The Round Table 16: Tiger Part 1

Friday was 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 this weekend 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.

I was uncomfortable every time I took Rayph to the dojo. Dunham’s Martial Arts is a very welcoming place. The master makes everyone feel at home. He talks to the parents and is very open about what he is teaching. He teaches honor, integrity, and discipline. He has talks with the kids about honesty and charity. He makes time to tell them about the resolute making of goals and how to be gentle and not use their fighting skills. His philosophy is that if he teaches them properly they will never have to fight.

The master is a kind man and—you know what? He hates this master shit, so I am going to stop calling him that. He prefers to be called Mr. and then by his name, so I will call him Sensei and leave it at that. I can’t use his real name. That would be no fun at all. So we will just refer to him as Sensei and go from there.

Sensei was upset when I told him later that I had been uncomfortable in his dojo. But when I told him why, he was understanding.

So, for the first six months, I wanted Bekah to go to the dojo, I wanted to drop Rayph off. I wanted to spend my time at the restaurant next door. Anything to make it so that I was not in the room with them while Rayph was working out was fine with me. And then Father’s Day came, and I was stuck.

The dojo has a Father’s Day workout every year, where the kids and the fathers get together in class and you train with each other. I didn’t want to be there, but it was kind of forced on me, so what could I do? I had to go, no matter how much I didn’t want to. I had to keep Rayph interested in martial arts at all cost.

I had told him that he owed me ten years. Ten years of martial arts before he turned eighteen he was required to perform. There was no choice. There was just this future for him. Too many times I had needed to be able to fight and had not been able to. Too many times when I walked the streets, even as a man, I would see another man walking toward me on the street and wonder, if he throws a punch, will I be able to handle him? I didn’t want my kids to live like that, so they were both told they had to give me ten years.

Now I am being asked to be on the mat in a class with Rayph, and if I don’t, I am a hypocrite. If I don’t go, what kind of message am I sending my son? I have to be willing to at least do one class if he has to give me ten years. So, though I hated the idea, I stepped out on the mats to go through whatever this teacher wanted from me.

As soon as I stepped out onto the floor, I knew why I had been uncomfortable instantly.

I was not supposed to be in a chair on the sidelines. I was supposed to be on the mat. As soon as I stepped out there, I wanted to be there all the time. I instantly wanted to join the school, and with every kick he had us do and every punch we threw, that feeling only grew stronger.

I joined a few weeks later, and that is where I met Tiger. He was a yellow belt when I was a white. One belt higher than me, and he was taller and more muscled. He had a determined look on his face. I shook his hand when he came in, and kept things cordial, but when I saw him smile, it was like I knew him.

He had a smile that threw off any darkness I had placed on him, a welcoming smile that told me he was not at all what I had thought he was. I had thought he was a man preparing to break other men. The look he gave when he threw a punch talked of such wild determination that it was undeniable, but that all vanished, and I wanted to know him.

Four months later, the belt test was coming up, and while we were getting our shoes after class and making our way to the door, I stopped him. “Hey, I was wondering if you wanted to come out to my place and fit a practice in before the test?”

He looked up and smiled eagerly. “Yeah, that would be great!”

“I’ll cook dinner and we can eat and punch each other,” I said.

He laughed. “I’ll be there.”

When he showed up at the house, he was carrying a six pack of Fat Tire beer. The moment I saw that, I knew we would be friends. He had not asked me if I drank. He had not made a deal about it at all. He had just brought the beer and assumed I would be okay with it.

We ate. I think I grilled a whole chicken and served mac and cheese and corn. It was real fancy. We talked, he got along with Bekah, and everything was really easy. It seemed like we had been friends forever, as if we had stepped back into something. It was like we had been friends years and years ago and had not seen each other in a long time, but when we got together again, we fell right back into it. Only I had just met this guy.

After the workout, we drank and joked and talked, then he went home and I had a new friend.

It was simple with Tiger. Never complicated at all.

