_ How to Sell Hamburgers at the End of the World
Book I: The Thirtysixers
“For everyone now strives most of all to separate his person, wishing to experience the fullness of life within himself, and yet what comes of all his efforts is not the fullness of life but full suicide, for instead of the fullness of self-definition, they fall into complete isolation.”
Chapter 1: Angel Attack
“The reasonable man accomplishes nothing”
14 April 1865: The Present
“Sic semper tyrannis” is what the fellow Booth yells right after shooting Lincoln, who slumps into his wife who screams, though a lot of people in the theater don’t hear that at all or else don’t hear all of it, and some people end up thinking he yelled something about avenging the South, which who knows for sure they’ll say (though he absolutely didn’t) and some people only here the “semper” part. Mary covered in viscera and cradling the President’s body screaming, and the Booth fellow immediately on the lam, and the whole thing kind of puts a pallor on what was until that point really quite a good performance of a clever play.
The earth responds to Lincoln’s passing with groans and storms, shuddering as if now devoid of a weight that provided security. The wind mourns and even the leaves skitter across the ground to be together. Fruit falls and the fellow Booth is on the lam until precisely 26 April of that very same year, when he finds himself inhabiting a barn which is all of a sudden burning down around him, and when he tries to escape, he can’t, because he’s been shot in the neck. What people never realized is that he had no idea why he was in that barn, or what he had done. They don’t realize this because when they set the barn on fire, the fellow Booth cried out “you’ll never take me alive,” which they the mob took to mean that they the mob’d never take him alive since he killed the sitting prez and was proud of it, but what this actually was was just something that the Booth fellow cried out.
John Wilkes Booth’s last memory before being shot in the neck in a fiery barn was several months prior to the night at the theater, when he was initiated into a secret society for disgruntled Confederates called the Knights of the Golden Circle. It was like he’d gone to sleep and then woken up all full of guilt, briefly, before being burned alive, which he was. He died from the gunshot.
All of this is to say that John Wilkes Booth stopped being an actor and started being John Wilkes Booth just about the instant he was initiated. And that he had company in that barn, right up until the moment of his death.
Lincoln carried on in our hearts, and all that folderol, but the fact remains that his brains were on his wife’s sweater for a little while. That performance of the play, which is called Our American Cousin was finished by the actors who didn’t break their training even after every patron had left to get their individual shares of burning/staking/stabbing the fellow Booth, and the only people they would’ve bowed to (if they’d been so callous as to bow at the end instead of simply stare not at one another in the dressing rooms afterwards) would have been the exiting soul of the President and the bloody bloody First Lady.
All of this is to say that the actors had nothing to do with much of anything, which is generally the case, though the play became known as the play that killed Lincoln, at least for a while, which was a pretty nifty side effect for the parties responsible, what with the public unrest. The parties responsible had always prided themselves on cultivating a general ambiance of unrest/fear/eagerness to redistribute blame/all-around bad mojo.
The fellow Booth’s official rank was bishop’s pawn, though it’s not like he ever knew that.
7 February 1989: The Present
A. Atom Severe, who has been what they call colloquially a book jockey at the New York Public Library for longer certainly that he’d like to have been, but not as long as some, receives a book that was checked out so long ago that it doesn’t have a barcode sticker to scan, and he has to go through and figure out a system even older than the stamp-card, and the binding’s old but in really remarkable shape, and he finds out that the book is 194 years overdue, making it one of the first books checked out of the good old NYPL.
The obvious solution being that it’s been passed down through a family like a borrowed heirloom, and the most recent recipient returned it out of guilt or some other such human emotion.
There are four living people who know that Atom’s first name is Aleph, and he can’t wait for them to die. The reason he hasn’t changed the spelling of Atom is to throw people off the scent of his first initial. He hates the way old people smell, and makes very good BLT’s, one of which he eats for lunch.
He keeps the book a secret.
