Mantorville, part 7

The previous posts on this story can be found here, here, here, here, here and the day before yesterday.  The addendum to yesterday’s post explains how to read the various styles of text, if necessary.

Hoo-whee! The end of session 2 between patient James Arkham and psychologist Joshua Symonds ended with a breakthrough: Arkham acknowledged out loud what his crime was—the murder of Howard Phillips, superintendent at Mantorville and evidently Arkham’s only friend in Quetzal County. Although killing your friend might easily qualify one for psychiatric treatment, how does one get in a position where one kills one’s best friend? Symonds wants to find out. It took him only two sessions to get Arkham to acknowledge the crime. But then nothing for two days, and now the third session begins…

Symonds’s third session with Arkham, section one, from the untitled horror story

May 8, 8:10 am

He asked to see me finally. I had decided I had pushed him too fast, thus prompting the withdrawal. He needed to initiate further conversation, not me, to put the burden of release firmly onto and within himself. So I waited, and he withdrew, and it only took just less than forty-eight hours to bring him back to me, ready to talk about something. And today I resolved to just let him talk, whatever he wanted, no guidance at all.

So I actually finished moving about three weeks before school started. The final move was pretty boring. Rented a truck, packed my entire life into it, drove it to Bear River while pulling my own car like a trailer, unloaded box after box after box into the new place, drove the truck and car up to Dubuque where I turned in the truck and dove my car back down to my new home. I spent those weeks checking out the area, like I told you. At home, nights, I just kind of relaxed, listened to music, read, did some late-night walking around town, trying to get to know the place. Howie and Sonia had me over a couple of times, kind of cementing our friendship.

A pause there, fairly lengthy. He must have started himself thinking about it all. But he pulled himself together and went on.

I ate at the Eagleʼs Nest quite a bit, enough that by school starting the morning waitress recognized me and kind of anticipated what Iʼd order. Sally Ann, by her little gold nameplate. Cute older woman, maybe ten years olderʼn me. I kind of thought she fancied me a little bit…

Sally Ann Thrale. They had interviewed her, along with the few others who could be said to be knowledgeable about him. She said she didnʼt even know his name but recognized his picture right off in the paper when the news broke; called him “coffee black, three-egg Denver omelet, solid fifteen percenter.” She thought he seemed pretty harmless; she even tried mildly flirting with him, might even have gone out with him if heʼd asked, before he stopped coming round for breakfasts.

Anyway, those were three pretty good weeks, stacked on top of the three weeks moving. The sense of change, of freedom in a way, made what had started as the worst summer of my life into what felt like one of the best. Bear River was novel for me, being so rural, but it didnʼt feel… wrong, like Mantorville.

I knew there was something odd the first day of school. I actually got a weird feeling during the teacher work days, but I ascribed that to the difference in school size. Like I said, this place was really rural. I felt that maybe I was being odd, at first.

I told you, didnʼt I, that most of the faculty was local in one way or another? Straight out of Mantorville High School themselves, or at least born and raised in Quetzal County. Not Howie, although he was married to a local girl: Sonia was class of ʼ78. Not the other new guy, either—math and junior high science. Although,come to think about it, he had a local connection, too. His family had moved out of Machen a generation earlier, so in a way he was nowhere near as foreign as I was. I guess I always knew he had cousins round about.

Anyway, all those local folks just gave me the eye.

—The eye? Difficult to control myself sometimes.

Funny looks, distant. I arrived just a bit late to the opening dayʼs first meeting. Coming down the hall, I could hear them laughing and chatting, but the moment I stepped through those library doors, silence. And they all looked at me. Sure, sizing up the new guy could explain it some, but that didnʼt cover the whole thing. I was just not a part of it, an outsider. And to be really honest, that never changed: I was always the outsider. Me, and Howie, too.

Anyway. It only lasted a moment. Howie was there, and he strode right over and told them who I was and how recently heʼd finally found his new English teacher. Then he got it all started by having everyone go around the room naming themselves and telling something about what theyʼd done that summer. An amazing number of them had gone on church retreats to Mississippi or Massachusetts, not mission trips but retreats. The new math guy, Chuck Swanson, had graduated from college and heard about the job while visiting cousins in Machen back in June. I said my old school had been cancelled.

They all just looked at me, fish-eyed, left me laughing at my bad little joke all by myself. Until Howie joined in, saying something about how that wasn’t going to be a problem in Mantorville.

It didnʼt get much better when we broke for lunch. Howie went home for his; he lived in a school-owned house right across the street. Chuck and I tried to get with some of the other men (things really seemed to divide on gender lines in that school and community), who were headed into Bear River for pizza. They accepted us, but then never really spoke to us, exchanging instead lots of inside jokes and references to long-gone kids that we knew nothing about. The pizza buffet was under-served and mostly cold. Chuck and I talked to each other, but he seemed to know more about those inside-joke kids than Iʼd have expected and related to the other guys better than me.

Afternoon sessions didnʼt improve things much. I left promptly at the end of the day and went home, making lesson plans and doing some of the paperwork I had to complete.

School’s getting started in Mantorville, and Arkham’s feeling completely left out, the local Outsider. More Saturday

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


As I realize that many of my readers are also Facebook friends, I have avoided recently using here material that I have already posted as a Facebook note. However, I dearly love this poem, and I want to talk about it. This poem has two titles—the one below and “Alchemy.” The fact that I can both title the post for the day and put a title within the post permits me to use both titles for today.

“Alchemy” is probably the better of the two titles. I constructed the poem on vague principles of alchemy I learned from my reading (mostly first- and secondhand Jung). As alchemists wish to change base metals into gold, the speaker wants to transform his love interest from a  philandering husband’s docile spouse into a wild, carefree goddess.  What he wants is foolish, ridiculous, and so he resorts to magic—alchemy. There are other alchemical aspects, but I’ll skip them for now. Transformation is the main idea—both of alchemy and this poem.

Moonrise at Cape Sounion, Greece (NASA Photo of the Day)

I went with “Moonlight Sonata”  (well, at least for now) because of the lunar references in the poem. I realized that it’s probably the most obvious, and I am not sure I should be proud of it, but I always get a chuckle from calling her husband “Armstrong.” (Hmmm, I wonder if there’s some slighting reference to American imperialism buried here. If so, it was unconscious, not intentional.) Other moon imagery runs throughout as well, including her rising, liberated, in the end.

