustomed to life without him,” Lennon said.
“God bless him, but it is nice to see you as a reminder. I feel invigorated somehow by your presence,” Preston added.
“And I am greatly honoured,” Dougal replied, bowing to them with a gleam in his eye. “If my presence is too much, I beg you to send me away. I do not intend to cause unnecessary despair.
“But stay!” Lennon called out.
“Mother Candace! We cannot leave this man without a place to live,” Preston said. “Not in the state he is in, certainly. I believe God may have sent him to us for a purpose, for a safe haven, as a lost soul, to find who he is. To this task, Sir Dougal, I offer my undying assistance for I am a man of God with a position of some prominence at the local church.”
“I accept your offer eagerly,” Dougal answered. “That is, if your mother agrees to the notion and only if everyone present is sure that I will cause no sort of grievance to any of this fatherless family, who seem so united by love!”
To this, all spoke loudly of their approval, besides Abner who stared hard with cold eyes at the old man. Though at the insistence of his brothers, with loud slaps on his back, he nodded his agreement. Abner, however, looked to Candace for some sort of resistance, but she, now standing, smiled and offered her hand to Dougal, which he eagerly accepted. “Allow me to show you to your room which has been set with every amenity fit for your comfort. You shall stay as long as you like or as long as you shall need!”
The pair debarked hand-in-hand, as if her husband had never been lost, and ascended the staircase to the guestroom. When they were alone in the chamber, Dougal said, “I fear your youngest, Abner, has some unspoken resistance to my being in your household. Perhaps I am too much like his father and is heartbroken at this sudden reminder?”
“If that were the case, I believe he would have acted in the same manner as my two other sons. No, there is another reason, but of course you know it not,” Candace answered gesturing him to sit in an easy chair while she took a seat herself on the edge of the bed. “Allow me to relieve your ignorance and dispel your unease at his reaction. You see, Abner is not ours— not borne from Henry, my husband, and myself. He is not of our flesh and blood as Preston and Lennon are. No, we were forced to keep him when our foreign servant-girl became pregnant with another servant of her kind from the neigbouring house. Being, unmarried, we could not leave her unpunished. So, in company with our dear neighbors we decided it was best to send the foreign manservant who impregnated her away. Our servant girl could hardly stand it and wept all night long in her chamber, ceasing her mourning only to perform her daily duties to us. But her eyes were always red and she no longer spoke to us. She became ill and weak, and I think only retained her strength for her son, for when he was birthed, she gave in and drew her last breath just days after. Mind you, this was nineteen years ago.
“Being of charitable nature, and constantly feeling the need to appease guilt, my dear Henry took him as our own, though I would rather he had let the child grow up as one of the servants. But he was so good! More benevolent than I, he took him in. But if he only knew what would come of it! Of course he could not love the boy, he was not his own! And a foreigner at that! We tried at the beginning, we gave him an English name and tried to teach him to be as one of us, but it was not in his nature. His disposition was so contrary to ours, so uncivilized and so resolutely unchristian, that we gave up hope. We did all we could and in charity we did not give him away or send him back to the servants. We, being Christian, still called him son!
“And yet how strong was his desire to change Henry’s heart! Our boy, Abner, he sought always the approval of dear Henry. But how could he? It was not in his nature to be able to perform in any way worthy of approval. Try as he might to please, to act christian, he failed outright as if by default. How could Henry have returned the love of our Abner when he failed to make himself worthy of it? It is only after Henry’s death, that Abner has quieted and become somewhat civilized. At least he is quiet and now attends to the house as if he were a servant. I’m afraid that your presence might invoke some reaction, but pay it no mind, as—”
“But I do pay it mind, ma’am. Your story has touched me, and now that I know the boy Abner’s story, I believe I may amend his spirit with some simple words. I do have a way with my speech, and implore you to at least let me give it an attempt. We will converse more tomorrow, for you ought to be getting to bed. Let me not prolong your sleep any longer than I have. Send the boy to my chamber and retire to your own. Tomorrow morning you will see yourself, if I have succeeded in my endeavor. Goodnight!”
“Goodnight! I look forward to your company. You already seem such a light, if I may echo the sentiments of my true sons.”
