Impromptu Book Report: The Money Master, 1913

While some books – stories – give you but a few chapters of a life, others give you an entire lifetime. The latter tend to be my favorite, for they are more psychedelic – from psyche, mind, and delos, manifesting – because books really are psychedelic. And not in the trippy sense, but in the journeying, shamanic sense.

I just finished such a book: The Money Master, a 1913 novel by Canadian novelist and WW1 propagandist Gilbert Parker. Such was the effect upon finishing it – the last two-hundred pages of which I read in one sitting – that I am compelled to write about it now.

The story is about a man named Jean Jacques Barbille, who fancies himself a philosopher; however, he’s really a sentimentalist – “feeling rather than thinking.”

He is descended from old aristocracy and takes great pride in himself. He wants people to know who he is, to say, “There comes Jean Jacques Barbille.” In short, he is an egotist – but a kind one. He lends money freely and knows it will not be paid back. This is partly due to his mixture of sentimentality and naiveté, but his generosity also stems from his want of reputation. As the story progresses, we see that his priorities are somewhat off. This becomes clear when his self-centeredness causes his wife to fall out of love with him and in love with an alpha male carpenter – but we’ll get back to this.

The story begins with Jacques traveling Europe and on the voyage home, where he meets his future wife, Carmen. She and her father have fled Spain under less than honest pretenses, after her true love, a revolutionary, is killed. She never quite gets over this first love, and her and her father see an opportunity in the young successful mill-owner, which begins as soon as he has the captain of the vessel relocate them from steerage to his quarters. The captain warns him of their character but he will hear none of it – he sees the twenty-one year old beauty, hears her sing and play guitar, and he is caught in love’s snare.

The vessel wrecks near the coast in a storm and she rescues him; although, as the story is recounted upon their arrival back to French-Canada, he is said to have rescued her.

They marry and she is eventually accepted into the local community, where the Barbille family has existed for over two-hundred years. His businesses thrive and they have a child – Zoe.

Jean Jacques is pleased with his life and has everything he could want, but his focus is on his businesses and his reputation – rather than his gorgeous wife Carmen. So with the arrival of a strong carpenter, Carmen begins an affair.

Jean Jacques finds out about the affair and decides to kill the man.

When the contractor comes to inspect his work, Jean Jacques confronts him and places his hand on a lever, which, if sprung, will open the gates to the river sending in a torrent of water and sweeping the man to his death. The man cleverly offers information to Jean Jacques about his mistakes in his marriage and eventually convinces him to spare his life based on the potential consequences of the murder to his wife and daughter.

Jean Jacques then confronts his wife but instead of being angry, he admits his faults in not paying her more attention and he commits to forgiving her.

The wife, however, can’t stand the idea of having to be in her husband’s debt forever and goes to meet the man she had an affair with to run away, but in light of being spared by her husband the man refuses her. She leaves anyway. Our philosopher has lost his wife.

He searches in vain for her and carries on without ever moving on romantically. His daughter grows up and she falls in love with a man who is an actor, an Englishman, and a Protestant – three strikes against him. Jean Jacques feels he is losing his daughter as he has lost his wife, to a strange interloper, and he denies his daughter the right to marry him. But she is in love. They flee and marry and he searches for them in vain.

As he passes his fiftieth year, his mill burns down and he is ruined. Everything is sold at auction, save for a birdcage, which is spared for him, along with the bird inside it – a once treasure of his wife and daughter.

He is offered love from another woman who even gives him the chance to recover financially, but he refuses, leaving town with only the birdcage and the singing bird.

While tramping throughout Canada searching for his daughter Zoe, he is told by an innkeeper of a dying woman to whom the bird might bring joy. He offers the bird as a gift and when it is delivered a shrill cry is heard. The dying woman is his wife.

She is buried shortly thereafter and he moves on, still in search of his daughter. After taking a fall, he is put into the care of a kind young doctor whom he eventually tells his story to. The doctor knows of his daughter: he buried her a month ago, after she was caught in a blizzard. But there is a grandchild.

