A Fresh Start

After reminiscing about that one interview it got me thinking about my parents again and the last time I ever spoke to them. It was after this last conversation that I decided to move to America and just get away from it all…start fresh. I’m an only child, my parents were both only children and their parents were long gone so I really had no other family to talk to about everything. There was nothing keeping me in England.

“Ellen! How long does it bloody take to get ready for dinner? I’m about to eat our son!” Dad was pacing impatiently by the front door. He paused, brushed a haphazard curl of hair around his ear and sighed loudly.

“You know how Mum is – well, women in general,” I mused. “Have to get all dolled up for every little thing.”

Dad stomped into the kitchen. I could hear him getting into his cupboard and taking a few swigs of whisky. I trotted upstairs to see if I could move things along with mum.

“Oh hello there, darling,” she said while applying a heavy coat of wine-hued lipstick. I thought it made her look older but I never said a word about it. I could smell alcohol on her breath.

“You been drinking, Mum?”

She frowned slightly and rubbed her lips together. “Just a little pre-dinner cocktail. Nothing to be alarmed about! Do you think I should wear this grey dress I have on or the blue one hanging up in the hallway?”

“One alcoholic in the family is more than enough,” I chided. “Just wear the grey one. You look lovely. Let’s go before dad finishes all the whisky in the cupboard.”

Finally we were out the door and I insisted on driving. It had been a while since we had dinner together so mum suggested we go to the Bellflower Inn, an old country favourite of ours. With dad already in a nasty mood, I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be the most pleasant of evenings.

My parents had married at a very young age. It wasn’t long before dad took to drinking (just like his father). Mum thought if they had a child things might change for the better. But they didn’t. Not long after I was born, mum fell into a state of melancholia and started leaning on the bottle more and more. Never to the extent that dad did, though. My childhood was a lonely one but I made do with my imagination. I read lots of books and wrote lots of stories to keep myself entertained when I wasn’t stuck playing with our next door neighbor’s evil boy. I did well enough in school. I left home and started working as soon as I could, visiting my folks from time to time.

To my knowledge, they never cheated on one another but both of them seemed to be lost souls that were stuck with one another’s company. They’d both fallen down a well they couldn’t get out of. Still, they managed to get out and about, make appearances at parties, go to dinners and other social functions without broadcasting their problems. They were the masters of disguise. Until today, that is.

“Clark, what are you going to order? The Beef Wellington looks tempting.” Mum looked expectantly at dad, who still appeared cross. He chose to ignore her.

“I’m having the cottage pie,” I announced awkwardly.

“That sounds lovely, dear,” Mom replied. Dad scooted his chair back and excused himself. I watched him head to the loo but instead of taking a left, he turned to the right where the restaurant’s entrance was. I knew exactly what he was doing. He must really be in a terrible mood to leave the table and get a drink from the bottle he left in the car.

The waiter came and took our orders. We ordered the beef wellington for dad since that was what he usually ordered. Mom looked uncomfortable but I knew she knew what he was doing, too. After 15 minutes he sauntered back in with a stupid grin and practically fell over his chair.

“Would you look at yourself, Clark! You’re embarrassing your own family. Don’t be a fool,” Mum whispered angrily.

“We got you the beef wellington,” I said.

“What!?” came his sudden outburst. Some of the other customers looked over with disapproval.

“Quiet down, for God’s sake!” Mum put her hand on his arm. He shoved it away.

“The wellington was the LAST thing I wanted tonight!” he snarled. “I waited on you to get ready all evening and you couldn’t even wait on me to order dinner.”

“You were too busy drinking to care about ordering,” Mum snapped. Dad slammed his fist down on the table and looked as though he was about to yell his lungs out. One of the water glasses had fallen over and rolled off the table, shattering instantly. Thankfully the restaurant manager walked right over and put a firm hand on his shoulder.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you and your family to leave, please.”

My parents looked at each other with hatred. We drove home in silence.

Today Is A Good Day … For Jumping

‘Shall I jump today? Or shall I wait till tomorrow?’ That question again. I always ask myself that same question when I’m up here. Nobody would miss me. Well, Nancy and Edna might, but they’ll live and one day they’ll die themselves and no one would be any wiser. I’m sure both of them would soon forget about me and move on with their lives. Nancy would soon find another neighbour to unexpectedly invite to one of her dinners and Edna would collect her parrot, mutter something about that bleeping peanut butter and then head for the stairs with great turtle speed.

What about my family? Yeah, what about them? I haven’t spoken to my parents since they died in that car accident. You can hardly call it an accident by the way. Not that it was planned, but I call an accident an accident when nothing could have been done to prevent it from happening and it was totally unforeseen. Like, you trip over a loose tile in the pavement and land in a turd that just happened to be there. That’s what I call an accident. Or you walk around the corner and you bump into a complete stranger and spill your coffee all over your new clothes. That’s what I call accidents. Things you couldn’t have done anything about. When it comes to my parents’ deaths, well, they could have done lots of things to prevent it from happening. For example, they could have paid a little more attention to the road.

Dad had been drinking too much, Mum had had a couple of cold ones herself and they just drove and dove into that river. They found Dad behind the wheel with one hand on the wheel and a bottle of liquor in the other. Mum, apparently, was doing her make-up in the rear-view mirror. I’m still glad they never hit anything else but a stray streetlight and some bushes. They both drowned because they were too drunk to get the car doors open. It was speculated that they didn’t even try. It’s a nasty way to go, but, when I think about it now, I think it was for the best. They never really had a happy life and we hadn’t spoken to each other for over five years. Their drinking was one of the reasons behind it.

I’m not leading a very happy life myself either and I wonder what it is that keeps me from jumping off of this roof. A part of me wants to end it all right here, right now, yet there’s something inside of me that wants me to go on torturing myself with life. As if there’s something big – or at least something bigger than this – that awaits me. I would like to tell that feeling to trust me that nothing big or bigger than what has already come to be is out there: this is it! Bigger things have had their chances to happen, but they didn’t. They ignored me. Bigger things have denied me and have been denying me all my life. I have written five books that got great reviews but were misinterpreted by the masses and never brought me great fortune but just enough to get by, I used to be in a great band that never made it out of the little league and I once worked for a great company that fired me because they thought a computer could take over most of my tasks.

‘Shall I jump today? Or shall I wait till tomorrow?’ So far I’ve always answered that question with, ’I’ll wait till tomorrow.’ One day I might just change my answer and that day might be today.

Just Put Me Out Of My Misery Already! An Interview Gone Sour.

I remember doing an interview once. A perfect display of how misunderstood I am. I have it on video. Sometimes I sit down with a glass of cheap wine, some dry crackers and a box of tissues and watch it.

TV host: Ladies and gentlemen, Craig Wilder!

*applause*

Me: Thank you so much for having me!

TV host: Our pleasure. I just finished reading your novel. This happens to be your first one, yes?

Me: That’s right.

TV host: Wow! It’s been a huge success, obviously. Readers and critics alike are beyond excited to see what you’ll write next after this masterpiece. For those of us who haven’t read it yet, can you tell us a little about it?

Me: Love to. The story involves a middle-aged man driving alone on his way home from work. He has a long daily commute. Oftentimes he’s deep in thought on his drives, reflecting upon his mess of a life. On this particular drive home, a fly happens to be stuck inside his car, buzzing around. It’s really getting on his nerves. He’s battling this fly while trying to figure out how to solve the latest predicament he’s gotten himself into at work which involves a very dangerous woman. I can’t tell you much more than this without giving away the dramatic conclusion…but the whole story from start to finish takes place in his car in this hour and ten-minute time period.

TV host: Fascinating. You’ve nailed the art of suspense with this one. Folks, you will not be able to put this book down! Lock yourselves at home over the weekend with some tea and a blanket. Or wine in my case.

Me: Haha. Well thank you, I’m glad to hear it’s a page-turner. That’s one of the greatest compliments a writer can receive.

TV host: Indeed. So Craig…many critics have zeroed in on the fact that this book is so much more than a story about a troubled man and a fly. In reality, the fly symbolizes rotting, sickness, death, and future change. Because in nature, flies are decomposers and feed upon the dead and decaying, fecal matter, and trash. Clearly, we can see that your main character is sick – that is, he is emotionally disturbed and has a severe mental illness.

Me: Er, it’s not a fact –

TV Host: Sit tight, I’m on a role here, Craig. It makes sense that a fly would be buzzing around a man who is sick or “decaying.” And his life is already crap, or “fecal matter” that flies love so much. Oh yes, big changes are coming and the fly definitely foreshadows that. It’s all so brilliant how you planned it this way.

Me: Actually, it’s not quite as complicated as you would think. I’m a simple guy, and I like to write about simple, suspenseful drama.

TV Host: Oh, come now. Craig, you are so humble! Even the woman in your story is layered with profound meaning. Your main character and the woman represent Adam and Eve. She tries to get him to take the forbidden fruit – that is, she wants his help blaming another employee so they’ll get fired for the money she stole. She tempts him with her seductive self. Of course she makes a good Eve, being disobedient, guiltless, and evil. That’s the only downfall of this book, is that you’re bound to make some feminists rather angry! What would say to those feminists out there, Craig?

Me: Uhh, the book is absolutely not anti-feminist and there is no deep, hidden meaning with my female character. Honestly, she’s just not a good person and she causes a lot of trouble for the main character. The main character isn’t perfect, either. Nobody is.

And I wouldn’t even dream of bringing Christianity into my work unless I was openly mocking it.

TV Host: Oooohhh, you just clued us in on what’s really going on here. The whole Adam and Eve thing is a cover for your true underlying feelings. I can see you’re intensely bitter toward Christianity. It makes sense seeing as how we’ve all heard the rumors about your supposedly belonging to the Church of Satan. No judging here, it’s America! Freedom of religion. You’ve gotta be a genius to come up with this stuff.

Me: Ahh, no! I’m not –

TV Host: Looks like we have some questions from the audience!

Audience Member 1: Hi Craig, first of all, big fan here! I was pleased to see that your book shed some light and compassion on the mentally ill.  It must be hard dealing with your own mental illness. I’m sure most Craig Wilder fans know about your past with both of your parents getting killed in the auto accident. That kind of tragedy is bound to make anyone develop a mental illness. Was writing this book a form of therapy for you since the guy also dies in the end from the car crashing? Ah nuts, sorry I gave away the ending, everyone.

Me: Wow, let me just set the record straight here, once and for all. I’m not mentally ill. I’m not a Satanist. I’m not a misogynist. I’m a writer. I wrote a book about this guy and a fly. The woman in the story who he happens to have a sexual relationship with is just a bad person in general. She could have easily been a man instead.

Audience Member 2: So does that mean your main character is secretly gay?

TV Host: Oooh this book is so twisted, don’t you just love it?! Keeps getting better and better.

Me: I love you all, but this is ridiculous. I think we’re done here.

TV Host: You’re such a tease. Look at you, trying to be all mysterious and sidetracking us! Craig Wilder, everyone! Thank you again for gracing us with your presence. Can’t wait for your next story.

*audience cheers, whoops, and hollers*

Yeah…you see what I mean? I wish I’d had a noose to hang myself in right then and there on the stage. Nobody was listening to a word I said! In the end it was pointless to argue even though I bloody well tried.

What’s Wrong With You People!?

For months I’ve been wondering and pondering but I haven’t been able to figure it out. Sometimes questions can really eat your brain. No, I don’t mean eat. Eat is not the right word. They gnaw. Sometimes questions can be gnawing your brain so much so that it hurts and it literally gives you a migraine. Questions to which, for the life of you, you can’t find an answer. You try looking for it, but don’t know where to look. Those answers can’t be found in the bible or any other religious book for that matter. Google can’t help you. It’s the annoying questions of life. Questions like, ’Will Nancy ever get Edna that bleeping peanut butter!?’ and ’What’s with this peanut butter anyway!?’

After I had finished my first novel it was questions such as, ’What’s with this bleeping peanut butter anyway?’ that made me hate the critics, some of my readers and most of my interviewers. Don’t get me wrong, they simply loved the book, but they misinterpreted most of it. I tried to set the record straight in my second book and thought I was as clear on everything as I could possibly be. Still they came with lousy, far-fetched interpretations that made my skin crawl. Actually, interpreting one of my books is already the wrong way to go about it. When I write down something about peanut butter, I mean peanut butter. But what do those critics do? Right?! They start looking for connections and symbolic meanings and what have you. They weren’t there! At least, not that I knew of. I didn’t put them in there. Did that stop them from finding them anyway? No! ‘Seek and you will find!’ they must have thought. So they kept on looking and finding.

I am telling you, if I don’t jump off of this ledge soon, I’m going to live to see the day that in an interview I will have to explain myself over and over again and the harder I’ll say that I just meant peanut butter, the more they’ll believe there must something special about that peanut butter. Some interviewers will even think they are part-time psychologists and will ask questions like, ’Does this peanut butter you write about refer to something that happened in your past and that you just can’t forget?’ Or maybe something like, ‘Is the relationship you have with Edna symbolic for your relationship with your mother and does that peanut butter symbolise all things you were not allowed to do?’

To a certain extent I feel I have failed as a writer or maybe even as a human for not having been able to make my readers understand that I just simply meant what I meant and that when I say ‘peanut butter’ that there’s abso-bloody-lutely nothing symbolic about that. It’s amazing how a writer like myself can’t even seem to be able to write something without it starting to lead a life of its own. What is wrong with you people?

Help Me, Houdini!

As soon as I saw Nancy I wanted to shrivel up and hide, but it was too late – she’d heard my door open. I immediately began retreating and said, “Whoops, forgot my wallet!” But she’d made it halfway to my door already.

“Craig!” she exclaimed, practically tripping over her heels the rest of the way. I mustered a polite smile.

“Yeah…hello there, Nancy.”

Nancy Parker clearly worshipped June Cleaver. There never was a moment in time where she didn’t look perfectly polished. Each day she dressed in her usual string of pearls, a pastel shirtdress, and heels. Each day she painstakingly curled her chin-length auburn hair. I don’t know if June Cleaver liked perfume, but Nancy liked the hell out of it because each day she spritzed on entirely too much. My nostrils took great offense to the now unavoidable floral atrocity which triggered a headache.

“Craig.” She batted her eyelashes. A few seconds of silence elapsed. I awkwardly cleared my throat and took a step back to breathe a pocket of fresh, unspoiled air.

“Yes, Nancy?”

She stepped forward and responded, “I’m making a meatloaf tonight and I’ve set an extra place at the table for you!” Her smile grew more intense. The perfume severity seemed to worsen if that was even possible. I hoped and prayed to my non-existent God that I would pass out at any second.

“That’s awfully kind of you, Nancy, but I’ve made plans already.” I quickly asked my brain to think of some fictitious plans.

“And what plans would those be?!” she frowned, her lower lip beginning to pout.

“I, er, well…there’s this thing. It’s, um, this thing I’ve been planning to attend.” Oh great, that’s brilliant, brain! Real nice job, there.  

“And?” she inquired further.

“It’s a church thing.” Oh, no. No, no, no!!! You’ve really butchered it this time, you bleeping bonehead. 

“Oh, I just LOVE church things!” she gasped. “I’ll go with you. We can have the meatloaf and then we’ll go together.”

My palms sweated furiously. I channeled all my brainpower to save the conversation. “Ooo. Well the thing is, Nancy…it’s the Church of Satan and tonight is the weekly sacrifice ritual.” Job well done, brain! Back on track. That’ll get her to leave you alone once and for all. 

Nancy’s mouth fell open and she recoiled in horror. Her eyes began to water. She shook her head and placed her hands on her hips. “Oh, Craig! Say it isn’t so! I will not allow the dark side to take you. It is now my duty to save your soul. I won’t leave your side. We’ll get through this together.”

Ugh! What was it going to take to get rid of this dreadful woman? Maybe I could fart. Surely that would disgust her. It might be my last hope. I concentrated deeply, using all my muscles. She squinted her eyes. “Craig, why are you making that funny face?”

At this time, both Nancy and I froze as we heard the most unusual words in the hall. It was Edna, who had wandered downstairs. She was raving about peanut butter again. And then she saw Nancy.

“Nancy! You’ve got to get me that peanut butter,” she demanded.  I knew this was my chance at escape, for Nancy’s back was turned toward me and she was preparing to respond to Edna. Quiet as a cat, I slipped out, closed the door, locked it, and slinked off down the hall. When I reached the stairs I raced upstairs to the roof as fast as I could.

Microwaved Food Will Be The Death Of Me

It’s nice up here today. The weather’s quite all right for this time of the year. And for this time of the year it’s quite nice to have this kind of weather. The sun is hanging low trying its utmost best not to let this day be gone just yet, there’s a slight summer breeze and the air is thick with laughter. I can hear some music in the distance as if somebody’s throwing a party and for a minute it seems I am almost but not entirely content with life, the universe and everything. Almost, but not quite. If I were actually happy, I’d be out there having a great time with friends instead of being up here with my notebook, some pigeons and my own thoughts.

It’s past dinnertime. I still don’t feel like having yet another dull, greyish lump of anything for now. One of these days I will have to start cooking up something decent for a change. I don’t know if any research has been done on microwave food and how fattening it is or how bad for your health that stuff can be, but I bet that it’s not as healthy as a decent home-cooked meal. Eating that junk might be a passive form of suicide. It will eventually be the death of me. Either I die from eating it, or I throw myself off of the roof so I won’t have to die from eating it. Sometimes I wonder what it is made of and wonder if there’s actual food in it. Then I figure it’s best not to think about it. Whatever you do don’t ever read the label on that rubbish; let ignorance be bliss.

The ants down there are getting really antsy. Some days, often days like this, with the sun the way it is, I just want to take out a spyglass and simply burn the lot down there. When I was young one of our neighbours had this kid who was the closest thing to a friend I had. What a spoiled brat he was, always insistent to have things done his way. We were kind of stuck together because our parents were the best of friends so we would often spend time at each other’s houses. I was too young to be allowed to stay at home alone. So was he. We would often play in the garden and he’d take out his spyglass to kill almost anything in sight. He’d burn a hole through everything. One time he even blamed me for ruining one of his trucks and Mum had to buy him a new one. It came out of my pocket money. I never forgave him for that.

Today I feel a little bit like him – wanting to burn everything down with my spyglass and put the blame on somebody else, preferably some sort of deity, and then have that deity make something new. I bet it made my neighbour feel like a god whenever he burnt another spider or whenever he set fire to another one of his toys. I say god, but this kid was pure evil. I don’t know what ever became of him, but I’m sure he’s locked up in a prison by now or some mental institute. I can still recall his maniacal laugh every time he went for a kill. “Burn! Burn in Hell!” He would call out. Satan was a nice chap compared to this kid.

I’m glad I can sit out here upon this ledge and I was lucky to have been able to get rid of Nancy. That girl is really something.

Craig’s Birthday Bonanza

Yesterday I realized that the one gloomy day of the year had arrived when I could briefly “celebrate” another year of existence. 42 years of it, to be exact. To honor this achievement, I sat in my sparsely furnished loft eating a bland microwave dinner and chatted with Bubba, a ridiculous parrot that I got conned into taking care of. He originally belonged to Edna, the ancient lady living in the loft above me who seemed to be flying with the fairies.  Although nice enough, she would talk your ear off about nonsense if you let her. About a year ago I found her wandering the hallway outside my loft dragging Bubba and his cage around. I kept hearing bits and pieces of sentences outside my door. I cracked it open a tad. There she was, her frizzy white hair floating behind her and a dusty grey robe shrouding her pale skin. She looked rather ghost-like.

“Talk about peanut butter, that’s no good. They should have never left me with that nutty buddy peanut butter,” Edna was muttering.

“NOT THE PEANUT BUTTER!” squawked Bubba.

Edna started to turn right at the end of the hall, then paused, as if her feet didn’t know which way they wanted. After a hesitant shuffle she made a one-eighty to the left and headed back my way. I was just shutting the door when I heard, “ Craig Wilder!” in a raspy voice. I looked up and down a bit and answered quite sincerely,” Yes, Satan.” That same voice called out a little louder,“ Craig Wilder, just you wait a second.” That’s when I noticed Edna with a stretched out arm pointing her boney finger at me, and holding the cage in the other close to her fragile body.

Rats. I did my best impression of a smile and it seemed like days…weeks… passed before she finally reached my door. I think I must have fallen asleep halfway through. “I’ve got your birthday gift for you!” Her eyes crinkled with delight as she handed me the cage. “ Here you are. Enjoy!”

“Oh no, no, NO! I couldn’t possibly take your bird, Edna.” I gently pressed the cage back toward her.

“It’s not up to you! And it’s not up to me. My little green-feathered friend told me you’re the chosen one!” Her eyes danced with excitement.

“CHOSEN ONE! CHOSEN ONE!” Bubba cried out, and swiveled his head sharply, his black beady eyes peering at me with great interest.

“You two will get along great! It’s not healthy to be alone all the time,” she chided. “Besides, I just got a cat and he’s ready to have Bubba here for lunch. So, this is final. Happy Birthday, Craig.” With strength never before seen in an old woman, she shoved the cage into my arms and hobbled off.

Jinkees. I sighed. How was I supposed to get any writing done with this loud-beaked barbarian? And so it was that I began going up to the roof with my laptop. Or sometimes just a notebook. Come rain, come shine, you’d always find me up there.

Fast-forward about a year later to yesterday. There I was, 42 years behind me and I’m sitting there eating my dinner with Bubba. I had actually grown to like the bird and his antics. Sometimes I’d let him out of his cage and he’d sit on my shoulder. He seemed to prefer the shoulder with the tattoo on it. Ugh, the tattoo.

Right now Bubba was perched on his little swing inside the cage, preening his feathers.

“Enough of this microwaved rubbish,” I said to him, and got up to toss the remaining lumpy, flavorless mass in the bin. “I’m going up to the roof to write, I’ll be back in a while.”

“PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT!” Bubba shouted, and began bobbing his head up and down. It was a phrase I had taught him to associate with the word “roof” so he could misbehave while I was away…not that he would inside of his cage.

As soon as I opened my front door and stepped out, I wish I wouldn’t have. It was just terrible timing. There she was, also exiting her loft at the same time. No, not Edna – she lives upstairs – I’m talking about Nancy. That goody two shoes Nancy Parker.

Catch me next week – Craig Wilder

Once Upon A Ledge – My First Little Post

My life hasn’t always been like this I guess, but I can’t seem to figure out where and when things changed so dramatically that it has come to this. Have I changed or have things always been like this? Has the world changed? Have we both changed? We must have. Things always change, especially round here. It’s so awfully hard to keep track of all the changes and I don’t know why I sometimes even bother.

Take that building over there for instance. It wasn’t there a year ago. There was no need for it five years ago. Yet, it’s there. Most rooms are still vacant which shows us that there is still not really any need for it now. Somebody in his more or less right mind somehow some day came up with the idea of erecting a new, and might I add incredibly ugly, building and whoop there it is for the world to behold and for me, well, to block some of my once amazing view. I’m sure we could have lived a perfectly happy life, even happier still, without that building. That’s just not how we roll. Things need to change, and they’re going to be changed.

Anyway, here I am again, sitting on my rooftop just like most of my days, staring down at the world below and wondering why, how, where and when. Look at them! Won’t you just look at them! Crawling around like a bunch of ants. They really do look a lot like ants when you’re up this high. They’re all struggling to get somewhere and you can’t really tell where they are going for what reason. Some might be going home to their wives, others might be off to the pub for a couple of green ones. Some take the same road each and every single day at the exact same time, too, and still they never seem to get bored. There’s no telling who is who from up here. They could be anybody. They are.

Catch me next week – Craig Wilder