But it should have been. Tiger is a scientist. He values all the things that go with reason, reality, calculations and intelligence. He has no belief in an afterlife or God, and has admitted that he does not really accept the idea that there is such thing as a soul.

I live in a world of fantasy that does not make sense to anyone but T and Bekah and my sons. I often try to convince my boys that the reality they know is not real at all. I have talked about dragons with them. Told them about Smear Lord of Ire, Koh of the Brushlands, Cackle the Piper and The Wolfmother. I write, and spend most of my time, in a world that does not exist and seeing things that are not in any way real.

Yet even though we have nothing in common, we have everything in common. We agree on damn near everything. I can guess what he is about to say before he says it. And Tiger is one of my very best friends in the world. He is not an emotional guy, but with me, he is. He does not talk about his feelings or the things that bother him. But with me, he does. It’s as if he has found something in me that makes no sense to him and when he is around me, he lets himself get caught up in an unreality where he is more open.

We started getting together every Sunday to practice. That stretched on and began to grow. We invited Knot to join us on these Sundays. We would go to the basement, move all the furniture, and pound on each other for a while. We brought in Knot’s girl for a while and it turned into breakfast of bagels, talk for about an hour, then work out for an hour or two.

One day, after seeing Tobin playing and running around, Tiger said that Tobin and his son might get along. So the next Sunday, here comes Tiger Cub.

Tobin was upstairs and I stood behind him, holding him by the shoulders, and waited for Tiger Cub to join us. Tiger brought Tiger Cub to stand in front of Tobin, and the two boys stared at each other.

“Tobin, this is Tiger Cub,” I said.

“Tiger Cub, this is Tobin,” Tiger said.

I opened my mouth to say that the two of them were going to play today when Tobin looked at Tiger Cub and very seriously said, “Are you ready?” Not hi. Not it’s nice to meet you. My son looked at his and said, “Are you ready?”

Tiger Cub nodded and said, “Yes.” And they ran off together.

It was as if they had business they had been waiting for years to get to that they were finally getting a chance to do. It was as if they had been waiting a long time for this to happen and they already had plans. But I think they were beyond hi’s and how are you’s. They were instantly past all the pleasantries of the meeting part and wanted to get to what they would do next.

Tobin saw a kindred spirit when he looked at Tiger Cub, and they never needed any more than that. They rushed off and their imaginations exploded.

They played fantasy games together. And when they were together, they played fantasy games apart.

They would be in the same room, playing in different parts of the room, and Tobin would yell out to Tiger Cub, who was busy playing a different game.

“This monster is roaring at me!”

Tiger Cub, without looking up from his game or the thing he was doing, would just throw out a roar and move on. Tobin would fight his monster and they would keep going.

I once heard Tiger Cub say, after getting dressed up in some common, everyday thing that might be found around a bedroom, “My character’s name is Dark Blaze.”

Tobin, from the other side of the room behind the couch, yelled out, “Look everyone, it is Dark Blaze!” Then went on.

When they play together, the magic of their minds spark off of each other. They have gotten into two fights. One at my house and one at Tiger’s. Each time, without planning or talking about it at all, the father of that house yelled out, “Work it out.” And left them to each other.

They worked it out just fine without us.

Tiger and I. Tobin and Tiger Cub. We fit together seamlessly. There is never an issue. It is always easy.

One day at the table over bagels I looked at Tiger and said, “I want them to be friends for the rest of their lives.”

“I want that, too,” he said. “So let’s aim for that.”

In that one comment, Tiger told me that from now on we would be friends forever. We have never stopped.

When I need him, I have him, no question. When I need to run an idea by someone, he gives it his time, no matter how crazy it is. He is my number one supporter and has never asked for a free copy of any of my books. He wants to buy them all. Always wants to add to my career.

Tiger and I were meant to be friends. Every experience we have had in our lives has brought us to that place.

I want to be friends with him for the rest of my life. So we aim for that.

This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep. 

Vol. 1: Teardrop Road, is available here on Amazon.

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