Minutes past

Hello, readers.

Ten minutes to eleven. It’s been over a month since I’ve written anything. It’s been over a month that I’ve read anything that doesn’t talk about Biostatistics or healthy public policies. Life has become a whirlwind that seems to stand still. Like going for surgery, disconnecting from the world only to wake up and find that the world has gone on without you. It has changed and so have you. And it’s not one of those emotional improvement changes, it’s a visceral/physical change.

Two minutes to eleven. Grad school is everything and nothing like I expected. Everything and nothing. I’m happy. My hands digging into the doughy bits, there’s no mold just the shapes your hands can make. And it’s liberating to feel that control, to grasp it firmly in your fist in a show of victory.

A minute past eleven pm. I miss my friends. Life has gone on without me, as it should. And in a few short weeks we’ve reorganized ourselves into new dynamics. It’s an exercise in anxiety management, these worn paths of friendship suddenly diverging. We’ve become many small roads, instead of a four lane highway.

Four past eleven, time flies. I miss the quiet moments. The not doing anything with someone else. I miss my wife, passionately and profoundly. Like I carved out my heart to make space for new knowledge. Like I was put under and someone scooped it out without my consent.

I close my eyes and panic a little because I didn’t know this would happen. I panic because I should’ve known. This heartache of missing people that are there, feeling whole in their embrace and shattered in the knowledge that you’re the one that’s unavailable.

Eleven past eleven. Make a wish. I wish you were here. Not so quietly playing The Sims, while that annoying Kim K soundtrack plays on your tablet.

Thirteen past eleven. I wish I could take you for granted again.

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SST Presents Coppee

Short Story Thursdays is a weekly dispatch. Every week you get little known stories in PDF format, accompanied by a short intro and commentary by the guy who runs the whole thing.I started this series called “SST Presents”, so named because that’s the subject title on the emails, to share those stories with you. If you’d like to subscribe, send an email to shutyourlazymouthandread@shortstorythursdays.com

Good evening, readers.

Thursday has come at a weird angle for me. Nothing inherently wrong or bad has happened, but nothing has quite gone right either. It was a series of mildly unfortunate events. It’s left me in a weird mood where I’m not upset in any way, but I’m not happy or at ease. Today has been like being out of synch with the world, like watching a bad video where people’s mouths move before the audio comes through.

An Accident

by Françoise Coppee

Today’s SST dispatch came with undertones of sadness and maybe a sort of angst that I can readily identify with today. After reading the email, I was ready to be heartbroken by this story and I wasn’t disappointed. I was nearly in tears after reading today’s story, maybe just a single tear fueled by a kind of ache for this man who just wanted to love someone else. A man who knew he wasn’t pretty and was willing to wait for a woman to love him in time. Who sought pardon for his mistakes, but only with minor regret knowing she would be happier.

This story is a confession within a confession. This priest who presides over a lonely, little frequented parish finally finds himself with a penitent. After only hearing “the uninteresting confessions of some good women”, he’s surprised to find a man waiting to confess his sins. Let me tell you, this is not an uninteresting confession, although I think he was a good man.

I feel so sad for his lot in life, I can’t even bring myself to condemn him for his actions. There’s a certain beauty in his pain, devoted as he was to a woman who left him for someone else. A woman he stayed close to, whose child he loved, who he helped throughout the years with the little money he had.

For some reason the image I have in my head is of a human version of Eeyore. I picture this guy humble, eyes sad with old pain, but not weighed down by it, a kind of peaceful acceptance of what his life was. And maybe I’m projecting, maybe I’m remaking this fictional man in my sadness’ image. I’m okay with that.

The guy who writes the emails was asking himself why hurting could feel good, that ability to find comfort in pain. I think feeling and accepting someone else’s pain helps ease our own. Those knots in our soul that we can’t quite figure out or give voice to, come undone when we let ourselves ache. Even if it’s for a fictional character. The pain is still there, but it becomes more bearable, maybe easier to work through. I don’t know. But I do feel a bit better now, so maybe there’s something to it after all.

Gentle reminder to subscribe to SST. The stories are solid, the dispatches are usually funny, sometimes serious like the one for today, but always a pleasure to read. I’m not getting paid for this. There’s no affiliation to SST. I just really like the concept and I think the stories they send are worth reading and sharing. So, subscribe. It’s free. Do it. Ok, maybe not so gentle.

Have a good one, readers. Until next time.

Final Thoughts: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Good afternoon, readers!

