stuff by ang:
I despise the swing set
the gallows in my backyard
it’s fixed arc
drives home an only path
again and again
I hate to see you in chains
learning to enjoy the sweet ease
of repeating yourself
carving a rut into the very air
Then suddenly you jump.
Ejecting from that pendulum doom
and free for some seconds, floating
sketching your own orbit
into that moments clean canvas
and hitting the ground hard
Your cry stalls my heart
but I sit tight
to let your noise
into all the hidden
alcoves of your future.
Our eyes lock
And we grin together
Crisscrossing into the horizon
Punching the Ghost
The feel the cold of the rebar surprised Paul as he thought back to watching the effluvium float by in the Paris sewer. He’d arrived in Augusta Georgia by bus seven months ago and met Hank coming out of the bus station. Hank sat on a bus stop bench reading a New York Review of books he’d found tossed aside by a suit coming out of the new Starbucks. Paul tripped over Hank’s outstretched legs and fell into a newspaper dispenser, knocking the plastic window out of its frame. He sat down next to Hank to collect himself. Without looking up from his reading Hank said, “Entitlement is the worst human attribute.” Paul mulled this over as he searched his backpack for a crumpled pack of Camels. He pulled one out and lit it, blowing the smoke of that first drag up into the blue Georgia sky. He said, “It bothers me in restaurants. The way some people talk to waitresses. I think pretty much all of us think that we’re better than everyone else. It’s only the folks who act on it that bother me though. Keep it to yourself, I say.”
Hank folded his paper and pulled a cigarette from the pack being offered by Paul who replied, “Suppose your right. I guess any sort of crazy thought is okay, as long as you don’t act on it.” Hank held out his hand to Paul in a gesture that Paul was used to – an offer of immediate and unfounded friendship. Hank stood and Paul noticed his rather stooped posture as they went for forty five cent coffees at the dying diner attached to the bus station. Paul had always made friends with out much trouble. Something about his easy smile and unimposing body language made it simple for people to enter his life’s radius. Paul felt comfortable with Hank right away. This is a world that many of us have no experience in. A world where strangers share cabs, talk in the airport lounge or greet each other and go for coffee. A world that is more open to a greater number of detours and tangents then many of us are willing to invest in.
Over coffee that first morning, Hank learned much of Paul’s story. Paul was a traveling artist. His mode of operation was as follows: First, his traveling arrangements were set by adhering to rules relating to the following quote from Flaubert, “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Birmingham, Eastaboga, Rainbow City in Alabama, then Ellisville and Gautier in Mississippi, then over to Union, South Carolina – Liberty, Aiken etc… Much like a child’s game of unsophisticated secret decoding, he would take each letter in sequential order and travel to a city whose name started with the same letter. B for Birmingham, E for Eastaboga, R for Rainbow City etc… He had made it through the sentence to may- “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you ma- it was the second letter of may that had placed him in Augusta. Hank wondered out loud at what the protocol would be once the end of the sentence had been reached, as he pointed out, there were surely countless more cities than this sentence would satisfy. Paul’s simple answer was another sentence – the contents of which he would not divulge. He also tipped Hank off to the fact that the current Floubert contribution was not by any means the first sentence he had completed. Paul pulled the folded worn back pages of a Michelin North American Atlas from the back pocket of his jeans and spread it out on the counter top where Hank could get a good look of the cities he had successfully called on, allowing him to scratch a thin line through their middles on the list. Hank silently tried to guess Paul’s next sentence and came close to making some suggestions he felt would be excellent extensions of the spirit of Paul’s project. Hank had always been fond of folks whose content exceeded their wrapping. So much more than the other way around. Upon arriving in each city, and if the lack of cash in his pockets dictated, Paul would first set about finding a job – any job. If the town had a labor pool, he would find it and wait for a handyman or landscaping job. Moving rocks, or carrying roof tile. Anything that paid a couple of bucks cash. He had no time to wait for a check. He traveled by Greyhound or Trailways or hitch hiked the secondary roads, and would find a room to flop in somewhere near the bus station- if the town was big enough for a bus station. In the smaller cities, the bus would make a quick stop at a gas station or would pull into the parking lot of a Piggly Wiggly grocery and there were no rooms to be had. In these situations, he would roll out his thin sleeping bag in the mangy patches of woods that held on between dying mom and pop stores or on the edges of the residential neighborhoods. These towns didn’t take him long to complete, so the discomfort wasn’t extended for unbearable lengths of time. Paul would then begin his project which was centered around a stencil he had cut out of the side of a gallon sized plastic milk jug.
