Chapter 1- Leaving Eden
My mom tells the story of the time that my older brother Glenn, jealous of my mother's attention, tried to push my crib off of our front porch. I was asleep at the time. Luckily, she was aware of his evil intentions and prevented the lesson that I would undoubtedly have learned from being briefly suspended in the air and then crashing into the ground. I use the term briefly because the porch was only about two feet high. Nevertheless, I was very small at the time and could have suffered major trauma related to my size at the time, the velocity of the fall, and the density of ground.
I don't fully understand what Mom wanted me to get from the story unless it was her way of telling me never to fully trust my brother. I had to share a bedroom with him later, but for the first couple of years I slept with one eye open and kept a large butcher knife hidden under my pillow, just in case. I told him secrets too. I guess that in doing so it illustrates that, for the most part, I had a kind of naive and trusting character. Boy, I tell you, it didn't me too take long to lose that shit.
Two years after I was born, we shared a baby brother named Scot. For a brief while, Scot supplanted the both of us in my mother's attention. Glenn must have mellowed by then because he made no attempts on Scot's young life. I don't know if Glenn had learned a lesson from his failed attempt to do me in, or if he was just tired of jumping through the hoops of trying to please my mom. I guess it was probably six of one and a half dozen of the other like some people say.
Me, I didn't care, or, at least, I didn't care enough to sit around a table with Glenn to plan Scot's demise. I figured it would all work itself out in time. In my estimation, I had a plethora of certain advantages, my head was bigger, my arms were longer, and I had pretty blue eyes, etc.
I was also a lot more devious than both my siblings put together. I guess this means admitting that my brothers are somewhat better human beings than I, but when all my devious behavior only amounted to tricks to get more cookies, stay up later, or procuring the top bunk bed, it wasn't really that I was all that bad. Nevertheless, if one member of my family had to get kicked out of the Garden of Eden, I would have to admit that I would have been the one who had to leave, Glen's failed attempt on my life notwithstanding.
I had watched an episode of Laurel and Hardy once where Stan broke apart a candybar to share with Oliver. One piece ended up being about an inch longer than the other, so Stan took a bite of it to even things out. I used that trick a hell of lot longer than was morally acceptable, right on up into adulthood. I don't know what amazed me more, my willingness to keep trying to achieve an advantage, or my brothers willingness to fall for the joke time and time again.
All in all, it was a pretty good life in my younger years. It would be years later when I discovered the truth about life and that, sooner or later, you were going be pulling that Stan Laurel joke trying to get a little bit more and then look up, only to discover, it wasn't your brothers sitting opposite of you and giving you dirty looks, somehow a some Whitey Bulger wannabe was sitting there grinning and picking his rotten teeth with an ice pick. Your asshole puckers up and you're sitting there sweating like a sinner in an Inquisition dungeon holding up two uneven pieces of a candybar and calculating the odds of pulling it off.
I heard long ago that life is a river of truth. I know some cartoon character said something similar recently in a movie, but trust me there were river of truthers around when humans were first learning to blather about shit. I knew this old dude named Henry who always wore an eyepatch with a happy face on it; he looked into my eyes with his one good eye with a monocle on it, and said, "Believe me, Daniel, life is a river of truth. All you need to do is trust in yourself and everything else will work out right."
He was boosting me into a window at a downtown flophouse at the time. He said that one of this buddies had gotten locked up that morning, and this buddy had told him that there was some first class weed hidden under his mattress in his room at the flophouse; all we had to do was figure out a way to get into the room unnoticed.
I got into the room alright but instead of finding any weed under his mattress, I found a large pitbull with an attitude problem worsened by having his sleep interrupted by my tennis shoe stepping on his head. As I was fending off the dog, Henry kept screaming, "But I know him, he would never violate the no pet policy of the establishment!"
I remember thinking that maybe it wasn't the friend's dog after all. Maybe it was the landlady's dog. The thought had barely scratched my thinking before the ghostly image of my great-grandfather Job appeared in a thought bubble over my head saying, "It don't matter whose fucking dog it is, Danny. Get the hell out of there!"
I didn't want hurt the dog or nothing but the sumbitch was chewing on my foot pretty good. So, I yanked my leg away and my shoe came off, so I picked the shoe up and said, "Fetch!" and threw it out the window. Damned if that damned dog didn't jump out the window chasing the shoe.
Everything should have been fine then, and I should have been able to resume the search for the weed unmolested, except for the fact that dumbass Henry, not being on the receiving end of my thinking, caught the damned shoe as it came flying out the window.
In less than an instant, that dog was indiscriminately chewing on the shoe and parts of Henry's withered right forearm very close to the area where he had the tattoo of his mother. Now, I had never much liked that tattoo; it was hideous looking; his mother had to be related to Medusa, and the picture tattooed on Henry's arm indicated that it had to be a very close relationship like a first cousin or something. It never actually turned me into stone of nothing, but there were several times that finding it in my line of focus brought me to a complete standstill.
When I managed to extricate myself back out through the opened window, Henry was still in the ground wrestling with pitbull and trying to save his mother's tattooed image in the process. He was talking in frantic spurts, and it was hard to understand what he was saying, but I finally managed to make out, "Did ya get the weed?"
