All posts by texbatmart

Apocalyptica apmb4c Pre-Show

There are times that I am jealous of my son. At the tender age of one decade, he’s got his own: TV, gaming console, computer, and full set of parents. And as of tonight, he will have gone to two metal shows. And met the band both times. Sure, I’ll have met them both times as well, but I’ve been to significantly more shows than he has.

His first show was the wrap-up of Apocalyptica’s Shadowmaker tour, and I decided to splurge on VIP tickets. That show was also the third time in which my wife and I had seen them (though it was our first VIP experience as well). The whole day, David was bouncing around, stoked that he was going to get to do something cool with mommy and daddy. And why shouldn’t he have been excited? At almost nine years of age, he was getting to stay out late and go see a show in person. Of course, he didn’t maintain his levels of indomitable energy, but that was a slight oversight on my part.

I’ve been going to the occasional show since I was thirteen (Endfest ’93, if you must know, was what officially popped my concert cherry), and the various smells which accompany them had long since passed from the forefront of my brain. No longer did my nose consider overwhelming B.O. or just the slightest wafting hint of marijuana worthy enough of my attention. So while I was enjoying the hell out of the concert, and Wildflower was patiently tolerating it (as it turns out, I’m up for epic walks to venues to save a few dollars, while she is most decidedly not), David was practically nodding off. I figured it was just a case of being burnt out, until I went down from the balcony seating (where Flor had insisted upon sitting) to the main floor where I could properly feel the spirit of Metallica covers played in San Francisco.

Once again, I barely registered the smell of a freshly lit joint, but it wasn’t until I followed the billowing smoke upwards, and caught sight of the balcony where my wife and son were sitting, that I finally figured out why my son, the Energizer Buddy, was so wiped. I walked back up the stairs at the end of the song to rejoin my family, to find David practically passed out, despite the roaring volume in the hall. I briefly let Wildflower know what was going on, and the look I received was murderous.

We finished out the show, and hung around to finally meet the band. Due to some sort of administrative cock-up, the Meet & Greet was held after the show, and it was like herding cats trying to keep David upright, and Wildflower moderately conscious. I could tell that both of them wanted to call it a night, but I felt (rightly so, I still believe) that, as I’d spent the money so that we could have the pleasure of meeting the band, that we should stick around and, you know, actually meet the band.

And I’m glad we did just that. It was a little crazy and disorganized, but Apocalyptica were good sports about it, and we had a nice little time. As they were coming by to do autographs, I mentioned to them that it was David’s very first show. We then lined up to do the photo-op, and after our picture was taken (the three of us), the band then asked to get a separate photo with just David.

I’d already liked the band, their music, and appreciated the quality of their live performances, but this kind of blew me away. They must have been at least a little exhausted (despite the adrenaline, lifting a cello over your head and bowing at Metallica speeds is still, I would imagine, quite an expenditure of energy), and there were quite a few people behind us, but they made a point of doing something special to make a little boy’s day, and that earned my loyalty and respect.

All in all, it was a fun evening, but by that point, even I was looking forward to the comfort of my bed. Due to the Meet & Greet happening after the show, we’d missed our chance to get back to a BART station in time for the last train back to the East Bay, so I sighed, pulled out my phone, and summoned an Uber. Forty dollars later, we arrived home, completely rocked out for the near future. Wildflower also informed me that, since I now had David as a companion, she would be bowing out from future events. And, as much as I’d enjoyed sharing these concerts with her, I understood. It’s just not as much fun when you’re exhausted and not terribly excited about hiking.

I promised David that the next time they were in town, I would take him to the show, and we’d bring a print of the picture with us so that they could autograph it. When the VIP tickets went on sale a few months ago, I snatched up two. I got a print of his “solo” photo, and picked up a pack of metallic sharpies.

So now, I am simply waiting for the day to be on its way. I am still feeling a little crummy from whatever bug has been going around work, but my boss gave me an extra sick day yesterday, and I’m feeling up to about 65% (which is only 10-15% worse than I normally feel on any given day). As of writing this, I’ve got three and a half hours until I get David from school, five hours until we leave for the show, six and a half hours until we pick up our tickets from Will Call, and just under nine hours until the show starts.

I’m watching a video from this tour on YouTube to psyche myself up. And, of course, I’ll be posting a Post-Show review of tonight’s experience.

“One with just him…”

Dreaming of the Abyss

Before I begin, I want to make something absolutely clear: This is not a cry for help. I don’t want you to ask me if I am doing okay, nor am I interested your suggestions for how to miraculously turn around my life. This is hard enough as it is, without people trying to help.

I want to be honest, which means I need to let myself be vulnerable. And for that to happen, I need to feel safe, I need to know that I can tell the truth, and that nothing will be okay.

It’s come to my attention that I am in the midst of my annual summer depressive cycle. Were it not for a record of my musings over the past several years, I would most likely still believe that I was simply inexplicably exhausted. The depression which comes in the weeks leading up to my birthday is well known to me, but I always manage to forget the misery which the Summer Solstice delivers.

This isn’t about committing suicide. Ironically, I have my depression to thank for my continued existence. The same apathy which overwhelms me also keeps me from the meager stores of energy I have left which I might use to end this bloody nightmare I call life.

Would that I could but fade away, slowly disappear from the tapestry of reality, painlessly, without fanfare, without being remembered at all.

Painlessly.

I would so very much like the ending of my life to be entirely unlike the rest of it.

I wish that I could just go to the doctor, get my pills, and pretend to be regular folk again. Cut off everything that makes me me and just get by.

My wife and son would probably appreciate that.

But I can’t. Hell, I can barely even force myself to take a shower, I feel so overwhelmed and beaten down.

I feel so torn apart and raw inside that I cannot even find a way to cry.

I just want all of this to end. I don’t care how things will work out. I’m sure that everyone will carry on without me. Hell, they’ll probably do better without having to keep dragging me on.

I keep trying to find a reason.

They tell me to stay for the sake of my son. They tell me to stay for the sake of my wife. They tell me to stay because of countless reasons which don’t mean a damn when I’m amazed that I somehow managed to get out of bed.

When it gets this bad, I don’t even want to write. You know, that thing that I’ve dreamed of doing since I was seven years of age.

The only reason this exists is that I need to remember. I need to remember how this feels when I come out on the other side, for I’m not so daft as to believe that this will be the end.

During the cycle of mania, I am blissfully incapable of of viscerally feeling what it’s like to never want to be. That’s the time of whispered lies and inflated dreams of glory. Those are the moments when I feel like everything will be okay.

 

I wanted to write more, but it seems that the Bi-Polar Bears have seen me typing and are closing in on me.

 

Hiraeth Excerpt (Chapter Eleven: Changes)

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 Eleven: Changes

 

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch:

               

Things at home were also beginning to undergo a change as well, to much a similar effect. It hadn’t ever been truly easy or carefree for Batmart and his mother, but as he began to take the uncertain steps toward manhood, prodded on by puberty, things began to well and truly fall apart. He was old enough to know when someone was dismissing him out of hand, and no longer would accept the blanket statement of “Because I say so.” In concert with his developing cognitive abilities (one might say hand-in-hand with them), he started to feel the stirrings of what would eventually be diagnosed as Bi-Polar Disorder (Type 2). He had been forced to see a counselor, as was already mentioned, and felt that no matter what had happened, someone was always looking to pin the blame upon him.

At the beginning of 1991, the situation had finally reached the point of no return. Tex had finally realized that there was nothing that his mother could truly do besides yell at him or hit him, and even if she was forced into such action, it was no guarantee that she would achieve the results which she wished of him. He had learned to put his foot down when it came to decisions which affected him, and wielded this newfound power with all of the responsibility of drunken despot. If he had managed to learn subtlety, or even a modicum of interpersonal grace, he might have been able to set his own course much earlier in life, and with far less opposition, but he was also discovering that he was filled with a righteous passion that would not be denied, no matter who might choose to stand in his way.

So it came to pass that, seeking safety in greater numbers, and banking on the respect which her son felt for his grandparents, Tex Batmart’s mother negotiated for, and won the opportunity to move them back in with her parents. She made no effort to conceal her motivations from her son, telling him up front that she felt him to be “completely out of control” and that she would use the full authority of people whom he still cared to bring him into line. Batmart shrugged off her threats, knowing that he would soon have a tribunal before which he could argue his case. He knew that, while it was no guarantee of a ruling in his favor, he was certain that his chances would improve from an abysmal automatic rejection, which is what he could count on from his mother.

The one part about the move which truly irritated him, and had been rubbing him quite raw for the past couple of years, was that, because he was so young it was automatically assumed that his mother was in the right, and it was he who had been responsible for making her life harder. He could see in the eyes of his family at every get-together, and often felt the rage building inside of him. How could they be so blind? he screamed internally, How was it possible that they couldn’t see what was going on? The opinions of his distant cousins and great-aunts and uncles were of no great import, but the look of shame in his uncle’s eyes, or in the frowns upon his grandmother’s lips very nearly broke his heart. He just could not understand why no one would listen to his side of things. Years before he would know the term, and decades before he saw the irony in claiming it, he felt that he was no better than a second-class citizen. It didn’t matter what he did or said, it was never good enough. And so he set thoughts of reconciliation behind him and began his campaign of total warfare.

It was more difficult than he had expected, as he was unprepared for the unconditional support which his grandparents automatically granted their daughter (which was, in itself, another slap in the face, for no one unconditionally supported him), and even when granted the occasional opportunity to make his case upon appeal, his frustration would frequently get the better of him, and all of his carefully crafted arguments against the tyranny under which he had been suffering fell apart, and came out as only fragmented ejaculations of “But she-!” and “It’s not fair!” Had his son been present to watch the power struggle, he would have been unable to contain his laughter in the face of his father breaking Rule Number One: Any argument reduced to the cry of “It’s not fair!” is automatically disqualified.

Ultimately, his childhood reached its inevitable conclusion. He had been determined since birth to be old enough to make his own decisions and forced himself to grow up far faster than, in retrospect, he might have otherwise have preferred. Every milestone had been reached because he had pushed himself, driven himself further. But it wasn’t until his declaration of war that he started to choose how to go about things. Up until that point, everything he’d done had been spontaneous, and yet wholly a product of who he was, at his very core, reaching out to make him who he felt he ought to become.

