Happy Easter. Today’s post has nothing whatsoever to do with the holiday (well, possibly it does in a spiritual/symbolic sense; see if you can spot it).
Chapter 4 of The Book of Seasons (and everything I had once written of that novel) concludes today, as our narrator reveals what Wakdjunkaga told him about why the old guy had returned from the future. If I should continue this, and if I should stick to my plans, Wakdjunkaga just doesn’t tell everything he could…
I am still wondering what you think about the value of this effort. Should I continue? Are you curious or interested?
The Book of Seasons
chapter four, continued
The joy buzzer and the phony dog pile were his idea of man’s two most worthwhile inventions.
Is there a way to present him in a good light? You will see him as the villain, I think. And that’s all wrong. I think.
The point of the whole story, which I learned quite late, an unexpected fruit of the water pillow trick (he sympathized when the letter announcing the end of the affair arrived), leaves no other interpretation. I said he was a coward and a cheat, a liar, and a hesitant, weak-willed, self-centered clown. He admitted he was worse.
He may have driven off my visitor, but he once killed his own love and then lived another seventy years, becoming influential, famous, rich and old, before a real regret. And then, near death himself, he decided not to meet eternal justice in its own course and chickened out, and, running backward, paused briefly to meet me.
“It’s a little hard to explain,” he finally said, after an hour of hedging. “I was ninety-two, lonely, I guess. I began to notice that I’d lost my friends. Disappeared to other places when I wasn’t thinking. Slipped away. Dead.
“I’d never bothered to realize that getting old does that to you. I’d never bothered to realize much. Grow old and you lose your companions. They die. Completely they’re gone, people you’ve accepted like — seasons? — naturally, for decades, parents of people you’ve taken as granted. Snuffed. (I always liked that word.) It’s a most existential sensation, picking up the telephone for an everyday chat, and realizing that she died six years before.
“I actually did that. Frightening experience. Made me wonder about my mind. Made me wonder about dying myself, of course. Not that I worried. By then we were all looking forward to living past a hundred and twenty. Nice to think on, isn’t it?
“Still, I was — I don’t know… scared… I felt alone suddenly. At ninety-two…
“And one night, one night I realized, not sleeping, what was wrong. I was trying to explain, in my mind —
“Funny how thoughts work. I always have to set things into clear words, as if I were explaining it to someone.” He stopped, shaking his head, stared at the floor. He didn’t like to talk about himself, not so personally. It was too difficult. He’d rather spin stories.
I remembered then how we had spent the previous evening, me trying not to expect to the letter which did of course come. We had been boozing in a college bar on 1st Avenue. Heedless of my preoccupation, Wak had tried to pick up countless tipsy coeds. An ordinary evening in that sense. As usual, the girls found this ancient lecher amusing. Less typically he had scored.
He went on. “I was explaining the feeling I had that night. And suddenly I realized — something I’d never… consciously? … never thinkingly thought about. I noticed who I imagined I was talking to.
“I’d never noticed, but when I talked to myself… it was her. — For how long? It was so natural. And I’d never… noticed.
“And noticing, of course, brought it all back. What I had forgotten.
“I never did fall asleep again. Not then. Not until I crashed in on you. Couldn’t. I was afraid to. Dreams. I don’t know. Six days away, though.
“It’s funny. I never supposed she meant very much to me. Never bothered to think. Or maybe I’d forgot — tried to.
“Anyway. Things snapped completely. I spent a couple of days hating myself. That night and the next at least. Then I knew what I had to do.
“I’ve tried to forget that, too. I’d never believed anyway. Never noticed I believed anyway. It was appropriate, though, I guess. It was what she had died for.
“I did the only thing I could do. I came back. I made the preparations, racked my memory to get everything right, and came back.”
He shook his head and smiled. “I’m going to save her. From me.”
And that’s all there is. Kind of leaves you hanging, doesn’t it? At least I hope it does. Your feedback would be appreciated because reviewing it again as I’ve posted these segments of all four chapters has gotten my mind stirred up about possibilities, although I had really totally given up on this story.