Photo by David Banuelos

Hiraeth Excerpt (Chapter Eight: Everything Begins to Come Together)

The following is an excerpt of:

Hiraeth: 

The Boy Who Dreamed and the Big Bad Wolf Which He Became

By Tex Batmart

If you haven’t been with us from the start, check out Chapter One here

Chapter Eight: Everything Begins to Come Together

If the second grade had been the time in his academic career which seemed designed to make him despise all forms of education, then the third grade was when he found out that he might actually have a chance of making it through until the end, and that he might actually be able to do the whole writing thing, after all. It was also the year that he found out that he didn’t care for homework, and the year he came to know David Banuelos, both as a classmate, and as a fellow member of their local Cub Scout troop. He was still reeling from the loss of Heather Hopkins, but found consolation in the process of writing stories and making friends at school. It was also the year that he began to butt heads with his mother, and the beginning of his lifelong struggle with mental illness, though it was merely in its infancy then.

He had finished with daycare, and was spending his afternoons at his mother’s job until she got off of work. This allowed her to ensure that he still had supervision, while freeing her from the shackles of an ever-increasing childcare expense. For Tex, it was a chance to hang out somewhere new (yet close to home) and play around on typewriters and computers. He wrote a story there during the fall of 1988, the title of which this author has been unable to uncover. Many years later, Tex admitted that he had conceived of, and completed this unknown tale, but had taken steps to eradicate it from the world. The other two major stories he penned that year, Mission Titan and A Nightmare on Oak Street, however, remained extant, despite his best efforts. Perhaps the unknown story might have survived the Great Purge, and Tex’s choice of historical revisionism, had it been included in the class book he and his classmates put together in the Spring, but the children were only allowed two submissions, and he chose his strongest work.

A Nightmare on Oak Street was an homage to the Horror genre, though he had not, personally, ever seen a single film of that nature. Of the two stories which remained from that time period, it was his least favorite. Not because of the quality of his written words, for even in his advanced age, he had to admit that it was not that bad of a beginning, but because it was so entirely derivative of subjects which he did not understand, as well as a product of his time. The additional fact that it managed to boast several chapters, despite its length of nearly one and one-half pages, may have contributed to its exclusion from the subjects of which he was inclined to discuss.

Mission Titan, however, was his pride and joy. He’d picked up a Solar System-themed coloring book from the Pacific Science Center in Seattle over the summer, and had, based upon the science facts within, decided that if there was to be a new home for the human race, our most likely bet appeared to exist upon that moon. Now, owing to the fact that he was only nine years old, many of the details within the tale are plainly wrong. Not to mention that every character who was to appear upon the page was a nod to someone he knew personally, despite the minor detail that they were all under the age of ten. Of course, he’d also set the story in the not-too-distant future, so it was conceivable, at least to him, that the events contained within could, one day, come to pass.

Actually, he attempted to resurrect Mission Titan twice more over the next couple of years, but to no success. As his methods grew more sophisticated, he attempted to resolve the major plot issues which had so painfully stood out, but no matter how he tried, he found that he could not salvage this ill-fated tale of woe. As a matter of fact, until he reached his mid-thirties, Mission Titan was the only one of his stories which he ever revisited, unless you count his vacillations regarding whether The Midnight Hour was a poem or short story. Ultimately, though, the only home that story ever knew was in the pages of The Radest Book by the Radest Kids in The Radest World, a title which so entirely encompasses every failing of the 1980’s that even Greatest Hits albums and cocaine cannot hope to overtake it to claim their title.

An additional note, before moving on to other aspects of that year, both pleasant and traumatic: To compliment each story (or poem, as the case might be), each author was also encouraged to be his or her own illustrator, and so the book was filled with childish poetry and prose, as well as crudely drawn interpretations of the major points within each tale. And at the end of each tale (or, in the case of prodigious wordsmiths such as Mr. Batmart, the end of each author’s first tale) was thumbnail photograph of the author which sat above a small autobiographical blurb. The entry for young Batmart, which sat before his photo taken in the second grade (as he had been sick on Picture day that year), read as follows:

Tex Batmart lives on Bainbridge Island with his family. Some of his many hobbies include: collecting Ghostbusters and writing. A Nightmare On Oak Street is his latest work. Tex is also the author of: Who Killed Babyface Barbara? and Mission Titan.

 

Dear reader, you may have noticed an additional title snuggled up within that short bibliography, and perhaps deduced that this may have been the missing story to which I may or may not have referenced earlier. To this, I must admit my complicity in the attempted act of literary redaction. It is my hope that such an admission (necessitated only by the existence of dozens of potential copies of this book) will put to rest any further attempts to discern the title of that tale, and accept, once and for all, that this is the most that you will ever get.

This book was the first work which he ever had published, and, due to parental sales, the project very nearly broke even. Tex was grateful, of course, for the exposure. What he was not particularly grateful for, whether at that time, or at any other spent as a student in his third grade class, was the onerous task of daily homework. Their teacher had put it to a vote at the beginning of the year, and Batmart had been vehemently opposed. He saw through the rhetorical trap which his teacher had so casually set, and was not swayed by such frivolities as “being more grown-up,” or peer pressure. And when he saw that he was firmly in the minority, he argued that, since he had not been interested in participating, if perhaps it wasn’t a trifle of an injustice that he be obligated to do so.

As expected, his teacher informed him that the vote had somehow been a binding one, and that he would have to do that year’s assignments, just like his fellow schoolmates. This, obviously, led to some difficulties at home.

Perhaps if he had suffered on his test scores, or lacked the ability to soak up information and abstracts concepts with an ease which put the process of osmosis to shame, he might have conceded to his mother’s protestations that homework was a necessary evil, but in reality, he found it to be dull and rather pointless. What, he wondered, was the point in countless repetitions when he understood things the first time they were presented? Again, perhaps it was his intelligence which drove a wedge between himself and his mother, but regardless of the reason, a wedge between them there was indeed. He couldn’t yet articulate his arguments against her reasoning, but was determined to find the words to win her to his side. Alas, in his many years of schooling, he never did find those magic words.

What he did find, however, was a trip to a family counselor, which he considered to be an epic waste of his time.

He never reacted well to being patronized, and this counselor was notorious for doing only that. Every Friday night in an office at the local church, Tex would have to sit and listen to this pompous fool go on and on about how everything that Tex was doing was completely wrong. Perhaps the counselor intended to break the boy, correct him early enough to bypass all of that which was to come, but for that to have occurred, he would have had to start several years earlier. The final straw, according to Tex Batmart, was an exercise in which the boy was to imagine all his negative emotions as a steaming pile of excrement atop an extra chair. Having done that, he was then instructed to sit down in the imaginary poo, and describe how it must have felt. It was in that very moment that young Batmart knew that he had won.

Up until that point, his mother had gone along, having placed her trust in this trained professional, but at this exercise, even she could not continue. Would that she could have learned something more from this moment of clarity, but, alas, it was not to be. It would be a number of years before she would try again, but when that moment came, she redoubled her efforts and refused to be denied. Had she only known that was driving her son toward the only sport which every truly enjoyed (aside from baseball).

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