Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2011.10.04 — Imperfect Short Story and Wayne Dyer small fushigi*

Yesterday I completed and posted a short story for the Goodreads group of which I am a member. It is a weekly competition and I've been a member of it since Feb 2011, and this was my first short story posted. (I have posted in the poetry thread in this group too, quite often.)

For some reason the topic, 'Imperfect,' appealed to me, and I wrote the following:
Imperfect — A Story

It began with a story. But of course that is not unique or even interesting, because doesn't everything begin with story? I would like to think that mine is at least unusual. But doesn't everyone?

Where was I? Right… It began with a story. Well, actually, for the story to be, something had to be, or at least have been before that, and so maybe that is where I'd best begin — before the beginning.

In the before the beginning the objective was to write a scene from my life told in omniscient third person. This is something that I had a hard time doing, but the teacher was particularly inspiring and filled my heart with the ache of wanting to impress him.

Looking back I am no longer sure that my motives were simply to bask in his approval for my becoming creatively liberated, or to be simply carnally consumed by his spirit made flesh. I did love the flash in his eyes whenever a particular passion in art was discussed. Now, as I look back on it I wonder that my having aged did not bring at least some token of understanding, or even an iota less confusion. Or perhaps it is simply that youth misunderstands what real understanding is, and that is to expand from impossibility what can be true and untrue at the same time.

But let me keep it childhood simple: I had a story to write and an older boy to impress. Thus I strove with all my imagination to be my story's God. For all I know I may even have said a quiet, not really believed by me prayer to that end because I was still a part of my family and heartfelt parental prayer always preceded dinner, groundings and the rare but ever questionable strappings. The important things, I guess, were what needed prayer and boy was this story important.

No one warned me of the dangers of imagination, and so I put imagination into the pre-textual page as God, and that imagination took me to the Biblical adage about sparrows falling, and 'But the very hairs of your head are numbered.' God is in the details, I realized, and that requires omniscience.

Oddly enough I know now that it was my complete lack of imagination that had me begin the story with me sitting in a room — my bedroom, in a rather uncomfortable wooden chair, old oak and without wheels or a cushion. With only some hesitation I wrote that all down, and the details of the desk and its scratches and ink stains too. And then what was on it and under it: books, dolls, a teddy bear, Disneyland ride ticket from when I was young, a photo with me and my dad when he had a long beard, iPod, carpet, dust bunnies. Then more detail. A Wrinkle in Time, To Kill a Mocking Bird and a ragged and stained cloth bound Tale of Peter Rabbit, a childhood favourite; threadbare pale green wool carpet, a single sock with a hole at the toe and in the heal, etc.

After that it got easy. I wrote everything I could see, in as much detail as my imagination demanded of me, down to the number of teeth marks on the plastic end of the pen I liked to chew on to make myself look like I was thinking whenever I heard my father creak down the hallway to surprise me with a 'Homework finished yet, Jen?' check. And I wrote that down too.

I did not write that my ability to see is — was imperfect. I began listing in the morning, Sunday after early morning church. The day had begun overcast and was now wet with a steady light rain. As such it was a perfect day for writing, if what I was doing could be called that.

I wrote steadily, but steadily faster and I remember feeling pleased with myself when I finished the first scribbler of details around the time mom call 'Jennifer, it's time for lunch!' And I wrote that down. 'I'm busy right now!' I called back to her through the closed door. 'Doing school work! Is it okay if I eat it in here?' And I wrote that down and the details of the next scribbler - red Mead metal coil 200 pages, etc.

That my mother did not question me right then was a warning sign, the dangerous kind because it didn't look like a one. Instead, after what must have been a pause, she called back 'Okay,' and a few minutes later she'd set lunch down in front of me. Homemade mac & cheese. And I wrote that down, and the details of the pasta and the paprika and parmesan cheese in the bread crust and the roasted sliced tomato and pepper and olive oil and the aroma and the taste. I did not write down why she did, but what she did and wore doing it. Even that her hair was bobbed, that she wore glasses and just a hint of make-up.

After lunch my listing seemed to take on supernormality and I went through three scribblers and five pens before the call for supper. My details had moved beyond my room — the closet was tough! And encompassed the house, one room at a time. Then the yard, including the trees — four Japanese maples, three ornamental cherries two jack pines and a robin's nest in a pear tree. I was just finishing the street when I was surprised by mom's 'Supper time!'

I stopped, and set my pen down with stiffened fingers. I rubbed them as I rose and then turned to leave the room and screamed when I saw what walked past the large mirror resting on the floor, angled against the wall. I don't remember fainting but the next thing I remember was the sound of my family's voices too close to my face and too full of anxiety. I think someone was slapping my hand.

When I looked over I saw her, just as I'd written down in my book. And apparently she was the one holding and none too gently slapping my hand. I could feel mine in hers, and hear and feel the other one slapping me, but I didn't see her hands! I screamed again, and this time jumped up oblivious to dad's and mom's frantic 'What's wrong?' to re-look at myself in the mirror.

