Friday, September 28, 2012

Initial Thoughts on the Story, "Dreamer"

These are the notes I made prior to writing the story, "Dreamer." It was a difficult story to write, and in the end, I found the story disturbing and at the same time, inadequate to the task of capturing how someone so mentally disturbed would relate their experience. I never published the story.

Short Story/Novella -- Dreamer
Man is descending into madness (catatonic schizophrenia). His recurring nightmare of being swallowed up by blackness is a metaphor for his advancing mental disease.

The man is 22. He is in a state mental facility. He is seen by a psychiatrist who has him start keeping a journal so he can better describe his experiences and feelings when he has his sessions with her. After several sessions, she prescribes medication [Thorazine and Lithium] and after several additional sessions she has him released, with the proviso that he continues therapy on an outpatient basis. She provides him with a cell phone [a prepaid “Go phone”] he can use to call her office in an emergency. Back in the environment from which he came, he soon stops taking his meds and begins once again to experience the symptoms that led to his initial hospitalization, only now the symptoms are more extreme and his grasp on reality is clearly tenuous. Ultimately, the man goes into a catatonic state from which it is clear he will not recover [he climbs down into the basement of a deserted house and is only found when the house is demolished]. The story is told via the man’s journal.
John had an unhappy childhood. He believes that he was raised by his aunt, Jemma, who says she’s his mother. John believes Jemma’s brother, Jed, is his father, but Jed disappeared when John was just an infant and too young to have any memory of him. When John is old enough to ask about his father, Jemma just tells him “You don’t have a father,” and won’t elaborate. John may be making all this up, including his researching birth certificates and other documents to discover who his father is, but some of it may be real.

As a young boy, John has recurring dreams of being suffocated by a mysterious blackness that seems to swoop down around him. He interprets this eventually as being “buried alive.” One night he awakes to find his aunt/mother standing over him with a pillow clutched to her chest. She leans over him and places the pillow under his head to prop him up because she claims he’s “stuffy.” [Was she going to smother him? Or is this a sign of John’s paranoia?]

John comes to believe that his father murdered his real mother when John was a few days old and tried to bury John alive with his dead mother. He thinks that his aunt discovered her brother burying the dead mother and infant, and knocked out the brother with the shovel. She saved the baby John and buried the mother. John believes that Jemma has her brother chained in the basement of the house he dreams about.

John believes that his real father, Jed, is mentally disturbed and that John has inherited his mental problems from his father. He may be right, but Jed is a figment of John’s imagination. John reasons that Jed was at one time admitted to a mental facility, and he contacts a number of places to see if he can identify him. He eventually locates the hospital where he himself was admitted and goes back there. He confuses his own experience of the place with Jed’s. John believes that Jed was released in the care of his sister, and that Jed met John’s real mother in the mental facility. They kept in touch and when she got out she went to him, pregnant with Jed’s child. He thinks Jemma let her stay because of this.

Jemma dies when John is 23. He discovers her maiden name going through her papers. He also learns of the house where she lived when he was born – the house where he believes his father is still chained in the basement.

John has recurring dream about going to a house, entering and climbing down stairs and experiencing a sudden blackness swoop around him. In the end, he goes to this house [is he going here to rescue Jed?] without fully realizing that it’s the house in his dream. The description of the house is the same, the day is the same, the sensations he feels are the same right up until the blackness descends on him.

Therapist [Dr. Esther Baryavson – she pronounces her name “Bar Yavson”] sees John at a state run psychiatric facility.

The psychiatrist doesn’t hear from John for several months, then he contacts her [using his cell phone] in a state of extreme distress. He’s frozen with terror in some dark place. He can’t tell her where, but she has the police trace the call. They go to the location and find a deserted house, but no John. Their description of the house fits the description John gives of the house in his nightmare.

The symptoms of schizophrenia are generally divided into three categories, including positive, disorganized and negative symptoms.
Positive Symptoms, or "psychotic" symptoms, include delusions and hallucinations because the patient has lost touch with reality in certain important ways. "Positive" as used here does not mean "good." Rather, it refers to having overt symptoms that should not be there. Delusions cause the patient to believe that people are reading their thoughts or plotting against them, that others are secretly monitoring and threatening them, or that they can control other people's minds. Hallucinations cause people to hear or see things that are not there.
Disorganized Symptoms include confused thinking and speech, and behavior that does not make sense. For example, people with schizophrenia sometimes have trouble communicating in coherent sentences or carrying on conversations with others; move more slowly, repeat rhythmic gestures or make movements such as walking in circles or pacing; and have difficulty making sense of everyday sights, sounds and feelings.
Negative Symptoms include emotional flatness or lack of expression, an inability to start and follow through with activities, speech that is brief and lacks content, and a lack of pleasure or interest in life. "Negative" does not, therefore, refer to a person's attitude, but to a lack of certain characteristics that should be there.
Schizophrenia is also associated with changes in cognition. These changes affect the ability to remember and to plan for achieving goals. Also, attention and motivation are diminished. The cognitive problems of schizophrenia may be important factors in long term outcome.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
BPD is characterized by impulsivity and instability in mood, self-image, and personal relationships. It is fairly common and is diagnosed more often in females than males.
Individuals with BPD have several of the following symptoms:
  • marked mood swings with periods of intense depression, irritability, and/or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days;
  • inappropriate, intense, or uncontrolled anger;
  • impulsiveness in spending, sex, substance use, shoplifting, reckless driving, or binge eating;
  • recurring suicidal threats or self-injurious behavior;
  • unstable, intense personal relationships with extreme, black and white views of people and experiences, sometimes alternating between "all good" idealization and "all bad" devaluation;
  • marked, persistent uncertainty about self-image, long term goals, friendships, and values;
  • chronic boredom or feelings of emptiness; and
  • frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, either real or imagined.

The causes of BPD are unclear, although psychological and biological factors may be involved. Originally thought to "border on" schizophrenia, BPD also appears to be related to serious depressive illness. In some cases, neurological disorders play a role. Biological problems may cause mood instability and lack of impulse control, which in turn may contribute to troubled relationships. Difficulties in psychological development during childhood, perhaps associated with neglect, abuse, or inconsistent parenting, may create identity and personality problems. More research is needed to clarify the psychological and/or biological factors causing BPD. The field is also actively looking at genetic vulnerabilities.

Online Screening for Personality Disorders 
Answer YES to the following questions ONLY if they have been present over a long period of time causing distress or impairment in functioning

1. Do you suspect that others are exploiting, harming or deceiving you?

2. Do you persistently bear grudges and not forget insults or injuries?
3. Do you almost always choose solitary activities?
4. Do you feel indifferent to praise or criticism of others?
5. Do you experience recurrent strange day dreams or fantasies?
6. Do you experience magical thinking that influences your behavior?
7. Do you repeatedly get into conflicts with the law?
8. Before age 18, have you been cruel to people or animals?
9. Do you have a pattern of unstable and intense relationships with others?
10. Do you have continuous feelings of emptiness?
11. Do you feel uncomfortable in situations where you are not the center of attention?
12. Are you easily influenced by others or are you suggestible?
13. Are you generally envious of other people?
14. Are you preoccupied with unlimited success or ideal love?
15. Are you unwilling to get involved with people unless you are certain of being liked?
16. Do you view yourself as socially inept, personally unappealing or inferior to others?
17. Do you have a difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others?
18. Are you preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of yourself?
19. Are you preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules?
20. Are you such a perfectionist that it interferes with your work?
Side Effects of Medications
First-generation antipsychotic medicines [such as Thorazine] can cause problems with your movements that are mild to severe.
Mild movement problems include restlessness, tremors, and rigid muscles. You can stop these problems by taking a smaller dose of the medicine or by no longer taking the medicine. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe another medicine to block the movement problems.
A more severe movement problem is tardive dyskinesia, which causes unusual, uncontrollable body movements. These movements include facial grimacing or eye-rolling.
It is important to have your blood monitored regularly when taking these medications.
Other serious side effects include:
  • Allergic reactions (skin rash, hives).
  • Decreased white blood cell count (found by monitoring your blood levels while you are taking the medication).
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome, which includes a high fever and irregular heartbeat.
  • Seizures.
  • Constant movement.
  • Muscle spasms, especially in the neck.
  • Abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia).
  • Liver problems.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
  • Frequent urination.
  • Worsening of psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations.
  • Other common, mild side effects include:
  • Drowsiness.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Constipation.
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Shaking, stiff muscles, and slow movement 
Common side effects of lithium carbonate [brand name Lithane] include:
  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite, feeling of fullness or swollen stomach, and/or stomach upset.
  • Dry mouth, increased thirst, and increased urination.
  • Headache, slight memory loss, or confusion.
  • Sensitivity to cold.
  • Tiredness and sleepiness.
  • Weight gain.
  • Slight hand tremor.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

