February 12, 2001
Well I finally got my wheelchair, the electric one, the one that was going to allow me to be a man about town again. I was all excited, thrilled as a matter of fact, until it came time to begin the trek to get into it. My legs had lost so much strength that Lynne was barely able to make the multiple transfers involved. First, she had to lift me from the bed and put me into the wheelchair, the old wheelchair, the old decrepit nasty wheelchair, to get me from the bed to the stair lift. Then she had to lift me from the wheelchair onto the stair lift and stabilize me enough to be able to stay in it for the eight-second ride. This proved disastrously hard. However, I finally arrived at the bottom of the stairs, and with the children's help was able to be lifted into the new chair. By this time we were all exhausted. So, not wanting to seem ungrateful, I tried to pretend that the new chair was comfortable, which it wasn't. It had been excavated for someone two inches thinner in the chest than I am. Also, the control was on the right hand side, which hand currently looks like an eagle's talon. It took some time to get me properly situated in the chair, but once I was, I eagerly grasped the joy stick and ran over the beagle. I thought this was an auspicious start. The beagle however, now trapped underneath this four-wheeled monstrosity began to howl like a banshee with hemorrhoids. I backed off of her immediately, and directly crashed into an ornamental sled that held a year's supply of potted plants. Fighting my way through the ficus and rolling over the rhododendron, I quickly turned that corner of living room into a mass of potshards, potting soil and beagle piss.
I rapidly discovered that when you're in a chair that makes you 31/2 feet wide and 4 feet long, the living room becomes very tiny indeed. Surrounded by a yapping boxer I blundered my way into the dining room with tendrils of the wandering Jew plant trailing in my wake. The beagle was now cowering under the dining room table, yapping like a mad thing. Which she was. And with good reason. I managed to negotiate the turn into the kitchen with no fatalities, only to discover that the kitchen had not been designed for the navigation of unarmed personnel carriers either. Heedless of the cost I ran over a box of Tide with bleach, through a Rubbermaid trash can, skidded on a pile of sorted white laundry, churned my way through the pile of colored laundry, and finally reached the refrigerator. My dream had been to be able to get a soda for myself. Alas, it was not to be. Neither hand was strong enough to open the refrigerator door much less grasp anything if I had. I attempted to spin the chair around and adroitly exit the kitchen, now with a train of dirty boxer shorts, one of my daughter's favorite skirts and someone's brassiere. I couldn't see that far back over my shoulder to deduce whose it was by either cup size or decoration.
By now the beagle had warily crept from under the dining room table and was sniffing cautiously at the remains of last night's dinner, which had been squeezed from the Rubbermaid trash can like foul smelling toothpaste. The wheels of my rolling bumper car skidded on the piles of granulated Tide with bleach, suddenly caught bare linoleum, laid a patch and flew directly at the little dog. With a squeak of blind terror she spun in place and ran for the living room leaving a trail of terrified flatulence. I let go the joy stick, and the chair came to a halt dead in the center of one such small blue cloud.
When I was through choking and my eyes had stopped tearing enough for me to see again, I called to my daughter, " Lucky 's been munching in the cat's litter box again!" My daughter who is often given to fits of a queasy stomach turned green and ran upstairs.
Finally regaining control of the joy stick with my numb hand I pressed it forward only to hear the motor grind, the solid rubber tire treads tearing into the wall-to-wall carpeting, but the chair failed to move. Hearing suspicious noises behind me I twisted my head far enough around to see an enraged boxer, its mouth full of brassiere and other underwear, furiously tugging for its life. I have no idea what the boxer thought she was saving the world from, but it must have been something gargantuan given her determined expression. For some reason this only pissed me off further. I slammed the joy stick as far forward as it would go, the chair shuddered in place and with a sudden sound of rending cloth shot forward into the dining room table.
The makers of the chair in their inexhaustible wisdom had designed it so that any normal-sized table fit neatly under the arm rests, allowing the rough edges of the table bottom to tear chunks from both of my thighs. Bellowing with rage I jerked back on the joy stick. Pulling the table with me, I crashed into the wall sending a 70 year-old decorative Coca-Cola mirror spinning into the living room. Luckily, it landed face up, slid across the floor with truly amazing speed and disappeared under the couch. I heard a sound like a cross between a bleat and a yelp as a corner of the frame impaled the beagle, who had sought refuge there.
By now I was surrounded by family members. Intent on dislodging the table, they inadvertently smacked my hand away from the wheelchair control until I stopped grabbing for it.
"This thing needs to be adjusted!" I roared and managed without further major mishap to maneuver the dreadnaught back through the living room to the bottom of the stairs. There Lynne and my son managed to drag me like a 160 lb. scarecrow from the chair onto the seat of the stair climber.15 minutes later, we had negotiated the 5 ft. climb, transferred me to the nasty if somewhat safer non motorized wheelchair, rolled to the bed, and dumped me back on to the mattress.
"Don't worry," panted my long-suffering wife, "We'll get Michael to adjust it."
I didn't say anything.
My wife left the room muttering something about Michael being able to help lift me too.
Two days later good old Michael spent several hours with my son Brian adjusting every conceivable adjustment on the infernal device. Once again I made the ego shattering series of transfers and was re-ensconced in my rolling throne. Michael had been able to adjust everything except the width of the chair's chest area. He'd successfully switched the control levers from the right to the left hand, and I found that I could now maneuver the chair much more reliably through the house. Within minutes I'd negotiated every square inch available to the chair in the tiny downstairs. And I did it completely without incident, thanks to the lady from the American Humane Society who kept the beagle sedated in an upstairs bedroom.
While I ran the small track a second time, now shaving down my run to just under a minute and a half, Michael measured the van in the driveway. He came back inside and applied the measuring tape to me and my new chair. He then had me tilt it all the way back so that he could measure again, all the while shouting, "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet!" in stentorian tones. Once I was completely tilted backwards, he applied the measuring tape again and announced that I could fit in the van if he cut my nose off.
I made the downstairs lap one last time in a rather desultory fashion and allowed myself to be hauled like the broken mannequin I was back up the stair glider and into my bed.
I lay there, my eyes stinging with impotent rage and vowed that the next time I left this mattress, it would be in a body bag. The problem, I realized, was that the chair didn't make me feel less like a sack of potatoes, but rather like a sack of potatoes on a forklift. I actually felt more mobile lying in bed where I could at least mechanically raise my head and feet whenever I wanted to.
After this, I began a downward spiral that lasted many days, during the course of which I managed to hurt, anger, or frustrate the hell out of every one I cared about or who cared about me. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I was able to hurt and anger people over a radius covering thousands of miles. Since then, it's been a slow unsteady march back up the hill. I guess I'd really been counting on that wheelchair, much more than I knew.
It's been hard times lately. Not just the wheelchair. The physical pain has kicked back in pretty bad some nights, with emotional and spiritual pain vying for a close second. Brian came down with a bad case of stomach flu and threw up 17 times yesterday. This made me unreasonably terrified and I went to bed last night certain that I was going to puke in the middle of the night, aspirate my vomit and end up deader than Jimi Hendrix. Waking up dead is such a lousy way to start the day. I don't know why I got so obsessed with this idea, but it I lay in bed last night fighting to keep the panic wolves away. If I died inhaling puke, would my son feel it was his fault? That worried me, far more than dying. I was in such pain that death itself didn't seem like such a bad idea. I just knew that the timing was off.
I think I am coming down with some kind of flu again; the East Coast currently has more varieties to offer than Tijuana has live sex shows. It seems like everybody is coming down with something. And with my immune system, which has been mugged and left for dead several times lately, it's not surprising that I catch some of everything that comes down the pike. Whatever it is, I intend to try and live through it. But some days it doesn't seem fair. And then I have to remind myself, "Fair don't enter into it me lad, it is what it is an make no mistake about that! "
Other than that, the rest of the world has been pretty sucky, too. Two days ago Lynne broke her toe and has been wandering around in agony ever since. It's doubly hard to ask her to do anything for me. And with Brian retching and Gwen sniffling and looking like death warmed over, I've been working to keep my requests to a minimum.
They've given me back a variant of Percocet, which is great as far as the pain goes, but brings with it its own unique problems. To put it as delicately as I can, my bowel movements are now the size of softballs. The gestation period is every other day, and delivery can take up to 45 minutes. Personally, I think that after six months of this, I'll be able to discuss labor pains as a full equal. If you disagree, please don't write and let me know.
Speaking of writing, last chapter I mentioned how behind I was in answering my email, but after posting that I found that everyone had taken pity on me and I only had one response to the last chapter. My mailbox got very lonely and forlorn looking. So I want to announce to the world that I spent two days, answered the majority of my mail, and am back up to speed, so please write if you feel like it. At least, I'm hoping that's what happened. It could be that everyone was so weirded out by the last chapter that they held their silence out of kindness, and are currently adopting a "Let's see if he comes to senses" attitude before venturing into my corner of cyberspace. I guess I'll just have to post this and find out.
I spent a lot of my writing time this week making a hybrid version of my novel to be posted on the site. As I explain in the book's blurb, I began writing this novel in 1977 and have been working on it on and off ever since. Think about it: when I wrote the first draft, I used a pencil on big yellow legal pads. I finished it on the 400 K iMac with a 30gb disk drive. It boggles the mind.
I actually combined pieces of several versions to make the one I'm posting here. In looking back over it I was shocked to find that it's written in a style which I would no longer dream of using. Since a total rewrite was out of the question, I'm posting it as is and trying to remember that at one time I thought it was the most wonderful thing I had written, and that quite a number of my literate friends felt the same way. I even had an agent gush over the second draft. Many people said it made them laugh out loud. I'll let all of you who care to be the judges. I think the character of Frank was probably one of the finest that I'll ever write.
As far as recovering the soul pieces is going, well, let's just say it's getting very weird.
I know it's unfair to leave you with that explanation, so with the caveat that I have no freaking idea what's going on, I'll give you a little taste. When I was very young, I had a reoccurring nightmare. The only elements which I remember included one of those old three-hooded dangling metal stoplights swinging wildly as though in a hurricane, and a complete lack of wind. As soon as I dreamed of this image I would begin cringing inside, knowing that something absolutely horrific was about to happen. I would awaken sweating, crying and screaming, and the last image fading in my mind was that stoplight, now swinging gently, but perched on top of it was the dark silhouette of an owl with glowing yellow eyes. As I grew older that particular nightmare receded and was replaced by a host of new and improved nightmares, many of which starred Boris Karloff as my father. Occasionally, though, he reverted to the role of Resident Monster. Old flattop (as I affectionately call him now) even spent two years hiding under my bed and grabbing at my feet as I went to get in. This necessitated longer and longer running leaps, flying through the air and diving on to the mattress, with my mother screaming, "Stop that you're gonna break the bed!" in the background. I don't know what I thought would happen if I told Mom why I had to do this, I just remember that it wasn't an option. Eventually he moved out, either to take up residence with Elsa Lancaster as his bride somewhere, or more likely under the bed of some kid with shorter legs who couldn't jump as far.
Leaving my buddy Boris behind for the moment, I had completely forgotten my earlier dream until one morning in the middle 1980's when I was sitting at my desk at work, glancing through the morning paper. A local bookstore had an ad for Whitley Strieber's new book "Communion". On its cover was the face of an alien, a face which has now become commonplace, appearing in many movies, TV shows, and even a Pepsi commercial. But this was the first time I'd ever come face to face with it and it sent to jolt of fear careening down the back of my head through my spine and out of my rectum. I instantly knew that face, or rather those eyes. They were the exact same ones from my dream owl. The picture actually shocked me enough that I slammed the newspaper closed on it. I was so shocked by my own reaction to this simple drawing that my fear began to avalanche. At noontime I ran out and bought the book. Even through the translucent Barnes and Noble bag, those eyes made me want to assume fetal position, hold both my balls with my hands, shut my eyes and whimper.
What I read the book, a slow tale of alien abduction told in the first person, it made me sick to my stomach. And another image flashed into my mind. I was sitting on the front seat of the car between my parents, at night, a bright yellowish light shining down and my father screaming. And one other detail: out of the corner of my eye, just behind the chromed rearview mirror, I could see that familiar hooded stoplight swinging wildly.
These strange flashes were very unsettling, to put it mildly. The initial conclusion, that I had been a part of an alien abduction, was as unthinkable as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. I hemmed and hawed and wrestled with the edges of this concept, but eventually decided that it was something that I really didn't want to know about. I explained to myself how easy it was for someone like me to confabulate images. I told myself stories of archetypical images, the collective unconscious, and how I must have seen a drawing like that during the middle sixties when I was obsessed with researching flying saucers. I decided that it was just my mind scaring itself. And I tried fairly successfully to put all that behind me. Leave it to Mulder, as it were.
Now with the return of my soul pieces I find that the "Owl incident" has returned. I find myself yelling, "Scully!" a lot. The children find this upsetting and the dogs leave the room when I do it.
I'm no more able to seriously consider myself as a victim of alien abduction that I was in 1985. It just seems laughable, impossible, and far too scary to think about for more than a second or two. The disturbing part is that this time there are still more images and if I thought the first ones were crazy, then these are so far around the bend that when you look back over your shoulder you can't even see where the bend was. Still remaining aware of how easy it is for a suggestible person like me to make up things, I'll just give you what I have and let you make what you will of it.
If you've read the beginning of "GOD Stuff" then you've read how I have this strange memory of being alone in a place in the backyard which I called "The Magic Woods" and seeing two tiny perfectly formed fairies fluttering on the vines new my face. This image is as real as any other childhood memory, but seems totally unconnected to anything else. But - and this is the real big but, bigger than my Aunt Helga's - now, there's more.
My mind has presented me with the image of my father screaming in the car now followed by the image of hands on huge thick arms yanking me from between my parents and whisking me off into the bright yellowish light. What follows is an erratic series of images of curved dark metal walls dripping with a glowing goop, which has been looped tastefully into tangling curves and ovoids. It's almost as if I'm being carried under some Thing's arm at this point. The next image is much clearer and it's being shoved into the center of a group of monsters, harmonious Bosch monsters, trolls, evil brownies with bat wings, tall spindly things with sharp teeth and red eyes, and in the center a horrible fat old hag hunchback with hairy warts, right out of central fairy tale casting, and her hands are glowing in the murky dark vaporous vault. She opens them up and shows me the two tiny fairies from my earlier glimpse.
She asks me in an appropriately vile and raucous voice, " have you seen these two before?"
I look at the fairies. They are shaking their heads "No" and shouting something but their voices are too tiny to hear. I say, "Yes..." whereupon the hag pinches them between her fingers and tears them apart like insects. The glitter dies as their shredded bodies fall from her fingers. Then she looks up at me, "This is all your fault you nasty little boy!" she shrieks and I am whisked away once more.
OK, give you an hour to digest that one. Take two if you want. I've taken a week, myself.
And just to add to the weirdness, as soon as the first memory reappeared, owls, real owls appeared, hooting outside my bedroom window, scaring the shit out of me. I know I'm not imagining these because both Lynne and Gwen have heard them. Not to mention my memory this evening of a story that my mother wrote down for me when I was four. My mom wrote it down, and it's the only such story that she wrote down, because she thought it showed signs of a fantastic imagination. I remember making the story up in the Magic Woods and running to tell her. The story tells of an evil man flying around in a clock that spits poison. If I can find the album where it's written I'll post it here.
All that I can figure out is stated in a theory which I read once and which has appealed to me ever since. There are no aliens from outer space abducting people; rather, "aliens" is just an new guise for the same old malevolent spirits which have always plagued mankind, only we used to call them trolls, the good folk, the Fey, woods spirits and so on and so on. Now instead of kidnapping children and leaving changelings, we have stories of aliens abducting people to form human alien hybrids.
I'm not saying that any of these memories had any more reality to them than particularly vivid dreams. As a matter of fact, if there is any tangible reality to them, I don't want to know about it. But real or imagined, these images played some crucial role in my development and so I can't ignore them, or leave them unexamined. Maybe they're all archetypical memories from the collective subconscious, I've no idea. But tonight as I got ready to sleep, prior to writing this, the owls were particularly loud.
Well that winds up another fun-filled chapter, boys and girls! Tune in next week to hear of recording of, "They're coming to take me away He he hah hah ho ho..."
I feel like I owe all of you an apology, but all I can give you is what I've got. As honestly as I can.
[EDITOR'S NOTE - Luther has asked me to let you know that something's come up in his household. It's a family thing, and has nothing directly to do with ALS or Lyme Disease. Nevertheless, it takes a lot of energy for Luther to deal with it, and he has to suspend posting for a brief while. He hopes you will all understand. He'll get back to writing stuff as soon as possible - maybe even next week
Meanwhile, look for the New&Improved Photo Gallery, found on the Index page (the first page, the 'Front Page" of the site.]
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