Furthermore, the poem is structured on the four traditional elements of alchemy: water, earth, air and fire. The first two lines (the first stanza) are water. The long stanza, the second one, is earth. Stanza three is air. Finally, fire makes the imagery of the last stanza. It’s really not a perfect pattern: the riverbed creeps into earth, along with “oystering,” and the the watery mess continues into the third stanza with thunderstruck. but the mixing of things is also part of the alchemical pattern.

I also enjoy the sound in the poem. I know I’ve talked about my infatuation with sound before, but if I’m going to post poetry and if poetry for me is primarily about sound, then I guess I’ll have to explain some things about sound effects.

It’s possible that what I like about Old English or Anglo-Saxon verse is the meter based on alliteration. In Old English poetry, a line was created by the use of four alliterative “beats”—of which three were supposed to be the same sound and the fourth somehow different, often presaging the alliteration in the next line.

I can’t claim to be consciously following that strict pattern in this poem, but I do notice I tend to use four alterations per line (more or less). “Love and lady, you like lightning wet the” For instance, the four L’s are that four-beat alliteration, and “wet” leads into “whispers,” while “make” and “amazed” share that M sound. I also think those liquids and nasals and semi-vowels make the feeling move, as I said before, like a river.

Interestingly, as I read the poem today, I observe that this one too could be classed as a seduction poem. Does that give the lie to my virtuous stance about “the speaker” in “Card Sharp” from last Friday? Regardless, here is this speaker’s incantation to liberate his lunar love.

Moonlight Sonata

Love and lady, you like moonlight wet the
whispers of this dirty night, make me amazed.

The wheat-sovereign moonlight of your hair,
maligned, shines amber-burning on
the husky horizon of his shoulder:
that dewbright gaze penetrates my
riverbed, and then I ponder how that
oystering oaf would look in horns, old goat.

I’m thunderstruck and wonder that with him
faithless ashes, stewed fumes of passion—
you remain, unlike the moon, unmoved,
aloof in those arms, strong.

Sullied flesh, his melted lusts have left
no earthly claim on you, pale perfect.
Be free: I’d see you smite the air,
ablaze areign away all lovely and alive.

Also entitled “Alchemy”
29 January 1978

Since the woman I wrote this about was actually married, and since nothing ever happened—except perhaps in my imagination—I will leave the autobiography absent from this post. I really enjoyed looking at the websites linked above.

For tomorrow, we’re probably going back to Quetzal County once again. Maybe…

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Mantorville, part 6

It has been quite a while since we have visited with Mantorville. That’s what poking around on the computer will get you, I suppose.  Well, poking and a major card holiday…

However, here is the next section of my still unfinished story.  Former teacher, convicted murderer, psychiatric prisoner James Arkham is still talking with his Iowa state psychologist Joshua Symonds, reminiscing about his first weeks in Quetzal County. Coming from a far western suburb of Chicago, Arkham, having lost his teaching job in the city of Jackson, has accepted a position in the tiny rural community of Mantorville, Iowa, where as he is about to realize, he’s like a fish out of water. Symonds, listening to this story nine years after the crime which landed Arkham in psychiatric prison, must make of this tale what he can…

The previous five parts of this story are here, here, here, here and here.

still as-yet-untitled-horror story (isn’t anyone going to help me with this?)

It was like a new start. From being all bummed out, getting sacked, I was energized. I got to really looking forward to this new job, enjoying my new home, my own little house, as I thought of it, having always lived in my one apartment in Jackson—and that motel for the M.A. down in Louisiana.

A real fresh start. I even made some friends. I put some effort into being neighborly, at least at first. There was a good-looking woman who lived across the street. That’s what started the neighbor stuff: I wanted to meet her. And she turned out to be single, too. We never really got together, but we were friends.

That would be Emma Court. She turned him in finally. Some friend. On the other hand, he needed to be caught. If only I could get him to talk now.

And Howie, of course. He was the true friend. He helped me move some of my stuff, not what you’d expect from a superintendent, but Howie wasn’t ever just what you’d expect.

Good. We were back on Howie.

He even took me around to some of the other towns. Said it gave him a chance to avoid the chores his wife had planned. Although I know he loved Sonia like everything, he probably meant that. She cracked the whip around their house. I don’t know if she ever really liked me.

Well, she certainly didn’t like you now.

Local girl, Sonia. That was the problem. Although she’d gotten to know Howie, she still saw most newcomers as outsiders. That was me, still the outsider. With Sonia and every other good citizen of Quetzal County.

Sounds like there should be a newcomers support group.

Should be. But the locals would never allow that. Newcomers are second-class citizens in their book and don’t deserve such fine services. “Let ‘em suffer.” That’s the Quetzal County attitude.

Which Howie didn’t share?

He was a newcomer too.

But married to a local girl. Didn’t that make him belong, so to speak?

Not on your life. The only locals were born and bred there for generations. That was the problem. That’s why I’m here.

Was he going to tell me? —Okay, so why are you here?

Because I killed Howie. Isn’t that right?

Well now, wasn’t that easy? (I didn’t say aloud.) We got it out in the open in only two sessions. And to think I was considering cutting this one off there about twenty minutes ago.

Naturally, that’s when he clammed up, and although I let the session continue for another nine minutes, he said not one more word. He remained silent for the next two full days. In his room, he didn’t even read, his normal pastime; he just lay on his bed, rising only to go to the bathroom.

Being caught up in the mechanics of creating the posts on Mantorville each time, I hadn’t stopped to consider the actual narrative technique I’m using. Is anyone troubled by the three layers of narration included in the story? Arkham’s statements to Symonds, of course, are the normal text, while the italics are Symonds’s thoughts, and his statements to Arkham during each session are preceded by a dash—as James Joyce imitated from European novels for dialogue in Ulysses. The multiple layers of storytelling are going to get trickier, if everything goes according to plan, but not for a while yet. And there will be more of this story soon

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Some Second Thoughts

On Saturday I posted an abortive little piece of non-writing mostly because I liked reading it when I found it on the computer. I was going to post this little piece yesterday, but then I realized that yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I figured Valentine’s Day deserved something special and romantic and for Janet. Nuts to all of you, I suppose, although truthfully I hope you did enjoy what I came up with. However, back to Saturday’s dated little bit of mental rambling; reading through that basic piece when I first discovered it a little less than a week ago, various topics I had written about got me thinking. I figured I should give some of those thoughts a chance before I moved on to other things (and back to Mantorville).

First off, I clearly made it up during the summer. If you remember, somebody was mowing. Of course back in those days summer would’ve been the only season I had time enough to sit around doing what I do all the time now. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed rereading this piece: it reminds me of some days now when I sit around attempting to be creative. Also I found it interesting that I was thinking of writing horror stories—how completely unlike the last two weeks.

Ah, the music

Thanks to Wikipedia

Second, when I wrote that piece for yesterday, I was fascinated with the Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks Volume 3. According to my quick bit of research on Wikipedia, that double CD came out in November of 1995. If I wrote during the summer, that must mean this piece dates from 1996. At several different important points in my life the Grateful Dead came to the fore of my attention. For about a decade after Janet and I got married, I drifted away from listening to the Dead almost completely. I didn’t much like Shakedown Street (was I just not ready for Dead reggae?) or the thoroughly boring Go to Heaven. And I’m not sure why I didn’t really respond to the Top 10 worldwide, huge popularity of  “Touch of Gray.” Just too cool to let the masses in to my own personal bliss, perhaps. Then two new releases of live material reignited my interest.

The first was the release of Without a Net in 1990. I can remember buying that still. Janet and I were shopping in Davenport and went down Kimberly east from the mall to K’s Merchandise—alas, long defunct now, although that is where I bought the school’s first digital camera for the drama department. I remember not just what Janet was looking for, possibly lamps (I can remember looking for lamps at K’s). But somewhere during the experience I got the time to go over and look through the CD rack, and there was a CD that I’d never seen before—Without a Net.

Maybe because it was from the 90s and a style of Dead I really hadn’t heard—that synthesized Garcia guitar sound I referred to in the piece but also the luscious sound of Branford Marsalis on saxophone for one of my favorite Dead songs, “Eyes of the World”— got me started on the band again. That album really is a fine collection of excellent Dead jams.

Blues for Allah cover art

About a year later, I encountered the first From The Vault release. The early and mid-70s were prime Dead time, in my opinion, so that release of the first live performance of one of my favorite albums, Blues for Allah, was a nearly automatic success with me. The band was really cooking on that CD too, although in an entirely different mode than Without a Net. (I guess their year off and the new approach to composing music on the album had all the boys and Donna Jean excited.)

And the Dead stuff just got better through the 90s. Sure, Jerry died, and for any Deadhead—even me—that’s tragic, but for someone like me, who had never gone to a Dead concert, although I had been invited back in the early 70s by returning ex-military (and just home from Vietnam) friend Jim Albaugh to a concert in Des Moines, the Vault and Dick’s Picks releases opened up a whole new world of the Grateful Dead for me. I know Janet would agree that the 90s were a Dead time, far more than she would ever have liked.

Avalon Sunset— once again thanks to Wikipedia

Before we leave the subject of the music and the post, the “Van” is Van Morrison, whose music I’ve ignored for most of my life. One day when Janet and I were driving home from somewhere to the north, after dark, probably in the winter, listening to NPR, we got to hear a selection from Van’s then-new Hymns to the Silence album. To be utterly trite, it blew us both away. In the summer of 1996, the Morrison albums I was probably thinking of had to be  Hymns, Enlightenment or Avalon Sunset. (I wasn’t sure which Morrison album cover to choose for this paragraph, but Avalon Sunset was the most interesting.)  Van’s moody spirituality and cool soul sounds appeal to something very deep in me (and it doesn’t hurt that Janet likes him too). Unfortunately, even though I thought about Van in the writing, I don’t really sense his music coloring that piece at all.

I’m also fairly confident that I lie in the piece about remembering that I had played “Tangled Up in Blue” to the Iowa Wesleyan College campus from the top floor of the Chapel—out the window of the light booth. I have a vivid memory of the first time I heard that Dylan song, and I was no longer a college student when it happened. I was in Cedar Rapids, visiting my second major girlfriend, the one I was thinking about in the piece for yesterday (the one who went unnamed), who was attending Coe College. She headed us downtown on Second or Third Avenue for lunch one Saturday to a vegetarian restaurant (I’d never eaten vegetarian before, at that point), and I heard this song while eating there. That would have been in late ‘75 or early ‘76, during my second year of teaching, a good while after I had left IWC.

So what was I thinking? Did I have some vague plan I don’t remember now to turn yesterday’s post into a story, possibly a story about a writer? I don’t know at this stage. Everything else in it is entirely true to my life (on the other hand, according to comments to this blog, some people have trouble distinguishing my fiction from my reality).

Two more things

My memories of the attic in the Chapel are especially precious to me, and although only a paragraph or so in yesterday’s piece, are a place I visit in my mind and imagination—not often but with great feeling. Strangely, I even felt nostalgic for the Chapel attic back when I was there, going to school, lighting plays and events, imagining travel through time from the woody, dusty vastness. When people talk about the “best days of their lives,” they’re often thinking back to high school. Not me. The best days of my life would either have to be pretty much now or my college years. And the best thing about my college years in many ways was the time I spent in the Chapel attic. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can tell for you, gentle readers, all the reasons or experiences or events that lead to that statement about my college years in the Chapel—modesty and a sense of decorum inhibit me. But some may remember and understand…

Memory is the greatest time travel device of all. It only leads one way, of course, to the past, but as King Arthur tells Mordred in Camelot, “Sometimes the only real vacation spot is the past.” (I wanted to check my accuracy in that quotation, but the script is not available online—how strange for copyrighted material—and I discover that I was mistaken to believe we owned a DVD of the movie. I am not about to watch our VHS version of Camelot to locate one line almost at the end of the film—besides Janet made noises that she wants to watch it soon.) Of course the time travel of recollection is what I’ve been getting off on in this blog all year. Discovering old poems, reviewing old favorites, revisiting fond and cherished memories (and boring all of you to boot?).