It became apparent that he would have to begin to plan his moves with more than a moment’s notice if he was to have any success. And though that very item remained at the top of his To-Do List for another three decades, he never had much luck with it. It would still be a number of years until he would be able to accept his inherent limitations, and begin to fashion contingency plans to compensate for them. For the foreseeable future, the only thing which he could do would be to make himself as smart as he could manage, soaking up everything at breakneck pace which would threaten to render meaningless all which he’d hoped to learn.

What he hadn’t been counting on, however, was the role which the girls around him began to play. Physiologically, he may have stepped upon the path through puberty a little early, but it wouldn’t be for a couple more years before he understood the significance of his changing body. He was no longer a little boy, and yet it felt like forever until he would finally be a man.

And that’s it… Aside from a paragraph in Chapter Twelve, that’s everything from the Original Run. Let’s see if I can keep this going…

-Tex

Hiraeth Excerpt (Chapter Ten: Milestones and Snowstorms)

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 Ten: Milestones and Snowstorms

In many ways, it was the end of an era; it was the culmination of everything he had been working towards. Having survived his first five years at school, he was finally one of The Big Kids. Sadly, it turned out to not be nearly as spectacular as he had imagined it would be. Were it not for his optimism that such mindless tedium could not possibly exceed what he was forced to endure that year, he might not have been able to face the prospect of another seven years of continuing education. He still believed that school could be someplace interesting, that the lessons he learned there would enrich him more than if he had simply stayed at home, and that year had merely been an aberration. Naturally, he failed to take into account the massive letdown which had been his three trimester stretch in the second grade, having very nearly scrubbed it from his memory with back-to-back grades of success and illumination.

Once more, he failed to make it into the same class as Arthur, but was at least comforted to find the familiar face of Dave Banuelos with him again. Their friendship had been growing, though it was of the schooltime-only variety (discounting the time they spent at Cub Scouts with one another), and if it had not been for Banuelos, Tex felt that he might not have made it through the year. Of all the fifth grade classes, theirs was the only to feature two teachers at any given time, which, had both educators been of superior caliber, would have been a joy to have been a part of. Sadly, as is becoming a tangible theme within these pages, that was not to be. Instead of one building upon the other’s charisma and joy for the educational process, matching it with her own, his teachers seemed to latch on to one another early on as they circled in an ever-quickening descent toward  frustration and ultimate failure. Like a blue-collar worker stuck in a job which barely pays the bills, Tex Batmart found that the only thing which helped him keep his sanity was what little time he was allotted in which to drown his sorrows at the water fountain during recess.

By all rights, it should have been a good year, which made it so much more of a disappointment when it became obvious to everyone in that classroom that it would not. Even the suck-ups and brown-noses could barely tolerate the lack of competence from the growingly weary women who stood before them every day for nearly nine straight months. Even the D.A.R.E. Program, which had been moderately entertaining the year before, had become monotonous and farcical. Perhaps if the rest of the class had been going better, he might not have made the connections which he did, and if he hadn’t been on a heightened level of alert for the imminent tsunami of patronization, there is small (but decent) chance that he might have never experimented with narcotics.

This was the year when he began to question everything: from the necessity of time spent within those walls, to the arbitrary rules by which he was obligated to live while he was back at home, every source of authority had come to be regarded with a certain level of suspicion and disdain. To be clear, he hadn’t partaken of anything more than the secondhand smoke to which he was subjected when he went out to dinner with his grandparents (though they were always sure to choose somewhere in the Non-Smoking Section), but he was fairly certain that there was no honest justification for the mantra which he had heard almost his entire life; he no longer believed that he must say “no.”

And so he might have escaped his personal purgatory with nothing more than a slightly bitter taste upon his tongue, had it not been for two major events which came to pass that winter. The first was a classic example of when boredom and sickness combine to create a dangerous (if ultimately avoidable) situation. The other, however, was one of the high points of his childhood, and a memory which he would cherish for the remainder of his life. Let’s begin with the cruel disfigurement:

He had been out for a little while, the result of pulmonary complications due to bronchitis and his asthma, so when the rest of the class had been learning about the proper way to approach the cutting of linoleum to facilitate the etching of a design, he had been lying in bed wondering how many more days of school he could miss because of his heaven-sent infortitude (it turns out to have been fewer than one, as he was forced to go back to school the following day). His classmates had already begun their projects, and, not wanting to fall too far behind, Tex jumped right in, never thinking to ask if there was anything which he should absolutely know before being handed his fountain-pen-shaped linoleum cutter and set to work.

He tried to imitate the other kids at first, carving away from himself, but found that it required a ridiculous amount of effort for hardly any result. Feeling that he was obviously more intelligent than his peers, he realized that he could get more purchase on the tool if he aimed the blade inwards and pulled. He steadied his linoleum with his left hand and gave it a go, aiming the knife with his right hand. In the seconds which followed, he learned two very important things. Number One was that it was, in fact, easier to cut in that position; Number Two was that he may have misjudged just how much easier, as he was forced to watch in slow-motion as the blade began to make its way toward him at an alarming speed. Actually, there were a couple of additional lessons he managed to take away from that experience: The sound of the a blade penetrating the fleshy part of the hand is not entirely dissimilar to that of the first strike required to carve a Jack-O-Lantern, and also, that he did not care for the sight of his own blood.

