Here we are again. In a fantasy book I haven’t published yet, these two young warriors are escaping an enemy, and they approach a bridge, and the leader yells out, “I’m gonna do it again!” The other one says, “You won’t be happy til you get us killed.” And then they both jump over the side of the bridge. Well, I’m gonna do it again. Here comes another blog blast. That’s what I’ve decided to call them. I’m gonna throw things around a little bit, put a kink in the chain. We’re gonna do the last five chapters of The Round Table, which was our last blog blast, and then we’re gonna start a series about the powerful women I’ve met who have had an effect on my life. It starts at 9:00 Friday night, and will be finished at 8:30 Sunday evening. I’ll release a blog every two and a half hours. So travel with me from Spanish swords, old lady gangsters, and red painted nails. Travel with me as I carry a bag of dice, watch a falling star, and end with Love.
I didn’t even know he loved me, love the way that a man has for a kid. It’s a heartbroken, you’re not getting what you deserve, kid, kind of love. I’ll fill in any hole that I can, kid, kind of love. If you just had a little bit more, if you just had one terrible thing taken out of your life then maybe, kid, kind of love. That’s how Mark loved me.
Rose left Char. When she did, she moved into a tiny basement apartment. Her landlord’s name was Mark. He was tall. He was angular. He was built. I cannot tell you how many times I have described Mark’s body in a fantasy book I have written. Let me throw it at you and see if you recognize it, because you’re about to hear me describe Harpo, Treason, and so many more.
Lean, muscled, this man was thick in the shoulders, wide, but tight in the hips and the chest. Arms might be a little too long, hands big. And when he moved, when this man moved, he moved like a panther.
I can’t stop describing Mark in my books. There’s two examples, but there’s so many more. When I talk about Murder IV, I’m talking about this body type. When I talk about Tramoch, I’m talking about this body type. Mark made an impression on me. But I can’t see his face. In my memory, his face is dark and in shadows, like Sabrar Maul. In my memory, his face is always moving and it doesn’t make sense and it’s no man, or is it every man? Is Mark’s face the face of every man who was ever good to me, ever kind to me? I think Mark’s face is the face of a man who always wanted to step in and change things. Here in this face we see Mr. Olsen, Mr. Schwingle, Mr. Liechen. This is where we see Rock. This is where we see Bramble. Any man who loved and wanted to step in and protect or strengthen. Every one of those men blends to create the face of Mark.
It was an old building. There were things that leaked because it was a basement. There were things constantly breaking. No door hung just right. No corner was a perfect right angle. Mark had so much to do when he came on his visits. He took me out into the hallway once, the hallway that led to the stairs and up to his apartment. He pointed at a black velvet painting. Was it a black velvet painting? I’m not sure if it was a black velvet painting. I’m pretty confident though that every one of you have seen it.
I stared at it and laughed. He said, “Don’t laugh. I know it’s funny, but don’t laugh.” It was a picture of a bunch of dogs. They’re all sitting around a table, drinking, smoking cigars, and playing poker. Most likely you have seen this painting. It’s extremely famous. It’s famous to the point of its creation being high art, down to printed out on a home printer running out of cyan and the black is all smeared to lines. Everybody has seen this picture. If you haven’t, Google it.
He pointed at it, looked at me, and I was giggling. He said, “Stop. Pay attention to this. This is the future that I want for you.” More giggling, and he squeezes my hand. “No, Jesse, pay attention.” I want to remind you that I’m four, creeping up on five, and a few days ago Bramble had to ride. When a woman doesn’t want you around anymore, you have to pick up and ride. “Do you see how all of these dogs are different?” Mark said. “Which one is the weak dog? Which one is the dog you’re not scared of?” And there wasn’t one. Even the poodle looked like he could handle himself. “No, Jesse, this is what you’re looking for. This is a group of friends. They’re all being men. They’re all powerful. They’re all different.”
“Is this new? I’ve never seen this before,” I said.
“I just bought it a week ago,” Mark said. A week ago was when Bramble had left. “You can come out here and look at it any time you want to.”
Now let’s fast forward maybe a week, maybe two. I’ve gone to the bank. The banks back then, most people came in and stood in line to see tellers and get their money or deposit their money. I can’t tell you the last time I was in the lobby of a bank. I’m pretty sure you can’t tell me when you were either. Back then, when you came into the bank you usually had your kid with you. Your kid hated standing in line, as all kids do, as all adults do. Adults at least have a purpose. Kids are being dragged along. So sometimes banks in their lobby would have things to occupy the mind of a child. The mascot of this bank was an owl, and a big stuffed owl moving around as if Alexandra N. Minor was running and twirling and hugging. A mascot, here’s a mascot. And you can hug him. Jesse Teller loves hugging things.
So I ran to it, I hugged it, and its big fluffy arms wrapped around me. Alexandra will tell you that as a mascot all your motions have to be exaggerated. It was all shoulders and wild, swinging arms. I had never seen anything like it.
Twenty-five minutes later, I’m in the backyard with Mark. He’s fixing a fence. And I’m holding onto a very big balloon filled with helium with a print of the name of the bank and a picture of the owl that loves me. You know, back then they hadn’t figured out yet that you tie the string around the kid’s wrist when he’s holding a helium balloon. They hadn’t thought of that yet. And as I’m talking to Mark about the great big blue, white, and silver owl, I hold my balloon out in front of me that has the image of the owl and I just, I just accidentally, I let go. I let go of the first symbol of exaggerated mascot love I had ever seen.
I reached up for it, but it was gone. Mark ran. He ran across the yard, stepped on the bench for the picnic table, kicked off the table top, and reached as high as he could. Lean body, panther movement, but he couldn’t catch it. I cried and he wrapped his arms around me and held me. I asked him why, why he didn’t catch it.
And he said, “Sometimes adults can’t do everything for you. And in this particular instance, Jesse, I failed you.” He held me back, hands on my shoulders, and looked at me. “Sometimes the people in your life are gonna fail you.” His face was blurred, when he said it, from the tears in my eyes. I can’t tell you the expression on his face. Sometimes I want to see Mark’s face so bad I stare into that blur that’s locked in my mind from the time when I lost my symbol of exaggerated love, and I fight to see Mark’s face. I can see it now. Blond hair, shaggy. Eyebrows kinda dark. Tan face, lean. But when I look into that blurred face and can’t see any details, I can see love. And I can see heartbreak.
Weeks before the balloon and the loss of the owl, I had burst free from the back door holding a pool stick in my hand. Bramble had given me a pool stick and Rose had told me it was a sword. I was swinging it around and Mark was out there. I don’t know what he was doing. I want to say he was on the roof of the garage pounding in shingles. I remember him leaping from on high to get to me. So let’s say that’s what he was doing. He ran at a sprint through a very small yard, caught the pool cue in his hand, and said, “Bramble gave this to you. You have to be careful with it.”
I look back now and I can’t imagine when Mark and Bramble had ever been in the same room together, or had Bramble been friends with Mark? Or had Bramble known his woman had told him to ride and he knocked that night on Mark’s door and said my name? I can see his face, but I can’t see his face, as he said, “You have to be careful with this. Bramble gave it to you. Don’t hit it on anything. Bramble gave it to you. You should take it into the house. You should put it away and I’ll get you a stick that you can swing around like a sword. I’ll make you a sword. Jesse, I’ll take my knife,” and he patted his hip where the Bowie knife hung there. “I’ll get a piece of wood and I’ll carve you a sword. Just please be careful with what he gave you.”
I looked at him and said, “Mommy said it was a sword.”
And his face slumped. I can see every one of his fingers peel off that pool cue reluctantly. He backed up, crossed his arms over his chest. I can still see him slowly backing up, backing up into a darkness. That darkness is the shadow of Bramble in my life. There on the edge of that shadow he stood, arms crossed as I swung the pool cue. It connected with the tree and Mark’s arms wrapped around me when the world shattered.
Harpo. Treason. Murder. Tramoch.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.