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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pierwalker Log: February 20, 2018

Writing start: 10:44 AM.
Finish: 2:10 PM.
Total new words: 1300
Edited (est.): 2600


1. Book Two of Angel: Off until Saturday
Notes: I think I'll get working on the trigger warnings this afternoon, after I post this blog.

2. Failure: Read-through
Notes: This story, as amazingly difficult as it has been to write--and as difficult as it promises to be yet--is so worth the trouble. Future readers will get an excellent take on the Revolution from a boat in the Revolution.

3. Book Three Melody: 500 new words
Notes: Writing about total evil isn't nearly as difficult as it seems. These days, the examples of total evil are all around us, from Trump to Putin to the NRA to Alex Jones to evangelical Christians who support Trump to Twitter and Facebook covering up their part in giving Trump the White House. Those who don't like the word "evil," condemning it as "medieval," are exactly those people who feed evil precisely what it wants.

4. Watson: 400 new words
Notes: I have found this story's moral center. That was pretty tough all on its own. Gleaning the details from there, while challenging, have since been "greased" by my discovery.

5. Book Two Cheapery St.: 400 new words
Notes: The chapter is finished! Yay! Now come six primary edits, and I can give it to Kye! It's a good chapter. Lots of humor.

6. Dread Pirate Roberts (2): Off

7. Slum: Read-through

8. T-Bag (new fan-fiction from Prison Break): Off

Extra note: Sometimes you learn positive things from bad people.

Example: I tutored a girl back in San Diego--Coronado, to be exact, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods on the planet. Her father was a hateful, bigoted pig, one who reveled in his fundamentalist Christianity to push his Christo-fascistic worldview on others. One night, after I'd concluded tutoring his daughter, he decided to open up about his son, who had moved out and was apparently "a lost sheep."

"I don't understand him," the pig complained. "He wants to do things his own way. I've tried to teach him about earning his daily victory."

"What's that?" I asked, trying to sound interested.

He smiled, eager to preach to the Great Unwashed, of which, I'm certain, he considered me. (I was fired soon after.) "It's doing the small daily things necessary to reach greatness in life. Do those, do them consistently and every single day, and you will reach greatness."

He dismissed me at the home's enormous double doors. I walked out into the night. I didn't plan to remember anything he'd just said.

But I did.

It's been thirteen years since that conversation, and you know what? The pig was right. Now what you think is greatness and what I think is greatness are almost certainly two different things. Your definition almost certainly includes, if not completely centers on, popularity, fame, and cash. Mine doesn't.

I'm very glad I began these Pierwalker Logs. They have been most instructive and enlightening as they chart my daily victories.


Enjoy "Getting Married" from Reflections of Connie: Memories of a Sundered Love


Note: Linked endnotes go to a Google document.


Getting Married~

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
It’s not warm when she’s away.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
And she’s always gone too long when she goes away.

