Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thoughts and Chapter 1

Blog. What are we?

As I write this on a Saturday night, the wind has begun to pick up. Lighting has been threatening in the distance, but the thunder and rain have been held at bay.

For once I don’t know what to write. I’m sorry. I wish I had a profound story or glorious portrait of life in Belize, but I don’t. We continue. It’s the summer. Look back on your childhood summers. The wonder of them. I often wish we could relive that part of our lives. If you want to, read Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury. It is an incredible novel from the viewpoint of a ten year old boy, experiencing the summer. You might think Bradbury is all science fiction or Fahrenheit 451, but this book is beautiful. Read it.

I’m writing this to post tomorrow. I’m tired.

Mass is at 7:30 tomorrow morning on Sunday. I shall go. Honestly, church in Belize is no fun. The music is pretty dreadful, though Allison has at least added some nice piano. The Jesuits here are wonderful, but man, they just aren’t as good at those ones at Fairfield. One of the pillars of JVC is spirituality. It can manifest itself in any form. We’ve had a diverse range of spirituality nights as a community and they’ve been great. But, as a program, we are here to support the Jesuit mission, thus are expected to attend mass. We do, but I don’t know, it doesn’t do it for me. Perhaps that’s the point. In the old days, people didn’t even know what the priests were saying, unless they spoke Latin. (By the way, no one speaks Latin) It was more of a time to reflect for them. So, I look forward to the hour or so of mass on Sundays here as a time to reflect on the week.

I just finished a book that I wrote.
I need feedback.

I’m going to put up the first chapter here. If you want more, please email me.

There’s another 87 pages or so, if you feel like reading them.

The basic premise: Eric, a twelve year old boy, lives with his uncle Rupert in New Hampshire. Their house was an old ship captain’s house. In the last few voyages of his career, Captain Connely ended up making a number of journeys to Africa to transport slave. The ship is cursed on its last voyage, though the captain builds his house out of it’s timbers. Now it is up to Eric and Rupert to solve the mystery that has surrounded not only the previous inhabitant, but the house itself.

It’s alright. Read this first chapter. If you like it, I can send along the rest. Edit it to death, please. I’m a fierce critic of my writing, so don’t feel bad tearing it apart. It’s what I need.

This will be the last blog for a while. My wonderful parents arrive July 16, and will be here for ten days. On August 1, the new volunteers, including our PG folk, Jon and Greg, arrive in Belize City. We’ll be having our In Country Orientation for a few weeks after that, but when the next blog arrives, I promise good photos.


Chapter 1

He let out a sigh as the first chill breeze of autumn air crept through the trees. The greens of summer felt it too, almost instantly losing their brightness, softening for the arrival of school.
Eric sat on the steps of his porch and wondered how he had once again let summer scamper away. “It happens every year,” he pondered. “Unless you live in the Caribbean, then it’s always summer. But then I get no snow.”
He considered this dilemma as he strained for memories of summer. It wasn’t too hard, as it had been one of the best. Fishing by the pond, games of manhunt around town, cookouts, and popsicles. Most of it included Carlos, his best friend who lived a few streets down. They spent endless days together, tramping through forgotten woods, forever searching for nothing in particular, and finding the true joys of summer. It dawned on Eric, sitting there on the steps, that what he would miss most was his walk home after a long day of enjoying the season. The sun had ceased its incessant pounding, leaving the warm air with a dull glow, the light gently falling into shadows. He would meander down the street as fireflies blinked into being and crickets announced their song to the world. School would put an end to all of that. How strange that school could even affect the natural world.
It wasn’t that he hated school, in fact, he quite enjoyed it. His friends would be there, new friends were to be made, and of course, new stuff to be learned. The first day of school brims with excitement.
But the freedom of summer! That’s what I’ll miss, Eric thought. It is always so much easier to wake up for a warm summer day, full of promise, than for school. There’s no possibility for surprise or adventure when the school schedule starts. Breakfast, bus stop, class, lunch, recess, class, bus ride home, homework, sleep. Sure, you have weekends, but that is pretty much Saturday, with Sunday ruined by the thought of school looming. And homework.
Eric shivered at the prospect of early mornings at the bus stop, or perhaps autumn was arriving sooner than he thought. He looked up to see dark rain clouds gliding over the tall trees of their neighbor’s yard; the branches started to creak and sway in the new wind. He stood up and made his way across the porch and inside the house, the wind slamming the screen door behind him.
Inside the house, Eric made his way through the piles of paper that his uncle Rupert called his, “organized disaster,” though there was nothing Eric could find organized about it. Books lay atop chairs, which were cushioned by stacks of documents that carpeted the floor.
These papers were an odd collection of drawings, maps, graphs, and writings, each one plastered with sticky notes covered in uncle’s equally messy scribbles. Rupert was a historian, and historians tend to have an uncanny ability to discover all the old pieces and scraps of paper in the world, long lost, forgotten by all, even the ones who wrote them.
Rupert taught at the university nearby, and constantly moved from home to work, murmuring some new discovery to himself while pushing his way through the ever-growing stacks of, well, Eric wasn’t even sure what all the piles held. He would occasionally pick up a paper or two and try to puzzle over the meaning. Rupert’s expertise was in early American history, from the arrival of the Europeans through the end of the Revolutionary War. From the looks of some of the papers, Eric had no idea why Rupert kept them around. Once he found a recipe for stewed cow tongue. He awaited each meal suspiciously for a week.
However, while a little off center at times, well, most of the time, Rupert dearly loved his nephew. Even though it seemed his life was dominated with his research, he always found time for his only nephew. He made sure meals were on the table, took Eric to museums and ballgames, and even on the occasional hiking trip. He helped with homework and went to parent teacher conferences. When Eric ever felt down, Rupert always had a knack of cheering him up, often with some of his bizarre sense of humor. Eric would find himself keeled over, laughing at some ridiculous joke involving crunchy peanut butter, Matthais the Warrior, and John Adams. They didn’t even make sense looking back on them, but somehow they made Eric feel better. Eric had a few good friends in town that could provide all the other companionship that he needed. Usually there was a gang of four: Eric, Carlos, Dave, and Aaron. While Carlos and Eric were left to roam around town for two months, Dave and Aaron were shipped off to sleep away camp in the mountains, fighting bears and building cabins, if their postcards could be believed.
Rupert was the brother of Eric’s father, Max, and had agreed to look after Eric after his parents disappeared while on safari in Kenya. This all happened eight years ago, so Eric had spent a majority of his life with his uncle. In fact, Eric could hardly the time before moving in with his uncle, being only four at the time. Only a few memories of his old life remained: throwing parachute army men off a balcony, walking through the woods to the mailbox, playing with the neighbor’s golden retriever, and the faded faces of his parents. His mother had a thin face with bright blue eyes, bordered with light brown hair. Eric couldn’t picture her with her hair down, making the wedding photos Rupert had look foreign to him. His father was short but built. A quickly receding hairline of dirty blonde hair sat atop a face often covered by a prickly scruff that always rubbed Eric’s face. He missed those faces and the hugs and hearts below them.
Uncle Rupert would occasionally tell Eric stories of his parents. Tales of how his father had once knocked over the family’s grandfather clock while they were racing through the house, with the clock landing on the tail of Charity, their beloved cat. Eric always laughed at the image of this tailless cat that day hence, jumping at the sound of a clock tolling. (Eventually, Eric’s grandfather, Edward, silenced all the clocks in the home to spare Charity further anguish). Uncle described how the two of them had made their high school soccer team, Rupert being a senior and the coach felt bad cutting him, and Max as a sophomore prodigy. Eric never grew tired of hearing how his father led the team to the semifinals of the regional tournament, only to fall in a shootout. Eric’s father had been a real star in high school, and, while Rupert was no slouch when it came to sports, he preferred reading a good book on the American Revolution in the library rather than spending hours practicing his dribbling skills.
Eric’s mother was described with similarly fond stories. His mother, Rebecca, had been born to Austrian immigrants in New York. Survivors of the Holocaust, his grandparents moved to the United States in 1955, eking out a living in their family bookstore, Claybears. As a girl, his mother would spend all day in the bookstore, sitting among the stacks of book, immersed in stories of knights, explorers, and inventors, meeting customers wandering through the towers of literature, suggesting the books she loved. This love of books was passed onto her only child.
Eric’s parents met in college, both deciding to attend Cornell University. Anthropology majors, Eric’s mother was two years his father’s senior, but both found themselves research partners for the head of the department. They began dating after traveling to Botswana to work on a paper on the San tribe of the Kalahari Desert. Three years after his father graduated, they married and moved to Boston to start their life. Eric suspected that everyone in his family was destined to be teachers. Both his parents ended up teaching in Boston colleges, while Rupert taught in New Hampshire, and another uncle, Charlie, who he had met twice, taught computer science in Chicago.
Caught up in his thoughts, Eric discovered himself in his room, gazing out his window, barely recognizing the rain pattering on the pane. He shook away these (storied) memories and wondered when he could expect his uncle home that day. It was Friday, though days meant nothing to Eric or any other child in the summer. Tomorrow though, was supposed to be their trip into Boston. Eric and Rupert were to take the Down-easter train from Durham in the morning, spend the day walking to sites along the Freedom Trail, then head to Fenway Park to watch their beloved Red Sox.
All this was of course dependent on Rupert, who often lost himself in his research. Eric had been sending subtle reminders all week. He left a newspaper article on the newly discovered British graves near Bunker Hill next to his plate and hung his Dustin Pedroia t-shirt next to the mirror in the upstairs bathroom. Rupert didn’t seem to notice any of the reminders though. No once had he mentioned their trip in the past two weeks. They had to go, Eric thought determinedly. It would be his last hurrah of the summer.
Eric laid down on his bed and smiled at the thought of the smell of the ballpark as the tapping rain sent him into one of the last summer naps.