Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Bitter Herb (A Novelette)

Dr. Dennis L. Siluk’s short story war writings on: World War I and World War II, were part of, the: Gifted Learning Links Program Course ((fall, 2010: an eighteen-week course study, of ‘man against man’) (activities & reading assignments)): “100 Years of Conflict in Literature & Popular Culture” (Center for Talent Development), given by: Professor and Journalist, Joy Nehr, MS, Ed.

A Bitter Herb
(A Novelette)

by Dennis L. Siluk, Dr. h.c.

  International Latin Poet Laureate, and Poet Laureate in Peru
(Recipient of the Gran Cross of San Jeronimo)

With Illustrations by the Author

A Bitter Herb
(A Novelette)

Copyright © March, 2015 by Dennis L. Siluk, Dr. h.c


A Bitter Herb

Prologue: the Protagonist (s)

Chapter One: The Guesthouse (Marge) I

Chapter Two:  The Hotel

Chapter Three: The Apartment

Chapter Four: Old Man Beck

Chapter Five: The Bus

Chapter Six: Marge (Guesthouse II)

Concluding short Chapters: 

Lee’s Last Glance
JL’s Confirmation
The Mantaro Valley


The Protagonists

The Story Teller’s Impression

I have two traits to offer to this story: truthfulness and conscientiousness—; the inconspicuous, and the profound will surface, those things unforeseen, by themselves. Some may appear strange, but are nothing but truth, as true as Lee sees it, that is. The protagonists might seem to have a schizoid personality, it is because as you read the story, you may sense they have this overbearing anguish that appears in the form of suffering; if indeed it can be called that: we can use hurt and anger, anger preceding hurt. Also there is a touch of neo-surrealism in the images produced throughout the story; bizarre as they may seem, dreams and the subconscious mind are helping this story along. Perhaps what one may see is one protagonist has freed himself of the other, and the other is trying to free himself of the other, hopefully that will make better sense as you read the story, and just who is the protagonist? Perhaps we have two. The storyteller does not hold back nor does he bury, what has been concealed, becomes unconcealed.
       As you will see the smallest omission in Lee’s life, with his son-in-law, Jay, gives rise to the gravest suspicion, so it might be conjured: but once thought-out, ‘Why?’
       The question may surface also—as I’m sure it has in many real life families, which family is innocent, there resides this suspicious circumstance, because one cannot investigate the other, even though you have become versed in nearly all affairs, and more so by the agitation caused by Jay, and Lee’s reflections.
       But all seems possible even without a devil’s advocate, and at times Lee tries to play that very part too. But he doesn’t make that mutter loud enough to be taken seriously; perhaps it is his prerogative, since it is his story, his thoughts, his journey, don’t we all generalize, delete, and distort, when it comes to our point of view?
       There is a small discourtesy for the reader although, which can plausible be explained away—for somehow the story is one sided between Lee and Jay, and this can hardly be dismissed. But must be here and now settled on the spot: ‘Jay’ is dead. He has died twenty-six days ago, prior to Lee’s arriving back into his hometown.  Neither does the story allow for tears and entreaties, for it is Lee’s story, and his alone, and if there surfaces an issue, then again, it is his. But there does reside a huge mound of bewilderment to thumb through.

       In the story, it remains for Lee: why couldn’t, or wouldn’t Jay and his wife after nine-years without a word, trace back to the original causes of their family detachment. Perhaps this also can be said for Lee’s two sons. And thus, Jay dies without a word. It was as if once Jay, backed away, and once doing, he stayed standing stone-still as if obeying some secret injunction in his mind leveled on him, self-imposed, way back when, and he therefore leveled that onto his wife’s and kid’s (Lee’s grandkids), minds, after his death! And should this so called credo be broken, he would have lost something he worked hard to keep, and thus, could lose it, right to the bitter-sweet end.
       The author ends the story with a subconscious dream-like touch, as if atoning for some secret guilt, whose nature he himself is ignorant of. 

A Bitter Herb
(9-years later) Part II (sequel)

Old Man Lee, back on home ground!


The Guesthouse
(Meeting Marge)  

The Guesthouse, where Lee and Marge would Meet

      “Inventions of one’s fancy, simply to prevent himself from being deceived, thus he does a new shifting of data that is necessary, and before it is ended, the culprit and before his prey has thought out something new he’s won the argument. He’s very versatile no doubt, it goes you know with the stupidity. This is just one peculiar characteristic of his way of thinking and doing things. And above all he is very sensitive as well. In a flash of a decision, he comes out with some unexpected gesture, a decision that for him settles the matter, right or wrong and in most cases unjustly and by far nearly always randomly.  It is as if his mind was or is unable to—any longer that is—unable to bear the stress and strain. A brain blizzard caused by some grievance, in most cases of little concern for most folk. And he takes only into consideration, his family and his father and his father’s relatives, and hits upon whatever decision transverses his mind first. Of course it was more often than not, that he was provoked certainly in many cases by his wife, or extended family member like his father, perhaps his father who hit upon some trivial notion, with no solution or decision beforehand, like to like. But it, in any case, was discovered by me, no, by us: my wife and my mother to a certain degree, my mother.   —I can tell you right here and now, and have it supported by one of his friends who befriended me, told me, on what flimsy and envious grounds he made his cases against me. Of course all this has been discovered, thought-out, throughout a number of years by him. And now we will never learn his mindset, and perhaps it would scarcely interest me anyhow, or anybody anymore, anyhow, being dead going on twenty-six days.
       “It is of no use learning too late. His enmity toward me and my mother and my sons were things decided long ago, a decade and a half ago, if not longer, they were married twenty-one years, Jay and JL. And time has passed and in the meantime we all have went our own ways. While he, until the day he died, worked in the same hatred enclosure he built himself; worked until he was exhausted with the abhorrence he had for us. So yes, I stepped back, nine years ago, it would have plagued me to stay, there was no possibility of molding our lives together: nonetheless, the fact is: I had sent messages and letters and made phone calls to my daughter without having received a reply, never a reply, up to the day I left the city, the state, the country, even the continent. What good would a new enquiry do? So for me the whole business was cleared up, until now.
        “Might I add, we were to him, made by him to reflect through his family, very unimportant, —you might even conclude the least important among the unimportant? So when I left I could breathe freely again.  Fancy for him, for now even he could breathe freer I would presume, with me out of the way.
       My mother grumbled now and then, not knowing their reason for the alienation from us, which was seemingly ridiculous, and not knowing, nor would they would not give a reason for their antisocial behavior; can you imagine my dismay at this unfortunate kind of abnormal behavior. Yes a great deal of time has passed by—and here I appear again and does the whole thing start all over again? You do understand I myself am firmly resolved. So far as I’m concerned, firmly resolved, meaning, I’m not about to let that happen again, if indeed fences can be repaired—since he is no more, he is gone, and I remain for the time being, let’s mend fences.”
       “Of course,” said Marge, “but I would think better still that a terrible abuse of some kind of friction Jay has put into his two boys and your daughter is still being carried on, perhaps imprinted in their memories, and now part of their character, if not oddity? Know how to protect yourself Lee, is all I can say. How will you go about it?”
       “For now let it remain a secret, I’m still kind of processing this tight spot, lest you get a wild tongue and can’t resist like most women, and go to gossip, for it’s not really clear, you know, I could change my mind.”
       “I don’t wish to bother you on the subject only that you have—I would I say, a friend in me, for are we not, High School Alumni?  And to some extent friends? Friendly to the extent of my listening powers, and nonjudgmental mawkishness!”
       They both laughed a sigh of relief, things were getting intense.  Marge sat back now in her chair, tired: for listening takes a lot of energy, it drains the soul.
       As she sat nearer the edge of the table leaning an elbow on its ridge, in the overhead the light cast down into a kind of bright liberation to her austere lines and her softness and age showed in her face. Said Marge—now more comfortable—in a low tone to Lee, “It doesn’t surprise me in the least, generally speaking a lot of young men and women nowadays break with their family ties, although for the parents, it’s taken seriously, quite the opposite for the new generation of course, and of course their generation with be: ‘monkey see monkey do.’ And they’ll ask ‘why?’ And they’ll manufacture some dumb reason.”
       “Perhaps, I’m old fashioned and I’m misconstruing the meaning of family loyalty or ties, but it seems to be one sided in my case, and it is all on his family side doing the grinning. On the other hand, Jay has—I do believe A.D.H.D., to go along with antisocial behavior, his hyperactivity perhaps increased his odds for an early death, he was only forty-one.”
       “Precisely,” said Marge, “it is the kind of significance that you attach to it. If it’s a big deal mentally, it is also a big strain mentally. If you make little of it, it is of little significance; but I predict mending fences will be a little difficult now, contrary to what I presuppose you are thinking. As Robert Frost has inferred in his poem ‘The Mending Wall’: why do we need fences? We don’t but people build them all the same, out of fear, anguish, revenge, to keep you at a distance, I suppose there are many reasons.”
       “Right,” commented Lee, “but to get an answer in any form from my grandchildren and daughter is now merely a practical joke, yet if I don’t try, I’ll have to live with some secret sorrow for not trying, even with JL’s rancor against me. And as you have mentioned, Jay has left walls, and that is very understandable too, for who would take the responsibility of attempting, or interrupting, or breaking down those walls he built  to keep his family in and our family out, for him this was extremely important work he had done and transferred to his wife and sons before he died, and there is no reason to think otherwise, otherwise I would have receive notification of his death with an apology for past wrongs; furthermore, this is proof, he wanted his family to maintain the distance he created, to maintain those    invisible walls! If I could contact my daughter, say by accident by way of a phone call, it would be in a blue moon, she’d answer and most likely she’d hang-up the telephone before the second word was complete, knowing it’s my voice.”
       “I didn’t conceive it was quite like that,” replied Marge. “I of course couldn’t know all those peculiarities.”
       “You see,” said Lee holding firmly, “all this animosity has really no significance but when you attach it to Jay it gains official significance, to them grown up boys and his widow—for  him they’ll go astray.”
       “So,” said Marge, “your remaining conclusion is that everything is uncertain with your family and most likely the situation is insoluble and if you approach them you’ll simply be thrown aside?”
       “I suppose nothing keeps me here, and the risk of being thrown out is based on sensitivity by all appearances! On the other hand,  I’ll enumerate for your benefit a few things that are keeping me here besides seeing my daughter: I have traveled six-thousand miles, a long journey, with the well-guarded hopes on seeing old friends, like you, my brother, an interview on my new book by a cultural magazine, a lecture I am supposed to give, or said I’d give, and a trip down south—which I think is now out of the question, because of time, plus a class reunion, and last but not least, my daughter and perhaps sons, but I find myself entangled with my daughter only, and may cut everything quite short, if not out!”
       “So there is some hope to interrogate with your unwilling family members?”
       “I don’t think I said that. No, absolutely not, I don’t want favors, I just want respect due. I mean it doesn’t matter, but that second part matters.”

