by Nicholas P. Snoek
For a couple of weeks during the summer holidays, Mom and Dad go to the States with another couple, and all the kids except Jack are billeted with friends and relatives. The other couple have a daughter about Jack's age, home alone like he is. She's one of his barn mates, so they eat together, play together, and even take turns sleeping over, playing house in every way.
Rosa is a little shy, so she keeps her brassiere and panties on at night, but Jack sleeps totally naked, holding her, close as two people can be. It's great!
One evening as he heads for the bathroom and he's standing at the top of the stairs, he sees the bedroom light magnifying his shadow on the far wall. It makes his erection look enormous. He calls her attention to this, and soon he is making a game of it, bouncing around, making grotesque shadow images on the wall. He invites her to see what she can do but, demurely, she declines.
They help each other with mutual chores, and for simplicity they mostly eat sour milk porridge. This is how natural whole milk can be used when it's left to sit, and becomes a colloidal suspension, jelly like. If you beat it with a mixer or egg beater at this point, and add brown sugar, it tastes not bad at all, and it's a nice cool summer food. With everyone away, they have a lot of milk, so this helps for that too. It's easier than putting it all through the cream separator.
When the others get back it doesn't occur to anyone that Jack slept over anywhere, or that he had overnight company. So he doesn't mention this more ambitious way of playing house. He's sure they wouldn't understand. At least not the same way.
Jack is tortured with his emerging sexuality. He has a problem with untimely erections; at the beach he sometimes has to lie face down on the sand for inordinate amounts of time. He's troubled with this on the school bus as well, the movement of the bus does it to him almost every trip! And girls have noticed it at school. They were passing a note around one day about his difficulty -- "Vick has a bone on!" He thought that was bad enough, but he even found himself fighting this in the choir at church! A paroxysm of embarrassment!
He decides to try to be more devout, to make a deliberate effort to return to the unquestioning faith and dedication to spiritual things that he had at the monastery in Bhutan. If only he could have some good talks with Brother Cyprios, or Brother Andre!
How do monks and priests do it? How can they be celibate and forgo sexual expression, psycho-physical merging? How can they resist that pull? It fills his mind and body totally, flooding over him at the worst times, and drowns out any other feeling, any other thought or capacity for thought.
He lies in bed at night, trying to meditate, and to follow in detail the suffering of Jesus on the cross.
My Lord I have almost abandoned You,
At times, and I have lost my former zeal.
My world has changed so much, and I, I must
Have changed along with all the other changes.
I do not feel that I have now become
A different person, yet I can see that I
Am doing things I would not do before,
Am thinking things I would not think before,
And I am full of strange and foreign feelings.
Please help me find myself, my former self,
If that is what I need. Or if a deeper
Dedication to Your mystic and
Inscrutable purposes would serve to shake
Me loose, to shatter the accreted shell,
The waste and offal of a moral turpitude
Stuck to my mind and soul in crusted scabs,
Then let Thy will be done, and lead me through
Your kindly light, that it may melt me to a
New and greater purpose, so that not mine
But Thine shall be the will that blooms in me.
I have been searching for some time in books
Of various kinds to find some answers to
These things that trouble me. And I have found
In some of them and in the Catechism,
A recommended way, to deepen one's
Devotion and to heighten one's awareness
Of the sacrifice You made in taking
All our sins away by virtue of
Your Passion on the Cross.
The way they urge,
Is lovingly to dwell in ever greater
Detailed concentration on every part
Of your abused and mutilated body;
To suffer what You did, vicariously, by
Sympathetic and reflexive contemplation.
So let me start then, with the crown -- of thorns.
I cannot well imagine what a pain
That must have been for You, a band of thorns!
When I lie down at night I cannot long
Retain the same position; I have to move
My head from side to side to stop the headache
That the fluid pressure of my brain or blood
Provokes, especially if I'm tired; and You,
You must have been so very, very tired.
And if I bang my head just slightly or
Someone just barely grazes it, I have
A headache. What pain it must have been to carry
Thorns that further penetrate into
Your skull with every move, with every touch!
Your face, Your eyes -- the salty sweat and blood
That must have burned Your eyes, You could not wipe
Away! And with the loss of precious fluids
Your eyes could not form tears to drown them clean...
Your hair all matted, dried and caked with dust
And dirt and blood, clinging to Your skin;
You could not toss aside or move by hand.
Your nose and mouth all burning with the fire
Of tortured thirst, and soiled and smudged
With the smell and taste of dusty travelled earth.
A kingdom for a drop!
