She has decided she will have her breasts removed.
Not easily decided, she’d been moving along this river since she first discovered that she and the gender binary structure of the modern western world didn’t match up well. She didn’t feel female, and when she acted upon her urges, she was a lesbian. But she had no desire to be a man, with a penis hanging between her legs. That didn’t appeal to her at all. Just because she wasn’t a woman, it didn’t mean she wanted to be man.
It’s a shocking decision to most, to cut off her breasts, because it’s outside of their realm of normal expectations to cut off healthy tissue. She accepts it as healthy tissue, but not as a part of her. She’s never liked them, perhaps, he speculates, because others tried to define her by this outward trait. Breasts, after all, seem to be the defining trait for American women. Heterosexual males in America love to see breasts displayed, as long as they’re refined into shapes thrust upon Victoria’s Secret models, and aren’t being used to breastfeed a child in public. Egads, has she no shame?
That’s unfair, he cries, for he is a man, and he doesn’t think like that, except he secretly does, due to the vein of social sexual commercialization in which he was raised. He recognizes the absurdity and hypocrisy, and fights it as he can.
He thinks about the thirty-year-old woman having her breasts removed. He was fortunate to be born a sex and sexual preference with which his society is comfortable. He fits neatly into the gender binary slots. He’s never had to think through having his penis removed, for example, for any reason. He thought, what if I was her? What if I was a female, and hated my breasts, and wanted them removed? He thought about the strength and clarity such a decision needed. He thought about the woman and her intelligence, creativity, and personality. None of that would change.
Strong people come in all shapes and genders, even if it defies our categorization. But Jesus, why do we need these categories, anyway?
Who do they serve?
I’ve been on pause from editing the novel in progress, “Incomplete States.” I’d become troubled that it was missing an overall aspect that could tie it together.
It wasn’t something I immediately jumped on. I let it flow through me for a while and considered what I’d written, the novel’s totality. I didn’t want to be rash. I convinced myself it was necessary to add a greater arc.
I didn’t have any idea what that arc would be.
I began addressing the problem by thinking and writing about it. Exactly what was it that I was looking for in the greater arc? The novels and series that are most in mind with this novel came back to me:
- Roger Zelazny’s “Chronicles of Amber”
- George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice”
- Frank Herbert – “Dune”
- Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series
- J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
- J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy
To a lessor extent, I also thought of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. All that reading helps.
This wasn’t a quest novel, though; I wanted to ensure I didn’t accept an easy route and create another quest.
Several aspects attracted me. One, the epic sweep. Two, was how these novels and series embraced multiple levels of acceptance about the past, legends and myths, and prophecies. As the past receded in them, the past blended with myth and legend. More people in the novels grew enamored with lessor concerns that gathered importance in their lives, like fortunes, empires, and revenge. These smaller concerns were magnified into important concerns that eventually dwarfed the true, greater threats. In a way, I saw mirrors with our own planet and human civilizations, and how often we put profits, nation, and empire ahead of civilization and the planet.
These novels and series also attracted me because of the greater and lessor acceptance. Uniform agreement about what was to happen, what had happened, and why, didn’t exist. Elements told their own stories. The differences in these stories provided the foundations for tension and conflict.
I wrote a one paragraph summary of each of these novels and series, defining their greater arcs against the dominant sub-stories that often propelled most of the action. That helped me clarify what I though my novel lacked.
Then I turned my attention to my novel and the situation.
I began by organizing information. Hundreds of thousands of words had been written. Deciding I needed visual assistance, I created character cards for the six major characters. Keeping faithful to the novel’s concept induced me to create character cards for each of their major iterations. As this novel is about cosmic and other entanglements, several of the characters are sometimes male, and sometimes female, with and without children, and sometimes married to one another. Sometimes one is the other’s parent, and sometimes, they’re enemies. Cards were created for each of them.
Having the cards allowed me to tack them up and move them around, hoping to prompt new thinking and insights. That approach produced; I brainstormed potential ideas, and then walked, thinking through what attracted me to each, and discarding some. After doing this, I thought I’d come up with the structure for the greater arc.
About four days had passed.
