Two Versions of “Beckett and Woolf”

Beckett and Woolf (In-Between)

They posed for the sake of the shoulder, saw it odd to stare straight and smile, waiting for the flash like we do these days. He might have combed his hair with his fingers first (his wavy white and gray). She might have smoothed her skirt (even though it would never appear). One cannot think of her own death when posing (or can she?). He probably got it right after the second try, she the first (her parted lips suggesting impatience). I want to wear my hair like hers (loose, uncoiling slowly throughout the day). I want to navigate the straits of his face into that wide foaming open. I want to see myself the way others would dream me and then look away.

Beckett and Woolf (Anti-Fiction & In-Between)

Samuel Beckett and Virginia Woolf posed for photographs that are now used for postcards. They posed for photos wherein you see the shoulder’s edge. Not smiling or staring straight into the camera, waiting, but not for the blinding flash. Look away. Look away.

He might have combed his his wavy, gray hair with his fingers. She might have smoothed her skirt, though it would not appear in the picture.

She couldn’t be thinking of her oncoming death while posing – or could she?

He might have taken two attempts to get it right, she the first, her parted lips suggesting impatience.

I want to wear my hair like hers because of its bravery, worn loose, slowly uncoiling throughout the day. I want to wear lines and wrinkles earned from hard thinking. See myself how others see me – despite the impossibility – and then look away.

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Watch Out for Highway Workers (Mostly Fiction) & Watch Out for Highway Workers (Anti-Fiction)

I’m working on a new project (which will most likely make up my eventual dissertation), a hybrid collection I’m calling Day of No Dead (Fiction & Anti-Fiction). What’s most important to me as I work on this (excitedly) is interrogating what makes for fiction and non-fiction, and what some of the stock techniques or traits are that identify one from the other. So if you have the time and patience to read these two works (the fictional version has been published recently in Big Bridge Magazine, listed in my bibliography), please do so, and comment on how they differ or resemble each other, and what effect one or the other (or both) have on you. Thanks readers!

Watch Out for Highway Workers (Mostly Fiction)

A woman crossed the street in the early evening hours and a car struck her dead. It was reported that she had just left a house party in honor of Father’s Day.

A young man hitched a ride in Mexico. The brakes on the truck failed, which led to the truck careening off a cliff. The accident resulted in 7 fatalities, including the young man.

A man fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of his car. He swerved sideways across the freeway and another vehicle slammed into his at high speed. The other vehicle carried two – the driver and one passenger. No fatalities reported. The three involved complained of minor injuries.

The pedestrian’s name was Sandra. She was 47 years old.

The hitchhiker is reported as the only American fatality. The others were of Mexican descent.

The man who fell asleep on the road stands at 6’2” with red hair. His name is Ken and his license plates are from Arizona.

The house party Sandra attended was not in honor of her father but for the father of her best friend Connie. Sandra’s father died when she was three. She never knew her father, but kept a sepia-colored photo of him on her refrigerator, pinned up with a rose-colored F-shaped magnet. She only went to the party for Connie’s father because it happened to be Father’s Day, which falls on a Sunday every year. Sundays are Sandra’s only day off. Every other day is devoted to various routine tasks.

The American hitchhiker, Rick, was on the dream trip of his lifetime. He was at the tail end of his tour of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. He died on a Sunday. It also happened to be the day before his 37th birthday.

The driver with the Arizona license plates never met the two women in the other vehicle. His name is Ken. Ken was informed that the names of the opposing claimants are Susanna and Amanda. Ken suffered a minor injury to his hand, which he insisted on caring for himself, while Susanna and Amanda suffered from chest and neck pains, which sent them to the ER. That same night they spent a total of 6 hours in the waiting room. They discovered that the reason for this long wait time was that there was another car collision that same day, reporting several fatalities.