The Attack

The Guesthouse was really a small inn which both Marge and Lee knew was very private, which was merely a last little eating-house for those who liked German food, music and beer, and so very seldom used by the general public, and way, out of the way,  in the woods. On the windowsills within the inn were German mugs, all curiously designed, encircling the two big rooms?
       “Now Marge,” said Lee, “let me update you in how this separation took place between, Jay, and his wife and me: for a sharp moment I left my mouth open by the surprised attack of Jay’s one afternoon. In short, I had not expected it, it was the one thing unneedful.
       “My wife was still standing by the wall behind me, JL to the far corner wall on my left, Jay had grabbed me, put me into a bear-hug and was quick to take to pressing his arms inward around my complete body, my arms folded inside his attack, trying to break my ribs— he bradded his finger together, into a strong grip.  I said: ‘What are you doing to me?’ Nothing easier than to make a mistake yet he continued. Then grabbing Jay’s shoulder my wife jumped on his back, but she was like only a wet mosquito, I doubt Jay even felt her.  JL looked as if ‘Why bother’, and I knew then of course, they were both just like that.  Anyhow, she finally told Jay to stop, even trying to pry, wedge herself in, and separate his arms from around me. Luckily no damage had been done.
       “I see now, that I knew them so little, this evidently was all over me having him fix the kitchen floor in the apartment next to mine, which I rented out, in which he did a sloppy job, but got paid for. It needed to be corrected, which he grumbled about and took as an insult. Anyone could see it was not properly spaced, and placed.
       “You see Marge, I didn’t try to protect myself, or combat Jay,  not that I couldn’t, I have fought big men before, but my mind and eyes shifted over to JL in disbelief of what was taking place, as if to say: ‘How could you two hurt me so,’ for indirectly she provoked it, for it was her who I had asked to have Jay come back to fix the tiles he so unprofessionally positioned while the glue under them was still setting: perhaps saying to Jay, ‘My dad is really upset you did a bad job on those tiles you better get over there,’ and Jay stomping up the stairs, as he did, to show his wife he was not going to take any guff from me. And I did not insist on spoiling his brief moment of ‘show and tell’ for it was a great discovery after all, it was in my house, my room, this was the kind of nature his nature was no longer hidden, I exposed it, and it was her nature too, and it wasn’t friendly towards me, then it mustn’t be anything else towards me. This told me how they would be later on. 
       “At that time I had only suspicions of their electric animosity towards me. ‘Aha’, I said.  On the stairway on Jays leaving the house he turnabout said, ‘You’ll never see your grandchildren again’ he said diabolically.  But he still wanted to use our washing machine in our basement. How can you beat that?  ‘What am I do?’ I asked my wife, ‘Call the police for assault?’ but that wouldn’t be good for the kids, had he not had any children I would have.  So my wife decided to take the keys away from Jay, saying: he could use the machine, but didn’t trust him to have the keys anymore, he would have to come to her to ask, and that was just too belittle for him to take, I guess. She was afraid he’d cause more trouble. Although that was just a secondary fear, the real fear was what might cause me to have another heart attack. And that fear doesn’t go away.”
       “Did he give you a reason why?” asked Marge, faintly. 
       “Such behavior is provoked, it is hither and thither in one’s dubious and frail mind, he said as if he was surprised himself, ‘When you put your hand on my shoulder,’ which I did, ‘I thought it was an attack on me’ but even that is too much to believe.  It was a mere gesture of friendship because his anger, I had noticed, was escalating.
       “All the same, I asked him to leave and I went quietly for a walk, I felt so forlorn and then back upstairs to my apartment, I went, to take a nap.”

       “Should I ask JL what objectionable things she finds in me, and what improvements I should make to fix those so called objectionable behaviors, or things, what would she say? My best guess would be she has no interest in the matter, like Jay, but then why her perpetual resentment? Whatever the case may be, the question would never get the chance to be asked, I do believe. Contrary to Jay and JL, no one else finds me infinitely objectionable. And I have been under many a magnifying glass. I am not so all together, but I am not so all not together. The only ones she and her husband can convince are of their own clan.
       It did not take Marge long to establish the truth of the matter, and as a result, her eyes broadened, she let out a toot, kind of a sharp toot, and yelled, “Just look at this, poor man, is he done for?” Lee realized the nature of the expression, a kind of announcement that, he must overcome the shock of this flat and dry affair as could only now be seen by her light investigation, and throwing a shawl over her shoulders, said: “Perhaps Jay and JL have learned the art of blaming others to avoid being blamed, themselves! To be frank, I am pleased with my present self, and have been for thirty-some odd years, and I have honestly been trying to better myself, year by year. I cannot help being me, nor naturally will we ever come to terms on that. But she and Jay are allowed to be whomever they are, can they not do likewise? Do they not know the eyes of heaven are upon us?”
       There were several others sitting about, it was late, one fellow was pressed against another as if a tinge too limber and too drunk, and another had fallen to sleep, playing chess, and his opponent, if indeed he had one, was gone.  Lee got up, stretched his arms, back and legs. “I’ll take my leave,” he said slowly.
       “Hmm,” said Marge, “his death seems to be like a bitter herb for you!” as Lee turned away heading towards the door, someone had left it ajar a moment before allowing the cool September breeze to rush in, refreshing the large room. The draught of cool air woke everyone up, as it had perhaps, allowed Lee to bring his discussion to finality:  Lee turned about to face Marge once more having heard her last comment, gave her a slight bow, —her face torn between pity for her friend, and a beseeching helpless glance which she cast to the side for his daughter, hoping his resolve to come sooner than later, thus, not having it  stretched out; then Lee walked deep into the night, with its more chipper but shivering cold air (deep in thought, with gesticulating hands, talking to himself in a monologue form):

Lee, leaving the Guesthouse in thought

       “They do gossip, but it is all trivial and personal matters, such matters the world takes no interest in. Perhaps had I not left nine-years ago, something might have gotten developed between us, surely it can’t be developed six-thousand miles separated, but it had something to do with sanity. So the question arises, what needs, or needed to be fixed, let’s say attitude, never got fixed, and because of the separation may never get fixed: besides attitude, formal reasoning has to be changed.  One must remember, a person cannot endlessly endure being a continual target, which is why I left. One grows uneasy, he starts to flinch from impending crisis’, and more so with increasing age.  Perhaps Jay learned that when his child got ill, and he died right there in the hospital nearby his child (the child lives and he dies, is that not, mindboggling). One can only take so much grief. And this, is this not more so with the increasing of age.  Those who have survived in old age are extravagances, why have we made it so far? Thus we are under scrutiny, much more than the young. And perhaps a little jealousy for those of us who have achieved!”  
       Then Lee got onto another thought: Jay lived and moved in and moved about within a certain space, one he could control, and for him that little space was his center, and that alone was the center he lived in. Whereas, he, Lee had traveled the world, and lived in Asia, Europe, and in Alabama, and Erie, and San Francisco: thus, he left his center and discovered other things. So he always had new points of view, whereas, Jay, had but one point of view. And it is from that edge, —moving away from the center—we begin to discover other things. We see that reality is different. Hence, it is to see one thing from the center of one’s little space, and another from the edge of the highest mountain in the world, wherefore, one can see much more. This is the reality of people in general, thought Lee, and of Jay in particular. This has to do with Jay’s reality of thought. Well-developed thought, of which Jay was outside of. His mind was not able to deal with any kind of existence outside of that center of space he lived in.


The Hotel

Jay in the mind of Lee
Still bugging him…

As Lee walked back to his hotel room he got thinking: if it hadn’t been for him, Jay wouldn’t have been allowed at sixteen-years old to date his daughter, and that would have made his daughter unhappy, a shy girl as she was, and she would never have ventured to speak to him beyond that day, and had it not been for him they would never have been allowed to marry at such a young age. And now this marriage had lasted twenty-one years. What then would life have had to offer her? And therefore would never have had her two boys. Now in all this there’s enough of me to have received some kindness, so it would seem.
       But that’s not all. If Jays jealousy and envy and hate hadn’t gotten in his way, perhaps the root of his illness, for at one time he had begged him to take him and his family out of a certain eastside neighborhood and apartment he was living in, his landlord was taking advantage of his cerebral, and emotional disability, and he did, and he bought for them a four apartment complex. But besides that I imagine he had hoped his children would show more of a higher opinion of him, I mean they took, and never gave! Now a grandparent to their kids—: but not allowed to see them—in all earnest, why? Thought Lee.
       “Yes, of course” replied Lee in thought: I caused them some kind of vexation, but to keep utterly silent about something drives a person to believe there is  more symptoms of illness than I’ve thought, especially for Jay, especially with such ungallant mannerisms, who pretends to be the big and fare man of the house. He is more like an overgrown mouse!”

Lee’s imaginative  neo-surrealism of Jay and JL together
(Like to like) in the mind and soul, surely not is size!

       Of course, Jay and JL were like two peas in a pod (in thought that is), like two sparrows counting on God, and Jay never believed in God, until two-days before his death, so his youngest boy volunteered. Above everything, the only thing that he succeeded in was their marriage. Better than Lee’s two boys who were on second and third marriages. In that sense, the least became the most profitable, but not without its makeshift dilemmas.
       Happier in Jay’s case does not mean, he provided a byproduct, he wanted something, he wanted to receive, but was unwilling to give to his father-in-law, abuse yes, and so is it not true, the giver is the happier? Of course, because giving is the byproduct which is happiness, not receiving, that is something else, of another sort. Furthermore, he wasn’t independent, industrious, or manly, for some men keepsakes, but for Jay I don’t think so. The blessing was that Jay found Lee’s daughter, and they were like to like, and he recognized this. His daughter told him once, “He’ll never make anything of himself, I want to come back and live with you!” And Lee said, “No, you’re going to have his child soon, and if it doesn’t work out, then okay, but you got to try to make it work out, it’s experimental at first.” And she adhered to his wishes, and made the best of it.
       Now at the hotel, Lee found the dining room full, except for one table in the corner empty. He rushed to secure his seat, at once was seated, a dark-eyed waitress took his order, she was singing in a soft tone of an old tune, it sounded like an old Bobby Vee tune! Something about a rubber ball.

       The behavior Lee had to put up with, nine-years previous when he felt Jay had the upper hand using his daughter and grandchildren, as if in blackmail, he did not intend to put up with now, if he was to meet his daughter, and try to set things right.
       “Should she ask the reason for my visit,” Lee asked himself, “when Jay was alive she was discourteous to me, it was at first his black nature that provoked it, and she was compliant with his nature, as she had a passive character it was easy for him to manipulate her, then her good nature turned into as calculated as his bad nature.”
       If anything, Lee was feeling he needed to give her his opinion, but why he wasn’t sure of. This why, still somewhat astonished him.
       Lee was now pondering in thought, as his bacon and eggs came, and coffee, from that black-eyed beauty, pondering the self-importance Jay placed upon himself, having power to withdraw his right to see his grandchildren over a misunderstanding, no, no, over a reaction of his, to hurt him, and then to use that situation to actually alienate him from his children, Lee’s grandchildren, and his daughter, why, why? That was still to be thought-out.  But nonetheless, to create the chaos, then solve the chaos looking to the onlookers, as having a tranquil triumph, now who’s the hero?
       Perhaps now with Jay’s death, Lee was thinking about it carelessly; he had never put so much thought into it before.
       “If I was to put,” he got thinking, “Jay’s view into action,” looking at those two yellow egg-eyes staring up at him—: “Jay relentlessly went forward in life without understanding the results of his actions, and his wife’s actions which he manifested in her, nor did he see the world outside of his little world.”
       Lee was looking, really looking at a man’s humanity ignoring the slightest glimpse of enlightenment. He didn’t fault Jay for his ignorance, but for his evil.
       “Is your eggs as you like them,” said the pretty petite, dark-eyed waitress.
       “Fine,” said Lee.
       “I see you staring at them, I guessed you might have found them not to your liking!”
       “No, they’re fine,” said Lee.  She was young, as young as his daughter was when she got married, she reminded him of her, although JL had blond hair and bright blue eyes.
       “Well then, can I get you anything else, sir?”
       “Perhaps,” said Lee, “but not quite now.” And she left.
       He needed time to give vent to his resentment, or was it hidden anger, frozen anger, and at this very moment, irritation for not knowing why, the whys of this long charade: why Jay and JL were so very ill-pleased with him, even now that he had passed on. Lee wanted to know why he still annoy her. He tried to cut into the smallest of pieces—inside his brain—the incompatible natures they appeared to have. He scrapped it all into a pile, separating each peace, assessed every scrap, what was it?  
       What he didn’t ask was why now the obsession, was it possible the death of Jay contributed to his stress, and all this, whatever this was—searching or seeking or trying to put a closure to this passionate charade, this imminence of a crisis between them, that Jay himself had created, with his endless up-welling of youthful energy, that went from his twenties to his forties! Was that what this was all about! And was it coming to a closing?  “Who’s to say,” thought Lee. But surely his daughter would find a new lover, sooner or later, and would this simply—if put back together— ricochet back?

       From Lee’s standpoint this was really considered a small affair, but Jay and JL suck to it so long it became quite heavy, not light as it was when a simple argument took place, a decade before.  Whereupon, Lee had after several tries to try to put it back together, come to the conclusion, “I shall quietly continue to live my own life, untroubled by their world, despite all the outbursts of Mike, and by moving, who then can he blame for his degeneration of his hateful condition.”


The Apartment

 The Apartment Complex, Lee was to give to
Jay and JL

     Lee, having been back to his hometown now, less than a week, Jay’s face, his contours were already beginning to dissipate, dissolve into a mist, hidden somewhere in his memory, he would need a picture to update him. Thus he searched endlessly in those back chambers of his mind.
       As if out of interstellar space, out of some dark matter, he pulled out available some dark notion to go to his daughter’s apartment, yet at this point he had not the slightest sign of what he’d say, if indeed they would meet face to face. And once there he stood quietly a distance away, to contemplate his thoughts, to arrange them, if truly there was any order. His mind probed all the movements in and around the property, to which there were none. There leaning against a wooden telephone pole, he got lost in his contemplations, oblivious to the old couple that used to live next door to him, who were for the most part, observing him: the Beck’s, Rita and her husband, Raymond. And there he stood steadfast in his stance calm as a Lamb of God, concentrated on the complex his daughter lived in, a four apartment composite. He stood until twilight when everything became less, and then twilight feel deep into the dark.

       Lee didn’t’ want to admit what he didn’t want to admit, and in doing so, how could he notice that there was anything to admit. The point being, he was, had been, entirely out of his daughter’s mind,  was out of his daughter’s thoughts, so it would seem, had it been to the contrary, she would have come out of her apartment and greeted him. So was this to be the end of his story?
       His daughter was looking out a peep-hole through the curtains all this time. She had no interest in seeing him, actually she was laughing triumphantly, with her two boys, although they were not laughing because they didn’t know what she was laughing about, and she had put her finger to her lips, without a word, so hastily  one finger slipped into her nose, and indicated by her gestures, that it hurt, they couldn’t help but laugh,  but they knew their grandfather was standing out in the cold, in the September chill, and she was acting as if she was keeping some long hidden secret and understanding with her deceased husband. Although she didn’t say anything to this cause and effect. She didn’t have to it swerved all around her face.
       “What do you mean?” said the elder of the two boys, in a near whisper.
       Then JL taken somewhat aback, gave a feeble smile, while the two boys simply kept rubbing their heads, looking at each other, in gleeful expectation of the silly predicament they were bound. Now JL nodded briefly once or twice with meaning eyes, as she heard the footsteps of her father pacing.

       Thought Lee: Her ostensible dissatisfaction with me standing here and pacing and doing nothing about his vacancy, was no more than showing off to her kids, like she did with Jay, but he knew she had, at forty-years old, had a childish mind, like her husband. Oh Yes, for Lee, all this was a difficult task. So why did he have to pursue it, that ‘why’ kept coming up time and again? He didn’t know why, not yet anyhow.
       JL now had to lower her eyes from the peep-hole, so greedily had she been staring at him, looking at her boys staring, looking. Lee did not give her fright, she thought only:
       “What do you want here really?”
       But how that could be answered, him standing outside, and she inside with her children.
       “Did Dad forget something nine years ago?” she deliberated in a mere murmur, not even loud enough for her boys of eighteen and twenty-years of age, to distinguish.
       “Perhaps he forgot a picture,” she again murmured in a low voice, and quickly looked in the mirror to see if her dyed black hair was all in place. Her father’s wife had black hair. Then she took a look how she was dressed, she was completely dressed as if she had not been to bed, and to be confirmed to by the paleness of her face, perhaps from the long strenuous days preceding her husband’s death, and her two-month old child being hospitalized.

       Lee had now walked up to the fence that surrounded the house, the complex appeared even stiller close up, that from a distance. A less impressive appearance.
       JL lived on the ground floor, and there was two front entrances to the four apartment complex. The falling twilight had now completely fallen, total, – to where Lee had to guess at—rather than recognize—his next step, nobody was to be seen, and as for the apartment complex it was all dark, and the street arch-light was a distance away, looking cautiously, feeling here and there to make his next move.
       Old man Beck, across the street stood staring out his window in the dark, at Lee, following his every movement as if of a rat. From this, Lee remained completely detached. Matter of fact, he was too busy to have noticed what was behind him, he was becoming stone-chilled. He hadn’t eaten for several hours.
       For JL, this perpetual silence and tension had become a burden, she told her boys not to talk loud once again, and if not necessary, not at all. They didn’t even turn the television on.
       Would he knock on the door, once inside the hallway, he pondered, and he needed to slip inside lest he be frozen sooner than later, or become ill with pneumonia.  And so he took that leap up those few steps, and automatically the lights to the hallway went on, and the warmth was extraordinary, although he left the door to remain ajar a tinge, now completely surrounded by walls and steps and doors. The hallway stretched nearly the length of the apartment. Thus, there he stood as he stood outside, stupefied by the warmth, and trying to figure out what words would he say, if for certain he got the opportunity to say them to his grieving daughter, who didn’t look too grieving in her Internet pictures, but perhaps—so he pondered: that very well may be her way of dealing with pain and strain of the tragic event; moreover, it was part of her grieving process, it wouldn’t be considered uncommon, just a bit strange, Lee thought.
       Lee wished his daughter would open her door soon, and then he was happy she didn’t.  Always there came a thought, he’d rather not, after he thought it was what he wanted. There was a faint comfort that was fading due to the great disturbance her husband had caused nine-years back. After all, did it really matter?
       “In this bewildering world” he thought, “one has to decide what to believe and how to act on that,” and he felt he was doing just that (realizing what we choose to believe, doesn’t always come naturally to most of us. But rather by our nature…).
       “Wishes and desires,” clearly Lee alleged “does one really know what they are for! Can one not be happy in knowing in the knowledge that it is one’s daughter, and that—she is happy without you—should not this be enough?” Lee asked himself doubtfully? Was all this rigmarole being done out of perhaps a taste of curiosity (the notion to find out why, was like an invisible gas, such of the likes of carbon dioxide, slowly killing him). Why not leave well enough alone:  “Can it be,” Lee mumbled out loud, talking to himself reproachfully, adding: “We subconsciously cling to our intuitions, that which reaches our naïve beliefs.”

       It was on one hand, his brain was craving for understanding, and logically he felt he could be deceiving himself, but where do you draw the line?  Lee did understand also, logic to his rational brain, said: “No contact for nine years, and what does it mean, and the Internet makes it easier than ever for skeptics and doubters? And they never once responded to my call. But our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and that was why I am where I am, at this very moment.”  What Lee was really doing was giving himself a description of himself, while looking back at a gestating decade and a half of hate Jay had for him, with slow inevitability and his daughter tumbled into this ongoing overbearing pretense.

       Then suddenly footsteps could be heard louder than ever on those old wooden panels, the hallway became alive, and Lee quickly stepped outside onto the open porch, as not to be looked at as a snoop, or peeping-tom. The man from the upper apartment was tall and slim, with a ski jump nose, loud with his footsteps too, noisily hitting the railing as he stepped from one step onto another, then out of the doorway. He looked at Lee suspiciously with a nasty look. Thought Lee: he could not have behaved more foolishly. “I’m waiting for my daughter JL,” he said.
       “Sure you are,” said the young man as if disregarding his remarks as if to say by not saying anymore, but saying it nonetheless with his looks: how preposterous! Evidently presupposing there might be some truth to it, but truth be told, it was being told incompletely, and went about his way up the street, with an occasional turnabout, but never a complete U-turn.  For Lee it rather seemed unnatural, twisting that feeble thin frame of his, in a half rotating turn, especially under the first broadening of light, from the arc light at the street corner.  
       The real problem for Lee now was that he was startled because of the young man’s approach, perhaps he could have liked to have hidden, but where? Then again time did not all allow for such. And now the peace he had in waiting for his daughter to appear had gone, dissipated, faded into nothingness, interstellar space. Exactly, he couldn’t know of course how he would react, not exactly, thinking it might have been JL herself whom was coming, in which case this drama would have come to its conclusion. Yes, there was much food for thought.

       Now again all the lights in the apartment complex went out, as Lee stood there holding his wondering gaze. The young man now out of sight. Now he was back to being as free and calm as he had been before, and at liberty to wait as he desired; if no one dare drive him away, that is. But his daughter’s conviction was equally strong in waiting.
       To old man Beck, peeking out of his curtains across the street, there was nothing more senseless, perhaps hapless, than this freedom to play as adults ‘Hide and seek’: the waiting, the hiding, the violability.


Old Man Beck

Old Man Raymond and Rita Beck’s House

Lee tore himself free and went back to his hotel room—greatly disappointed. In the dining room he fetched a strong dark cup of Sumatra coffee, looked about musing. It was as if JL had said everything necessary by saying nothing. Being indifferent and not surprised at all. 
       “Our time is up,” he thought! Then turning to his left side, with a hand placed on the side of his neck, he could have easily fallen asleep right then and there. But he lifted his chin up, only to sit back deeper into his chair, his arm thrust out to the sides of the chair, wanting to stretch, but not wanting to get up, like an invalid. Outside the window the moon was over the Mississippi, “Come here!” he said, and a waitress returned.  “Not you, I was speaking to the moon.”  
       The young woman looked where he was looking now, “Oh! Yes,” she said, a bit uneasy, “of course, the moon, but some of it is hidden.”
       “Really,” replied Lee, his mind somewhere else: “it’s a remarkable piece of apparatus God made isn’t it?”  And the young lady surveyed Lee a little longer, almost with a certain air of admiration, “Truly!” she commented, and walked away to take another order.

       The daughter’s two boys did not appear to notice much.   And unfortunately there was nothing left to be said. Lee had left, and she was now free to stop hiding.

       For the old man across the street, he said to his wife, now watching the ‘Lone Ranger’ I can’t believe in this terrible sensitiveness of JL, it looks like her father  was  outside waiting for her, anxious about seeing her, and she left him freeze!”

       “That’s as it should be,” said his wife, Rita, “it’s certainly her will not to want to get involved.”
       “But how in reality do we know?” he asked her.
       “It can’t be proved one way or another because it will never come to the test.”
       “Perhaps, but what is done is done!”
       “Isn’t this a contradiction?”
       “No, it’s all clear for JL.”
       “Why are you looking at me,” said the old woman.
       ”I said all I’m going to say on the matter—can anything be clearer!” Then he hesitated, deliberated on what she said.
       “I suppose you’re right, why JL should become reacquainted with her father’s trivialities, even if it is just seeing her.”
       “I didn’t say that,” responded the old man’s wife, with a smirk that could have killed an owl.
       “Well then” said old man Beck, “then you wouldn’t consider it unreasonable for our children to think the same? I mean what Jay did to his father in law, he would never do to his wife’s father in law, that being his father,” he said underhandedly—
       “Who on earth can respond to such a question?” said Rita.

       Was it that Jay could not stand, but dreaded and at the same time admired the father image of Lee, his solid strength, his well-balanced vitality? I mean, Lee was a man who had lived, a man for all seasons, and worldly, and spiritual, and he lived as a man should live—who had seemingly mastered life, whereas the son in law a failure in all matters that really counted except in the love of his wife, and the raising of his two boys!
       Perhaps Jay’s experience in a world that was unpredictable and tyranny for him, had provoked this attitude. He displayed it, better put: he displaced it,  on Lee, like moved anger—feeling he was the weakest link, and in doing so, added his critical contempt, he was so devoted to: it made him feel more powerful to lord over Lee whom he once called ‘The King Landlord of the Neighborhood.’
       “It was,” said Raymond to his wife, “Jay became more and more impudent with his father in law, I remember that when he was living next door. Lee gave him everything he wanted, and what did Jay’s father do, he gave him butts for cigarettes, and now and then took him grocery shopping because Jay never drove, but Lee put a roof over their heads, and gave them jobs, and vacations and just about anything Jay begged JL to squander out of her father.”
       “Maybe if Lee would not have treated them with such firmness,” said Rita.
       “Well, he needed firmness, he had too many lazy spells,” commented Mr. Beck. Then turned to listen to the radio program, since Rita had shut off the television, called: ‘Amos ‘n Andy’ as she stroked the back of his neck, and said artfully: “That is your opinion, but I will agree they both took Lee too serious, and caused a lot of mischief over it, I mean, it would have been more sensible to laugh at such little annoyances. But instead they treated him like a joke if I remember right.”
       “Rightly so,” said the old man, “also, Jay was not a far-seeing man, he misconstrued others, mostly in childish selfishness, even though he had this fault pointed out to him. His stubbornness refused to answer, not even seeing the embarrassment: even his eight and ten-year old boys could see, as now they are grown-up, overlook it, but back then, back when they were in their preadolescence years, incapable of doing anything about it, yet showing in their faces the foolishness he played, it all was so perplexing for the boys, surely, and he alone was only allowed to ask questions that made the kids silent! Especially about the grandparents he ostracized.” The old man now put some tobacco under his bottom lip.
       Rita Beck was somewhat charmed by her ninety-three year old husband’s recall. She had many times put question to this charade, now that Lee was back, her husband’s insight was sought, for better or worse, for enlightenment or ignorance, perhaps—for, if anything—it would evoke much alleged, rumored  and soul, long buried.
       “They said on the Internet, on Facebook I think it was” supposed Rita, “that Jay was a very good man, especially to his wife, and a good father, and that he helped everyone out, like neighbors I suppose,  I think his father said that, and they buried him twenty-eight days after his death, that’s a bit surprising.”
      “That might be true, he was good and disciplined to his boys, hitting them on the back of the head every other block they walked down any street here in the city, and that perchance kept them shipshape, and he was good to his wife as long as she obeyed him,” said her husband, “but he never burned his soles off his feet to help Lee, without charging him an arm and a leg! He never had a kind word to another neighbor or family member for him, he was a big mouth, gossiper, and at every corner tried to get him in trouble with the house inspectors inspecting his several properties, trying to make himself look the big man while plaguing his employer, it cost Lee thousands of dollars for his mischief, and big mouth … and of course the father, they were like to like, like two peas in a pod, and you can’t allow yourself to bury your son in this frame of mind, so he got to  fancy him up a bit, I mean, falsify his legacy.  Or perhaps Rita, Jay’s father, G, simply convinced himself that his son was all he said he was. It settles the mind, and therefore his life is firm. He even uses the word Lord, I read it also on the Internet: at such times, everyone thinks everyone is going to heaven, even if living the devil’s lifestyle.  And to be up front, the father was not there to observe his dementia behavior; plainly he was unaware. Ask yourself this question, Rita, ‘Has the father, Jay’s father, notified JL’s father of his death?’ No! He acts as if he is absence of mind in this, absent minded of anything to do with JL’s natural family, is this Christian behavior? He, like his son, could not resist snapping their jaws at Mr. Lee! For what? Two attention-seekers.  Rita dear, if only they could take a backward look. To be frank dear, if I was Lee, and I am not, but if I was, I’d say ‘Shoo!’ to the whole clan, like a savage. Incidentally, his father was like a man that could not even control the direction he took. Keeping an anxious eye on his son all the time over his shoulder, he began to hate Lee just like his son hated Lee, although he did not interfere except every now and then.  Lee has to get into a mindset: come what may. Indeed it was with repulsion that he left in the wee hours of that wintry morning to escape all this salty behavior, and then someone trying to burn his house down while he and his wife were sleeping, and who might that be? And who had the key?  And whose footprints did the fire inspector find? They weren’t small feet.  I saw him load all his suitcases into van that morning, he and his wife crawled into the backseat, and I could see all this through the crack of the door. As you know, I make a habit of reading the newspaper at five in the morning, and he was loading that van then, and I was no peeping-tom, nor snoop, but as they loaded the van not a sound was to be lost, nor could any word be heard from any one of them, to include the driver of the van likewise. And I do know for a fact Lee felt great pride in the fact that he had been able to provide such a handsome life for his daughter, and her husband, and those two boys, trying to give them that house, but Jay said no, but would consider it if it was paid for, and of course if the house burnt down, surely that house would be paid for, and one could bury Lee nicely, and properly with his wife. But I’m not inferring anybody I know did it, I’m just saying what I’m saying, you know some things, and some things you don’t know, and some things   you don’t know, you really do know, but don’t come right out and say you know them, and then there are those things, you will never know for sure, but you must prepare nonetheless for them, should you not, that will cost you.”
       Commented Rita, “It is amazing how he had plenty of time, or made plenty of time, with all those houses he owned to sell them and to take the cash and to find leisure on how he was to arrange his life afresh elsewhere, way-off yonder somewhere, wherever it was he went to, South America or Europe or Asia, one guess is as good as the other, who’s to say? … and told no one about it, and JL only of those intentions, which she never took serious the notification, and Lee told no one the day he would vanish, and I suppose that is because someone tried to burn down that house, and he had suspicions, not of that in particular, but some kind of malice forthcoming from across the street:  and as you said Raymond, it was someone with big feet, that left deep footprints in the snow, and would that person try again? You can’t blame him I suppose, here they all lived across the street in his house, and no one was likely to visit him, not ever, that was for certain, and without even a slight feeling of shame, as the old saying goes: ‘No blood in the face.’ So why not up and leave.” His blubber lips, closely pressed together, with his tobacco all curled up within them, with a finger crossing the center of his lips, he puckered lightly as if in a kiss form, then a second later, the sound came out in the formula of: ‘shoo’ (as if in, ‘be quiet’).

       Rita now only spoke when her husband didn’t occupy the conversation, because he wanted to watch on the tub, ‘Gun smoke!
       “It’s funny,” said Rita, during a commercial, “everybody knew Jay’s will—his father, mother, wife, children, we, everybody and everybody knew it wasn’t any real illness Jay was suffering from. Did they not really know the cause, of his mental state? And not talk to one another about it?” Here she let the power of thought visible to roam at random inside her husband’s head, as the commercial ended ‘Gun Smoke’ resumed.
       “In the good cause of keeping Jay calm, they all contradicted their values if they had any, I suppose. Nevertheless, (the old man had to take a deep breath) Nevertheless…a” and he forgot what he was about to say.
       “You mean dear,” quickly added Rita, “his father shielded his son from any disturbance?”
       “Right on Rita, that’s exactly what I mean! And moreover, he knew the state of things, but he would never have thought venturing to speak to him about them. For that matter, make his apologies to Lee, because he was rude and primitive as his son. Just like Lee’s boys, the fraternal twins: like to like, shoulder to shoulder, like two bugs in a rug, all tangled up. They all underestimated the malice in Jay. He’d not allow even one of them in his house. No one save, Jay’s nuclear family would have called him, called Jay after his death ‘A Great of a man’, as his father did, for on JL’s side he moreover made everyone ill-at-ease, walk on eggshells, as they say.”  Although Rita appeared a tinge unsure of herself, and was reduced to silence, as if to await her husband’s reply. But as bad luck would have it, he had fallen to sleep. She was bound to confess that all this gibber-jabber was all to draining.
       “They all purposely allowed themselves to underestimate the evil in all this,” Rita continued, after her husband’s snooze was over.
       “Yes, it became an illness for Jay. Sometimes the mentally retarded, or slower folk, can be clearer enough to use this weakness for mischievous doings, and for him it appeared he had very few restraints knowing everyone felt apologetic, if not downright bad luck for him. Even Lee—oh I suppose he had his ups and downs too, his moody behavior, and his strict Army way of doing things, and in the end the young man died. But nonetheless Rita, Lee’s family was treated by Jay’s family, and Jay, and by Lee’s daughter, as the enemy. His father said he was a ‘Giant of a man,’ as you implied, but I’d rephrase that, he was all of that: round and round his belly, only.”
       Said Rita, “Old people and parents have this reduced strength to fight back when their children grow up.”
       “So right,” said her husband, “and that is when the old are past help. The Children come to a state of being unable to see things, to see the unreasonableness of it, as if blind to the   unreasonableness of it.”

       Said Rita, in reflection to her husband: “Lee, in an almost unimaginable future ends up excelling beyond everybody, and becomes wealthy at the farther end of his life. And it is this anomaly that distanced them from him, a glorious development for all because Lee wanted to share his abundance, but as we have seen dear, there was a consequence.  I think Lee hoped Jay’s future was that of his, but he turned out to be a man with a little boy’s propensities.  And by not taking the gift of the four apartment complex he was offered, he at last confessed, or confirmed, be that as it may, these things for Lee.”
       Said Mr. Beck, now watching Ed Sullivan, “When Lee finally sees he has deceived himself in all of this, in his assumptions and in his hopes, then his time in limbo will be over about setting things right with those who set them crisscrossed.  It will be the only thing to fall back on, and possessiveness will prove to be worthless, and he’ll treat it accordingly, seeing that they have, nor did Jay have any feeling for him: but he still feels of some kind of guardianship.”
       “Yes,” said Rita “it is that he will continue trying to reach them, a kind of feeble endeavor,” she told her mind’s eye.
       “All redundant,” said the old man in a whisper.
       “The sooner the better,” said Rita, “it’s all in vain, but understandable.” Then added, “Was not the daughter the love of the father’s life, once upon a time?”
       “I think his twins were first, as for JL, she came third; on the other hand: love can betray itself involuntarily when demands are made upon another person when given an ultimatum, as I presuppose Jay did with JL, in some cunning gesture, lest she be disconnected by and by, from him for overlooking it. Sometimes the biggest giver is given the least of the lot, when it’s time to ration; in this case, room: room on the family tree, or in the family Bible. Jay at one point was nearly a vagrant when Lee took it upon himself to take him out of his old environment, and buy an apartment house for him, to give him and his daughter a job, and his daughter took the money, but seldom did the job, so Lee’s tenants complained. But Lee held no grudges.


The Bus

The Shrewd Student on the Bus

The whole business of trying to contact his daughter, and make things right was a sore spot, now sitting on a bus heading for the Mississippi River, for rivers always calmed him, “Life moves fast,” he mumbled to himself on the bus, a young girl nearby him overheard him mumble… “But sore spots are bound to heal,” she said with a big smile, looking at him, from across the aisle.
       “And the worse,” he complained.
       “One never knows what this slowness means. It can mean they’re thinking about you, or they’ve forgotten all about you, or that it hasn’t surfaced yet, but might. Or for instance, it’s there but in limbo, and in the long run it can mean, it is settled but we can’t on the other end see this potential, figuring it out is the puzzle, and if you can’t find all the pieces to the puzzle, one has to jam in whatever piece is left, and cancel out the presupposition.”
       “Yaw, isn’t it so,” comment Lee,  “one only finds out the truth  while on his death bed, that is when they come and ask you for absolution, forgiveness for being assholes because they don’t want to live with themselves. They want to clear the books up before they go, only to find out, they haven’t the time.”
       “Perhaps,” said the young female student, “there may be other characteristics in common with your situation.”
       “The whole affair is not as simple as that. And I don’t wish to overstep my limitations so far as wanting to be stepped on again.”         
       “Right or wrong,” said the student, “you presently seem to be in a state of deceptive comfort.”
       “Perhaps rightly so, but I’m not sure what that all means:”
       “The person or persons you are talking about are of a more primitive or lower rank, less cultured than you, I sense some evidence of that.”
       “You’ve been reading Franz Boas, I bet,” said Lee.
       “Yes,” said the student, “his insight on the mind of primitive man, is a good study.”

Boas’ Primitive man, as Lee has pictured him in
His mind, during his ongoing conversation with the student!

       “Perhaps you should read, Daniel Defoe, ‘The History of the Devil’ bad as he is, the Devil may be abused, when he is next to the likes of Jay. I mean to say, isn’t he often falsely charged and causelessly accused of our crimes, when men willingly and privately trap themselves and others in their own shenanigans?”
       “I doubt I’ll read Mr. Defoe,” said the student, “I don’t care about the devil’s circumstances, and the various turns of his affairs.”
       “Yes,” thought Lee staring straight into her eyes, “she has marvelous insight, but lopsided.” Then he asked himself in the silence of his mind “How does she know all this! Being so young.” He felt a little odd taking advice from such a young lady, especially one who did not believe in the Devil, for it was a figure of speech he used, yet who else might be shifting off these crimes on him making believe they are his own, but she was right on one thing: when made to admit one’s wrong, they do, people do shift and are unwilling to be blamed alone, and thus, use the devil for escape, by adding madness or insane behavior at that very instant, to escape the penalty of their crimes, and should you ask the Devil if you can use him for one’s insanity plea, he is of course, more than willing.  And he was getting the sense, she was about to create a barrier, he was getting annoyed with her so called justice, which was really to him unjust.
      “Perhaps sir, could it be” said the young woman, whom surely did not want to be called ‘young lady’,  now a little more cautious, watching her peas and cues getting a look of rebuff from Lee, “there are mental walls not being taken into consideration, between you and them?”
       Everyone started to clap for the young woman on the bus, as if she hit a top musical note. Everyone on the bus now was waiting for Lee’s response, he seemingly always had one.
       “If this was the case, their mental shrewdness was more devious than all the psychology courses I’ve ever taken, and I’ve took a lot.  So yes, mental walls are perhaps there, but with shrewdness and vindictiveness, which they’ve got, and are now more seasoned in—practice makes perfect—can be sufficient to overcome them walls, as they have, and I to suffer disappointment.”
       “Boo…booo!” said the crowd on the bus; Jay thought: ‘If only I was as pretty as the young woman, and not an old man, I’d have gotten that ‘Harrah,’ they gave her a moment ago.
       “Again, it is the primitive mind,” said the student, “the more cultured mind would not consider such perceptiveness, and peevishness—; the primitive mind, they would act from instinct, cold it may seem, but boiling are such creatures of our society. The primitive have different conceptions of their duties, and often too often, feel those who have more, are simply greedier than them and that is how they got more than them, and can’t reconcile their own hard work has not allowed them to have what you have, that they have to get it as gifts from folks like you. This can be demeaning, even if you are of goodwill. This is the laws of their understanding of successful people. They even have a hard time admitting their doubts are doubts, and refuse to admit that they cannot speak freely, for that too would be demeaning, so they don’t, in fear that they will be shunned by the giver. But out of some hidden and perhaps some frozen anger, it comes out sideways, somewhere along one’s lifeline.”
       Everyone clapped on the bus again, Lee figured at this point, no matter what he said, she’d have an answer, she was one of those she was talking about, in nature, not in mind. Next stop Lee got off the bus and kind of hid in the crowed so the young woman, whom he’d not dare call a Lady, would not see him, he had had enough of her psychobabble, although he was sure she’d be a good cloud for Jay.

 Lee’s, surreal dramatization of Jay and John’s
Having brotherly love and conversations about him!

Every year Lee had given Jay, and one of his other workers, John, and their wives a vacation, paid in full, hotel, food and even transportation. And it always astounded him that he could afford to do it, but it didn’t’ phase, or amaze Jay and John’s family, they acted as if it was overdue.  They belittled, yet accepted Lee’s heartfelt gifts with unimportance.  Matter of fact, after such a weekend, one could hardly tell it had been given at all. And both having access to the supplies Lee had in his garage, for his six apartment buildings, very little got fixed, but those supplies dwindled faster than John could make up the receipts. John had indirectly admitted the thievery, and Lee had told him, he had always known, expected it, but it was getting to the point¸ too expensive. Thus John left the company, and when he wished to be rehired, it was on different terms, and the rehiring never took place; for Lee surely an escape from the devil’s helper. For he too interfered with the family progress. One might even go as far as saying, to see that nothing had changed, and even played double-spy, giving Lee, advice on Jay and JL swopping partners: true or false who’s to say, Lee  gave him a last glance, who was quite overcome by his remarks.  Well it turns out, Jay’s friend John, was not all that loyal, even though Jay let him live with him and his wife for months on end. But Jay still had an in, he was married to JL, the boss’ daughter.
       Thought Lee, during these years, what odd behavior, to take from your own, but evidently, now gone for nine years, and back, I guess—so he figured— ‘I was never part of that so called own…’ which was a clan made up of his family members, none on his daughter’s, side were allowed in. So it was becoming clearer by the hour, to his mind, this was a useless journey, what was the good of it?

       Breathless he stood looking about for a cab. Although this conservative city cabs never picked up fares, you had to call them.  But once in a while an empty cab that just dropped off a customer would take you.  He was also coming to the point, of not having much inclination to pursue the task he came for, or one of the main tasks he had expected to do. Trying to put back a disconnected family, was trying enough. Should they take a moment to look about, would not his sons and daughter see the comparison? True, but the pain would gradually grow, and who likes eating rotting apples.  For them it was better covered with soft dust, as not to trouble them.
       And so, this part, his family part, Jay and JL’s part, was the useless part of this journey? So he held. Or it would seem so. “Little could they have achieved on their own, those first years, those unremembered years; and once on their own, and once having gotten what they wanted, they went to the father that gave them the cigarette butts.  Doesn’t that beat all?”  


(Guesthouse II)

Marge, Lee’s old friend

    “A bandaged man sees nothing until the bandage is removed,” said Marge to Lee, having met each other at the Guesthouse once again, for schnitzel. It was in the evening after having his little run-in with the student on the bus.
       “Yes,” said Lee “with that family Jay stands pathetically alone. And as you can notice I have very little reverence for that side of my daughter’s husband’s primitiveness.” Now he caught himself mimicking that young student. “Yet I never dissuade my daughter or tried to weaken her reverence for them—quite the opposite on their behalf.”
       “I see the straits you’re in, are very thin,” said Marge figuratively speaking while looking over her menu. Lee thinking, she’s full of impassive phraseology tonight, as she continued fussing over the one item to another, comparing, selecting, and then changing her mind, as if it was the biggest decision of the week, so such came to Lee’s mind.
       “What exactly are you trying to say, Marge?” questioned Lee.
       “Perhaps you are making more out of something that is really nothing, trying to show your second mind that it is something, allowing you not to let go of what is nothing.”
       “Again,” asked Lee, “what are you driving at, and drop the rhyme schema?”
       “In truth, you have a mere nothing to go by, unjust monstrous behavior yes, between you and them! And I mean all of them. Some things you cannot decide, they have been decided for you. Make life simple, as AA says: do what you can do, and let go of the things you have no control over, is that not plain enough for you?”
       “Rather badly developed, although to the point. But it is as you say, for JL who was never like that, is like that, and was like that also to her grandmother, for she asked once as now I have asked: ‘What wrong have I ever done them,’ and she died with that insult they placed on her as if she did them wrong, as they shunned her, they now shun me.”
       “It is obvious they are out of place in your world, which I might agree is the ordinary world, and because of this, they have done the most beastly things to try and make you conform to their world, in other words, a one-way street.”
       “You give the impression today to have a kind of sympathy for them, but on the other hand you have a personal one for me too.”
       “I’m assuming Lee, that your daughter doing what she did those years you took her out of that malicious landlord’s house, and put her into the one you purchased for her and her husband,  she didn’t do anything to hurt you deliberately, with intent anyhow, fearless with malicious intent, she was betrayed into it by circumstances, impelled by the love she has for Jay— You perhaps made him look the fool to his children, a lazy fool, and he knew this, and all that poor people have, is the love and respect of their wife and children; consequently, should it be given to the grandfather who can afford more, and has more, well, then comes the seven deadly sins! Envy is a powerful tool the Devil uses.”
       “To me, it was all petty, cleaver and foolishness, and for Jay in particular cowardly, even if I should, and I do agree with your previous statement.”
       “How’s the schnitzel?”
       “Just like I used to have in Augsburg, Germany, way back when, to far back to remember! The gravy over it is superb, and the bread coating is marvelous.”
       “Now listen up Lee, you need only look at their actions to substantiate their heart, their motives, it leaves no room for love, only grief. You’ve said they are all Christians, how can this be. Is not a Christian one who is trying to live the lifestyle of Christ?   Ask yourself that question, and if it comes to their acts are  not like-minded to Christ, then they are incompatible with Christ, meaning unsuited and perhaps more centered on—I hate to say—a Christian only by name, not by  deed, and faith without actions is dead.  So they are dead Christians.  You have tried. You have done your duty, there is no way to get to them, leave it in the Lord’s hands, evidently his youngest son might have brought him to the Lord as you’ve indicted, two days prior to his death, liken to the man on the cross who had only hours left, and took that step of faith. He is perchance saving you a lot of grief, and long-life by keeping you a distance away from them.”

       “When they’d walk by me after that so called fight Jay and I had which started by JL provoking it, they’d walk by me from their apartment across the street, then walked across our lawn to go to the bar behind our house; they were all keyed-up with smiles and grins and laughing and never stopped to say hello, or great us: me, my wife, my mother, ‘what is laughable,’ I asked myself, if not the stupid injustice they threw at me, —why the stupid posing for us? If I made a motion to say hello, it only made them recoil with a snobby jerk of their heads, in length however my two boys were not much different, they both had their surreal behavior both living in different states: if not primitive behavior, or whatever group of mankind they represented: Hamitic or Mongol, Semitic or Aryan; it was all old world indifference all the same, all so inadequate to explain by the laws of chance, or sanity.
       As for the retardation of Jay’s and JL’s, development:  much alike in their functional and spiritual expansion and also in their psychological, sociological growth, should have apply the same reasoning existing for one grandparent to the other, yet Jay chose his father, not JL’s? The vicissitudes, the changes, one takes when their relative position: let’s say, the great huge father image is tarnished with the lazy, fat, two-headed rat, and the grandfather is given the respect the father should have, thus comes the attacks. 
       “And back to my boys, their anger cries, it was as if they had as children stepped into a canyon and promised one another, ‘In the future, when we get on top of the mountain, and can look down on our father, we will,’ they would do this together, hence, they encouraged one another in response to their father’s betrayal, what they called betrayal, for the father was the gravity, and the bridge, and he allowed them to go into foster homes, homes they didn’t want to endure, but the homes took his checks once a month, and they used his medical insurance at will, they never sent him back a checks, and that all fell into some fifth dimension—costing him 80% of his monthly check, for their love was given to the foster parents, those who got paid to love. And the bridge, they reduced it almost to ruin.
       “And now back Marge, to Jay, he would not stop to say hello, it was spite, and what was left of that bridge, he had decided as a lasting measure he would—not so unlike my boys—once and forever, for all mankind’s sake, destroy it. My importance, my giving reinforced his decision.
       “And he was so pleased with himself.  He would pass me like a peacock, and to an exaggerated performance. I can remember a few times I pleasantly nodded—they were testing the water to see if I would stop them from trespassing—and I never did, and I just knew things were not going to change, when they threw back their shoulders and heads, playing the clown as if to scorn me.
       “They could have walked around the block, and have gotten to the bar ten-minutes later, but my yard saved eight, and the malicious pleasure they had for me was irresistible.

       “Well this has been a mouthful, Marge, but on another subject, it’s hard to sleep nowadays, not because of Jay or the boys, or JL, or G, rather the slightest noise or glimmer wakes me, disturbs my dreams. But it’s ironical, I need to have music on all night.”
       “What goes on in a mind like Jay’s?” asked Marge, as if it be a rhetorical question, then adding before he could answer “It was as if he needed a scapegoat, and used you to win the affection and pride of his kids, and then got paranoid of you and then of your whole family.”
       “Perhaps so, but who can see around the corner? I mean, it was a failure of imagination, and that posed enormous wounds on us: not knowing why or when or what: my mother saying ‘What did I ever do them for them to be so rude to me?’ It was as if he was always chasing the wrong rabbit.”
       “I guess, Lee, what comes to mind is that, he didn’t have an agonizing reappraisal of the situation, he wants to live and let live without you in his shadow!”

Lee, as a soldier in Vietnam (thinking back)

       “Being a soldier for a decade, I’ve learned, it’s what you do, when you don’t want peace, you create out of pretense a war! And perhaps he wanted somewhere along the line to get out of it, but it is easier to get into something, than out of it, and so he used my grandkids for blackmail, he even came out and said he had such intentions. Plus, his mind-obstruction, and life’s hardships, caused some of his misfortunes, that’s true, but once he found a friend in John, his co-partner in the thievery of my supplies, he was thereafter never sparing of the tongue. From that time on, I couldn’t understand his stand remotely. I had introduced him to John, one day when I needed both of them for repairs.”
       How odd Marge thought, saying but three words: “Ostracism and contradiction.”
       “Yes, a paradox! So Marge, what is your advice?”
       “Simple,” she remarked, “Buy a little oil lamp, hang it on a lamppost outside your house, with a poem on it, you like poems so write one that fits the occasion, read it until you get tired of reading it as you walk by it, and then put a match to it.”
       And so right then and there, he wrote the following poem:


After endless exploring I fetched my heart
From the dusk—
Brought it back into the light!
One always takes a certain risk, in doing this:
For our sakes, I tried and missed!

No: 4710 (2-2-2015)     

       “I like the poem,” said Marge, then added furthermore: “When a person learns to condemn, he must learn to pardon as well.”
       “I am no longer famishing to hear anything about anybody anymore that have not stepped into my world out of kindness and respect.”  And he drank down his dark Sumatra cup of coffee with eagerness for more.
       Asked Marge, as if finalizing her curiosity: “If Jay was alive what would he say if I was to interrogate him on his relationship with you, according to how you see it?”
       “Things would surely get entangled, he would tell lies, and he would have backed them up with more lies and on and so forth, as needed,” responded Lee, adding, “is that not obvious?” Lee with wincing at the direct question, and his friendly tone darkened somewhat, “He was, — you know quite dull-witted. That being so it was also hard to decipher his way of thinking, or reasoning. And I admit I had back then, been almost extravagant with Jay, and that may have given him, a more stingy, or perhaps a better word might be, parsimonious approach with me.” 

       It was obvious no more could be done, one must follow in his own way, he fabricated in his mind. What can one do with puppyish people? Cobbling is much too menial work for me, I’m too old for the trial and error, to wait and see how things will work out. Life is now, and you must live it now. Thought Lee.
       It appeared to him Jay grew old before his time, looking at his pictures on the Internet just before his death. His face grave and unaware, unlike most men, heavy and bald at forty-one. And then 33-days after his death, his father, trying to smile for the camera, white whiskers, out of date glasses hands clasped, old also before his time, and yet younger than Lee; plus, he was unkempt for the most part— but the love of his grandsons side to side was a pleasant picture. His bandana around his forehead, his shirt and trousers, and thin jacket, were as if they were from the Salvation Army or Goodwill, and as if he had slept in them. All ambition out of his face, no life or satisfaction, where once there was an arrogant ascendancy.
       “Well, so much for that. Yet it is questionable if he will himself survive this tragedy,” pondered Lee. For G, Jay was a Giant of a man, not the mouse Lee knew, and I suppose that was not so unlike the memory every father would like to keep of their sons, especially if it is an only son, anything else would be too unhealthy to live with: so one lives with the lie, like it or not, and everyone agrees to you how great he was, for your sake, not for truth’s sake, — but only to be remembered by a few, for only a few decades, if that long, and then tossed into the barrel of fragments to be burnt up like old dried out driftwood!
       “When you exit for long periods you create a void,” Lee expressed to Marge. “That’s what I did of course, our external as well as internal worlds we once had—good or bad—become blurred.  The mind seems to slow down concerning that what really took place in that old world you once lived in, was real; you become sensitive to any change, even to the slightest shift in one’s daily routine, as JL has, or did. Figuratively speaking, the weather being my presence, evidently became too dramatic for her. Is this not how JL felt, perhaps?”

Concluding Short Chapters

Lee’s Last Glance

Lee, on his way home

       “If he, no they, if they could understand,” said Lee, half questioningly, then in thin air waved his hands at nobody in particular, to show how unthinkable that was. “If he could have only understood me,” repeated the sixty-seven year old man. His eyes considering his daughter’s convictions. “Then we’d be able to come to some agreement on issues, but as it is—” a long pause came, “I must go,” he mumbled to himself, “that’s the only solution. We must rid ourselves of the idea that this is possible. The fact that I desired it for so long is the origin of all our thoughts, my thoughts, troubles, anyhow…” as if she had not come already to this conclusion, and my boys just the same.
       “I wanted to have my daughter but we will be able to go on living, living better in each other’s memory, perhaps in some kinder and more honorable way. As it is, we both seem to persecute one another,” talking as if she was next to him, saying ‘adios’ in the only way he knew.  Henceforward, the old man was panting with effort to step up and onto the floor of the plane, he paused to catch his breath…   A woman took his ticket, as if to confirm he knew where he was going.  He nodded his head, and as he searched for his seat, number sixty-seven, he thought about the valley and mountains and the ocean, and no harassment. He was left entirely to himself. In his seat he sat straight back. He was intent on leaving as fast as possible. So he could get back to his writings, and no one would interfere with his progress. Only when the plane was in the air did he turn his head to see his Midwestern hometown completely through the little heavy-duty glass or plastic porthole next to him. And then he rested his neck muscles with a thin pillow on the back of the seat, put in his earplugs, played his cassette player—his mother had given him before she passed on, a decade prior—with the old Rock and Roll music of his day. With his legs now stretched out, they had been getting stiff, Lee shifted his mind to how gracious the Lord was, and how damning the Devil could be.

       “Thank heaven, a father doesn’t need to be taught how to see through his daughter, his son in law, and his sons.” Lee alleged, descending Atlanta’s airport, where he’d make his next connection. “I would have loved Jay, had he not turned his back on me!” those words went heckling through his brain.  “They were all so innocent, not so long ago, and now all truly devilish human beings.” But nonetheless, the day before Lee had left for his birthplace, he had paid the local church to have a mass for Jay, his last gift, to a man he felt was lower than a stoker.

       Now sitting there on the outskirts of Atlanta, he got to thinking: ‘We strive all or lives to reach some kind of justice, for humanity’s sake, we are all given an open door, but often too often, there are obstacles in the way, like door-keepers that don’t want you to enter into the halls of justice, to prove you have been treated unjust. And when one grows old, and feeble, and too weak to challenge the door-keeper, he shuts and locks the door…  Then it dawns on him: it was never meant for man to get justice here on earth— but try as you may!’
       And his last thought before he fell to sleep was: “I can’t blame Jay anymore!”

JL ’s Confirmation

Lee’s loathsome imitative mind at work, of his daughter
With Jay and his two sons…

Now in flight, JL was with her father in law, G, “I mean just what I say,” she told him, and the two had been rubbing their hands for some time in the hallway of her apartment, joyfully. He put on his hat and said his goodbyes, with a suspiciousness unfounded, hearing Lee was in the air over perhaps Atlanta by now.
       JL decided this day to take a long stroll with her boys, feeling they deserved such a respite—even though her nose still hurt from the accidental sharp nudge it took a while back—during her and her boys’ hiding this past week from their grandpa, it was a nebulous trick, thought one of the boys, but necessary to keep his mother happy, and the ideology set forth by their father, and peace, someone or thing had to be sacrificed, taking the place of a lamb, it was grandpa.
       G. had told everyone how Great, how huge his son was, and she knew her father would simply have countered that with: ‘No, he was more the mouse than a giant, or a giant mouse!’ and that would not do nor help, so it was better this way, plus the boys needed a huge heroic figure to follow in his footsteps. In any case, the boys smiled and were for the most part silent, until properly questioned, at which time, JL started giggling so amiably she could not stop. When the boys both looked at her oddly, she said, “Let bygones be bygones.” The elder of the boys by two years, thought, “Just what does that mean?” but it was just a thought, not spoken. Then she brought up the future. The elder boy was twenty, and had a girlfriend: she thought, as if with her eyes, staring at him: they will soon be promised to one another, and then married, how delightful. And she then started dreaming about her future and the grandchildren her two boys’ wives will have given her. Another journey in life she speculated.  And that was all she thought about for a long while, as they strolled up the sidewalk…

The Mantaro Valley
(Lee’s Return)

The Mantaro Valley by Night

At long last Lee was back in South America among the many companions he had made in the past decade. He threw himself back into his old routine. And what had been so far away was all at once, seemingly so near—: bodies moving poetically here and there, as if at a cadence of bouncing syllables.  Behind him people were nudging him to pass right and left, back and forth, and his Peruvian wife clutching his hand, as to not lose him in the crowd?
       The Mantaro Valley is deep and wide, set against the pressing and towering Andes, and Lee, he found himself standing stone-still, in the plaza de arms, near the old cathedral,  spoke to the overshadowing mountains, as often he had done in the past upon his return, —almost eye to eye with the sun…
       “I’m back,” he said.
       “That’s no surprise,” said the voice of the tallest mountain, inside Lee’s head, “It is not by pure chance you came back you know, it’s your home.”
       The Mountain’s voice was as if encouraged by his return, and quite friendly, because he wasn’t a big talker like most Wankas, and so when he did speak, it was a special occasion.
       Lee was panting, the thin air from being up so high, always upon his return distressed him, he had to readjust to it; it usually took a few days, that’s why his heart got enlarged, so the doctors proclaimed.
       “We know,” began a conversation by the oldest of the surrounding mountains, “that you and your Wanka wife, even though she likes Lima more than here, would come back.”
       “Yes,” said Lee, “mountain folk are more understanding, warmer than North Americans.”
       “I know,” said the smallest mountain of the group, “not a spark of understanding I bet!”
       Then Lee’s wife struck from her silence, “Tell them they kept you longer than I cared for you to be gone Lee, I bet they’ll understand.” And Lee did explain that they hadn’t been separated in fifteen years more than three days total, on three different occasions, making that twenty-four hours per separation.
       Said the oldest mountain, “Tell your wife, it is a misfortune even to be separated one day, save a week or more, I can’t imagine myself being gone for a second!” And Lee verbalized what the Old Mountain said.
       “See Lee,” said Delilah, “he understands!”
       “The mountains in the valley here are cleaver, they always take the side of the Wanka women.” Said Lee.
       “Yes,” said Delilah, “they would agree with that I’m sure.”


Lee back in the Andes, in the Mantaro Valley,
Trekking near Huaytapallana (White Mountain)

       From morning to evening stretching into the dream-like night, there was always a stream of traffic that looked an inextricable, and inexhaustible mass of confusion in the city proper, along with the shortened brown skinned Peruvians, mountain folk, side to side with colorful brick tile roofs, and adobe structured houses, and every kind of vehicle modern man has invented into the riotous air came the noises and dust and smells all penetrating within the invisible, multitudinous zigzagging busy little metropolis, bouncing off its many cobblestone streets, and scattered into its human inhabitance dispersed throughout the valley, whom took nothing seriously until the last minute, without committing one’s self.  
       Furthermore, the city folk in the parks or on the side streets, the folks standing behind their venders making fruit juices, or mondongo soup as a morning warm-up for the day’s events, who sold this and that—Lee would tell his North American and European visitors, not to take serious the idly gazing of the Peruvian Wanka, they were just getting used to global visitors.  For those who intended to remain, like him, it was sheer ruination to take it to heart, mountain folk were curious folk, perhaps a little noisy too, for they were sheltered people at one time, in another world, stretching now, into and out of, the late 20th to the new early 21st Century, their arms and legs, as far as they could reach, figuratively speaking. Perhaps this being a little exaggerating, but not far from the truth. And again, I capitalize on the noise, an annoyance for the old folk, yet a profitable business for hearing-aid companies, and those doctors specializing in that diverse medical area—the ear!
       Lee had been gone longer than he expected, as that mountain had so expressed, but for eighteen-months of that duration, it was spent in Lima, which they could care less about, and that time in North America, which they had even a kind of curiosity in, simply added to its length. Hence, Lee saw that nothing much had changed.
       Now deep rooted and back into mountain city life, and its thin air, his lips and eyes produced an unchanging smile of happiness, which appeared to enhance his continence, and composure, and his wife realized this. 

The End of the Story

 Written: 2-26-2015 to  3-11-2015/10     (No.1078)

Back of Book

December 1, 2014, the author in his home in Lima

I have two traits to offer to this story: conscientiousness and inconspicuousness; the profound will surface, those things unforeseen, by themselves. Some may appear strange, are as true as Lee sees it. That said, a character or two might seem to have a schizoid personality, it is because as you read the story, you may sense they have this overbearing anguish that appears in the form of suffering; if indeed it can be called that: we can use hurt and anger, anger preceding hurt. Also there is a touch of neo-surrealism in the images produced throughout the story; bizarre as they may seem, dreams and the subconscious mind are helping this story along. Perhaps what one may see is one protagonist has freed himself of the other, and the other is trying to free himself likewise. The storyteller does not hold back nor does he bury, what has been concealed, becomes unconcealed. As you will see the smallest omission in Lee’s life, with his son-in-law, gives rise to the gravest suspicion, but once thought-out, ‘Why?’ The author ends the story with a subconscious dream-like touch, as if atoning for some secret guilt, whose nature he himself is ignorant of.