So I've started writing a novel, at least I hope. I'm shooting for 300 pages because the longest story I've ever written was right at 150 and I don't really consider that novel status. I want to achieve at least one in my life (and I'm also hoping to turn this into the beginning of a career, as in I get paid for my love and ability at writing). So this is loosely autobiographical, at least for now. The reasons for that are because it's just easier to riff off of my own life. Besides I believe that's how all the greats do it...like John Steinbeck, who would be one of my largest influences. I'm hoping to blend my own unique style into something reminiscent of Vonnegut and Steinbeck. So, loosely autobiographical. Separating the truth from fiction will be something I will never do...you'll just have to know whether it's true or not. What fun would it be otherwise...especially if you know me. That way I can say things I wouldn't admit to under the ruse of fiction. I hope somebody out there enjoys this. I'll post as I write. Here's the first eight pages of "Never Again Volunteer Yourself," the working title. I promise it will change at some point. My first novella was "Like the Weak," and the day I finished it the title was changed to "An Institution Known As Truth." Lastly, this is going to be largely unedited, so there's going to be plenty of mistakes.
Never Again Volunteer Yourself
He looked up into the sky because movement caught his eye. Geese in formation, probably gettin' the hell out of there to escape the approaching ruthless Chicago winter. This moment would be forever burned into Gavin Holloway's consciousness as a pivotal moment in his life. At the time he had no idea that this passing scene would be cemented into his psyche, but he knew that it was meaningful. He had many moments like that while he was in the United States Navy and this was one of the first. There were many such moments during that Winter of 1999, just at the turn of the millennium. This particular moment was about freedom. It was about learning that you never know what you have until you no longer have it. You've heard that saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill. Well a hill is a circle and so there are 360 possibilities just in degrees for the other side of the hill. The saying is true because it's never better, just a different green, or type of grass. You have no way of knowing about the other side of the hill because you can't see it from your vantage point, but the truth is that it's rarely any greener.
It was probably mid November at the time he looked up and saw those birds in formation migrating south. The thought that they were migrating didn't occur to him. He was in a formation doing the same thing that those geese were doing. He was doing what he was told to do only his oppressor was a very real U.S. Navy while there's was simply instinct. He looked up and felt envy at their illusory freedom. He wanted to be in that formation and not in the one that he was in. He couldn't leave that formation any easier than one of those geese could leave theirs, so why did he envy them?
"Holloway, what the fuck are you lookin' at. Eyes front!!!" Came the very real oppressive voice of one of his RDC's. Recruit Division Commander is what that acronym stood for. There were a lot of acronyms in the Navy. There were a lot of official ones and just as many unofficial official ones. His favorite acronym would turn out to be N.A.V.Y. which stood for "never again volunteer yourself." He couldn't even look where he wanted to look anymore. He was just thinking to himself how they could make him stand there, but they couldn't make him look straight ahead. He was wrong. Maybe that's what all of that avian envy was all about? I think that was the moment when he knew that he had made the wrong decision volunteering himself for this tyranny. It was a good lesson in reality but one that he didn't need to have. If you haven't figured it out yet, the world doesn't give a shit about you, and if you don't believe me than join the military. Just before Gavin went to boot camp, some time just before he went to MEP's (military entrance processing) an old man looked him square in the face and said "the military is going to get at least two times out of ya what they put into ya." He did what most 18 year old boys do and wrote him off cause he clearly didn't know what the fuck he was talking about.
He stood in formation staring at geese feeling envious towards birds with a brain the size of one of his finger nails. Brings a hole 'nother meaning to the saying "ignorance is bliss." There's another truism for you that is unfortunately very true. Well it should probably be "stupidity is bliss" cause at least then you can't be to blame for your decisions. What brought him to this particular juncture in time? How did an individual with the ability to do anything that he put his mind to end up enlisting in the fuckin' navy? I don't mean that in the usual we all have potential, everybody is created equal, you can do anything you put your mind to sense. I mean that he actually had the ability to do anything. He had a mind that was capable of absorbing whatever information he wanted to put into it and then to further be able to assimilate that information into truth within the human experience. He had intelligence beyond math, or science, or any other discipline you care to think of. He had a mind that was capable of philosophy on the level of the great philosopher's themselves. You know the ones that you read about in the philosophy 101 text books. His problem was that he had integrity and morals that emanated from his vantage point beneath the great architecture of truth. This world that man has created is hopelessly flawed because man is vastly not a creature of integrity. He's a creature of his evolution. Just like those geese he is concerned above all else with his survival, and that leaves little room for such amenities as integrity, truth, and morals. Hunger pains do not care about other hunger pains, just their own. He signed the doted lines at MEP's because he could no longer take the southern California traffic! He enlisted in the Navy because he was tired of sitting in long lines of traffic on the SoCal freeways for hours on end. Well, at least that's what he was to latter tell himself, and others when he told stories about his futile exploits.
