Writing Quincey

I see society as being deceived into thinking that they can fight evil alone, by making it good in their own minds.

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God help me I’m ready to sit down to write, something I think about all day at work, I wake up thinking about it and pray about it – sit down into a hot flash.

It’s a perfect evening in Norther Indiana.  The rain is so gentle and once and a while I hear the rumble of thunder.  The green of spring still has that neon glow under the lowering gray sky.  The rain is so gentle that I still hear the distant sound of the birds.

Every once in a while, the subdued north wind softly seeps in.  The pattering of the rain calls for a cot next to the window and a languid feeling to settle in.  I think of cotton curtains and thick flannel shirts against my skin.  The distant train horn calls out, and I wonder how anyone could want to be anywhere but home.

It’s been a long day, and I’ve had little time to think about my novel, Quincey.  This novel has changed me.  It has taken me into places I thought I would never go.  To write it has not been a mere journey into research but into deep reflection and change.  Being reared a Protestant, I’ve entered the Catholic church.  Writing about the battle against evil has sent me searching for more than raising up my crucifix and hoping for the best.

I need to know how and why we got here.  And I need to know how in this 21st century how the evil I’m writing about has become good, and good evil.

I’ve been deceived in my life, and it’s a painful experience.  I’ve been deceived by people, and I’ve allowed myself to be deceived.  In writing Quincey, I see society as being deceived into thinking that they can fight evil alone, by making it good in their own minds.

Quincey is my attempt to combat the deception.

Never mind really  –  it’s just a ramble.

Onward.

Missing Shakespeare

He loved her and deep down he still loved her.

“Let slip the dogs of war.”

He heard it first in a Star Trek movie years ago – he couldn’t remember which one.  He stirred his coffee and decided he couldn’t remember which Shakespeare play the quote was from either.  He just knew that whenever he thought of that quote now, he thought of his ex-wife.

He loved her and deep down he still loved her.

He didn’t take that fact out and play with it very often.  When that wriggling little black mass of goo started forward he took the dog out and tossed the ball until they were both exhausted.  He worried because old Fido (his actual name by the way) didn’t want to run and play fetch as often or as long as they used to.  That was a problem because lately that mentioned black, mass of destruction was surfacing more often.

He knew why, his second marriage was failing.  He married her on a whim.  She was there, he was there, a need was met and he thought he might as well continue meeting that need.  It was fine for the first six or seven months until she decided she was in love.

He dress appropriately, was even happy on the day but now…

Now his coffee was stale and over cooked and the nice neat-as-a-pin house he lived in seemed to be layered in a very thin coating of dust.

She wasn’t lazy, she worked.  She couldn’t cook and that was fine, it was just the two of them and he enjoyed cooking.  She enjoyed reading and at first that was fine.  They enjoyed walking down town to the used bookstore, he would walk away with an edition of Scott he couldn’t believe he had the good luck to find and she would walk away with a bag of paperbacks.

At first it was fun.  She tried everything on him – everything.  He even flipped through the books but when he came across some of the descriptive parts of the male anatomy he thought he’d leave it up to her.

They had been married about a year when he found himself wide-awake beside her.  She was softly sleeping and he was puzzled.  What scene had they just played out, what plagiarism in bed did they just perpetrate?

That’s when the face of his first wife drifted in front of him and he sat bolt upright.  What if he slipped, what if he got so caught up in the current rush of love making but uttered in ecstasy his first wife’s name?

His first wife read Shakespeare.  Loved it.  She read and re read the plays.  She looked so lovely during the festivals they attended.  They were young, inexperienced and let slip away the teachings of commitment.

Where was she, what was she doing?  Did she garden?  Did she teach?  Did she read and study and whisper to her husband what she had learned that day, her new insights and word play?

He stirred his coffee and watched the dust motes on the windowpane.

 

To Dread the Dark

We try not to think of it too often. It.

We try not to think of it too often. It.

The situation was this…we pushed our limit, we overreached, we took out the part of us that God put in, labeled free will and we shook it liberally all over our skin, hair, hands and feet.

Don’t get me wrong, don’t think that I’m one of those people who blame God for everything. We knew what we were doing and we knew that we could, really should, stop.

But we didn’t.

I’m not sure how old he was or where exactly he came from. I know he was very old but he was prodigiously strong. I understood his strength when I saw him, when my mind connected with my vision and nudged my soul (something I most assuredly believe in now, my soul) and said “the legends are true, the stories are at least based on fact and man are you in a world of hurt.”

Alex, poor guy, his mind didn’t nudge his soul and the legend, now a reality, which we went out to meet, snapped him like a toothpick. Sometimes on my better days, when I don’t see Alex gasping like a fish out of the water, I believe that he had enough time to think, “I have a soul and I’m going to God and I’ll be okay.”

I really don’t know. On my bad days, I cry like a baby and go visit Alex’s Mom. She hates me but I mow her lawn and fix stuff around the old shack she lives in.

Please don’t think Dana and I ran, we didn’t. Dana lifted her cross and peed. I lifted my cross and felt something like an electric shock thunder down my arm and blow out my fingertips. For a minute I was ashamed because I had just finished a joint. How could this work, how could I keep this horrible monster at bay after finishing a joint?

He was tall, you know. Very tall and he had this ironish white hair that sort of matched the paleness of his skin. When Dana and I lifted our crosses (we pinched them from the old, tumble-down, Catholic Church that is there on More House Street), he snarled at us and for a minute, despite Alex all in a heap, I felt sorry for him.

How did he get that way? The same way we did; arrogant, stoned and seeking a thrill?  Maybe because he wanted to or maybe because he was ambushed. He circled around us but my days in the army settled that maneuver, I told Dana we needed to go back to back and keep him at bay.

Three hours until sunrise. Three hours with Dana’s wet pants dripping on dry leaves. We were exhausted; always looking down, looking up, Alex in a heap. Every noise we figured he was coming up from the ground or coming down from the trees.

You have no idea what it’s like, you never will, to dread the dark.

 

Dear Tuesday

Dear Tuesday,

You’re awful.

Dear Tuesday,

You’re awful.

I do not hold you responsible for my attitude (I am adult enough to own my attitude) nor do I sling out my sentiment to cause pain, resentment or embarrassment…perhaps.

Aside from that, I feel that you are the way you are (awful) simply because you hide behind Monday.  The accusation of hiding, in some estimations, may prove to be more cause for resentment (on your part) and insult (again on your part) than being just plain awful,(which you are) I understand.  I myself have been accused of hiding and that accusation stings and nettles me – I’m sure it does the same to you.  However, to keep to the truth I am sure, beyond doubt, that the reason for my feeling resentment toward you is that you hide behind Monday.

Tuesday, hiding is a despicable practice and never have you come forward and tried in any way to defend Monday.  Never have you reasoned with us, (slaves to the paycheck), that the reason we hate Monday is that you yourself Tuesday show no mercy in longevity nor do have you open-handedly proffered us hope.  You are a repeat of Monday with the added rancor of making us all feel trapped without a Friday in sight.  Tuesday you even paint poor old Wednesday with a drear and deadly gray that makes sorrow seem interminable and Thursday so very far away.

I do want you to know that I have settled down to write this letter to you on a Wednesday.  While I suffered through your hours yesterday forming my accusations I thought it would only be sporting of me if I gave you the full day – to see if you redeemed yourself at all.

You did not.  My home was quiet, dull and sullen with the Tuesday doldrums when I walked through the door.  All the inhabitants therein, right down to the cat, looked at me with the idea that perhaps I should do something – anything, which would give relief.  I failed and being that it was Tuesday I felt that perhaps my failure was helped along.

Know too, that I pause in my other letter writing (one to U.S. Literary critics that has been confounding me for some time, another to audiobooks in general and another to Corrie – I just found her physical address again and the most adorable owl cards that are just dying to be sent) so that I may further analyze my feelings and express to you my dismay.  I realize too that there is nothing I can do – you are.  Nor do I want to argue the fact that you are third in the week or second in the week according to ISO standards (drop dead).  Nor do I want to want to delve into your ancestry to some Norse god – you are more than that, you are more than a name – you are a 24-hour eternity.  You’re awful.

With Regret,

 

Me

 

A Cup of Coffee

Lift the cup, warm in my grip, the cool smooth clay, shaped and glazed somewhere in China — so the well-engraved letters state on the bottom of the cup. The cup contains the slush of deep, deep brown and steam lifting into the air and ignored. The cup, so stated in my first communion held a liquid that puckered my lips and made me cough no matter how hard I fought it. This cup is a shock of hot liquid and my nerve endings smooth out.

Don’t slurp.

Lift the cup, warm in my grip, the cool smooth clay, shaped and glazed somewhere in China — so the well-engraved letters state on the bottom of the cup. The cup contains the slush of deep, deep brown and steam lifting into the air and ignored. The cup, so stated in my first communion held a liquid that puckered my lips and made me cough no matter how hard I fought it. This cup is a shock of hot liquid and my nerve endings smooth out.

Don’t slurp.

A picture of my young mother in the house that I grew up in, pouring my first cup of coffee, soon after my first communion. Don’t slurp your coffee, if you want some, drink it right. But drinking it right was a conquest all my own, nothing I could be taught. So I taught myself to sip not to slurp and I drink coffee to this day and try to remember my last cup of communion. I take another sip, puzzled, and feel the heat move down inside of me. I notice the local newspaper sitting on the table. Yesterday’s news. I pick it up and throw it away since I’ll get another one today.

Coffee in my hand. I use both hands and sip, not slurp. I move my lower lip up and down the smooth curve of my cup, thick and white. I searched hard to find just the right cup. I wanted the greasy spoon diner appearance that my mother would never allow. I watched actors on stages, being filmed, sipping coffee not slurping, not remembering a word of their black and white drama but remembering their non-descript coffee cup. My daughter moves into my sight and looks at me for a moment, contemplating me contemplating my cup. Summer break, hair on end, she reaches into the fridge and pulls out the milk. I smile, she grunts, and she walks to the counter and prepares her cold crunchy breakfast.

Looking at my watch I wince. Just time enough to fill my insulated cup and go.

I tip the pot and try to ignore the aroma.

My brother and I in our grandmother’s kitchen. We are not allowed coffee, too young, but we watch her fill the pot; water on the bottom, grounds on top. The smell, we pull in with our still button noses and think – heaven, heaven in a smell. We watch and watch that pot on her old electric range and shout, when the liquid, jumping into the glass knob on top of the coffee pot, starts to change color. Coffee color. So I pour from my drip coffee maker. I pull the glass pot high and watch the coffee waterfall into the narrow mouth of my travel cup and think, I still have aim. And also think of my grandmother all those years drinking coffee alone.

Damn, it’s hot for seven thirty. I walk quickly to the leather interior of my car and the radio that just plays classical music all the way to work – no shop talk, no car dealers telling me I could do better and no coffee commercials. My coffee fits just so in the cup holder, sippable and the faint smell of yesterday’s ride home fills the air. A touch and the engine hums and the AC blows out the stale smell of yesterday’s air conditioned yet breathable musk.

I smell my coffee.

And my Dad is there, three years in his grave this month. The old, gray, plastic, lunch box that he used to take to work every day and the gray, and the lighter gray and the darker gray thermos that snapped up into the lid of his old gray lunch box. The thermos bottle that held his coffee until one day his doctor told him decaf was the only thing he should drink. Told me when I was away at college that the only thing he smelled in his thermos after that was piss. I smiled thinking of my dad, drinking pissy, smelling coffee, because his doctor told him so. He never listened to me.

I remembered when dad died; it was quick, it was sudden, a cup of coffee in his hand – that’s how mom knew, she heard the cup drop and crash on the kitchen floor. It reminded me of a poem I read by Charles Bukowski but I couldn’t remember the name of the poem. And for months afterward when I thought of my dad I thought of that poem. I found a novel by Charles Bukowski, in a used bookstore, “Ham on Rye,” and I bought it and I keep in my leather, accordion briefcase. I carry it with me everywhere and someday I’ll read it; “Ham on Rye.”

Out of the driveway and out of the well-manicured subdivision I’m on the road and have at least a mile before I merge onto US 20, so I reach for the insulated coffee cup and have a sip and think of the times my administrative assistant has had to help me cold water scrub coffee stains out of my tie.

“Why don’t you wait until you get to work to put on your tie?”

“Then I’ll get spots on my shirt.”

I remember her shrugging while scrubbing away at my silk tie, just before a board meeting. I looked through her lacquered gray hair and the wall behind her was fascinating between different and random lines of gray. She caught me staring, looked behind her like something was there, shrugged and muttered something about the smell of coffee on silk ties. I’ve been very careful ever since.

My favorite part of the day, merging onto US 20, leaning back and switching on the autopilot in this four-wheeled leather coffee cup holder. I knew when I bought the car, the only reason I wanted it was because the headrest fit my neck to perfection. Yes and every morning I take my foot off the gas on US 20 and the car goes down the road anyway. I feel relaxed enough to pick up my coffee cup rigid and stiff and manufactured somewhere in India. And careful not to drip on the tie, I sip. The sunrise is behind me and the road to South Bend before me. The traffic on this death trap keeps driving interesting enough.

Sip, and I feel on my lips the ridges and curves of my Indian made insulated, coffee cup. I smile at the smell and think, thank God decaf is out of favor during my trip to work. I put the coffee cup back and feel more than smell the aroma fill my car, I’ll smell that in the evening during my ride home and it won’t be so bad. I’ll think of my morning ride, the sun coming up, the heat of July on the road, the shimmer of humidity in the deep, dark, green, trees so distant from the highway. My tie will be loose around my neck and no doubt the top button of my shirt will be undone and I’ll be thinking of something that needs to be completed tomorrow during the ride home.  Right now the coffee scent is real, the music soft, making the leather seats look too plush for a car. I can hear my wife complain that the leather is too hot for her short skirt and makes her legs burn and I squirm just a little when I think of her taking my hand and making me feel the heat of the leather between her legs.

So I look down for my cup of coffee.

Never seeing what it was that suddenly blurred my vision or lifted the two wheels of my car up. But I do remember this. I felt the lid of my insulated coffee cup come off, pushing my two fingers up and away. I remember the spray and the burn across my chest and thought no saving the tie or the shirt, no feeling hot leather between my wife’s legs or thinking of drinking decaf in my older days.