That, more than anything else, was what nearly caused him to faint. The blade had been so sharp that he had hardly felt it as it made short work of the slight barrier of skin which kept the inside bits inside and free from interference from the outside world. But the sight of his own blood gushing out caused what little pigmentation his skin possessed to flee, leaving the outside of him as pale as waxy candle which had been left burning all night. His art teacher rushed him to the nurse’s office, where he was instructed to lie down and wait for his mother to arrive. It was during this time that he took the opportunity to reflect upon the greater mysteries of life, such as: Would he get in trouble for having hurt himself, and, would he have to go to see the doctor?

The answer to the former was a resounding no, though his art teacher did attempt to reprimand him for failing to utilize the proper technique, until he reminded her that he had been absent for the lesson wherein she instructed everyone not to do what he had done. As for the latter, he did indeed have to pay a visit to the doctor’s office, where he was told that the wound was too small to require stitches, and that he would just have to make sure to keep the hand clean and bandaged until it could heal on its own. His mother almost seemed sympathetic, and Tex decided to milk that for as much as it was worth, reminding her that he still hadn’t felt well that morning, and that if she hadn’t been so determined for him to return, none of this might have happened. Sadly, he was forced to return to school the next day.

And so it went until the eighteenth of December. The weather reports had mentioned a chance of snow in the near future, but having grown up in the Puget Sound area, Tex expected perhaps slightly more than a light dusting, at the very best. He got on the bus that morning in the pitch of winter predawn darkness, and crossed his fingers for good luck. By lunch, it seemed that his prayers had been answered. It began slightly, awkwardly, as if the snow was lost behind enemy lines without a compass or a map. Soon, it began falling with more confidence, piling up upon itself throughout the school grounds, and, in a move quite out of character for their location, steadfastly refused to melt. By one o’clock, it had become such a distraction for the children that their teachers threw up their hands and opened up the doors to let the children go out to play. Of course, they insisted that there were to be no snowball fights for safety reasons, and once they realized that no one was about to listen, cut the recess short.

Shortly after they had made their way back inside, the power went out. Everyone began to stir with that excitement that starts to simmer when everything seems to be going completely according to no one’s plan. Tex overheard that someone had tried to send the buses in time to beat the heaviest of the snowfall, but had only just begun their routes before having to return to the bus depot to put chains upon the tires. As the middle and high school kids were first in line to be taken home, that pushed back the evacuation of the younger kids into the early evening.

The school counselor made her way through the darkened halls of Wilkes Elementary armed with naught but reassurances and ice cream bars which had suddenly become exponentially more perishable. The children were not the type to turn their noses up at an unexpected hit of sugar, but Batmart thought it was a bit jarring to be munching on a frozen confection while the snow continued falling just outside. As the light of day began to fade around four o’clock in the afternoon, the buses began pulling in to their designated spots just in front of the school.

Whereas they had not felt any pangs of fear while still at school, for there was daylight and the distraction of cascading frozen precipitation falling down in broken sheets just outside the window, while the ride home on the bus was another story entirely. The darkness all around was pierced only by the head and tail lights of the school bus, and even then, what visibility there was consisted almost entirely of the brightly lit and casually falling snowflakes. Due to the conditions of the roads, and a visibility of, at best, two yards ahead, it took until around five p.m. for Tex to finally make his way back home. His mother was waiting for him beside the giant stump, with a look of worry upon her flashlit face. Tex, on the other hand, was thrilled to be outside in such conditions.

They made their way down the road, past Heather’s former home, and paused at the top of the hill which they would have to navigate to make it safely home. Tex’s mother picked her way down in the style of a wary mountain goat, while young Batmart flung himself upon the ground and allowed gravity and Newton’s First Law to do the rest. Suffice it to say, he made it to the bottom first, though his mother was caked in far less snow. After changing into something dry and warm, they walked across the frozen front yard where not so long ago he had kissed a girl for the first time (and the thought of which warmed him against the elements) to the home of his great-grandmother. They were welcomed in, and as they stepped inside, were blasted by the rising heat of the wood-burning stove which was located in the concrete basement at the bottom of the stairs which led down from the entryway.

Tex tried to keep himself busy playing his Tiger Electronic handheld version of Altered Beast (the closest he would come to owning a gaming system until he reached adulthood), as the lack of power meant no television, and candlelight was not sufficient by which to read. Eventually, he must have fallen asleep, for he awoke the following morning upon his Gram’s couch. The radio broadcast announced that there would be no school for the day, and Tex turned his thoughts to all of the adventures which he could finally apply himself toward.

It turned out that there would be no more school for the rest of the calendar year. The power didn’t come on until after Christmas, and then, only for a day or so until another weather system (an Arctic Blast screaming down the West Coast from somewhere in Alaska) pounded through and knocked everything out again. As it worked out, they were just a little shy of a week late in getting back to school, something which the teachers and the principal took great pleasure in reminding them would mean that the school year would be extended to make up for what they’d miss. In the end, no one wanted to stick around any longer than they had signed up for, so that threat was found to be, thankfully, empty.

Tex survived the school year, chose his electives for his first year in junior high (which came down a choice between Band all year or one semester of Art and the other in Chorus), and celebrated yet another milestone having (rather like gall stone) passed. He just knew it would be different from then on out, and breathed a sigh of gratitude that the worst of his ordeals had finally come to an end.

It was only a matter of months before he discovered just how wrong he’d been.

 

Hiraeth Excerpt (Interlude: Misfortune)

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

Interlude: Misfortune

That year also brought him to the point of emotional collapse. In October of 1989, his cousin, Elizabeth was born on the other side of the continent. She was premature, and it was quite some time before anyone knew with any certainty if she would live or die. Elizabeth was having problems breathing, and her doctors could only try to reassure her parents that they were doing everything they could. It was around this time that Tex was first torn to pieces for having the temerity to attempt an actual conversation about what was going on.

As part of his studies for class, all of the students were required to start reading newspapers and watching the evening news, and there had recently been something which had been given quite a lot of attention: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. Even in the face of a potential tragedy, Tex wanted to learn everything he could, for he knew, or at least was beginning to comprehend, that there was never an effective solution born from ignorance. As he read the articles again and again, there came a day when the phone call came that Elizabeth had stopped breathing in the night, and that they were only just able to get her stabilized in time.

Curious, he asked if this new thing which he had learned might have any bearing on what was going on over in New Jersey. Years later, he would understand the shocked look his mother gave him, but could never forgive her shouted admonition to shut his mouth. No one seemed to be interested in doing anything. They sat around with sorrow draped across their shoulders, and muttered prayers to their god that everything would be okay. Tex hadn’t fully turned his back on the church yet, but he found it difficult to believe that there was nothing more constructive for anyone to do. And when the doctors help that tiny baby finally pull through, no thanks were given to them, only a gushing to god for being so great.

It wasn’t that Tex couldn’t empathize with those around him, it was just that he saw no point in emotionally investing himself in someone he had never met, and felt that the best way to fight fear was with knowledge, something both television and his family had taught him. Perhaps it was because he had never truly faced the possibility of death, and perhaps it was because he hadn’t known anyone for the entirety of their life, but he felt out of place, and, in the moment when he wanted so desperately nothing more than the ability to help, he was commanded to silence and sent from the room.

Even after twenty years, he found that his mother reacted in the same manner. Far more educated in his mid-thirties than he had been as a boy of almost ten, he still attempted to combat tragedy with knowledge, and was still belittled and told that he had not a clue as to what he had been talking about. This might have hurt him, but as was the case with many things in that time in his life, it was only a matter of weeks or months until he would be proven right. What bothered him was that sense of superiority and willful ignorance against which he was constantly forced to butt his head.

That Easter, however, would test even his clinical resolve.

In the dark hours of the early morning, his grandmother arose from a night of fitful sleep, and, feeling out of sorts, made her way to the kitchen to take a couple of aspirin. By the time she’d reached the sink, she knew that something worse was going on, and took a handful rather than her normal two or three. She’d barely been able to call out and make her way to the telephone to call emergency services and inform them that she was having a heart attack before she collapsed upon the floor. From that moment until she opened her eyes to look out over the Puget Sound as the helicopter rushed her to the hospital, she had no recollection.

By the time Tex was informed, everyone was already on their way over to the hospital. His grandmother was recovering from her bypass operation, and all three of her children were desperate to see if she would be okay. In a small window in his mind, Tex began observing all of the adults around him, noticing the similarities and differences between what had just happened and what had transpired half a year before. His grandfather appeared lost, focused entirely on the task of getting everyone to the hospital (for he was the only one of them who could make his way driving in the city of Seattle, having commuted every day for decades), while his aunt appeared a bit agitated and otherwise out of sorts. His mother was pale, and her faced was blotched with the evidence of tears. Tex himself had no idea what to expect, but was fairly certain that it wouldn’t be anything he’d care for.

She looked so… small. That was what came into his mind the first time he saw her in the recovery room. The passionate woman he had known his entire life was so diminished, and even sitting next to her, he felt as though he was seeing her from very far away. There were whispers all around him, and somber faces, and he wished that he knew what to say or do, yet dared not try, after the last time he’d attempted to help out. After all, it had been his grandmother who had seen him dash quickly from the room, refusing to shed a tear before them, and had gone to comfort him, and thank him for his intention. If he misspoke here, he knew, there would be no one in a position to defend him.

After what felt like months (but in reality was only a week and a half), his grandmother returned home for the remainder of her convalescence. She could barely speak, and was confined to bed for the majority of the day. He could not imagine what it might be like for her, for all he could focus on was what would happen if she stayed like this forever? He felt that if it were him, he would rather have died than be trapped within such a broken shell. Had his counselor not destroyed the trust between them, Tex might actually have had someone to talk to about it that might have been capable of helping him to come to terms with things, but all he had was Arthur, and all they could talk about was how it was a bummer, for neither of them possessed the words to adequately explain what it was which they were feeling.

Slowly, she began to improve, and by the summer, was accompanying her grandson on trips to the park, as she tried to learn to walk again after such an extended period of immobility, and he rode his bicycle in the one place where no one insisted that he wear a helmet. It took months, but she finally seemed to be back to who she’d been before. Tex never realized just how close he’d been to losing her forever, and by the time she returned to work and acting as though nothing had happened, Tex made the mistake of believing her.