Gavin lay on the carpeted floor of his bedroom staring through the sliding glass doors to his balcony at the moon. It was full, large, and bright. There was nothing left in the room except for him, a blanket, and a pillow. It was around midnight on the day that he was to move 2400 miles away to his new old home, California. He had been in Upstate SC for the last eight years of his life. The really important years to. The ones where you learn about masturbation, women, sex, love, friendship, hope, betrayal and heartbreak. Usually in that order. He had just dropped out of college after completing his second semester at a local two year private college with a 4.0 gpa. It was all paid for by an academic scholarship. He was the favorite student of all of his professors and could have gone to any University in the state had he not decided to give it all up because of a girl. You know what the major flaw of a hopeless romantic is? I mean beyond the hopelessness. Being a hopeless romantic.
His girlfriend of about six months broke up with him because he had renounced Christianity. He was driving a blue ford ranger straight drive while working for Steak Out. It's a steak and potato delivery joint. He looked up at the magnificent sky at sunset, while driving back to the steak joint from a delivery, and all at once it occurred to him that there was no God. He was 18 at the time. This epiphany came all at once, as epiphanies have a tendency of doing. The thought ricocheted throughout his mind and came out of his mouth. For many people in many different places through many different eras this need not have been a big deal, but he was living in the Bible Belt attending at private Christian College and dating a Southern Baptist at the time. So when he sat down in his girlfriend's parents living room one night around midnight to inform his girlfriend of his new found lack of a belief, he didn't expect her mother to be in attendance to the private conversation he was having with her daughter. She was in the hall, ease dropping.
His timing probably wasn't the best. They had just gotten back from watching a million dollar production that was put on by "the" Baptist church every year about the Birth of Jesus the Christ just before Christmas. That's no stretch to say a million dollars either. It was probably more than a million dollars. However, he probably should have waited for the religious sentiment and guilt to die down a bit before unveiling his new found Atheism. Kelly took it pretty well. Everything might have worked out a bit longer for Gavin and Kelly had her mom not been there to hear all about how there was no God and the whole damn thing was just a hoax. The piece of information that may have changed this whole tragedy that lead to Gavin dropping out of college with a 4.0, moving to Southern California, and subsequently enlisting in the Navy and ending up an ambulance driver was not to be found out by him until approximately ten years later. Kelly was a lesbian. Although she had no idea at the time, at least she wasn't sharing the information with anybody if she did know. That information was cause for one hell of a "you gotta be fuckin' kiddin' me" moment for Gavin upon his finding it out.
"You mean I fuckin' dropped out of college with a full ride, moved to Southern California, enlisted in the Navy, got kicked out of the Navy, damn near died from several drug over doses, went to jail numerous times, got several DUI's, and ended up drivin' this god damn meat wagon for wages just above minimum wage all because she was a lesbian?"
"It would seem that way wouldn't it."
"Well I'll be a god damn mother fucker!!!"
He was informed by Kelly in a letter that they could no longer be together. She gave him the letter in between English 102 and criminology. That's when he looked forward to seeing her every day. It's when he knew he would see her because they crossed paths on the way to the next class. He was heart broken, as you could no doubt deduce for yourself. The letter informed him that it wasn't that she didn't love him or that she had that big of a problem with his atheism, because she didn't, but that her mother had threatened to take away her car and kick her out of the house if she didn't break up with him. He couldn't blame her at the time. It was a great relationship and they had not had sex yet, which he never really understood until about ten years later. His rational mind got it, but that did not translate into the emotion dispatching regions of his brain. He was heart broken. To make matter worse it was only about half way through the semester and so he had to see her everyday. He mopped around that campus for the last couple of months.
His professors were all shocked to hear the news that he was not going to be returning the next semester. Nobody could talk him out of it. He was originally from California. He got moved to Upstate SC when he was 10 years old due to a transfer of his mother's job. He had spent the last eight years on the other side of the country away from all of his family, less his mother. After being forced to want what he couldn't have by way of a closeted lesbian for several months, moving to the other side of the country where the grass was clearly greener seemed like an outstanding out, and idea for that matter. His mother was just waiting for him to finish college, or move out of her town house and onto a University campus, before she moved back to California. So when he came to her and told her that he wanted to move back to California he didn't have to do too much convincing.
"Are you sure?"
That was about how long it took him to convince her. If he had had a father around to smack him upside the head and point at all of the other feminine fish swimmin' around he may have avoided that tragic mistake, but life has it's way of turning you into a stale fart from time to time.
It was hours before he would get up with his mother and drive the Uhaul, with his car in tow, to the other side of the country. He was lying there thinking about how he wasn't going to get a chance to say good bye to his best friend Chris. Chris was supposed to show up a few hours ago and never did. This was before the age of ubiquitous cell phones, and so knowing why he had not shown up was still left to the realm of mystery. The lack of communication technology did not fill a void, it created one and then filled it. There was nothing wrong with not having access to somebodies consciousness at all times as a requirement for psychological health. Gavin was upset at the prospect of not being able to see Chris before he left for California but not to the degree he would have been had Chris not been returning phone calls because he had a cell phone attached to his hips at all times. Life was much simpler before regular bowel movements would only be a quality of ones life if a cell phone attached to the internet cloud was constantly available to all of mankind.
Gavin lay their wondering why the hell Chris hadn't showed up when he heard some prying sounds outside of his two story balcony. Throughout the years Gavin had found it necessary to use his second story balcony as an escape hatch for scandalous teen age boy shenanigans, and Chris was aware of that route. In fact, he was using it to gain access to his best friend without alerting the adult in the house. Fortunately for the two of them, and many a teenage girl, Gavin's mother had no idea that they were capable of climbing down from one balcony to the wooden porch rails belonging to the down stairs porched in area like a spider monkey down a tree. Chris was busy scaling up and that's what Gavin heard. Before Gavin had a chance to get out from under his covers on the floor to find out what the sounds were he saw his buddy illuminated by moonlight emerging on his balcony. He got up and opened the sliding glass door.
"You didn't think I was going to let you take off to California without on more trip to the Waffle house did ya?" Said Chris.
They both slithered down the balcony and into Chris's Mitsubishi Eclipse. They did what they had done a hundred times before and ate a late night Waffle house meal of Waffles and Burt's chili laced with enough Tobasco sauce to kill an average adult male. They didn't talk about why Gavin was leaving or give any indication that he was leaving. They talked about the usual stuff they talked about. 18 year old boy stuff like the latest on the hottest snatch in town and what their stupid friends were up to. Time slowed for the two friends as they had their last meal together (as far as they knew at the time at least). After the meal they drove back to Gavin's townhouse in silence. The reality was starting to set in. This was the last time they would make this trip. It was the end of an 8 year friendship that went beyond simply filling the hours together in sport and trouble. Their friendship was a brotherhood just as tight as any biological brothers could have ever been. It was one of necessity with the common landscape of having no father figure around for any length of time. Together they traversed the strange and uncomfortable perils of adolescents. Conversations between lost and guilty 14 year old boys that sounded like:
"So I heard Mike's mom walked in on him whacking off the other day."
"Ewww, what a nasty ass pervert!"
"I know, right. I mean I've never done that before." Chris looks down at the table their sitting at playing a game of Rumi.
"Yeah, me either, that's just nasty."
"I know...but I mean, if you had done it before it would be okay."
"ha ha ha, yeah...I know, but I've never done that before. I mean if you had I wouldn't think any less of you it's just.."
"Have you ever jacked off before?" Asked Chris.
"Well, no, I mean...have you?"
"Well, no, I mean there was this one time."
"You too dude!!!" Said Gavin as they realize together that the bag of guilt bricks they'd been carrying around for the better part of a year could finally be set down.
"You mean, you've chocked your chicken before to?"
"Have I!! Like every day for the last two years."
And that's how they found out that suffocating the purple headed monster until he spit up was normal for teenage boys. There was no father around for either of them to get that talk. Throughout the years of middle school and high school they had always been there for each other. They were already growing to be quite different people, but their history kept them bonded. And now they were in the parking lot of Gavin's place trying to ignore the awkward fact that this was it. Their friendship was now going to be separated by a great continent in the time before cell phones when AOL chat was cutting edge communication technology on cutting edge dial up computer screens that still weighed as much as a non-flatscreen television.
