Author’s Note: This is my WIP for this year’s NaNoWriMo contest, which means it is by no means completed. However, I’ve taken the liberty of bending the rules slightly, decided to use what I’m currently working on now, rather than starting fresh.

I’ve decided to do this for one very important reason:

Old Habits Die Hard

I have no boundaries set. No real deadlines. I have self-discipline in other areas of my life; I know how to wash a dish and brush my teeth and stuff. But like with everything else in life, in order to get good at things, you have to keep doing it.

When I blog, it’s no big thing. My topics usually aren’t the type of thing that make Google AdSense spin into a tizzy, quite the opposite, actually. They have less to do with current events, and more to do with an individual trying to make sense of things through writing. I’d find a topic to write about, take my time with it, sometimes days, edit until it sounds something like my voice, find a few choice graphics, maybe craft something of my own, and post. I take my time with it, but the point is, I finish it. It’s one topic meant to be chewed on for a few minutes and then published. Sometimes, I take a little longer to work my way through it. But I finish it.

The same cannot be said when it applies to writing fiction. Writing fiction is not like writing and article where I can grab one or two sources and build post around it. Not for lack of trying, though. Last year, I thought it would be cool if I constructed a story, and posted a chapter (or part of a chapter) a week on my blog.

It didn’t quite work out the way I expected.

What I learned from this experience was the importance of brevity, not to mention the importance of note taking and research. Also, reading something more substantial than a Twitter feed was worked into the equation as well: Dialog sound robotic and stiff? Try reading a book and pay attention to how the professionals do it. Like a certain story arc? Try writing it out or making a diagram. You know, all the little things that might have been helpful as I slowly lost steam halfway through the project.

I will return to it.

Someday.

But getting back on topic, when it comes to crafting something out of thin air, like writing a short story or a novel, being that I have no deadlines and no pressure to finish a current project, I will revert to my old habit of abandoning something that I start, purely out of lack of interest. It’s a pet peeve. One of many. And it bugs the shit out of me.

Also, even though I’ve had oodles of time to figure it out, I have yet to find that balance between being a domestic and becoming the next Tom Robbins. So, forgive me if I started a little on the early side with this, but I’ll take every Mulligan I can find to get this done.

Anyway, below is an “Intro In Progress”(?) for my latest project. It’s current title is “Fearsome Critters”. Please note that this is only a working title, and has very little to do with the book written by Henry H. Tryon. I liked his title, but I won’t be using it. I’m the kind of person who writes first, and thinks of a title later. In the meantime, I will be taking any and all suggestions for a new title, maybe one will come to me. By all means, please engage with me in the comments below.

Thank you, and enjoy.

Also, as you’ll probably figure out, there are some words peppered into the conversation that look like they’re made up. Rest assured, it is very real. It’s the native tongue of the Passamaquoddy people; a Native American Tribe indigenous to my neck of the woods. Again, I look forward to engaging in the comments below.

~***~

Empty Seats (2405779789)

“At this point, you don’t really have to concern yourself too much with these critters.” Eric gestured to the list of seemingly random animals scribbled on the giant chalkboard behind him. “Keep in mind that by this time, ‘The Ancient Age’ ended long ago, and can anybody tell me who ended it?” His words bounced off the concrete cavern of the not-even-half filled  teaching auditorium, and landed in the ear canals of  barely cognizant Twentysomethings who were there only to fulfill an elective. “Anybody?” continued Eric in vain.

Two things haven’t changed much since he started teaching this course: his syllabus, and his wardrobe. It wasn’t for any sort of notoriety  that Eric chose the collegiate life. There was no paper or grand study he felt the need to publish in earnest. Eric was never about the new discoveries. Eric is old. He is old in his clothes, his flesh, and his voice, but his eyes still burn with a shade of his youth. He was born to be the keeper of the word. It is his life’s purpose to carry his peoples  history. There once was a time when he would tell the tale of gods and demons and heroes, and all would stare, mouth agape, and minds ablaze  at the wonderful and mysterious worlds he would conjure for them.

Generations would grow up, grow old, and die before him. Years pass, and as they did, so would the wonder. The once energetic and receptive crowds became smaller and more sophisticated as technology slowly crept in, and disrupted the landscape of imagination. He could remember when a campfire and a full moon would be all he needed. Now, it’s how many ‘likes’ he’s accumulated on his rarely used Facebook account.  Stories don’t matter these days, it’s about connection. He could never understand why every one of his colleagues were so insistent on basing all of their interactions on something so impersonal and shallow. He has a grand total of 63 followers, and is completely indifferent about it. He has a total of  75 people signed up for his class, half of which bothered to show up tonight. He knows when he’s losing his audience, which seems to be happening a lot lately.