And then there’s the not-exactly-an-ending to Saturday’s piece. Just before quitting in the middle of nothing in particular, thinking about winter, I indulged myself in a fantasy of driving around the county. Being in transit is a marvelous feeling for me. Suspended between responsibilities, one has the freedom to enjoy one’s existence, but it always has to end, and the journey is always so short. Or as I said Saturday…

“There is your ideal lifestyle. Driving. You love that. Especially on a day like this, out in the country on some backroads highway dipping up and down through fields and woods. Surrounded by green and blue. Like you’re suspended between earth and sky. Suspended. Perfect…. Going nowhere, caught between obligations. In transit. Nothing you have to care about or worry about. Wouldn’t be like that in winter, though”

No, it wouldn’t be like that in winter at all.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

A Fine Romance

or Three for One…

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I’m sure most of the regular readers of this blog would have guessed that in honor of the biggest card holiday of the year, I have a selection of poems to present. All are in honor of my lovely wife Janet, although not all of them may have been written during the time that we actually knew each other. For poetic purposes I have held a theory that throughout one’s life one strives to find the one for whom one is intended. If I can find it before I have to post this, I have a poem on that subject. However, as it is freezing in the house today (I’m creating this post on Thursday, several days in advance, and if you recall, here in Iowa we only had a high of maybe 18°; last weekend I purchased a a battery-operated alarm clock—shaped like an egg—which happens to include a thermometer feature, and the thermometer is telling me that here in the north- and west-facing office it’s only 54° at noon) and it’s nearly time to eat my lunch, I may never find the time to locate that poem for this Valentine’s Day.

As I’ve already noted, this is a holiday notorious for its connection with cards. Many times in my life I felt positive the only reason this holiday existed was so the Hallmark company could make a profit. After all we are trained socially from childhood to buy and exchange cards on 14th of February. Don’t we all remember those days in elementary school, making your own cute little Valentine card box, ensuring that you bought a Valentine for everyone in your class, nervously wondering if that certain someone would have something special for you—as you did for him/her, and being ultimately depressed at the mediocre take of standardized card wishes you carted home?

And although I guess our economy needs consumers, normally I resent being reduced to that role—pretty much, I’m afraid, to Janet’s chagrin. This year, however, she is getting a card: a lovely, magical monkey card. From the Hallmark company. And for you, gentle readers, some of (what I think of as) her poems… Based on the assumption that people generally read only the first part of blogs I’ll put the best poem first.


Come, my love, and sail with me
east across the wide Atlantic
through white mists and stormy seas

to where the sun shines bright all day
in languid gardens, on walls of cool mosaic

Spanish hillside (from former student Wendy Weimerskirch’s trip)

to that warm and lapidary land
of somnolent enchantments,
where the sun slips huge
into the goldmirror ocean

turning golden, ruby, purple-red
as metalfiling stars spark a velvet sky;

where liquid-darkeyed poets sing through
idle afternoons and oil the evening
with cool resinous black wines
in domed halls beneath the reeling constellations

and celebrate the deaths of heroes
in words of moist, sweet breath.

Fly, my love, away with me, windwild
to distant longlost dreaming Sepharad.
Sepharad, land of dates and mystery.

8 March 1981

This is probably the first poem I ever wrote with Janet in mind. Although we had met two years earlier during rehearsals for Peace Pipe Players’ Play It Again, Sam, no sparks had flown between us. Now it was time to begin Romantic Comedy, and this time things would be different. Decidedly different.

The “Sepharad” reference arises from my favorite reading at the time. I’m planning a post on this for some day in the future so I won’t go much into it now, but for about five to ten years I got deeply interested in Judaism. “Sepharad” is the traditional Hebrew/Jewish name for Spain, and Jews to this day whose families descend from originally Spanish or North African roots are called Sephardic; those of European origin are Ashkenazim. Since the majority of my siblings have either throughout their careers or at least temporarily taught Spanish, and since I have never been there, Spain has always seemed to me a land of magic and mystery. And romance. In fact, I even have plans for a fantasy series—sword-and-sorcery stuff—set in an alternative Middle Ages, featuring a Talmudic scholar and a wandering Norseman adventuring in Moorish Sepharad.

Clearly the poem owes a lot to late Renaissance English love poems of the let’s-get-away-from-the-big-city-and-have-a-bucolic-good-time variety. Scholars call it “pastoral poetry.” There’s a John Donne poem in particular that I know was echoing in the vaults of my unconscious when I wrote this, but the Christopher Marlowe poem accessible in the link above is more obvious.

… And our post has gotten remarkably long already. However I think we still have time for yet one more poem, and I guess I’ll save the others I had in mind for another day. (Janet does, after all, have a birthday coming up in just nine more days.)

This next poem came during the evening of the day that we went together to the Maquoketa Caves—me for the very first time, even though I’d lived in Jackson County for four years by then. It was a great day and we had a lot of fun and I hope it shows in this not particularly deep set of reminiscences. I’m not even sure she’s ever seen this poem, and I’m not sure you should either, but it’s nice.


The clash of waters in cavedark damp unbuckles our hands

at the Maquoketa Caves—the greenness is what I remember from that day in 1981

roofrock heavy threatens fall
water pools and drips, runs on rock
electric light in airy pools
sunspots brighter penetrate through holes.

She remembers walking through these grottoes, green and scarpy,

looking for flowers I’ve never seen
to call by names she heard with girlish ears
when love by lovers’ work snickered into windy ashes.

I dream of Saturn, like an ember polished, etched,

ringed in goldencoated metal
pinned on the darkness, and of Antares:

Broken monads pierced the outer darkness, everything there is,

sensible souls sliding sidebyside
in perfect time like isolate atomic clocks.

She labels all the scattered flowers, sits upon a log,

and I collect my random thoughts on her.

Wind shuffles the leaves, sends smoke aloft in moving tangles

frozen Diet Dr Pepper foams and sprays

cruising carbound home by radio

sunwashed afternoon enlarging

wordless victory


After a day at the Maquoketa Caves with Janet

7 July 1981

The indented portions are supposed to go with the line above each time and not be separate stanzas. Unfortunately the blockquote command automatically inserts a space above and below each indentation. Aside from that, this is her poem. It holds my memories, but maybe there’s something for the rest of you as well.

And now just one more before closing, a sonnet. Consider it a bonus…

Nocturne for Two

an appropriate shot—be sure to check the source blog: just click here

Allow me, loving, lovely love you:
let us taste wonder under wet trees

spangled with raindrops; in dew
grasses tickling our thighs and knees
as distant moon laughs through leaves
and branches disguise the hesitant stars.

We shall breathe as the wet wind breathes
lunar triumphant; the air will be ours,
thunderous with lightning in damson skies,
pounding bloodpowerful behind our eyes
as coy stars burn certain: musical cries
will thrust through us, warm softening sighs.

Allow me loving love you lovely
in the night, warm and thick as honey.

Happy Ultimate Card Holiday, everyone. Check us out again, here, tomorrow.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

All Is True…

Going through my writing on the computer, I have come across some things I’d almost forgotten about. Today’s post features about four pages of writing that I don’t think I could ever develop into something to sell. However, they do give an interesting look into my mind as I’m sitting at the computer writing. “Interesting” might be an exaggeration. However, there’s nothing that isn’t true in this.

