I am still taking a break from my novel, “Strawman” and in the interim I wrote a Novella titled, “Floaters”. I have also been revising my novel, “A Time In Time”, which is published as a Kindle book. Its singular reader felt the love story was a bit lacking. So, if only to please one person, I am at work. Meanwhile, having looked through old manuscripts, I soon came upon “Wednesday’s Child”. Still one of my favorite writings. For only the third time, if you count “Floaters”, had I made the primary protagonist a woman. It began in the Sixties and included fictionalized domestic terrorism. To a great extent, the accompanying story was autobiographical in that it, again to a fair extent, depicted my own family. The first chapters of the original version of it were reviewed by a good friend, who had many helpful suggestions. The second reviewer was my brother, who invariably felt his phrasing was superior to mine. Finally, between their both well-meaning efforts and corrections, I told my brother that I hardly recognized a page of the original manuscript. Angrily he declared he would have nothing more to do with the project . . . and he meant it. I proceeded alone and finished the novel. When he kindly skimmed its contents, he declared it a disaster. For starters he deemed my version of the Sixties and its Vietnam turmoil to be an insipid description of the age’s true action and basically ignored its true revolutionaries: SDS and the Weathermen. Secondly he disliked the fact that I killed off the only character he really liked. He found my version of crime and punishment and the story’s ending to be unrealistic and downright ridiculous. Mostly though, he greatly objected to my depiction of him and my fictionalized version of his youth. He said that, if by the remotest act of kindness the book was ever published, anyone in our hometown, who might stumble upon it, would know exactly who I was writing about. Such lack of decency and dismissal of privacy, on my part, was inexcusable. I sat down and rewrote much of the book then filed it away unread by any other.
Nevertheless, I consider its first chapter to be some of my finer writing, so I intend to repeat it here. It begins: It is now 1993 and I approach middle age with no great ambition fulfilled. I have had no great novel published, nor can I claim any other of the great accomplishments the idealism of my youth had promised.
I was born in 1944 to parents bound in a marriage founded on opposite desires and ambitions. Having lost their mothers, while young in life, both hungered for stability and security while each pictured future achievement from decidedly different interpretations of same. He was raised a city boy whose interest lay in farming, which would have been possible due to farmland holdings of a willing uncle. She came from the hard-scrabble plains of the Oklahoma panhandle. She had no interest in the hardships and vagaries of farm life and, by the time he proposed marriage, she had graduated from nursing school and lifted herself to professional nursing status. She would marry him only on the condition that he give up any plans for becoming a farmer. He succumbed and instead learned the electrical trade under the tutelage of a much admired older brother.
A year into their marriage, a first daughter was born. They named her Joanne. Five years later, I, named Diane, became the second of four daughter, the third and fourth being named Julie and Sue. Finally, thirteen years into the marriage, a son was born and named Winfield Henry, Jr., after his father. Not being the first-born, of whom much was required, nor the son, of whom much was expected, nor the third daughter, Julie, who became the family’s shining adolescent success, I fell, in my perception, into an abyss of insignificance.
By early youth I had honed a repertoire of clever and cutting statements to mask my own perceived shortcomings. I also became a student, as learning came easy . . . a reader of popular fiction and classics, which confirmed my belief that humankind’s cruelty greatly overshadowed its goodness . . . a seeker of solitude, where a penchant for grand dreams of grand accomplishment was my chosen world. Certain that I would one day write something significant, perhaps the greatest of American novels, I took to heart a treasured quotation, which read: “It is great to be young and to have the talent, because then the world will want you.”
By young adulthood, I had added the last accoutrements of pseudo-intellectualism. Having come of age after the pinnacle of McCarthyism, I joined a generation that would once again rise up, and became a determined, though quiet, rebel in support of democratic ideals and lost liberal causes . . . all of which insured my moral superiority. Having endured the god-fearing conservatism of Kansas, I chose Democrat for political obligation and labeled myself atheist, or at best agnostic . . . which proved my intellectual superiority.
In my imagined future, romance would be brief but fulfilling affairs whose only offspring would be meaningful literature. Certain that writing required, of its serious practitioners, the experience of tragedy, agonizing strife, dangerous venture, debilitating illness, possibly even alcoholism; I was prepared to bravely face any and all such dangers. Hadn’t those aliments been experienced to one extent or another by Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dostoevsky, and Poe among countless writers and poets? Moreover, what danger or matter of any consequence ever occurred in the parochial monotony of Kansas? Therefore, immature dreamer that I was, I set my sights on an unlikely goal never anticipating the quirks of human nature, the accidents of fortune, or the events that would turn my heart to love, my soul to anarchy, and my world to a chaos of my own making.
And though Joanne would die at the age of nineteen; and though Julie’s early success would stumble through four failed marriages; and though Win would fall victim to depression, attempted suicide, and eventual imprisonment; and though Sue, the most normal of all, would later blame me for much of what happened . . . almost all of that lay in the future when, at the age of twenty-two, I, once and for all time, left home and all that was Kansas, to begin my life.