“That’s right,” continued Eric. “ Glooskap. You remember who he was, right? Glooskap? Also known as Gluskab? Odzihózo? Son of Tabaldak, The Creator?  ‘The Man Who Created Himself’? The guy we covered in the last class? C’mon, people!” The last part eliciting a slight moan from his students as if they were all prodded with a stick. He wasn’t getting anywhere. Not today. And this was one of his better classes. He glanced at the clock, and thankfully had enough time to fit in the rest of the story before everyone slipped away into lecture-induced coma.

“Anyway, all of these guys right here,” using a yardstick as an extension of his arm, “the rabbit, the muskrat, and the beaver were all as big as houses in ‘The Ancient Age’  They were all respected and revered and feared until..?” Eric paused to see if anyone would join in, “Glooskap came along and shrunk them down to the size that we know today. Now, whether or not some of these critters might have taken issue with that, like hostile feelings that have been harbored by the rabbits for generations because they were the most savage beasts in the land and now they’re just cute and fuzzy, is up for another discussion for another time. And, there are some that would say that would be motivation enough for that little bastard beaver,” Eric paused again to allow his disconnected audience to join in. “ ‘Kwah-beet-a-sis’ to spy on Glooskap and rat him out to his brother…anybody?” another pause.

Malsumis!” exclaimed a faceless voice from the back of the room.

“Oh, good!” Eric sighed. “I’m glad someone is paying attention.” Several bodies turned in their seat to see if they recognized the voice. “It didn’t really matter because Glooskap always knew that his little brother had a thing about murder and mayhem. Oh, and he had a predisposition for turning into a wolf. So any chance Malsumis got to mislead his older brother, he took it. Now, if this is starting to sound familiar, it’s because it is. You can find this same dynamic as far back as Ancient Greece.” He glanced at the clock again, the end grows nigh. “So, to sum up: Malsumis lied to the beaver. The beaver turned to Glooskap, telling him what his brother has planned for him. Glooskap slew his brother, and his body turned into a mountain range. Where that mountain range is, all depends on who’s telling the story.” He wanted to get into modern day parallels, and how the diminishing of all the species could  be interpreted as Man taking dominion over Nature. Or, he could have made several connections from the stories once told by an almost extinct and indigenous race of people, his people,  are still relevant and can be applied  today in terms of war, oppression and sovereignty. But the hour is late, and none of these kids couldn’t be bothered long enough to get their noses away from their laptops  to care.

“ Okay, that’s it for today.” Bodies suddenly sprung to life on cue. Eric ‘s voice rose to try to get over the clamor of  shuffling desks and yawning mouths. “Now, don’t forget that your papers need to be on my desk by the end of next week, and there’s going to be a test on Friday, so look sharp, everyone.” Another chorus of moans.

Eric is a study in busy work: Straighten out your desk, your stack of papers. Collect attendance records. Adjust your older-than-dust glasses on your face. Do this. Do this every day  to hide the creeping disdain that scratches the back of your throat and nags at every thought that once helped you through the day. You used to be greater than this. You used to be respected. A leader of men. There once was a time when you could bend nature to your will, now you’re stuck educating the ancestors of the people who drove yours to the edge of extinction. Don’t think about it. Don’t dwell on it. This is not what you were meant to do. Just finish this day, Eric. It will all be over soon enough. Pack up your briefcase, and try not to notice the pair of eyes that are burning a hole in the back of your skull.

“Class is over, do you have a question?” Eric asked without turning around from the chalkboard.

“Goodness,” said the voice behind him. “The story is much shorter than I remember, Kooda.”

The eraser slowed it’s hissing in his hand as a chill ran up his spine. The last time he was referred to by his birthname, the Pony Express was still in business. Enkoodabooaoo (Kooda for short, or Eric, as he goes by now) knows this voice.  It was deep and warm and unthreatening in a way that distant thunder is.  “Kids these days, you know?” was the response Eric gave as he slowly turned around. “If it isn’t in their smartphones, they could give a damn about it. There was a time where I held the attention of entire villages. Children used to quake in the bosom of their mothers when I told them stories of the ancient ones and their hold on the Earth.”

“Yes, I remember. And now you have to compete with whoever the latest heartthrob is on YouTube.” The voice replied. He slowly rose from his seat from the back of the auditorium and strolled to the front of the class. He was sharply dressed, well coiffed. He has a grin made of a perfect set of teeth that shone brighter against deeply, if not artificially  tanned skin. “I also remember that you yourself were quite handy with the ladies, for a time.”

Silence. It’s that silence that hangs between two people who have known each other forever. “Nothing?” the man continued shrugging his shoulders. “Okay, well…shifting to small talk then. So,” he paused to put on a pair of spectacles, “how are you liking your new role as Professor of…” he delicately opened a tri-folded flyer he took from the Registrar’s Office, “…sorry, Adjunct Professor of Passamaquoddy Studies? Things going well with that?” he asked, teeth blazing.