The design consisted of a composite of the messy A of the symbol for anarchy and the upside down Y in a circle of the hippy movements peace symbol. The stencil was no more than three inches in diameter and fit in his jacket pocket. Once Paul had established the thin roots needed in whatever town he’d found himself, he would set out each night with his stencil and a can of red spray paint (a spare black can for stop signs) to systematically cover the city with his logo. He liked hitting the backs of parking meters, traffic signs, sidewalks and underpasses. He would only tag public property as he had learned that the easiest way to get busted was to deface property someone owned and cared about. He also had learned that his systematic approach to covering the city had to make sense only to him- or risk that the authorities might figure out his pattern and easily pick him up. The only time he’d been caught was in Danbury, Connecticut. He had painted his logo on the rear window of a Mercedes M class owned by a person with obvious pull at the local police department who actually assigned a detective to the case. This detective studied Paul’s pattern, probably stuck push pins into a street map on the wall- and caught Paul red handed as he toiled at the light posts lining Deer Hill Avenue. Paul spent one night in lock up and was sentenced to community service dealt in equal measure to the time it took him to dissolve every fleck of paint he’d donated to the small city. Being caught at the very end of his stint meant that he had plenty of work to do in order to fulfill his obligation and pay off his debt. It took him seven, eight hour days working with a special and especially toxic chemical compound provided by the sanitation department to complete the task the city’s satisfaction. Since this unfortunate incident, he never vandalized private property and varied his nightly grid enough to show no pattern. He did, however, remain organized enough to cover each city completely. Paul rolled up his sleeve to show Hank a sample of the logo that he’d had tattooed on his arm. Hank thought back to trips he’d taken and cities he’d visited and the design triggered something in his memory. He was sure he’d seen it before and that it had lodged under a bog in the backcountry of his mind just waiting to bubble to the surface. The grand scope of Paul’s project impressed him. He thought to ask what possible purpose it could have, how Paul might be gaining by its implementation, but caught himself. Hank was a thinking man and felt that we all in one way or another, had each constructed these sort of projects for ourselves – sketching a structure like our bones that keeps us standing upright- begrudgingly combative against all of gravities unflagging force. Each of us has set up somewhat ridiculous goals and activities to give our lives some kind of meaning and purpose- that thirst for immortality and the need to leave something behind. Hank recognized that Paul’s project was just a less subtle version of the goals we all set for ourselves, like bait cast far into the future for us to swim for strongly or weakly- making it or drowning. A series of struggles, successes and failures. That’s life, after all- is it not? Hank had a grand scheme of his own, one that he thought would surely trump Pauls. To Hank’s mind, the goals didn’t seem important, but how brilliant to set a goal that would take a lifetime but that could also be achieved. There was much about Paul that Hank appreciated right away, not the least of which were the characteristics he perceived in Paul that he felt held a resemblance to his own life and ambitions. The two men went back to Hank’s house which was a short half mile from the center of town on a street crowded with similar houses all built in one spurt in the early nineteen fifties. Hank’s was a two bedroom, one bath cottage with a fading green exterior sporting haint blue shutters and trim. The neighbors were retired seniors with more time then activities on their hands (if only they’d had a grand scheme). Paul had received the house mortgage-free when his mother finally gave way to the anti-world twelve years prior. He hadn’t bothered to change a thing and had left the photos, the knick knacks, the drapes that he had grown up with as a child. There was an abundance of wire art, like the Seagull over the kitchen table. And the Sailboat with chrome frame in the hallway. In fact, every phase of the American Arts and Crafts movement from the nineteen seventies was represented by proud hook rugs, macramé and cross stitch. Hank was at ease with the way things were and saw no reason to expend energy rearranging, adding to or subtracting from his home. Paul made himself comfortable at the kitchen table and Hank served up cold Bud in cans that made Olympic rings on the brown speckled Formica as they lifted the cans to their mouths. “Suppose I could rent the a room for a few weeks? I don’t have anything for a down payment, but I’m good for it. I have an easy time finding work. And anyway, you’d know where I lived.” Hank had already decided to offer the room free of charge. He liked Paul. But he had the feeling that Paul would be offended by any offer of charity, so he said, “Thirty a week should cover it. I’ll help you find work too- I think I might have something for you.”
The men became buzzed on the beer and even though Paul was more interested in his own story- he did gain a faint sketch of Hank’s life done in short stabbing sentences throughout the evening. Hank was a Maintenance Manager for the Augusta Department of Water and Sewage. He’d started as a laborer with the Park and Recreation department, mowing grass and general maintenance, but moved into maintenance for the pay increase and the solitary working conditions. Hank’s main responsibility was to read the pipe maps and systematically visually inspect the main sewers, repair any defects he could or to write up work orders on those jobs that were too big for one man with a trough and a bucket of cement. Even for such a small city as Augusta, the sewer system was a labyrinth of tunnels and pipes, some of it built as early as 1889. The inspections ran on an 18 month cycle and in that time hank was expected to cover the entire system. Much like Paul’s list of cities, Hank carried with him a tattered blueprint sized city map of the sewer system and used green highlighter to mark the sections he’d completed, yellow for the areas he’d performed repairs in and red for the jobs that work orders had been written for. Hank was three months into his third cycle and he enjoyed his job. He appreciated the long hours of solitude and quiet where he could be alone to spend time with his many thoughts. The syrup that trudged down the center of the main canals was pungent and sickening, but in Hank’s mind there was plenty up above that was just as nauseating. And we’d all been expected to get used that that too. The smell, the souped up South Carolina roaches and the vicious kingdom of rats were negatives to be sure. Hank avoided stepping on the roaches when he could and was careful not to shine his helmet lantern directly in the rats eyes – something they loathed. But Hank respected that although made by men, this was now their world and they seemed to appreciate his reverence and mostly ignored him.
The two men went to bed late with a vague plan to make a plan the following day. Paul laid flat on the queen bed in Hank’s parents master bedroom. He stared at the denture cleaner and half full water glass on the nightstand and wondered if the dentures had been buried with their owner as he fell asleep.
Hank was up first and started breakfast of ham and fried eggs, all cooked in the same pan, butter turning brown- a thick smoke hung at the ceiling adding to the grease stain resembling some forgotten country that surrounded a sealed vent that no longer offered escape. The odor prompted Paul to dream of a favorite diner near the tiny town of Cripple Creek, Virginia where he’d spent his childhood. The establishment was less a diner, and more an extension of Mrs. Thomley’s own kitchen. They had built a rectangular addition to the front of their house- the old porch columns ran down through the roof of the addition and on the inside framed the door from the restaurant’s seating area to the kitchen. Paul woke happily and contented, but hungry. He shuffled down the hallway in his tee shirt and boxers and had, without thinking, slipped on Hank’s mother’s faded pale blue slippers to protect his feet from the frigid floor.
Hank regarded him with some amusement and said good morning as he handed Paul a cup of hot coffee. Paul covered the cup in his hands to warm them and brought the cup to his face to inhale the steam. Paul slid two plates of patty sausage and eggs on to the kitchen table next to the empty Bud cans and Paul sat down and asked if food was included in the rent.
“You can fill the fridge from time to time, but I like to cook.” “Where have you been all my life?” Paul sopped up some sausage grease with a half slice of white bread and popped it into his mouth. “What’s up today?” “Nothing’s open on Sundays in this town. There’s not much to do put turn on the football. But tomorrow we’ll get you some work. “Sounds good. And thank you. Then tonight, I’ll start downtown.” “I’ll tag along, if that’s okay?” “Why not?” Paul tossed it off, but secretly he was thrilled with the attention and understanding Hank aimed at his project.
Several empty beer cans stood in formation on the peeling laminate of the coffee table in the TV room and Paul clicked the television off interrupting a game of college football that neither of them cared about. Paul had gathered his gear in a small backpack while Hank watched the sky from the front porch as it began to pull in the shutters on the day. Hank locked up and let the aluminum screen door slam shut. They headed toward the meager town center on foot. Downtown was empty as it always was on Sundays. The citizens of this city were well trained to stock up on beverages containing alcohol on Saturday and most folks holed up after church with a drink in one hand and a television remote in the other.
