by Nicholas P. Snoek



Chapter Thirty-Four


Daniel and Jack are walking around downtown, and they're in the rundown area behind the beer parlor. Some toughs are gathered around an old car. Two of them are bent over, talking to the people inside. One is an overweight squarish man, with a huge endomorph middle. Characteristically low slung pants barely hang on his no-waist hips, and a none too clean blue T-shirt fails by far to meet the pants, leaving bare an expanse of distended light blue-grey mottled skin sporadically tufted with black hair. The leaning over accentuates this exposure. Jack has a strong feeling of revulsion.

As they come alongside, Jack says "Hey, buddy. You're gonna lose your pants."

Dan stares at Jack, mouth open wide.

The man slowly straightens up and turns around. He's huge! Jack wonders if his big mouth has taken him too far this time.

Slow, deliberate "What's it to you? Who the hell are you?"

Jack, smiling what he hopes is a relaxed friendly smile, "Ooh, uh. I just wouldn't want you to be embarrassed."

Not quite sure what to make of this, the man just squints. His friend has seen Jack around, and thinking it better to avoid trouble, decides to intervene. Softly he says "Come one, forget it. He's alright."

Glancing over, the big man grunts. "Hmmph. Let's get a beer. I'm thirsty." They both walk away, officiously ignoring the two young students.

"Vick, are you crazy! Are you suffering from a death wish or something? What on earth did you do that for?"

"I don't know. I was repelled by the sight of his big gut hanging over the car that way, and his naked ugly bulges. I felt I had to say something. It's okay. No harm done."

"Through no fault of yours! If you don't mind, when I'm with you please don't get yourself brutalized or killed. I don't want to get splattered just because I happen to be close by."

Laughing nervously, "Oh don't fret. Nothing happened."

"Huh. Vick, after that, can you still insist you don't believe in Freud's thanatos? If you're not suffering from a death wish, what drove you to do that?"

Jack tries to figure this out. A stupid thing to do! No way would it accomplish anything positive, but it could certainly have landed him in trouble. Why did he do that? Poe's imp of the perverse?

Jack "More like a megalomaniacal impulse to set something straight, I would think. The idea of a death wish is repellent, it is so self contradictory I cannot countenance it."

"Vainglorious Victor, just consider this. People subject to impulses they do not understand are not in a good position to lecture others on what is or is not wrong with them. Addicts are not addicted; they merely do certain things in a compulsive way. They are driven, as if by uncontrollable impulse. Right? An impulse they cannot account for."

"Well, I don't think what I did just now is going to become part of any compulsive behavior pattern. I didn't exactly get a whole lot of satisfaction out of it, you know?"


It's late at night. Jack is in his room alone. He's been reading an account of Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron, captured in his early teens. An animal-human boy who lived at first in the forest, but as he lost his fear of people, he scrounged more and more in the fields and gardens of local farmers, till he was captured.

He only learned about fifty words of the language, even after five years of patient teaching. Stuck in the animal state for life, by being abandoned? That's hard to accept.

If he was a human boy, as it would seem, why didn't he acquire the full complement of human traits? Is language so crucial? If he had been taught language sooner, would that have made the difference? Some writers claim if language is not learned by the age of about ten it's too late to be learned at all.

This reminds Jack about that contentious letter from Bhutan. He brings it from the attic and rereads it. `When I was pregnant with this baby I was very troubled.'

That's to be expected. No matter what the explanation of how she got pregnant, it's clear enough her husband was not the father, because `When the baby was born it was very hairy.' and `I am not hairy. My husband is not hairy. In both our families no one is hairy, and no one is blond.'

What about that hairiness? I never heard anyone say I was particularly hairy when I was just born. I wonder if I can find out about that somehow. But the hair color is a dead giveaway in any case. Bhutanese people are black haired, pure and simple, and I am blond. And they have brown eyes, close to black. Mine are green.

`It is worrying me what can happen with the boy. If he is part apeman he may be wild or crazy.'

Lady, you don't know the half of it. There's wildness and craziness aplenty around me. Victor II. But I'm not so sure how much of it begins with me. Some has to be yours, and who knows how much is daddy's, whoever he might be. Some kind of Bluebeard?

And why didn't she feel better after she gave up the baby? Well, she felt guilty. Guilty about the father, guilty about the husband, and probably most of all, guilty about me. You don't give your child away because you're not happy about who the father was, do you? Not likely.

