So now I think I have the start of Part Three, and I am considering telling the whole third part in epistolary form, letters back and forth between the characters, maybe some journal entries, kinda like Dracula. The original story (Part One) was in first-person from one of the main characters. The second part was told in a more or less conventional third-person narrative aligned with the other main character. I am not sure about going epistolary with Part Three yet, just trying it out. I don't usually like the concept. It worked for Dracula over a century ago but it's failed so many times in the internet age when a novelist thinks that stringing together a bunch of emails and social media postings works easily as a narrative. It gets dated fast, and often just ends up being dumb. I pretty much always rejected this when I was editing M-Brane SF. I recently read Dennis Cooper's gay-sex horror/porn thing from a few years back, The Sluts, which is relayed in message board posts, and it's not a very good read. I like his work generally because of its transgressiveness, but that one really needed a different format. But when I started on Part Three of my thing, I found myself writing letters. I think if I continue in this fashion, I will try to assiduously avoid a lot of references to how things like computers and smart phones operate currently. These characters aren't putting quill to parchment. It's set "now." They are using their tablets and phones, but I don't want the tech to be too up-front. So maybe the concept of letters without a lot of talk about how they are transmitted might work? Anyway, this is the way Part Three starts...
It would be better than here. Just in the like that, if you can’t remember anymore if. I want to know but I can’t see are you up there. I don’t have a lot of strength now. The sky is stripped. I am too weak to write much. But I still hear them walking in the trees; not speaking. Waiting here, away from the terrifying weaponry, out of the halls of vapor and light, beyond holland and into the hills, I have come to wound the autumnal city. So howled out for the world to give him a name.
—From the last and first sentences of Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, with italic emphases added by A-R Kanayda for his “response/thought text” Bellona City of Vapor, Denny Kid of Fire
Dear Chris, (my #2 Dad, Alternate Father Who’s Sometimes More Like an Older Brother, Destroyer of Illusion, Captain My Captain, the Falconer who Cannot Hear the Falcon):
I do not know what happened to you when you were in Wisconsin, what things you did, what things you saw. You have not talked to me about it, except in the most vague of terms, circling around the subject, outward and outward, evading my questions until I am so frustrated that I get sick of talking to you and decide to just leave you alone with whatever it is you do and think all day. You also do not want to know what happened to me while you were gone, what things I did, what things I saw. You make that fact clear by not asking me even when I pointedly tee up the question for you.
I told you of the arrival here in our house of the Cult Cthulhu and how one of their boys sold me some kudzu fruit at Circus of Foods and how I was enlisted to impregnate one of their women. I know that you had some kind of similarly weird misadventure when you were away, maybe even an experience somehow parallel to mine. Though you have shared little about it with me, you did let slip the fact that Circus of Foods is a store up there, too, and that you bought kudzu fruit there. You admitted, though without saying it bluntly, that you fucked a Cult Cthulhu boy there, that one that I saw with you in the phone image that night.
Is that why you do not want to tell me much about your visit to Wisconsin? Do you think that I would judge you negatively because you had a relationship with that dude? Do you think that I would frown on the fact that you had your first such liaison post-Brace? Do you worry that I’d somehow be jealous? And do you really think that Brace—if he could somehow know about it from beyond the veil of death—would object? Because if you do, then you don’t know me very well and you have already forgotten something about Brace. Listen: you did pretty much the same thing he would have done had your positions in life versus death been reversed.
And I think that you did the same thing that I did a few weeks ago.
Maybe you’re just not yet used to being back home in “real” time. Maybe you are still suffering an effect of the time dilation that was going on under the heat bubble, a kind of temporal jet lag. Maybe you will catch back up to me in time and be able to talk about things like we used to.
A few days ago, start of last week, I began a part-time job at Circus of Foods. I told you about this and have posted my schedule to the calendar on your phone so that you can know easily when and when not to expect me to be home. You didn’t have much to say about it, other than that I don’t need to work right now and that I need to be thinking more about getting back to school. I told you that I know that I can easily just live indefinitely off of you and the trust that Brace left for me. But I also told you that I might feel better about myself if I can earn some of my own money. And I told you that I am not going back to school until the fall anyway. The fall at earliest. I even told you that I might not go back at all because I thought that would catch your attention, get you stressed, maybe make you angry, maybe make you yell at me and give me the Brace-lecture about how I sure as fuck will go back to school! But you didn’t do that. If you don’t give a fuck about it anymore, then maybe you won’t care that I don’t give a fuck about it anymore.
Do you wonder if I just said that in another attempt to get a rise out of you? You won't know one way or another until you have a serious talk with me.