The center of downtown Augusta had fared the same as most small cities of the present. Years abused it unkindly with time always on the side of progress, whether it was true progress or not. Malls popped up on the outskirts of town reaching their long greedy arms into the body of the city to re-route blood supplies and to extract vital organs used to create our treasured modern Frankensteins of ungainly architecture and acres of blacktop. All light had now been wrung from the sky and Paul prepped his kit as would a heroin addict who perhaps enjoys the ritual more than the high. He shook a can of red spray paint until the metal ball clanking against the aluminum sides of the can became muffled as the viscosity of the paint thickened and became uniform. A glove thick with red and black overspray covered Paul’s left hand as he held the stencil up to the back of a parking meter and with one quick utterance from the nozzle and a precise rotation of his right wrist, Paul removed the stencil to reveal a perfect positive image of his logo that was at once closer to existing like a patch quilt over the immense expanse of America. Like an artist who deals in tiny dots on a massive canvas, this small addition to Paul’s project gave him great joy and a feeling of accomplishment and worth that no job ever had. To crate something lasting and larger than himself was his crack at meaning and lasting consequence and anyone would be grateful for such an incredible and rare opportunity as this. Hank was well aware of the feeling Paul was experiencing and empathized for his own reasons with Paul for the goals he slowly marched toward and silently cheered him on.
They completed that first block and then took continual lefts covering one block, then two, then three and so on creating a spiral of completion that grew from the center of the city like ribbons unfurling themselves from a maypole. Parking meters, traffic and road signs, the sidewalk itself all became branded with Paul’s mark. As Paul’s rules dictated- his next outing would start in a random spot and for variety all turns would be right for that session.
Paul woke the next morning well rested and brimming with satisfaction. He shuffled into the kitchen, again wearing his newly adopted pale blue furry slippers and found a plate of sausage being kept warm for him in the oven. A note from Hank on the table instructed Paul to meet at the diner in the bus station for lunch at eleven-thirty. Paul made a sausage sandwich and leaned back in the kitchen chair to bask in his new found contentment
Hank was at a booth in the diner studying the menu and sipping coffee when Paul arrived a minute early by the wall clock above the cash register. Paul slid into the booth opposite Hank and thanked him for breakfast. He spread the help wanted section of Sunday’s paper and pointed the ads he’d circled out to Hank.
“Don’t think you’ll need those, Paul. Talked to my super and he said some temp help would be okay – could use another hand staking out the repairs below Telfair Street. Big job. No experience needed, you’ll be working with me and I can show you the ropes. Easy really, once you know what we’re looking for.”
Paul gave off just the slightest shade of uneasiness, but with all that Hank had done for him, he could hardly decline this further kindness that Hank now offered. Even if it involved going into the sewers. Refusal would defy all rules of politeness, not to mention the fact that the job paid a healthy $11.40 per hour. For that, Paul could muffle his discomfort and thanked Hank with a genuine sincerity that need not have been feigned. “When do I start?”
That night, Paul hit the streets again, and again Hank walked beside him. Hank asked Paul about the origin of the logo and Paul smiled but responded with a request for Hank’s interpretation first. Hank jumped at the chance to verbalize some ideas he’d spent time thinking about since meeting Paul. The obvious representation was one of conflict, or perhaps a wish for two ideals that could not, in reality, exist together. Peace- that old noble standby, was of course, something we all strived for. Hank explained that he was more interested in personal peace than in a societal getting along. He felt that if a majority of people were able to achieve a personal peace for themselves, then a societal peace would follow naturally. Anarchism, in Hank’s mind, was defined simply as a person doing whatever they wanted- which to him, was an absolute vital ingredient needed to achieve individual peace. The conflict now arises, because that which may be required for one person in order to achieve their individual peace might very well cause another individuals peace to become interrupted or throw it off the rails altogether. So, he summed up that a world the stencil represented could never be achieved unless the person trying to achieve it were completely isolated and alone. Only with no others to molest with their actions, a single cell that could not jostle the cells around it- only in this way could both sides of the theory be satisfied in practice. And even this scenario birthed problems, for if the person in Hank’s example- the person stranded alone on a desert island, if this person needed to love or to be loved to reach peace, then all was lost and peace would be impossible. Otherwise- both individual and societal bliss could not be achieved. But, if societal success could be ignored then peace for the individual could be realized by those strong enough to impose their peace at the expense of others. Hank had spent the last two nights sleepless going over all of this in his mind. He went into a great deal more detail than I have recorded here, and his outpouring took the better part of two hours. Hank finished abruptly and Paul took twenty minutes to ponder and to let the spin cycle in his head begin to slow until he had room again to form his own thoughts and sentences. “That’s exactly it,” he said. A cop out, perhaps. Or perhaps he’d always needed someone to crystallize his true thoughts, the ones that hung in drops from the top of his mind waiting to solidify.
