So all my reminiscing here in the weblog got me to actually stir from my chair and look through a few things, principally the file cabinet in the basement where Janet had me stuff all sorts of items over the years to get them out of sight. One drawer was supposed to be dedicated to my writing; it seems to be littered with play programs (from plays I wrote) and multiple copies of scripts. However, I located several things I didn’t think existed anymore—principally a xerox copy of the four chapters of The Book of Seasons that I actually finished. I know, I know. I told you it was lost; I even summarized the plot, but I found it, and I can prove my memory is fallible because I didn’t remember what I’d written correctly.
(I feel intrigued that I have a xerox of this text—not the original, just a xerox—and the kind of xerox that it is. I guess it would be safe now, nearly 30 years on, to admit I must have made use of one of the first copiers at the school.) Anyway, I got it entered into the computer (I hope with very few auditory errors, like the one that those of you who get the blog via e-mail saw toward the end of Mantorville, part nine), and now you’ll have to endure what I was writing as fiction back in Ft. Madison (and evidently revising to one degree or another in the early years here in Maquoketa). Voila — The Book of Seasons…
The Book of Seasons
“Look, in growing up we all go through a multitude of ambitions. but, for most people, that’s all they are, ambitions. only the fortunate ever satisfy, even partially any of those aspirations.”
I never dreamed, even in my most secret pretensions, that I would one day be composing a book about myself (no matter how tangentially). I never dreamed, that is, until I met the rather peculiar person who originally uttered those sentiments. Our acquaintance, unusual in itself, proved the spark which has since become such a persistent flame in my thought that I must record what I have learned — simultaneously recapturing and exercising that person and his portion of my life. So I discover myself in a position to speak somewhat about me on paper, all the better to clarify Mr. Durwood Wakdjunkaga’s quite singular life and definitely plural times.
Although trained to teach English literature, I have never had great cause to practice, let alone polish, my own literary skills. I always been more an observer to participant. For that reason, my narrative abilities, as more than several informal anecdotes I have attempted to recount have revealed, are not among the best. I fear that I serve as an altogether inadequate and roughly made container for what is an extremely rare and very excellent vintage, an inappropriate and common medium for thoroughly extraordinary tale.
I am, as I suggested, a teacher. I have been teaching now for three years. In the fall of my senior year at college, I undertook my student teaching practicum at one of the high schools in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a fair-sized metropolitan area with a respectable amount of industry, citizenry, idolatry, complacency, insanity and skullduggery. In most respects it is a typical Midwestern midsize city; it is unique in that it is a place of distinct odors. Anyone who has ever passed through Cedar Rapids will assert that it is an unusually smelly town. Those who live there identify a variety of individual stenches: Quaker Oats’ aroma usually smacks of baking and industrial effluvia combined; the meat processing plant spews an organic order of rot; a cloacal malodor of and sewage rises from either the river, which roughly bisects the city on a north-south line, or a small unnatural lake in the central northwest. These are the emanations which I became able to distinguish during my brief habitation. Residents of the community also claim a varying number of other minor reeks, including the essences of the local zoo and the less desirable students of Coe College. I never found the mephitis of Cedar Rapids annoying except on those days when all the assorted scents combined in an olfactory conspiracy to prevent respiration altogether; on such days one must breathe in slight, shallow inhalations as infrequently as possible — one must seek a delicate balance, avoiding not breathing at all (most desirable) and yet maintaining one’s existence. That is, of course, unless one is Wakdjunkaga, who was never upset by any combination of excremental fumes.
I first encountered the man on a Friday evening, a Quaker Oats evening, accurately warm and yeasty in the back of my nostrils. His arrival, as everything about him, was both startling and unique.
I was residing then in the Hotel Allison on First Avenue downtown, next to and on top of the Bishop’s Cafeteria where I ate occasionally. My home during those weeks of student teaching was a typical outdated residential hotel, and my room, 430, was exactly like all the rest in the building, somewhat larger than most, but in no major respect unusual. I had a lumpy double bed, an uncomfortable red plastic armchair across the room, a mirrored dresser along one wall, and a chest of drawers in a recess next to the closet. A metal nightstand stood by the head of the bed. Except for wear on these articles, the furniture and the room appear just as if time had ceased in 1953. More than once I would awaken in the morning to imagine I had regressed twenty years or so. This anachronistic sensation was particularly associated with the rather tedious carpet with which my room was adorned — a noxious pattern of intertwining roses and stems on a bland grayish background. I remember one time Wakdjunkaga remarked that the thing resembled the regurgitations of an unknown rose-eating creature of presumably revolting habits; I am not quite sure what he meant altogether, but the sense of vomit was right.
The night he arrived, however, Wakdjunkaga was in no condition to notice such marginalia as the room’s decor.
Is it any good? Are you wondering what happens? I commented in one of the early posts of “Mantorville” that I thought of it as being reminiscent in ways H. P. Lovecraft— not in its style but in its storytelling technique. Reading this thing, I notice a very Lovecraftian turgidity of style…