“The Field” A new story. All true. Mostly true.
I want to tell you a story. A story about what was, what is, and what will be. We never had a lot of time to talk. I’m sorry about that. I was always around, I just didn’t want to intrude. It’s hard you see, being family, but living so far away. Hope you can forgive me for that. Anyway, let’s start at the beginning…
Zachary, I am 14 years old and you have just been born. I feel too young to be an uncle. I don’t know if I am up for it. When I see you for the first time you are a 1 year old already and propping yourself up on two wobbly legs. You and your daddy have matching haircuts. He is proud. I pick you up and in the way that people who know nothing about children do, which is wearily. I walk you around the room to see what you are interested in. If you point at something, we dwell on it until you are bored then move onto the next thing. You are more interested in being dropped on the couch. Every time I drop you on the cushions, each time a little bit higher, the momentary fear fills your eyes with excitement. When you land safely you laugh wildly. One time I accidentally drop you on the hard arm of the couch, your head lands with a dull thud and your eyes start to fill with tears and mistrust and I panic. Your father comes into the room and asks what’s the matter. I tell him I have no idea, kids just cry I guess. You also threw up on me once so let’s just call it even.
Zachary, I am 20 and you are 6. You, your daddy and I are going snowmobiling. We ride on the shoulder of the road, going up and over driveways, veering around drainpipes. I get my snowmobile stuck in a ditch. I don’t get to use these in Michigan, you see. Your daddy gets off his and gets on mine, he bounces it up and down trying to get it out of the impossible spot I’ve gotten it into and starts to get very grumpy. You get off your kid-sized snowmobile and stand next to the road, looking back and wondering how anyone related to you could possibly not know how to ride a snowmobile. Your daddy notices you are only a few feet from the speeding traffic, not happily I can tell you. You don’t notice though, you just stand there as the cars rush past you. You are a fearless child. Your daddy yells at you to get away from the road and I feel like this is all my fault, that if you get hit by a car it will be because I don’t know how to ride a snowmobile and I feel the first parental shiver of panic ever to go through my body. I remember the moment perfectly. The color of your jacket, the sound of the road and your daddy’s frustration, my shame and fear. It is the first taste of being a parent I ever have and it scares the hell out of me for years to come.
Zachary, I am 26 and you are 12. Your aunt Sara is getting married and everyone is together. I am glad to be a part of it though I feel like a stranger here. You have too much hair and I guess that it will be that way for a long time to come. I hope that you enjoy that hair because you don’t know if it’ll last forever with these genes. Maybe you got lucky. I hope that you did. After the wedding you find some water balloons and do what 12 year old boys do. Your now-official-uncle Josh gives as good as he gets in the battle. I watch you chase each other, always laughing, always ready for the next round. I see family. I see love. It is nice to see it for even a little while. One time you come back to the front porch to find another water balloon, I call you “Roo” because that is what people in our family call you, I have heard it since you were a baby. You tell me that is a name for your Dad to call you, even though everyone here calls you that. What you mean is family, that is what your family calls you. I understand and return to Michigan. I hope things are different one day.
Zachary, I am 29 and you are 15. There isn’t a stitch of boy fat left in those cheeks. You’re on your way now. You have even more hair and your pants hang off your butt and it doesn’t bother me that much, but I tease you about it because I don’t know what else to say. I get you some drum equipment for Christmas, it is just what you wanted. I am glad your father was around to tell me what to buy. I am at the age when people my age start buying people your age the wrong thing for Christmas and birthdays unless given very specific instructions. I have had a difficult year. I am glad to spend a holiday with family, it means a lot to me. I see you once more after that, at my college graduation when I am 30. I am very glad that you made the trip with your dad. It meant a lot that you came.
Zachary, I am 33 and you are 19 and you have done something that hurts so many people more terribly that we could ever imagine is possible. I cannot understand it. I have been a 19 year old boy and I did not like it very much either. I have felt lost and alone, everyone does. I wish we could have talked more. I am deafened by the sound of the conversations we never had. I would have told you it is good to feel lost, it means there are endless possibilities. I would have told you finding yourself is part of the journey. And I would have told you to pull your pants up. But I can’t, because you are somewhere else.
