Well, Shit (Ah, Fuck It Part 2)

Yeah, so it’s looking grim for our hero, dear readers. When we last left you, Tex Batmart was facing the question as to how quickly he could boogie down from off of his mortal coil. At the moment, it’s not so much a worry that he will no longer be resident of this particular reality, but, rather, just how long he can endure it.

The current situation could still easily be described as “Continuing to Come Up Exclusively Milhouse.” It doesn’t help that I know that the vast majority of the melancholy exists entirely between the my sensory inputs and the biochemical tool which processes their reports.  I’ve almost grown accustomed to that, much in the same fashion as I learned to compensate for the warped billiards table in the local Teen Center when I was a youth. There are complex mathematical equations running constantly, adjusting the variables so that all I have to do is try to make the shot.

I wonder if, should I ever approach something like “normality”, I’ll be as hopeless at functioning within the world as I am at playing pool on a pristine table: still overcompensating for obstacles which are no longer there.

Of course, in addition to all of that, I have some objectively shitty things going on which, though not entirely caused by my perception of the world through smoked and fractured lenses, were at the very least, greatly exacerbated by it.

But even there, the temptation for self-recrimination is too great. With every problem (real or imagined), my first (as well as second third, and on until the 37th, where it takes a break for a quick moment, continuing on with 42nd) instinct is to blame myself for being such a generally shitty person. I mean, if I wasn’t such a complete fuck-up, I wouldn’t be faced with any of this bullshit.

Finances are rough, because I dared to risk everything on the pursuit of a lifelong dream, and now I’m left with repayment of failure with added interest due. And I was so fucking close…

Seriously. Look at the progress in my rust removal from December 2014 until May 2015. I got back to fucking form! I was doing things. I was so close to actually being able to write the book (or books) that I’d been waiting for, unable to fully articulate myself in a suit of armor which had very nearly completely oxidized. And then fucking life reared its goddamned head.

I had to grab whichever job took me first, which was Big! Lots!, and we all remember how that fucking fiasco went. I spent almost every other weekly paycheck on visits to the doctor and the medication she prescribed for the damage that job inflicted upon my body. When I got the news about a management gig at a restaurant in Berkeley, I was fucking stoked, despite my promise to myself that I would never again return to Food Service (or management).

Bear’s Lair Redux was, itself, a massive disappointment. A restaurant/bar should never be designed by committee, nor should it be operated and overseen by a soulless corporation. And while I met some cool people there, I was glad to bid it a fond farewell.

In the gap between that and Jupiter, I actually wrote something like 30,000 words (which I published in June (or was it July?) of this past year). Once again, I was really getting into my groove, when, suddenly, my life reverted to its relentless rhythms of: work too fucking much and then burn the fuck out.

Sure, there were other factors at play as well (including the death of my grandfather, which I have covered in several other posts), but if one is a huge fan of Oktoberfest, he should never take the backstage tour to see how the sausages are made.

There were a lot of good things about Jupiter, despite my current feelings, but it finally boiled down to lack of follow-through regarding their commitment to me in the form of salary level and insurance, especially the latter. This, combined with a very nearly complete nervous breakdown, made it almost certain that it wasn’t going to work out.

My current employer is great. There are things about the place that I don’t care for, but I’m fairly certain that’s true of any job. And I know that I have become an Expert in Curmudgeonry by now (I may or may not be fully disclosing the truth of the matter, due to the fact that one does not shit where one eats). There are some fundamental things with which I disagree, but I think that’s not really the issue.

You want to know?

Fine.

I’m not doing what I feel in my bones that I need to do, which is this, but more focused and, to be honest, better.

I don’t have the money to give this another go.

The financial issues have put my marriage on what could charitably be considered life support.

I am not happy.

 

That last part isn’t a huge problem, in and of itself, for dissatisfaction is often the impetus for positive change.

I just feel like I am fading away, and the only thing that’s left is for my body to get the fucking message.

I have a choice (well, I have several, but, you know, narrative conceit): Do I keep doing what I’m doing, trying to clean up after my financial missteps, or do I give this writing thing one last shot?

But wait, you say, didn’t you say that you couldn’t afford to write again like 850 words ago?

I could always disappear. Pack my shit and ride the waves while surfing on the couches of America. Trigger a cascade of financial avalanches that could only be remedied by me becoming the best-selling author in the history of ever. I’m not saying I couldn’t, mind you…

But that would also mean losing my wife and son. I mean for real. That’s not really something that you can come back from- abandoning your family to crippling debt, just to chase a dream. And no matter how successful I were to become, that sort of bullshit just doesn’t get forgiven.