Sandra used to collect anything and everything to do with roses, both real and manufactured. One Sunday morning at her favorite flower shop, she admired a bouquet of roses with her fingertips, raising one rose to her nostrils to enjoy its fragrance. She pricked herself on a thorn and winced as she licked the spot of blood from her pointer finger. She bought the whole bouquet, set it on top of the TV, and watched it more than the television show. The dozen roses were carefully arranged with three in front, three on each side and three in back. The primary rose – the one that pricked her – sat in the middle front row. The fragrance filled the room until the next morning when she dumped the bouquet into the trash.

All three accidents involved a vehicle. Vehicles, though they can kill, are not made to kill. Not like guns. Guns are ultimately made to kill. No guns were involved.

There was no cab on the truck. The truck was new. No one knows for sure why the brakes failed. An ongoing investigation is expected to reveal the true cause of the accident. It is apparent that six of the eight passengers sat in the back of the truck. All six died of major injuries. It so happened that the only two survivors were the only children in the group, an infant and nine year old who had been sitting inside the truck where they were found with only minor injuries. The driver – who obviously was also inside the truck – died.

A single rose was found on the road where Sandra was hit. When asked, no one who attended the Father’s Day party remembered whether or not Sandra took a rose from the two party bouquets with her.

Rick’s car could not be found for weeks after his death. It was speculated that someone noticed his car sitting close to the border without movement and so took the opportunity to steal it. An investigation led to an arrest. The car had been stripped. Luckily there were no items of value left in the car. Rick’s backpack, with his valuables, was found further down the cliff, including a one-use camera with photos of his Mexico trip.

Amanda drove a two-year old Toyota Corolla that her father had given her as a gift. Her car was totaled in the accident. Amanda and Susanna remain best friends. Though they live countries apart (Susanna in Germany and Amanda in America), they post frequent status updates and current photos on Facebook that show no trace of the trauma incurred on that Easter Sunday. Amanda keeps photos of the accident in a private folder on her computer. She doesn’t look at them, just as she doesn’t look at the photos of her mother lying in a coffin.

Shortly after the accident, Susanna said, “Everything happens for a reason.” Amanda’s response was, “Hmmm.” Susanna made this statement while she and Amanda rode in the car driven by Amanda’s father, who had been in a serious collision the year before. In fact, no less than four of Amanda’s family members have been involved in some kind of collision.

Rick had never been in a car accident of any kind before the one in which he died.

Sandra had never been struck by a car before.

Ken had never struck a car before.

Rick had been a volunteer many times. He had been a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders.

Amanda had never volunteered for anything except for the library book fair in her freshman year of college. This was part of a required Community Service Project and therefore does not count as real volunteer service.

Several of Rick’s friends speculated that he must have offered up his body as a human shield for the two children who miraculously survived the accident. They were not yet aware of the fact that the two children sat inside of the vehicle while Rick sat in the back.

Amanda had met Rick two weeks after her accident at a friend’s house party. She told him and two others about her accident. How the airbags deployed, causing her pains in the chest. How she felt traumatized. He said, while rubbing her arm, “At least you’re alive.” Amanda had only met Rick once because he died in that tragic truck accident in Mexico a month later. She had planned to meet him some more.

Shortly after the accident, Susanna told Amanda, “I was praying right after it happened.” Amanda’s response was, “Aha.” Amanda hadn’t prayed because she hadn’t believed in God. She still doesn’t.

Rick didn’t have a chance to pray. This is what is assumed. He died instantly. His loved ones hope he died instantly so he wouldn’t suffer.

Amanda and Susanna suffered because they lived.

Sandra might have suffered.

Amanda still doesn’t know what really caused the accident. She has a hard time believing the police report, which quotes Ken as saying: “I fell asleep for a second.”

The accident occurred shortly after 9 in the morning.

Amanda’s car is the only one that collided with Ken’s on a freeway containing other moving vehicles.

Some say that everything happens for a reason.

If you build it, it can fail.

An apple falls – not floats – from a tree.

E = mc2.

It’s like this see. Moving objects within the same atmosphere = encounters, collisions, explosions, implosions. Add to that mix human beings and you have the likelihood of injuries. According to Collision Theory, for a reaction to occur, molecules must collide. But not all collisions result in a reaction.