Zachary, I am 42. I feel like I am old now, even though it isn’t necessarily true. Your sisters are teenagers. It is terrible. They are cute and blonde and the boys are showing up now. They appear on the porch steps, eyes full of innocence, bodies full of hormones. You should be here to chase them away, but you can’t, because you aren’t here. Your father does the best he can, but his heart isn’t in it. I take up the slack when I am in town. When the boys ask why they haven’t seen me before. I tell them I was recently paroled. They look doubtful, but cautious nonetheless. We get rid of most of the riff raff, but one or two stay, they always do. There will be late night phone calls and the occasional sounds of broken hearts from your sisters’ bedrooms. I tell them boys are stupid anyway, best to stay away, stick to books. They laugh and say, “oh Uncle Jimmy,” as if speaking to a child. It isn’t necessarily untrue.
At this point in my life, if I am lucky, then I have met a woman who loves me, and if I am smart, I have learned to let my guard down. I have seen the worried look of a daughter’s father and so I hope to have a son. I am partial to the name, Benjamin. It is a family name you see and I like old fashioned things. Your aunt may fight me on this, I may surrender. Did you know you shared a middle name with your father, grandfather, and great-grandfather and in this way it lasted for almost one hundred years? Wayne was a good name, a solid name, but if there is a son, his middle name will be Zachary.
Zachary, I am 65. I am an old man, but still better looking than your father. He is 75 and a bit slower these days. He has missed you for a very long time. We all have. Did I tell you I have a grandson? I will probably not understand his name. Kids these days. You would agree with me if you were here, you would be 51, but you aren’t, you are 19 and perfect. My grandson could be named Jupiter Carey or Starbucks Carey or some other nonsense, but his middle name will be Zachary if I have anything to say about it. It is a family name after all and we like old fashioned things.
I have thought of you for a very long time at this point, growing up by far more than leaps and bounds through my eyes. I think of water fights and snowmobiles because those are my memories. I am glad to have had any of them. I am grateful to have had all of them.
I hope to go where you are one day, to tell you more of the memories that haven’t happened yet, to pick up where things left off, to see all those I have missed for a very long time. I hope that we are all together then, in one form or another. Goodbye Zachary. Until next time.
Jimmy, your Uncle.
I’ve been reading some articles lately aimed at the legalese one encounters with the purchase of digital property, ebooks for instance. Basically the articles are meant to point out the strict controls that the publishing world wields on ebooks, that you have rights to transfer them, that they can occasionally yank them without warning, that you’re essentially a “licensee”.
The writer of said articles are trying to put a magnifying glass on the strict terms of digital property ownership. Look! They say. You can’t really do whatever you want or give your digital stuff to whoever you want and you probably don’t have the right to own it in perpetuity! The horror! The unmitigated corporate greed!
But they’re using their brief moment of your attention for the wrong reasons.
The ebook debate is one that will be forefront in the coming days as more and more publications go digital, from magazines to newspapers to the day when even well known authors publish full-length novels strictly in digital form. As always we’re focusing on the wrong thing, trying to get you worried about someone stealing your precious things, the stuff that makes you who you are. Right?
The terms that come with an ebook don’t come with a physical copy of a book, they say. You can lend a real book out. You can keep it…forever.
Can you keep something forever? Can you take it with you when you shuffle off this mortal Barnes and Noble? Obviously no. Can’t take your iPad either I’m sorry to say. We’re all just renting. Everything you have, will be someone else’s one day. It’ll be your kid’s or your sibling’s or your girlfriend’s or the dump’s. It’s all going to go away. Why spend your life maintaining things?
Even more ridiculous is the idea that maybe physical stuff is better than digital stuff because then you can at least have it for as long as you live. How insane. The point of a book is not to display it, is not to hoard it, is not to fetishize it or build an altar to it, it’s to read it. Crazy right? You’re supposed to read the thing. Like it, love it or hate it and then MOVE ON. There are a thousand more books to read in your lifetime, a thousand more stories to connect with, make part of your own story and keep growing.
Let’s stop worrying about how to keep as much stuff as we can for as long as we can and start focusing on enriching our lives with thoughts and experiences. Focus on sharing your love of a story with a friend rather than your ebook lending restrictions. If they are that interested they can go to the library like we should all be doing anyway. We already paid for that.
