Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shadows of Forgotten Youth (a short story, revised, 2-2011)

Shadows of Forgotten Youth

In 1981, when Jerzy Scott Penn. was thirty-four years old, he was two years away from becoming sober, the Holy Spirit would descend upon him like a bolt of lightening, and he’d never drink again. Yet, at the start of this story he has not yet gone through this sobriety process, he is in a semiconscious state. As you first witness him, he is thinking, pondering about his life in general, he’s actually drifts off, he does this frequently, he thinks he can indeed go without drinking, although it is a slightly madding thought, and he feels shameful for not trying, but his is used to his world being a foggy one, and he is aware of it, and he is getting tired of it.
He is happy to most people he meets on the surface, but inside of him he is inertly mad, feels dirty: this feeling varies of course, he thinks himself rather exceptional of a person at times as well; yet unsophisticated (which he is not), hard to adjust to his environment, and he feels he has more goals yet to fulfill, but death is better than living an unhealthy life, is slowly eating at him—a life going back and forth to the bar each night—‘What a life,’ he hollers, every time he walks out of a bar now.
He lives in an unhealthy state all the time, hard for him to be cheerful, pleasant, although most of the time he makes himself be; and he is attractive to women, always has been, in particular one at the moment. He thinks he can somehow accomplished something big, yet his options seem to be diminishing as time passes on—youth is passing him by, and his drinking is increases. He sees heaven as a way home (if indeed there is a heaven, and he is not sure, not in 1981, anyhow, and thinks: ‘Do drunks go to heaven?’ a silly question, but he has many silly questions these days, plus, he is unsure, perhaps that might be the unpardonable sin he figures, yet he feels it is not); yes, heaven would give him immortality and a safe distance from the bottle; and death is always around the corner, early death, premature death for drunks, so he has heard—lurking like a spider to a fly, in a cast-iron web, in a corner of his mind. But being opinionated, and still functioning pretty well, he might have a chance if he can change, if only he could get the courage to change, to confront his alcoholism, where most of his demons come from.
Jerzy Scott Penn left his home at an early age, from St. Paul, Minnesota and had spent eleven years in the Army. He now came home from war a Staff Sergeant (a decorated, Vietnam War Veteran). And in the years to come, five-years to be exact, he’ll 1.3 million dollars, from real-estate transitions. He had created some ill will from his family members, neighbors, inheriting the title: “The Landlord King.”
This occupied his energies for a while, and during this time, he had become sober, yet he had two heart attack, two strokes, and acquired a neurological disease, then determined to set apart the remainder of his life to the honorable rejuvenation of the world’s poetry, among other writings; trying to be like all the great poets before him, or perhaps he might stand, be able to stand in one of the corns of such poets like: Ezra Pound, Sylvia Plath, George Sterling, maybe even Caral Sandburg, or Juan Parra del Riego, perchance, Robert Bly; a poet since twelve years old.
He refined himself, no liquor, mostly literature; body building, Sunday walks in the park, medicines, patience, rest. From a sofa chair he read hundreds of books , theories, concepts, he rid himself of his hypothetical enemy, ignorance, he become a scholar, with degrees and all such fine things. A campaign, that took him around the world several times, through the following fifteen years, during which he displayed himself infinitesimally, equal to any scholar alive. The years went by, in which this story opens and finds him tiresome somewhere beyond the winter of his life; he has grown halfhearted; his thoughts run a great deal on his past war experiences, his illness, his wives and children who have left him. It’s not a sad story for him; it’s just one of many stories, his story.
Early in his life Jerzy, had married a woman several years younger than he, who brought him into the circles he now so admires (he had married in 1972, after returning home from the Vietnam War, and had a three children), and enjoys, an impeccable entrée of scholars.
His ex wife, had borne him all three, Tadzio, Agnieszka, and Jerzy Jr., after the magnificence of this performance, she had left him, because of his looming illnesses. Jerzy Jr., became a great soldier in his own right, in the United States Army, a Captain, and a connoisseur of good form in all military duties, a good example for others. Tadzio, went on to get his Ph.D., but didn’t do much with it. Agnieszka, she married a lazy bum, and there’s not much to be said about that.
Jerzy Jr. had written his memoirs under the title of one of the poems by Robert Frost: “The Road Less Traveled.” It was about the war he had been in, the war in Bosnia [1997]. On the gossip of its arrangement this work was quickly bid for among publishers, it did obtain a private printing, but only one, it was not powerful enough that the public demanded a second printing.
Young Jerzy had one picture of his father, he was on a teeter-totter, and his father was behind him, they were in a park together. It was such a common picture, and the only one he kept in his house, now living in Cincinnati, Ohio, that it was as if, a part of the furniture. It showed—in the background—a park, they had lived across the street in a second floor apartment, from that park, in the city called Dieburg, West Germany, in the early 1970s, where the boy’s father was stationed not far from the city proper. You could see in the picture, the boy’s long blond wavy hair, dressed in a blue jean jacket.
His memories of Dieburg, thin as they were, were unformulated but pleasing. He was so very young, but he remembered guests coming to the apartment, meeting his father at a guesthouse with him tagging along, his friends holding him up high in the air in the bars, his father showing him and his brother off, twins, the girl was not born yet; breathlessly his father on the edge incase someone dropped him; occasionally making whispers to his wife, and friends to be more careful with them, and he’d sing his songs on the guitar, and the strange dialect of the Germans would try to copy the father.
He remembered some of these things, and his father told him of these things, and he thought then, they were part of his memory.
It was years later, after Jerzy Jr. had grown up, when he was about ready to go into the Army himself, he moved in with his father, just his father. He was continually going out at night, on his drinking trips. It wasn’t like the trip he once took with his father, a fishing trip up to Gull Lake, and there in the cabin by the lake he and his father swatted mosquitoes half the night, laughed the other half, and broke into the next vacant cabin next to them, so they could get a good night’s sleep; went fishing in the morning.
And so, life was a struggle against youth for all three children, perhaps similar to his, and then both boys made a decision, to go into the Military, impressionable months and years lied ahead, he left his father’s house, and faded off into the imperceptible Army life, while Tadzio went into the Marines. It was August, 1991, when both boys were nineteen-years old, this took place. It was for Jerzy Jr., a concession to his boring life, accommodating his hyperactivity, his lack of money, and refinancing perhaps his nightlife, body building. He told his father in a letter, “It has nothing to do with us, as far as me going into the Army, it is time for me to consider a more adventurous life, so please do not take this in any other way.” Hence, he didn’t want to hurt his father, but he was nearly exhaustive with his bland life. His father understood, it had bestowed patient frowns, interrupted his play, devoured his months, when he went in the Army, and untiringly, it gave him a variety of splendor; thus, it would do the lad some good, as it had done for him.
As a youth before his teens Jerzy and Tadzio had both lived almost totally within themselves, two inarticulate boys it seemed, always thinking; seldom cross with anyone, two all-American boys you could say. Polite, spirit filled; and how did they turn out years later? They grew a propensity for attacking their father (and mother), for eliciting attacks, there was a maladaptive side to them, even some predatory aggression with the daughter towards the father. Such was the primate family that lived in the trees. And who should we blame, perhaps, Darwin—too much inbreeding.

Written: 6/7/06 (reedited, revised, 2-2011)
No: 326 (Original name changed, was “And then Came August,” after a
1980 poem, the author wrote with the same name for the book: “The Other Door…”)