“I thank you,” Dougal said, bowing as he saw her to the door. “Give my goodnight to your true sons.”
Dougal remained at the door, lost in thought, while waiting for Abner. As the steps echoed down the hallway gave way to his coming, Dougal smoothed his coat and unkempt beard as best he could. The knock came and he opened it instantly with a smile. “Welcome!” Abner entered and Dougal beckoned him to the easy chair he had moments before occupied. Dougal sat opposite as Candace had. “Abner, I could not help but to notice that you did not at once welcome the idea of housing me here in your home, and of that I am dismayed. I hope I have not offended you in any way. And if you say now, I will leave. But your mother has provided me the details of your upbringing, and I hope you will ask me to remain, finding that I am not unlike yourself and have experienced the woes of being a stranger. I am now here in your house as one and must prove my value, lest I be asked to leave. You see, we all make for ourselves the way that we are, whether beneficial or detrimental to those around us. We either make for ourselves the ability to be accepted or rejected. And so I would like to be of value to you so that I might be accepted by you. Hear me out, I beg you, lest you become the one who prejudices against me. You know not who I really am! But before I go further I will not be first so fast prejudiced against you as to allow you no opportunity to make a reply or to make your own case for your up-bringing.”
“I thank you for the occasion to speak, sir, for I do have a speech to make and my own story to share. I only tell you because I feel something from your very presence that is . . . unsettling. And I cannot wrap my head around the feeling, whether it is good or bad. All I know is that it is powerful.”
“I hope by the end of our discourse you find you can trust me. But, I interrupt. Go on, I listen now absolutely.”
“Thank you, sir. I have told my brothers this tale, but they fail to hear. Leastways, they do nothing about it. I take you back years ago, to the time when my father, Henry, was still living. The house was in general good order. No one had any ill favour towards any other, excepting myself, but as you said, my mother has told my tale. In any case, father seemed to love mother and mother seemed to love father as any good marriage works. Things changed. Harsh whispers began. Soft yelling was replaced with smiles and embraces when Preston or Lennon walked into the room. They did not try to convey the farce when I was around though, for they cared not about what I might feel. This did not deter me from sharing all I perceived with my brothers and though they, at first, laughed the allegations away, after a time while I persisted in my stories, their joviality gave way to grave silence and stricken faces. Even they could, despite demanding schedules which kept them absent a lot, perceive something was different between mother and father. One day, when they were away from the mansion, the quiet dissonance erupted into menacing laughter and as I peeked into the kitchen through the ajar door, I saw Candace pouring my father a glass of brandy, making a drunkard out of a noble and christian man. I hated her in that moment for that, for he was no drinking man, and it was clear to me she had some motive. His laugh was maniacal and she smiled deviously. I have never seen such a gruesome display of perverted mirth. And then the horror! I beg to God to seal my mouth shut now if what I saw next was a deception on mine eyes! For as my father let loose a peal of laughter, his head lolling on the table, Candace held a small vial with which she poured the contents therein contained into my father’s drink. I rubbed my eyes and the vial was gone and my mother never looked so evil nor so innocent and my father by her side was sipping the drink. Fearing that I would be found out, I tiptoed away and up to my chamber where I tried to find rest, but could not sleep. What was like hours later, but I know not exactly the time, a horrible scream from my mother spiraled throughout the house, a doctor was called, my brothers scurried home, and that great and noble father of ours was pronounced dead from, as the records show, old-age and overwork.”
His story had ceased and the pair sat unblinking for a time before Dougal asked, “So you judge that Henry died at your mother’s hand?”
They conversed long thereafter before Abner withdrew to his own chamber. The darkness passed and the mansion was still. All slept extra so as to make up for the time spent late in meeting Dougal. With the foggy morning came a loud and quick banging on the door of entry, waking the house, stirring it, as the inhabitants rushed down in their nightclothes to determine the source. In rushed the elder neighbours, Edgar and Edith Sanderson, who were of wealth, and a handsome, young couple, fashionably dressed. They were all out of breath, and in a panic, besides the young man who looked concerned, yet calm and dignified. Ushering them into a sitting room, they took seats and were beckoned to have their say. Along with the Kingsley family, Dougal was among them. After a moment of silence, when they had composed themselves, Edgar began: “This morning I awoke at a standard time, preceding everyone else, and began my day as I always have. After some time, the others of the house woke and went about their duties, but I noticed one was not among them. My son, Ryker, is often up early and away to see to his duties at the church. I thought he must have gone even earlier than I woke to pray, but since he always informs us of this intention the preceding evening, I suspected something was amiss.”
Here Edith continued: “My dear Edgar asked me to accompany him with the mission to check up on poor, dear Ryker and when I knocked long enough without an answer, we entered together. To our horror— he—” She broke into sobs and Edgar comforted her.
The young man finished in an unfaltering voice: “They found Ryker lying still in his nightclothes, but in a bed soaked with blood and a steak-knife plunged deep in his heart. The terror of whatever befell him is still plastered on his face, I saw so myself.” Lennon met the gaze of the young woman for a moment, while Preston shifted in his seat. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Raymond, brother to Belinda here, who you may know to have been betrothed to the recent deceased. Edgar has requested my presence as protector and chief investigator.”
“We shall be sure to offer any assistance that may be requested, but at the present we have—” Candace began.
“Your assistance shall be requested here and now,” Raymond interrupted coolly, “for the knife found in Ryker was from your household!”
At this news, the family looked around at each other until each found their gaze rested upon the stranger, Dougal. “Raymond,” Preston said as he stood. “I believe you should take note that this man here came upon this house in a most peculiar fashion, throwing rocks against our house and with the claim of no remembrance of his past life. He is a stranger and as all here can attest to, even Edgar and Edith, he has a striking resemblance to our late father, Henry. I only present these because they are the facts and no one in this family would ever lay a hand on our dear neighbour, Ryker. In short, Raymond, I believe we have no need for you. We have our murderer.”
“I can assure you,” Dougal said as composed as ever, “I am guilt free of the deed. Perhaps an inquisition would be right and proper. I will even volunteer to be the first questioned so that I may absolve myself from this assassination.”
A room was set up for the interrogation with a desk set in the centre, paper and ink provided, so that Raymond could inventory everything he thought necessary or helpful. Two desk chairs were brought to surround it, facing each other. Edgar and Edith returned to their own house to see to the removal of the body and to make funeral preparations. Belinda remained for she stated, “I cannot bear to look upon him, nor to stay in the same house. Allow me to stay here, close to my brother for the day. I fear I will spend the day weeping while the only one who can comfort me sits at trial with my dear Ryker’s murderer. Ah, God, what have I done to deserve such a day! Send me to a room where I will be of no bother to anyone and can sob without notice. I care not if the murderer takes me next!”
Dougal, as stated, was the first to sit across from the frowning inquisitor, followed by Preston, Lennon, Abner, and finally Candace as requested by Raymond. She did not come on her own accord. The servants were questioned, but largely dismissed as suspects since none slept alone and all vouched for each other’s alibis. Raymond was not, however, going to rule them out and planned to pick up any information they might offer at a later time and in a more informal setting. His day was used absolutely, and though Belinda spent the day occupied weeping and Preston in praying, the others spent the day lost in their imaginations, wandering from room to room, exchanged glances and a few choice words, before meandering to another place to sit in suspended trepidation. Dougal chatted the most, and though he was now feared because the most unknown and in light of the circumstances, his words, genuine smile, and gentle old spirit lent themselves to some comfort of behalf of the others. Abner, as well, was noticeably altered. He seemed in higher spirits, despite the situation they found themselves in. He did not sulk, as he had before, but carried himself with a little more dignity.
When the day had finished its course, Raymond, along with his sister crossed the yard to the neighbor’s house to sleep the night and begin anew the next morning. Raymond lent Belinda his notes from the interviews he conducted which were as follows:

Dougal—strange appearance, strange introduction, likeable disposition, seemed genuine, used logic, no known motive, told me to interview Candace as she is suspected of husband’s murder, would not tell me how he was supplied of this information, must press him further

Preston—cool-headed, devout, honest, possible motive: takes position at church vacated by victim

Lennon—talkative, extremely likeable, energetic, perhaps nervous, no known motive

Abner—slight nervousness, shy, unlikeable, no known motive

Candace—strong-tempered, overly angry at suggestion of being a suspect, possible motive: destroys only heir to the Sanderson property and wealth in an attempt to procure it herself, may have murdered before?

Upon reading this, she handed it back to him and said, “I believe you may be on to something with Preston. Dougal seems peculiar. He gives me the chills. Abner too, but in a different way. In any case, Lennon seems like a fine man. I’m glad you took such a liking to him as well. I would hate if we ever disagreed.”
“Go to bed, sister, and sleep if you can. I will find your dear Ryker’s enemy, I promise. I will go now to my chamber, study my notes, and think. I have learned that there is an answer to every riddle if one uses enough hours to think the problem through from beginning to end and from every angle.”
To this, she obeyed and Raymond sat with his arms folded under him at a desk in his chamber, the only place he found suitable to serve his throbbing mind. His morose contemplations led him nowhere, as he played possible scenarios in his mind. No evidence or proof jumped out at him. His brain worked in circles until he resolved at last, that if he not be active, he would drop into a slumber.
Deciding to search for evidence at the Kingsley house, he pulled on his coat and hat and taking with him a lantern, walked across the yard. He scanned the walls for small windows that he might find ajar, but resorted to an attempt at the front door, which he found unbolted. “Stupid! Why would they not bolt the door?” he muttered.
Raymond’s first order of business was to make sure everyone was safe and in bed. He had no intention of allowing anyone else to chance upon encountering a dead body. He felt himself the most disconnected from anyone in the house, indeed, he felt himself superior and the ultimate protector of the peace. He trusted in himself and his abilities to find out the culprit and felt no force of this world or any other could hinder him. His belief in justice and the rational left no room for any fear, for he was strong and had bested many men in a number of brawls.
He crept throughout the house, opening each door a crack and lifting his lantern so that a stream of light was just strong enough to illuminate the steady rising and falling of a chest. He spied Candace and Lennon as such, but upon opening slightly the next door which led to Lennon’s chamber, he found the blanket had been cast aside and no body at all lay upon the bed. Raymond swung open the door fully and burst into the room, but nothing stirred. He searched all around, but found nothing out of any usual order. The window was shut, signifying this provided no exit. Keeping calm, but energized by this new predicament, Raymond quickly peeped into the chambers of Abner and Dougal to make sure they were confined to their beds, looked inside every other additional guestroom, and crept downstairs in silent fervor. He opened door after door, making a swift but soundless search of the entire mansion. He did not know what to expect, but felt he must be speedy lest some harm might befall Lennon. “Any why Lennon! He was the most able to be tolerated! Why not Abner?” This he whispered in fury as he swung open the last door. Inside was nothing. He recalled the unbolted door. “But who? All were asleep in their chambers!”
He also remembered smaller, wooden doors in the kitchen and returned there. Most led to storage rooms and an ice room, besides one. This door exposed a small, steep, stone staircase that descended into complete darkness, though in the distance a faint glow sent a shudder through Raymond’s body which was only prolonged by the flow of cold air that spun through the vertical tunnel and around him. He was determined and did not remain long, but descended carefully, one step at a time. He concealed his lantern with his hat and felt his way down to the bottom, the faint glow increasing in intensity the lower he went. Five steps to the bottom, the glow at the bottom disappeared completely, leaving him in total darkness. He moved on and counting each step in his head, reached the bottom safely. He walked forward, but froze. Heavy breathing filled the damp air and Raymond’s heart palpitations increased. In the darkness, the unknown was terrible. The breathing continued, and the source seemed only an arm’s reach ahead of him. He knew not whether to remove his hat or to keep it there. He wanted to know, and yet he did not want to know. Seconds increased in length as he stood suspended, listening to the breath heave and murmur.