"Chris, I hate goodbyes. So let's just act like were going to see each other tomorrow like normal."
"Yeah." Said Chris as the tears welled up. Gavin's tears were on the verge of destroying his manliness as well. "That sounds like a good idea."
Gavin offered his hand and said "You've been like a brother to me."
"So have you."
"I'll see you tomorrow." Said Gavin.
"Yeah, see you tomorrow." And Gavin walked behind the townhouses and scaled back up while Chris drove his Eclipse back home.
Gavin and his mother hit the road at the crack of dawn. It was Gavin's second trip across the great nation. He crossed as a child the first time and now he was a young man at the beginning of a voyage into full blown manhood. A voyage that took about ten years to complete and traveled a crucible of scandal, misery, ghastly and wondrous happenings, depraved debauchery in pursuit of truth, spiritual and intellectual awakenings, and finally ending in domestication by the hands of a crafty female web.
On the way to California there was an optimism that only awakend at times like those. The road moved beneath his life while he stayed stationary behind the wheel. This was the true American manifest destiny manifesting in a very real way in Gavin's life. It would prove to be an addiction for many years. It would take many years of struggle for him to realize that his father was not going to be found when the pavement stopped moving. That's the nature of the American in his automated internal combustion horse who sets out on that mystical western journey. There are about 2400 miles one can go until the pavement runs out and the journey must either go seaward or stop. Gavin eventually took that journey seaward and continued west all the way to the straight of Hormuz and back again. In college he had gone East across the pond all the way to England and France, and he found God nowhere. Shortly after that college trip was when he saw God's absence in that beautiful sunset. Now he was to try going west. But he would go back and forth for quite some years before finally settling down back East where he didn't belong.
They arrived in Southern California four days latter. The entire trip Gavin's head was full of all of the endless possibilities of not knowing. On the road your life is suspended in a womb of change that is warm and subtle. Nothing can stop your imagination from the pure optimism inflated by endless possibilities. Nothing can stop that process except the destination at the end of the road. The first day at your destination is usually all about realizing that reality exists everywhere and you can't escape it. It took Gavin about two weeks to realize that he wasn't done with that mystical high brought on by a 2400 mile journey alone in a vehicle. After California ignored his unique specialness, and mostly just greeted him with a failure to fulfill the wild narrative he had crafted over months of dreaming about the change, he realized that maybe he had made a mistake. Maybe his comfortable surroundings lined with friendships and familiar landscapes were more important than he had realized. Maybe he wasn't ready to once again move away from everything he knew to again become anonymous. His cousins, once like brothers, and extended family had all marched on with their lives. They were all happy to see him and his mother, but they all had their own lives. They had all changed as people as he and his mother had. To Gavin they were more like strangers than strangers were like strangers. After two weeks of not fitting in anywhere, mostly because he was not very social and too scared to bridge those gaps that come from anonymity, he found a way back to the good ole familiar south where everything he knew was. His Grandfather had put back a couple hundred dollars for him in a C.D. somewhere when he was young for college purposes. After talking with his mother he found out that he could turn that into cash in hand if he wanted it. His grandfather was alright with him using it for whatever purpose he saw fit. So, armed with 1000 dollars in hard cold cash, he packed his two door Saturn SC2 coupe with books, c.d.s, clothing, a computer, stereo, rock climbing, repelling, and backpacking equipment and hit the interstate system due east without his mother. This was his first voyage out of his mother's nest. It lasted about two weeks and he was back in Southern California for good this time. At least for temporary good. When he got back to South Carolina he was once again hit by the hard cold bitch of reality. In two weeks South Carolina had all moved on without him. His unique specialness had failed to leave a lasting mark, at least not one that he could find. It wasn't in the hole he had buried it in. It seems that the nature of all things left alone is decay. Chris was happy to see him as were his other friends. Even his high school lover, his first love, the one who lost her virginity to his, was happy to see him. But not happy enough to give up her current boyfriend to make him feel at home like she had told him on AOL instant messaging. The people here, who still resided in the home of his adolescents, had all believed him when he said he was moving to California. How were they to know that when he left he was really just kidding and that he would be back in short order? So when he left, he effectively finished the last chapter of the book of his adolescents. He would return to South Carolina in short order. It would take about six months, and it was only because that's where the United States navy told him to go.