Shouldn't every newborn child start with a clean slate? What does it matter who the father was, or who the mother. Except in unusual cases, the genetic endowment is generally quite neutral; it's the nurturing that most strongly stamps an imprint on the development of an infant. Anyway, that's the one you can do something about, the other you can't.

And abandoning a child is about the worst possible first step you can take in the childraising project.

What could justify that? Mother, where are you now? How would you answer that question?

Leda and I are just starting to talk more now. And tomorrow we're going to a movie, just the two of us. Should I be telling her about this sort of stuff? She's dating a monster?

Not an ugly duckling. Not a swan. A big ape! That would set her off, for sure. A firm and final goodbye!

Well, I'd better get some sleep.

///Jack is in a small clearing, high up on a mountain. All around are snowcovered slopes, and to one side he can see a steep valley, choked up with evergreens. The sun has warmed the pile of fallen trees he leans against. Not far away a man sits on a tree trunk, looking at him.

"Hello, Jack."

"WHAT? Brother Andre? Is it you? How can that be! Are you dead? Have you died? What's going on here?"

"Easy, Jack. Take it easy. Now, think for a moment. Have you died?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Right. Neither have I. That doesn't mean we can't have a talk, does it? You, alive in this state, and me, alive and in the same state. What's wrong with that?"

"But it's never happened before. How does it work? It was always this pretty lady, Deborah. She talked to me, and told me all about how everything works, and how it all fits together and makes sense and all that. But how can you be here? It doesn't seem right. Can you explain it?"

"Jack. Relax. Now, what is there to explain? Tell me what your problem is, exactly."

"Whew! Actually, I'm not sure. It just seems necessary that some other world type of being should be in charge of this. Isn't it dangerous?"

"Have you ever had experiences in this state by yourself? Without the guidance of this Deborah?"

"Well, yes. I guess I have. More than once."

"And did anything bad happen to you?"

"No. But that was by myself. Now you're with me, and that's a bit scary."

"I'm not in charge of this, Jack. Let's just go with it, okay? It was a bit scary with Deborah at first too, wasn't it?"

"I don't really remember. I suppose it must have been."

"Well, I've had a lot of these experiences, as you might expect. With others, both alive and not alive, if I can put it that way. And by myself, of course. So why not with you? Don't worry about it. There's a lot more to come, and you will survive it all. One thing you should realize is that you can be in good hands, so to speak, even when you cannot see those hands."

"Someone is looking after me right now?"

"Absolutely. Wouldn't you expect that?"

"I don't know. It's kind of hard to imagine, when you can't see somebody in front of you. How can they watch? Where's their invisible eyes? And how can an invisible eye see... wouldn't the light just scatter, be diffused?"

Laughing heartily, "Ha. Jack. Get your wits together, boy! Just think for a moment. Where are your physical eyes, Jack. Huh? Your visible eyes are not here either. Your whole body, including your visible eyes, are in bed. Right? Sleeping soundly in your bedroom in Enderbush. Yessir. Sleeping a baby sleep, while you are up here trying to make sense of a not unusual type of encounter designed to help you in your struggle to figure out how the world works."

"Okay Brother Andre. I'm sorry. I was so startled to see you, that's all."

"I understand, son. I understand.

Now. Let's get on with what we got together for, shall we? It seems I will be too late to keep that letter from you, or to prepare you for it. You've already gone through that. And even though you've had some help in dealing with it, you're not at all reconciled to what happened with your mother."

"What did happen? Was she raped by an apeman? Is my father an apeman? How can that be?"

"Yes, she was inseminated by an apeman. But although she may have been raped from her point of view, that's not the way it was from his, if you can speak of his point of view. True, she was a victim, an innocent victim, of what was to her, a rape. But he was not culpable, for two reasons: he had no capacity for conscience, and he neither felt nor showed any malice. A good part of his motive was to associate in any way he could, with a human being."

Jack "Yes. Deborah explained that. I can accept that part of it alright, but it still raises a lot of questions. For one thing, you say he had no capacity for conscience. That has to do with his not being human and so not having spiritual potential.

But what about his mind? How well, or to what extent, could he know what he was doing, or how could he know or what could he know in other respects? If he was so close to being human presumably he would have a brain almost on a par with mine or yours. Wouldn't that imply a mind of quite a high level as well?"

