Today is release day for a book I wrote called Beacon, book one of the Nation of Five series. The book is about young men and an impossible task they set before themselves. Well, I know a lot about impossible tasks. I’m a DID survivor who suffers from hallucinations. I have bipolar and Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder. Getting through a day where I make dinner, hang out with my kids, be a husband to my wife, and not end the day screaming, is the completion of an impossible task. Well, it may be an impossible task that’s undertaken in the book Beacon, but it’s only even considered because of the friendship between four boys. Four teenage boys attempt this daunting feat. Got me thinking about the boys and men in my life. And so today to celebrate the release of Beacon, I will be dropping upon you chapters from Reality of the Unreal Mind. These chapters are from the unreleased third volume, titled The Keep. I start at 7:30 in the evening on Friday, and will end at 9 at night on Sunday. So follow me now into the story of the men who made me possible.
Do you know what a Box Step is? Maybe a Pirouette? I’m sure you have seen, or at least made fun of, Jazz Hands. We will get there. But first, a slight diversion to let you know why I was obsessed with Ty my sophomore year of high school.
It all started with a play.
Could easily look it up. Probably should, hold on a second… Well, all I got was lyrics for “Maggie May” by Steward, so we will move along.
The line was, “Magpie my darling, you’re the moonflower of my middle age. Say something tender to me.”
He swept out onto the stage in the Fine Arts Building in Waynesville in his first high school play, and he dropped to a knee, center stage, swept his hand out over the crowd and up to the young-looking senior playing the starring role. His long arms and long fingers, added alongside the dark suit he was wearing and the cape, made a perfect spectacle of him. He owned everything artistic and powerful at that moment, and I stared from the audience, breathless by this one boy.
It was Artist. He had been watching the play, had dragged us there and paid his two dollars. He wanted something, and this was it. The playbill said the guy’s name was Ty, and when we found him in the tenor section of choir the next school day, I walked up to him.
“Your performance was amazing last night. I just wanted to tell you,” Artist said. Did he look like a fanboy? Absolutely. Did he give a shit? God, no.
Ty mumbled something at us and the bell rang. We watched him from our seat in the bass section. He did nothing interesting, yet we could not take our eye off of him.
Now the Box Step thing.
Choir put on a show every year called Kaleidoscope. It was an amalgamation of many different numbers, complete with costumes and dancing. Our choir director Mrs. Wilson knew diddly about dancing, but she had a local woman and her assistant work out the choreography, and we were in business.
Were any of us dancers? Well, out of the fifty of us in the class, maybe five. Was this going to be a big mess? Well, if any of you know the stage, you will know that by the fourth practice we were all convinced it would be. The last few practices of any production are a disaster. It never seems like it will go well. It always looks like a shitshow. People forget lines, people don’t know the steps, performers forget what order things happen. The final practice of any show is a nightmare. The next day is opening day and most directors and producers, most cast members, are terrified of the next day. No one sleeps. It’s horrendous.
However, the stage is magical. Anyone who knows it well will say the same. And when the lights hit the smooth wooden floor and the crowd hushes, when the first of the cast step out and break the show open, there is a burst of radiance and the stage saves us all. The stage will have its way.
But we are far from that. We are in our fourth rehearsal. They are bringing out furniture and we are supposed to be at a cafe. I am not singing the main number, but I will be breaking out in song and leaping to my feet in the third chorus. The number needs a lot of work, but our dance instructor wants us on the stage in place, so I am told to pull up a chair, pick a table to sit, and wait until Box Steps and Jazz Hands are perfected.
I see Ty sitting a bit off of center stage, and I drop down across from him at a two-chair table.
“Ty!” Artist is a little too excited to be here. “When I saw you at the table I just had to sit here.”
“Because your performance in the play last semester was amazing.”
“Was it? What was my character’s name?”
He has a bit of a harsh tone, a bit of aggression to him, and Artist soaks it. He does not care. Ty could spit in his face if he wanted and Artist would not blink.
“Don’t remember,” Artist said.
“Then I really must have made an impact,” Ty said.
“This show is going to suck,” Ty said. “Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!” he yells out. Everyone looks at him like he is crazy. Artist is fascinated.
“Why would you say Macbeth?”
Ty rolled his eyes. “It is a curse. You’re never supposed to say Macbeth on stage. It is bad luck for the entire production.”
“Oh,” Artist said. “Well, I had better say it, then.”
Ty held his long-fingered hand over the table with a swipe. “Don’t. If you don’t know what you are talking about, just don’t.”
“Magpie my darling, you’re the moonflower of my middle age. Say something tender to me,” Artist said.
Ty froze. He stared at us with a mixture of surprise, hilarity, and interest. “What did you say?”
“You stepped out into the middle of the stage, dropped to a knee, and with that strong raspy voice of yours, you spoke those lines as you swept your hand over the stage. You looked up and, man, I was transfixed. You said those lines. I will never forget them. Decades from now I will still have them memorized.”
“Who are you?”
“Jesse Teller,” I extended my hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Say the line.”
“What?” Ty said.
“That line. Say that line again. I want to hear it one more time.”
“I’m not going to say the line,” Ty said.
“Because, it’s, I don’t know. It’s just.” He stammered a bit before shaking his head. “I’m not saying the line.”
“Alright everyone, get to your feet. Move to your appointed spots and face the crowd,” our choreographer said.
“Showtime,” I said.
He could only stare.
It’s a year. It’s been almost a year and we are working on Dracula. We are three practices in and about to start our fourth. Well, it is before practice and Teddy, Vonny, Chalice, and Bootheel are sitting in the corner of the room playing Vampire the Masquerade. Ty walks up to see what we are doing and I look at him and smile.
Then I become a werewolf. I talk a bunch of shit, yell at Teddy, and scare the hell out of him, then I turn to Vonny. I smile at her as Cork and I speak a single word that strikes terror in the entire room. Back to the werewolf and every one cries out.
Teddy yells. “Fuck man, I’m gone!” He shakes his head. “Out the door, through the sewers, I am making for the streets. I want my motorcycle. I have to get out of here!”
Cork stands and laughs. And Ty stares transfixed. When we take a break for Artist to piss, he follows us into the bathroom.
“What is that out there?” he asks.
“We are playing Vampire. Why? You want to play?”
“What is it?” He seems out of breath.
“It’s a game. You are a vampire and I scare the shit out of you, and you run for your life,” I said, zipping up. I walked out of the stall and he stared at me.
“That was some real good acting out there,” he said.
“You just make up the story as you go along?” Ty asked.
“You want to play?”
He nodded his head emphatically. “Very much.”
“You have to do one thing for me first.”
“I want you to say these words.”
“Magpie, my darling, you’re the moonflower of my middle age. Say something tender to me.” Artist grinned and Ty laughed.
“That was you, wasn’t it?” He grinned. “Fine, I’ll say it.”
“Outside in the classroom, and you hit one knee when you say it. I’m your Magpie. And I’ll say something tender to you.” I laughed. “Well not tender, what I will do is terrorize you and make you run for your life.”
Artist had just made his very best friend. His first really good one. Shadow, Servant, they all had friends. Artist was friends with D. But this would become Artist’s best friend. The one who was more obsessed with our work and more supportive than any living being until we met Bekah.
He is reading this now.
Hey Ty, say something tender to me.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.