Amanda does not express her spoken responses very well. She prefers the written word. “Just teaches you to enjoy the moment. Live. Really live, man.” To which she writes: We live somewhere between memory and fantasy. Never here. Never now. It only appears that one has lived here and now, after he is gone.

She still doesn’t know why she lived and why he died. She stopped asking why, taking the human out of the equation.

A 53-year old highway worker was struck dead this morning on the off-ramp of Highway 5. He will be replaced by a 32-year old worker first thing in the morning.

The first highway message board on Highway 5 reads: Safety Alert! WATCH OUT FOR HIGHWAY WORKERS.

Another message board half a mile down the highway reads: WATCH OUT FOR HIGHWAY WORKERS.

Watch out.

Watch Out for Highway Workers (Anti-Fiction)

“…had just purchased a popsicle from a traveling ice cream vendor’s truck, when she went into the road and was hit and run over…aunt…tells 27 News…was visiting her and other family members…for a Father’s Day barbeque before the collision.”

A young man hitched a ride in Mexico. The brakes on the truck failed, which led to the truck careening off into a steep gully. The accident resulted in 7 fatalities, including the young man.

A man fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of his car (so the accident report states). He swerved sideways across the free, any way you look at it (as reported by the injured and three witnesses) and another vehicle slammed into his at high speed. The other vehicle carried two – the driver and one passenger. No fatalities reported. The three involved complained of minor injuries.

The pedestrian shall remain here unnamed.

The hitchhiker is reported as the only American fatality. One – a 42-year old woman – lived in New Zealand. The origins of the other 5 fatalities is not known, frankly because research on the accident produced no clear results.

The name of the man who fell asleep on the road shall remain here unnamed. His license plates are from Arizona.

Father’s Day falls on a Sunday in June every year. The child was a victim of a collision with a drunk driver on the evening of that Father’s Day Sunday. According to one report, the “instances of drunk driving, speeding and driving without a safety belt all significantly increase during the night hours and each contributes to increased fatalities.”

“…had just purchased a popsicle from a traveling ice cream vendor’s truck, when she went into the road and was hit and run over…” Although July is the average warmest month in Madison, where the accident occurred and the maximum average precipitation occurs in June, it can be assumed that the weather was warm enough for ice cream trucks to go about their business, and for 9 year olds to purchase popsicles, even in rainy weather.

Of the two children and only survivors of the Mexico crash, one was a 9-year old. As of the last report, the 9-year old victim of the drunk driver continued to make recovery, though in critical condition. A neighbor’s eleven-year old son who witnessed the collision, according to his aunt, has been left traumatized by what he witnessed and doesn’t want to go out anymore.

Although the drunk driver shall remain fully unnamed, it will be duly noted that she went by the name “Miracle.”

All three accidents involved a vehicle. Vehicles, though they can kill, are not made to kill. Not like guns. Guns are ultimately made to kill (or at least harm or maim). No guns were involved.

There was no cab on the truck. The brakes failed. Six of the eight passengers sat in the back of the truck. All six died of major injuries. The only two survivors (as mentioned above, but bares repeating), an infant and nine-year old who had been sitting inside the truck where they were found, were found with only minor injuries. The driver – who obviously was also inside the truck – died.

Since the 9-year old pedestrian had just purchased a popsicle from the ice-cream truck, it is likely that remains of the popsicle were on her person, on the road, within the vicinity.

The car of the hitchhiking young man could not be found for weeks after his death. An investigation led to an arrest. The car had been stripped. His backpack, along with his valuables, was found further down the gully, including a one-use camera with photos of his Mexico trip.

The driver of the totaled vehicle drove a two-year old Toyota Yaris that her father had purchased for her as a kind of gift, completely in cash. For a brief period, the driver and her passenger remained close friends. Though they lived countries apart – the passenger in Germany and the driver in the United States – they posted frequent updates and photos on Facebook (the driver more so) that showed no signs of trauma incurred on that Easter Sunday. The driver keeps photos of the accident in a private virtual folder on her computer, as she does of nude photos of herself, self-taken. She doesn’t look at them (the photos of the accident that is) just as she doesn’t look at the photos of her mother lying in coffin.