My job at Circus of Foods is in the Deli-Café. That’s a department of the store where we prepare ready-to-go food, mostly for people who don’t know how to cook or who think themselves too busy or important to cook for themselves. My assignment is to make salads and hot foods for the self-serve bar that they have adjacent to the produce department. The manager of the Deli-Café is very impressed with me because he found out that I am Brace Kanayda’s son. I did not present this fact in my application, but it came out in the interview. I admitted during my first meeting with him that I know how to cook and had been taught at home. He said, “I guess it makes sense since your last name is Kanayda!” and he laughed goofily. It turns out that he is a fan of celeb chef-type people, but that he did not necessarily assume that I was actually blood-related to Brace. It was assumed to be a coincidence of name. He would not have guessed that I was actually associated directly because someone like him would presume that no one who’d ever had a brush with “celebrity” would show up for an entry-level job in his store. But I sat there like an idiot and said, “Brace Kanayda was my dad. He taught me how to cook.” If I’d not done that, it would have been a secret. I may have been subjected to gentle ribbing based on the coincidence of my name—much as I might be if my name were Flay or Batali or Morimoto—such things as a co-worker saying, “Hey, don’t mess with the master over there, Chef Kanayda knows what he’s doing” and the like. The dumb shit people might say. Like if I were working as a house painter and my name were Michelangelo. That kind of level of workplace-dumb.
The manager’s name is Mike DeLouvier and he conforms to the stereotype of grocery store managers. There are pictures of all of them on the wall behind the customer service desk: the general manager, the meat manager, the produce manager, the night shift manager and Mike DeLouvier are all dudes ranging in age from about thirty to about sixty, and they all have mustaches and not very good hair. The other managers, also pictured at customer service (such as the customer service manager), are women in the same age range. They’re also afflicted with bad hair but blessedly lack the mustaches.
Mike thinks I’m really cool. He says that I am better at chopping stuff than anyone else who works there, and that I work faster, and that the end result of my work looks better. This is all true. But sometimes it’s weird because he seems to pay too much attention to me, even to the detriment of my co-workers, who all need and deserve attention. I suspect that they will eventually come to resent me, and that it will be due mostly to how he spends too much time talking to me and praising my work. I have only worked there a week, and he tells me that he could help me out if I want the assistant manager position that is allegedly opening up soon in the Deli-Café. He has thrice invited me to have an after-work beer with him and some of the others. On each occasion I have been ready with a polite excuse with which to deflect this unpleasant engagement. I’d almost suspect that he was starting to chickenhawk me. Maybe he thinks I’m cute, right? It’s happened before, yo. Would certainly not be the first time, son! But then when I overhear him talking with the other older dudes who work around there, I hear him engage in dumb jokes. I somehow mentioned that you were recently in Wisconsin. One of the other dudes said, “Only thing in Wisconsin is steers and queers!” And they all laughed, including Mike. It’s really stupid.
Some of the foods I prepare there: macaroni salad, macaroni and cheese, tortellini salad, baked beans, three-bean salad, green bean casserole, potato salad, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, Salisbury steak, country fried steak, carrot salad, broccoli salad, tuna salad, chicken salad and ham salad. A new gelatinous fruit/whipped cream salad based on the kudzu fruit, and a salsa made from it for the weekly taco bar. The meat for the taco bar, its shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream and regular non-kudzu salsa. I volunteered yesterday to make the biscuit dough for the breakfast shift because I find that I run out of things to do during my own shift because I work so fast. And you have to stay until the shift ends; you don’t get to just go home when your work is done. There are two breaks during each shift, but I never go on break with the others because they say things like steers and queers and I don’t think I will work there for very long.
So that’s what’s up with me today.
This is very odd that I am writing a letter to you, in response to your very odd letter to me. But I think you are correct that I have been slow to catch up in time. I know that your letter was received several days ago, but I somehow feel like I am answering a letter that I just received a moment ago. But I think I am catching up. Each day feels a little more normal.
But didn’t we see each other each day since you sent your letter? Didn’t we sit at the table and eat dinner together just last night? We did. I know it. We ate fajitas that you made. There are leftovers of it in the refrigerator right now. I just looked to make sure. There was even some kudzu-fruit salsa that you made but which was almost exactly like one that I made in Wisconsin, and we even talked about this for a moment. Why do you have to write a letter to me when we sit together for dinner every night? It makes no sense. Really, why do I need to write a letter to you now when I just had dinner with you last night and expect to do so again tonight? Do we really not ever talk? It feels to me like we do, but maybe it’s just so slow from my perspective, delayed, and you are somehow still ahead of me in time.
I’ll be ready to talk to you more directly very soon about the important and valid points that you raised in your letter. But we may need a change of scene for it. It might help us both. I am attaching an image that I suspect will interest you.
[Attached image: Airship Atreides, Moored at the Obelisk, Capital]
That ship is coming to Argos-Bellona next week. Do we want to get tickets?