I created this piece I in the mid-90s, I believe. Obviously, I already had a computer at home. And just as clearly the iPod lay years in the future. There’s no date on the document, and with the changes of computer since I started, the date that shows on the document is pretty well worthless for informational purposes. I referred to one of the Dick’s Picks selections, and I know that series was still pretty new to me when I worked on this, so I guess I could do a little research on when Dick’s Picks Number Three was released and have some idea about when I first wrote this.

The key thing is that I wanted to write and couldn’t come up with anything intelligent to say (an unfortunately common problem). So I just started writing whatever was in my mind. I think I read somewhere that real writers do this just to get themselves going. It’s called the “kindling process.” I guess you’re just trying to kindle the fire of creativity with whatever waste thoughts you have in your head. I’ll have to admit this is pretty wasteful…

Kindling, or Wasting Words

It’s getting started that’s the hardest.

Or maybe having to go back and fix your mistakes. Yes. That’s harder than getting started. It’s worse to stop the flow and consider. Was that the right thing to do? Was that what I wanted, what it needed, to have happen here?

And of course it wasn’t. It was a mistake. A horribly wrong choice that sent you down pages of blind alley to nowhere. Something so foully bad you just have to get rid of it and start over.

So it’s not getting started that’s hard. Actually that’s pretty easy most of the time. You just start. Open a new document and type. Okay, put on some good music, open that new document and type.

Keeping it up gets harder. There’s that game on the hard drive… You know you have better things to do, but you can’t get that game out of your mind. You only played it once, and it was incredibly hard, but maybe if you tried it again…

The music always ends. That’s a distraction. That’s time away from the machine.

So you put a tape deck and headphones right by the computer. That way you don’t even have to get up to change the music. It’s right there. You just grab another tape and shove the sucker in and keep going. Play a CD right on the computer itself, even faster. And the headset’s like a chain, holding you right there at the keyboard.

Well, you’ve got to decide what it is you want to listen to. Stick with Van? How about trying some classical, or jazz? Less distracting, just noise for the aurally deficient like yourself. Maybe something contemporary. No, you’re not getting old; you can still like this stuff. And maybe it’ll make you marketable, interesting to kids. If kids read any more at all, ever. Okay, Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine are everywhere. Harry Potter and Stephen King.

Maybe that’s the direction this thing should take. Simple horror.

But that’s just not you. What are you scared of?

Getting old. Getting broke. Getting sick. Getting dead.

Somebody’s mowing lawn outside.

There’s a job you have to do. But not today. —Strange, two innate tendencies work in your favor together here. Sheer sloth keeps you at the keyboard instead of getting up and doing real physical work. Small favors.

The song ends. There goes what little concentration you may have had.

Maybe you should have chosen The Dead, maybe Dick’s Picks Volume Three, when the songs just never seem to end, they just keep flowing one into the other. Were The Dead’s concerts really like that? You ponder the situation to yourself, because you were never at one and because you seem to be playing Dead sets constantly nowadays in your truck when you’re driving, and you can’t really imagine what the concert experience was really like in the first place.

Is there a story there? Some freak so terminally shy or antisocial that all his/her experiences are secondhand, via remote, prerecorded on tape? Think you could really write about yourself, sucker?

Okay, so you eject that au courant alternative crap and slide in the old tape-reel CD. And in a flash your ears and your head are back in 1973. Tampa on a December… what? Night? Afternoon? —Although The Dead never seem to sound dated somehow, maybe because their sound never really changed. Well, except for that Without a Net, that sounded different. Jerry using all those synthesizer add-ons for his guitar in the Nineties. But where does that take us? A time travel tale, the impossible worked via hippie tunes?

Once you dreamed such things. Listening to The Dead even. Up in the attic of the chapel on sunny springtime afternoons with the weekly lecture finished, staring through the dust motes drifting as lazy as your brain with that trashy piece-of-shit stereo cranked in the light booth, its cheap tinny speakers blaring Europe 72 for the whole campus to hear. Fat as the fuel for time travel. Recognize the potential time traveler because s/he’s gotten so huge, needing all that flab to burn, whitehot calories, to get outside and somewhen else in time. Had the whole concept worked out. Pretty cool. Just no story.

And it came back later. When you were working on the Fat Lady Sings poem cycle for she-who-shall-remain-nameless. “In the beginning there was fat…” Journeying foreverish through eternity and back to Constantinople with your redhaired girl… Fat chance there. Yeah.

Good joke there, if you caught it.

But who’ll ever catch it? She’s got the pages, had. You really think she’s got them still? Think she even remembers your name?

And you never wrote squat about those lovely middays in the Chapel attic. Only in your thoughts. Long days, spent dreaming, it seemed then, didn’t it? One late morning through midafternoon could stretch for what feels like several of your present days. Was it just youth? With less time spent behind you on being yourself, each moment seemed longer, richer, more filled with everything.

Childhood days were eternities. Entire arachnidlike lifetimes between rising and sleeping. Great argonautical ecstatic adventures from breakfast through lunch—evolutions of several subsequent species of yourself in just those few hours. Now not time enough to select the music to accompany your dull and uninspired thoughts. Each moment just a flash of doing something. Your entire existence squashed by the fine sands of productivity.

Endless evenings reading Edgar Allan Poe. Listening to Dylan on that cheap little stereo you smuggled into the attic of the Chapel (remember that spring morning you turned those tiny speakers out to the entire campus bellowing, so you thought, the dense wisdom of “Tangled Up in Blue” to the amazed and astounded campus populace?) A single sentence could feel like the slow change of æons, and an entire story was death and several rebirths of some kind or another. Was I who when?

Even in college you yearned with a painful, desperate nostalgia—especially in the afternoon when you might have a touch of a cold or something, lying in sunlight—for those impossibly endless lifetimes of immaturity. Drifting like those multitudinous dust motes in a thick and lazy almost Oriental air, imagining and inventing and almost fulfilling fantasies of travelling back/forward hither and yon whenever in time.

Can almost taste it right now, can’t you? If you weren’t so worried about what key your fingers were typing next. If you didn’t have that touch of a headache from those headphones pressing into your skull just above your eartip. If you weren’t humming along to “The Music Never Stopped” even as your goldendusty vision fades.

Yeah. No story there. No story anywhere. Just mindless reminiscence and fantasizing.

Great day outside. Clear sky, not a cloud in it. Just blue, limpid as crystal. And green, that full lush green of summer. Great day for a drive.

There’s your ideal lifestyle. Driving. You love that. Especially on a day like this, out in the country on some backroads highway dipping up and down through fields and woods. Surrounded by green and blue. Like you’re suspended between earth and sky. Suspended. Perfect.

Yeah, perfect. Going nowhere, caught between obligations. In transit. Nothing you have to care about or worry about.

Wouldn’t be like that in winter, though. Nothing like snow—worse, ice—to make a drive into nothing but worry.

So there it is: a brief glimpse into my mind for what it’s worth. Considering all my talk of tape players and being stuck on one album of music when you chose to play something, this little selection is kind of a trip through time. Technology has certainly changed the way I at least listen to music. And of course, it is a trip through time, since I wrote it fifteen years ago. It takes us back through time, rather ironic considering the subjects running through my thoughts so much.

R.I.P., Kage Baker, one of the best…

Time travel has always interested me. A science fiction novel can just about automatically leap into my hands at a bookstore if it’s a time-travel story. I got hooked on Kage Baker’s Company series of novels principally because of the time travel element; I have to admit that at first the “immortal cyborgs” plot line didn’t appeal to me all that much, although now it’s hard to imagine those stories without those lively and interesting characters. For those of you who like science fiction, and may not have read Kage Baker‘s books, I highly recommend the entire series (and everything else she’s ever written).

Unfortunately, in creating the link above to her webpage, I discovered that she died on January 31. I am very sad this fine woman and wonderful writer has gone (and she was only a year older than I am).

But back to my little selection. Was it worth your time? Do you talk to yourself? I am afraid that I actually do, but generally not in such formal style as this. And I do have more to say on this post later.

She-who-must-not-be-named, by the way, is not Janet. But I figured the person in question, whether she reads this blog or not, would probably prefer to remain aloof from this kind of mindless meandering. Wouldn’t you? I know I would. Perhaps I wish I had second thoughts before I scheduled this to post. Oh, well, at least one reader—maybe—will respect or at least be interested in my honesty.

What we have for tomorrow was still uncertain, but it will be back to Mantorville soon (don’t worry, Dave).  Right now I’m remembering that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, so I have to develop something special for that. And I find that I do have more to say on this piece soon, too. Until then, enjoy your weekend…

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.The


A few years after I graduated from Iowa Wesleyan, I got a letter from the Design magazine staff—meaning probably from ideal professor Mildred Bensmiller—informing me that the Sigma Tau Delta group intended to make the upcoming issue of Design special by including poems or other writing from alumni. Never one to pass up unpaid publications (witness this blog), I immediately sent them about five poems, one of which, being brand-new, I really had high hopes for. It isn’t the poem below, which is the one they accepted and printed. This one is good, probably among my very best, but I was so excited by the other one (you’ll get to read it, if you can, one of these days).

Since people generally figure poets write about themselves (songwriters, too), I thought I would definitely not write about myself. The closest this poem comes to my life is fantasy perhaps.

This one is deliberately the most callous, shallow and manipulative poem I have yet written (I was going to say “that I have ever written,” but one shouldn’t take the future for granted—even at my age). I wanted to create an outgoing, attractive but selfish speaker (and I mean that—create). And since just about every poem I have ever written has had to be about love somehow, it became a seduction poem.

The link took you to the most polished and famous seduction poem of them all, and learning about it and poet Andrew Marvell is highly advised. By the way, following the final link on the Wikipedia page (to here, in case it judiciously vanishes) is also worthwhile—even though I (obviously) find the poet soundly mistaken to believe Marvell is the speaker in his poem.

I had trouble devising a title. Originally I called it “Sportsmanship,” but considering the evolution of slang in the last thirty years, I could have been genuinely prescient and just named it “Player.”

• • •

Card Sharp

Pretty girl, let’s play a game:
pretend I love you. Not so hard,
is it? Look now, just pick a card,
any card. I’ll tell you its name—
hearts. Here they’re all the same.
In my deck, girl, they’re hearts
every one. No tricks or clever arts
to change them each to suit my aim.
A simple game. Now just pretend
you love me. Good girl. I’ll send
the rules away and we can play
together nicely. No mammas to say
you better get yourself home now.
A pleasant game. I’ll teach you how.

Published as by an alumnus in Design magazine 1978

16 November 1977

On a relatively recent episode of 30 Rock, Tracey Morgan, the most utterly shameless player on TV now that Two and a Half Men has tried taming Charlie toward marriage (maybe), in a very funny moment got to say, “Does that mean every girl is someone’s daughter?” or words to that effect. Tracey, becoming a father to a girl, had realized that women were not just sexual prey.

The guy speaking this poem hasn’t gotten there yet (mothers and family propriety are just inconveniences). And notice how shamelessly he lies, flat-out and directly.

I had wanted to end the poem with an ellipsis, but in the end I figured that would be just too obvious.

So is there some biographical connection with this poem? I could only have wished: I am too much an introvert to be this kind of guy.

Finally for today, if I were still teaching (and coaching speech), I think that Marvell’s poem and A.D. Hope’s reply would make an interesting reading/duet acting…

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Mantorville, part 5

So we’re back with the still untitled horror story.You may feel free to review parts one, two, three and four.

James Arkham continues his tale of house-hunting and settling into Queztal County. Symonds remains frustrated at the former teacher’s ability to avoid the real topic—the savage crime that imprisoned Arkham nine years ago.

Anyway, it took me three weeks to get everything from Illinois to Iowa. I didn’t really have a lot when I though about it, just a bunch of books, clothes, some furniture, a few personal items that meant something to me. But my twelve years in Jackson hadn’t produced a hell of a lot to indicate my life was meaning anything.

That took me aback. I’d felt happy in Jackson. Sure, I worked a lot, like a workaholic maybe. Who else went in nearly every day over the summer? I never took a real vacation. Unless you count those two summers in Louisiana getting my Masters.

Used to be, I had dreamed of going to Europe, South America, Australia. When I was in college, travel seemed the ideal for my future. But once I was earning some money and could save to get away, I didn’t do it. I stuck around the school in my free time and did work. It gave me a purpose, a sense of being. An illusion in the end. They sacked me like bad potatoes. With or without a nonexistent silent e.

Moving, I resolved that this life was going to be different. A new state, a new lifestyle. It was time I took time to have some fun. I hadn’t exhausted my savings. The best thing about teaching is that you still get paid for the summer months after they dump you. My state pension was still in place. If I wanted to put it into the Iowa retirement program, I had time for that. For now, well, it could rest where it was. I decided I could afford some activities. I could have some fun.

Was any of this relevant?

Of course, I didn’t. Have much fun, that is.

No you didn’t, buster. But I can’t tell you that. Not yet.

So what did you do?

Going right up front with it, Doc?

No. What did you do to have some fun?

I bought some stuff. The typical American thing. Consume. I bought books I had been looking at but hadn’t decided to afford. Music. I upgraded my audio system, bought CDs, new ones, ones I had on record or tape. I branched out in my musical interests, if you really want to know. I bought jazz. I’d never owned any jazz before. Oh, some Spyro Gyra, Weather Report, some Wyndham Hill guys. But I jumped for the real stuff—Bird, Ellington, Miles Davis, Coltrane. There was a smooth jazz station out of Chicago we could just pick up back in Jackson. I think that got me interested, but the new stuff, the smooth stuff really just kind of bored me. The old stuff rocked.

Swung, I think.


Swung. They used to say good jazz really swings.

Yeah. And Kenny G just kind of blahs. Yeah. Anyway, music. I’d always listened to a lot of music. Living alone, you just get into it.

Music rather than TV?

Oh, yeah. I was never a big TV person. That’s one of the worst problems about being in here. The only thing you guys provide for us is TV, and I just don’t watch it.

That’s right. The reports, they said you didn’t have a TV.

No VCR or any of that stuff. Makes me odd, huh?

Yes. But television is usually part of the pattern in your kind of behavior. So what gives, Arkham?What makes you into the TV-overdosed stereotype?

Major pause. I got you thinking, huh?

I couldn’t say any of that out loud.

So your new-job end-of-summer fun was buying things?

Yeah. I went out to eat a bunch. Every night it seemed that last week in Jackson, saying goodbye in my way. Funny, after all those years, with school over, there really wasn’t anybody—any person—to say goodbye to. Sad, isn’t it?

Well, yeah, I thought. Pathetic really. —Could that solitariness explain some things? Kind of a classic profile when you think of it.

And I was checking places out around the area once I moved to Bear River. Drove around the area… up to Dubuque, down to the Quad Cities, over to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Found some places I liked, places to shop. I bought new clothes!

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

More Sunny Verse

Let’s leave Arkham and Symonds hanging for at least a day, and since the snow has buried us here in Iowa (and since I found this earlier poem—actually a series of quick observations—composed during our visit to St. Martin in 1987), let’s slide comfortably southeastward for another dip in the Caribbean.It did indeed snow all day yesterday, and after shoveling once before dawn and again in the afternoon, another trip with snow tools in hand should be necessary this morning. All the schools were closed for Tuesday, and I haven’t yet attended to hear what today will bring. The East Coast is going to get hammered with amounts almost as bad as the past weekend. It’s time for a little vacation from all this snow.

Let’s return to the sunny shores of St. Martin/Sint Maarten, to which I introduced you a few days ago. I wrote both “First Day” and these four snippets while we were actually on location, unlike a lot of other verse and stuff that I put on paper long after.

not our beach at Grand Case on St. Martin

We stayed at a resort in the small village of Grand Case, pretty well to the far north of the island. It had an excellent beach, where I experienced topless bathers for the first time—interesting, I guess, but awkward as I didn’t want to keep looking but… Janet told me later that one woman’s husband got very uncomfortable at how I was staring while out in the ocean. That struck her as very funny: I can’t wear my glasses while swimming, so whatever I was looking toward (probably seeking Janet) I couldn’t see anything, and I was not looking at his bare-breasted (and attractive) wife. I was effectively blind; everything further than a foot from my face was simply a multicolored blur.

We enjoyed the remoteness and the smallness of the place. We chose to walk into town for dinner several nights, acquiring my first taste of Vietnamese cuisine on one of those visits. We also shopped at a little grocery for canned clams, tomato sauce and wine to make ourselves a Sunday night dinner once. Our hotel featured a restaurant on the headland that hung out over the breakers, but we wanted some variety, thus the town visits. There was also a lively bar/beach-activities center/boat vendor in town that gave us at least one warm, tipsy afternoon of fun. After dusk, walking was easy and pleasant, whereas going anywhere in the early afternoon was miserable in the tropical heat.

the island—Dutch half south, French half north

One day during our week-long vacation, Janet and I took a chauffeured trip around the island, visiting the French-side city of Marigot and traveling in the afternoon on to the major cruise-ship port at Philipsburg. We shopped a little in Marigot and ate a pleasant lunch. Dutch-side Philipsburg was a crush of pushy tourists off the cruise ships (three, I think, in harbor that day) and except for a lot of heat and annoyance at our countrymen abroad, forgettable. I remember the drive back home was far longer than I had expected, and we arrived long after dark that day—probably to change and walk into town for a very late dinner.

Most of these verses came from that trip around the island. I posted a map this time because you can see where the locations of importance are (Marigot and Philipsburg marked in white boxes, Grand Case to the northeast—the long, wide, shallow bay). The only airport in our day was to Philipsburg or Marigot, I believe (unlike Grand Case having its own now).

Once again in the poem(s), notice the brightness stunning me (the speaker), as later opposed to the interiors of shops and restaurants. Some of the observations come from lying on the beach, looking at sights other than nearby sunbathers.



white waves whispering on white sand:

the silken sunlight
overfills the bowl of headland, sea and air—
and hisses on the solid sand.


Grand Case Beach Club from the north (courtesy of their website)

birds soar on batswings
elongated arrowheads
silhouettes on greywhite cloud faces
shuffling quickly contrary the bluff wind
out to sea.


bright air bursts with wet warmth
unlike the flame igniting her cigarette.

we pause bemused amidst stalled traffic—
a single file of polite Japanese cars,
corpuscles pumping in these capillary streets,

and we, the nutrients deposited alongside,
pass into cool cells of shops and restaurants
to spend our cash.


returning through sunoven afternoon air
to the minibus taxi‘s no cooler interior,
and like exhausted sportsmen, staring at our shoes,
rewind our lines, narrow roads spiralling to the beach.

15 June 1987

The poem reminds me that our taxi around the island was a minibus, also that in those distant days both Janet and I smoked (she would be the “her” in line 11). I guess that just made us fit right in with all the French tourists and Frenchified locals. Now I am wondering how smokey the lifestyle there is, having heard that even in France, people smoke less in public places (my European experience in Prague last fall to the contrary.) If you bothered with any of the links about St. Martin and Grand Case, I felt interested at how little the resort has changed but how much the town has grown—lots more restaurants, and only about two of those seemed the same as 23 years ago.