There comes many a time, I’m sure, when the amateur bloggers of the world (moi) sit down with a nice cup of caffeinated go-go juice and start tap-tap-tapping away about the things they love and the things they’ve learned and they ask themselves this question…”what the hell am I doing this for?“ And that’s a fair question, it’s important to ask that question about a lot things we do in life and it’s something I often think about as I wax philosophical about technology or getting rid of stuff or zombies.
Blogging, like anything we do main to derive pleasure from and a gain sense of satisfaction from but without the promise of immediate monetary gain, is technically a hobby. Hobbies are something that even under the best of circumstances come with a certain kind of stigma and blogging certainly is no different. You can tell your friends what kind of stuff you do for fun and many will not really get it. Their eyes glaze over as they think about what reality television show they’ll be watching that night, or at the worst, think you’re some kind of nut, because hobbies are seen somewhat as the precursors of obsessions; a whole new territory of crazy.
To me, blogging is simply writing, in its most boiled down form. It’s a public journal of sorts. Getting your thoughts on digital paper and sending them over the wall of your supportive, but not always understanding social circle. Outside the wall, people are intrigued with your work, your unique perspective in part because you are unknown to each other in the real world. They enjoy your unique voice and the shared camaraderie with a stranger. Feeling those connections makes the world seem not so big and scary. That’s what the best parts of the internet are all about.
The great thing about blogging is that these days it’s also a platform. What is a platform? What is a platform NOT? You can do whatever you want with it. Get up on stage and shout your message up to the rafters and see if any of it sticks. Maybe the audience is silent or totally non-existent. Does this make what you did any less important? Hell no. You might be talking to an empty room for a while, but the great thing about the world is that it’s filled with lots of people, and eventually one of them is going to wander in and dig what you’re saying. Whether you want to start charging for tickets is up to you, but it’s possible is the point.
Have fun with it. Be yourself, that’s what we’re interested in. I’m me all day and then some, I don’t need you to be me too, I’ve got that covered. Go and tell me about model railroads, llama herding, gardening, organizing, drawing, sewing, rock collecting or cooking with tofu. I may not be your perfect audience, but I bet I know someone who is. Some days a blog is a diary and some days it’s a how-to guide. It’s versatile, it doesn’t have to be anything tomorrow that it was today, that’s what’s great about it.
Blogging is arguably, most importantly, a conversation. How you fill that auditorium with other participants is up to you. You can put out a trail of breadcrumbs on social media or let SEO do some of the work for you. It’s a learning experience. You aren’t meant to know all the tricks from day 1 or 100, because we haven’t really figured all that out yet. The whole place is a giant blank page. Have fun with it.
What do YOU think a blog is?
Oh, and read my blog.
Got my ninth rejection letter for a writing submission yesterday. Although those nine rejection letters are for about 5 different pieces that I’ve written over the past year. Is it strange that I’m excited for number ten? Double digits, baby.
Even though the responses I’ve gotten have been minuscule in their communication, I feel like every one helps me write a bit better. I wasn’t taking very many chances with what I was sending in the beginning and now I’m really working on refining what I’m doing rather than just hoping something sticks. Although if anything stuck, it would be really fantastic.
I’m really hoping to get something that Daily Science Fiction will love since I enjoy the work they publish, but so far no joy. Perhaps next time, DSF? Hmmm?
In the meantime I’ve been putzing around with my other blog creation, Classic Fiction Magazine. Is it a magazine?? Did I create an ezine just to combat the cold rejection I’ve received?
I just wanted a place to review movies and such that wasn’t on my main blog and I also wanted to make a place online where people could submit stories that would have been contemporaneous with Bradbury or the Twilight Zone or featured on X Minus One. I love those stories with a passion and although I enjoy much of the fiction published on the big boy semi-pro zines online, I think there just isn’t any room for classic style stories these days. And I won’t be using it as a venue for my own stuff, it’s purely for other writers, I have my blog and other places for that.
Also, I joined Scribophile because hell, it’d just be nice to hear an opinion once in a while. It’s a bit difficult to write in a vacuum and I don’t have anyone I can bounce ideas off of at the moment so to the internets I go. I have my doubts about it. But it reminds me of Zoetrope All-Story in the way you earn points for posting work by critiquing work except in a better format and a web design that isn’t stuck in 2001.
Fair thee well, chums.