The American driver recalls (if memory servers her right, she says) that shortly after the accident her foreign friend said, “Everything happens for a reason.” She responded with something like a hmmm, or maybe a sigh. Her friend had made the statement while riding in the car driven by the driver’s father, who had been in a serious collision the year before. In fact, at the time of this writing no less than four of the driver’s family have been involved in some kind of car collision.

The American hitchhiker had never been in a car accident before the one in which he died.

It is assumed that the 9-year old pedestrian had never been run over a car before (or else this fact would have surely been reported in the newspaper report).

It is not known whether the at-fault driver who fell asleep at the wheel had ever struck a car before.

According to his friends, the hitchhiker had been a volunteer many times. He had been a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders. Note: Since calling him “the hitchhiker” needlessly limits his identity to this one descriptor, for here on out the young man involved in the fatal Mexico truck accident will hereon out be referred to as merely the young man).

The American driver (labelled so because in contrast her friend was German) had never volunteered for anything except for the library book fair in her freshman year of college. This was part of a required Community Service Project and therefore does not really count as volunteer service.

Some of the young man’s friends speculated on his still live Facebook account that he must have offered his body as a human shield for the two children who survived the accident. They were not yet aware of the fact that the two children sat inside of the vehicle while he sat in back.

The American driver had met the young man approximately two weeks after her accident at a mutual friend’s house party. She told him and two of her friends about her accident. How the airbags deployed, causing her chest pains. How she felt traumatized. He said, while rubbing her arm, “At least you’re alive.” She had only met him once because he died in the truck accident in Mexico approximately one month later. She had hoped to meet him some more.

Shortly after the accident, the driver’s foreign passenger friend told her, “I was praying right after it happened.” At least this is what she recalls. Her response was something like a hmmm, or maybe a sigh. She hadn’t prayed because she hadn’t believed in God. She still doesn’t.

The young man may or may not have had a chance to pray. If he died instantly, then he didn’t. His loved ones surely hoped that he died instantly in order to be comforted by the thought of his not suffering.

The driver and her passenger suffered since they survived the accident. They live.

The 9-year old pedestrian most certainly suffered.

The driver still isn’t really sure of what really caused the accident. She has a hard time believing the police report, which quotes the other driver as saying: “I fell asleep for a second.” The accident occurred shortly after 9 in the morning.

The driver’s car is the only one that collided with the sleepy driver’s vehicle on a freeway containing other moving vehicles.

Some say that everything happens for a reason.

Or – you build it, it can fail.

An apple falls – not floats – from a tree.

E=mc2.

When you have moving objects within the same vicinity you get the likelihood of collisions, possibly explosions. Add to that mix human beings and you have the likelihood of injuries. According to Collision Theory, for a reaction to occur, molecules must collide. But not all collisions result in a reaction.

The driver says she doesn’t express herself very well. She prefers the written word. some have said to her something along the lines of, “Just teaches you to enjoy the moment. Live. Really live man.” She imagines the young man she met once, whom she got to know after his death, to have lived (and died) by this sort of saying. To which she writes: We live somewhere between memory and fantasy. Never here. Never now. It only appears that on has lived here and now, after he is gone.

She still doesn’t understand why she lived and he died. She stopped asking why, taking the human out of the equation.

Some time ago, she read news of a highway worker who had been struck dead on the off-ramp of Highway 5. She imagined he would be quickly replaced.

A highway message board on Highway 5 read: Safety Alert! WATCH OUT FOR HIGHWAY WORKERS.

Another message board half a mile down the same highway read: WATCH OUT FOR HIGHWAY WORKERS. Again.

Waking Hours (from the Hybrid collection, Day of No Dead – Fiction & Anti-Fiction)

Waking Hours (Fiction)
The cat – in play-dead position, marble eyes rolled back – murmurs like a dreamer. Maybe she is prey in some exciting chase. Maybe the fluttering of her eyes and the quivering of her mouth are merely a reflex.