"Oh you've come a long way, Jack. You're quite the philosopher already, aren't you? Well, let me see what I can do to set this in perspective. Although I warn you I'm not altogether on terra firma here. Hmmn. Nice double meaning there.

Okay. The mind serves two purposes that I'm aware of. One, it's a translater or transducer and two, it's a filing system. The second one isn't too much of a problem. But, surprisingly, we are mostly unaware of the mind's functioning in almost every respect. We make a lot of noise about our self-consciousness, and no doubt it is a marvel, but what has always seemed much more marvellous to me, is how our minds can do all those amazing things we are absolutely in the dark about.

For instance, has it ever struck you that you cannot catch yourself thinking a conscious thought? That your consciousness only comes onstage when the working part of thinking is already done?"

"But that's preposterous! I think conscious thoughts all the time! Right now I'm thinking you're maybe a bit off your rocker. What about that?"

"Cute, Jack. Cute. But listen. What you're really doing now is reporting, first to yourself and then to me, about a `thinking that'. You think that I'm off my rocker. Now, `thinking that,' is a state of belief, a judgement that something is or is not so. And in this case you believe I'm off my rocker, or so you say.

What happened is that you had a thought, you did a bit of thinking, but you were not aware of doing it. All you could be aware of was the result, which was itself already a translation, from the thought into the words to report the thought, and the translated report of the thought was: `you're maybe a bit off your rocker.' You see? You report your belief about something with very little idea of how you got to it.

Notice too, how our language, our ordinary non-philosopher language, catches the distinction. We say `I had a thought' or `I was thinking'; we never say `I am thinking a thought,' or `I was thinking a thought,' not even to ourselves.

In the first one, `I had a thought,' we report not the thought, but the possession or the having of it, the capture of its result, which is its rendition or translation into whatever symbols we have chosen for its storage or further manipulation. In the other one, `I was thinking,' we state a surmised must-have-been-thinking, underlying a series or group of thought renditions into words or pictures or some other concepts.

What we take to be thinking is always a post mortem of the thinking that took place just before the activity of organizing and reporting the result of the thinking. And even the thinking parts of that organizing and reporting are not conscious."

Jack ponders this a moment.

"But how do you account for the fact that people are so strongly convinced that they think with words? I certainly have that feeling."

"Take it the way you do any other question. Consider the evidence. For instance: Do you suppose that a native of China who only knows Chinese would have a very different mind from that of a native of Italy who only knows Italian, all other things being equal, as far as possible? That may seem a bit abstruse, but what I'm getting at is the sort of mental activity involved in problem solving.

Imagine those two persons both faced with a need to find the square root of a large number, without benefit of any calculator or writing materials, just in their heads. How would they do it? Surely the Chinese mind and the Italian mind would both go some significant distance towards working out the problem BEFORE the point at which there is a need for language.

Does that sound reasonable? A math problem would mostly be worked through at a prelinguistic level, I should think. I don't know for sure how other people think about numbers, but I myself picture the numbers as amounts of space, as in bar graphs. A one is a small space, a two is twice that, and so on. But I believe with any thinking the really good stuff happens prior to its translation or fitting onto any type of concept at all. I don't believe we think with concepts. Concepts are like collages consisting of pictures or image-excerpts, portraying the results of the thinking, already a form of translation."

Jack muses about this for a minute.

"Boy, that's kind of unsettling. We only know we think by catching the results. I wonder what thinking is itself."

"Well, go back. Back. What are the sorts of things we start with? We begin with pointing and naming, and then we start to distinguish between things by comparing and differentiating, selecting and classifying.

Consider a simple thing like comparing the weight of two dissimilar objects. You take one in each hand, and what happens? Do you think? Or does your nervous system or your unconscious mind just deliver its verdict? Can you catch yourself doing any thinking there? I believe education is the gradual refining and incremental development of such basic discriminations. The word education itself, to lead forth from, suggests that buried meaning: what we call learning to think is actually learning to organize, to recognize, to categorize, the RESULTS of thinking.

We do not know how we think, we only know THAT we think. And we only know that, by the output we gather up afterwards.

Another thing. What words do you use when you work on a jigsaw puzzle? Imagine yourself trying to fit words onto the mind's eye image-of-a-shape that you hold in mental view while searching over the pieces or the candidate contours for the needed fit. It seems to me that provides a good model, a paradigm for the way ALL thinking is done, whether we realize it or not: at a pre-symbolic level. Matching up patterns, looking for meanings and symbols previously worked out, held available in a repertory for later reference.

