For the entirety of my adult life, and for whatsoever of my
immaturity I can recall, I have been observant to a perpetual war the angels
and demons in every wall and fiber of our world. They are here now, in the bricks
of this cell, in my mattress and pillow. They are in my hair. They are my hair.
They compose the very door that protects you from me. Their battles are legion;
they are infinite and infinitesimal. The demons circle around the angels in
band of increasing number, as though waiting to strike, while the angels circle
around something more central, the nature of which I have never determined.
Perhaps it is The Lord Himself, or the Gates of Paradise. Yet they never battle
over Him; in any case I have observed, demons leave their flocks for other
shores, emitting sparks, static heathens.
I still perceive these miniscule wars, yet for the first
time in memory, they do not terrify me. Strange how they ever did; I do not
know the nature of the trick. As soon as you pushed that pram down this hall, the emotional reaction has simply severed. I see
plainly now that they will not attack us, or undo our world; they merely are.
Circles around circles around a neutral enigma.
As my neighbor now realizes he is the splendid Saint Augustine, and his
neighbor professes to no longer crave human flesh, I am to puzzle on the meaning
Perhaps it is the will of The Lord Himself that insists I
see into the matters angelic and demonic, and thereby render unto you this: I
see nothing unlike in the boy as to any other boy. He has no excess of angels
or demons. Anyone in this house who sees magic in his constitution is still possessed
of madness. He is a plain child who would, under other circumstances, require
no more than baptism and proper diet.
Yet I appreciate that we are not under other circumstances.
Should the manic paralysis of my wardens pass, they will be most cross with
your young master, as will any authorities pursuing him. The mind lurches with
your devotion to him.
Get him to Jerusalem,
or unto any island in the south where the infectiously sick are banished. Upon the
latter there will be no healthy jailers for his presence to harm, and I know of
one colony that has a printing press with obtuse reputation. Perhaps that is
where you can inquire as to your former mistress’s book. I would not have
advised its immolation, yet can hardly criticize a man’s hysteria at matters
uncanny. How I would have liked to study its demons.
How can such a boy operate? He breathes, his flesh is pink
as dawn, his angels and demons no quicker or crueler than those in your hands.
What about him could render this clarity unto me, or that copious vomiting unto
the wardens? It is perplexing in a fashion I have never felt – that which must
be normal confusion in the rest of human history. You have granted me the privilege
of feeling what any Christian would consider confusion, and thus made me one
with every other thinker on the earth. It is a sore unity. Thank you for the
privilege, even if it should be counterfeit.
If you would do one more kindness: take me with you. Take as
many from this house as you deem trustworthy, for your pilgrimage in any
direction will require fidelity of numbers. This boy, innocent as I claim him,
will be pursued. Any sane mind here is in gratitude to whatever gift you carry
in that basinet, and even if I were still in mean fate, I would wish the best
for a child. Will you let me guide you to that southerly island printing press?
"Benjamin Franklin is quoted saying that a single today is
worth two tomorrows. Now the board of directors defrauded me of thirty-one
years of pension time. That amounts to 11,242 todays that I put into a retirement.
Where did it go? They say the stock tanked, yet they have golden parachutes.
"I lost over eleven thousand todays. How many did you lose?
How fair would it seem if the board spent twenty-two thousand tomorrows in a
dungeon somewhere? Fair trade by the reckoning of a founding father.
"I have a very nice basement. By that I mean that it has a
black mold infestation and some kind of mammal keeps breaking in through
unknown holes. I think they’re raccoons, but they bite more than raccoons are
"Now, I’m a little old to go around kidnapping. I'm only proposing this to our... board? Our Board of Owed Parties. Yes, I like that, don't you?
"So, I’d lease
my basement to the Board, if there was interest. How many tomorrows do you think these people owe you?"
It was stitched, scrutinized, approved, kissed, blessed, and
finally erected. Another flag had owned this pole once, but the North had taken
the fort, and so the pole was its now. It never intended to yield the perch,
with its illustrious breeze permitting in unparalleled sights of both sunrise
and sunset, of young men marching needless hours, and thirty years of pine
trees growing in the valley beyond. How tall they grew under its watch.
Once there was a forest fire. It couldn’t do anything about
it, not even call for help, since it was a flag. It was merely stained by the
smoke of many a young pine. The ghosts of sap haunted its pores for decades
afterward. No matter how it fluttered, it could not shake this sticky sense,
and it never fluttered of its own accord. Flags do not move themselves.
It watched colonels retire. Two of them – one a man with so
many wrinkles he must have been born with half of them, and one an optimist who
was so forced he’d clearly been learning the trade. The latter colonel stored
the flag in his office when it was the shift of the other flag – the replacement.
The stand-in. The impostor that stole its breeze.
This, the one true flag, was on duty the morning the madman
bombed their fort. Apparently people made bombs out of nails. Two passed
through stars its folds. No humans were injured. The madman was kicked in the
head many times while the flag flapped overhead, two holes far too few to stop
It was hailed upon. Thrice it froze in caustic hails,
sticking the flag pole itself at a permanent full-mast, unable to be moved even
by the greatest gales. It was a relief that no one died those days and required
it to lower. On the third hail, its nail-tears finally expanded and reached its
The third colonel, the youngest, the newest, the most apt to
quote Moliere, fretted over the fort’s prized relic. The uniform code said to
burn it. The younger soldiers said it was a dishonor to something that had
flown so long. The older soldiers knew better.
It was an older soldier of a flag. It had no
complaints as it was folded, and kissed, and blessed, and set ablaze. It became
smoke, like bygone pines. It became breeze, and finally experienced what it was
like to stir other things. It joined what had always moved it.
He is The Detective and there is only one other on earth
like him. When he walks into a crime scene, it doesn’t matter how long the FBI
has canvassed or logged it, for only The Detective will see what matters. If he
is the fifteenth to look upon a photograph, only he will recognize the setting
in the background as the next place they need to go. If a thousand papers are
strewn across the desk and window, only he will find the three that matter and
give away the motive. If blood is spattered around the carpet, only he will see
the pattern that leads him to a hidden crawl space. The facts wait for his observation.
Your years on the force are meaningless. Forensics,
procedures, the scientific method itself is fruitless compared to his casual
glance because the world was set up for his pursuit. This merely appears like our
story, gentlemen. In truth, it is between The Detective and his greatest enemy.
We are the casualties.
There’s only one other like him, and that is The Criminal. Author
protect us, and please endow our Detective with greater skill.
The 22nd was one of the most reassuring hospital
visits I’ve ever had. My primary care physician was up to date on my records,
listened carefully, brought in equipment to examine my feet and was attentive
every concern I had. At one point I told him that if I kept motor control, I’d
be happy to deal with the numbness. He put a hand on my shoulder and said, “We’re
going to find a cause, so you won’t have to."
If they don’t, then that’s false hope, but damn if that didn’t
lift my spirits. At the very worst, he’s great at pretending he cares. I don’t
believe he’s pretending. You don’t do that many exercises to somebody’s foot
The MRI found arthritis in my spine. Up until then I’d been
ignoring my back pain as much as possible, chastising myself for weakness. It’s
funny how a word like “arthritis” can scare you into realizing how bad your
back hurts. I went from calling myself a baby to absolutely babying myself.
The MRI results said most of my vertebrae are “grossly
normal.” The least reassuring phrasing I could think of, but it’s a positive. I
wish they’d given me a copy of the images themselves – they would have made
killer author photos.
The arthritis isn’t the cause of the numbness. The doctor
said it wasn’t in the proper areas and not severe enough to be messing with
these nerves. I’ve got a follow-up with his associate neurologist in February.
It’s a month off, too far for my comfort, but it’s as early as possible.
Today nine of my ten toes are numb, like they’ve been
wrapped in ice, and most of the ball of my right foot is tingling. The worst
was a few nights ago when, mid-exercise, my big toe fell asleep. Days later, it’s
never woken back up. It’s weird, but I can move it. I stand by that I’d deal
with this if it was all.
1. Find a classic novel you've never read, preferably one you've been meaning to read for a long time.
2. "Classic" is up to your definition. If you feel Beloved is a Modern Classic, you read it.
3. Between February 1st and 28th, read the book.
4. Join in on Twitter, blogs and Facebook to discuss your journey through the classic. You're even welcome to come back discuss the books in comments threads on this post.
I've chosen Middlemarch, a social commentary on 1800's England by Mary Anne Evans, under the pen name George Eliot.I've wanted to read it ever since missing registration for a class on it in college. Les Miserables came close, but my copy is 1,400 pages, and that's simply too long for me to be sure I'll finish in a month with beta reading, more medical tests, and at least two big road trips. Middlemarch's 1,000 pages as far as I'm willing to push it. It's technically eight books in one - a collected serial. Fortunately, Catherine Russel is picking up my slack, having chosen Les Mis for her own #NaNoReMo!
If you've picked your book, please mention it in the comments here and I'll add you to the post. I'm going to link any blog or Twitter accounts so people can check out reading progress. Feel free to blog across the month as you get insights into your book, or tear through it and move on to still more classics.
#NaNoReMo Readers List
1. Catherine Russell: Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
2. Danielle la Paglia: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
3. Tony Noland: Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow
4. John Wiswell: George Eliot's Middlemarch
5. Andy Hollandbeck: T.H. White's Once and Future King
6. John Gray: John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath
7. T.S. Bazelli: Toni Morrison's Beloved8. Eric Krause: Edgar Rice Burroughs's Princess of Mars
9. Beverly Fox: Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby
10. Paul Philips: BOTH Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives and H.G. Wells's The Invisible Man
11. Janet Lingel Aldrich: Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
12. Katherine Nabity: Truman Capote's In Cold Blood
13. Ross Dillon: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
14. Maria Kelly: Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles
15. Katherine Hajer: Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon
16. Helen Howell: Bram Stroker's Dracula
17. Icy Sedgwick: Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto
18. Susan Cross: Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice
19. Cindy Vaskova: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
20.Rachel Frink: Truman Capote's In Cold Blood
21. April L. Hamilton: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby