A rhetorical question, I suppose. The answer is well known. I am, after all, a repeat offender. Which reminds me of a story. A story about my cousin Patsy, who was born into life on a poultry farm with four older brothers, and a stubborn as hell old man who served bacon and eggs every morning for breakfast. Patsy didn't like eggs. I don't know if she once liked, or didn't mind, eggs, and over time grew to dislike them, or, if she disliked them from jump street. But, either way, Patsy's dislike of eggs was sufficiently large to be classified as hate. And so some mornings she wouldn't eat her eggs. She'd eat the bacon and toast, drink her orange juice, and then ask to be excused. "Finish your eggs," my uncle would say. "I'm finished," Patsy would say. Then he would give her a sharp look and she would pick up her plate and take it into the kitchen, put it into the refrigerator.
Confession: I witnessed more than one of these breakfast "sessions." I too giggled with my brothers and my male cousins. I doubt that I actually thought it funny, but there was so much I didn't understand at my uncle's farm that I suppose I was relieved to find an easy enough way to fit in with the other males - just laugh at the girl along with everybody else.
At lunchtime my uncle would serve Patsy the eggs remaining from the morning. He wouldn't heat them, or doctor them in any way. The same plate would be set at her place at the table. A cruel anticipation would build amongst the rest of us - would she, or would she not, eat the eggs? Her face offered no clue - her face freely displaying the distress she felt. She looked continuously on the verge of tears. I thought: a word, a look, and she might spill.
And some times she did spill. Loud enormous fully expressed girl tears. She might also scream. Or pound a fist on the table. But never two fists. She knew to always keep a hand on the plate during the storm - a special hell to pay should the eggs hit the floor. After she'd fled the table, she'd be summoned back to retrieve the eggs and take them to the refrigerator for dinner.
Thinking about cousin Patsy recently, about her plight, it occurred to me that certain fates can not be escaped. Get born on an egg farm and you're going to eat eggs. Or maybe it's just that sometimes the cure is more destructive than the condition.
My attempts to finish John have in many ways mimicked the eating ritual of my poor cousin Patsy. I have gladly eaten the toast (with lots of jelly) and bacon. Drunk several glasses of orange juice. Cup after cup of coffee. And then pushed away from the table (desk) expecting - what?
Did Patsy ever sit down to the table expecting anything other than the uneaten eggs? Did she think they'd magically go away, replaced by her favorite sandwich meat or a lovely cobb salad? Did she really believe her father, my uncle, would ever relent from his particular form of justice?
It's much easier to ask those questions of cousin Patsy than myself. What did I expect when pushing away from John? Did I expect that I'd return to the metaphoric table to find a delicious meal consisting of everything I like and none of what I hate? None of what frightens me, intimidates me?
Aside: I recently read a thoughtful piece on Writing, the author making the argument that Writing need be Fun. I thought: if you're having Fun Writing, I'm likely not having Fun Reading. But my opinion is likely Minority. I also once told Writer Friend, as Criticism: you're just not smart enough to engage or entertain me with only your Brain - I need Heart.
(No, I'm not re-inventing myself as a Hunter S Thompson wannabe. A sudden Urge, that has mostly Passed.)
Like Jesus on the cross, taking all of our sins, Patsy's memory lives to inform me. John will ALWAYS be there. Your father is the same as my father. Long on memory. Insistent and inflexible. You need not like it, she tells me. Pain is mandatory, suffering is optional, she reminds me.
So. I can't be rid of John just yet. I have re-learned this fact. I am always pleased when I feel I've learned something important, even if it's a re-learning. Admittedly, there's some ambivalence then - shame does bleed through. But after I have dealt with the shame, the after-hue, the basking, often reveals what I call bonus truth. Bonus truth is like a silver lining, an epiphany, a realization, a blessing. Call it what you will. A little jolt of understanding. Connection with Correct?
Maybe bonus truth is like a gratuity from Above. Hey kid, good job on working through that re-re-re-realization (Fucker keeps impeccable score) and so here's a little something extra, for your trouble. Who ever turns down a gratuity?
My bonus truth: the poet Mudd was needed to introduce John. Not exactly, but in a "linking" sort of way. In a John way. And, if I've done my work properly, "in a Mudd way."
I wish I could describe the delight I experienced when the poet Mudd ambled his way into the Foreword. His bemused indifference, his famed obstinacy, his intellectual acrobatics, all combined to offer counter-balance to an eager, mirthful, and uncertain author. Maybe the last is clue to the necessity of the poet Mudd - I never feel quite as certain as when conversing with Mudd. I am always Right, and he is always ... drinking? Maybe Fun will be found here now.
Soon enough I'll have a few words from the poet Mudd. And more on John.