We joyfully present to you a second prototype, Writing Folly v 2.0, as it were. Another short story by Charles, this one we find a bit darker in tone. But, let the text speak for itself.
“The Lesser Chain of Being”
Katy DeYoung was a natural born skier. She had skied since she was six, and before that she had participated in thoroughly regimented balance conditioning. Mother wanted her to go her own way, but father insisted that she liked it. Loved it. At 16 she qualified for the Junior Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia. Or the preliminary training thereof. She carved hitch-back trails in those slaloms. Moguls ran under her shifting skis like butter. By 19 she and her family were being visited by top college recruiters for the sport, of which there were around 7. At 27 she was on a minor talk-radio show discussing the importance of feminine participation in extreme sports. A magazine article featured her at 29, still skiing fine. At 34 she was still unmarried and her father and mother were a split pair. She would go her own way, just like that, down a chasm dividing two runs at Park City. She was 36 at the time, soon to be heralded as a hero of women’s athletics.
Hans Bremer was as talented as they come. He sang and painted and played the drums. He was great at chemistry for a time but dropped it for more aesthetic pursuits, though the beauty of synthesized hydroxo-cobalamin once made him cry. At 8 he appeared on a smalltime German educational video as a background dancer. He did have one sung line. It was “Ja!” At 17 he was the first German minor to sing on a Montpelier street corner to finance his trip back to the Vaterland. He had chased a damsel from Munich to Madrid to Manhattan. She had been on a trip to the Alps, professional in nature. At 24 he had proven his great aunt Hilde wrong by singing at a Munich opera house. Or the pagoda of the English gardens near there. By 27 he was dead broke and frequently hung over on a concoction of Dunkel beer and Jägermeister. 7 years later he would be strangulated by a utility cord intended for use in musical productions, tied by his own hand.
Johannah Sulivan lived in a mountain town in upper Appalachia. Smiling college students, none of them native, brought food to her doorstep in Autumn. Her mother was a pearly faced clock; her father, a stringless banjo. Her sister cooked skillet potatoes in the morning with eggs she’d unnested from a henhouse down the way. At 12 and 9, respectively, the sisters fled to Williamsport en route to the Big Apple. Her sister would not make it all the way, her response to an oral invitation to earn a few bucks ending in her disappearance. At 10 Johannah would be at an orphanage in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, delivered there by a well-meaning and overweight cop, who was very proud of his daughter and couldn’t bear to see a little girl in pain. He visited every other Saturday with family stories and chewing gum. At 12 she would run away to New York and be back by 7:00. Most days she went exploring. One day she did not come back. Some say she was 13; others, 14. Still others say she had no age at all. Her story would appear in an under-read Philadelphia paper in Autumn of the following year.
Henry Oakely was not born in San Francisco. He was born in Concord, California. At 18 he would tell most every new face he met that he was from the former. He had once been to a 9ers game. Or a children’s science fair sponsored by the team. Henry studied computer science and found numbers fascinating. He once made a poster of them and assigned all the integers between 1 and 125 with various sizes and colors and recalled them mnemonically. At 22 He graduated with honors and had never sipped a beer and was ignorant of the female genitalia. He had been delivered by Caesarian section. Though not afflicted by the aftermath of the surgery, his mother would be crippled by debilitating arthritis at 40. They thought it was such. In reality, it was an unusually fortunate late onset case of Cystic Fibrosis. Henry would see his mother live to 61, though in great pain. She lived to 67, her relative virility ascribed to a bizarre metabolic irregularity produced by exposure to the air of mountainous terrains. Henry’s career was marginally successful. At 25 he had programmed a system used in German medical technology for the data input of patients, mostly those consigned to Bavarian psychiatric wards. He was introduced to the drug scene by a coworker of three years. She suffered mildly from a common social sensitivity. At 30 he had fatally overdosed on a prescription used primarily to reduce the effects of severe skier’s blindness. He had elected previously to have his body used for the purposes of science if such a tragedy were to transpire.
Margaret Dao was raised, at least for a time, in an old wooden barn. Her father, a Vietnamese national, worked as the field hand of a well-rooted Chinese-American farming family in the Napa valley. He would marry into the family after his affair with the farmer’s daughter turned out to be fruitful. Like the fields on which he labored. By 5 Margaret was working alongside her father and could name every farm animal in Chinese, Vietnamese, and pigeon English. Napa County Child Protective Services found her at 7. The next Fall she was enrolled in a small grade school, where she struggled for many years until a classmate introduced her to American print media. Her language skills never did plateau after that. She thumbed through glamour magazines at night and found great beauty in the white faces she saw. As a teenager she spent many hours photographing herself in seasonal outfits with a polaroid, all of them borrowed from friends. At 18 she was set on fashion school but barred by financial hardship and unresponsive parents. When an underpaid high school counselor discovered an east coast scholarship for promising students of Vietnamese descent, Margaret applied and won. By 19 she began to uncover her blossoming sexuality suppressed by years of farm work. At 20 she was unflowered by a half-drunk patron in the bathroom of a take-out restaurant in Little Saigon. He slapped her thigh and congratulated her upon completion. At 21 with her grades faltering, Margaret tried a bid in raising guide dogs for the blind but ultimately failed when she treated them like cattle. She sought a tutor whose room she distinctly remembered as having math themed decorations. The room would later be the site of many sexual liaisons, Sappho-erotic in nature. After consulting with a university psychiatrist, she sought closure by confiding in a close female friend who would later reveal her affairs to the public. One allegedly involved a local athlete, 10 years her senior. She dropped out of school the following May. At 23, she was discovered in a tractor trailer outside of Media, Pennsylvania, her body riddled with stab wounds. An old magazine article on professional female athletes was the sole possession found on her person.
