A ST. PATRICK'S DAY INTERUPTION!
Excerpt from WOLVES IN HIS HEAD (my somewhat literary psychological-horror novel) to be eventually released on Substack . . .
The setup: WOLVES IN HIS HEAD unfolds in three interchanging periods in the life of Eric Kos. In 1984, he is a typical middleclass suburbanite – a loving husband with wife and three kids, a newly purchased home in Arlington Heights, a sincere Catholic with artistic ambitions; he seeks meaning through the creation of art. And being a sincere Catholic, he struggles with God especially around sex and addiction. Christ is the only antidote – so he thinks. But what if Christ is an addiction too? In 1998, he is an embittered atheist who’s lost everything, working at Borders Books, trying to come to grips with the bizarre events that ended his marriage. In 2012 he’s a chronic mental patient on disability. Eric no longer knows what is real - in both the present and the past. Is he a sad case of progressive mental illness, a delusional old man shut up in his room, or something more insidious? Eric Kos thinks he’s a werewolf. He knows well of them, having met one while working on a locked psychiatric unit 1984. He’s been bitten. In 2012, living across the hall in his low-rent apartment building is an exotic dancer who works in a local strip club. On a full moon night, she has a fight with her abusive boyfriend out in the hall who slaps her and slams her into Eric’s apartment door. The boyfriend leaves her crying. Eric feels a rush and it begins to emerge.
THE WRITING . . .
Mercifully, she said ‘goodnight’ before going off to bed and he stayed up with a second wind. In the kitchen, he set up his new Kaypro 2 on the kitchen table. He could hear Annie getting ready upstairs over the burps and trills of the Kaypro’s booting. He slipped in a floppy and brought up his document, The Confiteor Familius – Chapter One, and read:
The spirit of our family has always been bound in stories, a rich oral tradition handed down from both father and mother, which I find I have passed onto my own children. Whether this ability is a product of the gene pool or has been acculturated into our psyches is yet to be seen, but if I attain a ripe old age and have any influence on my grandchildren, I would wish to be the great raconteur and pass on to them these mysteries apocryphal though some may be.
It is in these stories that we see our place as members all - that reciprocity between individual experience and collectivity that has molded our character and fulfilled behavior prophetic when cast in the discerning light of our family history. We are both fruit and seed of the tree from which we’ve sprung, germinating our world, unwittingly, with the pattern we abhor and strive so hard to break. It is then that the notion of freewill seems wistful and most illusionary. And though we have, in rational moments, in our defiance of determinism, decried such sentiments, we cannot shun its conviction as we journey like Dante into our own underworld . . .
He leaned back, hands behind his head, staring at the computer, waiting for the voice:
I am descended from three nationalities, but it is the Irish in my blood that seeps up from my innermost bones. Or so I would believe. In truth, I know nothing of that country other than what I imagine it to be. In this I am most American, wanting to invent myself into anything other than what I truly am, wanting to ground myself into something mystical and ancient beyond my existential despair.
My paternal grandmother was from that country. She died when my father was two. We know little of her and Grandfather Koss, character that he was, could not often get her name straight, at least not by the age we thought to ask him of her. She alone has escaped the scrutiny of the family eye, an enigma; we cannot conject as to what she must have been like.
There exists but one photograph of her taken over 90 years ago. She is a pretty woman with soft auburn hair mounded delicately upon her head and secured by a lace ribbon. Her lithe neck pours down from behind her ear, flowing like cream into her shoulder as she turns to look at us with a reticent smile, needing not to part her lips as the sweetness is in her eye. She is flawless in her young death like a rose pressed between pages. I fancy that I see myself in the twinkling of her eye and delight that in her, I have the perfect parent whose image will never decay, who is all that I will ever imagine her to be, who will never betray. I have the freedom to invent myself in her unknown line and fantasize I am her sole heir. We must have our Madonna, for it is rare to find a woman to mount that stage, and I dare not sully her with inquiry. After all, she did marry Grandfather.
Father’s childhood is also a mystery. Like his mother, there are scant pictures. I’ve seen only two: one an infant when she was alive, the other is when he was five with a scowl and a long look in his eye. How different he might have been if she’d not been taken. As an adult, he had no conscious memory of her and yet as a toddler, two years is a lifetime. The cause of her passing is unknown though fraught with speculation – kidney infection, influenza, food poisoning? A back-alley abortion was rumored.
With her death, and other maternal figures of short duration, father was cast from pillar to post while Grandpa and father’s older twin half-brothers traveled in the prizefighting racket. This most likely caused his instant attachments; he fell in love with every girl for whom he had an eye.
There is a story my father once told me. I can’t explain why, maybe a confession, but it framed his childhood and in turn, his development. When he was eight years old, Grandpa’s third wife, the only mother he ever knew, left Grandpa because he was so bad tempered. I would use the word abusive, but will not default to the current fashion. Let us say, she left for her sanity, which resulted in father being packed up to cousins in Southern Illinois.
He had a dog that he loved above all things, a shaggy mutt named Flash (I saw an old picture of Flash standing up on his hind legs with his paws leaning on a wire fence, his tail a wagging blur as he was trying to get over to my father no doubt while Grandpa took the picture). After my father was told that he was losing yet another mother, that he had to move away from his father and brothers, he was told that Flash could not come with him; he had to be given away. Given to whom? Given where? Even to his young mind, my father knew better. Grief stricken, he went into a rage, and went out back with a baseball bat and struck Flash in the head and beat him to death . . . My God . . .
“My God.” And he thought of his father cold and dead in that crypt and Jesus just before he died forgiving him.
It haunted him as he told me. “I was angry,” he said and I thought he might breakdown and weep; afterwards he could not speak. I wonder if it is easier to murder what we love than to continually suffer its loss.
My father always loved dogs and I never saw him raise his hand against one. We always had a dog and would suffer their ill-temper, disobedience and inability to be thoroughly housebroken rather than give them up. My father never seemed to be able to pick the right dog since Flash. Or rather, he never knew how to care for one or for anyone else for that matter, but he must have them . . .
Rigid, on the edge of his chair, Eric hit ‘saved’.