Archive for March 2012

Dearest Readers,

It occurs to me that you may need a hook to catch you into this book. Let me offer you the first chapter here on the blog and also on FaceBook.

 

 

Chapter 1                    My father’s son

 

All young men wish to change their circumstances by excelling past what they know and the places they have been confined to all their lives – no one more than myself. I had thought if I changed my life it would place me outside the stigma my father had created before I was born seventeen years ago. If only thoughts and wishes were the same as the truth.

I grew up not knowing my father terribly well. Most of my memories with him happened prior to my eighth birthday. In the last ten years, no one in the world has seen nor heard from him. It may sound like exaggeration, but the world as a whole has been searching for my father for a decade.

Three years ago, September of 1915 on the Monday before my fifteenth birthday, my father resurfaced in my life.  He made contact with me despite the stupendous risk to himself considering the worldwide turmoil for which he was responsible. I say contact, but nothing was even close to correspondence. I simply received a package and a card. It wasn’t, truthfully, intended for me. The package was addressed to my guardian, Professor Clerc.

I was living with my godparents, Professor Clerc and his wife Dr. Clerc; the dearest friends of my father from his time teaching at Adams University in Cambridge. They were entrusted with my custody after my father disappeared.

I was coming home that dreadful afternoon from school after a particularly torturous day of being ridiculed, shunned and generally abused. Besides what the instructors did, my classmates also bullied me on a regular basis. My godfather spoke with the headmaster at school several times on this matter, but it did nothing to change the opinions of the faculty, staff and students.

Hermius T. Anstruther, Fa.D. is still my father. Nothing can change the fact that fate has given me the distinct place in history as the only son of the most infamous scientist in the history of the North American Empire. It wouldn’t be quite as bad if he, had discovered radio waves like Tesla, or light bulb filaments like Edison.

No, Dr. Anstruther made the world question the human superiority on this planet. In this age of thought and rebirth of science so many great thinkers have given humanity more to believe in and more conviction of humans inalienable right to be the premier species on the globe. There I go speaking like my father.

 

As I remember it, almost three years ago on that fateful day, the package day, there was a boy on the stoop of our flat. His face was ruddy and healthy with a stick propped on the stair next to him. I imagine he had been playing ball with it at some point that day.  The boy seemed impatient. He was staring down at his feet twiddling and skipping while he sat holding a five dollar bill in his left hand. He glanced back and forth from the stick as if he wished only to go on playing the game he had started before being interrupted to sit on my stoop. The bill was jutting its blue-green face from underneath a brown paper package wrapped in far too much twine for its size.

“Professor Clerc?” the lad asked hopeful before he looked up and realized I was just a few years older than him.

I replied wearily with a twinge of suspicion, “No, but can I help you?”

“This package is for him.  I got this fin here to sit on these steps almost all day waiting for him ‘cause the guy who gave me the package told me I could only give it to Professor Clerc, and he’d know if I did or not. Which was awful creepy but I did like he asked me. I’m still here waiting for him,” rambled the boy.

“Did the man give his name when he gave you the package?” My curiosity was getting the better of me. Professor Clerc was so boring and uninteresting. Who would give him such a mysterious package? Who, also, would take the time and trouble to message so oddly a university history professor?

“Nope,” he answered abruptly.

“A card perhaps?” I queried further.

“Oh, yeah, he did and told me to give that to him, even though I can’t read one side of it, ‘cause it’s just a bunch of lines,” he finished this last sentence by putting out his hand and showing me the card. The card must have visibly disturbed me, because the boy backed off slightly at my reaction. I had seen that writing before, years ago.

“I’ll give Professor Clerc the package for you, if you want. He’s my guardian. I live here.” I said abruptly. I was eager to get that note and compare it to a book I keep in the Clerc’s study.

“I don’t know. That guy who gave me the package was pretty serious and very scary.”

I spoke with renewed confidence and tried to persuade the boy to give me the brown paper clad mystery parcel .

