by Nicholas P. Snoek



Chapter Twenty-Seven


Monday morning a little grey 53 Chevy takes them up into the bush. Two in the front with the driver, and two in the back on some sleeping bags. It's a long drive; they arrive about seven thirty. The logging road is new and rough. After an hour and a half of being thrown around in the cab on that type of road you feel like you've done a day's work already. And you soon lose any feeling of awkwardness with the other workers, when you're tossed together like a garden salad for over an hour.

The air is still chilly up here. It's light, but the sun is behind the peak, and won't reach this area for two hours yet.

Jack learns about no see-ums. They're biting flies, so tiny it's difficult to see just one, hence the name. But they cover your arms in such numbers, all chewing away at you, that you see a sort of very short black fur all over your skin. And they really bite! Some people react strongly to the bites. Jack doesn't, he just smarts and burns. He hates it.

They're in a landing, a cleared area in which the trees are gathered, stripped of any limbs that still remain after skidding, bucked up, and loaded on logging trucks. The loading is done with a cherry picker, which is a power unit mounted on the back of a big old flatbed truck equipped with a couple of jack stands and a long boom, mounted and secured with guy wires in such a way that the boom is free to swing in an arc right over the log pile and the logging truck, and it's tilted just a bit so it returns to rest over the load. At the top of the boom are several pulley blocks and cable mounts, so the power unit can lift the logs by means of a cable running onto a winch drum secured to the truck. Ingenious set up, thinks Jack.

To load the logs, the end of the cable is attached to two shorter lines, each fastened to a thick but sharply pointed hook, a bull hook, to which is tied a thirty foot rope. Jack mans one of these hooks, and his partner the other. Mr Maurence runs the power unit, and from his position he overlooks the logs and the truck, so he can pick the log he wants, to build a nice tight well-balanced load.

He throttles the unit with a string, so that when it's not under power, the noise is low enough so he can be heard, telling the men into the ends of which log he wants them to put the hooks. When they're ready, he winches up on the main cable, the two hooks sink into the logs, and the ground workers switch their hold from the hooks to the ropes. Then they guide the swinging log to its proper spot on the truck.

When a truck is loaded and leaves, if the next truck isn't there and ready to be loaded, the two shorter cables are removed and replaced with a set of sharp tongs. Jack then runs around the landing with these tongs, placing them just before the center of gravity of a newly bucked up log, so it can be drag lifted into a pile beside the loading area.

Jack quite likes this work. It takes some skill, and he soon gets to know the different tree species, as Mr Maurence normally uses the terms jackpine, bullpine, larch, fir, cedar, spruce and balsam to identify the logs he wants.

White pine is such a valuable wood, because of the pretty pink knots showing bright against the very soft white wood, it's often done separately, and when it's sawn into lumber it also gets special treatment, with a fungus retardant spray.

Jack tries to learn how to build a good load on a logging truck by constantly anticipating what the boss will want next. What with swinging cables and airborne logs, good communication is important here.

When there's no truck, and timber is piled as high and as handy as possible, the next chore is to clean up the knots and limbs on the trees and logs with an axe. And if there is more time after that yet, Jack learns to help the bucker, measuring.

The work isn't as steady or as draining as it was at the mill, but the long hard ride up and back is taking a big slice out of his day. So after he learns what he can about this end of the timber business, he starts to look for a way to change things. But then he realizes it's only another week or two till the holidays are over and he'll be going back to school, so he decides to tough it out.

One afternoon he's a bit impatient with a log that isn't balanced right, and getting under one end of it as the cable lifts it crookedly, he tries to push the heavy end up to clear the end of the load. And he feels a sharp pain in his lower back. Damn! How stupid! He should have known better, especially after the gain in height he has experienced in the last months. He is over six foot one now, but still just one hundred and seventy pounds. What spindly things people are. Walking bean poles!

And again he is busy about his ongoing problem with human evolution. Neanderthal man was pretty stocky -- what happened?