He goes to claim the grandchild to take her “out West”, but the woman who has taken care of the child refuses to give her up. He has rights to the infant, as her grandfather, but surrenders them after the woman tells him she would “die fifty times for the child.”

In the end, he goes out West alone where he is eventually met by the woman who offered to save him financially. They find coal on his land he has out there and the story gives us our happy ending.

Now, there are tons of flaws in this tale. Namely religious morality that punishes the sinners and rewards the faithful. Also, there is some racism. The N word appears on one page in relation to someone’s heritidge and the Spanish are not portrayed positively. Despite the fact this story was written over a hundred years ago I cannot make excuses for these failures – nor would I have been particularly inclined to read the book had I known these shortcomings, but as it is, I bought the book because it was old and rare and I liked the title.

The style of writing was also to my liking – romantic.

But what I really liked was the portrait of a man who thinks he is a philosopher but lacks in experience and hard common sense. He took what he had for granted. He lost his love. He lost everything. I have lived that. More than once.

And so the book stuck to my ribs and left me with the feeling of having lived an unbroken dream, which is what fiction does. It takes us on a journey.

This journey reminded me that we can’t change the past. We can’t go back and appreciate what we took for granted, and we can’t be anything other than what we are at the time, which is often self-centered.

There is, however, the future. And when we read stories of other’s mistakes we come to know ourselves better and are better prepared to avoid making the same mistakes.

The wise ones say there are no new stories, only old stories told differently. This is the tao of human nature. We are flawed. We do lose what we have. Nothing lasts. I suppose this novel had a very French flair in that sense. If you remove the Catholic retribution from the plot and zoom out, you see a life like any other: one that has its regrets. And that’s life.

But the more we learn the nature of being human, the better we become at life – or at least the better we can convince ourselves.

Short Fiction: The Exhumation (6 Min Read)

He stood upon the beach beside the seawall, bent over in the cold, gray light of dawn, laboriously digging that endless pit again. 

His hairless, sinewy fingers were painfully fixed around the smooth, well-worn handle of the old wooden shovel, which felt burdensome and awkward in his grip; each scoop of the dark, wet sand straining his tired, underdeveloped shoulders. 

As he dug, the waves crashed softly upon the shore, rolling and receding fifty paces before him, their sound dampened in the thick salt-laden fog. 

The pace at which he dug the wet sand brought forth large beads of sweat on his forehead that rolled down his temples, onto his cheeks, tickling his tanned face. 

He paused briefly to wipe his brow, anxiously aware that some awful, terrible doom had led him there, to a destiny from which he could not escape; although, from which he could awake – as he did every day following the same dream. 

It was only by coincidence, however, that he began to ponder the dream during his waking hours; for, like most people, he never considered dreams to be anything more than a mystery – a strange phantasm of the mind that required no more probing than ones own inner spirituality; his dreams merely were

That was, until he read about the body of a drowned swimmer found by a jogger in the early morning on a remote stretch of Maine coastline.

He came across the story while reading news at his desk one morning, a habit that ineffectually served to distract him from his work as a systems administrator in a large data center – a job he loathed, for he wanted nothing else but to be a writer. 

Only, he hadn’t any real ideas for stories, as nothing had heretofore captured his mind and compelled him to begin writing – until he came across the news story of the jogger discovering a body on the beach; that day, he decided: he would begin writing his first story. 

Driving home that night, he thought about the plot:

A man dreams repeatedly of digging on the beach in the early morning hours, and thinks nothing of it. Then, years later, he comes across a news story of a body that has just been exhumed from the beach near his house, and, while reading the story, his memories and his guilt return to him. 

What does he do? 

Does he turn himself in? 

Is his DNA found? 

He didn’t have answers but he felt the story burning inside him, demanding to be told. 

And so, that night, he announced to his wife Tara, that he would begin writing at once; his mornings were to be spent alone in his study, looking out his bay windows upon the bright, blue Pacific. 

This routine took. Soon, he had written about the dream, he had written about the news story, but the words stopped there. He was unable to pick the story up where his dream and the news story left off. And yet, he was still consumed with finishing what he started – more than ever. 

So, unable to write for lack of palpable inspiration, he began taking long morning walks along the shore near his home, where, barefoot, he would scout-out remote spots, where he would sit and imagine his character digging on the beach. 

Only, it wasn’t like his dreams: he was not digging, there was no fog. 

He imagined his story a film, needing the scene to be just so, in order that he might get into his character’s head; for the story needed to be understood to be finished – yet the dream had always simply left him digging, listening to the hush of the waves, peering through the fog.

Thus he began checking the NOAA website, keeping abreast of any shift in weather that might give him the right morning conditions.

Two months later, he saw a heavy coastal fog forecast. His shovel lay against the front gate, at the ready. 

He set his alarm for early the next morning; however, due to his excitement, he was unable to sleep – not a wink. All night he lay in bed thinking of the dream, deliciously, excitedly. 

As 5:45 rolled around, he quietly dressed, his wife still asleep when he left home and found himself enveloped in a thick April morning fog. 

The grey misty morning was a comfort to him. In it he felt serene, full of the peace of a man who knowingly follows his destiny. 

Grabbing the shovel on the way out, he trotted gaily toward the shore, like a fisherman headed for high tide. 

Walking quickly along the beach nearest the seawall, he arrived in fifteen minutes and stuck his shovel in the sand, where he was to perform his artistic ritual. Pausing for a moment, he surveyed his dig site, amazed that the foggy, gray dawn matched perfect his dream. 

Then he dug passionately, excitedly, clumsily. 

His progress was at first slow, but his pace increased as he continued. Each shovel-full of sand seemed to invigorate him, and his grip tightened on the smooth wood handle as his unpracticed-heaving grew more burdensome the deeper he dug; the weight of the heavy, wet sand now making his shoulders burn. 

He began to sweat, his clip matching the cadence of the rolling waves, his shovel, – the digging itself – now seeming to make the soft crashing sound he heard emanating from the shoreline ahead of him. 

His head began to itch. He kept shoveling. Sweat beaded and gathered at his hairline; however, he could not stop digging to wipe his brow, as he had in the dream; it was as if he feared waking up now; it was as if he needed to see it through to finish the story. His shoulders burned. His sweat itched. The waves rolled. The fog hung. 

He kept digging, madly now, and did not hear her approach. His bent figure, standing in the large hole he had dug, operated violently yet rhythmically, like an oil derrick pumping for ore. 

When she addressed him, he heard perhaps nothing at first, then his wife’s voice trying to wake him from his foggy dream, trying to steal him away from his destiny. 

Then she yelled, screamed, “Michael!”

He immediately twisted around, the momentum of the shovel driving his body toward her, its blunt steel edge striking her across the head with a dull thwack. 

His eyes widened and he dropped the shovel near in-sync with her body, which had gone limp and fallen to the sand without a sound.

He stretched his aching arms beside him and looked distantly upon his wife’s distorted face, as if in a dream. 

##

Author’s note: 

I am going to be publishing more short stories here, which I could not be happier to do. If you enjoy, please subscribe and share. Thank You – LB

Passages: East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Original copyright 1952. Centennial edition (from Steinbeck’s birth in 1902), Penguin Books, copyright 2002

Chapter 1

“You can boast about anything if it’s all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast.”

– p. 4


“And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”

– p. 6


Chapter Two

“Samuel had no equal for soothing hysteria and bringing quiet to a frightened child. It was the sweetness of his tongue and the tenderness of his soul. And just as there was a cleanness about his body, so there was a cleanness in his thinking. Men coming to his blacksmith shop to talk and listen dropped their cursing for awhile, not from any kind of restraint but automatically, as though this were not the place for it.”