The muscles in Your neck;
They must have been bone weary with the aching
Effort of Your hanging head, on that
Long trek to Golgotha. And on Your shoulders
Laid the heavy beam You carried to
Your own destruction, with no padding shielding
The sharp square edges of the splintering
Wood, imprinting to the bone; the thumping
Jar resounding through Your frame with agony,
When thrice You fell, and thrice You picked it up
Your arms that had the husky strength
The workshop built and outdoor living since
Maintained, are now suspended like two useless
Lifeless weights; they hang between the shoulders
And those monstrous nails, completely drained,
Completely spent, devoid of blood. I only
Hope they may be numb from holding high.
These arms that cleared the Temple are suddenly
Uplifted to Yahweh in semblance only;
The supplicating gesture is not real.
How can there be a gesture in all this agony!
Those nail ripped holy hands support the weight
Not only of the arms but also of
The leaning body; the iron, thrust against
The jointed ligaments between the bones
And right into the nerves, the thousand nerves
Of human hands, in levered bifurcation.
And if to ease the stretch and strain on those
Poor hands You straighten up, and put Your back
Against the beam, the flesh, exposed in weeping
Strokes, that cannot bear the wind, cringes
Ashudder at the touch of that coarse wood;
Your brain is flooded with another pain.
So which is less or which is more is scarcely
Your feet impaled for no retaining purpose,
Not nailed to carry or support Your body,
But just for tidy tacking of loose ends...
If any blood or fluid should escape
The bruising, it will seep out by these two,
These weeping aching throbbing pounding wounds.
If You are more than man, a God divine,
If Your capacities and powers are more
Than human, does that imply that You can stand
More pain, before the utter threshold of
Your conscious hold is passed? If normal man
Can stand a ton of pain before he faints,
What level would Your point of passage mark?
At what excruciating mass of shorted
Circuiting would come the overload?
When would Your knees give way and buckle, with
-- I cannot stand it anymore, it is too much!
There is some information that suggests
Your weight was centrally supported by
A stubby shaft protruding from the post;
To hold You in a riding rail position.
And as I contemplate the implications
Here, and dwell in closer scrutiny
On details of Your loincloth hips and thighs
The whole experience of this meditation
Becomes disturbingly transmogrified
Into emotional chaos.
For up till this
I felt a rush of sympathetic anguish
A feeling with and suffering with, Your pain.
And yes, acknowledgment in gratitude
Of Your compassionate sacrifice, to give
So freely and without recrimination
The ultimate gift, Your life, Your freedom and
Your public state, unstintingly relinquished
In favor of the very multitude of men
Who rush to thoughtlessly abandon You.
But I, what am I made of, that in the very
Act of praying contemplation I should fall
Into a maelstrom of the selfsame carnal
Hell I sought this meditation to avoid!
Help me out of this, please help me out!
Dear Lord, I've tried this oftentimes and every
Time I fail and fall in deeper. Help!
Grant me peace, O Lord my God, and give me
Strength to hold myself, hold all my self,
In pure and simple pious adoration.
To hold my self!
Jack is still some time away from being old enough to work in sawmills, and though he tries to work for Mom and Dad, that does not go very well. He is not fast with his hands, like Dad is, and Dad gets impatient with that. There is a lot of pressure.
Mom does all the office work, and she has been a little secretive about it, so there's no scope for him there. Jack thinks she may be sensitive about her way of keeping books, worried that he might criticize.
Although proud to have this philosophical son at the meat shop, Dad gets very frustrated with Jack, who cannot see a need for perpetual hurry. So, later in the summer, Jack gets a job at a mink ranch. The boss owner, Mr Volver, is building a new house, so most of Jack's time will be spent helping the contractor and his men.
This experience is valuable, and he appreciates the opportunity. Of course, being the low man on the totem pole he has to do all the Joe boy jobs, but he doesn't mind that. He's there to work. And he enjoys the clean and pine smelling bright new lumber, so straight and pure and clean, so virgin blank like a sheet of inviolate white paper before you write on it.
But, as the house nears completion, he spends more and more time doing the muck work on the farm itself. He wonders why a kennel or stacked-cage operation like this should be called a mink `ranch.' Somebody's idea of a joke?
There are long endless rows of cages, with stinky dark furry mink in them. They're unfriendly creatures.
Jack has some difficulty with the concept of raising animals just to kill them for their fur. It seems like such a waste. What actual use is made of these little creatures? All that investment and all that industry, for vanity, sheer vanity. And he has the same problem here with unpleasant smells that he did at the slaughterhouse.
Even bones are ground up in a type of chipper, and that raises an awful stink! And then he spends so much time, feeding the smelly dark red raw meat sludge to hundreds and hundreds of savage little fur machines.
A lot of the work has to do with raw meat, grinding up low grade protein like horse meat and carrion, and little mink bodies... like feeding pig heads to pigs. More cannibalism. Something deeply wrong there, like a jackall devouring its own entrails.