The man who looks like a child sits on the floor, dressed in a sweater and tie. The documentary film camera focuses on him for a (painfully) long time. Both deaf and blind, he’s forgotten how to speak and write. Incapable of dressing himself, and maybe of abstract thinking. When he spits and drools and slaps his cheek, listen to what he is saying.

The philosopher threw himself out the window. Maybe death’s delay was too much to take, and after years of deliberation he took the leap.

If you could pray, maybe you would ask to die a sudden death – unexpectedly. Or maybe you would choose. Time to pay. Time to pay.

Do not be sad when death arrives, someone somewhere must have once said. Welcome and accept it, rather than crying like a lost child.

The man-child can’t help it. He spits and dribbles. He winks.

The cat can’t help sleeping through most of the waking hours.

There are worse things than death.

Hand the man-child a banana and he’ll eat immediately. He may never think of a tree the way a philosopher thinks, but he can feel one with his hands and climb it without analyzing what makes a tree a tree.

If the man-child could speak, maybe he would say: This constant buzzing in my head. Make it stop – please. If you do, I’ll stop slapping and scratching and crawling on all four of these things you call hands and feet.

The philosopher threw himself out the window. Suddenly. Maybe it was merely a reflex. Contradiction. After several years of struggling to breathe.

Think before you leap.

The philosopher starts from the position of thinking.

The cat stares for hours on end, when she’s not sleeping. Maybe daydreaming. In between.

Waking Hours (Anti-Fiction)

If a cat – or any other mammal for that matter – is observed murmuring, its eyes fluttering, and its mouth quivering, can it be claimed that it is dreaming?

Psychology Today claims that animals do in fact dream. Scientists are confident that all mammals dream. In research conducted at MIT, “rats have been shown to dream about previously running a maze and researchers have also discovered that they have complex dreams.”

If rats can dream complexly, so can cats.

Of what exactly rats and cats dream, scientists are not sure of. Some speculate that future research will find the answers. For now, one can only imagine: running a maze, pouncing, playing, prey in some exciting chase.

*

In Werner Herzog’s 1971 film Land of Silence and Darkness, he includes footage of Heinrich Fleischmann, a man both deaf and blind, who has forgotten how to speak and write, and has lived in a stable with animals. He stumbles into a tree, feeling the trunk and branches and leaves.

Footage of a man both deaf and blind, Heinrich Fleischmann, is included in the film Land of Silence and Darkness. Fleischmann has forgotten how to speak and write. At some point, he lived in a stable with animals. The camera focuses – among other things – on him stumbling into a tree, feeling the trunk, branches and leaves.

We see Heinrich Fleischmann sitting on the floor, appearing as a man-child, dressed in a sweater and tie. Perhaps the camera seems to focus on him for a (painfully) long time because he is clearly deaf and blind, considering that we are aware that this film Land of Silence and Darkness is about the world of the deaf and blind. We see him eat a banana. We see him stumble into a tree, feeling the trunk and branches and leaves. Who wouldn’t feel moved? If we are not moved, this says something, though what exactly, one can’t be completely certain.

*

OBITUARY: Gilles Deleuze

” – he committed suicide by throwing himself from his flat in Paris – ”
Source: The Independent online archive, published Wednesday 08 November 1995.

“In 1995, he committed suicide, throwing himself from the window of his apartment.”
Source: Wikipedia.
“November 4, 1995. Avenue Niel, Paris. The broken body of an old man lies crumpled on the footpath. It is that of Gilles Deleuze, the philosopher. His apartment room window, three stories above, stands open. There is no suicide note, yet it is clear enough what has happened. After twenty-five years of increasing physical infirmity, the struggle to live had become too much for Deleuze and he took his life” (italics added).
Source: First Things, Issue Archive, May 2007.
First Things Masthead: “First Things is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.”

Fact or fiction?

