Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Don't Go There

High on your list of favored story types is the narrative in which an individual, with some trepidation,  enters a place she or he should not be, then discovers life-changing information with which the character is now bound to live.

Trepidation plays an important role because of the need it places on the character to be alert for the potential of menace, which can be seen or unseen.

The information can be in the form of some physical clue, to exaggerate the point, say a skeleton or some parts thereof.  The information can be a painting, photograph, or even a petroglyph, which is all the more disturbing because the discoverer, you see, will have had nightmares about the painting, photograph, or petroglyph. 

There are other ways for the information to be revealed:  a notebook or journal, a manuscript, an emendation on the margin of a printed book., a letter.  A packet of letters tied with a ribbon.

As for the information itself; it can be a revelation that someone is not who the character suspected.  Uncle Fred is not, in fact, a blood relative, rather the father of the character or the boyfriend of the aunt everyone thought was a maiden aunt.  The information is a challenge to the discoverer, casting doubt on the most precious thing most of us have, identity.

Perhaps the information takes on the metaphoric role of the ghost of King Hamlet, come back from the dead to swear his son to avenge his father's murder.

It is one thing to discover you've been given sincere but wrong information about some aspect of physical or existential behavior, yet another thing to see how some element with direct implications to who you are and your own place in the world have been kept from you all this time, all this time.  

Family secrets.  Specifics.  Your sister did not allow a rather lackluster marriage prevent her from a remarkable life.  Your own relationship with your brother-in-law, bordering on indifference from you, is mitigated by the fact of two nieces whom you adore.

A male cousin, some three of four years your senior, was someone you got along with well, based on mutual respect and admiration.  He, as well as your sister, had a less-than-spectacular marriage, producing two children and a cornucopia of unrealized dreams.  He and your sister had a long, enduring friendship to the point where you were aware each was the other's best friend.

Both are gone now, each in a dramatic way; he appeared to have fallen or was pushed from a mountain in Tahiti; she after a series of accelerated disasters after the mere tripping over her dog during an evening stroll.  A few years back, at a family gathering well lubricated with drink, you and one of your nieces voiced your hope to the daughter of your cousin that her father and your sister had managed to fortify the intensity of their relationship in physical as well as emotional ways.

This put your cousin's daughter in the same position of causing her to confront information, perhaps for the first time on a conscious level.  She was clearly surprised, then stunned, then repelled.  The word "gross" was heard a number of times.  Yet there were members of the family, indeed hoping.

You have not seen nor heard from your cousin's daughter since, nor has there been the trickle of information filtered through the family grape vine.  In your mind, this is precisely the sort of "discovered" information characters learn in this type of discovery story.

There is the strong possibility you've discovered something in investigating this outstanding dynamic from your own family within the framework of the kinds of discovery you applaud when they are made by made-up characters in concocted stories.  Resident elements of gossip and secrets made public are two enticing qualities.

You have for some time been of the belief much of your writing, even these vagrant lines, becomes wrappings about an armature of discovery.  When you plug the wrappings into the poles of a battery, you get something you learned from your cousin, the contented-sounding chuckle of an electric motor, turning its rotor, providing energy.

There are times when the discovery seems rather ordinary, but with greater frequency than you'd suspected when you began, you begin to understand more of who you are, and what lengths you've resorted to in attempts to tamp down those elephant-like bulges appearing in your living room carpet.

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