At home, one thing that really bothers Jack is castrating the young male pigs. Dad usually waits until they're about twenty-five pounds, and then, the time has come! He gets a metal bucket, fills it to about half with warm water, and pours in a foul smelling disinfectant from a dark brown bottle. Then he sharpens that wicked little pocket knife to a whisper fine turn.
"Okay, Vick. Let's go."
He hates it. Just him and Dad. They catch a male, and Jack flips the young pig on its back with the head under the seat of his jeans, holds the two back legs bent towards him in a desperate grip, the poor thing screeching so loud it hurts the ears, and tries to keep it absolutely still so Dad can perform the operation. The noise!
First he splashes some of that foul liquid on the area and then, squeezing on both sides of the testicle to make it bulge out, he makes a quick cut and the blue-red pigeon egg shaped organ pops out. It hurts your ears!
Pulling it up a bit, Dad cuts the fatty strand first, and then, resting his hand against the belly for steadiness, he severs the critical double string. Then the other one. Why two cuts? Couldn't he pop the second testicle through the same opening? But Jack does not ask. Then disinfectant again, and he can let go. To catch another one. Hhmmph!
Jack is an uneasy sleeper, and often lies partly awake for long hours. Sometimes when he is half asleep he's startled to find that he's doing to his little brother what he did with Rosa. Holding. Touching. He even finds he has ejaculated under the edge of the young boy's briefs. He blushes in the dark when he discovers this. Then sometimes Pietje wakes up and threatens to go tell Mom. And Jack persuades him to wait till morning. Morning comes. Nothing is said, and he feels like an idiot, but it continues. What torture, what hell!
Dream-musing, wishing to avoid this happening, and partly in a re-creation of his memories of Rosa, Jack dreams -- or is it dreaming -- he creeps over to the girls' bedroom late at night when everyone is sound asleep, and slowly, ever so slowly, slides his hands under the bedcovers and onto their soft warm bodies. Over those pubescent vibrant breathing pulsating moist young female bodies! So carefully. It takes so long, to do this without waking them; each new touch has to be absorbed into their sensory surround, to become part of the background sensations, so as not to trigger an alarm. The suspense!
What tension, and what fear, that they might wake and scream! There would be no explaining that away! What could he possibly say? How stupid can he be?
One morning Neddie says quietly "Mom, I was scared last night. I woke up and Victor was standing there, in our room."
"He was just standing there? Where?"
"Over by the window. He was standing there looking out the window. Then he turned away and went back to his own room."
"Vick, what were you doing?"
"I don't know. I don't remember going there. And I don't remember being there."
Mom just looks at him, with a dark worried look. That evening she takes him aside. "Victor, if you wake up at night and you get restless or confused, please come and talk to me. Okay? And don't go into the girls' bedroom."
How would that work? I should go into HER bedroom, wake her up without waking Dad, and say, hey Mom I need to talk about my uncontrollable sex drive, so I don't go bothering my sisters.
I do thank you for the thought, though. I guess there isn't anything more positive you could come up with. I don't envy you, mother. I don't envy you at all.
One bright morning, which promises to bring in the hottest day of the year, he misses his ride with the carpenters. That's not so unusual. When this happens he just takes his bicycle and still makes it to work, not very late. But today is different. Today, as he approaches the cutoff to the ranch up the hill, he stays on the Trans Canada heading west, towards Kemloops.
He didn't plan this. Quite. But he's wearing swimming trunks under his jeans. So the idea of not going to work, or at least not coming straight home, was around somewhere.
Jack is frustrated. He cannot accomplish much, because he can't get a job that pays a decent rate; he's not old enough, just fourteen now. He has explored the idea of starting a chicken farm, and had his eye on the idle lot behind the next door neighbors, an old couple who lend him books from their fascinating library -- Mrs Bowmin was really worried about his reading The Splendour of Asia. Buddhism. He couldn't see why she was concerned. It was interesting. A bit abstruse alright, but different.
But before he could put up the needed buildings he would have to raise a lot of money. So he thought he should lower his sights; a fryer rabbit operation might be a good thing. So he scrounged and gathered the materials required and built a small addition to the barn. He could have used a part of the barn but he wanted to do this on his own as far as possible. Then he needed cages, which was more money than he had. Frustrating.
And he has been banging his head against stubborn problems; the nature of man, the nature of Jack. All the conflicts between, on the one side; religious, traditional authority basing all on a fundamental and literal reading of scripture and on the other side; the incisive scientist rebels, the renegade theologians and psychologists of almost every stamp -- raising radical doubts grounded on pure reasoning and objectivist materialistic experiments. Where to turn?
I can hardly get on with my life, not knowing anything about the essentials.
How can I work on what to become, if I have no idea at all about what or who I am now? Or where or what or whom I come from? I'm not even adopted. Not only can I not locate myself in the universe, I cannot even get a fix on myself as belonging in a family! And if I'm not even a bona fide member of a family of particular persons, how can I have pretensions to speak or conjecture about a subject like the family of man?