I patted the right front pocket of my blue and white Pendleton jacket and smiled at him. I don't why, but I gave him a big thumbs up too.
He managed to get a thumb behind the dog's studded collar which helped him to get the dog at arm's length and far enough away from his face that he could talk more clearly, "Well, divide that shit before this mutt eats me!"
I pulled the large plastic baggie out of my pocket and showed it to him. I then divided it more or less evenly and showed him the two separate pieces of the bag.
"Are you kidding me? That one on the right is more than the other one? What kind of shit are you trying to pull on me?"
I opened up the one on the right and took out a small handful and placed it in my right front pocket (which I knew to be lined with plastic). I then held up the two baggies again.
Henry was still struggling mightily with the dog but finally managed to spit out, "You worthless mother fucker, it serves me right to trust a dumbass kid."
I acted like his words wounded me placing my right hand over my heart and making a sad face. Really, I didn't much care what he said. I was thinking that I should never had placed my trust in a alcoholic, homeless drug abuser with a messianic complex. Besides, he had lied to me. That River of Truth speech had helped calm my nerves enough to get me into the room, but once there, I had discovered there were plenty of lies floating around in the water too, a fact that I decided to bring it to his attention.
"Henry, did you know that there were lies in the River of Truth?"
He was still holding off the dog, but I could see that a bond was starting to form between them. Once, the dog even stopped snarling long enough to lick Henry's tattoo. "Goddamnit, Danny! I'm lying here wrestling with disaster and you standing there talking nonsense."
"How you know the dog's name is Disaster?" I eyed him suspiciously.
This made him angry, or angrier, I should say. "It was a fucking figure of speech, dumbass!"
"Then why is it written on his collar."
He couldn't answer because he couldn't maneuver the dog into position to look what was on it's collar.
"Tell you what, Henry, I am going to set this baggie down on that trash can over yonder. Good luck with the dog." I walked to the end of the alley and then stopped and turned back, "Henry, ask your friend when he gets out if that was his dog or the landlady's. I'm curious to know."
I took a few of steps around the corner and decided to turn back again. I just stuck my head around the corner of the building, "Henry, that river has more than its share of lies too. Just so you know."
The wrestling match with the pitbull was over by then. The dog lay panting heavily on Henry's chest and occasionally licking his face. Henry was tired too, and his voice was subdued enough that I had to strain to hear it. "What? What the fuck are you talking about?"
I was going to explain things, but just then Glen farted in the bed below me and I woke up from the strange dream. For a moment, I lay there undecided, trying to make up my mind to go back to sleep in order to educate Henry, or to grab something and bounce it off of Glenn's head for waking me up and fouling the air.
I decided that a dream was more for my edification than for the mythical character of Henry. I mean after all, whoever heard of someone interrupting the telling of Hercules's adventure in order to tell him what his deeds meant? It was counterintuitive if you asked me, went against the grain so to speak. So, I opted to find one of my tennis shoes and throw it at the sleeping Glenn.
I know that you're probably thinking why I just didn't chill out and let things go. I was willing to do it in the dream after all. And the answer is that you just can't let challenges to your normalcy slide; that's how shit starts to fall apart. If I let Glenn get away with farting and interrupting my sleep, it would soon become the new normal. I know this dream wasn't all that great, but what if in the next dream I was planting hickies on Maria De Fantis's beautiful neck or even better, gripping her wonderful bottom? I'm sure you can see the problem.
It was hard finding a shoe in the dark, but I finally managed to spot one sitting on Glenn's desk where it was holding the remains of half eaten burrito. I grabbed it up, tossed the burrito in the trash after smelling it, and then, after checking the right front pocket of my Pendleton jacket for weed, tossed the shoe at Glenn's sleeping head.
I won't bore you with the details of what happened next. It's sufficient to say that sufficient pain was meted out on both sides. It's strange to realize in the middle of the night that pain is, more often than not, the true sidekick of learning.
I know that the first chapters of most fictional narratives have to satisfy certain criteria. The reader has to know the time and place of the story for instance. The Greeks had a word Chthonic which actually referred to all the things below the surface. It was connected to the concept of roots of plant life too, implying that the great mystery of life on the material plane is rooted to a specific time and place, and that the problems that need to be solved are specific to that certain time and place.
Setting actually exists more for the benefit of the reader, to provide context. It is actually a bullshit idea to say that all our problems are specifically related to where and when we live. Humans exist in the middle of infinite time and space. Our real problems deal with us not knowing how to wrap our minds around that thought. Great writers often have to deal with the problem that they want to explain these large ideas that underlie existence but have to take it for granite that they are dealing with a great deal of ignorance amongst the reading public, so they have to provide signs that enable the reader to place things into a format that is easier to understand.
Ignorance, by the way, is not nearly as derogatory a term as saying stupid. It just means "unknowing" or not understanding. It is really not so much of a hurtful description as it is a fact that underlies much of human existence. All men are ignorant to a large degree. It's not really, really bad, unless it is willful, and then it becomes stupidity.
The author also needs to provide the conflict of the story early on which is actually tantamount to explaining why the main character is dissatisfied. We all are pretty much, so it is an outright nod to the human condition. Conflict is also said to provide the the story with enough tension needed to pique and keep the reader's attention throughout the entire telling of the story.
Nosey little fuckers, ain't we.