“What do you want, Jerry?” the teapot of Eric’s patience set to a low simmer.

Gerard Boucher, or Jerry to people who have the privilege of knowing him, has built a life, and some would say a successful one, of being a predator in the banking industry. He was there in the 80s when Wall St. rose, he was there in 08 when it fell. All the while benefiting from winners and losers. He never fails. He has been, and always will be, all about The Deal.  A connoisseur of the finer things in life, it makes him stand out a little more when he is in the middle of a teaching auditorium, in a state college in rural Maine, in a thousand dollar, tailor made suit. “Kooda,” said Jerry in a sing-song voice contorting his face. “Why so hostile? I’m simply inquiring as to the success of your curriculum.”

“You know perfectly well  that it’s important to keep my history…our history alive. Our people were storytellers. We were never big on writing things down, so I think it’s my duty to make sure something of us is remembered.”

“I completely agree with you, Kooda. But they have this thing called the internet now, or haven’t you noticed?”

More silence.

“What do you want, Jerry?” asked Eric, quieter this time.

“You look worried.”

“Should I be?”

“What do you mean? I only… oh… oooooooh wait… you thought… HA!” an almost unnatural guffaw burst from Gerard’s stomach as he slowly clapped. “You think you… that I’m… oh, Wematin. No. No, not that. Well, not yet.”

“Ah, and there it is! The promise of my demise brought up again.”

“I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, Kooda.”

“It’s Eric now. What am I talking about, you say? Well for starters, when we were kids, you told me I could fly if I jumped off a Mt. Cadillac.”

“You’re never going to let me live that down are you?” Gerard sighed, rolling his eyes.

“And what about that other time? Remember?”

“Which one?”

“At Tribal Council? The punch bowl?”

Gerard paused to recall the event. “Oh. That. I just wanted to know if it tasted like hemlock.”

“It was  hemlock, you asshole! You spiked the punch, and I had to spend the rest of the year making sure everyone didn’t die and putting out fires with the elders.”

“Yes, yes. All in the past. I haven’t tried to kill you lately, have I?”

“No, you haven’t. Then again, I haven’t seen you in over twenty years. You disappear without a word  and whenever you do show up from the great beyond, it’s to expedite my premature funeral. For twenty years… “

“Twenty-Five,” said Gerard.

“Whatever, for twenty-five years, I’ve had to look over my shoulder in case you decided to pop out of nowhere and slit my throat. And now, you waltz back into my life. with your suit and smelling like a Wapeyit  and dripping in cash claiming that you won’t. Your words are clothed in sheep’s skin, but I can still see the wolf beneath it. Since when have you ever been interested in anything in my life, Jerry?”

“Been holding that in for a while, have we?” asked Gerard after letting Eric’s words hang in the air.

“A little bit,” Eric replied. “It’s good to see you again, brother. You look well.”

“And you haven’t aged a day,” said Gerard with genuine warmth. “Unfortunately brother, I’m not here to catch up, and insofar as it pains me to go against my instinct and quash my pleasure, I promise, I’m not here to kill you.” Gerard’s always glowing face dimmed a bit as he leaned in closer to his older brother.

“Oh,” said Eric. “well, that’s a relief? I suppose?” As Mephistophelean as he paints his younger brother, Eric felt that Gerard was telling something closer to truth.  Gerard is a successful and powerful man. Eric could see right through him. He always could. “Still though, it’s not like you to show up out of nowhere and not try to ruin my life.”

“Well, I did just arrive.  If we still have time after all of this, I’ll see what I can do to fit it in.” said Gerard with a wink.

“What seems to be the trouble?” Eric smiled in appreciation to a brief moment of familial warmth. “Are you sick? You aren’t bankrupt, are you? Because I’m the wrong guy to ask for help. Maybe if I…”

“It’s not that,” said Gerard, cutting off his brother’s building tirade as gently as possible. “If there is one thing that you and I have in common other than our mother, it is our ability to survive. Growing up in the wilderness alongside the beasts and elements is nothing compared to hostile wilderness that is mergers and acquisitions.”

“So, what you’re saying is…”

“I make Trump look like a nuci-wisuniket.”

Eric stayed silent, save for the uncontrolled chortle that bubbled from his belly. He read the crease in Gerard’s brow that only showed up in times of trouble. Something uncomfortable and unfamiliar was clouding Gerard’s soul.  “Whatever is troubling you,” said Eric, “ it must be big to rattle your bones like this.”

Gerard’s eyes casting quick glances to every corner of the auditorium in mild disdain. “Say, I’ve never been one to have a heart-to-heart in utilitarian, post-war era architecture. Buy me  a drink?”

“Of course.” said Eric. “I know of just the place.”

“I do hope it isn’t tea out of your thermos.”

“I could take you to the campus watering hole. I think it’s Pledge Week.”

“Tea it is then.”

~***~

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