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Non-alcoholic research

Alcoholism (and drug addiction) is one of the motifs of Dipso, but there is a level of sobriety that I need to maintain when writing this book.  This is outside the fact that being sober is also an important aspect of raising kids and being a productive member of a family.

I’m starting to get into my full binge of research to finish the rest of Dipso.  I won’t be posting chapters like I did for the Nanowrimo contest last November, but I will be actively keeping updates on my status, some of my methods, philosophical/ethical drives, and other such stuff.  I’m giving myself a deadline of December 1st to finish the final rough draft in hopes that I can have a decent amount of prints for a book release on Dec 21st.  This is also the release of two fellow author/friends’ books through the new independent publishing house, Three Faced Media.

Today I researched more on Norse mythology, the inspiration of Baldur’s via his dad’s worldview, namely on the giants, the jotnar.  In turn, this mythology/worldview is a common ground that Baldur, through his adventure, uses to match concepts to his life’s chaos aboard ship.  This chaos will be the forces that drive the story to the climax.

Forces:

  • The spherical camera which Baldur names Surtr, after the main giants that brings about Ragnorok,  this camera is used for the reality show that he had agreed to be apart of in contract for funding his research and will be technologically fictitous.  This camera named Surtr will have a very symbolic imprint on the conclusion of the book
  • Alcohol(Baldur) and Methamphetamines(Fetu-see character post) and eventually, in India, the fervent pursuit of Soma (mythical Hindu drug of gods/poets) by both protagonists, these addictions/pursuits will drive much of the failures of the expedition but on the other hand bring much entertainment value and ridicule to Baldur’s character in general
  • Prostitutes, there are many levels to this. To name a few:
  1. Fetu’s flaw is that he loves all women aside from his meth addiction
  2. Baldur cares little for any intimacy for the women they bring aboard but thinks that he is saving them from their fates as victims of sex-trafficking, of which he in some cases is
  3. The fact that they keep loading their ship up with hookers makes their reality TV show (more on that later) a top rating show
  4. It is a major discredit to James Villard’s televangical empire because the show is aired on one of the media outlets that his corporate conglomerate owns, and it is also found out that James himself has been funding the expedition
  • Money, the blank check from Baldur’s newly acquired cancer-having false-father James Villard will get our protagonists out of many illegal and messy situations, a sub-moral of the story-money can buy most anyone
  • Languages, this force keeps the boat at somewhat of an even keel, both figuratively and literally, Baldur doesn’t sway from his obsession to unlock the proto-human language aka God’s Tongue (in Villard’s perception), but there is a shift in Baldur’s judgment on this, he goes from a basic empirical scientific-method approach of collecting data into a delusional and egotistical pursuit of an actual unlocking of all-possible-languages inside his own head

Honestly, I believe I have much more plotting, planning, map-making, and research to do before I start unleashing the last half of the novel.

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Chapter 7: Glossolalia

After my father’s fiery funeral, I had only a few days to stay and help get the boats out of the water for the winter.  I didn’t want to leave.  The place was my home, and I needed my mother more than ever.  And she needed me.  But I had to go back to the University.  I was lucky to take off as long as I did.

“When are we leaving?”  Fetu said.  He was dropping me off at my apartment near the University.

“Leaving for where?”  I said.

“Voyaging.  Maybe sail to the gulf for the summer.”  He said.

“I have to finish out this school year, so end of May.”  I said.

“That leaves me  plenty of time to prepare.”  He said.

“You should stay down here.  You can stay with me and Aliya.”  I said.

“It’s hard to find meth down here.  Anyways, I can’t leave mom alone up there.”  He said.

“You’re right.  Take care of her.  See you at Christmas.”

I watched him drive away.  I missed him.  He had been away for so long.  And though he had been home on leave several times throughout the years, I yearned for those endless days of sailing and fishing and dreaming of sailing around the world.

Not only did he serve several tours with the Marines in Iraq, he followed the path of our fathers, he worked as a private military contractor with Human Conditions Inc, but not in Africa, in Afghanistan.  He had an opportunity to take over the company, because father was part owner it up until his death.  But Fetu surprisingly refused.  He had finally gotten sick of the taste of blood after his last trip on business.  He had grown disgusted with humanity and wished to change that.

For the last few years of his life, my father’s worldview changed.  He had taken a more non-violent approach at life, a peaceful vision came over him.  He became vegetarian, he had stopped fishing and hunting.  Everything he did was harmonious with nature.  He said that he was atoning for his deeds.  He talked about Leo Tolstoy and how he could relate with him besides the Jesus stuff (which my mother pressed on him).

He didn’t feel that all the harm he had done was worth anything to anyone, not even himself.  He said that all of his harm was now echoing through Africa and could not be reversed.  He talked frequently with his Ghurka friend Sarbagya who was in India, and he tell about his conversations with him.

“I called it Glory and Honor, but there was none of that.  There was my Ego and my Pride and don’t forget about the money.  The Money.”  Father said.  He was tending to the beehives.  He never wore netting and rarely got stung.  “I did not follow lagom.”

There were several instances that he warned Fetu of doing the things he was doing.  The last time I remember was when Fetu had just spent the summer at Our Island.

At the end of the summer, we were seeing him off at an airport.  Fetu was dressed in civilian clothing with a climbing backpack for luggage.  He had only been discharged for three months and seemed anxious to leave.

“There is more to being a warrior than being a soldier in a war.”  Father Odin said.  Fetu had just made the decision to go do security in Afghanistan for Human Conditions Inc.

“I know papa.”  Fetu said.  He called his real father ‘tama’, and called my dad what I called him.  “But I am very good at my job, and I haven’t decided what to do with myself when I’m done doing this.”

“So long as you know that this is what you want.  Your tama wanted it too.”

Fetu nodded and was quiet all the way onto the plane.

I was glad he came back alive.  His death was in my head daily.  I could see his tank or jeep or just him walking and all of a sudden everything is blown to smithereens by some bomb, chunks of flesh and metal and cloth raining from sand-clouds.  For the Glory and the Honor.

I didn’t understand any of it, even when my father had fully explained it all to me.  And he was glad that I didn’t.  He was glad I wasn’t at all curious to see what it would be like to shoot another human being.  I always remembered what Edward face looked like when I pulped it.  I didn’t want that.  And as an adult who was trained in all sorts of self-defense, I never wanted to find out what I was capable of.  I never wanted to find out what it was like to make a hundred Edwards’ heads explode from a bullet in a desert where I didn’t belong.

***

I came inside my home to my wonderful girlfriend, Aliya.  She was the fifth girlfriend I had ever had.  She was the only girlfriend that hadn’t drunk themselves into a stupor then accidentally had sexual intercourse with Joe Jock America (or all of his friends in one instance).

This woman was too nice, too beautiful if I can say such a thing.  We never had an argument ever, until the day I left for my world voyage, and that was completely my fault.  In fact, there wasn’t one wrong thing that she had done to me.  But peaceful old me, terrorized her heart.  Lover not a fighter, ha, lovers eventually hurt someone.  And I hurt her real bad.

Her name is Alihelisdi, she’s full blooded Cherokee from an eastern clan.  Most people, besides me and some of her tribe, call her Aliya, including herself.   She, like my parents and grandparents, was born with blue eyes though her hair is black.

It is fabled that my ancestors sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and intermingled with her ancestors.  According to the language evidence, her people could have stayed around the areas that my people could have landed.  No one knows without a doubt, but some believe this.

Aliya had very little opinion about the subject.  “We are all human, what does it matter?”  She told me when I asked her what she thought.  She was right.  What does it matter?  Because when it does matter, deeds like the Holocaust and genocides in the Congo happen.  Aliya was more peaceful than I was, if you can believe it.

She was so peaceful that if you got in her face and yelled profanities and insults to the highest degree, she would ask if she could help you.  I, on the other hand, would have to rebut with my own clever and non-profane set of insults.  I have my limits with being a peaceful loving human, she apparently does not.

She welcomed me with a tender hug and a small kiss.  She wasn’t a touchy-feely person, in fact our sexual relations were few and far between (she practiced sexual lagom I told her).  What I had learned about sex was from my four prior ex-girlfriends that were very promiscuous and aggressive.

