Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Who Is The Father?" from "The Ward Street Chronicles

   "That can't be my Walter's boy!"
   
   Well, I'd hardly been out of the womb more than three minutes when my paternal grandmother uttered those words, which were destined to ring out like some thematic groundbass accompanying my long day's journey into night, into that very night from which I had so recently emerged. Thus it was the stage was set, in an instant, for this long unfolding all too common domestic drama.
   Of my first two years I have little recollection, stray sounds which pleased, bird song, trainwhistle, but have it on hearsay that I cried incessantly during all that time, both day and night, and only a certain kind of music would shut me up.
   This wonderment at our paternity which seems to haunt the human race, and which is the source of so much passion, and so much pain, which yet occupies our minds so very little once we have settled in, settled into the necessary little certainties which we and the world demand for the continuation of what we call a life, this puzzlement, so useless yet so primal, must be put aside for a host of reasons-the chief of which is simply that life must go on, filling its belly with the food of distraction, even unto the very end and final moment while the question remains for ever unanswered, assuredly unanswerable, while gradually diminishing its hold upon our minds...
   ...and yes, it was all of it, warp and weft, wrapped in mystery. Nothing was known. No one was known. No one knew the answer to the question "Who was the father?" They will tell you that the mother knew, yet often it is the mother who had been the very one most absent at the moment of conception. There had been this cloud, this mist, this universal unknowing. Who had crawled or clammered into her tent? Who knew? No face emerged, and when it did it was the face of the universal mystery. The people of Ward Street might as well have been so many shadow puppets whose names you might have known and nothing more. Who were they? Who? Behind those names?
   Gentle reader! - Shall I call you that? - Yes, it seems I have done so, so let it be. Gentle reader, then, here are their names, in no particular order -

,,,to be continued...
 

Commentary on the Chronicles

Let this stand as Critical Commentary on "The Ward Street Chronicles"



Friday, December 6, 2013

"The Drowned Submariner" from "The Ward Street Chronicles"

   During all these early years the world was an accumulation of impressions, constituted of passing scenes unburdened by any systematic thought or encumbering opinions. Things were, more or less, what they seemed to be and one had only to let them pass and to feel them with emotion, more or less strong. There were no overarching grand principles against which to measure and judge one's percepts, no attempt to comprehend, sum up, understand, just the scene, the scene suffused with feeling. Even as the moment arose, it dissolved, seemingly never having been. The world had been constituted of a series of disappearing moments, not ever having, perhaps, appeared at all. And had they appeared, what was it that they had been, had they been at all? These were questions that haunted his mind, and there had been none to whom he might speak of these matters or no matters. It was, he had often thought, his dilemma, no one else's dilemma. And yet the past continued to increase, he would note, even as the future decreased, so there must be something to it, he reasoned, something more than a figment in the mind of God. ...
   ...and as we speak of figments in the mind of God there arises in my mind the figure of Forest Simoneau, although I never once so much as glimpsed him. His photograph occupied a prominent place perched on a shelf high in a parlor of which I possess only dim, veiled memories, as of a place that I know must have been, yet a place which had, even then, a distinct air of utter non-existence.
   He was clad in a white sailor suit, of a vintage of the First World War, that war which was to have been the war to end all wars. Ah! How many times had I heard his story, shrouded in a mystery, recounted by voices tremulous with the emotion of grief, a grief unassuaged even after years upon years upon years. He had been a submariner whose submarine had descended into the depths, never to ascend again. His final moments of fully realizing his plight as, at his very end, he perished forever, and his submarine had not surfaced, nor had all the navy's resources proved sufficient to raise it up from the floor of the sea ever shifting, ever dark, every cold. It was the women who spoke of him, who mourned the loss of such a handsome son, cousin, nephew, while the men retired into their forgetful pastimes, advanced beyond my years. I was left alone, to listen. And so it was on the long drive home, the drive back to the familiar and the warm I curled up in the back seat of the Studebaker Starlight Coupe enwrapped in a blanket of horror, terror, and grief. His loss was felt by no one more keenly than I had felt it then. Even now, I feel it still, with its poetry and romance. 

to be continued...