At last he had stood still long enough, and in a moment of bravery, removed his hat from the lantern which exposed two bodies, red and fully alive, both scarce of clothing. The two screamed, terrified themselves of this revelation, and Raymond turned around for purity’s sake. “Not mine own sister! How could you? Clothe yourselves!” Behind him, they obeyed. “And Lennon, how could you defile my dear sister? You have not the right to touch my sister!”
“Oh Raymond,” Belinda breathed. “It is not as if he forced himself upon me!”
“Speak to me not in his presence, you unclean woman! You will accompany me straightaway back to the Sanderson residence where you belong! And you Lennon, to your chamber and out of my sight! Be glad I resist breaking your neck! But you have not heard the last from me, go now!”
When they were clothed, they climbed back up to the comforting air of the first floor, no word spoken among them, and Lennon left them to ascend to the second floor. Raymond noted that Lennon’s face showed simplistic signs of remorse and shame, as if he were only embarrassed for being caught and if ensured secrecy would commit the deed again, willingly and gladly. The brother and sister passed through the door, leaving it unbolted. “Now I know why this door was unlocked.” When they were back in the warmth of the Sanderson mansion, Raymond sat her down in the kitchen, in a worn chair, as if she was a criminal on trial.
“Sister, for the sake of your soul, I hope, I beg that you feel the weight of what you have done and seek purity and atonement,” he began, keeping his blazing eyes set on hers. The entire time she did not glance away, but kept them, in strength, fixed on his. “Your case is not even a mere deviance into sin. The act in itself, is hideous, for he is not your husband, but the time in which you have done it! Your fiancé has just died today! Were your tears a pretense? Did you hate him so much that you wished to defile even his dead body? I don’t understand it!”
“Brother, you knew Ryker. I ask you, how could I love him over Lennon? You’ve never liked Ryker, but Lennon you revealed in your very notes, was a man of great likability. You have answered your own questions!”
“I have not! Curse you woman, for trying to unguilt yourself! I admit that Ryker was weak and unmanly in many respects and hardly likable, but under God, you had a covenant to him. As a woman and as a christian you had your duty, and to stray from that was immoral. It is not your place to make decisions for yourself. You knew what was right and proper and you deviated. I can hardly call you sister. Go to bed. You realize this only makes my investigation more complex, for not only does Lennon now have a motive, but so also do you!”
Belinda stood up and he glared at her as she walked away. She did not weaken enough to cast her eyes down or away, but held his gaze in her own until passing through the door. Raymond, stimulated by anger and an increased desire to understand the incidents surrounding the murder, knew he could never sleep at such a time and so exited the house yet again to seek evidence from the Kingsley mansion.
When he had opened the door, stepped inside, and turned around to close it softly, he caught in his peripheral vision a figure dash towards him from the right. By instinct, he turned, dropping his lantern which dispelled most light excluding the moonlight through the open door, and in defense, caught in his hands an arm holding a knife, not unlike the one found to have killed Ryker. Countering the force brought against him, Raymond shoved the figure against the wall of the hallway. The figure dropped his knife with a clatter on the wooden floor and Raymond, seeing his opportunity, reached for his own knife attached to his belt. Bouncing back from the wall, the figure shoved Raymond with great power, toppling him out the door and onto the lawn. Springing to his feet to counter, knife drawn, the figure slammed the door in his face and bolted it. In a rage, Raymond circled the house several times in search of another place of entry or an open window he might climb through, but found none. He clenched his teeth and threw his knife against the stone wall, before, panting, he returned to the other house with a grave sense of defeat.
He retired to his chamber, and sat at his desk, mulling over the battle, contemplating the ways he conjectured he could have turned out the victor and made himself a hero. When the adrenaline had subsided, he returned to ponder over the case of the murder. He made these amendments to his notes:

Dougal—not strong enough to best me in a fight because old

Lennon—naturally unremorseful, possible motive: in love with victim’s fiancé

Candace—not strong enough to best me in a fight because old and a woman

Belinda—naturally unremorseful, possible motive: ridding herself of her fiancé because in love with another man, if guilty she did not act alone because she was not in the house where I was attacked

After these additions had been made, Raymond observed through his window that outside was getting lighter and he resolved to take a walk, in order to escape the heavy air of the house and the weight of his self-bestowed duty to set right the murderous transgressions of the blameworthy party. He walked across the stretching lawn towards the sunrise which threw stabbing streams of red and pink light through the blue-white sky. He viewed this expanse of colour, as he walked across the lawn and away from the houses, as a solace delivered from God specifically for him. He thought of God’s mighty justice and prayed that those responsible for the gruesome crime would be properly punished, if not by his own hand, by someone of great spiritual reverence or by the natural hand of God Himself.
His thoughts were interrupted by the thud thud thud that had interrupted Candace’s sleep. Turning around to the two houses, so alike in structure and vastness, he recollected himself to his mission at hand and returned to his labour. He moved towards the noise with deliberation and came upon Dougal up to his task of casting rocks in the exact place he had the previous night. Raymond observed that he looked different, as if in a stupor like a sleepwalker. He decided not to disrupt the old man, but to enter through the now unbolted door and confront the two sons with the most known reason to kill Ryker. With the door shut, tap tap tap, became the cycle.
The knife and lantern were missing from the floor in the hall and so he walked into the kitchen where the servants were preparing breakfast and he asked one of them to gather Preston and Lennon in one of the adjacent sitting rooms. He made his way to the room himself and smoothed his hair and clothes at a mirror, making sure he retained his professionalism. A wave of fatigue slammed his body in a moment and he jumped up and down some times to wake himself up. Letting loose a few yawns, he sat down on a couch and within a few moments Preston and Lennon entered together and took seats on two easy chairs on either side of Raymond’s couch.
“I have called upon you,” Raymond began, “for the simple reason that you two are my biggest suspects at the moment and I want to hear more from you.” He secretly hoped that one or the other would make some slip of the tongue, revealing himself to be the one who attacked Raymond in the middle of the night, present some clue, or at the very least provide ample time for Raymond to take into account which appeared the wearier.
“This is preposterous!” Preston argued with a brand of particular irritation. “We have lived in this house peacefully for years with our neighbours beside us. We have often enjoyed each other’s company. It was only when Dougal presented himself that trouble began to stir. Is that not confirmation itself that Dougal is the one to blame? He is obviously in no clear state of mind as evidenced by the strange way in which our dear mother found him. In fact, do I hear it now? Is he at it again? Yes, it is distinct. He continues to exist in a crazed state!”
“And yet he seems so calm and of a regular disposition while inside the house,” Lennon offered.
Preston glowered at him from across the room. “And so you think not that it was Dougal? Who do you suppose the culprit is then? Myself?”
“Brother, I would never disrespect you, but the fact is that you do replace Ryker’s position at the church. You are always the one who leaves the dinner table early to study over all those old religious texts and you are the one who is first to leave the house in the mornings and the last to return in order to put more time into your work at the church, as you have said, to increase your ability to someday take over full authority there.”
“Ah, so I am guilty of being motivated and hard-working now, am I, brother? You could do well to learn from me, you lazy sluggard. But you could never give up your nights at the tavern in town, could you? And I will not be forgetting that Sir Raymond here has mentioned that you too have a motive for Ryker’s murder? Well, let’s have it then!”
Lennon directed a pleading look at Raymond, but Raymond felt no lament and answered, “I caught him last night with my sister, in fleshly activity absent of purity.”