My birthday is January 6. That happens to coincide with the approximate date that Christmas break ends and school resumes for most kids. In 1973, January 6 fell on a Saturday.
 Connie wasn’t on the bus that following Monday. Nor was she at school. I remember almost nothing more of my eleventh birthday save the bitter disappointment of her absence. I sat on the sandbox wall at recess, alone. I rode the bus home in a vacuum, sightless and despairing, her Christmas gifts once again by my side. I had literally counted down the days until I could see her again.
That past Saturday, I’m sure I got a birthday cake, a kiss from Mom, gifts. I remember nothing of them.
Connie wasn’t at school Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday. I guessed, and was correct, that she wasn’t going to be there Friday. I had prepared myself for that eventuality as much as I could. I spent the weekend locked in my bedroom, no appetite, no sunshine, as the dysfunction of the Helbert family household raged around me. I regularly took the little shoe box full of knickknacks and held them close as I lay in bed. They smelled like Connie: like winter and Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit and the barest hint of perfume, flowery and sweet.
That Monday, when she still didn’t show up, I became despondent. I was a plodding robot, unable to keep my mind from flashing back to the last few seconds I’d seen her: that faltering, sad smile at the doorway. Did she know she was going away forever and didn’t have the courage to let me know?
I was walking out of my homeroom at 3 p.m., making my way to the bus for another empty, lonesome ride home when a deep rumble sounded on my right.
“Mr. Helbert—”
I turned. Mr. Kaeslau was peering around his classroom’s door. I stopped.
“Come here, please,” he said, quite seriously.
I gulped and stooped into his classroom. He went and sat at his desk. He studied me. “Sit down,” he ordered.
I sat.
After a moment’s silence, he said, “Pretty down, I see.”
There was no point in lying about it. I knew exactly what he was talking about, and felt a sudden sense of shame mixed liberally with alarm. How many others had noticed my mood? Did Mom get a call from my homeroom teacher? Did Lou? If he did, I was dead meat the second I walked in the door. Mr. Kaeslau saw me no more than ten or twenty minutes a day, total, at recess and at lunchtime!
I was no crybaby, despite the river of tears I’d cried over Christmas break, and the tears that had come on occasion this past week. But here they were—again. I could feel them well up, and I looked down at the desk, away from Mr. Kaeslau’s steady gaze. In a detached state of mind I wondered if I was going to miss the bus.
“You know, I rib the other kids because for them it’s all just a big game,” he said. “Boys liking girls, girls liking boys, the gossip, the whispers, the notes, the silliness …”
He shrugged.
“I hate to tell you this, Mr. Helbert, but it’ll never change, not even after they all grow up and get married and have kids themselves. Games. Nothing but games. It goes on forever. Every generation. Games.
“I’ve watched you two. I saw right from the start that you and Miss Christensen weren’t playing games at all. You two share a friendship that is very lovely to watch. The teachers speak of it often.”
I wasn’t sure that was a good thing, and apparently my startled upward glance told him that.
“It’s nothing to worry about,” he said. “We think it’s lovely, like I just said. Well, most of us, that is.”
I nodded. I had a very tenuous grasp on my emotions, and was now very concerned about missing the bus. Again Mr. Kaeslau seemed to read my mind. “Get going,” he said, standing. “I just wanted to let you know I’m there with you, Mr. Helbert, and to share that Miss Christensen will be back Thursday; we heard from her mother today. I thought that might cheer you up a little.” He took notice of the surprised joy that lit my countenance and smiled. “See you tomorrow.”
I don’t remember much of that Tuesday, or that Wednesday. They must have been nothing but anticipation and the relentlessly slow spin of the classroom’s clock. The vacant seat on the bus next to me no longer felt empty, but seemed to hold this intensely hopeful potential energy, one that in just a day or so would contain the realized and boundlessly present, physical, and joyful kinetic energy of Connie.
The knickknacks she’d gifted me for Christmas I now took out and held close only occasionally, because I’d discovered that keeping them boxed up for long periods seemed to accent the tiny bit of her perfume on them, and thus surprise my nose when I opened the box. I was fiercely protective of that scent against the wide atmosphere; I knew the more I opened it, the weaker that scent would become. Part of me realized that my protectiveness could be lowered a bit, now that her return was assured. I looked forward to indulging myself of that shoe box as soon as I walked in the door.
I remember not sleeping that night; and I remember keeping my gifts to her next to me in bed. It seemed important to keep them close. I rose early that morning, dressed and hurried upstairs for breakfast. Mom complimented me on how particularly handsome I looked as I wolfed down the eggs and sausage and toast she'd made me. I gazed impatiently outside, ready for the bus to hurry up and arrive. It was dark and gloomy again; another storm was approaching. I opened the door to let the dogs in and felt the restless chill bite my cheeks.
Ten minutes later I stood securely bundled up across County Road 11, next to the mailbox, with my brother and sister and the three neighbor kids who always waited there with us. I looked down the hill.
There it was: the bus. It rumbled up towards us in frustrating slow motion. I felt no chill; I was breathless and my eyes burned from staring.
It slowed to a stop three feet away. The doors opened.
I let everybody else get on before me. I was terrified that Mr. Kaeslau was wrong, that Connie wouldn’t be on the bus this morning or any morning after that. I came up the stairs hesitantly, her gifts under my arm, praying under my breath. I turned to walk down the aisle, lifting my chin just an inch or two to look.
She wasn’t there. Not in the first six rows of seats anyway.
—There she was.
She sat a couple seats up from the very back. She was smiling radiantly, biting her lower lip, her ski cap pulled warmly down over her ears.
The gifts under my arm suddenly felt alive and anxious to be in her possession. I gripped them harder. They dragged me down the aisle towards her. My legs for some reason had given up any volition of their own: I was in a trance as I moved closer and closer to her. Before I knew it I was sitting next to her once more.
I caught my breath and handed my gifts to her.
She glanced at them, beaming, then at me. I was in heaven. She scooched closer, so that our thighs were barely touching. She nestled the gifts in her lap protectively and sighed.
We didn’t say hello; we didn’t exchange pleasantries; we didn’t catch up on the news. I didn’t ask her about Wisconsin, and she didn’t ask me how my break went, or if I did anything interesting or fun. She scooched just a tiny bit closer, until her side was pressing full into mine—the closest she’d ever been to me—and gave me another heart-stopping smile. I looked into her brown eyes. The scent of her ...
She cuddled the gifts close, as though she already knew there was a stuffed puppy dog waiting for her to unwrap and love him, and settled contentedly into her seat, as though being back in my presence she was safe once more, and could rest easy.
At the door to her homeroom she handed me a fresh pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit. “Happy birthday, Shawn,” she said quietly. She turned on her heel with a mischievous smile and disappeared inside.
I was dumbfounded. I had never shared when my birthday was with her! It just wasn’t all that important to me—Christmas wasn’t even in the background by the time it rolled around each year, and so it had long since become an afterthought. That, and it was already almost two weeks past.
I stared at the pack of gum. It was already opened, not a fresh pack. But all the sticks were there, seemingly untouched. I floated to my homeroom staring at it, puzzled, already counting down the minutes till I could see her at recess.
Gum chewing was strictly forbidden in class. If you were caught with it, chewing it or not, the consequences were severe, including rapped knuckles from a descending yardstick. Even so, I couldn’t help myself: curiosity overwhelmed my very strong aversion to risk. Perhaps it was my ability to melt into the woodwork at the dinner table at home that aided me; in any case, somehow I managed to fish the pack of gum from my pants pocket to look at it. I held it in my lap and very gently eased the first stick partly out. I had no intention of chewing it; something inside was telling me that this pack was special.
I was right. I fought hard to suppress the smile pitoning its way up my neck and maintain the expressionless facade that indicated I was paying attention to the lesson.
Connie had drawn something on the thin aluminum wrapper beneath the paper one that surrounded each individual stick. I gaped at the first one bewildered and astonished. Bewildered because she had drawn an arrow. (Had she drawn it because of her (now strongly suspected) Native American heritage?) I was astonished because she had somehow managed to get the stick back into its paper wrapper without bunching it up or otherwise jamming up the entire pack.[46]
An arrow!
An arrow?
I discovered that my cheek muscles had conspired with the smile and had surreptitiously allowed it to summit my face. My grin was probably as bright as a searchlight beacon. I pushed it off the Cliff of Apparent Studiousness with great effort and nudged the stick back in, fingering the next one. Eased it out. Stared.
Drawn on this stick was—the letter C? Did it stand for Connie? It didn’t look like a normal letter C, but a fancy one, a cursive one. That stick back in, I pulled out the next one.
What? A backward cursive letter C?
The next stick had my name on it, also in lovely cursive.
The next one, the word and.
The one after that had Connie’s name. Now I was really confused.
The following stick had the word forever, followed by a wide smiley face.
On the wrapper on the stick after that was written: Get it?
I didn’t. Not until just before lunch and recess. When it dawned on me I was so overcome with glee that my homeroom teacher noticed.
“What’s so funny, Mr. Helbert?” she asked sternly, interrupting her lesson.
The entire class turned to look at me.
My skills at disappearing at the dinner table at home hadn’t completely failed me. I had been smart enough to keep the pack of gum in my pants pocket, having fought the monster temptation to pull it out and stare at each piece again to confirm the puzzle.
I gulped, fighting a huge blush that had descended like a medieval rash over my entire face. My smile was a distant and regretful memory. I choked out, “N-N-Nothing ...”
She kept her hard gaze focused on me. I was sure that she was going to rise from the stool she was sitting on at the front of the class and come investigate, but she resumed the lesson instead, the entirety of which to that point I’d not paid a single iota of attention to.
There’s so much I’m hazy about with the telling of this tale, but I suppose decades of time between the happenings listed and today will do that. I’ve been racking my brains for days about one particular segment of a typical school day at Tavelli Elementary School back in 1972-1973, but for the life of me I can’t fan away the thick fog of time in this instance, which has to do with lunchtime.
I didn’t get to have lunch with Connie—but I cannot tell you why. Surely it had something to do with scheduling lunchtime so that the cafeteria wouldn’t be swamped with hundreds of kids—but then why split up the fourth grade, for example? Why not keep grades together? I can tell you, having taught for many years in the public school system, that such things as lunchtime or recess often fall victim to the hyperlocalized scheduling lunacies of each school’s peculiar bureaucracy, which often comes down to the principal and his highest-ranking subordinates. Teachers rarely get any say in important matters like scheduling—that is, any say that is actually democratic, authentic, and impactful.
Lunchtimes were spent with my best friends, Kenny and Roger. I mentioned Kenny earlier. Kenny was this completely mellow, easygoing fellow, very good-looking (and so very popular with the girls), with a combed mop of brown hair styled after John, Paul, George, and Ringo that fell just over his eyebrows, and these big blue eyes that always seemed to be smiling. Kenny was one of those guys who was well liked by everyone, and so could insinuate himself anywhere without anyone noticing or objecting. He and I became fast friends that year. Kenny was my biggest cheerleader when it came to Connie, always suggesting new things I could do with her, or challenging me to hold her hand or kiss her cheek. I remember telling him one day, quite excitedly, that I’d actually plucked up the courage to touch her hand just before recess ended, and then related to him the overjoyed look of surprise on her face just before she skipped down the hall to her homeroom. That was a big, big day for me, and Kenny was there to share it and celebrate it.
Roger was my other friend. I would often go to his house on weekends, which was just across the road from Tavelli itself. There we would play Batman and Robin, pile huge arsenals of mudballs behind this decaying log just beyond his front yard, where we would hide, waiting for victims to bike or walk by along the road, which of course never happened. Frustrated, we would end up launching them at each other, or at birds overhead, or at the bison lunching happily on the tall grasses next to Lindemeier Lake. They’d eye us angrily, and we’d tear away, terrified that they might charge at us, which on occasion they would. We’d scream our way indoors, panting and wide-eyed, only to creep our way back out towards the herd a few breathless minutes later.
Roger was one of only two boys taller than I in the fourth-grade class. Another boy, Dave, was taller still, but only an inch separated all three of us. The teachers would occasionally measure us to see who was the tallest, but as far as I can remember the pecking order never changed: it was always Dave, then Roger, then me.
Recess came after lunch; and here’s where the haze is thickest. There was lunch ... there must have been some waiting period or such as the other group of kids ate ... then recess. That waiting period I haven’t got a single memory about, not one. Kenny and Roger would always defer without question or comment my preference to be with Connie during recess. It didn’t bother them at all, I recall; and I remember how happy that made me. They’d run off together, leaving me to go find Connie.
“Did you get it?” she asked happily when I braked to a stop at her homeroom door. I smiled and nodded. We trooped off to the playground.
There were two large swingsets at Tavelli, at opposite ends of the playground. The bigger set was reserved for those in fourth grade and higher. They were almost always completely occupied, to the point that teachers would have to stand by and limit each swinger to a specified amount of time. Today there were, oddly, few swingers on the big kids’ set, and so no teachers nearby. “Want to go on the swing set?” I asked. Connie nodded, and we marched up the small hill from our spot on the sandbox wall to them, where we grabbed two swings next to each other. With Mr. Kaeslau wryly watching a good distance away, we launched off from the ground at the same time, swinging back and forth, higher and higher, in unison.
This was to most kids the most glaring sin a boy and girl could commit, and we knew it. Swinging in unison was called “getting married,” and the offenders were roundly and loudly laughed at until they left the swing set altogether, shamed and reddened, whether they intended to “get married” or, much more likely, not.[47]
But the kids no longer bothered us when Connie and I got married. We had married each other so shamelessly often, and so blatantly, and so proudly, that they had long since given up on us. Today there were few kids to make fun of us; the three girls who were there eventually dismounted, giving us snotty sneers before moving off to do something else with their playtime. We were alone.
Connie was beaming at me again in that special way. The world came at us, then retreated, the parabolas of our love synchronized perfectly. The storm that threatened this morning hadn't materialized; instead the day was bright and warm, with the hint of spring still weeks away. The shifting air contained the barest suggestion of lilacs and Russian olives; I caught Connie’s perfume mixing in with them and knew then it was my imagination conjuring all three. But somehow that didn’t take away from the moment, but added to it, as if the promise of lilacs and Russian olives and Connie’s perfume floated free of the gravity holding us to the earth, and I could, by immersing myself within them, fly to the stars under which she had kissed my cheek, and touch them, and by doing so affirm the immortality of our innocent love.
How could I hold on to such moments? My entire spirit tried: with a single word it cried to the heavens: Yes! It was spoken from a place so deep within me that it almost felt foreign as it passed through the layers of my young consciousness, like an unsounded wellspring that had for ten years been primed and pumped, finally pulling up the purest and sweetest water within. That Yes! gushed forth from every pore in my skin, raced like cool electricity up my spine, gave me adrenaline-sweetened chills. It came with such force that it even managed to escape my lips, though very quietly, and even though its very nature made vocal chords and lips laughably unnecessary. Back and forth we swung, so confident in what the other was doing that looking at each other in order to keep up was also laughably unnecessary.
(But I couldn’t help but look anyway, the wind pushing Connie’s hair into her face, then out behind her, her cheeks red, her smile serene and playful ... My mind kept trying to take snapshots of her, the film of my soul capturing each moment very imperfectly. I knew that, and I knew trying harder wouldn’t change anything. But harder I tried anyway....)
The bus ride home was blissfully silent. Connie had taken my card out, had read it while I watched and, as I sat there, looking, she withdrew a pencil from her book bag and placed a check next to the YES. She then closed the card, put it back in the envelope (which she had opened very carefully, I noticed, compared to the one she gave me, which weeks before I had impatiently ripped open, tearing the envelope), and without looking at me held it in her lap, under the gifts that had waited so long for her to open. In my mind I could see her snuggling up in bed later with the stuffed puppy dog; I could see her wearing the dorm shirt as she nodded off to sleep. This last image oddly elated me, stirring within me the same strange, nearly overpowering feelings I’d experienced in the girls’ underwear section of JC Penney. As the bus slowed to a stop she leaned in very close to my ear and whispered, “Thank you, Shawn.”
I turned to look at her. The tip of her nose was probably an inch away, her lips so close all it would take would be the slightest nudge forward by the bus and we’d be kissing. Her perfume at this distance, while still very slight, was so potent it literally made my eyes cross. In that heavenly five-second span I think my spirit lived an age—but not in suffering, not swamped under by the pains and fatigue and heartbreak of unanswered and toilsome years, but within the timeless presence of Love herself, answered at each and every point between second zero and second five, an infinity of points, all incomprehensibly important, all discreet, and yet all unified in the chorus of affirmation that had bubbled to my lips earlier on the swingset, now crying for completion in hers. Yes! Kiss me! they cried. Please, just kiss me!
But ... I didn’t. My heart racing, my head swimming, I eased myself off the seat, tripped down the aisle, and stumbled off the bus. I stood at the edge of the road dazed and wide-eyed as the bus accelerated away in a gray-blue cloud of diesel exhaust. Connie was smiling widely and waving at me, her face pressed to the glass at the back.
Wasn’t all this a miracle? Be astonished, Angel, for we
are this, O Great One; proclaim that we could achieve this,
my breath is too short for such praise. So after all, we have not
failed to make use of these generous spaces, these
spaces of ours. (How frighteningly great they must be,
since thousands of years have not made them overflow with our feelings.)
But a tower was great, wasn’t it? Oh Angel, it was—
even when placed beside you? Chartres was great—, and music
reached still higher and passed far beyond us. But even
a woman in love—, oh alone at night by her window....
didn’t she reach your knee—?
Don’t think I’m wooing.
Angel, and even if I were, you would not come. For my call
is always filled with departure; against such a powerful
current you cannot move. Like an outstretched arm
is my call. And its hand, held open and reaching up
to seize, remains in front of you, open
as if in defense and warning,
Ungraspable One, far above.