I wasn't there! I saw my dress and shoes and my hands, but nothing else. I had no arms or head, no legs or feet. I turned to look at my parents, and I saw my father's beard, just as I'd described it, and his kind eyes with the noticeable laugh lines, but the rest of his face wasn't written down. When I looked towards the door I could see his hands reaching for me, but where my mother's hands should have been I saw instead the cuff's of her Sunday chores' blouse, blue with splashes of flour and mystery colours. Just as I'd described. When I looked at my mother's face the concern was visible everywhere but in here eyes, which for some reason did not exist, lost in an opaque disk of nothing.

'Wait!' I called, voice cracking to keep tears from being triggered as I moved unsteadily to the books of lists.

'What's wrong?' they pleaded.

'Please, just wait. Please,' I begged. 'Don't move, stay there!'

Frantically I flipped to the first book and looked for where I'd described my father and me in the picture. I gasped in horror when I read what I'd written: '… My father standing beside me, his eyes crinkled in laughter as they always are after he'd given me a beard-tickle.' What I'd scribbled, what I'd painstakingly described were the things that I'd remembered perfectly but I'd omitted the other ones because they weren't important enough to be perfectly remembered. And I'd describe how my hair looked that day, with the ribbon mom had tied into it that morning, but not my face.

My mind was reeling. This is impossible, I thought. And looked again to the faceless image of the mirrored me; and then at my mother and father, and their missing pieces.

I quickly flipped to the front of book #2 to see how I'd described mom. Yup, the mom who was mouthing 'What' wrong, baby?' was the one'd I'd described in scribbled ink. I tried to answer, but my voice box wasn't working. I creaked out a couple of 'I… I… I.. 's before my father said, 'If you're pregnant, Jennifer, we don't care. In fact a new baby would be great for both of us.'

'I'm not pregnant!' I barked back, genuinely surprised that my father thought me an easy and careless lay!

'No, no, I'm sure you're not,' my father stumbled his words. 'I'm just trying to say that even if you were pregnant, we'd take care you.' He paused. 'You don't have to,' drifted into my panicking brain.

I went to the window, and saw our trees, and the giant neighbour's tree, all of which I'd described. Not so much the neighbour's house, although it did have a big chimney, just like I'd described, and smoke.

I jumped back to the desk, and opened the last book to the last open page, and began to describe the neighbour's ugly red house in as much detail as memory allowed me to. And when I looked at it again, it was now far more detailed, although now it had become decidedly lopsided as if it were some kind of antagonistically conjoined split-level / raised-level house. 'But that's not my memory!' I cried out loud.

'Whatever do you mean, dear?' my mother asked. And I missed that warning too, another dangerous one. 'You stay here, please, and we'll get you help.'

'I don't need help!' I yelled.

But I did. I needed perfect recall, and a lot more pens and books. Instead my mother called emergency, and while I was scribbling the details of my world back into existence an EMT armed with a loaded syringe stabbed me in the arm with a drug that knocked me out. Good-bye, world.

When next I woke, I knew I was in a hospital even before I opened my eyes. It was the smell. In the bed beside me was somebody snoring, loudly. I turned my head to see who was there, but when I opened my eyes I couldn't see. I couldn't see the snorer or anything — 'I'm blind!' I cried which got some of the staff to move more urgently around me. After the staff and other patients settled, I heard someone I couldn't see me tell me that he was a doctor, and that I was now in good hands. 'What hands?' I thought. I hadn't described them into existence yet.
Now for the fushigi.

Today my wife called me at work to ask me to pick up some groceries on the way home from a local market. This is a very unusually but not unheard of request, and it is a small dog leg to do so. Today, for the first time ever on a Tuesday I broke the hurry get home fast rule and stopped in at Renaissance Books. (My hope is to catch some Chomsky or Jung that I've not yet got.) This was to be a very quick look and see if I get lucky. I didn't, but when I drew a
blank I took a quick look at the self-help section to see if I there were any other writers there I am also looking for writers like Marie-Louise von Franz or David K. Reynolds or Sheldon Kopp. An example of one I am not looking for, however, is Wayne Dyer.

Thus arose the fushigi, when my eye caught a book by Wayne Dyer:
You'll See It When You Believe It: The Way to Your Personal Transformation. HarperCollins.
ISBN: 0060937335

No, I did not buy it. I've read two of his early books, and seen him on TV a couple of times, and while I believe that what he argues is fundamentally true, he does not provide me with any new information.

What struck as the fushigi was that my short story was about how a young woman discovers that her fundamental ability to see is proscribed by what she is able to see in her imagination and then make manifest on the page. I wasn't consciously writing that in my story, although I am well aware of the philosophy that to make something manifest requires the believe in its existence in one's life.

Like I said, a small fushigi.

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