Hiraeth Excerpt (Interlude: Outdoor School)

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

Interlude: Outdoor School

For years, he had been hearing about it, counting down the time until he himself could go. Every spring, he would watch the older kids get on a bus and not come back until sometime later on that week. It was a fourth grade tradition, and he was finally old enough to actually participate. At first, his mother was unsure if he was well enough to go, but two weeks of constant high-pitched whining did more to sway her than her own doubts could. It was then that he discovered one of his most powerful abilities: winning by default. He still had to choose his battles carefully, for this tactic wouldn’t work for every situation, but if he wanted to be somewhere and his mother was on the fence, all he had to do was make sure she knew that her life would run much smoother if she simply let him go. This, of course, came to a head in June of 1997, resulting in a three-and-a-half-year stretch which would define him well into the furthest reaches of adulthood, but in the Spring of 1990, it simply meant that he could go with all the other kids to the retreat on the Olympic Peninsula and learn arts and crafts while hanging out in nature.

Naturally, the camps were subdivided from within each class, so once again, he wasn’t paired with Arthur, but he did manage to wind up sharing a group and cabin with Dave Banuelos, so at least he had one friend with him. The first day was spent dividing them into groups, laying down the ground rules, and showing them their cabins before settling in for dinner and ghost stories around a campfire. Despite this busy schedule, a couple of the groups of boys decided to band together and launch a raid upon the cabins just down the way, which were inhabited by the girls. Had they been older, perhaps something of a romantic nature might have been intended, but as no one there, besides the teachers and the counselors was above the age of ten, the most they did was start a pinecone war (which they somehow managed to lose).

Having been soundly defeated and driven off, the boys (Batmart, Banuelos, and Arthur among them) were rounded up and reminded that such shenanigans would not be tolerated. Of course, this meant that the pinecone wars were to continue, with the boys and girls exchanging raids for the duration of their stay.

The first night, after the campfire had burned down, and the boys were trying to fall asleep, they became aware that their Counselor, Carlos, had wandered off into the darkness. It wasn’t until the second evening that discovered where he’d gone, and more importantly: why. The counselors were High Schoolers, and Carlos had gone to spend some time with one of the Girls’ Counselors, who may or may not have been his girlfriend. Carlos defended himself, by saying that he was only trying to gather intelligence about the girls’ defenses, but Batmart knew better, for he too had kissed a girl.

The week flew by in a series of unnecessary activities, most of which Batmart wasn’t all too thrilled about having to join in on. On the final night, they presented awards, both in their groups, and as unified class. They also presented skits, which were nearly as awkward as one could imagine, being a combination of fourth grade talent encouraged by teenage sensibilities. Tex never could recall what the official point of the whole thing had been, but he always remembered how much fun he had, and how sad he was to see it end as he climbed aboard the bus and they drove out of the woods and back to their regular lives again.

 

Hiraeth Excerpt (Chapter Nine: The Foreign Exchange Teacher and The Birthday Conspiracy)

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 Nine: The Foreign Exchange Teacher and The Birthday Conspiracy

Having achieved his lifelong goal of becoming a published author the year before, Tex wasn’t sure how he would manage to top things in his fifth year of public education. He supposed that he would continue writing, and assumed that he would find only continuing success. Had he known the road which he would come to walk upon, he might not have worn that smug expression for so long. Regardless of the future, though, he was excited to see what the fourth grade would bring his way.

The school district had been busy over the summer, and had rearranged the boundaries throughout the Island between the three Elementary Schools, with the upshot being that Tex would once again be spending recess with his best (and for the most part, only) friend. Upon hearing the news that Arthur would be returning to Wilkes Elementary, both boys checked to see if they would share a class again together. Sadly, though they were schoolmates once more, they had still not been reunited in the classroom. When the school bell rang, they would be sat across the hall from one another, doing their best to soak in all the required knowledge before they could run around like madmen on the playground.

The first week back had been something of a shock for the both of them. When last they had spent any time together encased behind the brick façade of that public school, they had both been more of the quiet type, content to spend their playtime in earnest conversation. In the interim, however, Tex had grown to be a decent Kickball player, owing to his natural speed, and preternatural foot-eye coordination. Arthur, of course, had taken up Wallball, and had actually gotten pretty good at it himself. But the real test of their friendship was when Tex had tried to include Arthur in what had essentially been a three-year-long Live Action Roleplaying Adventure (though none of the participants would have classified it as having been such an activity).

No one in that group, save for young Batmart, really wanted anybody else to join, and, they all discovered, it was kind of coming to an end in any case. It had been loosely based upon Military Adventures, for it was the 1980’s and that sort of thing was rather ubiquitous. By the fourth grade, they had all achieved the rank of General, and best offer they were willing to make to Arthur was a Field Commission Lieutenant. Tex felt guilty those times when he left Arthur behind so that he could play make-believe with the other children amongst the tatters of their shared imaginary world, and within a month, had made the decision to let that part of his life quietly fade away.