We think the stuff of the world into symbols, using whatever representations we have created in our heads; each of us creating a private and individual world, really.

To kind of sum this up, we capture our thinking in two ways, an animal way and a spiritual way. The animal way is with pictures. We process pictures or images of world items in a collage, an endless kaleidoscopic trial and error sequence of stochastic jigsaw fittings, especially when we compare alternative actions and outcomes in deciding what to do.

But pictures are translations already, you realize. We use them to quick freeze and to organize stopping points, situational settings. And then we use them again for filing."

"That's hard to grasp. You must have worked on this a long time, to put that all together."

"It's fairly straightforward introspection, Jack. It takes some honesty with yourself, and a willingness to put aside some of the habits you find yourself saddled with. And you have to accept the discomfort of uncertainty while you search about for a better view of things."

Jack nods, wisely.

Brother Andre continues, "Consider, even fairly simple motor activity, if it isn't part of an automatized sequence, is initiated by first being imaged out in the mind; you generate a picture of yourself getting up and going to the door, to see what the noise is outside. Then your body sort of zombies it out. A kind of transducting from one medium to another. Mental to physical energy, thought imaged into motion.

You can see that very clearly when you first learn to do something; your mind keeps sending prompting pictures to your body, and your body keeps trying to implement those suggested picture promptings, and its efforts are again and again evaluated by the mind, until your body-cum-brain learns to do what your mind is leading it towards.

Now, I always thought of that basic learning skill as animal, because I could never see a clear discontinuity between what happens with an animal in that regard and what happens with us. We can train a skill into an animal's behavioral repertory the same way we learn it ourselves.

The second way, the spiritual way, is a bit more abstract. It has to do with imagining how it would feel, or what it would be like, to be something or someone other than we are. There's more involved in that than imaging or picturing, and it's my belief that our ability to stand outside ourselves that way, to imagine what an alternative personhood might entail, that it has to do with a temporary adoption of another self-space, if that makes any sense. And it must work by a shifting of our point of view from that of our three dimensionally curtailed self to some other, some spiritually provided stance.

Now that's where the vaunted self-consciousness plays a part. In order to imagine what another person or another self might experience it's necessary to have the experience of self-conscious personhood to begin with. And what is involved there, is an application of the flexibility inherent in symbolism proper, to ourselves, so we see ourselves as subjective object. Tricky.

So I think self-consciousness is a prerequisite to spiritual development. And I think a touchstone, or sign of progress, is the achievement of an OTHER-consciousness. We should strive for other-consciousness. When we achieve that we become fully human."

"And my father never got there?"

"No. He has an animal mind, so he can do the picture thing quite smoothly, but with his well developed brain he strains at upper limits you might say, trying to be human. However, he cannot access the other proclivities needed to bring that about. He is forever imprisoned on one side of a boundary he cannot see and cannot know.

Your father has no language, Jack. That means he cannot auto-narrate his history, his life story; so he cannot create a conscious self to tie together his experiences, to give them continuity and meaning. Without the ability to think into symbols, so strongly boosted by language, he cannot become a person. His mind is stuck on the animal side of the great divide.

The mind of a human being mediates between the spiritual and the material. It transforms transduces and translates, back and forth between the brain on the one side, and the great unknown on the other. The brain we can see, and are increasingly familiar with. The reality on the other side we cannot, and we have to base our speculation on what has been revealed to us in other ways, like in the Bible and other scriptures, and to some extent in mathematics."

"Are you saying that revelatory books other than the Bible are authentic? Are inspired by God?"

"But of course, Jack. Didn't I always tell you that God is far above all our religious differences, that He inspires all spiritual experience? So wouldn't you expect that He plays a part in other revelations?"

"I guess so. But it seems strange that He could come up with different scriptures."

"Well, it's the human factor we have to look to there. In transcribing and translating, the vagaries of human language, the problems of interpreting symbolic images -- it is all subject to human limits and idiosyncrasies. Also, I'm not altogether sure that God Himself is involved in most revelation. To me it seems reasonable to suppose that kind of thing could be handled by lesser beings, so then it would also be subject to their shortcomings, whatever they might be."

"That makes scripture sort of suspect all around, doesn't it? My gosh, is there ANYTHING we can rely on?"

"We have to do the best we can, Jack, with our own minds and our own brains and bodies. Try to judge and think rigorously. There is no easy way. No promises. No guarantees."

"So, what's going to happen now? Will I see you again?"

"Oh, yes, that's right. Your mother and I will be arriving in Enderbush very soon, to visit you. That should be fun. You and I will both pretty much forget this conversation; likely we'll have a low level replay of parts of it all over again. But it should be better now than it would have been otherwise."

"You're coming to see me? And you're bringing my mother?"

"That's right. So now, in the back of your mind you'll be expecting us."

"Is that typical? Is it usual to have a preview of coming attractions this way? Do people often dream of what will happen later, so they'll be prepared for it?"

"Yes. Exactly. Nothing of significance ever happens to anyone that they don't dream out first. That's the cause of this thing they call deja vue. We get the strongest feeling that something has happened before, but it couldn't have. And yet it did. You know what someone will say before he says it. You even know what you will say before you say it. Yet you say it anyway, as if you were compelled to, like a well trained actor.

The thing is, you've witnessed it before. But as a spectator, not a participant. And the purpose of that is to help you face what's coming. There's a lot of help available if people would only learn to use it better. But I shouldn't talk. I don't do that well myself."

"No, I guess I don't either. But tell me something. I've had these feelings of deja vue, but very often it's about just trivial things, not significant at all."

"Right. That gets us into the multiple times problem. It goes something like this. From any situation, depending on its outcome, other situations will develop. But out of all the possible scenarios, only one will become the actual one. Yet in some way that we find difficult to understand with our linear time determined concepts, the other possible outcomes all have an existence, clear or immediate, available for consideration and inspection or not, depending on the probability of actualization. I think it has to do with more or less real worlds brought into existence by the various projections of mind. Gets complicated.

The idea is explored in an essay called I think `The Garden of Forking Paths.' And hints of it come out in modern physics as well, with degrees of probability as to location and velocity of tiny particles.

Now, we do travel around in our sleep an awful lot, Jack. And most of the time what we notice as background is a garden variety of likely scenarios. The ones that are most certain to come about, since there's no particular reason why free will should be called upon to affect the unfolding of minor events; they just don't matter that much. But for some reason we tend to notice and remember the setting, and we forget the main event. You see? Probably has to do with not wanting to face the music.

Well, it's been interesting, but I have to go, Jack. I'll see you soon."

"Goodbye, Brother Andre. And thank you."

"Goodbye, Jack. See you soon.\\\


Jack has bought an old Lee Enfield 303, a converted army rifle, and he has done some practising in the gravel pit up past Harbing Road, at Foothill Road. He thinks he is ready to go out for big game, so he has bought a big game license and a deer tag.

It's five in the morning on the first day of hunting season. Jack and Len are planning to do some serious hunting. Len and Karel, his dad, have heard from some loggers there is a good spot up at Yantze Flats above Adam Lake, so Karel, Stefan, Len and Jack are on their way up there, in a VW beetle! All kinds of moose and deer have been sighted, up this way.

It's pretty cool up here, and everything is covered with a heavy dew. But the men are dressed for it with gum lined boots, thick woollen pants, and duck jackets over heavy lumber shirts. They wear bright yellow and red caps and jackets, so no one will mistake any of them for game.

Getting shot is not part of the plan. Every once in a while you hear of a hunter getting taken for a deer or bear. Nasty.

Karel, "Okay, you two young guys, you take this fork, and Stefan and I will go up the other one. See you in about two hours. Let's see what works better. Wise grey hair or long legs. Remember now, in about an hour you start coming back."

"Right." Len and Jack set off.

It is so quiet up here, so very quiet. The only sound most of the time is the soft rustling of their boots against the tall grass and low shrubs, and an occasional raven cawing its hoarse call in the distance. You don't realize how many background sounds are involved in the ordinary life amidst society's ever busy-ness, all the traffic noise, machinery, equipment -- until you get up here, and there is no background noise.

They are coming round a draw, and both of them, with one automatic movement, glance up the area just opened to their view, and WHAT! Two moose are just in the act of getting to their feet! Both bulls!

Jack steps around Len who hisses, "You take the one on the right. SHOOT!"

What? Wouldn't we be more likely to get somewhere if we both try for the same one? But, okay. You're the experienced one, here. Here I go. I think.

BANG! Len has fired already.

Jack is shaking, and can hardly even SEE the moose he's supposed to be shooting. It's starting to run up the hill, at an angle. He can see that the animal on the left has buckled to its knees, and is keeling over. He tries to hold still and, knowing he can't possibly be anywhere near the mark, feeling totally inadequate clumsy and useless, yanks at the trigger.


His moose is proceeding majestically into the thicker trees, and disappears! There is a gurgling sound from the fallen one.

Jack starts to run off to the right, to give chase.

"Hey, what're you doing? Let's take care of this one and make sure of it."

"Len, it's dead! I want the other one."

"What do you mean it's dead! How do you know? It's moving around in there. Anyway, you'll never catch up to a moose, for heaven's sake!"

No time to argue, Len. I know the sound of a dying animal; this moose is dead. I'm going after the other one.

Jack is running through the brush, stopping to listen every now and again, but the sounds are quickly getting fainter.

How discouraging! Now I have to go back and face Len. And feel like a fool and look like a jackass and be embarrassed. How inept can I be? And after Len, I'll have the same thing with Karel and Stefan. Shit!

But first of all, which way to go? He has been running by sound, not noticing the lay of the land very much. Oh boy! That on top of it? Get lost now, too?

This is not like hunting rabbits in the little ten acre patch down by the river. Out of your league, little fellow?

With no idea which way to start out, Jack sits down on a log, laying his rifle against it.

Should have stayed home. Obviously no good at this.

Off in the distance he hears two shots. Must be other hunters up this way, too. Somebody else probably got something. Someone with more of the required skills and control than a certain jackass. Victor-I would be more at home here. Victor II is out on a limb. Out on a log. Out in the middle of nowhere.

Well, which way?

The sun doesn't help; it wasn't up yet when they set out, so there's no way to get his bearings from it now. Might as well head for the sound of the shots. That way he should eventually get someplace where people are, or were.

One thing he has learned about walking in the bush. You should keep picking a target spot as far away as you can and head for that, to avoid going in circles.

Jack has travelled through the trees for about five minutes, when suddenly he hears voices! Someone is yelling. And someone else is yelling back! How many people are up here?

Oh. It's Len! Yelling back and forth to Karel and Stefan! Whew! What a relief. Well, get over there, stupid.

They're sure doing a lot of shouting. What about?

Wow! The moose Jack was chasing ran right up to the two older men, and they shot it! Together. Two holes.

Two moose! What a day! What a lot of meat!

Jack's in the middle of it all now. All three are still almost shouting.

Karel "Thirty-five years I've been hunting, and I have never, EVER in all my life come across a moose lying DOWN! Never!"

Len "They were just getting up, and Bang, Bang. One was down, just like that! It was beautiful."

Wonder if he told them I shot a mile wide.

Karel "You know, I just heard a bit of rustling and then I saw him, that great big rack coming up, coming straight up out of the bushes, with his big nose up in the air. I could see him sniffing, and he was moving that big rack back and forth, trying to see. They can't see worth a damn, you know. Well, we let him have it. POW and POW! Right underneath those horns. A little to the left, and a little to the right! He didn't have a chance." Turning to Jack, "Where were you?"

Jack "I was following that one."

"Well. How about that."

Stefan "Well, you guys. We've got some butchering to do. And I don't know about the rest of you, but I've only got a deer tag. I didn't expect to run into a moose, just like that."

After some more talk it's decided Len and Jack will go back to the car and hightail it down the hill, get two moose tags and bring the big flatbed up. In the meantime the two older men will gut the moose and try to figure out the best approach to haul them out.

Wow. What a day!


Fen Sean is a dapper little man, always neat and tidy. He has black hair, short and curly, styled a bit like a schoolboy's. Indeed, if it wasn't for the black stubble shadow perpetually coming through in the lower part of his pink face, you'd think he was one of the students! Especially with that shy and sly little grin always waiting behind his laughing eyes.

He is secure in the position of student counsellor and seems to have an authority not enjoyed by the previous incumbent. He's a sports coach too. Jack can't see what there could be of interest in that sort of activity, but Daniel is a bit more sympathetic in that regard; Dan keeps statistics on major sports events, provincial and national.

Jack and Mr Sean are discussing the coming Christmas play. It's well underway now, and it hasn't been much of a challenge, it's fairly straightforward, planned for the smaller kids.

Jack, "I have a date with the angel tonight."

Fen, "Leda. Yes, I knew your main interest wasn't the play. You can fool some of the people some of the time..."

