by Nicholas P. Snoek


Chapter Twenty-Eight


There's a blue eyed German girl in Jack's class, with long wavy blond hair, Ingrid. She's not beautiful, or even very pretty, but she's more genuine and human than most of the others. So Jack asks her out, and they start to date. She's a bit shy, and for some reason she wants to keep their relationship secret, especially from other students.

Jack doesn't mind that. He couldn't care less if anyone knows. If she wants it that way, that's fine with him.

After a couple of months of movies, walks, and some family do's, Ingrid starts to talk about her religion. Her folks are Lutheran, but she has found her own way, with some charismatic group. She's quite dedicated, a self motivated convert. Her mom keeps asking her, what is she going to do about this Catholic boy; she cannot just postpone dealing with the situation. Catholics do not mix.

Ingrid says to Jack she tells her mom she and Jack just don't talk about religion; it's not an issue.

But it is, and now Jack understands her wish to keep their relationship quiet; she has no confidence in it.

One afternoon Ingrid asks, "Vick, how would you feel about coming to a meeting with me Thursday night?"

"A meeting? What sort of meeting?"

"Just a gathering, with some of my friends."


Thursday evening they go to a house in town, and the front room is packed with people of all ages, talking very quietly, and there's one young gentleman who seems to be in charge, but not exactly as host, more like a resource person or moderator.

Jack figures out after a while that he's at a religious gathering, a church meeting. And this makes him a little uncomfortable; he thinks Ingrid should have told him what they were doing. But he tries to be open minded, to listen courteously, and to behave the way the others there do. He remembers what Brother Andre suggested; that God is far above all religious divisions, and we should realize we're all His children, no matter what we think of each other.

There are some thirty people here, and they seem to know each other well. After a while Brother Randolph, the young man in charge, asks everyone to sit down. There are couches, easy chairs, and wherever space allows, kitchen chairs in between, some in clusters -- all very casual. There's an old piano in one corner, and a middle aged lady starts to play an old favorite, `What a Friend We Have in Jesus.' Most of the people sing along, and Jack joins in as well. Ingrid smiles so broadly she can hardly sing.

"Friends in Christ, welcome! I'm happy to see all of you, and I thank the Lord for this opportunity to share in fellowship with you. It's especiallly gratifying to see some new faces here this evening. Praise the Lord! We hope you find here what you're seeking. We have! We all have! Allelujah."

"Allelujah! Allelujah! Praise the Lord!"

A gaunt man Jack has seen on the streets at night walks uncertainly to the front, and looks hesitantly around. Slowly he starts to speak. "I was a drinker... I beat my wife. I took whatever money I could lay my hands on to get booze. I mistreated the kids. I yelled at them for nothing. Just because they were there in front of me, and they wanted something. Did I listen? No, I couldn't think of anything except my next bottle."

He is looking back and forth over the gathering. Here and there a quiet `Praise the Lord' or a soft `Allelujah' is heard, but mostly they sit and wait, wait for him to continue.

"My life was a mess! I wasted years. I lost my family, I lost my wife and my kids. I don't even know where they are. I don't even know if they're alive. I woke up one day and they were gone. Just gone. And I didn't care. Not then. I had some booze stashed for emergencies. With nobody around to bother me I just went from one bottle to the other. By the time I finished them all I was in no shape to look for my family. And when I finally sobered up it was too late."

He stops, looking helplessly towards Brother Randolph.

Brother Randolph comes forward and faces him, putting a hand on each shoulder. "John. Have you repented?"

"I have repented!"

"Have you left your wicked ways? Have you taken the Lord into your heart, because you cannot do it by yourself?"

Falling to his knees, "I have! I have! I am a sinner, without him I am nothing!" His voice is breaking, and tears are running down his ashy cheeks.

"And do you take the Lord into your heart, brother, here and now, tonight, as a witness in front of these people?"

"I do! I do! Help me Jesus! I beg you Jesus!"

"Brother, you are SAVED! Thank the Lord! Dear Jesus we thank you for this gift, for this precious gift you have given us here tonight. And we beg you to inspire the others here to see your light, to let them feel your presence here, and to respond to you and to come to you. Allelujah!"