In the classroom, Tex was actually far happier. He had heard of Foreign Exchange Students before, and secretly hoped that one day he could go to a foreign country and spend some time anywhere but with his family, but he had never known that countries could also exchange their teachers. At first he was a little let down that the teacher whom he should have gotten (the one the older kids had said was the best teacher in the school) was going to be in England that year. Then he discovered that his substitute would actually be from England. Tex had grown up fairly poor, and had watched more than his fair share of British Comedy on his local PBS affiliate. More than was rightly normal for a kid of his age, he quite looked forward to the pledge drives, when he could marathon through new episodes of his favorite shows, with only minimal interruptions. It is no wonder that he became so enamored of Netflix in later life.

In addition to the regular assignments of math and science, social studies and language arts, he also heard countless stories of life in England, and soaked up his teacher’s accent at every chance. He was too young to be entirely self-aware, and so made more attempts to master a Cockney accent than he might have even two or three years later. Rather than discourage him, or take offense, his teacher would gently correct him if his vowels were off. And she was always happy with him when another story of his would cross her desk. Sure, there were frustrations felt by both parties, on her behalf, it had a lot to do with missing homework, and on his, the constant assigning of the aforementioned work. Still, it was a year in which he actually learned many things, and remained capable of being optimistic on the bus ride into school.

Things were going so well, in fact, that he almost didn’t notice when his birthday began to loom. It was major milestone, and though he was caught a bit off-guard, he was also a little anxious for it. He would be turning 10 that year, and finally joining the ranks of the majority in wielding and age in the double digits. About a week after his birthday had passed, he reflected to himself that he didn’t feel any different than he had all through November, and wondered when he might begin to feel a little more grown up. He might have had these thoughts on his actual birthday, but as it happened to turn out, he was a little busy.

It was a foregone conclusion that this Major Life Event would be spent with Arthur, and even though he felt a little under the weather, he was determined that nothing would stand in his way. Disney had just begun their return to Cinematic Dominance that year with an adaptation of another famous fairy tale. Still young enough to see a cartoon film in the theatre, he went to see The Little Mermaid with his mother and his best friend. For as bad as he felt, he did enjoy the feature, though his mother was a bit concerned, as he ate hardly any popcorn or drank any of his soda. At the end of the film, instead of celebrating, his mother dropped Arthur off at home, and tried to tuck Tex into bed.

That, of course, was when the fun began in earnest. Almost immediately upon returning home, Tex found that he couldn’t hardly breathe. Having grown up an asthmatic, his mother sprang into action, and got the hot water running to fill the entire bathroom up with steam. While Tex, as per instructions from his mother, tried to remain calm and breathe deeply of the vapor, his mother made a call to Tex’s grandparents to arrange for a ride into Seattle. By the time that the water had grown cold (which wasn’t too terribly long, as it was only a moderately-sized hot water heater, his grandfather had arrived, and Tex was being bundled into the back seat of the car, while his mother rode the waves of a keen and brittle parental breakdown.

It was the longest night that Tex could remember, up until that point. When they had gotten to the hospital, the doctors had listened to his lungs and checked for a hernia (which he did not altogether care for, as it seemed inappropriate to him that a doctor would be checking there, as, though he was not well-versed in physiology, he was still fairly certain that his lungs were located a decent distance from his groin), and then finally gotten him a bed. He was still terrified of needles, and his mother’s advice about I.V. placement did nothing to comfort him, although, as it turned out, he needn’t have worried. The only thing they did was to give him a vaporizer, and let him breathe in the medicine at regular intervals. That might have been enough, but they also insisted on waking him up every two hours to see how he was doing. Tex may have only been ten years old, but even he felt that if he was still breathing, he was probably okay.

The next day, the nurse offered him a tray of something which was described as edible, and yet in no way appeared fit for human consumption. Luckily, his grandparents had brought his mom some chicken nuggets, so they traded meals, and each was happy for it. That evening, Tex was discharged from the hospital with an inhaler and instructions for its use. He had also been taught how to breathe more efficiently, expanding his lungs downward and jutting out his tummy, rather than raise his shoulders with every breath. They described this technique as “Stomach Breathing,” which would have been fine, except for an incident which later came to pass at school.

A note about Tex Batmart (especially throughout his youth): he never much cared for admitting that a concept was beyond him, and, if given the opportunity, would attempt to make himself seem smarter than he was. It wasn’t that he was stupid, not by any means, just that he had not gained the wisdom which might have informed him that he was not obligated to fill every silence with his words, or that there is no shame in admitting that he did not know something. When the subject of this breathing technique arose, he explained that he was actually breathing through his stomach via his belly button (anatomy be damned!), and stuck with his story, even in the face of actual and incontrovertible evidence until finally, forced into retreat, he admitted not that he was wrong, but that the doctor who had spoken to him had failed to factually impart the necessary information.

As the years passed, this quirk of his did not disappear. He did, however, manage to learn significantly more about an entire range of subjects to the point where he could pull something out of his ass and have it turn out more or less correct. A good portion of this was due almost entirely to his love of learning and his hatred of appearing to be stupid. By the time he reached adulthood, oftentimes his quips were better worded and more accurate than the things for which he had actually prepared.