“Ah ha!” Preston smiled with horrid glee. “So it is you who has more reason to have committed the crime, for love of a woman is perhaps the strongest incentive known to mankind. And to add with it the offense of carnal crime against God! Your sins will find you out, I have warned you of this. You need to turn to God, for you have much to seek reparations for. You may come under my care at the church and I will teach you how to be repentant, believe me, by the time I am done with you!”
By now, the brothers were standing, red-faced and Raymond stood as well, in case he had to come between them. The tap tap tap continued, adding a rhythm to their accusations. At this point in the discourse, a scream, a blood-cry hurtled downstairs and the two brothers stopped their babbling at once. Without a word to one another, the three dashed out of the room and up the stairwell to the source of the shriek: Candace’s chamber. Raymond was first and flung open the door. The three poured in and in front of them, propped against the base of the bed was Candace dripping blood from a large, gaping wound to her left breast. She looked on her two sons with horror, before breathing her last.
“Come quick!” Raymond said. “For the guilty party must be near!” the three rushed out into the hallway to be met with shrill sobs from a chamber down the hallway. They ran inside and propped up against his own bed was Abner, whimpering, holding a bloody knife in his hand.
“So it is you!” Lennon cried out.
“I should have known,” Preston spat. “The outsider! But why? What was your motivation?”
“Please listen,” Abner cried, dropping his knife and clinging to the bedpost. He could not look at any of the men, but looked to the floor or the wall as he spoke. “All I sought was his love! That was all! That was all! Believe me, that is why I have done these things. For love! He came back. He, that man, he told me that to love him I had to do these things! He told me I would have it only after the crimes were committed. And now they are done, and now I am loved!”
“What man? Who?” Raymond shouted.
Tap tap tap.
Abner shrunk down to the floor and beat his hands on the wooden floor. “The man Dougal! He is no man at all! He is the ghost, the ghost of our father!”
“Stupid outsider!” Preston yelled.
“Dare not to call him our father again! He was never your father!” Lennon shouted.
“He is now,” Abner whispered.
Raymond, being prone to think out the validity of words, asked, “And why would the ghost of Henry ask for these two people to be murdered?”
Tap tap tap.
“Our dear mother, so she could pay for her sin, in like-manner. Her sin being the poisoning of our dear father!”
Preston and Lennon shouted at once to stop referring to Henry in that manner, but Raymond shouted above them. “Why then Ryker?”
Abner raised himself on his hands and knees, he seemed in such torment, and turned to the three. “For them!” he spat. “For his dear Preston and his dear Lennon! He knew what you most prized and since he held you so close to his heart, so much closer than I ever was until now, he ordered me to kill our neighbor Ryker, and I consented. I did this for you, by extension of doing it for our father’s sake. To love you because he loved you.”
Tap tap tap.
The three heard it this time and with scarcely a glance among them filed out of the room as quick as they could go, down the staircase, and burst out into the open air. Rounding the house, they saw no one, just the pile of rocks sitting in a pile at the base of the tree and at the base of the now cracked portion of the wall. Any yet to their shock continued the:
Thud thud thud.

Note scribbled by Raymond:

I had to get away from that place. It was so maddening, I myself did not want to go crazy. I left Belinda, I could not allow myself to linger any longer in that place, but sprinted down the hill at once and when in the town, directly made preparations to leave. I am currently in a carriage, carrying me south. My mind works in circles over the incidents at that house. I have never believed in ghosts, and yet I am still unsure. I had reasoned that Dougal was a sleep-walker and suffered a loss of mind due to his old-age. I had reasoned that Abner was crazy, sparked by the awful reminder of his father by the likeness of Dougal. And yet the sound … could there be an explanation? Or could it be that I am crazy? I flee to a friend, a doctor. I need someone to think over the story, add up all the facts and make a conclusion one way or the other. I care not which way, I know not which would console me the more or of which is marked by more hope.