2012: The Apocalypse is This Dance

The apocalypse is this dance
In which partners twirl
Round and round
Holding hands
Two by two

To dizzying effect
Until they fall and roll
Round and round
One upon the other
On the ground

They tear at each other's clothes
To find the nakedness
They desire and rolling
Round and round
They perish in the fire

And turn to ashes
Which in a whirlwind swirls
Round and round
To form a formless

It whirls
Round and round
Flaunting its sex
Its cold and cruel heart
Pouring blood upon the ground

And then the earth
And all the oceans and the sky
Round and round
Turn red
And every living thing
Is dead

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

From The Lion and the Sun

From Chapter 6 of The Lion and the Sun
Conte waited for Kaitlyn on the platform at Heiligenstadt Wednesday morning, his arms wrapped around his shoulders to ward off the chill. He and Kaitlyn had arranged to visit the ancient monastery of Klosterneuburg in the Wienerwald. It was Kaitlyn’s idea to combine work with a pleasant outing. Unfortunately, the weather was chilly, overcast, and threatening rain. It matched his mood perfectly.
Conte thought about his meeting with Harold Wiggham the next day. He went over in his mind how much he would tell Wiggham about the missing Plutonium Pit. Certainly the US should continue to monitor the situation, as Conte wasn’t convinced that Balakirev was telling him the truth.
Conte also thought through yet again the prospects of recruiting Balakirev. The effort and cost involved in doing so would be worth it if he came over; Balakirev had a wealth of information about KGB tradecraft and details on the Russians’ transition of their intelligence services. Conte was fairly sure that the Russian also knew where some of the really scary skeletons were hidden in US intelligence closets. America was still losing agents; some right out of training. On the other hand, Balakirev continued to strike Conte as a dedicated and conscientious servant of Mother Russia. And he had a wife in Moscow that would have to be extracted along with Balakirev. What would it take to turn him?
Finally, Conte’s mind, or more accurately, his imagination returned to Kaitlyn. He was conflicted between professionalism and sexual longing; or was that all it was?
The rumble of the U-Bahn woke Conte from his reverie. He spotted Kaitlyn and watched her brisk, purposeful walk along the platform towards him. She was wearing a tan trench coat, closed at the waist with a belt, and she carried a huge handbag. Her heels clicked on the concrete. A smile formed on her lips as she approached. She looked gorgeous. Conte smiled back at her.
She walked right up to Conte and leaned forward to kiss him. He turned his head and kissed her on the cheek and again on the other cheek. Very European, but rather perfunctory.
“Hey,” she said, “You’re supposed to act like we’re lovers going on a holiday.”  
“Oh yeah? Who says? Maybe we’re just friends, or brother and sister.”
“Ha! With my peachy complexion and blond hair and your swarthy, Latin looks? Who’d believe it? Let’s get our cover story straight, Nathan.”
“The first of your kind we Brits hanged.”
The Schnelbahn pulled into the station with a whoosh, the doors slid open, and Conte and Kaitlyn boarded. Given the early hour and the lousy weather, it wasn’t surprising to find they had the car to themselves.
The train moved away from the station and Kaitlyn scooted over against Conte. “I’m cold,” she said with a shiver.
Conte offered to give her his scarf. She refused it. “You can put your arm around me, though.”
Conte slid his arm around her shoulder and she scrunched up closer. Looked up at him. “What’s your problem?”
“I don’t have a problem.”
“Well, you aren’t acting very friendly.”
“I’m just a bit preoccupied, Kaitlyn. I need to get to the bottom of things and I need your help doing it.”
“Okay. That’s my job.” She sat back from him. “You want to go over things now? Maybe if we get through this before we arrive at the monastery we can have a nice walk in the Vienna woods, look around the monastery, and eat a nice lunch at the Stiftkeller. A glass of wine might make you less grumpy.”
Conte’s head was killing him. Probably a result of the gluwein Anatoly bought the previous night. He wasn’t sure he wanted more wine. “Um hmm,” he mumbled.
“So how did your meeting go?” Kaitlyn asked.
“I’m not sure. Balakirev is playing both ends against the middle, but he doesn’t see it that way. I have a hard time believing he’d knowingly help supply Iran with the wherewithal to develop nuclear weapons, but the information given me by my people points to someone doing just that.”
Kaitlyn turned and looked out the window. “Balakirev’s been meeting with Demitri Protopopov on a fairly regular basis. Protopopov’s division is responsible for the Middle East. He’s been working out modifications to the safeguards agreement with Iran. Balakirev may be trying to influence that somehow.”
The IAEA’s safeguards regime was burdened by a Kafkaesque system of political agreements, regulations, endlessly negotiated inspection plans that limited what portions of a facility IAEA inspectors could view, and other bureaucratic red tape that belied the Agency’s message of “assurance” against diversion of nuclear material for weapons purposes.
“Well, Russia is practically frothing at the mouth over getting the contract to finish Bushehr. Maybe Anatoly is just trying to figure out what inspections are going to be permitted under the new facility attachment.”
Kaitlyn just murmured “Hmm.” Conte looked over at her. She turned to him, sensing his scrutiny. “Dan, our intelligence service has information that Balakirev’s company, AET, is funneling nuclear weapons equipment to Iran and believes that Balakirev is involved.”
“We know about AET, but our people don’t think Anatoly knows what’s going on. And I know something about the top guy at AET. He’s a former scientist who headed up one of Russia’s premier weapons labs and he’s got a good rep with us. We’re puzzled about the AET connection.”
The train slid into the Nordbruck station. Doors opened. A blast of cold air hit their feet. No one got on the car.
“Kaitlyn, do you think you can find out what Balakirev really knows about AET’s play in this thing? Are they supplying weapons components to Iran? Is Balakirev the go between? How are they doing it? They’ve gotta be using a front company. Who is it?”
Conte knew what the CIA had concluded, but he wanted independent corroboration. Kaitlyn was in a position to get it for him.
Kaitlyn looked at her hands. Conte could imagine what she was thinking. She was acting as Balakirev’s secretary. How was she supposed to pump him for information on such sensitive matters? She looked up at Conte. “Okay, Daniel. I’ll see what I can find out.”
Conte looked at her. She had beautiful eyes. He thought he could read the look there, but he didn’t want to acknowledge it then. He wanted to say ‘don’t take any chances,’ or ‘don’t put yourself at risk,’ or ‘forget it, don’t do what I just asked you to do,’ but he didn’t say anything. He told himself, She’s a professional; she can handle it.
The train pulled into Wiedling; the last stop before Klosterneuburg. A couple with two young children boarded the train and took seats at the far end of the car. The woman had her little girl by the hand and carried a string bag. One of those great European inventions that scrunches up into nothing, but expands to hold an entire picnic. Conte could see bread, cheese, apples. It was a good bet there was a bottle of wine somewhere.
The man carried his little boy aboard, bounced him in the crook of his arm, pointing out the window, watching the boys face. The woman smiled at her husband and down at her excited daughter. Kaitlyn watched them, a gentle smile on her face. The doors slid shut and the train moved down the track towards Klosterneuburg.
They were passing through open country, the Wienerwald to the left, the tall trees snaking upwards in neat rows, and the Danube to the right, its grey waters reflecting the overcast sky.
Kaitlyn was looking out the window. “This reminds me of the town where I grew up.”
“Where was that?”
“Fairford, in the Cotswold. Northwest of London. It’s just a tiny village. You wouldn’t have heard of it.”
“I’ve heard that the Cotswold is a beautiful area.”
“Still have family there?”
“Me mum. And my uncle Pete and his family.”
“What about your dad?”
“Dead and gone.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Happened a long time ago. I was just a kid. But I remember him.” Kaitlyn paused, and then as if to herself she continued, “His feel, his smell, the sound of his voice; husky like.” She looked at Conte. “I felt happy when I was with him.”
“I’m sorry, Kate. What happened to him?”
“Killed in Belfast. He was Special Air Service, CRW. Went in on some black op. We never found out what. Only that something went wrong.”
“It’s a rotten business that way.”
The Special Air Service was the Brits principal special forces organization. It was one of the most elite military organizations in the world. And the Counter-Revolutionary Warfare unit, the CRW, pulled some of the most dangerous, most secretive, and in some cases, most controversial assignments of any military or intelligence organization.
“How did your mom handle your dad’s death; must have been awfully hard on her?”
“She was amazing. Sat me and my sis down and told us things would be okay. We’d make it. We’d work together, the three of us.” She paused. Looked at her hands. “Didn’t happen that way, though.”
“What happened?”
Kaitlyn dropped her head and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “My little sister took it hard. Got into drugs. Caused ma all kinds of grief. Then OD’d. Pete came by the house to tell mum. I can still see the look on her face.”
“Jesus, Katy.” Conte touched her shoulder.
“Yeah. My fault really. Should’ve paid her more attention. But she was into grunge and punk and all that shite and I was…” Kate did the quotation mark sign with her fingers. “…the good daughter. Truth is, my sister embarrassed me. So there it is.”
Conte wished he hadn’t been so nosy. “Kate, even when both parents are there to raise a child, things go wrong. Kids get it in their mind that they aren’t loved, or they’re different, or they’re just sad, and they do stupid things. You can’t blame yourself.”
“Yeah, well…” Tears had pooled in her eyes. She looked out the window. Let the phrase hang. “But my uncle was a saint. He helped us out. Helped me out. Got me into university. Found a spot for me after graduation in the firm. After that I made my own way.”
Conte studied Kaitlyn. “Remember that CT workshop we participated in years ago?
Kaitlyn smiled. “Counterterrorism? Yes. I had a bit of a crush on you.”
“It didn’t last,” Kaitlyn added, smiling.
The train pulled in to Klosterneuburg and Conte and Kaitlyn followed the family out and down the platform to the bus stop. The bus took only a few minutes to get up the hill and drop them at the Abby.
The dual towers of the abbey were in silhouette against a bank of high clouds; lit golden on top but dark, almost black underneath. Conte squinted up at the clouds. A vine of lighting snaked out and down towards the undulating vineyards.
They walked into a heaving wind past the Abby and on to the grotto and up behind it deeper into the woods. The beech trees were swaying and moaning as the last of their leaves were ripped from them. Wind-blown, the yellow and brown leaves skittered across and down the path in front of Conte and Kaitlyn.
The path branched back down towards the village and up again into the woods. There was a low rock wall along the side of the path. Beyond it, the woods climbed into darkness.
Conte climbed up. Kaitlyn followed him. The way was steep and as they turned into the woods towards a rock outcropping, Conte reached back to help Kaitlyn. Holding onto his hand tightly, she came up into his arms. Conte pulled her close and kissed her hard on the mouth.
Conte pushed Kaitlyn back against the rock outcropping. He undid her trench coat and reached inside pulling her hips against his.
“Yes,” she told him. “Yes.”
She had her hands around the back of his head. Now she moved them down and Conte felt her unzipping her slacks. Conte began working at his, but she took his hand and pushed it inside her slacks. He moved his hand down the smooth flesh of her stomach, down the mound, into the silken hair and then the wetness between her legs.
Conte heard Kaitlyn say things and felt her breath on his cheek, but everything was a blur. He stepped back and looked into her eyes. She remained with her back against the outcropping, foot braced against the rock, her white flesh exposed. Her eyes seemed more green than blue. Cat eyes. Her mouth was open.
Conte knelt in front of her, took her hips in his hands. Her hands found the back of his head. Her voice seemed far away. “Oh god, Danny.”
Conte rose to his feet and pressed against her. He felt her hand in his jeans, then she had his sex in her hand, and he was so hard it hurt as she guided him into her.


They leaned into each other waiting for their hearts to stop ramming against their chests. They heard talking. Two older women rounded the bend below them and walked on by, using their walking sticks and yakking in unison. Conte and Kaitlyn stood very quietly, pressed against each other.
Kaitlyn whispered in his ear. “If those alte frau had looked up and seen your bare behind. That cute, tight arse of yours, they would’ve been climbing up here after you, and I’d have to fight em off.”
She pushed him away. “Now turn around and give me some privacy. I want to get dressed and be taken to lunch. I’m starving!”
They pulled on their clothes and brushed each other off as best they could. As they made their way down the path towards the monastery Kaitlyn said, “We’ll eat in the keller. It’s dark there. Maybe they won’t notice the stupefied look on my face, or see the dirt on your knees.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Dream

I dreamt of you last night
I was lying next to you
and leaned over to kiss you
You were looking at me
and seemed so serious

I kissed you
and you didn't close your eyes
I kissed you again
and again
But you didn't return my kisses

You looked at me
with what I realized was sadness
What's wrong
You were silent
And then I woke

I lay there
thinking of you
Why didn't you return my kisses
I wanted to go back to sleep
I wanted to go back to the dream

I wanted to keep on kissing you
I wanted to feel your breathe on my cheek
I wanted you to kiss me back
I wanted you

I wanted the dream back

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Someone Sings

Some people swore that the house was haunted. They claimed to have heard the sound of singing. A female voice, soft and sweet. A woman had committed suicide there years ago. She’d been found hanging from the balusters of the upstairs landing. It caused a sensation at the time. She was the wife of an influential man in the community, a banker named Arthur Mann. Rumor had it that Mann was a womanizer and kept up his shenanigans even after he’d married his young bride. When she found out he was unfaithful, she took her own life. It was a double tragedy, in that she was pregnant. But there was another, more sinister plot line.

Mann’s wife Emma was the only child of a wealthy industrialist, who’d put a considerable amount of money in trust for his beloved daughter. She received the money outright the day she turned 21; just a year after she married Mann. A year later, she was dead, and Mann, the beneficiary of her trust money, was able to pull his bank from the brink of insolvency. People thought that was awfully convenient, but the police could find no evidence of foul play.

Mann had died only three years after Emma’s suicide. Some said he was broken hearted over the death of his young wife and their unborn son. Others were less generous in their convictions. The imposing Victorian mansion had been vacant since Mann’s death all those many years ago.


Jacob hears the singing now. The sound comes floating across the unkempt lawn like an evening mist -- a woman’s voice. He can’t make out the words, but it makes him feel like crying.

Jacob stands in the lee of a cluster of birch trees and cocks his head to the left and then the right, trying to pick up the sound of the singing again, but he’s lost it in the rustle and whisper of the wind shimmering the leaves of the birch. He looks at the trees and follows their white, striated trunks and branches up into the leaves, which the moon has turned to silver.

Clouds scudding across the bruised grey sky slide over the moon. Suddenly it is dark, the wind dies, there is no rustling of leaves, all is silence and stillness, and then the boy hears the singing again; the soft, sweet, melodic sounds of the song floating through the trees. He stops and turns his head, listening. Where is it coming from? 

A seedpod shaped like a teardrop and hung from a tiny, inverted parasol of fine filaments floats through the air, touches Jacob’s cheek, and settles on his shoulder. He turns his head, reaches up and, with thumb and index finger carefully takes it and brings it down to inspect. When he looks up, she’s there.


Jacob’s mother is sure that her son is still alive. It’s been seven years since he vanished, and despite an extensive investigation, no sign of him has surfaced. The mother’s determination to keep pursuing the case put an unbearable stress on the marriage and now the mother lives alone. She spends her days rereading newspaper accounts of the boy’s disappearance, and the ensuing investigation. She wanders the streets peering at faces of boys too young now to be her son.

It was on one of her aimless walks that she happened upon the house. It stood in stark silhouette against a hazy sky backlit by a weak evening sun. The house seemed a foreboding presence, crouched there as if ready to pounce. She stood and stared at it. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck bristle. She moved cautiously toward the house.

A cloud passed in front of the sun and the sky darkened. The slight breeze that had been cooling the humid evening turned to a harsh, cold wind, and the mother reached to grasp her straw hat. Her skirt blew and billowed around her legs, and dust blew up into her eyes. She turned her head away.

The scream startled her and as she looked to identify its source, the wind whipped her hat away, and it raced, tumbling across the brown weeds and away from the house. She felt the wind on her body like hands, pushing her away.

Jacob’s mother, hunched against the wind, glared at the house. Summoning her courage, she moved towards the house, struggling against the wind, fiercer now, the screaming growing in intensity. A window screen tore loose and flew at her like a scythe. She ducked it and reached the porch.

As she stepped up on the porch, the wind died and the scream stopped. The sudden silence was as unnerving as the violence before it had been. She pushed aside the broken door and stepped into the house. It was then that she knew. Jacob was here. Her son was here. She moved quickly to the stairs and began climbing, hesitatingly at first, but then with determination, rising rapidly towards the landing; towards the balusters.


The house was torn down in 2007 as part of a larger land development that faltered as the housing bubble burst. A treeless track of weed-infested land stretches east towards the town proper, ending at a desultory creek that is most often just mud.

The area is posted with No Trespassing signs, but teenagers still drive out along the empty streets laid out to deliver homeowners to homes that were never built. In the daytime it’s a great place to learn to drive, or to just raise hell. At night, it’s a favorite make-out destination.

No one remembers the house and its story now; it was so long ago. So when teenagers report seeing a woman walking with a young boy late a night, no one connects it to the disappearance of Jacob and his mother, or to the death of young Emma and her unborn son.