“I promise, I’ll deliver it. Unless you want to wait here for the next two hours until Professor Clerc gets home.”

“Two hours?!” the boy sounded exasperated. “I’ve been here all day. My buddies are playing an’ I’m here all day.”

“Are you sure it’s worth just a fin then?” I asked realizing I was getting his thought process started. Then I jingled a few dimes in my hand as an offering.

“You know, you’re right.” He paused, “You promise you’ll give him the package?” I shook my head as he cautiously handed the box with the note and looked around to make sure no one watched him give it to me rather than Clerc.

I looked at the card as the boy snatched the coins from my hand and ran off to play as the day grew slightly darker in the autumn twilight of September.

Father made it a point to teach me things at an early age about places and people most any parent had never even heard of. When I was five, he had written me a note in Futhark, the ancient written language of Nordic tribes. Only my father would write in Futhark knowing how it stifled me the first time he used it.

We would pass messages and letters to each other in this or some other dead written script for fun. I tucked the package beneath my arm and with the note still in hand, hurried to the study.

I was out of practice with Futhark and needed my reference guide. The giant tome of language that I took from the shelf in the study was my fifth birthday gift. An odd gift for a five year old, but my childhood was odd in the first place.

The book was marked at the section on Futhark with a note I received from my father on my fifth birthday. Tattered on the edge and yellowed where it had lain outside, I struggled to remember what it read. My father was a great riddler. He always had a great deal of fun developing quirky thought problems for people on special occasions.

As I retranslated the letters on the older note, I remembered the whole phrase before I finished:

 

The search for knowledge must never end. Thirteen autumns will pass before the flame of truth lights your way.

 

Moving to the new note, the handwriting was the same, but there were new symbols. It was definitely another piece of the riddle begun ten years before. I began the translation and noticed writing on the back of the paper. I suppose I had been too caught up with the fascination of my father’s letter to notice that on the reverse of the note was a letter in Father’s unmistakable scrawl.

 

Clerc, this is for Cavan when the time comes.

 

No signature, but still no doubt who had written it. I longed to run outside and see him. I wished to scream at him for leaving me, to beg to go with him wherever it was he was hiding. This was all fantasy. The boy who had the parcel and note was long gone, who knew how long he had been sitting there. This could be the end of a long chain of messengers that led to the eventual delivery of this secretive box.

Those were the thoughts that kept me in the study. I was tempted to leap out of my skin with joy-filled panic at the thought that my father was near or even coming back for me. Everyone in my life had at this point thought him dead. I knew that translating this note was now my only key to finding Father, if in fact he was still alive.

Sitting at the large desk by the window and grabbing one of the fountain pens from it’s stand, I began translating letter by letter, dividing it into words, then phrases, then sentences.

 

Either by choice or by fate, the son will follow the path of his father.

You must go out into the world to find your truth.

These few truths I found on my path may guide you on yours.

Only you can choose whether to trust in fate.

May this flame light your way to me at journey’s end.

 

I lost control over my hand and the pen as I finished the last four words. Ink spattered out of the tip as I pressed it too forcefully into the page placing dancing dollops on Professor Clerc’s new marble blotter. I hadn’t been paying attention to my surroundings as I looked up and saw the professor standing only a few feet from me and a now very ink laden desk.

“Cavan? What on earth are you doing? And what’s that you’re writing?” came the stout voice more with concern than chiding. He looked fatherly, plump in the middle with a hairline on constant retreat for the last decade. Though he and Dr. Clerc had no children of their own, they treated me mostly as their own. His manner toward me was always of sage counsel and mentor while avoiding getting too close. I never knew if it was out of respect to my father or his discomfort with children below the age of eighteen.

“Cavan. Are you alright?” was the continued query.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine, thank you. I just, I was, you see I…” continuing to stammer my response, I hid the Futhark note in my pocket before the professor got a further look at it. I continued to improvise, “…I was just looking at this book Father had given me years ago. I always loved his riddles.” I lied.