7 Adar 1271 BCE: The Present
There’s the mountain and there’s everything below the mountain that’s not on the mountain, is the way Moses sees it. There’s his staff and then there’s every staff that isn’t his staff, some of which can turn into snakes but all of which turn into inferior snakes, edible to his staff, which has also drawn water from a rock. There’s the eastern shores of the Jordan, and then there’s everything else, which he’s not allowed to go into.
If it wasn’t just, he might be annoyed. But then again he might be beyond things like that. He has blessed Reuben, Judah, Levi, Benjamin, Joseph, Zebulun, Gad, Dan, Naphtali, Asher, all of Israel O Israel.
His son asked him a short while ago, because he knew that Moses would die soon, what he missed the most. Moses responded that he missed his pet snake and the parted ocean, in that order but that he also missed some of the excitement of youth, the thrill of moving elements. Moses, though soft spoken, can be windy.
He has sung to his people, which is the best he can offer them, because it’s the best that can be offered.
So, on the mountain.
Moses, who has known YHWH face to face and has suffered gnarly sunburn for it, fades from this world, eyes and body strong until the end, until the end.
7 February 1989: The Present
The man with the very old walking stick enters the Staten Island branch of the New York Public Library, with his copy of Il Paradisio, which he’s annotated for the benefit of whoever checks it out next.
The walking stick is an almost gray shade of wood, and does not appear smooth, and seems to be for show versus to be for functionality.
The man with the very old walking stick which seems to be ornamental takes great care when sliding the book into the return slot, and briefly makes eye contact with a man behind the counter who is noshing on what would appear and smell like a sandwich containing bacon, which the man would never eat, though there seems to also be the perfect amount of tomato, if the man were to be pressed to pass judgement in that instance, given no choice but to render a verdict on the sandwich that he’s only just seen, and only seen very briefly, and not tasted and not given the opportunity to taste, if he had to say yes or no, is this a good sandwich, he’d preface it with a lot of reasons why his judgment of the sandwich is unqualified, but he’d say yes, yes, a good sandwich almost certainly.
The man with the sandwich makes a face with his nose.
It is not for the man with the very old walking stick to say, yet, to say anything to this man, now avoiding eye contact either on purpose or because his sandwich is really that enticing (which would certainly influence the man with the very old walking stick’s judgment of the sandwich, evidence of how engrossing it is), but it will be soon.
The man with the very old walking stick leaves without a word, which is an old habit of his that he’s been trying to shake. He thinks about how he’d like to see Dante and maybe ask him a few questions, offer some advice from an old but modern perspective. This is what he’s thinking about as he walks out into cold New York City, during a winter which will go on record as pretty damn cold, to say the least.
His least favorite thing is snow that has dirt in it, and it’s all over the sides of the roads.
His favorite things are the things that he’s become very good at, with no small amount of practice. The most rewarding of these has been shoe-making, the least rewarding of these has been bridges made out of toothpicks.
He will alternate the leg which he uses the walking stick to assist, switching from right to left at a number of steps that he used to have to count but that he can now just sort of feel. The stick has not worn down at all since he made it, which is remarkable.
Snow is falling, but the snow itself is grey from just the confluence of mess that is in the air itself, mostly from cars, but to think that we breathe this stuff.
Buildings behind buildings behind buildings behind giant buildings, are things that maybe the man will never get used to, and maybe he won’t have to, for a variety of reasons.
He is unaware that he is being described in great detail.
He is unlike most people his age because he is unlike all people any age.  Further: April became the month that killed Lincoln, Derrenger became the brand of firearm that killed Lincoln, luxury boxes became the theater patron situation that killed Lincoln, balmy became the weather that killed Lincoln, etc. which causes the parties responsible immense amounts of the malicious hand-rubbing type of pleasure.
 At least tense-wise.
 In Hebrew, obviously.
 The Parties Responsible still, technically, responsible.
_ I say this with full awareness that I am the youngest person involved in the program, and this is one of those things that make me seem even younger: but do you guys remember the scene in “The Matrix,” when Keanu is getting his martial-arts training, and Morpheus looks at him and says “stop trying to hit me and hit me!”?
I remember it.
I remember it because it happened in November, and Morpheus was my NaNoWrimo novel, and it told me to stop trying to hit it and hit it, not in a sexual way, and I said no, I’m going to try as fast and as recklessly as I can to hit you, novel, and I think I might have even closed my eyes at one point, but that’s what it felt like: swinging wildly at something that’s way too hard to hit if you insist on just swinging wildly like a fool. And so I couldn’t hit it, and a fortnight and a fourth of a fortnight later I asked nicely if I could have the pill that sent me back to the real world, and the novel said “Hunter, this is where your metaphor falls apart, apt as it might have been at one point.”
Anyway, it was a colossal failure except for some neat character names, but failures are good for one thing, and that is learning from them. So I have decided on several reasons that explain why I had no choice but to quit NaNoWriMo with my shameful tail between my shameful legs by the time I was getting excited about Turkey. I’ll be uploading the entire thing in it’s unfinished glory, because if I can’t use my vain toil to pad my practicum hours, what good is it?
If my novel was an action movie, it would be called “The Stillborn Identity.”
These aren’t in any particular order, but this is probably the thing that got me off track first and the fastest.
What I Did Wrong 1: I Didn’t Limit Myself
The crux of my story had to do with the idea of the Lamed Vavniks, which is an idea in mystic Judaism that there are 36 righteous people on the earth at any one time, and their existence is what keeps God from destroying us all. (I learned of this idea from a book called “The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Cohen Brothers,” if anyone’s interested). Another central idea of my story was that time only existed post-fall of man (having just substitute-taught Paradise Lost to some high-schoolers) and so the 36 righteous people don’t have to be living all at once, because time is only applicable to humans, but as soon as the “last” (in the time-based human lexicon) one dies, God will destroy the earth. The antagonist, then, was a fellow heavily implied to be Satan himself, heading up a secret society called C.H.E.R.N.A.B.O.G. (a combination of the name of the demon from that one part of “Fantasia” and my favorite trope from RPGs: absurd acronyms that don’t seem to actually stand for anything).
I still maintain that these are all cool ideas, but there I was, a guy whose longest piece of fiction has been 19 (double-spaced) pages, responsible for writing about the eternal struggle between a shadowy death cabal and the entire human race, spanning all of time itself because time doesn’t exist (and as such all sections were snarkily labeled with a date followed by the words “the present”). I was in over my head.
What good came out of it: I got to write death scenes for Moses, Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, etc.
What Riley did (This is a segment where I talk about what my roommate, a fellow enjoyer of the literary arts and aspiring high school English teacher, who is generally better than me at most human endeavors, did): chose a reasonable story set in a specific time frame, which by limiting him in the elements of time and space and subject matter, gave him unlimited means of exploring that particular epoch.
Chapter 1 of “How to Serve Hamburgers at the End of the World” goes live soon.
I know you've missed me. Who wouldn't? Don't pretend otherwise. It's ok.
Coming at you in the next few days: Spiderman, Batman, and what they have in common with Hamlet. I'm putting quotes around unenlightened (in the title, but not here. You'll notice I'm not even capitalizing it. That's how little I think of it. As Orwell says, the worst thing you can do with words is surrender to them, and words thrive on being capitalized. They get uppity. Keep them in their place is what I say) because I'm being sarcastic. Anything can be discussed in an enlightened manner if you think hard enough, especially comic books.
(I am using my own definition for enlightened discussion here: when you talk about something in such a way that brings resentment out of the people you are speaking to/in front of, but also a begrudging respect of your body of knowledge. I call this the "Curtis White definition")
We'll be talking about the nature of power and who deserves it, filial piety, and Aristotle's doctrine of the mean between extremes ( I just played two truths and a lie there).
Get ready to enjoy it, because you'll have no choice about whether or not it goes up here, and you might as well bring a positive attitude to the experience, you bunch of killjoys.
This Week's Blogger: