The Slush Pile (A Review)

So without really even trying, it feels, I hit 35k on my current work in progress, Nowhere. It’s a dystopian Western set in the flat, wastelands of our Apocalyptic future. So that’s been a ton of fun, but it got me thinking. My slush pile, the stack of first drafts and half attempts every writer accumulates, is starting to look a little crazy, almost like it could just topple and spill all over the carpet. It would probably grow eight hairy legs, eat the asbestos tiles in my downstairs office, and just walk away to some other coffee soaked writer’s den. Oh if I could only be so lucky, anyway, so yeah I got thinking why not do a little review of the slush pile, to determine which of these monsters I should give my attention to and finally finish and distribute.

The Books

Pomegranate Lane-This was the last first draft I wrote, in November of 2015 for National Novel Writing Month (#Nanowrimo). It’s a murder-mystery novel set in the future. The protagonist Dorothy (ignore the hackery) is a detective, working the first real murder case anyone in decades has had, due to the impressive surveillance state which has been achieved. She wakes up the morning of the gruesome murder, alcohol drenched and one foot over the edge of an existential crisis. What was her job? Why did she want to do it? What is this strange world she took for granted? All these questions become compounded when there are failures in the security state itself, which provide ugly glimmers of a reality right next store, that threatens to overwhelm her secured world.

Interludes-I’ve been distributing this on here. I won’t go into too many details since you can just go read it if your interested. It’s a first person story, told by a version of myself, it unfolds in a place I call La-La-Land. There’s weird cults and rituals, a werewolf who sexually assaults me and tries to eat me, tricky mythical-poetical entities, and overall a deep and hopefully humorous study of Art itself. I am about three quarters of the way through the edit on this, and hope in the future to finish serializing it on this blog, so stick around.

Dawning of the Werewolf-This draft sits short of full novel, 45k words. I think I worked on it before Interludes, but I’m not sure. Overall, the slush pile gets a little scattered here in my own chronology. This story is a first person confessional about a guy who discovers he’s a werewolf. All I really remember is a lot of running, and this cool vibe of a man-beast racing up the edge of Lake Michigan. Oh, and I did like the ultimate hack move and had my creature help steal The One Ring, from Lord of the Rings, for some baddies. Again some cool stuff, but with that level of hack I think this one may be a dud.
Mech Suits (Totally working Title)-Science Fiction, first draft right at 50k words. This one may have potential. Basic story, in the future robotic technology is so far advanced that the use of machines suits, think the thing Ripley from Alien wears to kick that alien’s ass, is common place. There is an updated version of football which is played with these suits. The youngest boy gets roped into an international terrorist situation, through his connection to an very rich, corporate executive, who was aware of his skill, and had allow him free reign of his workshop.

 

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Something sort of cool about this one. The story follows three brothers. The youngest is a technical genius with machines (think Hephaestus), and his two older brothers are Mechball (think I just made that name up) all stars on the high school team. An interesting detail for me is when I wrote this book I only had two boys at the time, but now I have my own trio of sons. That personal relevancy definitely bumps this one up on the priority list. I also liked the big, entertaining story that took place. It was sort of like Golden Era 80s-90’s action flicks (think half Karate Kid, half Die Hard), mixed with a heady batch of Orwellian musings.

Sumer, previously Robot Academy Funtimes– I stalled out on the second draft of this work, a little over 66k words. Again there’s a personal component that makes me want to finish-finish. Basic plot came from my brother years ago, in a far distant future, robots rule the Earth, they have decided to begin reproducing humans, because they have lost their sense of humanity. My story follows one of these new-humans, a girl named Echo.

This one presents a number of critical and complicated issues. For one the story takes places in a holodeck/scientific lab of sorts. This sort of reeks of amateur hackery again because you end up in a sort of dream sequence explanation which isn’t very good. If it’s all a dream or a simulation then who really give a damn, the argument goes. Of course, traversing prickly fields of contradictions and ego destroying logical conundrums sort of destroys the pursuit of digestible narration.

More over, what was a stunning philosophical insight from my teenage brother, was a fairly well established Science Fiction trope. In my own reading aI have become more aware of this issue, via Asimov and others. That said, my draft was done with mostly clean hands, and since there really is nothing new under the sun, I don’t automatically discount this story. I feel like this definitely has the feeling of a fruit not yet ripened, so I continue on.

The Siege/Winterset-First draft, Speculative Fiction, right at 47.9k words. This is a weird one for me. What started out with the thought experiment, what would a people’s revolution look like in small town mid-West United States, led by a somewhat quixotic youth protagonist, similar to the idealized concept the Author has of himself. Think farm animals released on Main Street and the bouncy ball pit at high noon on a Saturday.
I didn’t like how it ended up though, in chaos and murder, and low-down outlaws. No one was supposed to get hurt…I thought about this book a lot later when I when I watched things like the Occupy movement, or the recent riots in Baltimore. I realized that the bullshit, Mayberry sense of revolution I depicted in the book was naive, in the meanest and truest sense of the word. This sort of development in my thinking leads to it having a permanent position in the slush pile.

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Tom’s Episode-I believe this is the first book I wrote, and it sits at a monstrous 95,829 words. Wow. It is sort of crazy to go through all these stories. They connect and bring back so many memories of when I wrote them. The basic idea of this story is what happens if someone became an atheist while in heaven. Again, just an awful, typical beginner’s premise, a story set in heaven. I wrote this over five years ago. I’d taken a class at University of Iowa, on Science and Religion around that time, and I remember I was deep into the Atheist, Creationism vs. Evolution, Dawkins, sort of stuff. Of course, Tom is an allusion to the so-called doubting Thomas of the Gospels.

Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas

Strictly speaking I would label myself an Atheist, in the strict I have seen no evidence for the positive claim there is a God, but in all the ways that count I’m still a dirty old apostate Catholic. I pray Our Fathers then Hail Marys, am in dialogue with the Holy Spirit, and ultimately abide a messianic eschatology (and I am the one I have been waiting for). But yes, it’s those sort of Gnostic drenched ramblings that make up this book. I also recognized later that it’s Interludes Part One, but that seems to form some sort of psychological singularity which I don’t really care to deal with (we’re all writing the same shit over and over and over…). I encountered Tom Robbins, and Christopher Moore’s Lamb later, they do masterfully, what I did very shoddily in this one, but again know, I wait for the day I may have the capabilities to birth this monster. Consider yourself warned.

 

Novellas/Shorts Stories

 

Kill The Television-This is a novella right around 17k words. I consider this my Parvus Opus (Small Work). Simple story, thirteen year old, Ronald lives on his Grandma’s couch at her senior living center. One day, he decides to start head hunting flat screens. Cool little story, hero’s quest sort of thing, set in my home city. I love the themes of this one and definitely want it to have some readers someday. Hard to place it exactly, not big enough to hold its own as a book, think I would like it to make it the title work for a collection of other short stories. I got hung up finishing it on a pacing issue, there’s a break away story told during the climax, which interrupts the flow, but I love it too much to cut it. Why not just shorten it the mind pushes.

Story of Roger Meeks-Science Fiction, 14k words, again cool idea, but not enough for own book. Seventy something year old is a nobody, from Nowhere American. He works as a cashier at a local gas station, and lives alone in the same house he grew up in. When a spacefaring race shows up, it is Mr. Meeks they want to talk to.

I like this one a lot. Didn’t quite get over in the version I got now, but definitely potential in this. I love the original Twilight Zone, and this is my attempt at something like that. I would love to see this in a collection of short stories.

Gnomes. Or How Martin Gardner’s LIfe Was Ruined By A Clan of Gnomes with Big Problems-Fantasy, right around 22k word, this has got to be the strangest of all the slush piles specimens. The general idea I had was, sort of like in Toy Story, what if your garden variety gnomes were actually alive, and their owners formed a shadowy underground railroad of magic. Fun idea, silly story, but not really enough for a whole book. But again, it so sort of absurd and simple, something still gets me about this story. Might need to revisit it…then again maybe not, just remembered a bit of hackery taking place in this one too.

So the main character is named Martin Gardner. I’m pretty sure the Martin is ripped right from Stephen King’s man in black, Flagg-type guyand I had some idea of this being like an alternative origins story for that character or a character like him. Normal average person that got suck unknowingly into a magical world, and ended up powerful, ruined and corrupt in the process. I think this is so out there it could be good, but would need extensive rewrites and a commitment to the absurd.

The Last Virgin of Hollywood-Fiction, a little under 10k. The premise of the story is in the title, Norma a twenty something year old make up artist of the stars has somehow retained her virginity. The shorty story follows her as she tries to hold on to it. It was a rushed story, scattered with cliches, the overconfident rich guy, the hobo with a soul, the decadent evil Brad Pitt type. I like the idea, and sort of feel in love with main character. I think this one had potential to be a great story.

Jar of Kisses-Fantasy, 13k words, another story with a good premise and hook, but not enough to warrant a full book. This was a simple story. We have this little jar, with the words “Kisses” on it, that prompted the idea what if there was this magical jar, that if you took an invisible scoop from it with your hand, and took a drink from it, would give you the greatest kiss you could ever imagine. Ended up being a decent story, middle-schooler gets it, bully classmate discovers it, decent portions of horror and sentimentality. Definitely worth edit.

Formation of the White-God awful title, clearly Tolkien hackery. Very strange feeling, sits a little over 10k words and I have absolutely no clue what the story is about. No characters, no scene, no anything. Vaguely, I am prompted by the title, I think this was when I started wanting an intertextual thing with my books, like Stephen King and Terry Pratchett have done, where characters and story lines can pop up in different books.
I read an excerpt from it:

…“Oh come on, I swear you think everyone is a sexual predator these days.”
“He’s a lame.”
“I swear Claire. This is the exact problem we’re up against. Everyone is too worried about how they look, and being cool, and all that shit. A guy like Chris Davis, a good man, is seen as a schmuck. I think that’s just wrong. Now they asked for a light, and we are going to get them a light, all right? And Davis is our light.”
“Fine, lame it is.” She took a drink of her coffee.
Her brother paid the bill; he always paid the bill.
They sat in silence for some time. Connor hated silence and finally broke it. “What is it?”
“Nothing,” she said.

And it all comes back to me. Claire and Conor are angel figures, representing Intuition and Righteousness, the story follows them on a heroes quest of still murky specifications. I imagined some sort of occulted initiation ritual into the Good. The protagonist, not the lame in question, is a bastardly bookish type like the author himself. I think this story was a bit of wishful thinking, hopefully not conjuring, on my part. Anyway, this work gets a big question mark. Could it be an Interludes sequel?

Rock Art Salesman-This was another one in line for weirdest premises. Right around 8k words, story is about the greatest Rock Arts salesman in the world. He’s entrapped in the selling of an exceptional piece, to a odious and shadowy party. I liked this story, but felt it was part of a larger tale. I have another start of a story, which I feel has a connection to this story, but haven’t flushed the either one out yet. Liked the characters and idea though.Also weird synchronicity, but I was later encounter just such a Rock Art Salesman in On a Pale Horse, by Piers Anthony.

Scrubber Boys-This is probably my best and favorite short story. Right under 7k words, the main plot points and characters came to me in a dream. I woke that morning and took notes in my journal and had a draft fast. Definitely needs a rewrite and an edit, but if I ever have a shorty story collection this will be in it.

It follows two scrubber boys John and Pinto, who work as child laborers on a giant battery complex in a strange world. Surreal, challenging, this story runs out of the dream into reality and back. I love this story.

We Troll-Fiction/Horror. Another strong short story premise. 5k words. Set in the future, the story follow high schooler Roger, as he experiences a surreal amount of bullying. Exaggerating the trend of online trolling and abuse, I speculated what would happen when this behavior ingrained itself into a society and festered for a century. I imagined a website were bullies could get together and make a sport of the process. The result is this terrifying glimpse into a possible future.

Escape-Fiction/Fantasy, 997 words, spawned in early parent hood when 2nd child hopped out of his crib one night, about a toddler who sneaks out on his parents, to discover a magical world outside. Dense, exciting, and frightening, probably worth finishing.

Changeling-Fiction/Fantasy, around 3k words. Decent story, again produced in newly acquired parenthood. Tells a modern story of the ancient myth of “the changeling”, which is a surrogate fairy child, the fairy/gnomey people leave while they take your child and train it in their magical ways. This story takes place on the night the human child is returning to the home. Can you guess the ironic twist? Strong enough to be given further consideration

Agent or Standard Operating Procedure-Fiction/Speculative Fiction, 4.6k words, written in a 1st person perspective, confessional, telling the story of how this agent ended up violating protocol. Strong story, but overdone. Energy comes from the first person story, and with things like Interlude, I have gotten that urge out of my system. Strong enough to consider for the short story collection.

Arms in Ankeny-Short Story, Science Fiction, 6th draft, 5k words, this was the first piece I sent to a paid editor. I wrote about that experience here. Definitely has legs, and I need to work a final version. Would definitely be in a collection. This one taught me how hard it is to write a great short story. It was like overworking the dough, the whole thing began to crumble in my hands as I played with it. Still, I have the sneaking suspicion one day I will find myself in the perfect spot to finish it. Again, I am reminded thinking of this one, that my problem is letting of the bad parts in the story, the stuff that doesn’t work.

The Case of Bill Mimic-Fiction, 4k words, interesting story Kafka-like, basic premise what if a person had a condition where they lost their unique personality and merely mimicked whoever they came into contact with. Don’t remember if I pulled this one off, but think I need to go back and reread. Candidate for the collection.

Rich’s Autoland-2,850 word, a brief sojourn into a realist Fiction vibe. Story follows a newspaper writer working on a story about the National Wresting Hall of Fame in Waterloo, Ia, and a champion boy wrestler whose the focus of the story. That is the back drop, it takes a surrealist bent in the end, something I of course really like. It’s like I just couldn’t play it straight and had to let it out in the end…Don’t know the viability of this as a story, but definitely some potential.

3 Ways-7k words, Science Fiction, another one that could be expanded or chopped. Basic premise, in the future sex is highly regulated, you have to get a ticket. There are only three way to get it, everyone is given one to begin with, they can be bought (no one can afford them), or they can be given, and that’s it. Story focuses in on one man as he wrestles with this system. Strong story, definitely worth urther development.

Conclusion-

This was a great time splashing around in the slush pile. Though I have to admit it does leave an unpleasant after taste, and maybe a little gunk between your toes. Writing is an easy task for me, finishing writing is something else all together. I have to admit a sense of confusion when I look at my slush pile. So many half baked schemes, just sitting there, if I let my mind wander I could start feeling it was a waste, a byproduct of a desperate attempt for attention, and self realization. But I don’t do that.

Tomorrow, come heaven, hell, and high water, I will wake up and try to put up a thousand words, and add another layer to my slush pile. And I’ll tell you why, the secret if you will, it’s not because I don’t care whether it is good or not, or whether I will succumb to crippling debt, and my children will starve in the streets or not, no it is none of those earthly concerns, it is for the greater, heavenly concern, the desire to be great, to be great at creation…creation of what you could ask…a story for another time, I’d advise. Thanks for taking a dip with me. I would love to hear what in that mess sparks your interest. And I hope you stay paddling on top of the slush pile.

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What Is Going On?!?! (Interludes Prologue)

I had a very strange experience, and I don’t know why I feel compelled to write about it here, but I do. I anthropomorphized “The Muse” in previous posts. I did that as an intellectual tool, a thought experiment. For me to have written about the concept at all demonstrates how much time I had already given to it. You can imagine my frustration, when after the idea was out there, I did not get the usual relief I do in these situations.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hogarth_painting_the_muse.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hogarth_painting_the_muse.jpg

Instead, the whole thing of an anthropomorphized muse stuck with me. Anytime I had a free interior minute, like washing the dishes or before bed, I would find myself drifting towards the thought of the Muse, as a full fledged, living person.

Here is how the thoughts sort of went. What is really behind being in that artistic zone? How does the artist just turn over to this other force and have it produce such intelligent, cohesive products? If it is some sort of a power of the subconscious (thinking something like Jungian psychology), then how do we make sense of it being more creatively intelligent and complicated then our regular modes of thinking?

But further my mind would snap, and here is where the fissure starts, because I can almost hear a voice, her voice to be exact. Who says you have anything to do with it? So bold, right there, right smack between my eyes. The language and orientation seemed so strange. Why would I say such things to myself?

She always seems to have an answer, and be tired of my shit. She is also sick of me taking credit for her ideas, and wants her share of recognition and goodies. Now I know this sounds like I am losing my mind, but this is what happened. So I found myself down in the office this morning about to write. Now I have been writing somewhat seriously now for at least four years, and though I have days were it might have take longer to get going, I can always get the job done.

In other words, I had never known writer’s block. It also is important to note that I was in a fairly positive frame of mind, breakfast, coffee, free time, etc., but right as I hit my seat and started the computer a dreadfulness bombarded me. It was so strong and disorienting that I jumped up out of my chair, and in a panicked spastic response I flung my arms wildly around the room.

I was overwhelmed with paranoia. It was in there deep. I wanted to dig it out of myself somehow. I heard my kids playing upstairs. My wife was telling my oldest son that she just needed to finish the dishes and then they would all go outside. The normalcy of the moment snapped me out of it and I sat back down, but my hands were still shaking and I was so scared.

I opened up my work in progress and read the last sentence I wrote. There were a number of grammatical errors, which I tinkered with for a second. Somewhat disinterested, I went to write the new words and again a feeling of death and dread, and magnanimity overwhelmed. I felt stomach sick. I closed my eyes and laid my head on the desk.

An unending stream of existential crisis tore through me. What was I doing writing anyway? What did I have to say? I was a nothing and a nobody and just a loser like everybody else. There was nothing great in me. Compared to those before me, I am an inexperienced moron. All this obsession with art was so much inconsequential madness. It was sickening and shameful. A danger, to myself and others. I was a coward who had hide and ran and taken the path of least resistance and I would continue to be that, forever. It was over for me.

How can I describe the sensation of feeling that your thoughts are not you’re own? It’s like a person entering the room and beginning to talk to you, not quite yelling, but loud enough that you cannot ignore it. It’s an alien voice too, almost like reading words on a page, you have to sort of interpret character, inflection and tone.

It isn’t good at bluffing or bullshitting. It is just like the wind; it blows or it doesn’t.

The wind was blowing hard through my head. It was almost like drowning, but the nonstop stream of ideas filled the deadly world. I probably laid there for twenty minutes in this state before I popped out of my seat again, panicked. I was asthmatic too. I couldn’t get a deep enough breathe. The feeling of sharing the room with someone came back hard now. So hard that I grabbed my wallet and went running out the house, terrified that some physical or even metaphysical brain “popping” was about to occur.

It was a godawful hot humid day, and the heat and bright light just smashed me in the face. It was like I had ran right into a yellowish sweat bubble. The wet sickness pushed through my eyes balls and down into my guts. I could feel my morning breakfast gurgling there.

I should have gone inside and laid down, but I was too scared to go back into my house. I started walking. Everything wa cartoonish, blocky, almost lego-y. I began to hear what sounded like a choir singing, but I couldn’t find the source. I walked for a while until I came to a gas station. I stood outside, pacing, totally out of my mind. I was so worked up, angry and for what appeared to be nothing. I felt stupid about leaving the house like that, and I was sure my wife was wondering where the hell I went.

A woman pulled up in a white Nissan. I saw that it was an older woman, heavy set, and in business attire. We made eye contact for a second and I looked away. But as she walked passed, I looked back and now the woman was young, slim and shiny blond hair ran down seventies style lime green dress, which fit her perfectly. So weirded out, I walked around the building but was stopped by three youths. Two boys were on their bikes, and one little girl was standing on the curb, watching the others riding circles in the parking lot.

As I went passed them the little girl began to talk to me. “Oh professor ass dude, weirdo, lame type predator.” I couldn’t believe what was I was hearing. “Pussy,” she said. I turned around and they were all lined up staring at me. I felt like I should say something, but they were all smiling and what could I say? The oldest couldn’t have been nine, and the girl was no more than five. I couldn’t believe something like that coming from such a young child, but the way they were smiling told me they thought it was real funny.

I stared at them for a second so dumbfounded and weirded out that finally I just turned and walked away. As I got to the edge of the parking lot I looked back for them and they were gone. I kept walking, wading through this lingering dread. I walked until I came to a Dollar General. I had the urge to buy some candles, some candy, maybe even some flowers. I walked through the aisles and every person I went passed had some negative words for me. Vulgar, high school type trash. Pencil Dick. Faggot. Cocksucker. A Grandma in a red hat called me a cunt.

I got my chocolate bars and candles and headed for the checkout line, which was packed with people. I waited for an eternity. The whole time this voice in my head just kept going and going, like standing under a waterfall.

I couldn’t imagine another world existing outside of the pounding, pulsating, internal voice which was just having a freak out, in perfect, controlled, monotoned persistence. You suck you know that, you really suck. You sucks eggs. You suck dicks. You can suck a golf ball through a garden a hose. A carburetor out an engine block. You’re like black hole level suck. Bending matter to your empty black suck. Abortion vacuum suck…

I watched the checkout lady as the line crept. She was an older woman, late forties, early fifties. She had thinning hair and the look of a smoker. She had an air of a look of dignity though too, as she rang everyone’s crap up. Something told me she had some other career experience, like a horse trainer or something. But that was before, when she had something she loved, but that didn’t work out. She took this job out of necessity.

I finally made it to her, but right before, a viscous, emergency type, stomach pain kick in. I leaned against the counter and tried to close my eyes and take some deep breaths. When I opened my eyes, my things were being rang up and a voice broke into my head. “3.33, Sir.” I struggled for my wallet and when I brought it back up and looked the cashier in the face she had changed. It was the beautiful woman who was outside the gas station, but now she was in the Dollar General uniform. For the first time, I got a look at her face.

I love and am ever faithful to my wife, so I feel bad writing this, but she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Normally I am a burnet man, but her ocean waves of shimmering blond hair and lightening green eyes left me floored and overwhelmed with lust. It was her smell too! It was like cool wind on a warm day, through a lavender field, mixed with the earthy scent of woman.

She smiled and said, “3.33, you sick bastard!” As if she read my dirty mind. She said the last words full of both sexuality and insult. I dropped my wallet and banged my head on the counter as I went to grab it. I was full of apologies, even though she had just insulted me. All flustered and blushing, I opened my wallet and there was nothing in there! I was a ramble of sorries and she just kept smiling at me.

“You’re fucking great,” she said. “I can’t wait to get my hands on you Austin. You’re a screamer, aren’t you? I can always sense a screamer. Hemingway never broke; I hated that. You don’t have a fiver on ya? You broke, chubby, son-of-a-bitch. Take the candy asshole, consider it a last meal. Fucking candles.”

You know the phrase deer in the head lights? Now I literally know what that feels like. It was like a decked out, glossy Escalade appeared from the ether and was going to plow right through me. The sick, twisted thing is as I basked in her presence I was still aroused, seduced even by her destructive forces. For some (possibly profound) reason I began to think about the blank page back at home, and how I needed to be doing my words.

The whole word froze and the lights went dim. The store began to shake and drywall began to sift from the ceiling. I looked at the folks behind me, all lined up and waiting to pay for their stuff. They were now statues. Their still shoulders collected the falling dust.

I looked back at the new woman. She was frozen too, smiling like the sun. I had the most awesome realization. This was the Muse!!! Right in front of me. I could hear this indecipherable, yet oddly familiar hum emanating from her. Think it clicked in my head, I had heard this same effect, sometimes deep in the writing zone, when the words were just gushing out beyond my control.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Félix-Nicolas_Frillié_-_Kiss_of_the_Muse,_c._1863.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Félix-Nicolas_Frillié_-_Kiss_of_the_Muse,_c._1863.jpg

This was the source of that hum and she was standing right before me. I had the strange thought to try to capture her, bottle her up somehow and hide her back in my house. There was a loud boom of thunder in the store and a web of lightening broke out across the ceiling. With another boom, a giant appeared behind her in the next aisle.

The first thought that came to mind was Gandalf, because of his long white hair and robes, but the man was black, like deep of night black, so black that it was hard to even make out any features on his face, and he was a giant. I’m guessing probably twelve or thirteen feet tall, at least; his head almost touched the ceiling.

He stood there arms crossed for an awful minute. A chrome scepter, capped with a flashing diamond, was clinched in his left hand, and poised to obliterate me with one smack. Thankfully, there were no words passed between us. He just stood there, staring. Then I passed out.

I woke up back in my chair, a small Dollar General store bag with the candles and candy in it on the desk. It was like waking up from a nightmare. I felt so disoriented and insane. Worst of all, I looked up at the screen and all that you have been reading was already up there. As I reread it, memories of the whole experience came flooding back.

I think I might have gone insane. I need to talk to my wife about this, but I don’t know what she’ll say. Has anyone had an experience with this? Please share with me if you have. Thanks for reading. She exists!

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Next Chapter

12.11.17 (A Brief Sketch of Self) 

I got all worked up in a intended blog post, over the weekend. It was ranty, internal, melodrama sort of stuff. We do that and feel icky about it, or at least I do. It was about marriage and family, the problems of male and female. I thank the Uncaused Caused that I didn’t, that ethereal editor was amped up over the weekend. Maybe it’s a dying spiteful 2017, donning his funereal vestment. Whiskey on the rocks in one hand, something smoking in the other. 

In the middle of our arguing, I lost my voice. Had a bad cold thing brewing. I realized the lost voice was a huge blessing in a way. There’s something very dangerous, beautiful, and ugly in the rant. My wife is such a calm, level headed person, the anima inspired rant can get her into a confused swirl. She’s forced to latch on to extra-spicy bits and perry from there. 

I think about it. Why do some people get it, some don’t. Some are fighters, some aren’t. I think everyone wants to be. Like animals, we want to be free to impulse. 