– p. 11


“The early settlers took up land they didn’t need and couldn’t use; they tool up worthless land just to own it. And all proportions changed. A man who might have been well-to-to on ten acres in Europe was rat-poor on two thousand in California.”

– p. 12


“They and the coyotes lived clever, disparaging, submarginal lives. They landed with no money, no equipment, no tools, no credit, and particularly with no knowledge of the new country and no technique for using it. I don’t know whether it was a divine stupidity or a great faith that let them do it. Surely such venture is neatly gone from the world. And the families did survive and grow. They had a tool or a weapon that is also nearly gone, or perhaps it is only dormant for a while. It is argued that because they believed in a just, moral God they could put their faith there and let the smaller securities take care of themselves. But I think that because they trusted themselves and respected themselves as individuals, because they knew beyond doubt that they were valuable and potentially moral units – because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back. Such things have disappeared perhaps because men do not trust themselves any more, and when that happens there is nothing left except perhaps to find some strong sure man, even though he may be wrong, and to dangle from his coattails.”

– p. 12


Chapter Three

“Alice never complained, quarreled, laughed, or cried. Her mouth was trained to a line that concealed nothing and offered nothing too. But once when Adam was quite small he wandered silently into the kitchen. Alice did not see him. She was darning socks and she was smiling. Adam retired secretly and walked out of the house and into the woodlot to a sheltered place behind a stump that he knew well. He settled deep between the protecting roots. Adam was as shocked as though he had come upon her naked. He breathed excitedly, high against his throat. For Alice had been naked – she had been smiling. He wondered how she dared such wantonness. And he ached toward her with a longing that was passionate and hot. He did not know what it was about, but all the long lack of holding, of rocking, of caressing, the hunger for breast and nipple, and the softness of a lap, and the voice-tone of love and compassion, and the sweet feeling of anxiety – all of these were in his passion, and he did not know it because he did not know such things existed, so how could he miss them?”

– p. 22


Chapter Four

“He set down his loneliness and perplexities, and he put on paper many things he did not know about himself.”

– p. 35


Chapter Five

In small, cut-off communities such a man is always regarded with suspicion until he has proved he is no danger to others. A shining man like Samuel could, and can, cause a lot of trouble. He might, for example, prove too attractive to the wives of men who knew they were dull. Then there were his education and his reading, the books he bought and borrowed, his knowledge of things that could not be eaten or worn or cohabitated with, his interest in poetry and his respect for good writing. If Samuel had been a rich man like the Thornes or the Delmar’s, with their big houses and wide flat lands, he would have had a great library.”

– p. 38


“The first few years after Samuel came to Salinas Valley there was a vague distrust of him. And perhaps Will as a little boy heard talk in the San Lucas store. Little boys don’t want their fathers to be different from other men. Will might have picked up his conservatism right then. Later, as the other children came along and grew, Samuel belonged to the valley, and it was proud of him in the way a man who owns a peacock is proud. They weren’t afraid of him any more for he did not seduce their wives or lure them out of sweet mediocrity. The Salinas Valley grew fond of Samuel, but by that time Will was formed.”

– p. 38


“Tom, the third son, was most like his father. He was born in fury and he lived in lightning. He was a giant in joy and enthusiasms. He didn’t discover the world and its people, he created them. When he read his father’s books, he was the first. He lived in a world shining and fresh and as uninspected as Eden on the sixth day. His mind plunged like a colt in a happy pasture, and when later the world put up fences he plunged against the wire, and when the final stockade surrounded him, he plunged right through it and out. And as he was capable of giant joy, so did he harbor huge sorrow, so that when his dog died the world ended.”

– p. 39


“It was a well-blanced family, with its conservatives and its radicals, its dreamers and its realists. Samuel was well pleased with the fruit of his loins.”

– p. 43


Chapter Seven

“His voice had grown soft and he had merged many accents and dialects into his own speech, so that his speech did not seem foreign anywhere.”

– p. 56


Chapter Eight

“I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents some you can see, misshapen and horrible, with huge heads or tiny bodies; summer born with no arms, no legs, some with three arms, some with tails or mouths in odd places. Students and no one’s fault, as used to be thought. Once they were considered the visible punishment for concealed sins.

And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produces a malformed soul?

Monsters are variations from the accepted normal to a greater or less degree. As a child may be born without an arm, someone may be born without kindness or the potential of conscience. A man who loses his arms in an accident has a great struggle to adjust himself to the lack, but one born without arms suffers only from people who find him strange. Having never had arms, he cannot miss them. Sometimes when we are little we imagine how it would be to have wings, but there is no reason to suppose it is the same feeling birds have. No, to a monster the norm it must seem monstrous, since everyone is normal to himself. To the inner monster it must be even more obscure, since he has no visible thing to compare with others. To a man born without conscience, a soul-stricken man must seem ridiculous. To a criminal, honesty is foolish. You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.”

– p. 71


“Nearly everyone in the world has appetites and impulses, trigger emotions, islands of selfishness, lusts just beneath the surface. And most people either hold such thing as in check or indulge then secretly. Cathy knew not only these impulses in others but how to use them for her own gain. It is quite possible that she did not believe in any other tendencies in humans, for while she was preternaturally alert in some directions she was completely blind in others.

Cathy learned when she was very young that sexuality with all its attendant yearnings and pans, jealousies and taboos, is the most disturbing impulse humans have. And in that day it was even more disturbing than it is now, because the subject was unmentionable and unmentioned. Everyone concealed that little hell in himself, while publicly pretending it did not exist – and when he was caught up in it he was completely helpless. Cathy learned that by the manipulation and use of this one part of people she could gain and keep great power over nearly anyone. It was at once a weapon and a threat. It was irresistible. And since the blind helplessness seems to have never fallen on Cathy it is probable that she had very little of the impulse herself and indeed felt a contempt for those who did. And when you think of it in one way, she was right.

What freedom men and women could have, were they not constantly tricked and trapped and enslaved and tortured by their sexuality! The only drawback in that freedom is that without it one would not be human. One would be a monster.”

– p. 74


Chapter Nine

“I can’t understand why a girl like you – ” he began, and fell right into the oldest conviction in the world – that the girl you are in love with can’t possibly be anything but true and honest.”

– p. 92

Continue reading “Passages: East of Eden, John Steinbeck”

Passages: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the second entry in my Passages series, where I transcribe my favorite passages from a book I have just finished reading. Today I felt like an enjoyable read and thus returned to a story I relate to as both a writer and a human being. Fitzgerald manages to tell a story that is free from verbosity without being as robotic and curt as I find his contemporary chum Ernest Hemingway.

The Great Gatsby is, in my estimation, a novel without flaw. Read the passages below to discover why this work is considered to be a masterpiece of American literature.

Copyright 1925, Scribner paperback edition, 2004.

Jay Gatsby’s extraordinary gift of hope

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of “creative temperament” – it was an extraordinary gift of hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”

– p. 2


Tom’s nature

“This was a permanent move, said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn’t believe it – I had no sight into Daisy’s heart, but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.”

– p. 6


Daisy’s nature

“I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voce that the ear follows up and down, as I’d each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who cared for her found it difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.”

– p. 9


Unpredictable, realistic dialogue

“You make me feel uncivilized Daisy,” I confessed over my second glass of corky but rather impressive claret. “Can’t you talk about crops or something?”

I meant nothing in particular by this remark, but it was taken up in an unexpected way.

“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently.

“I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read The Rise of the Colored Empires by this man Goddard?”

– p. 12


Tom’s psyche

“As for Tom, the fact that he “had some woman in New York” was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book. Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egoism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.”

– p. 20


Insight, Intuition, Inference

“Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that this was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.”

– p. 20


How to begin a chapter

“There was music through my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

– p. 39


Gatsby’s smile

“He smiled understandingly – much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

– p. 48


Nick Carraway’s impression of himself

“Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”

– p. 59


Surprised characters

“As we crossed Blackwell’s Island a limousine passed us, in which sat three modish negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.

“Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge”, I thought; “anything at all”…

Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.”

– p. 69


Cultural commentary / observation

“Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.”

– p. 88


Daisy’s effect on Gatsby

“He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well loved eyes. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual presence none of it was any longer real. Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs.”

– p. 91


From Gatz to Gatsby: Jay’s reinvention and backstory

“I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people – his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God – a phrase which, if it means anything means just that – and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of vast, vulgar, and meritorious beauty. So he invented the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.”

– p. 98


Gatsby’s Achilles

“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”

“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”

He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.

“I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, nodding determinedly. “She’ll see.”

He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was…”

– p.110


Daisy’s Voice

“She’s got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked. “It’s full of – ”
I hesitated.

“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.

That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell with it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it… High in the white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl….”

– p. 120


Gatsby anger

“She never loved you, do you hear?” he cried. “She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved anyone except me!”

– p. 130


Carraway describes the Midwest

“That’s my middle west – not the wheat or the praries or the lost swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of the hokky wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that, a little solemn with the feel of those long winters…”

– p. 176


Carraway’s breakup with Jordan Baker

“I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.”

“I’m thirty,” I said. “I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.”

She didn’t answer. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.”

– p. 177


Carraway’s verdict on Tom and Daisy

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made…”

– p. 179


The End: Gatsby believed in the green light

“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning –

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

– p. 180

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Flash Fiction: The Arrival

He awoke tired and sluggish as any other day. There had been so many barren days in this untold chapter of his life. So many unfolded tears and so much frustration had amassed within him that his quiet corner of the world now felt like an island. His thoughts had marooned him there, and like coconut water they merely sloshed about, seemingly without a purpose.

Years later he would look back on this time, saying, I had wanted more than anything, just to cry, just to weep. But the tears never arrived, so I just kept waiting.

And so the day passed without event, without anything to distinguish it from the other thousand equally drab days before it.

That evening another tasteless meal was had, followed by a cigarette on the porch stoop. Afterwards, he sat up staring into his computer screen. Typing, clicking, scrolling. He looked up only to glance at the tiny gap between his curtains and the outside world. It was dark now, but this only came as a small surprise to him. Night swallows day, he thought to himself.

Later that night as he lie on the tiny couch that served both as a settee and a bed, he suddenly was overcome with frustration. There was no singular target to his ire but he felt confounded, he felt conflicted, and he felt overwhelmed with a lack of understanding for his life. Why this night, why things had become like this.

He rose up and quickly paced a circle in the small room, saying aloud: “Are you kidding me”. But then he sat down and reclined back onto the settee.

The night crept on long and slow and silent, and he hated it – the dimly lit room, the softly playing CD in the background that had for so long repeated itself that it grew to sound like silence to him – he hated everything. And he lie there busy doing what had always kept him busy at night – his gears were grinding, and he was thinking about all the outcomes that had driven him here and all the possibilities that might free him. He was busy drifting in the space between tired resignation and purposeless anxiety.

And that’s when it happened: suddenly he found himself staring into the open sky. He had blinked to find his eyes open to the starless, blueish-blackness of the city sky. The music was no longer filling the void with silence and the light in the room itself was hardly perceptible. There was nothing but the sudden awareness of his presence under the open sky. And he wasn’t shocked or scared – he felt nothing but alive; all he felt was fearless. But it wasn’t anything like the modern definition of fearless as we know it – it wasn’t anything boldly courageous; it was the rare feeling of being totally unafraid; it was the feeling of being totally alive. He existed in that moment without the human weight of worry or the fear that he, as all men, carry. And in that moment, he knew. In that moment, in that single span of time before he would blink again, he felt a dozen thoughts all giving him the same answer.

When he described this moment a decade later in a return letter to a reader, he called it: The arrival of my North Star.