But some teens have cut short their late-night excursions and come home shaken. They think they saw a noose around the woman’s neck, dragging behind her as she walked, hand-in-hand with the boy. People tell them they must have mistaken a shawl for the noose, but they’re sure it was a noose.

When people ask, “But then where is the woman? And what about the boy; where is he?” No one has an answer.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Chapter 20: Another Mega Donor Chips In
[Go to beginning]
Karl Rove hurried out of the Capital Republican Club and jaywalked across 1st street to the South Metro Station. He stood in the giant hall of the station and called Harold Simmons, one of the GOP’s big money men.

Simmons answered on the first ring. “Yeah, what’s happening Karl, my man?” Simmons drawled.

“Hi ya, Hal, it’s Karl,” Rove said unnecessarily. “Been wondering how you and Ann are holding up, what with all the election excitement.”

“Excitement?! You call this horse shit excitement, Karl? Why hell, I’ve done tractoring’s more excitin than this, boy.”

“What do think of Romney’s VP pick, Hal?” Rove asked.

“Good choice, far as I’m concerned. Boy’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Simmons said. “But I’m still not satisfied we’ve got this thing in the bag, Karl. The courts are giving us a hard timer on our voter ID push here in Texas.”

Judges had ruled that the costs of obtaining a voter ID would fall most heavily on poor African-Americans and Hispanics in Texas, a state with a history of voter discrimination, and that such groups would face unwarranted hardships if the law were to be applied.

“So I hear, Hal. But we’re making progress in the swing states, and that’s what’s important. Hell, there’s no way Texas electoral votes are going Obama’s way,” Rove crowed. “And speaking of that, we could use an infusion of money to help in some of our other election initiatives, and--”

“Now Karl, you know I’ve given a hell of a lot of money already.”

“Well, yeah, but a lot of that was--”

Simmons interrupted, “I know. It was for Santorum’s super PAC, but you told Annette the guy had a chance,” Simmons said. “And money’s, money, Karl. Besides which, I’ve given another mil to Romney.”

“And we appreciate it, Hal. We do. But it’s coming down to the wire and everything we can swing now will help ensure victory in November,” Rove said, speaking quickly to prevent another interruption from Simmons, and running a handkerchief across his sweating brow.

“What do you need the money for, Karl?” Simmons asked.

“We need to pay for lawyers and poll watchers in the swing states to prevent voters without the authorized identifications from voting in the election,” Rove said. “That’s a lot of feet on the ground, Hal.”

“No shit!” Simmons said. “But I guess that’s one good thing we can use lawyers for; the sons of bitches aren’t good for anything else,” Simmons said. “How much?”

Rove hesitated. Simmons had already donated more than $18 million dollars to various Republican candidates and super PACs. How much could he wring out of Simmons this time? “Well, with what I’m getting from Foster, I think another million would do it.”

Rove held his breath. He hadn’t hit up Foster Friess yet, but if he got the money from Simmons, he could then go to Friess and use Simmon’s contribution as leverage to get a similar amount from Friess. Rove knew that the GOP mega donors were competitive as all hell when it came to who was paying in the most money.

“Okay, I’ll have my fucking accountant make the arrangements. Shit, every time I talk to you it costs me money, Karl,” Simmons said.

“Well, I appreciate it Hal. Can I ask you one more thing?”

“As long as it doesn’t involve money,” Simmons said.

“No, no. I just want to reiterate how important it is to keep holding out on any job growth until after November,” Rove said.

Simmons headed up Contran Corporation a huge chemical and metals conglomerate that controlled millions of jobs across the nation. Simmons holdings included multinational conglomerates NL Industries, Titanium Metals Corp., Valhi Inc., Kronos Worldwide Inc. and Keystone Consolidated Industries Inc. Many of Simmons’ businesses were heavily regulated waste-control and nuclear-waste disposal businesses, and Simmons wanted people in power who would eliminate all the burdensome regulations that, in his opinion, limited his options on how to maximize profits.

“I hear ya, Karl,” Simmons said. “All our hiring has been off the books. But here again, it’s costing me a ton of money just to payoff all the lawyers I need to keep me out of trouble on this.”

“And we appreciate it, Hal. Imagine the impact we’ll have, though, when employment figures shoot up after Romney is elected.” Rove said, scowling at a panhandler that was sidling up to him.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.