There are, broadly speaking, two major camps of thought about the nature and origin of man; he was created ex nihilo, out of whole cloth, or else he originated from an ancestor which gave rise to apes and men both.

Jack is torn between the two. He cannot in good conscience come down on either side. He's tired of trying to solve this by himself; his reading hasn't yielded any satisfying answers, it seems each author has his own particular axe to grind, so a cool and balanced discussion is rare indeed. And any attempt he has made so far to talk it over in detail with anyone has also been fruitless.

Daniel accepts the theory of evolution implicitly. He thinks the objections of the statisticians who claim there was not enough time to effect the required changes will be met in due course. He's quite sure there must be some misconceptions, or false assumptions. And he feels the missing link argument is similarly flawed; there's no good reason to think a transitional being would have been successful enough to have left a large number of fossils. As to the claims of the creationists, he considers them just anachronisms. He accepts evolution as a fact of life. Period. What's to discuss?

Of course Jack just can't do this. He cannot throw out his lifelong faith, and he cannot ignore the statistical and the missing link arguments.

But there is something very compelling about the grand design coherence, the simplicity and logic of the overall plan, the Great Chain of Being.

What a wonderful progression, from the simplest one celled amoeba-like beginnings, through the euglena prototype bipedalling as chlorophylloid animal, setting the pattern for self actuating and mobile as well as energy fixing plant forms, up through notocorded lances and amphibians, on to reptiles, through dawn mammals and up to hominids, and up to Jack.

Up to Jack. It's up to you, Jack, to make sense out of all this. Where is the truth? Which one or what combination of these claims is correct?

It just has to be some version of that great chain. In spite of the missing links, and in spite of the statisticians.

In August, Jack will turn sixteen, and he plans to get his drivers license on his birthday. So this spring he has been learning to drive, at first by handling the steering wheel from the passenger side, and later, on longer trips with Dad and some friends of the family, driving the less travelled sections of highway.

And he has been driving the tractor, of course, on the farm. He has also bought two vehicles, one an old square Model T, and the other a stripped down pickup from a road accident. He's had a lot of fun bombing around with these in the pasture and the cleared areas in the bush.

One day at work logging, the cherry picker breaks down, and a part is needed from town. It's still fairly early, so Mr Maurence figures he should send Jack to go get the needed part in the company pickup, so the other men can keep on working.

"Vick, can you drive?"

"Yes, but I don't have a license."

"That's alright. I'll write you a note for what we need, and you get your ass down that hill as fast as you can, go to International Harvesters out on the highway just out of Bernon, get this part, and hurry back here. We have an account with them, you can show them my signature on this note. They'll know the pickup anyway. Okay?"


He heads down the hill, and has a good time, making time. He gets back early enough for the crew to load two trucks. And he feels like part of the team!

Daniel is a professed atheist, whose family follows the Anglican teachings. Jack is a professing Catholic, with more and more misgivings about revealed religion. And in a jousting and friendly way they're constantly putting down each other's views and beliefs. Although each takes his own values very seriously, they both understand the other will not be moved or affected by this friendly competition. It's just good fun, and other students enjoy that too, especially in a debate or class discussion.

Jack does a lot of thinking about this, about how one person's world view can be so different from another's, and yet there can be a human and goodhearted exchange, even touching on the very crux of this difference. So why, if this is possible with him and Daniel, should there be that narrow intolerance between members of different faiths, in hotbeds like Ireland?

And how can it be decided, on questions like that of human evolution, who is right? Or is that necessary? Or desirable.

Brother Andre, I need to talk to you.

Back at school the only person very much interested, is the counsellor, Mr Sean. He's very good at clarifying issues, but will not be drawn into taking sides himself. He is Catholic too. In response to Jack's proposal that the two of them discuss some other, more theological questions, Mr Sean replies that will not be possible, `for the obvious reason.'


/// Jack is flying. Soaring over buildings, sweeping right over mountains and into the clouds, exulting in the beauty of the night sky. The panoply of stars on a clear cold night has always had a strong fascination for him, and now he can rise above all the trees, the roof tops, and even those mountainsides that obstruct his view in the daytime.