In general chorus, "Praise the Lord! Allelujah!"

The piano comes to life again, and all join in for `One Day at a Time.' Soon there is another pause, and another person, a housewife, comes to the front.

Her recount is less dramatic, but equally anguished. She had one affair after another, and her life was going nowhere. She lost her husband, and she was about to commit suicide when a friend brought her to a meeting just like this one. She found Jesus, and soon she found a wonderful man, a brother in Christ, who came with her here tonight. Now they minister to other lost souls, bringing the peace and the love of the Lord to anyone who will listen to them. She is no longer tempted by men.

"Sister, you are SAVED...!"

Again the piano cues in, and soon another story is told.

Jack cannot help being a little awed at this. Such raw feeling! Such abandonment. Can this be genuine?

And he ponders how he can really make a judgement here. The activity or attitude deemed religious by a participant or a sympathizer would be called socio-psychological by an impartial or hostile observer. One man's religion is another's psychology.

The difference should lie, not in any sincerity of the parties, but in the degree to which they are genuinely concerned with God-man relations. And who can make that determination? It could well be claimed that all love of neighbor is `in the Lord,' whether consciously intended or consecrated that way or not.

He would appreciate a good conversation with Brother Andre right now. Brother Cyprios too. And he begins to consider the possibility of sending a letter down there. What would he say, and is there much chance of Brother Andre getting it?

The confessions have become less baleful, and some people are going up just making a simple statement of faith in Jesus, rededicating their lives to him.

Suddenly Jack is startled by Ingrid taking his hand and tugging him out of his seat. "Come on up, Jack. Come up there with me!"

In a whisper, "What? NO."

But it's too late. They're on their way up front. Brother Randolph is waiting with a smile.

"Ingrid, you have brought your friend. Welcome to you, Jack. Welcome. Are you saved?"

Am I saved? I don't know. How would I know? How can you be saved, just like that? Not the way these others are, no.

"No. I guess not."

Half turning to the audience, Brother Randolph takes Jack's hand in his. "Brothers and sisters. Pray with me to lead this young man to the Lord! Dear Jesus, dear Lord, we thank you for bringing this soul into our midst, for leading him here tonight to share in fellowship with us. We pray that you inspire him to take you into his life and into his heart, to bear witness before these helpless sinners that they may be strengthened in their dedication to you."

Jack stands between Ingrid and Brother Randolph. What should he do? What can he do?

"Jack! Do you repent of your sins? Do you ask the Lord for forgiveness? Are you ready to take Jesus into your heart?"

Well. Of course.

"Yes. I do."

"You are SAVED!"

There is a feeling of accomplishment in the air. The meeting is over; people come milling around, and several congratulate him. Ingrid looks a little uneasy, but tries to cover it over with effusive relating. "Oh, how ARE you! So good to SEE you!"

They don't talk much on the way home. Jack feels he has been walked along some sort of path; he has to think this through. Is this how things are done there regularly? Have a lot of those people come to be part of that the same way he was led into it?


The relationship with Ingrid doesn't really take off. During a train trip to Vancouver on a class outing, they sit in the glass domed observation car, away from the others, and every time the car goes through a tunnel he slips his hand down her neck and under her brassiere. Wonderful breast! That's nice, but they don't get much beyond that. She's very embarrassed when he puts his hand between her legs. She doesn't seem to want more than just a bit of necking.

Their association kind of stalls. It's not so simple now; this is no barn mate. What is wrong?

They are friends, and they do many things together, but eventually they drift apart.

And one day Jack is met at the door by her mother.

"Victor, Ingrid doesn't want to see you anymore."

"Could I speak to her?"

"No. She doesn't want to see you anymore."

Jack is hurt. He understands things weren't great, but he would have preferred that he and Ingrid had worked their problems to a conclusion between the two of them. He becomes morose and depressed, sitting for long periods, trying to absorb this, to understand it.

Mom offers to talk to him to help him with his feelings, but he doesn't want to get into it with her. He buries himself in his room, and writes pages and pages of his feelings to Ingrid in a long letter. He doesn't send it; it's a catharsis, a way to deal with his confusion and pain.

Some months later he notices Ingrid has a boyfriend. A German fellow from Revelstroke. He belongs to her church.

Jack feels he has been tried, and found wanting.

What has he done wrong? What could he have done differently? Was there ever really any chance it would last?

The wish to be secretive about it... He should have seen that as a warning signal. Did she feel threatened, insecure about her religion? Uncertain of his falling in with it? Or did she feel uneasy in her association with an egghead persona non grata?

Jack has a hard time getting any sleep at night, restlessly shuffling all these things around in his mind.

And this is the beginning of a long period of time in which he becomes more and more alienated and lonely. He starts to give in almost by default to the materialist view of life, losing sight of his religious background and the lessons of the monks.

And all he can think of to do is read. He reads endlessly, burying himself in anything with the remotest connection to the problems plaguing him. And his reading once again goes further afield. He does not know what he's looking for.

He has a certain empathy with the necrophilic pathos of Edgar Allan Poe. He feels a strange sympathy for Poe, and feels almost at home in the bizarre world portrayed in `The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.' A strange world, the world of a giant intellect, a sick mind obsessed with death, following the logic of any situation to its inexorable conclusion.

Jack feels compelled to go to town on weekend evenings. Something he needs but is not clear about. And he has to keep moving, a compulsion. Not to look lost? So he walks around the block, again and again, this block, and that one, walking in a purposeful manner so as to be sure not to give the impression he is just walking.

He searches the faces of those he meets without knowing what he hopes to find. Someone to relate to. Someone who will respond, someone to hold.

Fellowship. What is that? What is involved there? Is there a meeting of the minds or souls there? Or is all that just another illusion?

What is a church? Aside from the buildings, the furniture, the trappings. The people. What makes a group of people a church? With Catholics it all seems to bind together so tight. But with Ingrid's group there seemed to be no structure. No doctrine, no history, no theology. Just fellowship in faith. Allelujah.

He looks into the faces of people he meets. Are they lost? Are they just looking as if they have something going on, like he is? No. He is ever the odd man out. A weird fish. Out of water.

And eventually, having spoken to no one, he goes home. Lonely as a cloud. A storm cloud. What is he looking for?

There's another instance of Jack and Addie coming home late after being in town. But this time Mom is so angry she doesn't stop to listen to anything; she beats Addie all the way up the stairs to her room.

And not a word of reproach to Jack. It isn't fair! He is acutely uncomfortable about this unequal treatment, but again, he doesn't say anything. Where do you start!



It's just no good. How can I link myself

To other people; where can I find a person

Who will look at things the way I do,

Like minded with myself.

One of the old

Philosophers, Plato, I think, said that

Two friends are like two bodies with just one

Soul between them. So far, it seems my soul

Is mine, completely mine and no one else's;

There is no partner friend, no other half

That would complete the picture; no kindred spirit

To echo back in full the yearning searching

Troubled lonely voice that now just peeps

And squeaks and whispers in the empty chambers

Of my hollow heart.

And was it Plato

Too, who talked about a man and wife

As being each one half an egg, which is

Forever useless by itself without

The other? But that is something else than friend

It is much more than friend. And yet it seems

To be a good description of the way

I feel. I am alone, so much alone!

There is no one to whom I can disclose

In full my deepest thoughts, no person who

Would understand the things that trouble me.

I know no one who thinks and feels the way

I do. Not even close. So what is wrong

With me?

It's not religion. I know people

Who regard the Bible and the Church

The way I do. Or close enough that where

We part it's mostly that there hasn't been

A chance to work it out with more exact


It isn't language. There are

Some polyglots with more or less the same

Traditions and linguistic skills. And I

Have had a fair success when trying to

Communicate a complex or a new

Idea, I think. They seem to understand.

It's more a question of the things that I

Consider crucial. Like, what is man, that God

Should bother? Is he the outcome of a process,

A scientifically secure and so

Repeatable experiment? Did man

Arise from dust, and was the dust in form

And function hominoid? Was man pre-Adam?

Or was there something close? Was Adam

A summum bonum of precursors hominid?

What are the proper parts of man, what is

The self, the soul, the mind...

Can someone help me here?


Jack is in high school now, and his field of competition, for both marks and other forms of status, is much wider. He's bigger than most of the seniors, and gets quite a kick out of that. And as a result of working ahead by correspondence he's in the same class as the next year up, in math.

This is the first year Jack takes an interest in the advertisements for the new cars coming on the market. Some of the designs evoke animal-body lines, and the engines are packed with more and more horsepower. He wonders about all those horses under the hood. A good logging horse hitched to the bumper could easily keep any of those cars from moving, even on dry pavement, so what exactly is signified by one horsepower? What is power, or force?

When a horse pulls a wagon, the wagon moves as a result of the effort or power of the horse, expressing or giving an outer reality to the force or purpose, the will power, of the driver. How many forces are at work there?

When a man lifts a hammer and brings it down on the head of a nail, a complex series of forces is at work, psychological, muscular, inertia-to-motion of hammer and nail, dissipated heat.

And then you have even more enigmatic macro forces like gravity and centrifugal push, which balance each other as they hold a moon in orbit. Why? How?

Is each force a different thing? A unique existing thing?

Who do you ask? Where do you go for answers to these questions? Is this science or philosophy?

Once again he has a class with Mr Pianco, who teaches not only Phys Ed, but also Effective Living. As part of the orientation into the new year he has each of the students give a little talk to the class, perhaps something about their summer, what they did, where they went.

Jack has long resented the pressure this macho man has always put on him to accept and conform to the sports mystique. He decides to try a little set up.

He tells the class about being in the bush with his .22, running out of shells, and then on his way home at dusk, coming upon a roosting cock pheasant, perched just out of reach in a hawthorn bush. How frustrating, he says, to be unable to do anything about this prize. A bird in the bush, as they say.

Mr Pianco, "Victor, I'm the president of the Rod & Gun club in Enderbush, and I have to ask you. Don't you know it's illegal to shoot a pheasant with a .22, out of season, and after sunset?"

"Yes sir, I know that."

"Then why shouldn't I report you?"

"What would you report? That someone said he was thinking about doing something?"

"Look, don't you get smart with me! Get back to your seat, before you get into some real trouble."

Jack, not moving "You're upset because I said I was thinking about shooting a pheasant with a .22? What about you, getting me to ask permission from my folks for you to trap muskrats on our property without a permit or a licence?"

"I did no such thing!"

"Yes, you did." And Jack takes his seat. The class breathlessly waits for fireworks, but nothing happens. Mr Pianco, always ruddy faced, now blushes fiery red, and, apparently in some confusion, goes on with something else.

Jack thinks this is just great -- he set his victim up beautifully! And he got away with it as smooth as can be! Poor Mr Pianco gives Jack more elbow room after that.

But he's walking a lonely road, separate from other members of the family, out of sympathy with teachers and other students, out of touch even with the motives and feelings underlying most of Daniel's attitudes. They are so different.

Daniel has little interest in girls, other than in their competition for marks. He seems to be on the way to becoming homosexual. And Jack cannot relate.

Father Burns has retired, and the new priest is no kindred spirit; Jack doesn't like him at all. Jack is searching, looking for another truth, another faith. He attends services in some of the other churches in town, United, Anglican, Lutheran, but he has the same problems there as he did with Ingrid's group. They do not satisfy.

Individual persons are receptive kind and courteous, and the ministers welcome his enquiries and his attendance. But, what is there?

Jack signs a card to be Bahai, in approving recognition of their stated aims, but here he finds as everywhere, ideals remain ideal. The noble end of universal tolerance and acceptance proclaimed in the literature and the advertising gets buried somehow, gets lost in parochialism and the inevitable minority minded intolerance.

And Jack still finds no answers. He just turns up more questions.


How Can it Be?

How can a man be right for Heaven, who dies

Obtuse and ignorant as most men are?

How can a virgin bear a child? Is not

The birth dilation more extreme deflowering

Than any penile penetration? And what

In any case is so unwholesome

Or shameful in the natural way? The way

Ordained by God Himself?

How can a mortal

Sin incurred by such an act as missing

Mass result in pain forever?

How can

A god as good as God must be, impose

Eternal Hell? Why would a god who is

All good, include in his creation the tsetse

Fly, bubonic fleas, malarial mosquitoes,

All the viruses? Crib death? Puerperal

Fever. Cancer.

How can a world hell bent

For night survive atomic bombs? Where are

The statesmen brave and wise whom we will need,

To last into the next millennium? Political

Corruption creeps deep in even democratic

Countries. What hope. What help. What second coming

Would suffice?

Are you there, Lord? Where are you?


One day Jack discovers A Gift of Prophecy, a book about Jean Dixon, a Catholic psychic. This introduces him, already familiar with the mystic saints, to the notion of occult revelation, more or less within the pale of the Church.

He had resisted occult literature before, partly because organized religions, especially those more structured, with an identifiable theology, are so set against it. But now he starts to reconsider.

He's puzzled that this woman, obviously a devout Catholic, could get an annulment of her marriage, to divorce and remarry. He didn't think that was possible for any reason other than non-consummation, which was apparently not the case with her.

He's intrigued with her record of veridical foretelling, and spends hours pondering the implications of these phenomena.

And this experience prepares him for another discovery; he comes upon There is a River, by Thomas Sugrue. It sets forth the astounding account of the life of Edgar Cayce, one of the greatest mediums the West has ever seen.

Towards the end of this book is a summary of the way evolution took place, which answers almost all of the objections Jack has been struggling with. There was a development from lower to higher living forms as taught by Darwin essentially, with this difference: it was guided. It was monitored, by semispiritual beings who hovered over the earth and kept an eye on things. Fantastic!

Soon Jack is reading book after book of this sort of material, devouring occult literature wherever he can find it. He accepts that man does not live once but many times; that karma carries over from one life to the next; and there's a permanent record of all significant experience, the Akashic record, accessible to those who are in some strange way the privileged few who can consult it, in a trance or in a dream.

This answers many of his questions. The man not ready for Heaven has many lives to go. If dying early cuts a person off from his allotted span of life he can be born again to have another chance. And death has lost his sting in other ways. Only the complete destruction of the earth would be completely final!

Oh, happy days!

And just think -- biblical prophecy must be just another form of psychic revelation! Different in that the old prophets used language like `Thus saith the Lord...' sure, but that could just be custom and training. Someone like Edgar Cayce might get into the habit of saying that.

And the preaching tone is often similar. The descriptions of the experiences are similar. Were the prophets actually mediums, psychics? Wow!

And if that's the case, then many of the Bible stories must be somewhat suspect, the same way occult phenomena often are.

Critics do keep talking about historical errors, and scientific impossibilities. This may be one reason.

And again, if that's the case, what happens to Church teachings? How infallible is Church doctrine? It is all scripture based, in the final analysis. Ha! It's all to be weighed and measured and evaluated! There is no accessible final authority. No sanction by authority can validate any pronouncement at all.

That is mind boggling. A new world! A different world.

Jack stops with church as such. He often does not go to Sunday Mass or any other service. He is content; he has the answers now that he was looking for.

Mom and Dad are puzzled and unhappy about this. They can't imagine what's happening with this troubled young man. They find it harder than ever to talk with him. He is so critical. His retorts are abrupt, abrasive.

Neddie likes to read smutty magazines, and brings home off color paperbacks which she keeps out of sight from Mom and Dad, but allows the older kids to notice. Jack, who has long ago absorbed everything available in the house on the subject of sex, decides to investigate, and he reads several of these books.

One day Mom confronts him with one of them.

"Victor, have you been reading this stuff? Did you read this piece of trash?"

Jack lies "No, Mom."

"I hope not. If you ever feel tempted to do anything like that, I hope you'll come and talk to me, okay?"


Fat chance, Mom. Get real.

One weekend Ms Maurissa asks Jack to come and do some chores around her place. She lives alone, in a better part of town. Jack has done odd jobs for various people before, but usually on a farm. And he is used to the noon meal being provided, so he's a little surprised when lunch time comes around, and no one calls. So he knocks on her door. She opens it, puzzled.

"Hi. What should I do about lunch? I never brought any. I didn't think about it."