Google News: The Post and Courier – Nov 6, 1995, Philosopher Gilles Deleuze commits suicide at 70, Associated Press
“The author of one of the world’s best selling philosophy books, “The Anti-Oedipus,” had suffered for years from a serious respiratory illness and recently underwent a tracheotomy.” Jump to new paragraph: “Deleuze was born in 1925 into a conservative Paris family.”

Read between the lines.

*

If you could pray, would you ask for a sudden death rather than a long-winded, expected one? Or would you pray for forgiveness for what you are about to do?

Do not be sad when death arrives, someone somewhere might have said. Welcome and accept it rather than crying like a lost child.

Fleischmann couldn’t help it.

Cats can’t help it.

Some say there are worse things than death.

A man like Fleischmann may not ever think the way a philosopher thinks, but he’ll immediately eat a banana or climb a tree immediately without stopping to think.

If he could speak, maybe he would say: This constant buzzing in my head. Make it stop please. If you do, I’ll stop slapping and scratching and crawling on all four of these things you call hands and feet.

Gilles Deleuze threw himself out the window. Whether it was sudden or done with forethought, no one really knows. Maybe he did it because he suffered for several years physically. Maybe.

Someone somewhere said: “Think before you leap,” so that it became a cliche, a platitude.

Philosophers normally start from a position of thinking. Maybe.

Cats can stare for hours even. Some say the dream. Daydream? Maybe. In between.

*

Addendum: What does one have to do with the other? Read carefully and if you do, it will all come together.

Landmark

Landmark

“This city can be known only by an activity of an ethnographic kind: you must orient yourself in it not by book, by address, but by walking, by sight, by habit, by experience;” – Roland Barthes, “No Address,” Empire of Signs

Landmarks made so by others and landmarks you make so. Landmark by facade. By bright ornate things. By default.

Famous structures may serve as landmarks. Externally, the Statue of Liberty. Internally, Chauvet Cave. Point to nowhere but their own space. This city is known.

Landmarks that point to their own space and to another. Abandoned and run-down stations or buildings. Resemble another in another city, but not within the same vicinity.

Familiar to me my lover’s face. What was it back then when we met? New face, new map – foreign without a purpose or plan. Or a starting point and an end. Take me to where you are. Show me the symbols and signs, and I’m willing to go there. Don’t spell. Don’t speak. Trace your finger over the lines. Better yet, highlight them in bright orange or yellow, or any other color as long as it stands out and calls to me.

Landmark by facade, by trick of eye, by natural lighting.

I concentrate on his face looking back at me, and now I can close my eyes, feel for his hair, draw him to my body.

Begin at this landmark, and begin here again the next time you want to travel this particular route to get to this particular destination. Familiarity alone will arouse a sense of confidence, based on the success of your previous trip. However, familiarity can also backfire, creating automatic behavior, lacking excitement or spontaneity.

So I repeat – in the repeated encounter with that familiar face – you are so handsome, and when I close my eyes again, I feel it a reality.

One landmark can serve as a landmark for finding another landmark, especially when one is across the street from the other. Begin at the empty, used-to-be law office on the corner in the square, that will soon be a sandwich stop, one in a chain across the nation. Across the street on the opposite corner is the used-to-be opera house, now famous bookstore you frequent

because masked in memory is the fact that that this building used to house opera singers, even though most of the time you do not find the book you are looking for. You find other things related to the thing you were looking for, like other valued authors and theoreticians. You take these things home and then you return, because now you are drawn to these things related to the original things you so desired.

Landmark by relation.

Maybe you return by the same route, or maybe by a similar one that you know somehow will take you there.

Let me explain what I mean by “somehow.”

That’s not what I meant. Not really. When I told you my dream about my dead living mother first thing when we woke up this morning, I wasn’t saying that I think of her often. In fact, I ought to ask for forgiveness from someone somewhere for not thinking about her at all this past year, and probably the year before.

She was thin and young and I told her so, and then I asked her why she left me. She asked me to forgive her. She lived another life that didn’t include me.

