The Art of Being Alone- a novella (3rd installment)

2028238Inspired by the writing of Richard Brautigan, The Art of Being Alone is a novella that strangely fits very well with this time in the world. I began it over a year ago and through this website and installments, I hope to force my hand in finishing it. I will be sharing 5 or so pages of it, each week. The first two installments can be found here and here. I hope you enjoy it.–

10- Walking

I enjoy walking on the Moon. I enjoy the “bounce” in my step. I enjoy listening to my breathing in my suit. It is steady and strong, never over excited. It was during one of my walks that I began to see the flashes on the surface of the Earth. They are like the flickers of little lights.

When I lived on the planet there was always a concern about bombs and power. Now and then a leader would come to see me and ask for money. I would usually give it, just to get them to leave. They would then appear on the news saying I support them or a cause.

Blah. Blah. Whatever.

Now there are flashes on the gray surface of that old planet in the distance and I am happily bouncing on the Moon like a child in a giant inflatable castle. Continue reading

The Art of Being Alone- a novella (2nd installment)

2028238Inspired by the writing of Richard Brautigan, The Art of Being Alone is a novella that strangely fits very well with this time in the world. I began it over a year ago and through this website and installments, I hope to force my hand in finishing it. I will be sharing 5 or so pages of it, each week. The first installment can be found here. I hope you enjoy it.–

6- The Quiet

When you read and/or watch stories about people living alone, they… do things.

They maybe sing little songs. They talk to themselves about important matters. They might even have friends (maybe just in their corrupted minds) or memories that give us glimpses into their psyche.

I wonder if that is a sign of human weakness. The fact that we need “something.”

We just can’t be alone as people, even in a story. I wonder if we feel too much and that is why the isolation and the silence becomes overbearing. It makes us look inside and we don’t want that! Heaven forbid! We want bangs, flashes, shouting, sex! A person can’t simply “be” in a tale.

For me, I am simply being. I am this and nothing else. I will prove it.

I get up when I get up. I have no sense of time here, but I can say that when the sun begins to spread across the ground and I feel it coming through the plastic glass of my dome and reach my feet, I rise. I stretch one part of my body and then the next. Somewhere I can hear the electronic buzzing of the mechanics that make my home a reality. I couldn’t tell you how the things work, I have no need to know. I simply asked for it and people completed the needed task. Transaction complete.

I then walk in my weighted slippers to the dispenser which takes the food that is grown in the greenhouses and makes it into designated dishes. I eat whatever I want and then I sit, write in this journal and look at the regolith.

There is no noise, no talking, no music, no wind. Just silence.

It is glorious and that is all I need in my story. Continue reading

The Art of Being Alone- a novella (1st installment)

2028238Inspired by the writing of Richard Brautigan, The Art of Being Alone is a novella that strangely fits very well with this time in the world. I began it over a year ago and through this website and installments, I hope to force my hand in finishing it. I will be sharing 5 or so pages of it, each week. I hope you enjoy it.–

THE ART OF BEING ALONE

“I’m nobody! Who are you? Are you- Nobody- too?” – Emily Dickinson

“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” ― Charlotte Brontë

“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.” ― Mark Twain

1- What I Need You to Understand

I want you first to realize I am not here out of hate. I came here because I was done with humanity.

It wasn’t a sudden decision to leave Earth. I had been up for days watching screens (in front of me, at my fingers, on my wrist) and I began to wonder why am I still dealing with this shit. (By the way, that is the only time I am going to swear in this journal. My grandmother told me a long time ago that swear words were the vocabulary for those with not enough education to find other options. I am not sure that is true, but when I lived on Earth there was a lot of swearing.)

I also didn’t come here to hurt anyone. Yet, I know a lot of people were hurt by my decisions. When I was on Earth they called me one of the 5%s because we had everything. I couldn’t argue with that because it was true. I could buy anything, own anything, even sleep with anyone. Everything had a price and I could pay it. And I did… And I did again and again…

But I had reached a moment and…

I should talk about my grandfather first.

Grandpa Jones.

It begins with him. It all begins with him. He was the reason I was a 5%. Even as a child I could tell he was fighting for something, but I had no idea what. He would sit at his desk on the phone or pace on the phone and shout. He always shouted,

When I was young I had no idea what he was shouting about, but it worked. Our houses (for I lived with them, they had bought me from my parents by then) kept getting bigger and bigger until they stopped. Pools, servants (grandpa would call them slaves and barely paid them but they were still happy to take the money), land, pets. Everything.

When my grandfather finally reached 5% he found me in the pool taking swimming lessons from my swim coach (it was his job to teach me, he had won an Olympic medal once. I asked to see it, but he said he had to sell it for food a long time ago). I saw his shoes first on the water edge. I swam to the shoes, I was 9 so I had to hang onto the edge of the pool.

He was looking down at me with an expression I had never seen before. It was a smile. “Son (that is what he called me), I did it.” His smile got bigger. “I finally did it.”

It was then that he jerked, twitched and fell face down in the water next to me.

He died right there.

2- The Surface

You get used to the lack of things here. I don’t mean items and products (I have had enough of those). I mean things like oxygen and gravity. For example, I have become very good at bouncing.

There is no beauty here. The rocks everywhere are not beautiful. They are just rocks. It is a very rocky surface.

I remember the old photos of Earth taken from the moon surface, the Earth looked beautiful then. Now it is gray and sometimes red in spots from the burning lands, the areas too hot for anything.

People used to say 5%ers like my grandfather caused that with their greed. They are probably right. I was never taught to care or feel guilty about things. I just accept things as facts. So, yes, that is probably a fact. I would acknowledge it like that (if I have to). Acknowledging it though doesn’t change anything.

Another fact! They don’t have the resources or capital to fix the ugly earth. It is what it is and I do my best not to look at it when I can.

Another fact! The moon is cold, but the sunlight is warm. I have solar panels for all my needs here- food, heat, energy. So it could be said the sun is killing everyone on earth but saving me here.

I am sure my grandfather would have been happy about that.

3- When you have…

When you have all the money, you simply have to make a decision. It is not like “want”, it is not that overwhelming. It is a simple decision. You point at something in a store and they hand it to you. You don’t have time to feel.

So when I decided to leave the shouting and burning of the world, I simply made a call and then pointed at the Moon.

There were some nods, a bow, and it began.

4- The Filth of Man

When I decided I was done with humankind and ready to leave everything behind, I began to collect Moon facts. It was inspiring to me; I was a person preparing a move to a new land, except this one was farther away.

There was one fact that impacted me a great deal. And it really said to me everything about why I was leaving that destroyed burning planet with its failing mankind.

Did you know that during all of those amazing Apollo missions to the Moon, that the astronauts left their poop there?

See, they couldn’t take the remains with them (they had to consider the weight in the spaceships they were using; at least that is the excuse they used), but there… during the greatest achievement in history, we left 96 bags of filth behind. Think of that next time you imagine Armstrong’s great words. He left his footprint and his poop there.

Let me say that again, 96 bags of trash are scattered over the Moon surface. Astronaut poop, food waste, wrappers. They just left it there, like people littering at a park. And just like awful vacationers, they took pictures, and threw their trash around and left, not bothering to clean up. It is all so awful a concept, it makes me want to vomit.

There are family pictures, golf balls, and even a feather and a hammer around as well.

Again, we litter. We litter in places of beauty, we litter around our own homes, and we liter on the Moon.

When I was selecting the spot for my own lunar home, I demanded that it not be anywhere near the trash and Moon landing spots. Imagine having to deal with those American flags just hanging around in my backyard! Also, every telescope in the world points at those flags a few times a year, the last thing I wanted to be was a show for the people. All those people staring up at me, as I picked up old astronaut poop and raked away the footprints on the lunar regolith. (Of course, I would remove them. This is my home now, not theirs).

Exploring those famous Apollo locations would be like visiting a friend who has big dogs, carefully stepping to avoid a surprise under foot.

Consider how poetic this is (and here is the poet still lingering in my mind coming out again after a deep yawn)- If the world blows up (which will probably happen) and mankind dies away (which will most definitely happen in time), all that will remain to show we were even around are almost 100 bags of filth and flags.