I figured that all women liked sexually what my ex-girlfriends liked (though I couldn’t bring myself to say some the vulgarities they had requested of me and sometimes they would repulse me).  Not the case with Aliya.  She wished to be tender, to be emotional, and I had no problem with being emotional.  I just had to tame the beastly forms of sexuality that I had been trained in.

“You’ve been getting phone calls the last few days from a man named James Villard.”  She said.  I had just finished telling her about my father’s funeral and to my surprise, I didn’t cry at all.

“I don’t know anyone by that name.”  I said.

“He said that he was interested in your journal article Tongue Talkers, the one you were working on when we met.”

“Really?  Who would be interested in that nonsense?  Another religious fanatic?”  I said.

I was confused.  The article Tongue Talk made me a laughingstock in the linguistics community.  Only cultural anthropologists and a few Christian linguists had even showed a slight interest.  I had posed some questions that weren’t feasible in the world of scholars.  My writing was borderline religious.

I was studying the Pentecostal sermons in Appalachia and their ‘speaking in tongues’.  There had been extensive research done about the brain patterns of someone speaking in tongues (glossolalia).  I was obsessed with making a connection with the first language (Proto-language) of the first humans and the language of God.   I originally made reference to a Sumerian text that the biblical story about the Tower of Babel resembles, but I changed my mind.  I used the plural word for Gods taken from the Old Testament, but the article wasn’t as extensive as I had intended.  So I went along with the singular proper noun form God because of my study with the Pentecostal Church.  I was atheist if anything at the time so it didn’t matter to me.  The last sentence of the article read:

Is there a keyhole in the brain which can be unlocked to release full understanding of the ultimate language universal, in other words an omni-language code, or the tongue of God?  

Funny indeed.  Laugh as you should.  It was published as an original work, in the scholarly world it had the weight of a poem or a short story, mere entertainment.  And entertaining it was to my colleagues, but not to some people who wanted to know more about what their God knew.

My idea of an internal language that is universal to all humans might have been a laughable seed at the time, but it grew into something serious and rational enough to take it into the scholarly realm.  I had a good dissertation going before I left to see the world, and I made a drunken fool of myself to my colleagues, embarrassing them and the scientific method.

At the same time, I became a prophet, unwillingly.  I refused.  I denied.  I lied, willfully and blatantly lied to prove that I was no prophet.  “I’m a drunk, an inebriate, a dipso.  I’m partially retarded.”  I yelled at a video camera my brother Fetu held when some more proverbial poop was about to hit the fan.  This did nothing.

I became a prophetic profit for a man who wanted to know everything.

This starts the story of how I became the scapegoat for the world, how I became a false god for some, a devil for others, and a messiah for a great many people.

Some called me the second coming of Christ, I told them “No”.  “Christ will deny it.” A few said in response.  I took the blame for the uncontrollable set of World Events, just because I was a nice guy.  I didn’t intend for everything to be thrown into Chaos.

How does a man go about knowing everything?

Where do you start in the universe of everything?  With the Self of course.  But we’re not born with that knowledge, and many humans do not like that answer.  At least the ones that like to watch television.

One man decided to start with me.  One man believed that a God tongue existed and could be found.  Even I, at the point of death, hanging from a tree by my feet in Somalia, starved and parched, believed that such a thing existed.  Many occupants of Planet Earth started to believe it exists, they all looked to me for the answer.  I had the answer, they didn’t like it.

This man’s name was James Villard.

He was a Televangelist preacher and media tycoon billionaire. He thought he was my father, because he spent two weeks fornicating with my mother in Angola when he was away on business.  The bloody business of diamonds.  He never tasted blood, for most of his life until the last days, he also though his hands were clean of blood.

He also had blue eyes.

***

I met Aliya at the 5th annual Native American Language Revival Symposium in North Carolina where I had been studying the Pentecostal ‘tongue talkers’, namely the children.  I showed up to the conference for no other reason than my obsession with anything concerning language.

I had bad luck with woman, or should I say that bad woman had their luck with me.  I never tried very hard to find someone that I really liked.  My girlfriends, prior to Aliya, had found me, sought me out, hunted me down, had their way.  I wanted to turn them down because of their brash aggressiveness but I didn’t want to hurt their feelings so I went along with each of those pitiful examples of relationships.

It’s not much of a relationship when you come home from the bar.  The same exact bar you were just drinking with your supposed girlfriend just two hours before when she mysteriously disappears.  Then you come home to naked Joe Jock America with his crew cut passed out next to your naked girlfriend in your bed.

Time to pack my things, again.  Yes, I forgive you.  Yes, I understand.

Of course, violence occasionally tempted me in those types of situations, and my father taught me more things about self-defense than I ever wanted to know.  But I never got to the point of doing anything about it.  Just thinking about Edward’s bloodied face chased away all the animosity.  After the initial shock, I’d cry to myself quietly as I packed my belongings.  Who was to blame anyways?  I blamed myself.  I always blame myself.

It was different with Aliya.  I should say opposite.  It was the first time I was enraptured by a woman just from listening to her talk, her voice like honey, mellifluous to the poets.  I didn’t have to look at her, her voice was enough for obsession.  Then upon seeing her, I knew I had to meet her, she had a goddess face with sharp and high cheekbones.  She had golden brown skin, and her hair was the black of fertile earth.  She also had blue eyes.  “Skies” I called them.

She was giving a lecture on the use of modern technology to teach indigenous languages to the youth.  I watched, forgetting to breathe at moments.  She was so eloquent and pretty, after we met I used to sit in on her seminars even if I had seen them before.

For the first time in my life, I approached a woman.  I made the choice, unlike my prior experiences when one of those strumpets approached me then took me to her house and pretended to be my girlfriend for a few months.

Aliya was the opposite.  She wanted to talk about language and our pasts and our families.  She liked to hold hands.  I was in heaven, for a while at least.  Like a typical human, heavenly things get taken for granted.  Heaven’s just this thing we want and when we get it, we don’t know what to do with.  We are too used to suffering to come to our senses.

She left her home to come live with me in the Midwest.  She sacrificed a lot for me.  I’m ashamed to admit that I did nothing of the same for her.

***

I call it the 12 steps of Life.  It’s structured like the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, but without theological pressure.  Not that I have a thing against God, I have a thing against some peoples’ definition.  It doesn’t take a semanticist to figure out whether or not your words are sincerely remorseful, I believe you and understand you when you say Jesus is going to save you, but in the 12 steps of Life, your understanding of life is the only concern.

When someone is faced with their mortality after nothing but wrong-doing towards others, they do one of two things.  They either accept the fact that they are a horrible person, or redeem themselves of their wickedness by finishing off life with great gestures of kindness.  Because someone somewhere is going to remember them and what they did, bad or good.  They have to face the fact that you had the choice of how people will remember you for however long.

Take me for example, I made the choice for everyone to know me, an awful part of me wanted to be famous.  Unfortunately, when everyone knows you, they expect something from you.  When people expect something from you, you end up disappointing them and they blame you for their miserable lives and how you didn’t save them from Life.  I told them, but they didn’t listen.  I also made the choice to not stay home and be with a beautiful girl who loved me purely.  Those were my choices.

James Villard wanted to be remembered just like anyone on Planet Earth, (no one wants to be forgotten.)  So when he was diagnosed with cancer, he had to confront the reality of what legacy he was going to leave behind.  At the time he called me, he hadn’t yet realized how awful of a person he really was.  I can say with a straight face that at that time he had never done one good or honest deed for anyone on the whole Planet Earth.  But when he faced his death, he started his recovery.  He wasn’t aware that he was on The 12 steps of Life, but he was.

Like the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, The 12 steps of Life give you a paradigm for recovery, but instead of going sober, you get yourself ready for Death by realizing Life.

Mr. Villard was at Step 2.  He accepted that there was one thing that he was not controlling in his life, it was his death or how he was going to die.  Though he could have put a bullet in his brain or a knife in his belly (or better yet jump out of his skyscraper), that was just his control, the kind of control that he had always had.  But when he found out that he had cancer, and that all the money in the world was not going to save him, a portion of this control is lost.  And to a megalomaniac, this small portion is humungous.

James Villard had to do some self-reflection.  The God that he preached for and about (and didn’t believe in) wasn’t going to save him from death.

In this moment of grief, this loss of control, he thought it was a grand idea to call me.  I was this unconscious itching “what if?” at the back of his denial-laden brain.  What if it was he who got my mother pregnant?  This question found its way to the part of his brain that might feel bad just before his life ended.