And here, a certain shift occurred in their relationship. Hank became the older brother, or even a father figure to Paul. They both sensed this slight change and would adjust their body language and subtle communication accordingly.
They entered the sewer system through a miniature door in the underpass of the 13th Street bridge crossing the Augusta River into South Carolina. This was Hanks preferred entrance even though it took longer to get to the location where the work was to be done. To pull a manhole cover took a permit and cones and hassle that made the operation unattractive. The door was solid iron and still wore a padlock that accepted a rusting skeleton key on Hank’s large ring. Paul ducked through the door and fumbled with the light on his helmet until he got it shining. The beam immediately locked on a large gray rat sending a gorgeous un-named color of green bouncing from it’s pupils. The rat did not flinch and Hank entered and put his hand on Paul’s shoulder to turn him, unlocking the rat’s stare. “Try not to shine your light in their eyes. It annoys them.” Hank took the lead and after the third turn Paul was sure that if Hank suddenly dropped of a heart attack that he would never be able to find his way out of the catacombs. The ceiling in the main corridor was exactly four feet high and Hank’s slight stoop was immediately explained as he morphed into a cave animal – his spine seemed to be evolving characteristics that seemed possible for Hank to pass genetically to any offspring he might produce. Paul, however, was completely un-evolved in this aspect and already had produced a raw patch on the top of his head and had left bits of scalp along the way like breadcrumbs marking his way home.
The men continued down along the main canal and Paul suddenly sensed a change in the air which had become cooler and a bit more fresh as they walked. The sounds shifted slightly as well, drifting from a restricted dampness to somehow dryer and wider. Hank ducked through an archway and Paul followed. The ceiling swept upwards vaulting 20 feet above the floor. Sun snuck in through storm drains from the street high above, lighting the room to some extent. Paul thought of Lex Luther in some old Superman movie. The room was a central intake and collection pool for all of the main downtown sewer lines which were gravity fed into the cement tank that was the center of the room and which was also the lowest point in the downtown system. From the bottom of this tank pipes led the water directly to the treatment plant through three miles of pipes whose flow was regulated by electric pumps. Hank continued his explanation of the working of the system which Paul could not help but be fascinated by.
There were times, as a child, when Paul and his father would venture into New York City to shop Canal Street and to eat at their favorite Chinese Restaurant in the West Village. They’d make the short drive from their home on the outskirts of Hoboken in the families Mercury Cougar. Their route took them through growing canyons of urban cement, steel and glass. Paul would look out at all of the secret locked places- the little entrances like the one he and Hank had recently entered. The Port Authority offices cut into the hill above the toll booths. As they entered the Lincoln Tunnel, Paul would stare out the side window watching for the strange doors that zipped by at even intervals, wondering what amazing catacombs those doors might lead into it- wondering if opened the doors would let spill that dirty river dragging monster fish, mob hits and all of the cities murky violence into the tunnel with it. These forbidden places had always fascinated him. As Hank led him out of the cathedral like room, Paul remembered a book he had read as a child about a baby alligator brought as a pet from Florida. Before the alligator could grow large enough to be unmanageable, it was flushed down the toile where it joined a life with other discarded alligators in the New York Sewer System. This story too had fascinated Paul. The idea of these invisible worlds that breathed and operated in secret while we all went about our business.
Before the happy days of childhood had ended for Paul, his family, which consisted of only Paul and his parents, had taken a much planned and much anticipated trip to Paris. A dream of his mother’s that Paul’s father spent a high percentage of his life trying to make come true. In the airport upon arrival, Paul had found a brochure advertising a tour that could be taken of the Paris sewer system and this opportunity to finally visit one of these mysterious secret worlds took him over. Just as Paul gave up trying to convince his parents to take him – they surprised him on their last full day in the city by taking him on the tour. Afterwards, they would all agree that this was the highlight of the trip. While the tour had been well trodden by thousands of tourists over the years, Paul still had a sense of pioneering wonder- as if a door had opened onto the surface of the moon. As he thought back on this, as he had not done in many years – he realized that the Paris sewer was where he’d possibly consumed the happiest moments his life had so far served.
