Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Creak in the Room (Jamesian story for Grad School)

            The table they were situated at was stained with the residue of earlier experience, and served to reaffirm their current state of mind—by all means a recognizable and normative state given the company, and the place, date, and time of present setting. What remained, at the culmination of an evening of sin and consumption, were the production line bottles, most nearly empty, the embedded ashen lineage of the leaves of the Nicotania, and the corpse-like figures of four friends, presumably in their prime.

            Pulling out the money owed, to the leisurely pot built in good faith and in part represented by the plastic poker chips neatly stacked in front of each player, he was seemingly struck by a chord of remembrance, propagated by something found inside of his overly stuffed wallet; he hesitated before handing over the cash, holding for a moment longer than was typically usual in his hand, a folded up piece of paper.

            “Ehhh, like pay up or something.” The combination of downers and psychotropic drugs, that would for any normal person act to subdue those impatient moments akin to race, as the potency of such an indelible elixir could never come into question by those having partaken, and in choosing to partake had felt for themselves the reverberations entwined with consumption, had somehow done little to ease  his friend’s general state, and this could be noted in the tone by which his friend chose to respond to so seemingly an inconsequential delay, even at so fine an hour, even after the innumerable hours of exploitation and abuse were in the rear view and the sobering up process had begun to take form.

            “I had meant to say something earlier,” he said. “But it seems so now, that it should very well work out to my advantage, me having forgotten and you as my audience. I have something wild to share—a little terrifying, but more wild and bizarre and eerie than scary for sure.”

            “Ehhh, like shutup or something.”

            “Seriously, what does it all mean? If I dare to ask, please elaborate on what it is you’re saying—I’m somewhat intrigued.”

            Clutching the paper still folded in hand, he continued. “I found this in the library the other day. From what I can make out, it seems as if it’s from some person’s daily journal log. The writing is in script and very faint so it took some inferring and considerable review on my part, but I was at the time doing all I could do to avoid doing what it was I should have been doing, and so this person’s journal served to fill my immediate need and then take me away from my schoolwork, for better or worse.”

            “Seriously, shut up already. The way you talk makes my brain hurt.”

            “Hahaha, dammit Gerard, let him speak. C’mon man, as you were.”

            Unfolding, rearranging and scraping off some of the table’s grime, he de-creased, ironed with diligent hands, and laid the sheet of paper out off to the side, in front of one of his friends, barely long enough for this friend to take note of the writer’s penmanship, though this friend would not begin to mentally map the uncanny significance of the cursive word till much later.

            He pulled the sheet back and continued. “The paper was like so, unfolded at the time and to the left of my work station. Note the thick, professional looking paper. It’s different. It’s what initially caught my attention. I picked it up and examined it. I aimed to decode what had earlier been written by someone either dreadfully weak or without sustainable ink.”

            “Any luck?”

            “Yea. As it turns out most of the words were legible, and those that were not, I was able to infer their meaning as a result of good sentence structure on the part of our ghost writer.”

            “This sucks. I feel like I’m in grammar class or something. Please shut up. Let’s play video games or put on a movie. Something, anything but this.”

            “DAMMIT GERARD!!!”

            “Yea seriously, shut up already dumb. Anyways, I typed up the letter so that I could at some point read it to you and see what you all were to make of it.”

            “Dammit, okay. Let’s get this over with already. Can we at least speed things up?”

            “I dig, giddy up man. Read away.”

            He slowly and methodically folded the original, much to the dismay of his one impatient friend, eventually reinserting into wallet before reaching into back jean pocket to pull out the printed version. He then read aloud, uninterrupted, that which he had before typed.  

Oh my, what a lovely day today had indeed proven itself to be! I awoke to the light and the sun was so bright and the sky so very blue coming through my bedroom window I couldn’t wait to get outside! I thought about what my friends would tell me whenever we’d go to the movies or when, on the rare occasion, we’d venture into the city to take in a show, they’d say: Grannies didn’t have to brush their teeth or wash their face! At least that is what their response would be whenever I’d question one of their appearances or make a face at one of their scents. They’d tell me to blow off and that no one bothered to look at or care about them so why should I? Maybe they had a point. Today I gave it a go, as not a moment’s time was to be wasted. Not on such a beautiful morning!

I rolled out of bed and set out to walk around the community. Oh, but how wonderful I had felt, and how wonderful I still do feel! Adventure and uncertainty were in the air today! I went for a spin, not bothering to tell the children I had gone out.

I parked at a dead end I had many moons ago frequented daily on my walks to and from school. Oh the familiar sights and smells! The dead end opened into a field now a state park and the creek; oh the creek! It was the same cutesy little creek babbling just as I had remembered it had. They had put a fence up to serve as a divide between creek and path. There was some garbage in the brush in and around the water: beer and soda bottles mostly. Maybe the kids were hanging out. Maybe they were trying to clean up the place. Oh, but it was still my creek!

Oh, to walk along the same path with such vigor as I had some sixty some odd years before! To know that not so much had changed, that I hadn’t so much changed, that walking in this same place as I had, way back when, still offered to me nearly identical surroundings, and thus gave me comparable joy to that which I so vividly remember feeling long ago. My word, what a deliciously uncanny feeling!

Oh, and there was Robert! Sweet, handsome Robert. To see him riding his bike without a care, wearing his debonair grey flannel suit and looking as young and as handsome as ever. Oh, what a marvelous sight to behold! To cross eyes as we passed one another, again—he looking so innocent, me feeling anew—so very alive and reborn. Oh, what a feeling!

Why he had chosen not to speak to me on this day, though I do recall him giving me a look of distinct recognition, neither mattered to nor concerned me. Just to have the opportunity to live out again the little joys of my yesterday, those taken for granted, experiences never fully realized until years afterward—oh what a treat!

Had Robert ever really been one to act shyly though? He was never one to not say hello. He loved me from the moment he set those big beautiful blue eyes of his on me, and had said on several occasions to me that he would sell his soul to the devil, but if for only to have a word or two with me.

But of course! Robert couldn’t have been the boy I saw today down by the creek. He had been dead now for ten years.  

            “That’s it?”

            “Ehhh, what?”

            “I know. I thought the same thing.”

            “Oh yea, so like, what’s the same thing?”

            “Why does the journal suddenly stop?”

            “Oh yea, right.”

            “I couldn’t figure it out either. I’ve reread this thing a hundred times. Why end a journal entry one could already dub as beyond peculiar, in such an abrupt, unusual manner?”

            “We are certain this is from some old woman’s personal journal right? That it’s not some form of abstract fiction?”


            “Perish Gerard. Let’s put it this way—if it is some new form of modernist fiction, I’m neither hip nor privy to the types of literary devices our ghost writer is using.”

            “Like, what is a ghostwriter anyway? I thought it was someone who took someone else’s ideas and worded them well and got paid for it or something.”

            “Dammit Gerard! He means ghost writer—two words. He means he has no idea who wrote this thing, and neither do I for that matter. I also haven’t a clue as to why he or she chose to end his or her journal this way, and I have no idea what to make of all the other whacked out shit going on. Feeling young? Seeing kids on bikes in vintage suits? I mean seriously, what the fuck!?”

            I had managed to go unnoticed for some time, my silence unquestioned by friends, which was good for me, as I was incapacitated, the mind soaked in booze, my speech bound to sound drawl. I must say though, the journal did captivate me, was to me uncanny, and did lead me to places here on earth and to those imaginative parts of the brain I had prior to this night regarded as long since deactivated. I felt the handwriting of the original journal entry come back into focus, however my wet brain, unable to mentally zoom in on the date before noticed at the upper right hand corner of the original’s body, instead searched for and strung together words in the phrase of a question.

            “May I see the original?”

            My friend went into his pocket, pulling out the document and forking it over, it now becoming my job to unfold and decode the nature and message of our mystery ghost writer.

            “I know this handwriting. I can feel it in my blood, this knowing. It’s dated Thursday, March 8, 2012. You were at the library yesterday?”


            “So the journal was presumably written on the same day you were there, which was in fact the same day you found this sheet of paper—yesterday, correct?”


            The words that came to mind thereafter were to the brain shuffled and presented in question form, and yet, upon the mouth choosing to open for communicative purpose, the quivering vocal chords, much to my bewilderment, now presented those very same words as an undeniable statement of truth. 

            “My grandma wrote this journal.”—brows furrowing, expressions of the room changing, as I continued.  “We recently discovered she kept one for the better part of her life, all the while without us knowing it. She passed away last Friday and was laid down to rest on Monday, god rest her beautiful soul. You were all at the wake last Saturday, remember?”

            “Ohhhh yea.”

            “But if she had already passed prior to the letter having been written…”

            “I know.”

            “And the library—who brought the letter over to the library?”

            “No one, I mean well, she—my grandma did. She was writing it there. She always went to the library—we thought, to read—but clearly it was also a place that she went to do her daily journal writing.”

            “No one was in the room with me when I was there.”

            “Okay, assuming all of this were possible—your sweet, little Grandma having written a journal postmortem—what about the ending? Why does it suddenly end like that?”

             “Ehhh, well maybe she didn’t know she was dead yet.”

            My brain to this day still has trouble with the full scope of implication necessitating from Gerard’s statement of profundity.

            If the story here ends once the author knows she is no longer living, once she understands she can no longer be, here—I’m left to consider the ones like Robert, those that never got it—and wonder, will they ever?

            As I reflect, I choose now to think of my grandma in this way, as young and innocent and happy and free from all the pains and loneliness that come with old age; in a world not found here on earth, in a place that offers to her the familiarity and joys of her youth, in a sphere that soothes the soul, in a land where the uncanny are wholly pleasant.

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