For those who were expecting more from Stars in Heaven, we will have to see (I am nearing the end of what I have written in that sci fi tale). ButI have been actually writing again (believe it or not). And, as it has been far too long since I last added anything to fan Daveʼs favorite story, I have a small, entirely new piece of “Mantorville” for today…
Glorious! I do enjoy religious value judgments. So useful.
I told him he had better explain such a bold remark. And he did. His story took my loathing of high school sports several notches into the revolted realm. You see, I have never been a sportsy kind of guy…
He trailed off. I sat there, looking at him, thinking to myself, “You didnʼt have to tell me that, Arkham. Just looking at you tells it all.” Slender but soft. You havenʼt joined any games or activities in all your years at Oakdale. To the best of our recordsʼ knowledge, you have no hobbies, no crafts, no contacts with the outside world — except that Christmas card. You qualify as the loserest loserly character with whom I have dealt. Ever. And your dragging this all out isnʼt helping my attitude any.
But I didnʼt say any of that. Sometimes an analyst hits a stage when the patient seems overwhelmingly annoying. Freud and Jung didnʼt touch on that, just transference. But itʼs a phase a psychiatrist has to watch out for. No matter what happened in sessions, they were going to try your patience well before you got a chance to be helpful. I simply said:
— What did he tell you, Mr. Arkham?
He shook his head at me. I told you before, no more “Mr. Arkham.” That was teacher-me, and I am not that teacher any more. Maybe I already wasnʼt when I came to Quetzal County.
Dodging again, I thought. Always ducking and dodging. I needed to hammer him open. If I could without giving into my own frustration with him. But he was bottling everything, always had. Possibly he always would if our sessions didnʼt get him to crack. So hammer I did, trying the direct approach, for once.
— Tell me, uh, James. I have noticed something. You are telling things from — what? — a decade ago … in remarkable detail.
I am? All innocence and unaware. Yeah, sure.
— Yes, James, you are. Even quoting conversations ten years old in exact detail. …Too much detail, it almost seems.
Very simply: Yes.
— When my secretary types up the transcriptions of our sessions, she will have to use quotation marks. Thatʼs how excessively detailed you are being.
You record these sessions?
— Of course. Itʼs a normal tool. I thought you realized that. Every interaction here at the facility is on record in some way or another. Do you object?
Why should I object to anything at all? These are your sessions. No, I thought, theyʼre for you. It just seems funny…
Another drifting away. Another pause. Did these give him time to think? What?
He stirred back into focus almost immediately. You want to know why I remember so clearly?
— I wouldnʼt have brought it up otherwise. Possibly too direct with that, Doctor.
Itʼs because I practiced.
Yeah, I practiced remembering. Back then. ʼ93. I decided that summer, once I had moved to Bear River Falls, to start keeping a journal. Things had changed, so maybe it would be interesting. Worthwhile. And I wrote everything down, all about the first days of school and Roger Dodgerʼs antics at the assembly. Frankʼs football injury. And meeting with those two kids after school. I recorded it all. Especially through that winter and into the spring. When everything got strange.
I hadnʼt read anything about a journal in the trial information. Or anywhere else. I told him so.
It never came out, doctor. The day before I was arrested I mailed it off to my sister. To keep it safe. But I had written in it nearly every day until then.
— But why get rid of it? Your defense was that you werenʼt the murderer. Wouldnʼt the diary have helped your case?
Maybe. Maybe not. I realized fast that I had been trapped and was caught as neatly and completely as… — My attorney got me to tell him my version. He decided on the defense. I figured, in Quetzal County, knowing what I knew… I was cooked. I felt that even before they actually arrested me. And I feared they were going to get the journals. I didnʼt want that… I didnʼt want it lost.
— Does this diary still exist?
I donʼt know. I thought I was saving it by getting it out of my hands. And I was right about that. Even before the cops, someone went through my stuff. At home. At school. They didnʼt even try to be subtle. It happened over that weekend.
— What weekend, James?
The big one. After — … after Howie was killed. Before they arrested me. Somebody, maybe several people, tore through my house when I was out on Saturday morning, and I found the same thing on Monday in my classroom. Like they were looking for something. I thought maybe it was my journal because of everything I had written in it. Though I didnʼt know how anyone would know about that. Anyway, it kind of warned me, you know? That maybe I had better protect the notebook. So I mailed it to my sister on Monday after school. Wrapped it in brown aper in the teacher workroom and sent it from the Bear River post office when I got back into town.
— So your sister has it? This diary?
I donʼt know. She never responded, never attended the trial. Not that I wanted her to.
And sheʼs never written to you, has she? No matter how many letters youʼve sent to her. It seemed cruel even as I thought it.
Besides, you probably know… sheʼs never written to me… I donʼt even know if my letters get through. If they moved or something. Well, I guess theyʼve never come back, either…
I didnʼt really know anything about the sister. She had seemed unnecessary, outside of the whole thing. But if she had this diary…
— Do you think it would help to have the diary, James?
Itʼd be better than me having to tell you everything, I guess. Itʼs hard, and I seem to keep getting distracted down blind alleys, onto things that donʼt matter. Probably.
So even he recognized what was going on.
— I had wondered about some of the things you were telling me.
Me, too, doctor. Later, back in my room. But when we were talking, it all seemed… I donʼt know, just what needed to be said.
Yeah. If you were going to avoid getting to the real subject.
— So is anything weʼve been talking about today actually important, then?
Today? Yes. Youʼd better believe it. The whole thing turns on Frank in the end. And what happened in Snake Hollow got me concerned.