12-2-17 (The World, Hunters, Homesteading, Remodeling, Family, Photos)

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The World. Two dogs about to fight, while the pack swarms around them, riled with the spirit of it. Except, they’re not really dogs at all. Screaming steel eagles, with Easter eggs, for hell’s pleasure, tucked in under the wings. They screech through space, saying much simply; we are here.

 

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Hunter stopped by, napped a good one. Young buck, right through the heart. Helped me drag it to the back of the pick-up, requested the antlers, told me to spray it out, pack it out with a 10lb bag of ice.

Hands stunk after, and you couldn’t help but smell them. Stare at it. I had to flip it around in the truck to wash it out. Through out the day, bits of blood and spit coagulated on the bumper.

Was told the butcher was a religious man, would only be open for a couple hours in the evening. Call up there to see when. Four to six, a pleasant sounding woman said on the recording, shotgun season. It laid there packed with ice, under my tree, while I finished applying polyurethane to the trim pieces,  intended for the coagulating living room.

Unusually warm, maybe sixty in the sun, a last whisper from Fall. Reflection is the spirit. It’s been over a year, since we’ve had that living room space, couch, table, TV. A place to just sit around and relax. It’s all still surreal, someone’s life I have stolen, or rather a role I’ve snuck into somehow. I walk around the house, can’t imagine all the work I’ve done, and there’s still so much to do, but there’s that light, a new normal, new nest in front of us.

 

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All day, I was sort of nervous about taking the deer to the butcher. Nervous at the newness, I guess. Never hunted. Never washed out a giant deer carcass. Never ran down a highway going sixty with hooves dangling. Figured it would be a spectacle and it was. Whole town filled with trucks, loaded up with deer. Anxious, focused masculine energy. Guy behind me critiqued that they should just have a stack of forms to hand out, make a faster line. Speed it up. It was fine though, lady was nice enough, eighty bucks to be boned and bagged. I plan to process the rest, stews, jerky, etc. Excited for that, spending a winter smoking meat, and doing sunflower shoots inside. Spring feels right around the corner.

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Britney cooks tortillas below me. They make an extra pleasant smell in the cast iron skillet. Ended up with a propane stove out here. Something about that real heat, it’s special, and cooks so much better. Hunters might bring us another deer, that and the pig we got, will almost fill our freezer. Including all our canned stuff, we hold a solid six months worth of food on hand, and really more like a year’s worth. And what’s extra cool, is there’s a lot of food processing in all that, which is expanding our homesteading skills, like learning how to make sausage.

Watched a video on how to butcher a deer today. Didn’t seems so hard. Neighbor said I was welcome to hunt his land. Said just go right over the hill there. Help yourself. Go in the morning. Set up before 6AM, when they come in to bed for the day. Don’t smell like nothing fancy, and be quiet. Aim for the heart. You want a younger, smaller animal for quality of meat. And make the shot clean, so the animal feels no unnecessary fear or suffering. Fear ruins it.

 

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The Moon From My Porch 

Like a perfectly circled cut of light,

Out of the firmament, 

It shines. 

Blue, to purple, to pink, 

Provides the the backdrop. 

Intrepid birds, flutter and chirp in amazement.

It’s not possible, but there it is.

Ancient symbol of the deeper truth. 

Stationary, yet always changing. Illusions, obscuring hard realities. 

11-16-17 Philosophy Through Family (In Praise of Patriarchy)

 

A Musical Accompaniment

I love and hate mankind in portions which may seem unhealthy. That’s the thing, they’ve made the basic human experience abnormal. Normal activity, inexplicable wave like emotions and experiences, which prompt change and growth,  have become negative attributes. Disruption is the critical marker, but then everything is disruptive, isn’t it? The empty fuel tank light, the nutrient deficient belly after dinner, traffic, red lights, bosses, children.

Parenting is the template to understand everything, Nature, God, whatever you want to call it. It answers all wandering philosophical questions, most importantly God’s alleged apathy. It’s not that nature doesn’t care about us, it’s that we are evolving life forms, who begin life dependent, but must be wired to separate from this life-source and function “independently” and keep the goddam wheels on the thing. I guess, cause that’s the problem, there is an element of illusion in that, limits on free choice, limits on our true independence.

Male and female, and they are real things, provide the solution to the paradox. The positive and the negative give balance to the story. Comedy and Tragedy. Adults are rounded out, settled down through parenting. Patience. Principles. Purpose. These are skills you have to have for Nature to flower and flourish.

There is so much illness and insanity in our culture, you can’t help but analyze some of the basics things, food, sex, employment, and recognize these are the problem areas. As a Father, it seems only right that I view these things through often critical lens. And frankly, when I take that position, it immediately draws you into conflict with the world. Power. Patriarchy. Pride. Potential. Dangerous, possibly prohibited words these days.

It’s easy and right to slip into an US vs. Them mentality though, which objectively isn’t historically the best stuff, but frankly in the small social scale is fundamental.

You should hold your family above others. Or even more yourself above the general thing. I remember that demented thought experiment (that’s basically the best of philosophy, imagine nightmare scenarios and make deductions from them) presented in some college ethic course, imagine you’re on the Titanic, shit goes down, and everyone’s drowning, you see your one kid floating away one direction, but there are like twelve other kids close by, drowning on a bit of wardrobe, who you could save immediately, but then your own kid’s gets a seat in Davy Jones’ locker. What do you do?