Life is chaotic and pointless. I cannot tie myself to anything with certainty. What is it all about? What for?
I hate my natural parents for throwing me out into the world without identity. Didn't they consider what that might do? What was their reason? Or excuse?
What is my ancestry? Where did I get my green eyes and blond hair, in a land of dark eyed black haired people? Where do I fit, and in what? Who am I, and what? Is there any chance I'll ever know?
He keeps on going, and going. It is so hot! He stops at a creek to cool his face and arms, and counts his money. He has eight dollars, and he's starting to get hungry.
At Pearly Point he walks into a restaurant and orders lunch and a milkshake. There's a song on the radio, a hit just now.
`The westward wind, is a wayward wind,
A restless wind that yearns to wander...'
When he's finished, he looks for a good opportunity and when he sees his chance, he leaves. Quickly and quietly, without paying. He has to watch his money; he'll soon need it for things he cannot get out of paying for.
This is like it was in Paro! Boy, that was a long time ago. And nothing has changed! He's still just a lost little boy trying to find his way in the dark; looking for something to eat, and taking it from strangers because there is no other way!
At dusk he reaches Kemloops. Again he finds a restaurant, a truck stop this time. He thinks he might catch a ride on a rig somewhere, or maybe make some arrangement to help one of the drivers. He talks a bit to several people, and soon he's approached by a husky short blond fellow, who asks him, "You want a job?"
"That's what I'm looking for. Have you got one?"
"Well, how do you feel about pulling lumber in a small mill? It would be in camp, all your food and bunking thrown in, and we pay union wages."
"Great. How do I get there?"
"Meet me here at nine thirty. I have some more things to do before I leave, and I'll take you out there tonight."
`For he was BORN the next of kin,
The next of kin to a wayward wind...'
Jack is not relaxed enough about this job offer to pay for his meal, so here too, he just walks out. He goes to Riverside Park, and sits on a bench to review his situation.
Here is his chance to do some properly paid work. He's not worried about being able to do the job -- he has never failed at anything, and if others can do it he is sure he can. But what will his life be like? What happens next?
There are some Mallards swimming around here.
He remembers watching one of the big white ducks they kept in the ponds at home, and noticing a piece of string hanging from its beak. He caught it, which wasn't difficult; the poor thing was staggering from weakness. And when he pulled on the end of the string he could barely budge it. But he persisted, and, slowly and painfully, he pulled out more string, more string... until finally a whole six feet of string lay on the ground! There must not have been room for anything else in its gizzard. The duck was alright, though. No damage. Must have had an awful sore throat from that.
In a couple of months he should get back to school. He should have enough money by that time to get a room somewhere in town. And then a part time job would see him through.
But what about registration? He cannot point to a home, he has no birth certificate or any authorization from a parent or guardian, so how can he register? He can't!
He's caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. If he stays at the mill for just the rest of the summer, he'll make some decent money, but he can hardly show up at home again just because he needs backing to be able to get into school. That wouldn't be fair to Mom and Dad. If he's out, he should be out, and not go whining back when he can't see his way through the next problem.
After kicking this around for about an hour Jack can find no solution, so he jumps on his bike and heads back to the truck stop. Without showing himself too much he looks for his contact, but, not seeing him, he starts out for home. It's just as well the man is not around, because Jack doesn't really want to take a chance on being arm twisted into going to camp.
And it would be hard to explain why he hadn't thought out his problem before accepting the job. So here again, rather than account for his behavior or face responsibility, he runs away.
It's a long ride, well over seventy miles, most of it in the dark. A long night of despair. Dark night of the soul.
In the early dawn hours he tries repeatedly to find an open coffee shop in one of the many lakeside resorts, but they all open later. He's pretty hungry again, after biking all night. It's about eight thirty in the morning when he gets home, his eight dollars intact. Well, he was a good steward of his money, anyway.
One of the girls goes running to the shop to tell Mom and Dad he's back. He's tired, but fixes himself a couple of sandwiches, eats them, and goes to bed.
At noon Mom comes to talk to him.
"Victor, what were you thinking of. Where have you been? We've had the police looking for you and everything."
"The police? Why? Surely you know I can look after myself. I'm not a little kid."
"Why did you do this?"
"Yesterday morning I didn't have the heart to go to work so I kept going. I went to Kemloops. Then, during the night I came back. I was really tired when I got home, so I slept a while."
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm alright. I'm sorry."
And nothing more is said. Jack is surprised not more of an issue is made of this misadventure but, he thinks, it's just as well. He doesn't really see how he could justify himself.
About as far from `His Father's business' as you can get. But then, molesting your siblings is not a very good business either.