The more he thought about it, the more he thought he was my father and intended to find out.

He didn’t decide to tell me any of this until he have me driven to New York City (I am afraid of flying), and put me up in a fancy hotel with all expenses paid (I drained half of the suite’s liquor cabinet in the three days I spent there).

I called him back the day after I got back home.

“Do you know who I am?”  James Villard asked.

“No sir, I do not.”  I said.  I was supposed to, lots of people did, but I shut out most of the media world in those days, still do.

“I am the pastor of Lifeternal Ministry.  Televangelist preacher if you will.”  He said.

“I’m assuming that you read my journal and think that a God language can be found.”  I said.  I had calls from other religious zealots that took my sentence far too literally.

“Yes and no.  I want to privately fund your research.  If there is anything I have in this world it is money.  And I would like to use it for a good cause.”  He said.

“I wouldn’t know where to start.  There isn’t a neuro-linguist that will ever partake in such a research even if it was fully funded.  My research has taken a more scientific approach, and though it includes language concerning God or any other deities for that matter, it does not concern anything religious.”  I said.

“Everyone has a price.”  He said.

“I, sir, do not have a price.”  I said.

“Okay, but will you come to New York and hear me out.  Everything will be paid for.”  He said.

“I’ll have to get back to you sir.  I teach all this week and I’m coming off of an absence.”  I said.

“A close relative of yours died?”  He said.

“Yes.  How did you know?”

“Just a guess”, said James Villard, the liar.

I wanted to tell him no and never talk to the man again, but I have this problem with trying to please everyone that I am able (like my libertine ex-girlfriends).  I had even considered some of the other preachers that wanted to support me, just to be nice, but I knew it was impossible research to perform without money and more laughter and mockery from my peers.

***

I was inexplicably nervous sitting there drinking fancy booze (cognac), Louis XIII de Remy Martin to be exact, in a giant suite wearing one of my boring suits.  The room was covered with fancy everything. I was reading through an article about Mayan glyphs.  I didn’t feel like grading my students papers.

James Villard owned the building, a hotel called the Le Clou Rouge.   “Order anything you wish.”  The airport greeter holding the sign BALDUR ANKURSVARD said to me after handing me a credit card right when introduced myself.  When I got dropped off at Le Clou Rouge, I did, I ordered a bottle of Louis XIII.  Pocket change to someone like James Villard, I figured.

“So this is New York effing City?”  I said.  I was asking my mother in my head and the greeter.

“Yeah, it effing is.”  He said (with a real f-word though).  His accent changed from Standard American English to the working class New York accent.

My mother never ever wanted to go back there.  It was a part of her life that she didn’t wish to revisit.  I had never had any intentions anyhow.  I was not a fan of large cities regardless of their depth of dialects and accents and intermingled cultures.  I felt bad that I didn’t call her before coming.

James Villard owned a few buildings in the part of New York they call Manhattan.  All I knew about the place was that rich people lived there and that there is a tasty drink named after it (I drank several Manhattans in Manhattan), and that it was home to historical landmarks of the American Nation.  It was hard to fathom someone owning such lofty objects considering I only owned books and clothes before I inherited Our Island and Our Cabin and my father’s Viking yacht Hringhorni.

Beyond the insane amounts of money and stuff Villard owned, he owned most or all of the shares of several different companies.

Only three are important here.  Deumond Mining Ltc. which was in possession of a mine that my father had secured in Angola during their secession from Portugal and subsequent revolution.  Liverternal Ministry was the ministry that he founded and led, and God’s Eye Broadcast was his not-so-religious broadcasting company.

He was apparently a fan of portmanteau words, maybe because he was Televangelist which comes from ‘television’ and ‘Evangelism’ that he thought to name his companies so cleverly.

The word ‘deumond’ from Deumond Mining Ltc. seemed to me to come from the Latin word for god ‘deus’ and the English word for ‘diamond’.  If anything, James Villard was a clever man and for most of his life he thought everything was a joke, that life itself was a joke in sickly humor.  Like my father Odin, he had lost faith in humanity and would eventually get it back (if he ever had any at all to begin with).

Villard’s ministry, Liveternal Ministry, is another portmanteau word which comes from ‘live’ and ‘eternal’ and is pronounced /LIVE-ter-nal/.  This was his weekly show that his worshipping fans tuned into once a week to watch James Villard tell them how to live according to the Bible.  They all sent him their money to show their faith in God and Jesus.  Mr. Villard was not like other Televangelists, he did not scam money like other Televangelists, he had enough of that.  What Liveternal Ministry gave him was another source of power more than his money.  It was power over people, his favorite.  He liked to be worshipped too, contrary to what the Bible says about worshipping false prophets.

God’s Eye Broadcast or GEB was his huge media conglomeration.  Despite the name of the company, the TV station was quite secular.  The Liveternal sermon that James Villard preached wasn’t even broadcast on there, it was done on through a sister station called Apple Eye Godcast, which made up for his secular station both in content and his penchant for portmanteau words with the use of ‘godcast’ which apparently blended ‘god’ with ‘broadcast’.

I knew none of this before going into Mr. Villard’s high-rise office, most of my attention went into the study of languages so I naturally was very ignorant in the rest of the world.  As much as language gives you knowledge, studying language doesn’t necessarily make it so.  I could get so deeply tangled in the web of language that I might miss the meaning of everything you were saying, if I happened to get stuck on certain sounds you make that are unusual.

The things James Villard owned were the least of my surprise.

“I think I’m your father.”  James Villard said.

That was my surprise.

We were in his high-rise office which had floor to ceiling windows that offered a view of the Manhattan Galaxy and all of its artificial stars and comets, the twinkling lights of people making busy their lives.    The inside of his office was minimally decorated with artifacts and some books and liquor bottles.  Naturally, as an alcoholic I was drawn to the liquor then as a linguist to the artifacts.

He sat at his grand desk.

“Why would you think that?”  I said. I took gulp of the Manhattan drink he had made me.

“I knew your mother.”  He said.

“That may be so, but I already have a father.”  I said.

“Yes, I know.  I knew him too.  I heard about his death.  My dearest condolences.”  He said.

“Thanks, but I don’t understand why you think you’re my father.  And even if you were, what does it matter now?  I’m thirty years old.  I’ve lived half of my life and you’ve lived more than your half.”  I said.

“It only matters to me, because I’m dying, or should I say I’m getting closer to death.  I’ve been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I’ve been confronted with what I’ve done in my life.”  He said and slammed down the rest of his three million year old Scotch.

“What have you done with your life?”  I said.  I was a little shocked, but I didn’t really care either.  This was a complete stranger.

“I’ve lied.  Everything I’ve said or done has been a lie.”  He said.

“That’s sad.  I feel bad for you.  I really do, but why couldn’t you just tell me on the phone instead of flying me here.  And why stop lying now?”  I said.

“I wanted to see you with my own eyes.”  He said.

“Here I am.”  I said.

“Here you are.”  He said.  I felt no sadness or remorse from him at that time, he was still in his conditioned state of indifference.  It would take a lot more than a diagnosis to make this man cry.

“So, why the charade?  Why the interest in God’s language and my article?”  I said.

“I’m still interested in that.”  He said.

“Really?  You don’t seem very religious for being a preacher which makes sense I guess.  Jim Jones didn’t believe in God.  He thought himself a god.”  I said.

“I don’t believe in God, you’re right, but I’m trying now.  I’m a farce, I know.  But I am interested in helping you in any way I can.  If I could just hand you and your mother tons of money, I would.  But it doesn’t work that way with the extremely wealthy.  There are expectations of the elite society I live in that must be upheld.  ”

“And you don’t want people to find out that you sowed a wild oat in your youth?”  I said.

“Yes.”  He said.

“Aren’t you afraid that I’ll go tell the world everything you’re telling me now?”  I said.

“No.  It doesn’t work that way, I have too much power.  And I know you wouldn’t.  You’re mother hasn’t.”  He said.

“You’ve talked to my mother about this?”  I said.

“Not in a long time.”  He said.  “She won’t talk to me.”

“You’re right that I won’t say anything.  But how you know that, I don’t understand.  Maybe you should be a psychic too?”  I said.  The booze was hitting me, I was uncomfortable.

“Maybe.  I could if I wanted, and people would believe me.  People are stupid and gullible, why do you think religion is popular?”

“I disagree.  I don’t think people are stupid.  Gullible yes, but people are very smart.  Some just make poor choices in which knowledge they are interested in these days.  Even then, who am I to judge what somebody wants to know or not know.”  I said.

“Do you believe in God?”  He said.

“Yes and no.”  I said.

“How so?”  He said.

“I believe in God in definition as a universal embodiment of eternal everything, Time and Space and Matter forever.  But not as a separate entity, unless I am talking of ‘gods’, which are in other words, the personified abstractions of the human psychology.  In that case I believe in every single god that has ever existed or will exist.”  I said.  “As far as faith goes, I only believe in the faith of one’s self.  My father taught me this.”

“You sound like your father.”  He said.

“I am my father’s son.”  I said.  “So why is it that you think that I could ever be your son?”

***

Before Odin Ankarsvard met Nastasia in Pub Regal, she had just ended a tryst with the young James Villard.

The met at the mission that Nastasia worked at.

James Villard was there on business, he was the heir to the largest American owned diamond mine in the world.  This was in Angola.

James Villard had just taken control over all of his inherited companies and was in the middle of changing all the names, firing and hiring new executives, and the rest of his business goings-on.

Word in the jungle was that revolutionary fires were started in Angola.  This is always dangerous for any company that owns anything of value.  To protect assets, such as diamond mines, mercenaries were and are often employed to defend or take over points of interest.

James Villard and his newly named Deumond Mining Ltd. had hired an upstart mercenary company called Human Conditions Inc. which was founded and led by an ex-Ghurka veteran named Sarbagya.  This Nepali mercenary was tried and true as death itself, something which he had no fear of.

There is a saying about Ghurka warriors:  “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or a Ghurka.”

Sarbagya was not afraid of dying, and neither were his mercenary comrades.  They were a group of men who, for different and similar reasons, abandoned their cultures and militaries.  One reason shared amongst them was that the cultures they were born in could not quench their thirst for blood and the romantic notion of being a soldier of fortune.

Their training and combat experience made them ideal to take on the brutal and lucrative exploits of the Dark Continent.  Sarbagya knew there was a pretty penny to be made, or in this case a pretty diamond.

They called him Sarba for short.  There was such a high demand for mercenaries in Africa that Sarba created his own unique outfit that he personally handpicked.  The two men that he trusted the most were Odin Ankarsvard and Afi Malietoa.  They had been guns for hire in the Congo and shared a blood bond.

James Villard hired Human Conditions Ltd. to protect his diamond asset.  Weeks after I was conceived, my father Odin, Fetu’s father Afi, and their comrade and leader Sarba were discussing security logistics with James Villard.  Small world, one handed down to me.

***

Meanwhile, my mother was finding out that she was pregnant.  Laden with morning sickness, she cried.  She was a bit old to be starting a family, she thought.  And there were two men that could possibly be the father.  Odin, she cared for but was off in the heart of Angola with his life at risk.  The other, James Villard, was suave blue blood that had temporarily melted her heart only to turn out to be a selfish and vain prick that she was certain now that she had no feelings but anger for.

Months later, my father Odin showed up at the Catholic mission.  My mother greeted him warmly with hugs and kisses, full of surprises.  One of those surprises was the fetal version of me.

“The child might not be yours.”  Nas said.

“The child is mine.”  Odin said.

“How are you sure?  I slept with someone two nights before I met you.”  She said.

“That doesn’t matter.  The child is ours and that is all we need to know.”  He said.  “You already told me you were with an American before you met me.  That doesn’t bother me.  Anything you’ve done in your past doesn’t bother me, because I love you now, as a person.”

Odin slid a ring on to Nas’ finger.  Hugged and kissed her.

“It’s beautiful.”  She said.

It was not a diamond ring, my father had learned to hate diamonds.  It was a ring he carved out of wood, dark red.  Afi taught him how to carve things, rings, figurines, fishing hooks, et cetera.

“When can we leave Africa?”  Nas said.

“Soon.  Very soon.”

***

Before my father got the news, my mother had called several numbers to finally get through to a line that connected to James Villard’s office.

“Hello.”  She said.

“How did you get through to this number?  Nevermind.  This better be important.”  He said.

“I’m pregnant.  But I met another man so the child might not be yours.”  She said.

“Why would I care?”  James said.

“I just wanted you to know, in case it is yours.”  She said.  Her accent switched to the working class New Yorker accent.

“If you think it is mine, get an abortion.  On second thought, you should abort even if it isn’t mine.  You’ve probably have had several being a hooker and all.”  He said.

She hung up nearly breaking the phone.

“That’s that.”  She said to herself.

***

“I’ll be back for the birth, I promise.”  Odin said.

“You better be.”  She said.

“I will be.  Our fortifications are strong.  We’ve easily defended against the attacks.  Both rebel groups are poorly trained and unorganized.”  He said.

“I’ll hate you if you die.”  She said.

“No you won’t.”  He said.

***

I made myself another Manhattan, this time with brandy instead of whiskey.

“Your mother’s hatred for me is so deep that she wouldn’t even take money, let alone anything.  And I wasn’t trying to make amends, or make up for anything I missed.  I just wanted her to keep our secret to herself so my reputation would be harmed.  She never told anyone and denied all gifts I offered.

“I never told your father that I knew Nastasia.  She apparently never mentioned my name either because he never confronted me about it.  Some things are better left unsaid.  And even if he did know and wanted to do anything about it, I had knowledge of many illegal things that your father was involved in.  It was always within his interest to work me.  And I always paid his outfit well.”  He said.

“So why do you think I’ll take a handout from you.”  I said.

“I wouldn’t consider it a handout.  I want to help you reach your goals.”  He said.

“Instead of funding research, can you fund an expedition for me?  Consider it a research expedition.”  I said.  I don’t know why I asked.  It could have been the Manhattans’ I had been mixing for myself, but I never blame the booze.  The fact that I didn’t eat since I arrived might have been a factor for how drunk I was feeling.  There is a line of drunkenness that I cross that distorts my speech in bizarre ways.

“Of course, I can fund anything you have in mind, so long as it is somewhat productive and doesn’t compromise the values of my companies.”  He said.

“You own a miamond dining company, which values are those exactly?  ”  I said.  “Nevermind.”  I often times produce Spoonerisms (metathesis) when I’m a little pixilated.  Once I started it was hard to stop. But I was done talking with him anyway.

I rarely met people I didn’t like, James Villard was one of them until he redeemed himself.

He laughed.  “You’re right about the diamonds.”  He said.  “I have an idea.”

“What’s that?”

“How about we make your research expedition into a television series, reality tv?”  He said.

I squinted at him, focusing.

Tan we calk about this tomorrow?”

Chapter Six: Ship-coffin on Fire

Swords of flame waved at the morbid sky, burning embers floated and squelched on the abyssal waters of Lake Superior.  We were adrift on a rowboat watching my father’s body and boat burn in the haunting night.  Dazzles of green light waved on the flat horizon of the lake, the magical blanket of the northern lights fed the fiery funerary boat.

My mother was singing in Old Norse.  I was pounding a deerskin drum to the rhythm of my heart.  My brother Fetu was there.  He was playing the panpipes.  I was the only one crying.  My mother had been crying for the last three days and was dried up.  Fetu didn’t cry.  The last time he cried was when his father Afi, my father’s best friend, died in Namibia.  He didn’t even cry when his grandmother died and he had to move from Samoa and come stay with us.

He was sad but only showed it with his body language.  He paused from the playing the panpipes to lay a hand on my shoulder.

My mother’s Old Norse was horribly mispronounced, but it didn’t matter.  This is what my father requested of us on his deathbed.  So she had only three days to memorize the verses (on top of being blitzkrieg drunk mind you).

I peered through tears into the distorted flames of the Frigga, the first Viking longboat my father built with the assistance of his best friend Afi, his Samoan comrade and co-owner of the mercenary outfit Human Conditions Inc.

The ship was a third of the size of the ones used in the Dark Ages, but it was built for this exact occasion though we never knew it.  Every boat we built after that one was modern.  He had plans for his funeral long before we ever knew.

“He is with us, Baldur, and my father too.  They’ll always be with us.”  Fetu said.  I was trying to stop crying, I was such a crybaby.