Wondering how high he can go and how much of this panorama he can bring into one circum-volatile aspect, he rises farther and farther, with a vague and pleasant wonderment that no hindrance obtrudes to curtail this fugue. What freedom! What grandeur in those endless regions of star spangled space!

Looking above, then all around and then below, he suddenly realizes he cannot see where he came from -- no friendly blue globe lies bathing in a kindly sunlit glow to beckon him back. What now? Is he in trouble?

No. That cannot be. God wouldn't let that happen. Nor the who-what being watching over him. His guardian angel? His thought adjuster? Never mind. It'll be alright. It doesn't matter.

The thing to do now is make some use of this wonderful opportunity. But how? What can he accomplish with this? Slowly he rotates, to see what he might do. And he vaguely notes there is a little sliver of shiny stuff that dances in the dark, reaching for him. Or is it going from him? Maybe it's something to do with the way back. Oh, look. Look at those bright clouds over there!

Now how can there be clouds up here? He decides to go see.

As he gets closer he can see partway into the white billows, and he discerns a wide arched entrance between massed columns of translucent stonelike material. He comes down on his feet on the terrace in front of this archway and he notes there are vertical shapes of intense light moving around, some going in, some coming out of, this entrance. If he could only see better!

These must be some form of creature frequenting this place. But he cannot make out any detail. They seem to his eyes to be composed of light, just pure light! And they don't seem to notice him, or at least they move by him without any stopping or slowing down. He wonders if he seems to be a being of light to them. Or if they are aware of him at all. Is he too dense to be seen, to see?

There's no sound coming from them. Or is there? He can hear a very faint background music. Or is it? Like wind. But there cannot be wind up here, with no air.

Oh boy. No air. Now that's scary! Seems to be okay though. Is he dead? He doesn't think so.

He decides to go in, to look around.

There is an inscription above the arch, but Jack cannot identify the letters. It must be a foreign language. There's no door, and he goes in unhindered.

There's a wide foyer, and on each side are balconies, one above the other, as far up as he can see, with numerous passageways leading out from this middle area in all directions. How big it must be! What is it? And what's behind all those white and shiny surfaces?

He turns to his left and enters one of the passages. No one is in here. Good. He can look around by himself.

Oh, it must be a sort of museum. He can see what he takes at first to be stuffed or mounted animals perched on tree limbs behind panels of glass. But as he approaches them, the creatures behind it come to life and they jump around, play with each other, and even eat. How lively they are! They seem to be some sort of, possum? No, monkey. Something like monkeys, but with bushy tails and bigger ears and eyes, and their feet and paws are more like claws. Lemurs! A type of lemur. And they're eating what looks like raw meat.

Jack watches these active little creatures for a while, then turns to the next section. Here too a still-life suddenly bursts into activity. Looking back to where he stood a moment ago, he notices the lemurs have resumed the frozen positions they had when he first saw them. Neat! Talk about conservation of energy!

These creatures are much like the first ones, but the tails are less prominent, and they come down from the branches more. Their ears are more like monkey ears, reduced in size, with less hair. They are pugnacious, snarling and scrapping constantly, and they're a bit larger. A good thing their nails are not so sharp or they would really hurt each other. They seem to be able to grab things with their feet as well as their hands. And look at that! A couple of them walked on two legs for a bit.

About three feet tall, and their heads are rounder. Bigger.

Wonder what they are. They seem to have built a sort of crude platform up in the tree.

Let's see the next exhibit. Oh, they're bigger yet. About four feet, and a lot of them walk on two legs. And their legs are longer than those other ones, and the arms shorter. They carry sticks and stones around. Like people.

That's what this is! A museum display of evolution!

Right! Their feet are much like Jack's. They're not so hairy either. These are man's ancestors. Flatter faces.

They apparently built that hut-like shelter in the trees, too. And there's a hole in the ground they must have dug, because some of them go in and out, carrying dirt on chunks of tree bark. There's a lot of them!

What's going on over there? Fighting. A whole bunch of them. Oh, no. They're killing some of the creatures he saw in the last display! Just chasing them down and clubbing them to death! Did some of them get out? Or maybe these enclosures are connected farther back?

No. It's done on purpose. It's part of the display, to show what happened. Right. They killed off their less able kin. What savagery! Jack is sickened at the sight.

And he's shocked to see that the fighting doesn't stop when all the more primitive creatures are dead. In their battle-crazed frenzy they've taken to clubbing each other!

Partly to get away, and partly to stop this insanity, Jack turns and runs off. And he stumbles right into a group of the light-beings he saw going back and forth when he arrived.

Amazing! He goes right through them! And they do not seem to react at all!

Are they spirits? Is he real himself?

With desperate headlong speed he zooms off into the sky, not looking back. And he finds himself following the silver threaded specks of light he saw before.

And soon he is back home.

What a night that was! \\\

In early August Jack turns sixteen, and he succeeds in getting his drivers license on his birthday. But when he tries to get either of his vehicles road-legal he finds it will not work. They will not pass inspection, and he cannot get the proper insurance. So he sells both of them, for parts. When he has to drive somewhere he asks Mom and Dad for the use of the '52 Fargo pickup. They seem to have no problem with that.

One of the teachers, Miss Maurissa, a tall slim white haired lady with freckles and a most gracious manner, thoughtful and a bit artsy, enjoys talking with Jack. She has come to know him and Daniel quite well. Jack asks her about her impression of the two of them.

"Miss Maurissa, what can you see that Daniel and I have in common? We get along well, but I can't say he's a really good friend in the sense that we're actually fond of each other. It's like we get more out of being together than by being with other people. That seems kind of cold, doesn't it?"

"Victor, you two are very bright, and there's not too many people you can talk with on a level field, so you naturally gravitate to each other. But you do have different backgrounds, and even if you didn't, your personalities and your talents are not at all similar."

"I don't know. We both dislike sports, we like reading, we have an authority at home that we feel a bit uncomfortable about, we get about the same marks, and we have similar views on a lot of things."

"Yes, you feel sports is a waste of time; you'd rather spend time exercising your minds. You like reading because it's more rewarding than other activities -- if there were people around you who could engage you at your speed, reading would be less absorbing.

But the two of you are still very different from each other. Daniel's a prodigy. He's really outstanding at working his way through what others have done and thought before him, and he excelled in this at a very early age. So he is prematurely grown up, very precocious. He will always stand out above others that way because he will maintain that headstart, and will absorb new ideas as they arise around him before others do. But I haven't noticed that he ever came up with anything really new himself. That may seem unkind, but I think it's valid.

You're not like that. Whatever the reason, be it a mix of cultures, or exposure to varying environments, a flexible set of concepts from learning different languages, I don't know what the reason is, but you are an original. You seem to naturally break new ground wherever you go.

Talking to you, a person never knows what's going to come up next, or what idea or attitude you might take, on anything.

You see what I mean?"

"I suppose so. An original. That makes it sound like a new design in clothes, doesn't it?"

"Well, maybe you represent a new design in people. It could be your brain is wired differently from anyone else's. Perhaps you're the start of a new line."

Grinning, "Whee! I'm a prototype!"

Mr Greer is looking for one more person, to play on the school volleyball team.

"Jack. How tall are you? How do you feel about being a member of the team?"

"I'm about six two, Sir. I've never thought about it. You know I'm not very good at sports."

"Well, volleyball is not like baseball or soccer. There's not a lot of running. It has more to do with judgement and control. Tell you what, why don't you come to a few practices and we'll see how it goes. Okay? Come tomorrow night, about seven thirty."

Jack attends the practices, and he likes it, so he becomes a volleyball player.

Summer again.

There's a big fire out of control up at Adam Lake. Rangers and forest wardens are conscripting men out of pubs and pool halls, and even right out of the sawmills. There are constant appeals over the radio for volunteers to go firefighting. The pay isn't great, but if you're not doing anything much anyway, it's not so bad.

Jack decides to go and see what that's like. He reports at the ranger station, and is bundled off in the back of a pickup with a group of nondescripts. He wonders if the local jail was emptied for this, too; some of these guys look like the pictures he has seen of depression bums.

The winds have been a problem. Usually in the hills the wind doesn't gather too much speed, being muddled around by the mountainsides with their slope-driven convection currents, but this whole summer it's been windy. Hot and windy. That's unusual. A lot of wind more often seems to go with rain storms.

When it's dry, and there's a good sized fire, the wind can cause the flames to jump along right through the tops of the trees, leaping from tree to tree like some furious electric banshee. Any evergreen will provide a good burn in the tops. The oil in the needles, the pitch in the smaller twigs, and all the surface area supplied by those smaller limbs... sometimes the tops just explode in fire. Like flame throwers. Whoosh! Crackling loud, and then, whoosh! Another one goes. Hell on firewheels.

That's how men can get trapped behind firelines, the fire can go right over top of them, and then burn down to the underbrush.

They're all dropped off at a makeshift camp about two miles from the fires, and told to grab a shovel and get over there, right up the fresh road. Someone at the site will tell you what to do. Okay, here we go.

Beautiful timber here, big balsam and spruce, tall and straight. What a pity. Three feet on the stump, a lot of them. Such a light wood, though, when it starts to burn, which even the living trunks seem to, it's hard to stop, especially with all the deadwood that's lying around building up the heat. Larch and fir are tougher and heavier, it's only when they're quite pitchy that they really catch.

A grubby looking fellow yells at them. "Get over here! Okay, see that smoke coming up there? Three of you guys go and throw dirt and put that spotfire out. And over there's another one. The rest of you take care of that one. Go! Go!"

It's hot hard work, and dirt is hard to get at. Even with the best will in the world, you can only scrape together a couple of shovels full. So much rock and wood! The men soon resort to beating the flames with the backs of the shovels, and pulling burning limbs away whenever possible. Eventually they win, and turn back to where they started from.

But there's no one around!

They look to see which way to go, to get back to the camp, but it's twilight now, there's no sun to guide them, and all they see is burnt bush, with newly dug bulldozed roads going every which way! All they can do is gather round a smoldering stump and wait. What organization. Is this happening all over?

The fresh roads, apart from enabling equipment to move around, are designed to make firebreaks. The rangers and wardens who know the area best decide, usually with the help of aerial reconnaissance, where a swath of bulldozing would do the most good, to stop the spread of the flames by creating a wide enough stretch of dirt without anything to burn.

Soon it's dark, and even though it's late summer and there is a lot of fire not far away, the high mountain air cools right down. They have no blankets, or even anything much in the way of coats. So, to keep warm they stoke up the fire in the stump, gathering charred hunks of wood together, and getting covered in soot even more than they already were. They look like chimney sweeps!

Jack's getting very hungry. So are the others. But what can they do? A couple of chocolate bars are passed around, but that's little more than an appetizer, two little pieces each. An old fellow gets out a hipflask of whisky, and soon things are a bit cheerier. Jack isn't used to alcohol. The Spietses usually drink only at Christmas and holidays, and Jack has not been part of that yet, being too young. But now he joins in, share and share alike. He is a man.

But one of the men has some sort of problem with him. A tall pale-looking middle aged fellow with dirty blond hair, has been eyeing Jack suspiciously, and he starts making sarcastic remarks. "Jamtart schoolboys don't belong out here. What do you think you're going to do with your education now, huh? Smart ass punk!"

Jack tries to pass it off with a grin. "Hey, come on. We're all in this together, right? I'm not bothering you."

"You think you're just a bit better than everybody else, don't you? I can tell what you're thinking. And wipe that smirk off your face or I'll do it for you!"

Jack, a little woozy from the whisky, has had enough.

"Okay, asshole. Come on! Do it, come on!" He plants himself unsteadily in front of the man and waits.