Numbers 1 and 2 are from beach outings, while 3 and 4 concern the trip around the island.

Enjoy the imaginary/remembered warmth, as I hear the Midwest gets another arctic blast for the next many days.

Unless something unexpected arises, it’s probably back to Quetzal County for tomorrow.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Mantorville, part 4

It’s snowing today. I probably shouldn’t complain because even though this one is forecast to be a significant snowfall, we aren’t even near the depth (up to three feet!) of the SuperBowl-weekend storm across the middle of the continental 48 and the mid-Atlantic states. However, we are supposed to get up to nine inches (more through the middle of Iowa―i.e. between Cedar Rapids and Des Moines). So I will be shoveling this morning (Tuesday) and need to have a post prepared earlier (the actual today, Monday).

I didn’t get up very early yesterday (really today, Monday), having not slept well Sunday night, for no good reason, just discomfort of various sorts. We had gotten a light dusting Sunday night―as Janet and I watched Titanic for about the sixth or seventh time. No Super Bowl fans here―although we did tune over to watch The Who at halftime: pretty good for what was basically just an extended medley of some hits; Pete looked healthy and funky and not too awkward with Roger, who also looked and sounded good.

We wrapped up Cameron’s flick (which Janet justly adjudged as holding up very well a dozen years later) about 10:30, missing the weather updates, and went to bed―me intending to arise early and clear the drive for Janet to head to work. It didn’t happen (although neighbor Levi Schmidt nobly came over with his leaf blower and did the job for us for some unknown but generous reason: thanks very much, Levi!).

I do not think I will be as easily let off today (tomorrow actually, Tuesday morning).

Since the easiest post is to continue with the still as-yet-unnamed horror story (doesn’t anyone have any ideas for me?), let’s continue with the May 6 session between patient James Arkham and shrink Joshua Symonds, who has gotten Arkham back on track, reminiscing about his first days in Quetzal County, nine years before. Having signed a contract the day of his job interview, Arkham next had to decide where to live.

Previous parts of the story are February 4, February 5 and yesterday.

So it was your choice to live in Bear River, not Mantorville?

I never even thought about it, to tell the truth. I just never even looked in Mantorville. Got back in my car and drove off, and when I got to Bear River, I realized I was going to need a place to stay. The drive didn’t seem bad, but I didn’t even think about that. It’s just nine or ten miles. According to the signs, nine miles headed north, ten miles going back. Funny, isn’t it? Highway Department’s as screwed up as anything in Quetzal County.

Probably measuring from different points.

Yeah. Must be. Never thought of that.

Was I going to spend this entire relationship getting him to notice what he never thought about then? I’d rather find out what he did think, what drove him to do what he did.

Anyway, I went to a drugstore downtown, bought the local paper—it comes out twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays. I got Wednesday’s and went right to the classifieds. There were more ads for places to rent than I’d’ve expected. What really took my notice was that there were houses to rent. Somehow that appealed to me. And the prices weren’t really much higher than apartments. The whole setup was almost half what I’d been used to paying, so it seemed like I’d fallen into a cup of cream.

Cup of cream?

Yeah. Hadn’t you heard that one before? My favorite aunt always said that. Like you’d gotten into something good, cozy, comfortable. But I was dead wrong, of course.

There, he’d gone and said it. Again. Always with the little hints. He knew where this was headed.

So I checked out a couple of places. It‘s hard finding your way around a new town, even a small one. And Bear River’d grown in three directions at different times under what must’ve been a couple dozen different contractors. Streets’d head one way, then stop at an intersection, but you hadn’t gotten to the address you wanted yet. But if you whipped around a couple of blocks—or a half dozen or so—and headed back in line, you could usually find the street had started up again, just skipping the numbers for the blocks where it wasn’t. Nice grid layout to the place, but inconsistently developed.

Back where I came from, they tried harder’n’hell to avoid that predictable grid, winding stupid streets around nonexistent hills to create some kind of Spielberg-silly suburbia out of what should have been fields growing corn. Here, they just didn’t plan enough.

So you didn’t like how they laid out the streets, then? Getting impatient.

Nah. I did. That’s the thing. It was hard to figure out—I don’t know that I ever did, really—, but I liked it. It was… real, you know? Even that day, looking for a place and not finding it, it seemed… actual. I dunno, solid? Real. Like I could count on it, weird as it may have been.

And I did find a place, too. I noticed three that sounded really interesting. The first was jut north of town on 41. I called and checked it first, thinking that being that little bit closer to Mantorville would be advantageous. But it was a real dump. I think drug dealers had been the previous residents. Or someone equally filthy.

The second place turned out not to be a house at all but just the upstairs. Nice enough, I guess. It was as big as my own place, except I had two bedrooms and this just had one really huge bedroom. I told the landlady I’d call her later if I wanted it.

The third place was it. Trees in the yard, front porch screened in, hardwood floors. It wasn’t the greatest—there was red linoleum in the gigantic kitchen and old, painted, probably handmade cabinets; the rooms otherwise were small. But I kind of liked the stairway to the second floor. I don’t know. Somehow it just seemed like home.

This was your residence on Ashton?

Of course. I only lived there. It was in those six rooms that I lived, corrected papers, and uncovered the secrets of Quetzal County. Far enough removed from Mantorville to see it for what it was.

And just what was it? I wanted to ask that question in the worst way, to make him tell me, to let me understand why he did the horrible things he did. But that would have to come from him, him alone, and only in his own good time. He had to find his way back there for himself.

I moved in three weeks after the interview. I’d been there overnight, even a couple of nights in those weeks, while I was moving myself and my stuff. But it was three full weeks before I was out of Jackson and my little upstairs apartment of twelve years and into my new house on Ashton Street in Bear River Falls.

I’d visited the school several times as well, checked out my room, gotten to know the secretaries in the office and eaten lunch with Howie a few times as well. He even offered to help me move, and did his bit unloading two different days, too. I really enjoyed that, not just because he was my boss and actually seemed to like me, but because I liked him. He was a good guy, Howie, funny and friendly, interested in things, companionable. I looked forward to the promised invitation to visit him and Sonia for dinner. I expected she had to be as much fun as he was…

Any reactions, folks? I like the praise some of you have provided, but I am after suggestions, too. There will be more on Thursday.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.