Usually I would respond with some smart-alecky comment about ‘nothing consciously existing after death.’  But I knew he would respond with something about people existing in the living conscious of our own heads.  And then I would agree with him and say he is right.

“They are here.”  I said.  “We are here.”

***

Fetu was Samoan.  His mother had died at an early age in a diabetic coma, so he was raised by his father and his grandmother.

His father, Afi, was gone on business half of the time, just like my father.  And he was always with my father.  They were tied to the hip as far as soldiers go.

A few years before my father met my mother in Angola, he was introduced to Afi who had just got done with three tours in Vietnam as a Recon Marine.  Afi, like my father, had tasted blood several times and liked it.  He was proud to be a fighting warrior, though the Samoan culture still harbored this warrior aspect, he felt that something was missing, the danger and the delivery of death.  He didn’t have to be drafted to go to Vietnam, he enlisted when he was seventeen.  He couldn’t wait to taste blood.

The Vietnam War was coming to a close and he was honorably discharged with many decorations from combat.  He loved his home, the islands of Samoa.  He took a year off and met Fetu’s mother, Moana.  Afi, again like my father, was an avid sailor and traditionalist.  So naturally, my brother Fetu, was also conceived on a boat like me, but he was born in a hospital while Afi was away in Africa.  Fetu’s mother Moana hated him for that.  On top of being pregnant and all the suffering that goes with that, she was in a constant state of worry that her newfound lover was dead and being cooked on a spit somewhere in the wicked jungles of the Congo.

Afi came home untouched, but it didn’t matter to Moana.  She was passed suffering, she couldn’t bring herself to even kiss Afi.

The baby seemed to be grief-stricken also.  Fetu was a serious human from the start.  It is fabled that he didn’t even cry when he was born and the doctors spanked his bottom.  Moana said that she had taken all the crying from Fetu all those months that Afi was away.  “I took all of his tears.”  She told Afi.  “He won’t be crying for you Afi.”

“One less thing I have to teach him then.”  Afi said.

Moana was perpetually depressed after that.  Her family and friends didn’t know how to deal with it.  She kept gaining weight by eating junk food, far from the traditional diet she was reared on.  She died from diabetes when Fetu was three years old.  He did not cry then.

Fetu confessed that when he cried when his father died, he wasn’t grieving for his father’s death.  It was a warrior’s death, a good death for a Samoan.  He cried for his mother, someone he could barely remember but felt so much pain for.  “My mother died of grief.”  Fetu had said after Father Odin’s funeral rite.  “She grieves still.”  If he ever had ever cried again, he would be thinking of his sullen mother eating junk food watching TV detached from her family and friends.

His grandmother became the caretaker when Afi was away in Africa, and she eventually died of diabetes too.  She ate much modern food.  After her death, Fetu refused to eat any type of processed food until he joined the Marines where he had no choice but to eat the MRE rations or whatever was fed to him in the mess hall.  If Fetu had an opinion about anything, it was diet.  He was obsessed with the evils of the modern food industry, and considering the deaths of his mother and grandmother, understandably so.

Fetu was fourteen when his grandmother died, and Afi had already been dead for more than a year.  His relatives wanted him to stay on the islands, but Fetu had other plans.  He wrote my father a letter.

It read:

Odin,

                May I come live with you?

                Fetu

Fetu and I had met several times before he came to live with us.  Afi and Fetu always vacationed with us.  I always talked his ear off and tried to get him to drink alcohol with me.  He always refused.  He didn’t care for alcohol.

I felt like I annoyed him when we were kids, and when I’d ask him he’d say:  “I don’t get annoyed.”  He was always nice and never got angry or irritated.  He was the kind of guy that you want to give a big hug to.  He was a big muscular guy, just like our fathers.  He never showed it, but he cared.

“Teach me Samoan.”  I’d say.  “Come on Fetu, teach me some Samoan.”  When I got a grip on my native languages (and my second and third), I became obsessed.  I was a raven about languages, to the point of annoyance.

Fetu had a great many talents and skills, like our fathers.  I was too much of a bookworm to learn half of it.  He was a far better sailor than I, he could navigate by the stars without any equipment.

He had a major flaw after his years of soldiery.  He was addicted to stimulants.  Methamphetamines were his favorite.

He spent the three days of my father’s funeral rite high on meth while my mother and I were drunk as skunks and crying.

We were on two different planes of existence, his far faster and clearer than ours.  We danced and sang and yelled and fell around the column-fire.

Fetu danced with fireknives through the night, he spun wheels of fire around a central pillar of flame.

***

“I wrote you all a list requests for my funerary rites.”  Father Odin said.

He was on one of his two death beds.  He said this on his outdoor one, a webbed hammock strung between two pine trees.

“Fetu will do the things that will bother you, Baldur.”  He said.

My father was dying.  I had refused to accept it.  This man was the epitome of strength in my world, he couldn’t simply die off in my eyes.  But my mother had sent for our doctor friend, a medic whom my parents had met and been friends with ever since their time spent in Angola.  “His heart is going to burst, literally.  If he wants to live, we have to get him to a hospital.  I can’t treat him out here in the woods, on this island.  Apparently, we can’t convince him to do that.  He’s prepared to die.”  Dr. Johnson said.  He was right, and I had to accept the fact that papa was going to die here on Our Island.

My mother and Dr. Johnson went on and on with loads of medical jargon which I considered hocus-pocus.  (In my head, it was hocus-Pocus right down to the etymology. Possibly metathesis of the Latin hoc est corpus.)  They may have well been magicians to me saying “here is the body”.

Just like when Father Odin was healthy and doing everything under the sun, he only went to his indoor deathbed except for that last night.  He refused to go inside.  He wanted to christen the new boat we had built.

We had been working on this boat for the last two years on our mainland property right on the coastline of Lake Superior.  My father named it Hringhorni, after the ship that the mythical Baldur was ceremonially burned on after his death.  Fetu and papa did most of the work, I only helped in the summer because of school.

“We haven’t properly christen Hringhorni yet.  Take me sailing for one last time boys.”  Father said.

I wanted to cry so bad, but I didn’t want to be selfish.  I knew my dad wanted this to be a happy moment.

“Are you coming with Nas?”  He said, waving at my mother.  She was slumped up against a tree.  She nodded and watched us help him of his death hammock.

Papa grabbed me up once he got to his feet.  He had aged quickly.  Twenty years in the last months.  I hugged him and was choking on my urge to cry.

“Papa.”  I said.  I stuttered like a struggling boat motor.  I hadn’t been drinking since I got to Our Island.  I had just started my fall semester of teaching and dissertation work when my mother called and begged me to come home.  “Papa is ready to leave this world.”  She said.  “He’s going to God soon.  Please come home.”

“That’s my brave boy.”  He said, in Swedish.  “Fetu, could you grab some bottles of mead for all of us.”  In English.  “The wind is nice.”  He looked to the sky with a great breath.

We all had to help him walk, he didn’t mind.  Years prior, no one was allowed to help the man.  But he had become so wise and humble that he welcomed our assistance.

We tromped through the trees to Our Dock.  Hringhorni rocked as if impatient to sail.  She was beautiful, built with the fine shipwright craftsmanship of papa and Fetu.  A perfect paradigm of lagom, the traditional wonder of the ancient ancestors melded with the efficient genius of modernity.  A Viking longship as a keelboat yacht.

“You break the bottle, Baldur.”  Papa said.

In that moment I was happy, though on the verge of having the dams break in my lachrymal ducts.

I broke the bottle of the golden nectar of our ancestors, /skáldskapar mjaðar/ The Mead of Poetry, my father’s delicious honeywine.  Wine and glass trickled down the stern.

“Let us sail.”  I said, in Old Norse.

We helped him aboard, seated him at the helm.

My father had told us for years to create our own rituals, because we had none in this modern age.  “If we don’t have it, let’s make it ourselves and give it importance.”  He often told us in one way or another.

“I wrote down a list of ceremonial tasks for my corpse.”  He said and handed me a parchment of handwritten rules.  “Drink some mead and read it aloud.”

I swallowed strong on the bottle, the dry bite of mead squelched my throat.  I hated stuttering.  I had to be away with it.

***

The Funeral Rite for the Odin of the Clan Ankarsvard

Nastasia-Give me Last Rites

I know you are not ordained to do so, but I know how you feel about the Church.  And you know how I feel.  I will be Christian for you in my death, it is the least I can do for you.  I want you to die peacefully knowing that you will see me in your afterlife.  My convictions are not strong enough to deny you this, and I love you to death.  I always told you that I would do anything for you.  This will be my last deed.

Baldur-Recite the Völuspá

When my heart stops, read this over me.  Never forget that when you need me, I will support your courage.  I will always be in your head whenever you need me. 

I know you have that poem nearly memorized in the old tongue.  Read it off the parchment you made for me when you were twelve if you must.  It is with the rest of my sentiments in my chest. 

Put it back in the chest when you’re done.  The chest will be burned on Frigga along with the other offerings and my body.

Fetu-Remove My Sentimental Anatomy

This is a task that only you can stomach.  You know how queasy Baldur gets when he guts a fish.  And my wife will be bereaving.  Take my eye out and burn it with some Ash-wood then give the ashes to my wife for she is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.    

Take two braids of my hair and give one to Baldur and one to yourself.

Remove my exploded heart and burn it with Ash-wood.  Take the ashes and make ink.  Give Baldur a tattoo after he crosses the equator, the sea turtle in Samoan style and tradition.

All-Leave my Body for Three Days

Let my body sit for three days before you wrap it in oil-soaked cloth and cast me aboard Frigga.  Drink and be merry.  Dance and Sing.  Realize Death.  Live.

***

I read the requests without stuttering or crying.  Fetu was tacking the mainsail.  Mama sat snuggled up by papa as he held the tiller.

This was our last time together with papa, on the gently cresting lake in the brisk wind of October.  He had a swan song.  It was silence, peaceful.

But a word echoed in my head from his parchment.

Live.

Tagged

Chapter 5: Dipsomania

For all the good things someone can say about me, something good is not what you’ll hear.

First thing you’ll hear out of their mouths is that I’m an alcoholic.  That I’m a lush, a wino, a guzzler, a souse, a rummy.

Guzzler maybe, when I accrue lots of money and get to buy myself a fine bottle of cognac, such as Louis XIII de Remi Martin, sure go ahead, call me that.  But never call me a lush, I’ve never begged for anything.  I only take what is given.

Wino, sometimes, but only when I’m doing linguistic field research with the American homeless under a bridge somewhere.

Call me souse.  It’s fine, but it’s like calling me a pickle (one who gets pickled by booze).  Be creative, use your language, fine by me.

Most of the time, they don’t know what they’re say anyway.  Forgive them Father for they know not what they say.

Call me a rummy if you’re American, and if you’re British, you can call me the adjective rummy.   I’m both meanings.  But don’t go calling me a sot or a binger, I’m always on a steady flow.  So you can call me a professional, in the slang sense, because I do not make money for my drinking.

Do not call me a pisshead, unless you’re British.  It’s taboo for me (at least the first half of that compound word is), and upsets me.  By all means say it but please don’t call me taboo words in Swedish, Polish, and especially English.  When I get too upset, I cry.  At the drop of a dime, I cry, like a little baby (or rather a little child that everyone picks on because they think he’s retarded because he can’t talk well).  Have you ever seen a grown man cry so much?  Probably not.  It’s not a bad thing, because I don’t get angry.  I’ll never drop a nuclear bomb on your country, heck, I won’t even give you a noogie or a wedgy.  I could, if I wanted to (my father taught me well), but I never want to.  Hurting things, hurts myself, and besides for the negative effects of drinking, I don’t like hurting myself.

What you can call me is an inebriate, though I prefer dipsomanic.  And if you’re into clipping your words (don’t worry, it’s popular), you can call me dipso.

Second thing you’ll hear is that I’m a phony or a fake.  This is entirely untrue.  Half of Planet Earth, or the English speaking Christian part of Earth at least, was waiting for me to let them know what God’s language is and how to speak it.  And I did just that, they just didn’t like my answer.  No one likes Truth, and they call me a liar.  I told them the truth from the beginning.  It was their own choice that they heard something different.  They chose what to believe and hear, even see.  Not my fault, but I was to blame.  The world needed a scapegoat, they found me, Baldur.

***

I started drinking heavily at the University.  This isn’t uncommon (go to any American University and see for yourself).  But when I say heavily, it doesn’t mean drinking a case of watery pilsner that has an alcohol content of %4.0 and a few shots of some popular anise-laced digestif dropped in a legal version of liquid crack-cocaine in a rocks glass which is called a bomb (in bars and in war, shots and bombs will waste or annihilate you).  What I mean by heavily is that I was consuming more than what I was when living with my parents and my adopted brother.  To the average college schmo, I could drink you under the table.  Maybe it is true, but it never concerned me how much I could drink.  I had my reasons for why I drink the way I do.

My parents allowed me to drink consistently when they found out it helped with my stuttering.  For some magical reason (there’s science behind it, but it’s all magic until I understand things myself like gravity for example), drinking alcohol completely ceased my stutters.

But it wasn’t like I was drunk all of the time, my parents were good parents.  In fact, I believe I had the best parents ever.  They allowed me enough to hold a decent conversation.  I didn’t always want more.  And when I sneaked and took more, it would make me ill, and very temporarily did I learned my lesson.

I had been taught moderation at an early age.  In Swedish, there is a term lagom.  My father often stressed it.  There isn’t a word to word translation in English, but the phrase “just enough” is close.

“Lagom.”  Father Odin said.  He raised his drinking horn full of mead and took a sip then passed it to me.  “Drink, just enough.”

“Lagom.”  I said.  He wasn’t wearing his eye-patch and had started growing a beard.  He was smiling at me, we were sitting around a fire.  We had just moved to Our Island.  He was happy, smiling and singing all the time, far more than before.  Mother was happy too.

He told me in Swedish that the word came from a term the Vikings used to invoke moderation.  (‘Laget om’-> /lagom/transl.->’around the team’).

He said that they would pass a horn of mead trusting each comrade to their own fair share.  “Your comrades have to trust you.  There is no trust in being greedy, having too much when someone has too little.”  He said.  “There’s no trust in someone who doesn’t share.”

When I was a grad student, I looked up the word origin.  I never had the heart to tell him that the etymology of the word lagom was a folk etymology which meant that someone made the origin up.  This happens often, in English there is a taboo word for feces that has a folk etymology.  Some clever chap (or lass) made up the story of the abbreviation:  Ship-High-In-Transit.  Not likely.  Lagom on the other hand is far more convincing than S.H.I.T.  You don’t even want to know how many of these exist for the word that was folkishly abbreviated as Fornication-Under-Consent of the- King.

“Lagom.”  He said and took another drink.  He had been talking to me much more in Swedish at that time.  It had been half a year after my motel frenectomy from my mother and I had been talking much better, or actually talking.

“Lagom.” I took another drink.

“Here.”  He said, pointing around Our Island.  “I’ll teach you everything I know.  Some of it, I know you won’t like it.  I know many violent things, and I want you to know some of them.  A large part of me, in here…”  He put his hand over his chest.  “…wishes that you will never see what I’ve seen.  But the cycle is ending.  Ragnarok is coming.  Not word for word in our ancestors beliefs, those are symbols, but in reality.  These symbols of a never-ending cycle are showing themselves again.  Instead of gods and giants, we will have leaders of nation and people who will obey and fight to the death for them.  So Baldur, for as much as I wish for you to bring peace to this world, I wish you to be strong and able to face all hardships.”  He said.

The sun had fallen long enough that there wasn’t a trace of it the sky save the sliver of moon.  Our boat was anchored off shore, and he intended for us to stay the night.  We had been working on a cottage for most of the summer and though it wasn’t ready for the winter, we had the preparations for a cold autumn night.

He reached across the fire and handed me a different horn full of mead, a smaller one (I was hoping it was grape wine, it took me a few years to appreciate mead).  Orange and yellow flapped in front of his face, menacing but with a genuine smile.

“Tomorrow, we’ll build a forge.”  He said.

“Forge?”  I said.

“You’re grandfather taught me how to forge iron.  He also taught me how to smelt it.  To extract it from the land.”  He said.  He waved his hand around.  “This place sits on an iron ore belt.”