Veronica Reyes was Chicana by birth, Chicagoan by choice. Both her parents and her four siblings had names beginning with the letter “P”: Pedro, Paulita, Paco, Pablo, Peppe, Palba. She decided to go to school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and she did not quite know why. She looked into communications for a time, but preferred peace studies. At 21 she pursued an internship in the Windy City. She lived near the old Jackson swamp but Pulaski Park pleased her more. Back at the university the Fall thereafter, she decided to embark on a service trip up north. She served food at a shelter for abused women and their families which doubled as a foodbank. She stacked cans of peaches and pears and potatoes precut to fry easily on a griddle. At 23 she was abroad on a mission trip to Patagonia. She did not speak the same sort of Spanish as the rest of them. When she discovered her mother’s infidelity at 26, she left the Church. While visiting Salt Lake City for a job interview in international charity work, she ran into a young woman who asked for a moment of her time. That next Spring she was initiated into the faith. On a stake outing after her first anniversary of membership, she went to the slopes for the first time. They were closed due to what were termed “ill-conditioned runs.” She would go on to marry a Missourian, 7 years her junior. Together they had four children and would have had more. Complications arose with the delivery of the fourth. She was unable to yield after that. When she was 35 she would travel to Munich to oversee the development of a call center there, in an area called Pasing-Obermenzing. She was the only one there with skin darker than a well-baked pretzel. On her way home one night she would be struck by an erratically driven Audi Q7. The driver was never identified, but it was a presumed theft. Her bones rest in Park City Cemetery near her young family’s home on Prospector Avenue. Her children pray for her every day.
The parents of Christopher Uneywu decided that he would live with his mother’s family until he came of age. In Kigali Christopher closed his eyes and said nothing when ordered by a neighbor with a machete. At 8 he and his sister were sent to Goma and then to Kinshasa with money from his father. He attended a Christian school there where he wore a collar and read a large book in English. He looked away when told by a classmate that he needed time alone with his sister. She had been born with a birth defect that left her right arm foreshortened. At 15 it was suggested that Christopher pick up basketball. The monsignor once found him at the school court at midnight, where he had been instructed 7 hours prior to practice until perfect. His sister tried, too, with limited success. At 18 Christopher’s father had him flown to Trenton, New Jersey, where he served as a pastor to a Catholic parish, primarily Latino in composition. He encouraged the parish’s child to enroll in a local community college, where he was immediately enlisted as the starting power-forward. When at 20 Christopher was stopped on the Turnpike by a corpulent cop for driving without a license, he had to explain that he was fulfilling a request for a friend. At 21 he was made the face of the Philadelphia chapter of a group who claimed him as their brother. He had stopped at their meeting place to deliver pizzas on a Tuesday. When group leader Billy Freeman was denied conscientious objector status, it was decided that Christopher would serve in his place. His duties on the home front were paramount. At 22 Christopher entered basic training with another man’s legal documents. At camp and in the jungle, he was commended for his obedience. They say he never blinked when firing an M-16. On his way back to the mainland he gave the last of his pocket change to a street performer whose sign commanded him to give alms in four different languages. Upon his return to community college at 23, he was repeatedly badgered by his former brothers for his compliance in wars against the colored man. At 24 Christopher was moved to a medium-sized Philadelphia university when a scout asked him to play. He would go on to break the school’s record for assists given in a single season. With a torn ACL in the winter his scholarship was forfeited. He became a janitor for the school in the Spring, a post he would hold for many subsequent decades. At 29 his angry brothers nagged no more when Billy Freeman was arrested for sexually abusing at least 7 minors in multiple Pennsylvanian townships. Christopher is 42 and cleaning full time.
I live in Omaha, Nebraska. I still appreciate a novel, in English or German or Spanish, from time to time. I have donated $15 dollars to my alma mater in the Keystone State in the City of Brotherly Love every seventh month. I am a journalist by trade but write many other stories, too. I often confuse my sources. I have only ever written one obituary, but only obliquely so. I read somewhere that a chain of 7 personal connections can link you to just about anyone in the world. Living or dead. In recent times. Sometimes, I wonder if that is true.