"Oh, I see. Well, give me a few minutes, and I'll get something together for you."

"Okay. I'll just keep working then."

In about twenty minutes she comes out to see him.

"Victor, I've set out some sandwiches on the patio."

He follows her, and finds a card table set up behind the house, with a kitchen chair beside it. And a very neat little spread laid out all ready to eat. A glass of milk, some cold cuts, jam, bread, butter, and so on.

He hates eating alone.

"Thank you. That looks terrific."

Darn! Now why wouldn't she invite him in? He'd been looking forward to having a nice little visit with her, looking around the house, socializing. That's mostly why he took the job -- the money sure wasn't the reason.

Teachers are funny. They think they have some sort of special standing in society, and are not obliged to observe normal courtesies and etiquette. Mom says policemen and teachers are the worst to pay their bills, at the shop. Probably the same reason. And if you do something for them they feel they are doing you the favor, so that partly compensates you, then they give you less in cash.

But what makes her keep him outside? Jack is reminded of being told to stay or go outside, by Mom. What paranoia is this? What danger does she see? The neighbors will talk? No. It has to be deeper than the social issue of what the neighbors will say.

A threat. To her he is a male threat.

You just can't be too careful, can you? Paranoid, sensitive, and watch my little ass! Yeah? What for?

A backhanded compliment though, in a way. He's surprised it even occurs to her to consider him a male threat. I'm sorry, Miz Maurissa, your body is the farthest thing from my mind.

Now, is this something instinctive, or is it learned? She fears him. More, much more than she's attracted, although he can sense that she's attracted to him. Does that go together? A fear and an attraction? A mistrust and an urge to merge, all in one?

But she's a teacher, and he's a student. Look at the age difference!

Well, so what. He can. She can.

Why is sexual activity associated with aggression? Why should even mature and sexually active females have to be won by first dissolving some oppressive fear? Have to be persuaded that the male is genuinely solicitous. That he's concerned for her and about her. That he loves her.

Is the fear just an aversion to an unfamiliar other? Fear of strange...? The fear of exposing oneself, of getting hurt?

Mistrust of a desired male. But wouldn't that be more characteristic of a virgin, fearing her deflowering, her first time? Complicated creatures, people. Even on the emotional level. No, especially on the emotional level.

There's a dichotomy here. The male is seen in one of two ways: as ravaging aggressor or as soulmate. That must be the other side of how he viewed girls -- touchable tomboys or seraphic virgins. But the ravager is an extreme, an evil, whereas the tomboy is merely a young female who has not yet become self-conscious as female. The tomboy is sexually childlike.

Well, the tomboy in the adult stage perhaps translates into career-feminist.

But the rapist commandeers his victim's body, expropriates expatriates and alienates her soul. Steals in trespass, mutilates, a deep part of her self.

Girls grow up in a frightening world. They enter puberty at about twelve, and almost overnight they're in danger of ruining their lives because of the aggressive imposition of some sex driven male. And nothing they can do or omit to do can very well protect them from that danger. They need only suffer the circumstance of accidentally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. By a forced pregnancy condemned to a life of shame.

They learn to not even make eye contact with a male. What slavery! What injustice.

No, we're not essentially souls with animal bodies. We're animal bodies, primarily. Animal bodies with animal drives released by animal triggers.

The beast is barely caged.


Jack is fast asleep.

/// "Hello, Jack."

"Hi Deborah. What's happening now? Am I doing something wrong? Did I make a bad turn somewhere?"

"Well as you must know, you've been pretty mixed up. And it may get worse before it gets better. You're jumping around, changing your beliefs wholesale, turning your whole world upside down without taking time to get your bearings before the next major dislocation. I'm worried that in all this turmoil you may be losing more than you're gaining."

"But am I wrong? Am I misinterpreting or misunderstanding?"

"Wrong perhaps in haste. It's always best to have a gradual development, a progression from one life view to another. With you it's been a spattering of minor conversion experiences, on a backframe of depression and despair.

And now you're facing another crisis in your life just when you don't need any further upset."

"A crisis? What sort of crisis?"

"There is a letter, written by your real mother. It was received by Brother Andre when you were just a boy. It explains some things about your birth.

The plan was for you to get that letter when you turn eighteen. But there's some confusion about when that will be, because you're using Viktor's birth certificate. The lawyer who's holding that letter will think you turn eighteen in August. Brother Andre will think that happens in December."

"I don't understand. What's so terrible about a letter from my mother? I think that's great! I've always wanted to know about her, and my father too. And what's so important about my eighteenth birthday being in August or December? What difference does that make?"

"Brother Andre is worried that the letter will upset you a great deal, and so am I. He's learned from Mrs Spiets that you're very concerned about your natural parents, and that you've been almost obsessed with human evolution.

That letter touches on both those issues. He decided to come to visit you, to explain some things to you so that the letter won't be so devastating. But it looks as if he'll be too late."

"Wow! What could possibly be in there to raise all this fuss? I mean, I appreciate your concern, and his. But what could be so terrible about a letter from my natural mother. What is all this about?"

"I'll try to explain. Your mother is Bhutanese. She came from Laya, close to the Tibetan border. She's a very independent person and has a strong will, a mind of her own. You can see some of your qualities, there.

She had a habit of sunbathing in the nude, up in the hills. And one day she was raped. And that's how you were conceived."

"So, my father was a rapist. Well, you know, I've been doing some thinking about men, how they can have a hard time controlling themselves. I think I could reconcile myself to having a father who couldn't resist the temptation of a woman sunbathing, just lying there naked."

She looks at him quietly for some moments.

"But that's not all, Jack. Your father was not Bhutanese, in a way. He wasn't like any other man you've ever met."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, he was an ape-man."

"What! An ape-man? My father was some kind of animal, some kind of half ape? What IS an ape-man? Was he a man, or not? You said not like any other man!"

"Right. He was very close to a man. Close enough to have a child with a human mother. So, physically he was a man."

"Well if he was a man physically then he was a man, right?"

"It's a good question. But there's no very good answer. You see, when scientists speculate about evolution and all its stages, they almost invariably picture an unbroken progression forward, with a continual improvement and a gradual development. But that's not what happened.

You see, on this earth more than is usually the case, human evolution was almost a hit or miss affair, with a lot of backsliding, of adulteration of the most promising strains with lower and primitive stock. And with an exasperating degeneration too, partly because of the fighting and killing, but in good part because of a tendency to sacrifice the better specimens in rituals.

So what you find is that the line between animal and man was crossed not just once, but again and again. In both directions. And the decision to treat a fetus as human or not could depend on the prospects it had of exercising its abilities, of realizing the potential to become human.

So a creature in all respects human, could, because of its circumstances, because of the low probability of having a suitable opportunity to become fully human, to grow a soul, be denied what would otherwise be bestowed, the normal personality, mind spirit, thought adjuster. You see?

And your father was one of these borderline cases. He was physically human, but psychically animal, the body of a man with the mind of a not-yet man."

"That's a scary thought! Does it mean that I'm not fully human? Am I just partly human?"

"No, Jack, not at all. You're fully human in every way. There is no missing part, there are no inborn shortcomings of any kind. But thinking of your heredity, you might take into account that half of your genetic makeup, or maybe even more than half, considering your mother's character, is what you might call... not so domestic.

It's perfectly natural for you to be less than normally gregarious, to be very independent, to try to figure everything out as if you were the first person on earth. Because you are, in a way. Do you see that?"

"Yes. The prototype idea again. Only now it doesn't seem very much like a compliment. Instead of feeling like a winner, now I'm wondering if I'll even place. A straggler."

"Come now, Jack. That's no way to be. You're right up there with the best of them. You should know that."

They're both silent for a while. Jack is uneasy.

"Will I ever live a normal life?"

"Oh, I think so. You're working your way towards fitting in better all the time, although I'm sure it doesn't seem that way to you. Patience, Jack. You must have patience.

Well, now you're somewhat prepared for that letter. Having heard all this from me it won't hit you quite so hard, and you'll have a better chance to benefit from it."

"I've got a lot to think about."

"Yes, you do. Good night, Jack."\\\


Chapter Twenty-Nine