***

My English was far better than my parents knew, and my word confusion with Swedish and Polish were easily remedied.  My Swedish and Polish were lacking but not by much.  And with the alcohol, I didn’t stutter like a broken record.  I felt more normal than ever before, I didn’t feel ‘wetawded’.  I still had problems with some phonics (and some phonological flaws but nothing that she thought couldn’t be fixed), but my mother was training me for hours a day with that stuff.

My mother confessed that she didn’t understand everything I was saying for those years.  She knew what I was saying, but most of it was intuition.  She felt God was helping her, and God would work it out.

“You know Bozhi, God will not do it for you.  I realized that when I found out that the school thought you were retarded.  I knew I had to do something.  So we took it into our own hands.  Some people I help at the parish think that God is there to help you and give you rewards for doing something nice.  There are no rewards beside the action itself.  And we as humans, must do for ourselves, that is what God wants.”  She said.  She was holding flashcards with symbols them.  “Now let’s work on dental fricatives, starting with voiceless.  TH-E-T-A.”

“Data.”  I said.

“Do it again.  You’ll get it.”

Morals of the Story

In literary fiction, morals and philosophical concepts are crucial for driving the story.  Characters must learn something about life and living.  What’s the use of a well developed character that isn’t put to the test?  You can endow all your characters with whatever moral stuff you want, but without a trial of that stuff, your story can dry up.

The spectrum of morals and philosophies is vast, so it’s easy to get lost if you go searching.  And philosophers of all ages make messes of concepts that should be intuitive to the average person that lives in the world.  Deep concepts can be expressed smoothly and simply, this is the job of the writer.  It is the job of the reader to read the words and understand the meaning.  If the reader doesn’t not understand a concept, the story should still go on entertaining.  Philosophical mumbo jumbo is for philosophers, not for a reader trying to enjoy a good story.

I won’t spend all day explaining the myriad philosophical details that I have planned for this story.  Most of what goes into my head as philosophy is placed in my stories as a shiny coin.  Take it or leave it, regardless, someone will pick it up.

Basic Philosophical Concepts:  A low down on my characters’ belief systems

  • Baldur – Baldur begins the story as a nihilist.  Much of what his father Odin has taught him has rubbed off on him in as apathy.  Baldur is nice and loving and harmless, but what he isn’t, is a believer none whatsoever, not even in himself at times.  Baldur will have to reconcile this lack of belief, first with himself and then humankind.  He will come round in the end with a faith in people, that can overcome their awful ways of life.  More main morals: some things cannot be repaired by compassion or reconciled by guilt, don’t wish ill on yourself, it will happen regardless, doing no harm doesn’t mean not being harmful
  • Odin – Despite the transference of apathy to Baldur, Odin doesn’t feel apathetic to the state of the world.  In fact, he relishes the ending of a cycle.  Religiously, he will come off as a Norse pagan, much of what will come out of his mouth will reference some Norse myth.  But what Odin really believes is that all of these depictions of gods are simply manifestations of the human psyche.  If you ever caught him praying to Odin, it would be himself.  Odin in his later years has a moral breakdown with war and violence.  This is not unlike his comrade Sarba.
  • Nastasia – She believes that God is everything, down to that very statement.  She’ll have an occasional issue with the way Odin flings the word ‘God’ around as if there are many, but he’ll never argue outside of saying “out of one come many”.  She believes all of her loved ones will be saved, regardless of what they believe now.  After the capture of Baldur not so long after Odin’s death, Nastasia will devote herself to Christ as missionary and work/pray her days away.
  • Fetu—believes wholeheartedly in the gods of Samoan tradition, his father had taught him to be this way and he never abandoned it, even at twelve when his dad died.  Everything he does is associated with his belief.  He makes spiritual ritual of even the most mundane of chores.
  • Sarba—believes in all the aspects of Hinduism, but much like Odin associate the deities and stories with a true relation to the self, spiritual and physical.  Some of his conveyances will be harder to understand than any other character, but this is the nature of the teacher.  Sages aren’t often understood by their pupils, and since the protagonist is in the first person, the reader can relate to some of this philosophical confusion.
  • Jennifer—will have simple but grievous lessons:  being nice and compassionate bears no reward but the action itself, and some heartbreak cannot be repaired
  • James Villard—Also a nihilist in the beginning of the story although he is a televangelist preacher.  His money and his power over people made him faithless and apathetic.  He has a major suppression of guilt which is cracked by the knowledge of Baldur’s existence.  His initial interest in Baldur’s language project is for more power, but after he is discredited and made a fool of, he has an epiphany.  He restores his faith in Christ, and denounces his money empire, he gives all of his money and possessions to the world’s poor people.  Becomes a street preacher.

Tomorrow I have to evaluate the way I’m going to deal with this one month deadline.  I need to have techniques I can turn to in order to keep writing fluidly.

The Journey

The timeline I am working with is rather simple, but I still needed some basic organization.  Since the majority of the active plot in this story will be on a boat from port to port, I took a world map and plotted course of a two person circumnavigation (inspired by an actual circumnavigation) and modified it according to different languages and sailing efficiency.

I have sailing experience but not enough.  My research on this has to be extensive.  Lucky for me, I have close people with tons more experience.  I must be able to convey what it is to sail across the Pacific without actually doing this.  Sure, I can throw some technical jargon in and make it sound convincing, but this will harm me in two ways, sailors won’t believe me and non-sailors will get bored.  So I must take the intimate experiences of mine and others to project a smooth depiction of a sailing journey.

Some things to consider for the journey:

  • Supplies—food, water, booze, drugs, clothing
  • Equipment, primitive and modern
  • Weather
  • Port regulations
  • Situations that can be magnified so a trans-Pacific trip isn’t just one paragraph
  • Baldur’s condition should deteriorate early on to provoke his language madness and megalomania
  • One or two love interests for Baldur which will haunt his emotions about Jennifer

To break the linear timeline and path of the journey, I want to lay out points in the story where I will inject backstory, just to break the monotony.  I don’t want a book that is backstory in the first half, plot in the second.

Tomorrow, I want to tackle some of the philosophical and moral principles that I’ll convey.

Ten Rules for Writing x2

Here are some favorite rules of other authors.

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  1. Write.  –Neil Gaiman
  2. Use short paragraphs.  –Ernest Hemingway
  3. Every character should want something even if it’s a glass of water.  –Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  4. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.  –Elmore Leonard
  5. Write the book you want to read.  –Chuck Palahniuk
  6. If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water. –Hemingway
  7. If you’re using a computer, always safe guard new text with a memory stick.  –Margaret Atwood
  8. The first twelve years are the worst.  –Anne Enright
  9. Never complain about not being understood.  You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to.  –David Hare
  10. Read widely and with discrimination.  Bad writing is contagious.  –PD James

Here’s a Ten Rules for Writing list I wrote.

  1. Live first, write second.  Experience is the best form of reference.
  2. Use a good dictionary, get the most out of your words.
  3. Use the thesaurus sparingly.  Too many fancy words can bog down your writing and make you seem like an asshole.  But, this is fine if your narrative is assholish.
  4. Learn whatever you can, be honest with yourself and your knowledge.  Don’t be a know-it-all.  Nobody likes a know-it-all, not even other know-it-alls.  People can see through bullshit.
  5.  Don’t leave your characters alone for too long.  Like real people, they will become cold and resentful if you don’t pay attention to them.
  6. Feel free to make up words, in modest.  Purists may not like it, but screw them.
  7. Write under any type of circumstance.  Bizarre shit will come out of your head when you’re sick, drunk, angry, et cetera.
  8. Embrace your emotions, whatever they may be.  No one likes a robot, unless of course your character is a robot.
  9. Learn to make fun of yourself.  Everyone’s an idiot at some point.  This type of humility can develop your writing and connect readers to you and your character’s humanness, unless again you’re a robot.
  10.  Justify your use of language, a nice person uses nice words.  Styles make characters, even if they’re robots.

Narrative Voice

Voice is paramount in literary fiction.  Publishing houses and agents are always yapping about finding original voices and whatnot.  I couldn’t agree more.  Your narrative voice channels your story, leads your readers to know your characters, and takes the dryness out of your writing.  A good narrative voice thrives on creativity.

It took me years to be able to separate myself from my characters’ voices (not that you have to, Kerouac, H.S. Thomson et al.)  Even now with full knowledge of what’s being written, my characters’ voices are unmistakably relative to my own.  Only through years of crappy writing did I get comfortable with the simple idea that my characters are my children, not me, but they have been endowed with some of my traits, naturally.  Even with all the effort to separate yourself from your narrative, people who know you and read your work will inevitably hear your voice for a bit if not all of the time, not a big deal really.  I got over it.