We had plans of going to Edinburgh today, but they were foiled by people who didn’t let us know they were coming over to do stuff in the house. They were meant to be moving into the house in a week, not this weekend. Buttfaces. We’ve exiled ourselves to a little pub in Limekilns called The Ship Inn and are currently making (indecent) use of their wifi. We’re consuming what will probably amount to large amounts of alcohol though, so it all evens out.

I’m finally done with The Dog Stars by Peter Heller and speaking of human condition, this novel is bursting with it. It’s steeped in loss and sadness. Over and over again, the characters come up against a world that has been robbed of normalcy. Where initially it was difficult to read Hig’s disjointed thoughts, towards the end the book feels more fluid. Somewhere after the middle point it gathered speed, taking me to some really surprising places. Sometimes with a small bit of morbid humor thrown in, which is always nice. Morbid humor for the win, you guys.

I’m not going to lie, I dragged my heels with this book. I’ve been feeling like reading something entirely different, which didn’t help matters. Mostly though, I just had a hard time really getting into it. It felt like nothing was happening. It makes sense in a world where things have ceased to happen for the most part. The last half of the book was filled with things I didn’t really expect, which brought about a very welcome change of pace. It also introduced some sorely needed new characters and made the whole thing more dynamic.

Don’t get me wrong, Hig as a character is pleasant. I really enjoy those moments when he stops to think about life, his thoughts a muddled mess I could recognize even if my brain hadn’t been cooked by extremely high fevers as his had. He talks about poetry, songs he likes, what it feels like to find small bits of happiness, but mostly he thinks about the things he’s lost. I think we can all relate to him in that sense, losing something you weren’t ready to part with and finding the memories springing up at strange times like alarms we forgot we’d set.

Really, the whole book is an ode to loss. An exploration of what it’s like to lose everything and the strangeness of finding things within that loss. It’s about losing friends and family, losing your best friend, your home. It’s about realizing you have things to lose, even after you thought you’d lost everything you could. And then finding things in the nothingness, reasons to fear loss again.

In the end, it was a really touching book. When you think about loss, really focus on it, you can’t help but remember everything you have and all the things you’re grateful for. It’s a nice reminder if ever there was one.

I’ll be without internet for a bit longer, so bear with me readers. I’ll try to post as often as I can find an internet connection. Keep it cool, readers.

Until next time!

Book Introduction: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Hello Monday readers! We’re back to our original schedule. Posting at night feels weird and has completely thrown me off my writing schedule, so I decided to return to my original posting hours. Now, on to business.

We’re finally ready to talk about our next book! I was a bit spoiled for choice when it came to choices for Colorado, but I settled on The Dog Stars because it had a touch of the post apocalyptic which I really enjoy. I know my Wyoming pick, Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem, was also in that vein, but I couldn’t help myself. The Dog Stars, written by Peter Heller, follows a man who’s survived a massive illness that decimated most of the population. Nine years later, all that’s left is a handful of survivors scattered around, including him, his dog, and the man he shares an airport with for mutual protection.

Initially, getting into the book was a bit difficult. Hig, our main character, tells us he suffered from very high fevers that nearly killed him, instead they fried his brain. This means his thoughts and, therefore, what you’re reading ends up being pretty disjointed and fragmented. There were times when I had to go back and reread a paragraph a few times in order to understand what he was saying. Once you get used to it though, it’s easier to follow his train of thought. And Hig thinks a lot, he thinks about the past, about what it means to kill people, about getting used to it. He thinks about his dead wife and talks mostly to his dog, Jasper.

The book feels gritty in a sweet way, because there are all these terrible things happening or that happened, but Hig remains almost innocent. His main concern is always Jasper’s welfare, which is closely followed by taking care of families that live close by who are too sick to do much of anything. He visits, always keeping his distance so as to not get sick, and delivers vegetables, helps fix things. Bangley, his end of the world companion, is the complete opposite of him. Bangley believes in killing everyone that isn’t him and Hig, he doesn’t believe in doing anything that isn’t conducive to their survival and seems to take delight in this new Survivor status that the world has forced him into.

So far I’m halfway through the book and I’ve already cried at least once, that I can remember. There’s a lot of sadness in these pages. I feel like lately there’s been a lot of that going on in the books I’ve been reading lately, but I’m really enjoying it. It’s like an emotional purging without having to contemplate your own issues. I’m aware that stinks of denial and repression, but after crying for so many characters I feel absolutely relieved. It’s great therapy, if you ask me. But you haven’t, so I’ll keep talking about the book.

I’m not quite sure where this book will end. Hig is determined to find a survivor that isn’t infected. There’s a possible Elk shadow that keeps popping up in different places, so this mythical Elk might play a part later. Who knows?

I’ll let you know what happens. I promise. Keep it cool, readers. Until next time!