Hiraeth Excerpt (Interlude: Mental Health and Other Team Sports, Part One)

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

Interlude: Mental Health and Other Team Sports (Part One)

He’d hit puberty a bit earlier than expected, but that only meant that his mental health began deteriorating much more quickly. Over the years, he visited several counselors, all of whom attempted to manipulate him into bargains or behaviors which he found repulsive. And, having been thusly challenged, he responded with acerbic wit and levied the full weight of his hatred and intelligence upon them. He found a sort of glee in dismantling them, like broken toys ripped apart for spare pieces. The final counselor with whom he ever spoke was seeing both he and his girlfriend in the summer of 1998.

One day he happened to compare notes with his friend, Dave Feise, and discovered that they’d been seeing the same professionals, often at the same time. When they checked to see how many had retired, and how soon after having seen them, they were both pleased to discover that they were an effective team. Many years later, Tex would entertain the notion of seeking someone out who might be of some assistance to him, but things kept getting in the way, and, in truth, he was afraid of tarnishing what had been, until that point at least, a perfect game.

When he was sixteen, he was diagnosed with Manic Depression, and very nearly forced to take the latest wonderdrug in the growing Mental Health Industry. He’d been a minor, and on poor terms with his mother at the time, and had he not gone with the deep feeling in his gut that something bad would happen, would most likely have been forced to continue on a regimen of Prozac. The following year, after he’d started up with Her, she’d let him try one of hers, and he took it, curious to see what might have happened all that time ago.

Most doctors will say that it takes four to six weeks for those type of medications to start having a positive effect, but it was less than half an hour until Tex began to suffer from uncontrollable auditory hallucinations. He knew then that he had been correct to waive his family doctor off. Later, he tried Wellbutrin for a while, but found that, rather than cure him of depression, it left him only in a state of rage. It wasn’t until he was hospitalized in March of 2001, that he finally found something which worked for him, though he was never able to get another prescription, as there are no Drug Rep kickbacks to be made from Lithium.

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).

Hiraeth Excerpt (Interlude: Love and Other Failures)

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

Interlude: Love and Other Failures

Though Heather was his first love, she was not his last. Over the years, he fell in love repeatedly, eager to feel the same connection with another person as he had felt that summer back in 1988. He didn’t start dating until High School, but even then, it was more miss than hit, and even when he could get someone to go out with him, it was usually over within a month, having come to an unsatisfactory conclusion. He began keeping track of the girls he had asked out, noting how infrequently any of them had said yes. At first it wasn’t too bad, as he had other things to worry about, but soon his friends also began dating, and it became apparent that he would be the only one among them to die virginally alone.

Of course, that all changed in the summer of ’97, but that’s a story for a little later on. Suffice it to say that, though it lasted nearly four years, it fit into the same pattern which had characterized all of his relationships before, at least upon its conclusion. He kept putting himself out there, only to be torn down time and time again. And while a smarter man might have learned a modicum of caution over the intervening years, Tex was not that man. Each time he wore his heart upon his sleeve, only to dry his eyes upon it just a short while later.

As the years passed, and the number of his ex-girlfriends slowly grew, he began to see pattern coming into focus. It seemed that he found himself falling for women who were the absolute worst for him, while steadfastly discarding anyone who genuinely seemed to give a damn about him. Worse, this made sense to him, as it seemed in line with everything else in his life at the time. He found himself drawn to self-destruction, and it only made sense that he would recruit someone into his life to help him achieve his goals.

In the spring of 2006, he finally decided to do something about it. The decision was made easier by its binary nature. A coworker had informed him that two women seemed to be interested in him. The first was a sexy and sensuous woman who had easily caught the eye of everyone she worked with (not unlike his last long-term girlfriend), while the other was rather plain, but, he was told, was head-over-heels in love with him. If you have been paying attention, then it should be obvious who he chose. That he chose the irrepressible flirt is, then, no terrible surprise. But, as had happened so many times before, that relationship went precisely nowhere, and he was left alone once more.

He might have given it no thought, but then he bumped into the other woman at his friend’s wedding reception, and an idea came into his head. A few months later, he asked out for dinner at a local restaurant, and laid himself bare before her. He had decided on his strategy the week beforehand, and had come to the realization that, if he was to outwit his own instinct for self-harm, he would have to be completely honest with this woman. He told her everything that was wrong with him, from the mental illness to the idiosyncrasies of his apathetic nature. Part of his reasoning was a measure of full disclosure, so that she couldn’t accuse him later of having deceived her, but his other motivation was the small hope that she would become frightened and run away, leaving him to lavish attention upon people who only sought to do him harm.

Within thirteen months they had a son, and within three years they were married. It was everything he’d told himself he’d wanted, and yet he found that it was not. He still fell in love, though he knew he oughtn’t, and found that he was trapped within a prison of his own illusions. As he came to think upon it, he realized that perhaps it was not his gut which was outsmarted on that evening in April, 2006, and that the cruelest form of self-harm he could manage would be to allow himself to have everything he’d told himself he wanted, only to watch it fade and crumble as he realized that it must have been somebody else’s dream.

All he knew was that he wanted to be in love, to feel that excitement and anticipation of seeing someone again. He wanted someone to think that he was handsome, and charming, and something other than a complete and utter failure, which, up ‘til that point in his life, he’d been. What he craved was someone who would believe in him, and hold him so that he could feel vulnerable once more. What he desired, more than anything, was to have that summer back again, so he could tell that girl who kissed him that he loved her.