“He always did have a way with puzzles of all sorts, your father. I would surmise that is the reason for his obsession with what he often called ‘our little evolutionary puzzle’. ” My guardian answered trying desperately not to reveal too much. Every year it was this way always about the time of my birthday, the Professor would become edgy. Well, edgier than normal. His mannerism toward me changed and the tension in the flat rose tremendously. I imagined at the time it had something to do with the package that now lay, still unseen by the Professor, at my feet next to the desk.

How to get it to my room? At fifteen I did tend to be clever, but a parcel wasn’t easy to hide for a boy in autumn school uniform. My jacket was too far away to grab, so lying was my only recourse. It was the one thing I abhorred in the world, lying. In this situation, I felt I had no choice.

Attempting to remain nonchalant, I picked up the parcel along with my schoolbooks and began to exit the room praying Clerc would not notice.

“Cavan? What’s that parcel?” He queried with a tone of suspicion. Here came the second lie within minutes.

“Oh, this? It’s a portion of a project I was working on at school. A sculpture, sir. Would you like to see it?” The last bit came out as a gamble that Clerc would have no interest in my teenage artwork.

“No. No, that’s alright. It looks as though it must be fragile with all that wrapping. Be careful with it. Why don’t you run along now as I have some work to do here. Don’t worry about the language text or the ink; I’ll put it back for you and clean up from that unreliable pen of mine.” He sounded relieved which only spurned my curiosity further.

 

The stairs flew by me as I took them two at a time with balusters flashing in a blur next to my legs as I tore down the hall to my room. I only slowed for a second to pass by the fairy cage. Dr. Clerc had long kept fairies as pets. With my thoughts still on my father I slowed down and looked closely at the two fairies behind the bars. Father always did have a problem with this sort of thing. I remember him saying the same thing every time he passed a pet shop or proper lady’s garden.

“How odd I find that humans keep fairies in cages. If only they knew what they were doing.” He would then abruptly change the subject to the weather or some other mundane piece of conversation.

I realize it was his specialty in science, to study fairies, but he almost sounded like a madman at times when faced with how people treated these insects. I’d grown up all my early years being taught to appreciate the wonder of this world by a man with a very different perspective on the common everyday. Father often pointed out the wondrous things in the simplest places.

I found that this thought slowed me when I watched the fairies in Dr. Clerc’s cage flitter from petal to petal on the silk flowers they had been given to mimic being outside year-round. The little things seemed to speak with each other in twits and clicks almost as a language. Like looking at little winged apes, the two females played, ate and slept in this terrarium all day long. What harm could possibly come of retaining insects in a safe place?

Perhaps it is because they look so human and Father spent so much time studying them that he felt a connection. I remember placing the thought out of my head and continuing on my way to the sanctuary of my room. It’s odd, but I can’t recall that there was much to my room. There was a bed, a desk, stool, and a lamp. The real power of the place lie in two things – my electric Victrola I had received as a thirteenth birthday gift and my drawings strewn about my desk.

After tossing my books to the floor and the parcel and note upon my desk, I walked to my Victrola and placed my favorite record on it – Gustav Mahler’s Seventh Symphony played by the Royal Orchestra. This piece always resonated with me when I needed to think. The music began as power surged through the machine and spun the disk along with my thoughts. Mahler’s notes played on my brain as I picked up the box and note.

What did Father mean by May this flame light your way to me at journey’s end? What journey? Was it life? Did he hope to see me in heaven? Not that he believed in it. Conversely, neither did I. The items in the box must be the clue to solve this riddle of his planned for ten years at least. Taking out the pocketknife I always carried, I cut the twine and ripped open the paper. The sight was as astonishing as it was puzzle box.

It was a box, wooden and carved by hand out of an exotic wood I had never seen with the finest detail that only a master craftsman could have created. The markings were foreign and new to me. Even with all my father’s forcing me to study ancient language, the only thing I could make out was that it might be tribal. There was a mix of symbols and letters, like an amalgamation of Germanic tribal writing mixed with Egyptian hieroglyphics.