No question for me. I’m going for my kid. And curse the boat builder and god itself as I did it, and forever. But it can’t be any other way and it isn’t. More or less we all recognize, there’s nothing we can really do about “it”, is there? What’s worse, this problem is what has society at large in the tank. And it’s because from some quarters (rich and familial) has come the argument of over-population, and the value and pleasure in narcissistic mores of life. Which in reality amounts to shitty television, shitty food, and jerking off. But these apparently are enough, until inevitably they’re not, and so we try to drag the old crusty, models, the skeletons now, out of the heap in the backyard, but they don’t stand right, and we don’t have the tools, nor skills to build them again. Shit…can someone get a six-pack, maybe stop at Mcdonalds, maybe pick Grandpa up from the home, he loves tinkering with this shit….

11-13-17 dreaming of winter 

Can’t wait til the snow comes. Hope it rises 10feet high.  So high everyone’s stuck inside for a week. The electricity will go out, so no TV and we’ll go to bed early. But during the the day we’ll still stomp around, sled down the hill, throw snow balls. And when we’re done, we’ll pile into our beds, layered in pajamas and sweatshirts to snuggle. Take turns reading books and taking naps. Take back the world. Can’t wait for it to snow.

11-9-17 Nighttime Digestion (On The Paradox Of Being a Good Cook But Sick of Food, Learning to Play Guitar But Being Scared to Sing, And An Unshakeable Routine Which Must Be Questioned)

Got a weird energy, seems too early to be cabin fever, but think it’s something like that. Outdoor homestead activities are shutting down, and I’m feeling sort of cooped up. Feeling stuck in a routine of stay-at-home parenting, domestic leadershiping. I always describe my life as sort of building the parachute as the fall the is taking place sort of thing.

I’ve gotten sick of food, maybe sick of eating is a better way to put it. But when you got great cooking skills and you got to cook for a family, you sort of can’t escape it. It’s also part of our larger plans and goals, being frugal, healthy, etc. And I recognize the need for balance, and we’re not scared to grab take-out if that’s what it comes to, but I guess I have trouble finding that balance before it becomes a problem. And the food is so delicious! I’ve been putting on pounds, all that sour-dough bread! And then Halloween candy ruined me. And the Holidays approach, all about food and eating!

Today I made kids favorite spaghetti and meatballs. I used a frozen bag of tomatoes, that was previously roasted with onions and basil. I sauteed shame shallots and then put the frozen block of tomatoes in, waited til it was melted some added the garlic. It smelled delicious. Sauteed the meatballs in our new cast iron skillets, tossed them in the oven, and poured a couple ladles of sauce on top. My soon to be 3 year old said the were delicious, in the most twisted up, yet understandable way possible. The polysyllabic toddler babble always makes the writer dad proud.

Speaking of that, my seven year old has put the pressure on about the book buy through the school. Want exactly 16 bucks for his bucks. Told him about how he blew his recent birthday money stash on cheap toys, and wouldn’t it be nice to have those funds now. And how holidays are right around the corner, so we’ll get a bunch of new stuff then. And really Chay-Bobby, these damn school sales are a scam! Think about that yo-yo that you bought a month ago, you don’t even play with it. Yes, I do! Okay, still all these school sales, they  just nickle and dime you to death. Dad, gosh, you know I like to read!…So it goes…

I think the energy I got is primeval. Felt it today strumming the guitar as I took my time to self this evening. So much fun to bang on those strings. And I’ve gotten good enough I can play basic versions of a lot of my favorite songs. Love Potion #9 pooped up in the YouTube feed, and Nirvana Come As You Are was up next. Played through both,  and after the Nirvana, I had the urge to smash the guitar, but settled on tossing it on the bed, and flicking the pick. Wisdom, frugality, such precious things, but they can become excuses for not pushing forward, not challenging. I’m trying to learn to sing as I play, and I can feel it there holding me back, being embarrassed to sing, to let it out. And embarrassed about what? My wife hearing me? The kids? Or just sucking in general?

But what I know is it feels good to let go, to use that body and brain while they’re still there. While I still got the breath and spirit to get out.

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The Man with the Golden Gun-Ian Fleming

Sir James Molony had said that his memory would be sluggish for a while. The ECT treatment at The Park, a discreet so-called ‘convalescent home’ in a vast mansion in Kent, had been fierce. Twenty-four bashes at his brain from the black box in thirty days. After it was over, Sir James had confessed that, if he had been practising in America, he wouldn’t have been allowed to administer more than eighteen. At first, Bond had been terrified at the sight of the box and of the two cathodes that would be cupped to each temple. He had heard that people undergoing shock treatment had to be strapped down, that their jerking, twitching bodies, impelled by the volts, often hurtled off the operating-table. But that, it seemed, was old hat. Now there was the longed-for needle with the pentothol, and Sir James said there was no movement of the body when the current flashed through except a slight twitching of the eyelids. (044)

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This Side of Paradise-F. Scott Fitzgerald

“No, its isn’t silly. It’s quite plausible. If you’d gone to college you’d have been struck by the fact that the men there would work twice s hard for any one of a hundred petty honors as those other men did who were earning their way through.”
“Kids–child’s play!” scoffed his antagonist.
“Not by a darned sight–unless we’re all children. Did you ever see a grown man when he’s trying for a secret society–or a rising family whose name is up at some club? They’ll jump when they hear the sound of the word. The idea that to make a man work you’ve got to hold gold in front of his eyes is a growth, not an axiom. We’ve done that for so long that we’ve forgotten there’s any other way. We’ve made a world where that’s necessary. Let me tell you”–Amory became empathic–“if there were ten men insured against either wealth or starvation, and offered a green ribbon for five hours’ work a day and a blue ribbon for ten hours’ work a day, nine out of ten of them would be trying for the blue ribbon. That competitive instinct only wants a badge. If the side of their house is the badge they’ll sweat their heads off for that. If it’s only a blue ribbon, I damn near believe they’ll work just as hard. They have in other ages.”
“I don’t agree with you.”
“I know it,” said Amory nodding sadly. “It doesn’t matter any more though. I think these people are going to come and take what they want pretty soon.”(312)

11-5-17 Morning Briefing

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After the bear ate the Honda, we sat and thought about what to do with its remnants, roughly 7k dollars. The obvious choice to some, would be roll it into a similar vehicle, maybe something a little nicer, and go on about your business. Our ideas ranged from thousands of dollars worth of berry and tree plants, to quitting employment, to eventually paying off a high interest credit card and buying a 1996 Honda Odyssey for a thousand bucks. Old thing had less then a thousands miles, and decent gas mileage, it was fun, gambling. And things have mostly worked out. Took it to the mechanic and he said there wasn’t anything worth fixing right now, put some miles on it. Good enough.
That all to say last night, I noticed the interior light was on. Asked the wife about that, she said oh yes, been on all day. I stood out there for fifteen minutes messing with it, trying to get it turned off, pressing the door censors, trying to pull the fuse, nothing would work. Wife took the plate off, got the bulb out, no problem. I checked it this morning, started it up to make sure it hadn’t been drained, put the bulb back in, fidgeted with it and go it to work normal, so I’m guessing something is wrong in the dome outlet itself.

Then I feed the chickens. Neighbors had stopped by with the remnants of their garden, watermelon, fatty kohlrabi, tons of gourds . Lifted the stinking trash barrel with body breaking hulk strength, a plentiful offering to the gals. We continue to feel beyond blessed with how well the homestead has developed. We’ve spent the last month scrapping the main living room of several layers wallpaper. We got one little corner left to scrap clear, which I plan on finishing today. Then its some of plaster work, and time for a paint job. After about a year now, we might have a living room, with a couch. The deep question, do we need one or want one?

After breakfast, I set the gang to cleaning beans. They love it, smashing open the pods, getting the shiny beans all piled up. We talk about the whole process, what we’ll do next. The different kinds, how we’re eating some and setting some aside to plant next year.

I got garlic planted a couple weeks ago, planting next year food now. I also built a couple more raise beds before winter, they are halfway filled with composted chicken manure, wood-chips and a heavy layer hay, just waiting perfect for next early springs planting of radishes, cabbages, and onions.

A Neighbor supplied us with a hay bail, and sold us a pig, which we got this week. Another use of the bear check, was a new deep freeze. Same neighbor is offering to bag a deer for us as well, so I look forward to make jerky with that this winter.

For breakfast, Britney made fresh biscuits, and we had egg and bacon sandwiches. Somewhere in the year, she’s become an expert baker. I had gotten into starting sourdough cultures, but she came in out of nowhere and became the expert on it all, bread, cakes, tortillas, rolls. Its great eating, and more and more, the idea of food sustainability, eating off our own land, becomes a real achievable goal. A guiding principal in all this has congealed in my mind, the 1800s mindset.

Now this isn’t a dogma, or any sort of strict rule, but before I make a decision I like to think, what would a 1800s homesteader do in this situation. How would they approach it and look at it? So for instance with the car. Thinking 1800s told me I’m not planning on traveling too far on a daily basis, that any transportation I do have has to serve multiple purposes, and that ultimately I couldn’t spend that much, and definitely wouldn’t have or be comfortable with easily accessible and expensive debt. We giggled one night, thinking about how horses would be ideal, get a buggy like the Amish, to haul the gang. Is there anyway they could stop us?

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That’s how it feels mostly. Like I’ve snuck of the reservation and made it to clear land. A place to be and do what I want. Land. Big plans are brewing for the future, and the beauty is it begins and depends on simple things. Fresh eggs and biscuits, the moon when it makes the sky glow, the froth of the Milky Way, little hands moving with archaic deftness separating the beans…

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This Side of Paradise-F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Well, my first point is that through a mixture of conditions of which the family is the first, there are these two sorts of brains. One sort takes human nature as it finds it, uses its its timidity, its weakness, and its strength for its own ends. Opposed is the man who, being spiritually unmarried, continually seeks for new systems that will control or counteract human nature. His problem is harder. It is not life that’s complicated, it’s the struggle to guide and control life. That is his struggle. He is a part of progress–the spiritually married man is not.”
The big man produced three big cigars, and proffered them on his huge palm. The little man took one, Amory shook his head and reached for a cigarette.
“Go on talking,” said the big man. “I’ve been wanting to hear one of you fellows.” (310)