The Prostate Son

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An excerpt:

Dad shuffled out of the house, grabbing his jacket as he went out the door, started the car, and Mom hustled after him. They drove away into a light gray afternoon. Then it was a drive to a urologist. Then it was a drive to Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Mom couldn’t bear to ride with him, so she sent him away early that morning, and I drove him. I shook his hand after his sage advice to a married man who’d fathered four children, holding his hand, really, holding it in a religious bond. It was good advice.

When I was seventeen, Mom and Dad went to Europe with my sister, leaving me behind to work, to save up for college, and to save up for my own trip to Europe after I graduated from high school. The very day they boarded the airplane, my relationship with Amy soured. We didn’t break up, but she decided to tell me she was seeing Brad. “I thought we were going steady,” I said. I tried to play it cool because Amy was tall and fair, and very hip. She put the chic in chick, man, and all of us who went for the alternative labels in our musical tastes—all of us went for Amy, so she could afford to choose. “I really did,” I said. “I thought we were going steady.”

“Is that what you want?” she said back to me, in an absolutely unforeseen response. I was bracing myself for something more along the lines of “Well, no, we aren’t going steady, you silly boy,” or “I don’t believe in such limitations.” Indeed, the latter was what I expected to hear because for Amy, it was freedom. She only wanted freedom, and I felt like I had won some sort of sweepstakes to be pulled into her orbit.

Months after our first meeting, we had our first kiss. Months.

The Prostate Son

Spinosis Ventrem

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An excerpt:

Carla sniffed the spray as the breeze brought it from gentle breakers, tickling her nose with a curl of her own hair, which, on occasion, she caught in her teeth, playing with her hair even as the toddler played with the sea. The sand beneath the towel was firm, but it gave when she ground in her heels. Seagulls were competing somewhere in the distance, becoming as thin pencil sketchings against a brilliant blue sky. One seagull dove nearer, and its call mingled with the squealing of the toddler. Carla smiled again as she saw him bounding away from the tickling fingers of the sea, chasing her son as a father might do, thundering with great primal power, but relenting for the sake of mirth. He expended so much motion in his legs and arms, she thought, in a perfect caricature of a running toddler, yet moving only so slowly.

It wasn’t a gun shot, but her mind had to go to that possibility first because of all the news. Nevertheless, a startling cracking sound had come to her senses, perhaps through her feet and not through her ears. Was it an earthquake? Yet the earth did not move. She was sure something critical had sounded out, perhaps beneath the waves, a tremendous unleashing in an eyeblink of time. She pondered.

A shriek awakened her from her meanderings, that shriek which every mother perceives before she hears it, the change from play-acted fear to genuine terror. She was on her feet, running to him, his eyes filled with pain, his mouth in a howl for Mommy. She was to him in one, two, three leaps.

“What’s wrong?” she cried out to him. “Tell Mommy what hurts.” Between sobs, he babbled sensibly enough that she learned he had a boo-boo on his foot. She looked. His foot was indeed bleeding from the sole. What did he step on? She searched quickly, watching a wave recede. Yes, there it was: “You stepped on a sea urchin,” she said, kissing his foot, picking him up to carry him to her spot, where she thought she might have a paper towel to stop the bleeding, “a nasty little sea urchin.”

Spinosis Ventrem

The Primal Flower, Chapter 5 (Part A)

In which our intrepid hero goes in search of supplies and finds, instead, a pub.

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“Lily,” the beer made me say, “is making things happen to me.”

“Lily,” said her uncle, “Lily is a catalyst.”

“A catalyst?”

“A catalyst,” he said. “Your character is responding to her, and you are unfamiliar with the response because it is visceral and you cannot control it; it must feel similar to that day of the battle for your city.”

“Yes,” I said, pondering. “Come to think of it, it does.” I pulled my feet up under my chair. “It is a thrill to look at her—to put my eyes upon her—to imagine her figure—”

“Tut!” he interrupted, laughing. “Speak carefully, O Nathet! You have a habit of speaking too colorfully.”

“Surely,” I said, shaking my head, looking directly at him from under my own brow, “surely we must be able to speak to each other colorfully if we are to be companions upon the highways.”

He laughed, saying, “Indeed, and we must be able to speak colorfully upon the wilderness roads and when we are lost, as well! Do continue.”

“It is a thrill, as I was saying, to imagine her figure; it is not as though she hides her figure, even though the outward effort is there, using the dark clothing as a cloud, but her figure is so clearly evident,” I said, “that the imagination is forced to work in that particular direction.”