5- The Moon Surface

The proper term for the Moon rocks and dust is “regolith.” It is incredibly inhospitable. It even contains glass that could do major physical damage.

It is as if the Moon is saying, “I don’t want you here. There is nothing here for you.” No air, no water, just a dirt that wants to damage anything you need.

This was all a great concern actually when they were designing my habitat. There were questions about what the lunar regolith would do to my equipment or even me, (If I breathed some in would the glass in it damage my lungs, etc.?).

The decision was made the create an entrance room that cleans the regolith off of my suit. It takes five minutes, but it is thorough. It is like standing in a hot wind for a while, strangely soothing. It reminds me of a time when I was young and my grandfather took me on his boat. (He worked the entire time, of course.) But I was able to lie on the boat and feel the sun rays hitting me.

I got very sunburnt and my tutor (who was supposed to be watching me) was fired. I was never allowed to experience that again, but I remember the feeling. I thought at the time it was like a kiss from the sun, a bit of happiness, but it really was the sun telling me I was unwanted here and was trying to give me pain.

Again, not surprising. Everything on Earth is pain.

Another fact! The astronauts of the Apollo missions brought back quite a bit of regolith. Almost 800 pounds of it, if you can believe it. But while that is a wonderful achievement, they also did not take very good care of it. Most of it had been exposed to air and was really unusable for scientists.

Honestly, they had one thing to do on those trips and they failed at it.

Hello, mankind, hello.

My Favorite Literary Oddities

What a weird pictureOn June 11, my new book MAXIMILIAN STANDFORTH AND THE CASE OF THE DANGEROUS DARE will be released via amazon.com in eBook and print. Currently, there is a book giveaway going on for the book on Good Reads which you can enter here.

To help prepare for the release of this odd and playful book, I thought it would be fun to write on some of the influences for the novel.  This week I discuss three writers who gave me the courage to attempt the mad surprises that come in this new novel.

There should be a warning that is given to every future English Major. It should be in bold lettering with a dark-foreboding red hue.

WARNING: This major will impact how you read and enjoy books forever.

We all scamper and leap into becoming English majors because of a love of books, imagining afternoons in classes playfully discussing our new favorite classics. The ultimate book club! Surrounded by like-minded, educated readers debating and then debating some more the next day. All that is missing is the secret handshakes, but a big part of that dream is true… What is glaringly missing in the scenario though is the in-depth analysis that comes along for the ride.

When you are an English major you are taught to deconstruct a book down to its essence, find new ways to interpret a work (maybe related to the author’s biography or the history of the time, etc.); whatever the case, when you are done with a book, it is never the book it once was to you at the start. Over time, this kind of investigation will become part of your reading makeup.

You’ve seen too much! The wizard cannot go back behind the curtain, you know it is a silly old man now! Every book is a future study, even when you don’t mean to do it. And soon you may even begin to forget what it was like to simply open a book and enjoy the tale. Continue reading

Missing My Vonnegut Moment

Listen:

There is a piece of family mythology that I might have made up.

My grandmother was friends with Kurt Vonnegut’s first wife’s college roommate. I know that is not much, but here me out; there is a chance that my favorite writer (the genius behind Slaughterhouse-Five and others works of literary greatness) might have been aware of my family.

Why is this important? Well, in 1999, Kurt Vonnegut released a book of his uncollected short stories (Bagombo Snuff Box). Many of these stories were uncollected for a good reason; being the product of a struggling writer just looking for a sale in the booming short story market of the 1950s. Yet, there is one story in it of particular importance to me.

It is called “The Runaways” and it stars a family named the Southards.

Now, I know there are other Southards out there in the world. Heck, I’ve even found other writers out there with the same name as me (first and last), but with that slight connection, who is to say he might not have remembered meeting my grandmother by chance at that dorm room before a date (and my grandmother was quite the looker then) or had seen her referenced in a letter? Whatever the case, before anyone else does, I am staking my claim:

The great Kurt Vonnegut was inspired to use the name Southard in that story because of my grandmother.

There I typed it, and because it is the internet (and there are no falsehoods on the internet) and Vonnegut is no longer around to argue about it, it must be true.

So it goes. Continue reading