My fingers perused the marks as thoroughly as my eyes. I drank in this object with all my senses. It smelled almost of fresh wood, but looked ancient in nature. Not that it was battered and buried, but the markings were so strikingly alien to this world that I felt transported to somewhere else by the mere presence of the thing which rattled as if it contained something.

The reverse side of the note is the only piece of this puzzle that kept me from toying with the box until it opened and revealed its contents.

 

Clerc, this is for Cavan when the time comes.

 

What time? What did the Professor know about my father that he was keeping from me? As I mentioned before, I hate lying. That stands for lies of omission as well. How long had they kept this from me? Almost as if on cue, Professor Clerc knocked at my bedroom door.

“Cavan?” He asked while I stumbled to hide the box and note.

“Yes, sir?” I answered hoping there was no reason for him to come into my room.

“It will be time for dinner shortly; please do your schoolwork beforehand as you have your lessons tonight.” I had forgotten about my piano lessons. Damn. I hated learning piano nearly as much as I hated the half dozen other instruments I was forced to try. Thankfully that year by Christmas, the piano teacher would give up. The Clercs would finally realize I am not a musician.

“Thank you, sir. I will get my work done.” As I said this, I had no intention of getting my schoolwork done. I took the box and note from the temporary hiding place I had put them in and continued my investigation. The box had no discernable lid or end seam. It had appeared to be carved from a single block. It couldn’t have been because something was inside. I could see it through the only hole in it, which was located at the center.

When the dinner bell rang, I placed the box in its hiding place once more and went dutifully downstairs. For the next two weeks, I searched the object with every means I knew. Magnifiers revealed no cracks or seams. Researching the language did no good as it did not appear in any of the books in the study. I even went so far as to make rubbings of the exterior with conte crayon and paper. Taking these rubbings to the library on Adams University campus, I still had no luck. My interest in the box waned, and it began to collect dust in the corner of the hidden horn compartment of my Victrola.

Every so often throughout the next three years, I would take it out, look it over and place it back in its hiding place. Like my father, it was another mystery I thought would never be solved. It was left to wait for me to care again about solving that mystery.

The wait would be long.

 

Dearest Readers,

“I have of late lost all my mirth.” Not entirely, but certainly I have been less enthused about my individual work than normal. The rigors of my career have caused me to not have the leisure time I so desperately seek to do my writing and sketching. I find that as much as I adore my chosen vocation, the problem lies in that I am spreading myself artistically parchment thin.

Upon speaking with a colleague, she stated, “Knowing you, you’ve got lots of pokers in the fire.”

I responded with, “At this point there are more pokers than coals.”

Although she thought I was joking and we shared a chuckle (mine loaded and forced), I could not have been more serious. Going on the metaphorical, I do not have a lot on my plate, as much as an entire buffet on a tea saucer. As I slowly cross to do items off my list, the slots get filled in with more tasks to accomplish.

I am sorry to sound the slightest bit of a complaining moaner. I do truly mean to simply vent on this forum.

Happiness, for me, is found in the things that inspire me. My family, art, the work of my predecessors these are the charms in my life that persuade me to prevail. I challenge myself to achieve not only to better myself, but to better enrich the lives of my readers. For this, I press forward.

The vast amount of work that seems to daunt my day will soon pass, giving way to a more open time during which I can concentrate on my art and writing. For now, I must draw from the chaos that is my career and allow it to feed future endeavors. To note the tumult and din of the happenings in my life in order to feed the fires of inspiration will be my new goal. Grasping at the dust shooting past me like particles in a beam of light, I will heave my net into the mass and glean from it what information will cause my stories to flourish and my art to shine.

Thank you, Dearest Readers, for your patience as I vent and regroup during the storm of activity I am placed in. I sometimes need to recall the blessing that is my career as it allows me to create and enjoy my daily work instead of trudge through menial tasks and profit-seeking banality that once beset me. For now, I will finish the days set before me and return in a short while to my artistic loves.

Yours in Art,

 

Jason