I changed the subject. You tell me that’s what I always do. I do. I do. But I always return. If not today, then tomorrow morning. If not in a dream, then in a story.

New Critical Article

My critical article, “Freeing the Sign: Symbols in Yeats’s Poetry and Proust’s In Search of Lost Time,” is now published at University of Houston’s Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature. Here is the link: http://journals.tdl.org/plaza/index.php/plaza

Newly Published Work

“Backwards” & “Watch Out for Highway Workers”

“Backwards” takes the story of Lot’s wife and turns it on its head.This is the second appearance of “Watch Out” as the first press folded. It is a montage of fictionalized events written in a journalistic style. Here are both links:

http://bigbridge.org/BB17/editorschoice/fiction/Tina_V_Cabrera2.html

http://bigbridge.org/BB17/editorschoice/fiction/Tina_V_Cabrera.html

The thing about bruises is that they heal (from Day of no Dead)

The thing about bruises is that they heal.

Papa: beat big sister’s legs with one of the long vacuum tubes and then dragged her by the hair. She cowered. This is what we think we remember. It happened in a matter of minutes – two, maybe three.

Mama and Papa: married on leap year. Papa says they eloped. He says they didn’t know that it was leap year. Each time he tells this story, we – his children –don’t really believe. This same time every year he remembers. She carried a rag doll and wore a yellow dress when he came to take her away from a home that she wanted so desperately to forget.

Regret: Not knowing is not the same, as not remembering.

Even if someone had taken photos, no one would have believed that this man could have done such a thing. He appears ordinary and sweet.

Who would attribute such cruelty to this man who walks around the house in bare feet? Whose hands used to caress the dog’s belly before stirring the homemade soup for his family?

One imagines a child beater as one with a permanent scowl or steel-toed boots on his feet.

Papa: doesn’t remember exactly what kind of doll Mama held as they held each other in the spare room in the house of his navy mate, or what material the yellow dress was made of or if it was plain or decorated with checkers or flowers, or clasped closed or zipped. He does remember that both the doll and Mama were soft and sweet.

Regret: Maybe at the same time that he raised the tube, he remembered the splatter of hot oil on the skin of his arms and forehead, the oil left unattended in the frying pan, or the time when his mother made him kneel on salt on the floor while holding several books in both hands. Whenever he tells this story, he makes sure to admit what a naughty little boy he had been.

When he was just a little boy in the Philippines, he sang little tunes for the American soldier who handed him a candy bar. He didn’t have a secret hiding place like other little boys. His cousin, the one with the mean streak, kept him safe from bullies and Japanese soldiers and their cruelty.

He says that keeping pets is really a form of cruelty. Animals were meant to run wild and free.

Papa: says he never wielded the tube as an instrument of punishment that day. He says he can’t remember – no he could never – do such a thing.

Regret: Even if you showed him photos, bruises don’t come easily.

His mean-streaked cousin, older than him by only four years, lived into his 40’s and not surprisingly, drank consistently.

At the time of the alleged beating, Polaroid cameras were in fashion. But they were used (ordinarily) to record happy things – holiday celebrations, birthdays and costume parties.

A monkey that belonged to an army officer bit him in the leg when he was seven. He didn’t kill it or beat it over the head because he was still a little boy and the monkey wasn’t his pet.

He used to call big sister, when she was small, Little Princess, instead of by her real name. He’s surprised that we remember that.

He used to call the occupying soldiers ‘those means japs’ – each one of them – mean and cruel, through and through.

Papa: as a little boy, witnessed a Japanese soldier blow off the top of a woman’s head. Blow a man’s guts outs so that his little son tried for the longest time to hold them in.

Now that he’s an old man, Papa, a navy vet, has forgiven them. He doesn’t call them names. He doesn’t speak much about World War II, or any other war for that matter, but of more ordinary, mundane things.

Regret: Most often he hides away in his office that is also his bedroom – the one with the doorknob that doesn’t have a lock. He keeps the door shut, even though he lives alone, by inserting a little piece of cardboard between the door and the frame. It’s not so easily opened.

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