[L]ove is essentially dying to the ‘me.’ Not the things which thought has said is love—love-sex, love-pleasure. Dying to time is love. So living, love and death are one thing, not divisive, not separated, not divorced, not in the field of time but completely a living, moving, indivisible thing. And that is immortal.
When you understand how to love one thing—then you also understand how to best love everything.[48]

"Not Her Lips I Feel" will be posted next week

A Great Tree for a Great King

This is King's Tree, an Antarctic Cottonwood.

It's on the south wall of the courtyard of the Kathlin Rory Carrick Castle. It's called "King's Tree" because it's Conor Kieran's favorite. Before returning with the Armada to Aquanus, he spent many hours reading in its shade.

Antarctic Cottonwood has been indispensable to the Saeire Insu. Through it's partially aecxal nature, it has the ability to cloak objects that are mediàlmically attached to it, which means the Castle is invisible to all but the Saeire Insu. The wood is relatively lightweight and easily treatable. Once treated, it becomes extraordinarily durable and tougher than steel. As a result, the Saeire Insu Armada is built top to bottom with it, and Saeire Insu weaponry, including steel swords and the like, is laced with fibers from it.

The original grove was planted, grown, and harvested in Antarctica upon the orders of the Samanlainen Guardian Eleysius, hence its name.

Fractal Art by Shawn--"A Far Cry From That Desert Song"

A Far Cry From That Desert Song