Delayed Update

Right, this last week has been a difficult one, and I’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready for next week, so today’s update is going to be delayed for some time. I know both my regular readers will be crushed to hear it, but I promise to have new stuff up as soon as possible.

-Iain

Becka

Ka-bar

image credit By Nuno Silva – Foi criado por mim, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5756259

 

There was a monster in her room, but Becka wasn’t afraid of it anymore.

Daddy had taught her about monsters; he’d read her the stories about the hobbitses. Hobbitses were like people, but small, like her. He’d tickled her and called her his little hobbitses, his precious, and let her wear his magic ring so he couldn’t see her, but then he’d had to go away to a rock. He put on his special clothes and said he’d be back but then he never came back and Mommy cried and cried. Becka had checked behind the rock at the end of the driveway, past the sidewalk, where Mommy said she shouldn’t go, and even snuck into Missus Johnson’s yard, but Daddy wasn’t at any of those rocks. Maybe he was in the park?

A TRIANGLE has got THREE sides, not like a square, and Mommy had pointed to the blue triangle with the white stars and said that Daddy wasn’t coming home, Daddy was the triangle now, but the triangle didn’t have Daddy’s magic ring. Mommy kept that in the treasure chest by her bed.

After Daddy left, the monster came. At first, Becka didn’t know there was a monster; it would sneak up in the night, and in the morning her jammies would be off, but one night she’d heard the monster, telling her that she was a good little girl, tickling her, but not like Daddy had. Sometimes the monster wrestled with her, held her, scared her, made her hurt. She told Mommy about the monster, the monster with a voice like her new Unka Roy, but Mommy had gotten angry and called her a liar and slapped her, and she cried and remembered before Daddy went away.

Becka had been quiet, like a hobbitses, snuck into Mommy’s room and gotten Daddy’s magic ring so nobody could see her, then found what she needed in the back closet, where Mommy had put Daddy’s things that had come back even though he hadn’t. She hid under the covers, wearing Daddy’s magic ring so the monster couldn’t see her, and when the monster came that night, she grabbed it with one hand, the other tiny hand barely able to grasp K-A-B-A-R, that spells STING, and cut and threw the thing that came off across the room, shouting “BAD monster, leave me alone!” and Unka Roy was laying on the floor curled up and making funny noises and Mommy ran in and turned the light on and screamed and screamed.

There was a monster in her room, but Becka wasn’t afraid of it anymore.

Done

Another political post.

 

“Life … is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

There’s no one to vote for.

I think the first political conversation I remember hearing was between my mom and dad. We were driving from the Yankee Doodle restaurant, a local burger place, to Radio Shack in my dad’s old blue Dodge Dart.

Dad had a blue Dart, and Mom had a white one.

They also had the same birthday.

I grew up thinking that people whose parents were distinctly different were kind of weird.

But anyway, we’d just had dinner, and we were off to Radio Shack. We’d go there pretty often, since my dad owned a TRS-80, the first commercially available home computer. Yeah, the Apple was “released” earlier, and Dad thought about it, but it would be another year before it was really available, and I guess he didn’t want to wait.

And he and my mom were talking about Reagan, the man running for president against Jimmy Carter. The didn’t like him much, I remember Mom saying he was way too old, and Dad saying that perhaps the best thing they could hope for was for him to die in office and leave the job to the vice president, but the thing that I hitched onto with my nine-year old mind was the phrase “hold your nose and vote.”

I piped up from the back seat of the rusty old Dart, asking my dad what he meant by that, and he told me that sometimes there’s no one running that you really like. Sometimes you just have to look at the guy they’re running against, and decide which one will be less bad. That both of them smell, but once you’ve figured out which one smells worse, you just have to hold your nose and vote for the other guy.

The best etymology for the phrase that I can find is the idea of a “clothespin vote”, which apparently dates back to 1954, so I’m sure everyone is familiar with the idea. William Safire defines it as a mark of maturity, realizing and accepting that you can’t always get what you want in a candidate.

But I’m done.

Yes, I know. Politics is the art of the possible, deals need to be cut, promises need to be broken, and we need to elect the people that we trust to make the best deals possible, to have promises that are pawns to be sacrificed, and promises that are the hills that they will live and die on, in some cases literally.

But I’ve spent my whole life voting against. Over the years, my perceptions and ideologies have changed, so I can’t defend all the votes that I’ve cast, but I have almost always voted against, not for. Obama’s first term probably qualifies as an exception, but the combination of George W. Bush’s presidency and the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as Sen. McCain’s running mate would have given practically anyone the Democrats nominated my “against” vote.