With all of that, and my mental illness, you can see why I think that it would be easier were I to die.

 

Ah, Fuck It

Before anyone tries to reach out with sympathy, advice, or “thoughts and prayers,” let me just say one thing: Don’t. I’m not writing this in search of human connection. I’ve fucking had enough of that lately. This merely exists so that I can bleed some of this bullshit out of my fucking head.

This has been an incredibly trying couple of years.

I wasn’t prepared at all for when my grandfather died, and it completely fucking blindsided me. Since the early 90’s, I’d kind of known that my grandmother was going to pass, in a very real sense, but the rapid decline which led up to my grandfather’s end just outpaced my ability to prepare for it. In the end it took copious amounts of mushrooms and completely torching employment bridges to finally begin to reach a state of tranquility and acceptance.

And when I said just now that I’d known that my grandmother was tenuously grasping on to her mortality: yeah, I haven’t handled that all that much better, At the time, I broke down, cried, and channeled my grief into something funny and beautiful. But I never really felt it. Now, as the lead-up to 38 has come and gone (please see any number of other pieces I’ve written here for more information regarding the Fuckery of November), I find that I never really dealt with it at all. Writing her eulogy was cathartic, and but, at best, only a delaying tactic. And I didn’t even realize it until I went back up to the Island for my mother’s wedding.

It was just little things, like her not actually being there, despite the fact that she’d been an immovable fixture in my life for its entirety, especially in her home. Or when I walked up to the Jiffy Mart to buy my Red Bull because caffeine withdrawal is a complete and utter bitch, and got choked up as I made small talk with the owner, as I tried to screw up the courage to thank him for all the wonderful moments he provided to my grandfather for the many years he attended daily meetings of the Prevaricators’ Club at that location.

Or the fact that gave my mother away at her wedding. Or that I’m experiencing my first first holiday season with no living grandparents.

I know that many of you have lost grandparents, and that perhaps were unable to spend as much time with them as I was with mine. Perhaps, you’re thinking, I should appreciate all of the special times I had with them, and get the fuck over it.

To that, I so delicately respond, fuck you, and reread the first fucking paragraph. It’s there for a goddamned reason. Right fucking there, first thing where you cannot fucking miss it. Go ahead. Read it again, I’ll wait (Actually, I won’t because that’s not how fucking writing works).

But enough about external misery.

I also suffer from Bi-Polar Disorder, Type II. You know, not the cool, running-through-the-streets-naked mental illness, but the oh-wait-sorry-to-inform-you-but-that-guy-you-knew-who-was-on-top-of-everything-and-shining-like-a-fucking-star-was-just-a-manifestation-of-my-fucking-illness-and-you-don’t-get-to-fucking-complain-when-the-less-productive-symptoms-arrive-and-wreak-havoc-with-goddamned-everything. Fuck, that’s a lot of hyphens.

No one, aside from perhaps those who have been on this Merry-Go-Round with me countless times, really minds when I am firing at 235%. I am brilliant, charming, and goddamned invincible (except for the Summer Solstice of my Mania, where I am constantly mistaken for someone with a cocaine habit the likes of which even the 1970’s and 80’s cannot comprehend.

But it seems that everyone gets “concerned” and wants “to talk” or “check in” with me when the fucking bottom drops out. Fine, but please know that during these times, I cannot take even the nicest worded and most constructive of criticisms. Please understand that for weeks leading up to this conversation, I have been beating the shit out of myself for fucking daring to exist, and recalling in vivid detail all of the times I have gone and fucked literally everything up (whether or not any of those failures actually occurred outside the confines of my head).

And don’t fucking tell me to see a fucking doctor. I’m mentally ill, not fucking stupid.

Do you know why I avoid the doctors who might be able to help me? And don’t say because I have a mental illness, because that’s just fucking stupid.

The fact is, I have tried many times to see someone about the bullshit neurochemistry lurking within my gleaming noggin. I have tried, if not all, then most of the gimmicky pharmaceuticals they have to offer. To date, there has been only one medicine which has ever even come close to working: Lithium Carbonate, and even that is barely better than nothing at all.

You see, all the fancy and shiny new drugs are anti-depressants, which is great, but they don’t work for me. SSRI’s, such as Prozac and Zoloft, give me auditory hallucinations approximating, I am told, the symptoms of fucking schizophrenia. Gabapentin interacts with my system by dropping me into a pool of hypersexuality (and not even the useful, married-for-a-decade kind). Wellbutrin, an (and I had to look this up) aminoketone, flips the rage switch from “Selfie” to “Murder all Humans.” Tetracyclics, like Trazodone, actually make me feel insane (in a slightly different way from SSRI’s ), insofar as I feel that nothing is quite right, kind of like the universe is off by a quarter of an inch. What they all have in common is that they are the product of decades of research at an investment measured in the millions, if not billions.

Lithium carbonate is an antimanic agent, and the result of cosmic forces. It’s a fucking element. It is literally one the most generic drugs there is.

And do you know what never gets pushed by drug reps? Fucking shit that cannot help their company’s bottom line.

I have tried explaining this to doctors. I have begged to set up appointments for blood draws to monitor lithium levels to avoid toxicity. I have tried to be fucking responsible when it comes to the treatment of my fucking disease! And I’m tired. 

For the past three weeks, I have been actively contemplating suicide.

My major stopping point was that I didn’t want to fuck up my mother’s wedding.

And now I don’t want to fuck up my son’s Christmas.

And I just realized this evening that I wouldn’t be the first friend of my best friend’s (actually, friends’, as it’s applicable to both) to commit suicide.

I’ve been through this before, but this time I’m a little scared.

For the vast majority of these episodes, I merely wanted to not exist anymore. This time, I want to fucking hurt myself. Like fucking blades and shit.

Okay, stop! Put down your fucking phone. Do not fucking call me. I don’t want to talk about it. Every fucking reason you could give me to carry on is just another nail in my goddamned coffin. You think that knowing about all of those people who love me and who depend on me (in some fashion) is going to help? 

It won’t. That’s just more fucking pressure upon my shoulders.

Please. Please. Please listen to me when I say that there is nothing that anyone can say that will make things better, unless it involves several tens of thousands of dollars (with no obligation to repay) and the ability to fucking spend the time I need to do the one fucking thing that I have ever wanted to do with my life! So, unless you’re offering me, at the very minimum, $60,000, please don’t. Just… don’t.

I know that the inner monologue has shifted and whispers only lies. I get that. But I also have been dealing with this for over a quarter of a century, and I’ve kind of internalized the talking points. I may have an ego the size of a small geographically discrete mass, but I have almost zero self-esteem. I really do fucking despise myself.

No! Shut the fuck up! I’ll tell you when I’ve goddamned finished!

I am really good at precisely one thing (okay, two, but despising myself doesn’t really fall neatly under “Life Goals.”): exactly what the fuck I’m doing now (despite how disjointed and shitty this rant is).

Will I get through this? Probably.

Do I want to? Not particularly.

Okay, that’s it. I’m done.

Unless I kill myself tonight, I have to get to sleep soon so I can go into work tomorrow. And as I don’t want to fuck up Christmas for my son, I guess I ought to go to fucking bed.

Ah, Fuck It!

Apocalyptica apmb4c Post-Show

#apmb4c

It’s entirely possible that I may be getting too old for this, at least physically. Last night I was transported back twenty years, to when I went to see Metallica for the first time (technically, the only time, but as I bought tickets for the show in ’99, and was unable to attend through no fault of my own, I’m sticking with first time). I was singing, clapping, shouting, throwing the horns, and headbanging. But, even though we had seats (and amazing ones at that), and an intermission, I still feel completely wiped. I never used to need multiple days to recover from a show, and that was back when I was always itching to get in the pit.

This morning, I woke up to find that I had somehow become not only Batman, but the type of Batman to seriously injure his right pinky because he can’t ever seem to remember to take off his wedding ring before a show, and has the spatial awareness and coordination of intoxicated marmoset. At least I don’t have to try to make it through work today (one of the benefits of my schedule is that I can attend a Tuesday night show and still have a day to recover). On top of that, as I said in yesterday’s post, I’m still working through that bug which has been making the rounds, and last night gave it back a bit of hard-earned ground. Would have I rather stayed home last night, though? “Let me hear you say, ‘Fuck no, James!'”

Of the four Apocalyptica shows which I’ve attended, this was easily the best. Everyone was on their game, and, due to our seating (front row, center), we were spared from the massive output from the stacks of speakers hanging on either side of the stage. For the first time in my life, I went to an appropriately loud and heavy metal show, and walked away with perfect (or, more accurately, no net loss of) hearing. On top of that, in addition to it being the best Apocalyptica show I’ve seen, it’s a serious contender for having been the best Metallica show I’ve seen.

David and I left the venue last night around 10:30, and I was overwhelmed by just how much fun I’d had that night. David… well, David is David, and at least this time he managed to stay awake for the entire show (with a small resting of eyes during the intermission). When he’s at home, he can’t seem to get to sleep for shit, requiring a heavy dose of horse tranquilizer and a team of agitated rhinoceroses to put him down. Outside the apartment, however, he begins to tire around 5:30 in the evening, and wants to pass out no later than 8.

He’s only ten now, so I’m hoping by the next time we go to a show, he’s discovered how to store his energy for the show, as opposed to burning through it on the way there by fidgeting and whining more than a sommelier.

But enough of complaining about the inevitable. Here are some highlights from the show:

Hint: It was all highlights

For the first time since the mid-90’s, Enter Blandband sounded fresh and heavy. I know that A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica completely ruined that song for me, but, after last night, I can at least fight back the temptation to skip it or leave the room any time it comes on.

“Escape” was a pleasantly heavy surprise, with an enjoyable bit of introductory banter on how they’d never really played it live before the tour, but neither had Metallica…

I had a moment with Eicca as he was introducing “Battery” by explaining that he’d wanted to record it for their first album, but it was too hard for them to play. When I chuckled (in consolation, mind you, as I also find it too difficult to play), he looked right at me and said, “You can laugh, but it’s harder than it looks!”

When the second set started after intermission, Perttu discussed mentioned that they’d had no idea this genre would become popular, and if they’d known, they might have only looked for two cellists to play AC/DC covers. This was followed up at the end of “Seek and Destroy” when they broke into the intro to “Thunderstruck.”

They ended the night with “One”, dedicating it to the eradication of armed conflicts and a renewed interest in peace, especially in today’s geopolitical climate (a nice callback to Perttu explaining where Finland was, and how they were allies of the U.S., and not to worry about them). I wasn’t expecting political commentary at a metal show, at least not this metal show (or an amusing nod to North Korea), but it was well-played, and, I believe, resonated with the crowd.

During the Meet & Greet, I was able to chat a little with Paavo (my personal hero from the band- David’s, of course, is Perttu), and discovered that he has a daughter that’s David’s age. We joked that we were enjoying this time because it was still “easy” in the years before puberty.

This is the fourth Apocalyptica show that I’ve attended. The first two were at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, and the third was at the Fillmore. After the first show (which I attended with Wildflower), I decided that they were totally worth seeing again. It took a few years, but we caught them twice (once on either end) on their Shadowmaker tour, and after the Meet & Greet last time, where they singled out David for a solo photo to commemorate his first show, I vowed that I would see them whenever they came to town.

They are consummate musicians, engaging entertainers, and masterful performers (I know that these are mostly synonymous, but trust me: The nuance matters). They have helped to redefine a genre, and have done it with passion and professionalism.

So, to Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, Antero Manninen, Perttu Kivilaakso, and Mikko Sirén, I say thank you for a wonderful evening. Thank you on behalf of myself, my son, and everyone there. I look forward to your next stop back here (finances permitting, of course, as, much like flying in First Class, once you’ve had the VIP experience, it’s hard to go back).

I would also like to give a small measure of thanks to the other VIP ticket holders sitting near us (some of whom I remember from the last show). Your engagement with David helped to really make him feel involved, and I appreciate that. Here’s to the next time!

And now, as promised (or at least implied), the rest of the photos:

That’s his Metal Face (I guess).
Waiting to go in, after meeting the band.
We had some pretty kick-ass seats.
A little B&W Perttu, Eicca, and Paavo.
Perttu looking Metal AF (left, Antero, right, Eicca)
Perttu’s Hero Pose

As you can see, we were literally feet from the stage.

And from the Meet & Greet:

I suppose I have to get a print of this one now, for next time. (Pictured L-R: Mikko, Paavo, The Minkey, Tex Batmart, Eicca, and Perttu)
This is now up on David’s wall, waiting for a frame.

For comparison, here is the original:

“One with just him…” (Pictured L-R: Perttu, Eicca, The Minkey, Mikko, and Paavo)

Okay, I seriously need a nap. I’m going back to bed.

-Tex

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.

Exploring the Universe through Snark

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