Saturday, October 25, 2014


My father once wrote a fiction novel. Though being fiction, having read the bulk of the 500 plus page work, I can attest that it is deeply autobiographical. It had been considered for publication, yet he was a stubborn man, plagued with perfectionism. He never turned over the work, its apparent inferiority on the literary landscape only something he saw. He would rather the words remain locked away than to face the alternative that should he publish, he may always look upon the effort and pine for just one more chance at revision. The self-loathing would have tortured him. I personally believe that he would have had none of an editor's input either, which goes hand-in-hand with publishing. He lived his life in much the same fashion-locking himself away from the world, knowing that he was far from perfect, toiling over revisions and never satisfied. 

He closed the final chapter in his life having challenged countless rewrites of this novel, and fortunately I have them all. I will, however, refer to the submitted version of the book in this excerpt. The story is called "Sweet, Baby Girl." It is a tale redemption, revenge, death and re-birth-of a villain and a heroine, of two lovers and one dream against every odd. 

My father's name was J.W. Burroughs, Burroughs also being my birth name. I will likely post more of this work, as it does deserve its place in the halls of literary fiction, despite the reality that he would surely stop me from doing so if he was here. I can see him now, angrily jamming his cigarette into the ashtray and flying over to the monitor, crying "Jesus, Jay, get that off of there!" while he seizes the mouse and deletes one more copy for perfectionism's sake, in much the same way that he deleted excerpts from his own life, time after time. 

This piece is from a chapter aptly titled   "Daisy"   (abridged)

It was that hushed, enchantingly serene time of late afternoon when all creation pauses as if to catch its breath before pressing onward into the clamour and urgency of early evening.

In the far corner of the patient sitting room, Daisy, like a ragged, wind-swept leaf was settled serenely in a generously proportioned, overstuffed wing chair adrift in shadowy yet cherished reveries-a charming diversion she pursued with ever increasing frequency. Long, hazy shafts of fading sunlight sliced through the narrow, elevated casement just behind her chair and spilled across the polished maple floorboards at her feet.

Her face, weathered paper fringed by careless wisps of silver, revealed a profound fatigue as though each breath was a frantic crusade whose sole mission was to prevail for yet one more. Clouded, vacant blue-grey eyes peered out from behind heavy lids and contemplated nothing. She lingered there, an amorphous assemblage of dishevelled blue terry-cloth, sagging stockings and worn, shapeless slippers.

And so, yet again, with an impertinence forged by more than seven decades of melancholy and disillusion, she had quit the field, abandoned the mundane cares of the ward and retreated quietly to this place. This was the sanctuary where she would ignore the vulgar mandates of the day. Here, she could once more visit the silent dusty rooms of long neglected, crumbling mansions and contemplate the sad distortions of yesteryear. It was her time to sing old, sad songs and whisper wistful tales of what might have been. It was her time to brush away the ominous ashes of days past and mark again the hymns of more promising times.

For so long she had journeyed through this veil like some sad gypsy, armed only with timid ambition and petrified dreams. The only child of humble, Irish immigrant labourers, she had been denied many of the trivial pleasures of youth and inculcated with the unforgiving sterile doctrines of perseverance and unwavering accountability. And so, two days following her sixteenth birthday, with a vigour born of quiet desperation, she had renounced all familial connections and ventured forth into a world she was ill-prepared to confront. Like a resolute, solemn child, she wove her way through a torturous succession of abusive and mercifully, barren relationships. It was a demoralizing epoch of incredible turmoil-of frenzied lust, alcohol and ten thousand screaming nights. Filled with righteous contempt she slogged through angry, blaring deserts and came to know the absolute anguish of her own mortality. And ultimately, as though to deny the awful misery of her own existence, she quietly retreated into herself and like some clever conjuror, fashioned a world filled with rainbows and faded paper flowers.

She populated the empty, blustery chasms of her life with icons of her own comprehension until, by her fifty-fifth birthday, she lay broken and confused, incapable any longer of tending her weedy gardens. Consequently she was given over to the caretakers and like a timid, startled bird, spent her days cowering in antiseptic corridors. Rationality had been usurped by schizophrenia, and soothing, sensible voices hushed the furious babble of yesterday. 
She had been set free-free to step out onto the high plane of imposed tranquility and to cavort with harmless mirages. Passion and vigilance had been transcended and reality had surrendered to illusion.

Sorrow and remorse had been cloaked in pale beauty and enduring anguished pleas for what might have been vanished in the howling winds of despair.

Slowly she raised her head and studied the room. Soon she would return to the ward and once again she would be tendered to those whose function it was to comfort and soothe and bear her away in a haze of chemical rapture. Breathing deeply, she allowed her head to fall gently to one side. A single tear rolled down her cheek and, with a faint unprotesting gasp, she departed from it all.

No comments:

Post a Comment