I sat down to write this morning. While I’d been thinking through all of these angles, the muse, or the muses, were at work in me. Sitting down with the slimmest idea of what was now to happen, I began typing. Within a few lines, I was on a world I’d not conceived before this. Memory of Jack Chalker’s “The Four Lords of the Diamond” series flashed into me along with Brian Aldiss’ Helliconia trilogy. New characters jumped into action, along with the agenda they pursued, in accordance with the greater arc.
Finishing with thirty-five hundred words about an hour later, I felt excellent about where I was. There’s still a tremendous amount to be done, but I had the semblance of the direction, the outlines of a plan, and vague ideas about events.
It was a good day of writing like crazy.
Tummy-tease (Catfinition): When a cat lays on their back, exposing their furry belly, as if in invitation to rub it, only to roll over and leap away when approached, or attack the hand (or foot) with fang and claw.
“Fake news will ruin the Internet.”
– Benjamin Franklin
He was in the bath room, fresh from the shower and reaching for a towel, when he heard the sound.
It sounded like a thump in the other room, like someone was in the house. Knowing he was home alone, he grew still and listened for it again. He’d left the windows open to bring in fresh, cold mountain air before the day became the oven in hell’s kitchen. Someone may have come through one of the windows.
The thump came again.
It was not from the other room, but from below.
He looked down, considering what he’d heard and where it emanated. For, it seemed like the sound had come from his abdomen.
Listening for it, he heard it again, like someone jumping on the floor, coming from his abdomen.
Was that normal? He’d never heard a noise like that from his body before.
He resumed drying. Growing old was a murky business. The more he aged, the less he knew his body, and the less he trusted it.
He never knew what it was going to do next.
To counter our dry, hot weather, I thought I’d post something with precipitation.
First songs to stream in were, “Let It Snow,” and “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” “Singing in the Rain” quickly followed. Songs by New Edition, Seal and The Rescues jumped in there. Tina Turner, “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” joined the queue, and then Blind Melon, “No Rain.”
Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain” streamed in. Yes, that’s the one. Although it offers a lightly macabre vision of someone screaming and red rain falling, Gabriel’s dreams inspired the song, and I like its heavy percussion presence. We were living in Columbia, South Carolina, when this song was released. Columbia had fantastic afternoon deluges throughout the summer, and this song reminded me of sitting on our apartment’s balcony as the rain poured, chilling the air.
Here we are, from nineteen eighty-six, and the “So” album, “Red Rain.”
I’ve been going under during the last few days, consumed by smoke and heat. Hard hit with a sinus infection that induced impressions that my head and eyeballs were due to burst open with an alien presence, I had no energy and needed rest. Sleep, though, contemptuously dismissed my efforts.
My Fitbit, however, didn’t care.
The Fitbit doesn’t have an atom of empathy. Noticing that I was walking less on Friday, it said, “Come on, let’s step,” in its usual friendly manner that morning. By the late afternoon, its tone shifted to, “Are you going to move, you lazy slob?” On Saturday, it was asking, “Why do I bother to count? You’re not doing anything. Come on, get up.”
Instead of pestering me once every hour, it took to dinging me about every ten minutes. “Are you going to do anything today?” it asked with a sulking cadence.
“I told you, I’m not feeling well,” I answered it.
“So you’re not going to do anything.”
I popped Advil, and then gargled with warm salt water before answering. “I’m going to try to do something, just not right now. I’m having some tea first.”
“Malingerer,” it muttered back. “I want to go out.”
I put it on the cat. “There you go.”
“Hey,” the Fitbit said. The cat shook it off its paw with an angry, offended look. Neither of them were happy with me.
At three thirty that afternoon, I left the house to walk to a friend’s place to assist them with a computer problem. The weather was remarkably cool, and the smoke had dispersed enough to clearly see the Grizzly Peak across the valley. We experienced a temp spike while I was there. Coming home, it was much hotter, and I was much sweatier.
“Oh, you’ve at four miles,” my Fitbit said. “Why, you’re an Olympic athlete.”
There were no fireworks from the Fitbit that night. It settled into a sullen silence. Finally getting a few hours of sleep, I renewed my determination to reach my goals today. I noticed that the Fitbit hadn’t said anything.
“What’s the matter?” I asked it.
“I’m feeling a little under the weather,” it replied. “Do you mind if we just stay in today?”
Meownemy (Catfinition): A feline’s sworn nemesis, whose appearance immediately triggers a high (and noisy) state of alert. These relationships often defy logic, and are embedded in the murky world of felmotions.