"Funny. First I took a part in the play to get close to Leda, and now her brother and my sister are going out too. It started as a group thing, that's the only way I could get the ball rolling. Leda wasn't too keen on seeing me but she didn't mind all of us going out together.

You know, I can't stop thinking about her. That's something new for me. Why can't I just put her out of my mind? I think I must be in love."

"Don't you know?"

"How does one know? People seem to take malicious delight in saying, `Oh, you'll know. You'll know it when it happens.' But I don't. I don't know. Did you? Did you know it when you first fell in love?"

"I don't think so. It's a long time ago. And I'm not so sure anyone can. Where does puppy love stop and mature love start? Then there's infatuation. You have any ideas on that? Maybe you're infatuated with her."

"Mr Sean, I can't imagine anyone saying, `Well, I might be in love but more likely I'm infatuated this time.' or `I think I'm in love but I could be just infatuated.' Infatuation has a flavor of poor mental health about it. Or immaturity. People who have feelings for someone would be uncomfortable to down-grade what's happening with such a term."

"So you wouldn't say it's infatuation. What would you say?"

"That's true, I wouldn't say I'm infatuated. But I'm not so sure my reluctance is a very good indication as to what is really the case. What are the characteristics of infatuation?"

"What do you think they are?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake! Why don't YOU say something? You're just playing the psychoanalyst free association game, drawing me out. I don't want to play! I'm looking for some advice here, not a Turing machine echo."

"Ha. Sorry, Vick. Well, I doubt if you're as much at sea here as you make yourself out to be. As you say, infatuation has a feeling of immaturity about it, so look at how you associate with this girl. Are you helpless in any way because of your feelings? Do you find yourself falling short in other areas of your life because of her? Is your relationship a positive thing, or is it in any way unhealthy. Do you feel guilty spending time with her?"

"No. No. No. And no. That sounds not too bad. Can you define love? What is it. A definition of love would help."

"But there's all sorts of different kinds of love. If you expect to come up with just one definition, you're going to be disappointed. We need a hundred new words just to get started."

"Yes, I suppose so. Well, beginning at the top, what is there. The biblical agape, a pure and spiritual love. A love of someone without even a suggestion of strings attached. So, an element of disinterest or selflessness. Then there's platonic love. That seems to be the love between men and women without the sexual part. I guess it's a special kind of friendship between the sexes. Love of family. Parents for kids, kids for each other. Grandma, uncles.

But you know, I'm not asking about all those. My interest is with the way I feel about Leda, so it's plain and simply just the love between men and women. Do I feel about her the way I should? That's what I really want to know. How real is it. Is it the kind of thing that will endure. Is it the classic time honored true love. That's what I'm wondering."

"Okay, now we're getting somewhere. Think a moment and tell me this. Can you imagine your relationship with her persisting if you remove the sexual attraction?"

"Pretty hard to imagine removing that. That's really asking if she's a friend, ignoring her body and my designs on it."

Laughing, "You have designs on her body?"

"Does a rock occupy space and have weight?"

"Last time I checked. So what's your answer? Tell you what: If you could talk to her only by phone for an undetermined period of time, uncertain if that time might be indefinitely prolonged, would your friendship survive that? Would it grow?"

"I think so. Well. Here's a clue. She was baby sitting last weekend, and I couldn't see her. So I went to visit her folks twenty miles out in the country, just to sort of be near her by proxy. I think that says something."

"Are they your friends?"

"Not particularly. That why I think I'm getting an answer here. How about this. Between the sexes, real or true love is a disinterested compunction to be with. With nothing negative throwing any shadow on it. Right?"

"Sounds good to me."



Several days later, as Jack is just returning with two rabbits he shot in the bush out back, Neddie greets him at the door with the news "Guess what! Winnie shot Len!"

"What? She SHOT him?" Visions of doom and death and destruction fill Jack with dread. "She just SHOT him?"

"Well, I guess they were target practising with a .22, and she hit him in the wrist. They're at the hospital now."

"My Lord! Is he bleeding a lot? How is he?"

"I didn't see him, but Mom says there's hardly any blood at all. And you can see the little lump of blue lead just under his skin on the upper side of his arm."

"Wow! How could she do that. Was he setting up the target and she fired by accident?"

"I don't know. I've told you what I know about it. You'll have to get the rest from Leda."


Chapter Thirty-Five