"Come on, you guys, we don't need any of that shit! Leave it alone. Come over here, break it up." The older man who supplied the bottle quietly leads Jack away.

And then a voice comes out of the dark: "Hey, what the fuck are you guys doing with that fire?" A ranger comes looming out of the shadows. "We're not here to start fires, alright? Put it out! Hurry up, put it out!"

"But we need it. It's cold out here."

"We've got no blankets or anything."

"Are there any tents?"

"Where's the camp?"

"No, there's no tents. There was a truck sent up with food and sleeping bags from Chased today, but it never got here. So there's no use going to the camp. Tell you what. Cut this fire down to as small as you can and still have some heat, but keep it small or a water bomber may come and dump a load on it. And then you'll really be cold. I'll send someone up here when it gets light in the morning. Maybe the truck had a flat or something, and it'll be here by then." And off he goes.

The drink soon wears off. It's a long cold night.

Jack is thinking about a question Daniel asked him. If a tree falls in a deserted forest, a forest where there is no creature to hear, is there a sound? If he and these men were not here, and the burn eradicated all hearing forms of life from this area, and a burnt dead tree fell over in the wind, would or would it not, make a sound?

The first impulse is to say, of course; the tree falling makes a sound. But what is sound?

There's a physical disturbance underlying a heard sound. There are successive compressions and rarefactions which move as waves in a supporting medium like water or air. Wouldn't that be sound? What else would you call it?

When one blows a dog whistle of the type inaudible to human ears, is there a sound? The answer differs for the man and the dog. For the dog there is a sound, for the man there is not.

So without a successfully hearing listener, there is no sound. A sound is something heard. Someone or something hearing seems to be part of what we mean by the word sound. So the tree falling in the deserted forest falls silently, without a sound. Now that's weird. There is noise but no sound? Or does noise work the same way as sound, here? A noise is an unpleasant or meaningless or unidentified sound. So there's no noise from an unheard falling tree either.

To materialistically minded individuals who anchor their sense of reality tightly to rock solid measurable tangible and objectively verifiable phenomena, the disturbances to the air would be the underlying reality of sound. It's only as a result of a sort of linguistic trick, defining sound as something heard, that the other, the more mentalistic version, prevails.

So what is real here?

A sound is not real if no one hears it. It does not exist. But the perturbance to the surrounding medium exists. What is it, then? It's not just an idea, it's an event, a physical happening. The sound is more of an idea.

Of the two elements required, the first is physical, the second is idea or mental. So in this case the `nothing' is physical, and its perception, the `idea', is more real. Neat switch, that.

So. Where's the dividing point? Where does the physical stop and the mental start? The `sound' waves enter the ear, setting off a reaction sequence of eardrum, then the little tiny bones hooked together transmitting the vibration onto those organ-pipe hairs, transducing them into pulses that travel down the auditory nerve into the brain. In the brain they are processed for classifying into volume, nearness, basic patterns. All physical, so far. Beautifully organized and wonderful to contemplate, but physical still.

The mental part doesn't seem to come into play until awareness and response-or-not becomes an issue. Perhaps a bit in the recognition, if attention is required. So the sound comes at the point of mental awareness.

Is attention a defining criterion? Would you say there was a sound if you did not hear it, but you could have, had you noticed? Does sound consist in the idea of sound-identified, or just attendable? But there is meaning of a sort involved in sub-liminal perception, since we react to it in accordance with the message hidden there. So meaning, and identification of some type, obtain below awareness. Sound must exist at any auditorily accessibe phenomenon above whatever minimum level is required for brain processing.

What about a cat concentrating on a sound in the grass? Does the cat have an `idea' when it attends to a sound? Only in the sense of its import -- edible mouse or annoying beetle. It seems to be a different sort of attending. Where a human would be trying candidate identification patterns for best fit, a cat is likely just waiting for the right fit to hit. For man a variously and consciously aware, increasingly correct stochastic sequence of comparisons, all tested against symbolic form or pattern, versus for the animal, a whole tensed up mechanism awaiting the correctly keyed releasing trigger.

Is that the difference between mind in the narrow sense, human, and in the wider sense, the sense of reactivity? Human and animal differentiated by an ability to perceive-conceive, to mentate, with symbols?

In the morning no one comes. They can hear some noise off in the bush so they decide to head for it. And soon they join up with another crew. But this doesn't solve any of their problems; the others are in the same fix. No tents, no sleeping bags, and no food. They're all hungry, cold, and sleepless tired. Jack has a dull headache, and feels utterly miserable.

There's a small spring nearby, so they all fill their tightbelted bellies with cold water. It's a bit of a shock. They have to drink slowly, in several iterations. It makes them even colder, but at least there's something in their stomachs now.

Since there's nothing more for them to do here, and one of the other crew knows the way to camp, they all decide to go there. They walk like automatons. Robots.

A truck has come, but not the truck that was expected. This was a deputy warden, and all he brought was a case of canned creamed corn. The men each get a can of creamed corn! Someone gets out a knife and pries open the cans. The men scoop it into their mouths with their fingers!

The rest of the firefighting goes more normally. Another truck arrives that evening, and all is in order after that. Later they learn that the driver of the long awaited pickup stole the whole thing, load and all, and was caught a week after, in Kemloops. He sold some of the load, and gave the rest to some buddies. What a jerk!

What organization! Well, it was all emergency business.

In a few days, Jack is glad to learn he can go home. He's happy to get out of this. Firefighting is not his thing! And that cold night in the bush without blankets or any covering aggravated the sore back he has had ever since that silly bravado business of pushing that log onto the truck. He decides to see a chiropractor.

And to mention his unevenly situated knees! That should be interesting.

The chiropractor, a mousy looking but tall man with a deceptively gentle manner, is intrigued with this client of the uneven knees. He insists there should be a pelvic slant, but he cannot find any. He measures Jack's legs in various ways, pulling them out straight to see where his feet come to, and bending them to see how the knees come off level. He finally agrees. There must be a compensating length difference in the thighbones. Odd.

Jack and Addie chum around a bit. She sometimes goes with him when he takes his bike, riding on the bar between the seat and the handles. They go to movies together and visit with other school kids at a popular restaurant.

This is about the only way Jack ever associates with a group, or with mixed company, by way of an understanding mediator. And an understanding person seems for him to entail the notion of female. He relates with difficulty to most males. He has a problem with the machismo posturing that seems to be central to the usual male presentation of self. And yet he practises a form of it himself.

Addie interprets him to the others, and the others to him, acting as a buffer, softening what would otherwise tend to become abrasive exchanges. Jack realizes it's not only with adults that he almost compulsively adopts the superior position, to face down another person as an experiment, a gamble.

And as with animals, he's uneasy about his almost unnatural power over people. People comment on his electric eyes! Several times when he meets a new girl she cannot at first endure his gaze. She asks more than once to please not look directly at her. Later, as she becomes accustomed to him it gets better. A trust develops that offsets his intensity. An evil eye?

It doesn't seem fair, that he can impose his will, play his mind games and commandeer these chess-like effects so arbitrarily. There ought to be some superior overseeing presence that would not permit this sort of thing.

Why wouldn't there be something like that?

Or is there, and he is not aware of it? But then, if the person to whom this presence would be relevant is not aware of it, it might as well not be there. So its existence or propinquity becomes totally academic. What sort of being would it be? And why should he expect things to be fair to begin with? Another form of faith?

And that brings him back to his isolated dizzy pinnacle. Who is he? Who should he be? How should he act, how should he be?

One evening Jack and Addie come home quite late, and Mom is waiting. "What on earth do you mean, coming home at midnight?"

Jack, "We just lost track of the time, Mom."

"I don't mean you, I'm talking to Addie. Well?"

Addie, "We were just at the Tavern Inn. Like Victor said, we didn't notice it got so late."

"And who else was there. Were you with a boy?"

"No, we were all in a group."

"Well get to bed, and don't let it happen again."


Chapter Twenty-Eight