The current election campaign is to the point that most everyone who isn’t a diehard supporter of Mr. Trump would probably agree to vote for Gov. Romney just to keep the man from Manhattan out of the Oval Office.

And if push came to shove, I think that group would include Sec. Clinton.

And I’m tired. I’m tired of voting against, and I don’t really believe that anyone who I can be persuaded to vote for can do any good anymore. I’ve got liberal friends who have grown to absolutely loathe Pres. Obama for his support of Wall Street and his escalation of the drone war against the world, to name the two biggies, but I just don’t know anymore. I still think that he’s a good man doing his best at an impossible job, and there’s the problem.

I don’t think there’s anyone I could vote for who would do any better.

Back when I was a jarhead, I wrote a little comic bit about the company gunny’s chair. In my unit, the company gunny was the guy who was in charge of bringing the bad news from the officers to the troops. He was the guy who’d tell you you had to work late, or on Saturday, or that you were going to be punished for something that your idiot roommate did because, as they say, reasons. And I made up this little bit about the chair at his desk. I said that it had an invisible spike on it, a spike with barbs, coming right out of the center of the seat, that slid right up the man’s ass the first time he sat down in it. Now, Marines have a joke about getting “fucked by the Big Green Weenie” anytime the Corps inflicts something unpleasant on them, and senior Marines tend to joke about having been fucked so many times that a taxi could drive right up their assholes, with the doors open, and they wouldn’t feel it, so I supposed that when the spike slid up his ass, the new company gunny wouldn’t notice.

He’d just sit there, doing his job, passing down word from on high to the troops.

But the first time he saw that something the officers were up to was unjust, or improper, or just flat-out fucked, he’d be a good guy, and try to stand up for his men.

And that’s when he’d discover that the barbs on the spike had hooked into his tailbone.

He’d stand up all right, but his spine would be ripped out of his body through his backside, leaving nothing but a spineless, gaping asshole.

Yeah, that was the punchline.

Sorry.

But the reality was, being the bad guy was literally the primary job of the company gunny. If the troops liked him, he was probably not doing what he was supposed to. The promotion was a poisoned cup; take the advancement, lose the respect of your juniors.

That’s middle management in the Marine Corps, but the American presidency is the One Ring of Sauron. As long as we want to use twenty-five percent of the world’s resources, have a thousand bases ringing the world, and feel that we should have more say in every country’s affairs than not only their neighbors, but their own citizens, anyone who become President of the United States will either be corrupted or destroyed by the simple fact of holding the job. No matter how clean the campaign, no matter how honest the candidate, they’re going to lose, be it in the primaries, the general election, or the Oval Office itself. The country is already an oligarchy, there’s no way anyone will be allowed to force through real change, no matter how sincere they are or how many small donors they get.

There’s no more hope, I’m done.

 

Four Gallons

600px-Gunto_type_98

Japanese Type 98 shin-gunto. Source: Wikipedia

This is a true story that I always thought was funny.

Then I looked up the casualty figures.

 

When I was growing up, my dad had a Japanese katana* hanging over the fireplace. He’d take it down from time to time and pull it from its metal scabbard, the curved steel blade shiny and smooth with gun oil, except near the tip, where there was a dark blemish that no amount of oiling or polishing would remove. Dad told me that my grandfather, who had served in the Navy during WWII, had captured it in the Pacific.

He said the stain was probably blood.

Grandpa had been a Lt. Commander, captaining a destroyer escort, and when we went to visit him, he’d tell, in between pulls from his whiskey and drags from the foul little cigars he chain-smoked, stories of the war. The stories were often long, rambling, and didn’t include any fighting, but it’s not only the combat vets who face PTSD. He was just twenty-seven years old when he’d been placed in charge of 198 officers and men in the largest naval conflict the world has even seen, and the faces of his brother officers who hadn’t made it back came up through the mists of time and alcoholism more often than I could understand at twelve years old.

One day I asked him about the sword.

“Captured it on Saipan,” he said, “We were escorting the gyrenes coming in, and I went in once it was over.” He ordered another drink. “I got onto the beach, and there were these dead Japs just everywhere, so I figured I’d grab myself a couple of souvenirs, but the Marines weren’t having any of it. I suppose…”

He got quiet for a while, staring off into the past, but the arrival of the waiter brought him back around, and he downed half of the fresh drink. “There were a lot of dead Americans on that beach too. Lotta good men died there. So I saw that sword laying right next to a dead Jap, and I was going to take it when this big Marine came up and stopped me. No way he was going to let some Navy officer just grab a prize that his buddies had died for.”

I was too young to imagine the scene, so I just nodded. “But anyway, I wanted that sword, so I pointed out to where my ship was.”

“’You see that ship, sergeant?’ I said. ‘That’s my ship, I’m the captain.’” He lit up another cigar. “’You gotta understand, it was hot there, real hot, and those jarheads had been fighting for ages, so I told him ‘That ship’s got an ice cream maker on board. Whaddya say I give you and your boys four gallons of ice cream in trade for letting us take a couple souvenirs off this beach?’”

He died a few years later, when I was still too young to enlist, and I hope he doesn’t mind that the sword has found its way back into the hands of a Marine, four gallons or not.

*The sword in question is not what one thinks of when the word “katana” is mentioned. It is, as far as I can determine, a Japanese Type 98 Shin-gunto, a mass produced weapon issued to non-commissioned officers as a mark of rank as much as anything else, with no markings that could be used to identify the soldier to whom it originally belonged. Had he ended his war someplace other than the Yasukuni shrine, it would have, like my grandfather’s ship, been returned to the government and melted down for scrap.

Okeegara

This was a difficult story to write. Although the central event is true, I knew nothing of the details surrounding it, thus any similarities to real persons or events are coincidental. I don’t think that makes it any easier.

 

Every night I see her. A toddler, beneath a table. Elderly, sitting on a gnarled root. In her teens, twenties, middle-aged, dancing, almost floating, barefoot, in the dappled sunlight of a silent clearing, smiling, inviting me to follow.

I long for sleep, dread sleep, doze off in class, wake up weeping, always seeing her, my little Megan, out there in the woods.

She was a quiet baby; she rarely cried, hardly ever babbled. Concerned, Beth and I had had her tested for autism. “Megan is just a very quiet little girl,” the doctor had concluded. “Be thankful, little Craig didn’t let me sleep for the first year. Colic.”

She liked to hide. At two, she christened her favorite spot “Okeegara.” It was easy to see when she was there; she’d never fail to take her shoes off before crawling underneath the oak dining set, protected in its forest of chair legs. Talking didn’t seem to be allowed there; the first time I’d slid myself under the table, I’d gotten no further than “Hey, honey” before being cut off by a fierce little scowl, her chubby finger to her lips. “Ssshhh, Daddy. Okeegara is a quiet place.”

She loved to draw. Always the forest. The forest, and her imaginary friends ‘Dikey’ and ‘Hero,’ who lived in Okeegara, up in the trees. At three, she made up her own alphabet, strange little squiggles she pretended were their names.

When she got bigger, Okeegara moved, became a few small trees in the backyard. Megan would spend hours out there, just sitting quietly, always shoeless, in her little woodland.

Kindergarten. Parent-teacher conferences, praise for her intelligence, cautious questions about her emotional development, her “lack of interest in socializing with her peers.” Beth defending Megan, repeating the doctor’s diagnosis: “My daughter is just a quiet girl, dammit, there’s nothing wrong with her!”

We moved. I found a new job at a new school, rented an old stone farmhouse, and she was in heaven. Her private forest, once under the dining room table, then in a suburban backyard, finally became the woods, real woods, behind the new house.

The spring before she was to go to high school, I got an offer. Tenure track, finally, at a university in the city. It included an apartment downtown for the first year, to give me time to get my bearings.

The move drove her insane. She couldn’t handle the city, the noise, the concrete.

No trees.

She broke down, retreated into her room, into her bed, into herself. Stopped talking. Stopped eating.

We got help. Inpatient care, at a private facility in the country. It seemed good for her. The counselors said she was becoming more social, eating again. They recommended weekly trips to a park, a forest, “quiet time to commune with nature and recharge her batteries.”

According to the incident report, an hour before she was due to be discharged, she asked to be allowed to go out and pick some flowers for us. They found her in a small grove, fifteen minutes later. She’d fashioned the noose out of braided dental floss.

She had removed her shoes. She was thirteen.

It was too much; Beth left. The dreams began.

Four years after Megan died, I got the letter. Her junior high English class had written letters to themselves, to be mailed in time for high school graduation. We’d moved, left a forwarding address, but never told the school about her passing. Inside the envelope, labeled with her made-up alphabet, was a drawing of the forest, with Megan, Dikey, and Hero, up in the trees. But the writing…

Not made-up. Not Okeegara.

Japanese. Aokigahara. The Sea of Trees, the haunted forest beneath Mt. Fuji, eternally silent, where Daiki, Hiro, and hundreds of others have gone to die, to hang in the trees forever.

Where Megan died so many times before. Where she’s gone again.

Where she calls me now to come and join her.

Soon.

Piercing Gaze

DSCN2939

Something I made for a friend who shares a love of dolls