These thoughts played in Paul’s head while Hank continued his own tour of the Augusta system. They had left the large room and had entered a small cramped side chamber. Hank’s tone had changed almost imperceptibly, and as Paul shifted his thoughts to contemplate this change, he suddenly found himself face down on the wet brick floor with Hank kneeling hard into his back. The surprise of what was happening blockaded Paul’s thoughts of Paris and disabled his ability to absorb whatever it was that was now happening. Hank continued with his tour guide monotone as he quickly coupled Paul’s hands and feet with duct tape and then bound them together hogtieing Paul. He grabbed Paul by the feet and dragged him on his stomach to a wall of the tiny five by five chamber they now occupied. He lifted Paul up onto his knees and leaned him against the wall and walked away from him, leaving Paul in complete darkness where he was finally able to wrestle his mind into focusing on the present.
Hank had stopped talking and flicked a lighter to ignite a kerosene lantern that brightened the room enough for Paul to see all but its corners.
“You’re the only one I’ve brought here, Paul. Our plans are so similar. It’s really amazing we met. We’re after the same thing I think. Just going about it differently. Paul saw photos duct taped to the brick wall, black mold crept in around the edges. There were perhaps twenty photos in all. Five by sevens, all taken in public when the subject wasn’t looking. Each photo showed a different child and from what Paul could make out, the children varied in age from three to possibly seven or eight. Each photo seemed to have been taken in the same location- a playground with a sandbox, monkey bars, some swings and two ride-able rockets on heavy springs. In each photo – the child was smiling and coming down a blue slide. Scrawled across the bottom of each photograph was a name and a date printed in permanent marker. Below each of these photographs were other scraps of paper with illegible notes of some sort.
“I haven’t done anything yet, Paul. It’s just a plan. But it’s getting close. Almost exactly the same. Really incredible. This goes back years – let’s see. My birthday is in June. The 21st of June. It started on my eighteenth birthday. My parents were still alive then and I found them to be unbearable. That morning, I walked down to the park next to the river, just a few blocks from the house. I sat at the picnic table just beyond the playground and had decided that the first kid to come down the blue slide after 12pm would be the one. Man, when he slid down! He was six at the time. It’s the plan really – it’s the plan that gets me off. It’s knowing what’s coming – knowing that I’m the only one who knows what’s coming while they go on about their lives, not worried – not concerned that their time here is limited. Thinking that they’ll live forever. It’s the anticipation that does it for me. Can you see how that would be? Anyway, this first kid, his name is Freddie Styles. Red hair, blue eyes – he’s this one here, see? I’ve let them enjoy childhood, or most of it anyway. This is all math, really. Just like your sentences. It’s all a computation. But – whichever kid – they get ten years from noon on my birthday, and then I end them. And all that time in between, I know what’s coming. Fred hits his decade in 12 days – and I turn thirty three.”
“Thing is, Paul- is that I’ve never done anyone in before. Just never have. I don’t even know if I’m going to like it. So, I just feel like I sneed a controlled experiment.”
Paul tried to get back to the Paris sewer – strange that those were the memories he chased to consoled him. At the same time, forbidden places ceased to hold any attraction for Paul. He no longer had the desire to open doors, no longer had a hunger to find out what they might open to. He had no desire to step onto the surface of the moon. Paul thought back on Hank’s explanation of the meaning of his stencil. He thought about how right he had been. Hank’s peace was about to ruin his day once and for all. And how truly sad that it has to be this way. How heartbreaking. Paul felt his brain cells starting to organize themselves, stating to mix into a pattern that was going to speak a great answer, and the corresponding question as well. Just at the moment this thought formed- a jagged piece of rebar entered Paul’s left side and tore open his stomach. Paul caught a brief hint in his nostrils of the morning’s sausage. I won’t bother to detail the vicious and torturous items on Hank’s checklist, as I’m sure that your dark imagination is as lively and perverse as Hanks, no matter how well you have it camouflaged. We’ll leave Paul alone to endure what he must. And the story doesn’t comfort me as it should – it doesn’t read like a horror movie that I know is made up and far away from my life. It doesn’t comfort me because I see myself here. I see myself inventing ways for my life to contain something – anything at all really. And I deal in small tortures dealt to those I love and to those I only encounter. I deal in torture and murder more subtle and less honest. I strive to destroy your peace and to gain my own at your expense and realize that some projects continue while others are left forever unfinished.