He said nothing, but he fingered his cup.

“And she’s such a mystery,” I continued. “A mystery. She has treasured up knowledge in music, especially, but she is able to speak music. Speak music. When she talks, it is the same as a song—not the music, as in the melody—it is the artistry, the wisdom, the poetry—the words, and she walks those words. I see those words in her figure, and it is music when she moves it.”

He continued looking at his cup without a comment.

“When I left my home that day, I had decided to leave for the sake of leaving. Now I desire to leave, even more earnestly, not to leave but to find something.”

“Then to return?” he asked.

“Then to return,” I said.

“For her?” he asked.

“It is a mystery,” I returned. “I don’t know what I will find.”

“You will find her,” he said. “Most certainly.”

The Primal Flower, Chapter 5 (Part A)

Going Over The Falls

It is a curiosity that wherever there are great waterfalls, the indigenous peoples of that region, without any near anthropological connection to each other, all have similar stories concerning an ancient distraught princess throwing herself to her doom. Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls, Iguazu Falls, you name it. I suppose the notion that a young girl would commit suicide rather than be without her true love resonates with a certain sentimentality present in every spirit. Who knows? Nevertheless, spirits are set free, then, to haunt the immediate confines with the low wails of youthful tragedy, wails undergirded by the ceaseless outcry of falling water.

Easy ghost story, right? Well, about 30 years ago, when I was 12 years old, one of the local Chickasaw gentlemen serving as a guide at Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, Alabama taught me a little more about these liberated spirits. Spirits specifically compelled to go over the falls by frustrated romantic love, he said, cannot merely wander, as it is always told. No, they must remain incarnate within something material. Thousands of people over the ages have gone over the falls, yet only a handful are known to call out. Why? Because these went over the falls with something material in hand into which their spirits could remain incarnate even after their bodies had been obliterated. As for this Cherokee princess at Noccalula Falls, she must have carried some sort of talisman with her which embedded itself in the rocks behind the falls.

Fascinating, right? Over the years, especially after I developed an interest in cross-cultural deep structural analysis, that is, what makes us all common to each other within our cultural expressions, I’ve made a small hobby of investigating his teaching. He was old, so I believed him.

Here in the Niagara Falls area, there is a subculture of collectors, much like philatelists who specialize, say, in Pacific Island stamps–there is a subculture of artifact collectors here in the region who specialize in broken bits of the barrels in which adventurers have died when they went over the Niagara Falls. After some inquiring, which was considerable–these guys are very close, shall we say–I was directed to a little meeting room above one of the halal places on Third Street, from which you can see the Niagara Falls.

I remember trying the door, and it was unlocked, yielding a view of a room filled with canvas, burlap, and glass display cases. Some of the display cases were electrified, with sensors blinking alternately green and red as they cycled through their monitoring programs. I stood in the doorway, taking it all in. A few chairs were scattered here and there.

“Hello,” said a voice behind me. Naturally, I was startled.

“Sorry,” I said. “I was looking for someone to talk to.”

“We’re not a therapist group,” he replied, but he was smiling, indicating the jest.

I told him who I was and what I was doing, mentioning the Chickasaw guide from back when.

“Oh, Indians romanticize perfectly measurable science,” he said. I cringed at the prejudice, but I was listening. He continued, saying, “It’s not just specific to distraught teenage girls, but he’s absolutely right about incarnation. High Place Phenomenon gives us a ton of artifacts to work with, you see, and we can run experiments. The easiest ones to work with are those which float, like pieces of barrel. If you run a control, the pieces which went over the falls tend to move as though they have a will of their own, propelled by some sort of unseen force.

“What we don’t know, and we haven’t developed a proper experiment for, is how life force is caught up in some pieces and not others. Our pedigree analysis is fairly thorough, so we know that two pieces from one barrel will have a different measure of life force. Competing theories abound up here, but it’s all speculation right now. The two main lines are: first, that a strong-willed man might actually be able to call the life force of others who linger nearby to join his life force, and which creates the guise of uneven distribution. The second is that the material does not break up uniformly or in sequence, so the life force is distributed at the moment of death into the nearest largest shard.

“Again, we’re scientists, but our methods are terribly under-developed.

“Of course, we might be entirely wrong: the death of the man in the barrel might actually invoke the life force of the falls to enter into the material, a sort-of by-product of the material slash life force exchange going on in an extraordinary circumstance. High Place Phenomenon is an outside influence on the psychology of perfectly ordinary human beings, you know.”

“Don’t forget the woman,” I said.

Going Over The Falls