I can’t write anything in my character’s voice until November 1st, that would be cheating under my perception of the rules.  So I’m developing it completely in my head.

Considerations for Baldur’s voice:

  • First person omniscient – I might have to justify this voice later, but I know that this form gives me the most power over knowledge of other characters, I won’t have to explain why Baldur knows the intimate thoughts of other characters until the end.  After all, it is fiction so you can do whatever the hell you want.
  • Past tense mainly – I will have a few excerpts in present tense, but these will be limited emotionally charged anecdote.
  • Baldur will not, in diction, speak taboo words, but this won’t apply to his narrative, e.g. he’ll explain why certain words are taboo
  • I want Baldur to be sensitive and nice but with a contradictory edge that will make the reader question him, he does have a history of being insensitive
  • Lots of idioms and word explanations, this will be tricky –has to be done right to not be boring
  • Never self-loathing, revels in his optimal circumstances even when things get bad he takes full responsibility of his choices (this gets into philosophy which I’ll discuss another day)
  •  He has two main abstract desires.  To be understood, and for everyone to understand each other.  The latter is impossible, but he, through his drunken misconceptions of reality, thinks that he can offer the world a solution for peace.  A way back to mortal Eden or Paradise(more on this later, this is the Gordian knot of Baldur’s psychology and deserves its own blog post.)
  • I need Baldur to slowly expose his megalomania, at some point he should compare himself as a cross between Alexander the Great and Jesus Christ

Tomorrow I will make a Ten Rules for Writing list compiled from other authors’ lists.

Tools I use

Dictionaries, encyclopedias, books/magazines, wordlists, visual aids, and life.

Dictionary:  Not just for reference, but inspiration too

I can kill awful amounts of time in the dictionary, digital or real.  They’re invaluable to me.  Some months ago I lost my access to the online Oxford English Dictionary, not good.  But I make due with a handful of others.

My suggestion for new writers is to use the dictionary just as much as you would an encyclopedia.  Dictionaries (decent ones) are in their own way encyclopedic.  The roots of words tell stories, these stories or etymologies are creative and sometimes inspiring.  It is also good to know all the uses of a word, this can open creative pathways.

Encyclopedia:  Use it as a starting point for getting other books

Do you remember your first term paper, let’s say in about fifth grade?  The first rule of a book report/term paper is that you shouldn’t plagiarize other works in particular the encyclopedia which is your starting point.  It’s no surprise that when you get to college the same rule applies.  But students still do it and out of Wikipedia for that matter.  The same rule as fifth grade, same starting point.

Wikipedia gets a bad name because of the insane amounts of plagiarism, even citations from it are a no-no.  This doesn’t mean that it is a bad reference source.  I use it more than anything when I’m on the internet.  It allows for you to do guided research in a library for the handful of books you need.

Books:  Reading away from the computer, a relief

I have only a few so far and a handful more to get.

  • Atlas of Languages
  • Grammar Bible
  • Book on Child Language Development
  • Yachting magazines
  • Collection of Emerson’s work
  • Prose Edda

Need to get

  • Alcoholics Anonymous book and other material
  • Mahabharata and other Vedic texts
  •  Collection of different undecipherable ancient languages

Wordlists:  Lexical Depth

For Dipso, I’ll be making several wordlists.

The first one I did was Alcoholism.  Here is a sample of the list:

Alcohol

C2H5OH

besotted

crapulent

crapulous

sodden

tipsy

blind

crocked

pissed

pixilated

pickled

Some of these I had never heard of which is awesome for me and the English language.  I can use these words and keep them alive, and they’ll enrich the language of my character’s narrative.  In my opinion, using an extensive amount of vocabulary has you walking a sword edge.  You can make a story stronger, but you can also make it unreadable with too many collegiate or archaic or jargon words that just make you seem smart.  I tend to define words that are uncommon if I absolutely have to use them.  And of course strong context helps which is how I will utilize the above words. You can also get away with using loads of uncommon words if you’re justified, Nabakov pulled it off well in Lolita.

I do have to take caution with my wordlist of linguistics.  I must make sure that all justified use of jargon words is easily understood by all readers.

Visual Aids:  They’re fun to make and brighten your writing day when you’re stuck

For Dipso:

  • I’m going to draw a map of the Baldur’s sailing route around the world.
  • Coincide language maps with the journey
  • Pin up several different types of alphabets, syllabaries, pictographs, ideograms, hieroglyphs, et cetera
  • Language family trees
  • International Phonetic Alphabet chart
  • Pictures of different ancient boats/ships
  • Examples of traditional tattooing, especially Pacific Island and Nepal
  • Different types of booze bottles
  • Photos of different places

 

Life:  Recall all experiences related to anything relevant

Of course writers use their experiences to give depth to their writing.  I personally try to avoid using situations verbatim, I’d like to save that stuff for an autobiography.  I let the story and the character take a basic situation and make it unique to them.  For example, everyone has had an embarrassing trip and fall, fairly universal, I just stylize it to the story with the conveyance of my own emotional regard.

Tomorrow, I want to discuss voice.  This is huge for literary fiction.  I’ve given the consideration of voice a great amount of my thoughts.

Last Character Concepts: The Lover and The Sage

I have two more characters that I need to go into detail about, Sarbagya and Jennifer.

Jennifer is the main love interest of Baldur.  Although her part in the story isn’t going to be that great, she will have a profound effect on Baldur’s emotional growth.  She’s an ideal woman for Baldur (or anyone for that matter).  The problem is that she is too good in Baldur’s eyes.  He feels that his life has been too good already and doesn’t deserve such a perfect woman.  Baldur seems to be developing the Martyr complex that I wanted him to have.

I had to struggle with the significant other element of this story which is quite the opposite of what I dealt with in Flush.  The reason I even bother creating it is simple though.  I believe that a writer needs to have an emotional connection to write literary fiction.  Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be love for a person only, emotions span most anything.  Emotional lacking is also a thing, two of my biggest writing influences, Vonnegut and Palahniuk, use this successfully.  Not my thing though, I like dealing with emotions in all forms.

Jennifer: The Love Interest

  • Two character flaws(if I can say that) is that she is too nice and sexually restrained which Baldur doesn’t consciously dislike, but this over-niceness makes him doubt her emotions for him, and he wishes she would at least argue with him about something
  • Cherokee Language revivalist—met Baldur at a Moribund Language Convention
  • Contrary to what Baldur doubted, she is devastated when he departs on his quest, this changes her significantly
  • Helps other Native American languages nearing extinction to survive and grow, even plans to resurrect a one someday
  • She is what occupies Baldur’s mind when he is on his death bed
  • Baldur wants her to have more flaws, this is unrealistic of course, she doesn’t have negative traits because she is enraptured by her love for him (which he can’t see)
In a psychological sense, Baldur wants Jennifer to be more like his mother even though he doesn’t consciously ever think this.  Baldur has many moral ideals, Jennifer is living proof of these ideals.  This makes for a psychological conundrum which will drive the negative aspects of Baldur’s megalomania and martyr complex.

Sarbagya (Sarba for short):  Sagacious Helper

This is a character that I’m adding to aid Baldur on his quest to fill the role of the Sage who helps the Hero.  I cannot avoid these kind of epic elements, Joseph Campbell’s works are a huge inspiration.

I’ll add Sarga for a few reasons:

  • He is a good character to expose some of the deep dark secrets of Odin’s soldiery
  • Knows a few languages that Baldur needs to break a part of the Proto-Language code(more about this later)
  • A Gurkha that served with Odin in the same mercenary corporation
  • He calls himself a recovering murderer, devotes himself to Hinduism
  • Sings out of the Vedas frequently, tells Baldur of the Language of God in India that no human can understand
  • On a personal quest for Soma, a drink of the gods
  • Does calligraphy and traditional Nepalese tattooing
  • Happy-go-lucky
  • As fun as the old sage warrior is, he’s still deadly and has no hesitation in defending Baldur and Fetu till the death

That’s all I could squeeze in.  For the next few days I will be working on wordlists, philosophical threads, the adventure map, and several other conceptual aids that I’ll need to create a smooth month writing.

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