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“Farewell”
Trifecta.
A wager once,
Now a confluence,
Defined by writers who
Gather to share their stories
With like-minded others and learn
To express themselves, leaving each one
Vulnerable, but stronger. Thanks, and farewell.

 

This piece is my entry for the final Trifecta Writing Challenge, and as per our prompt, is a 33-word free write. I would like to thank everyone who has come to visit my blog since I started the Trifecta entries exactly one year ago today. It’s been a hell of a year. You are all absolutely incredible people, and I hope that we manage to keep in touch with each other even after our weekly writing assignments are no more. Particular thanks must, as almost always, go to V. Without her, I never would’ve discovered the joys of these challenges. It’s a very bittersweet day indeed. I like to think that I’ve grown a great deal as a writer since I started participating in Trifecta, and it’s all thanks to you, dear readers, fellow Trifectans. Thank you. I’ll see you around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
But now the end holds
No fear for me. For I
Do not fear death,
And I now know the
Pain of losing you.

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
For I know that I
Shall not live to see
It. Nor would I want
To carry on if I would
Do so without you.

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
And I do not believe
In hell, though I
Have survived the tortures
That any hell could
Hold for one such as me.

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
Though I have raged
Against death and sorrow,
And found my only
Comfort in the arms of
Those I hold most dear.

I remember kneeling on the couch, arms resting on the back, staring out the picture window at the frozen landscape. I remember wishing we had a fireplace like my grandparents, so that I wouldn’t have to bundle up under blankets in the middle of a day like this. I would shiver and go to the room that my little sister and I shared, climb up to the top bunk, and shut off the overhead light. A small bedside lamp was all the illumination I would need to lose myself in one of my books, a favorite pulled from one of my many shelves.

After an hour or so, my little sister would inevitably come in and ask me to play outside. I’d reluctantly agree, because I knew it meant getting cold and spending time with her when I could be reading or drawing, but I would agree nonetheless. No matter how much I might have protested, I really did enjoy spending the time with her. I still do. We would get dressed in layers of clothes, including snow pants if we still had a pair that fit us.

We’d finish getting bundled up and wander out into the snow and ice, hoping that the snow was wet enough that it would be packable, allowing us to make snowballs at the very least. Snow angels would be made, should the snowfall be deep enough. If it were a really legendary Colorado blizzard, we’d have enough snow to make forts up against the base of the pine trees in the park. After a few freezing hours, we’d trudge back to the house. Mom would be there, and she’d help us make a couple of mugs of homemade hot chocolate, with marshmallows if we had them.

After that, it would be time for a movie or a game, depending on how tired we were. We would spend the rest of the evening in the living room until it was time to help get dinner ready. All too soon, our day of freedom would come to an end, and it would be time to eat and get things cleaned up before bed. Finally exhausted by our day, we allow sleep to overtake us and dream of the adventures yet to come.

I had something else that I was writing today, but I just learned that it’s going to have to wait. As Somerset Maugham said, “We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.” I really wish that this were not something I had to say.

Where to start?

On Tuesday night, I lost one of my oldest friends. Kurtis and I had known each other since preschool. We grew up together, or at least got older together. We were good friends all the way through high school. I can’t say that we were best friends, because it’s simply not true, but we always got along, even when we would agree to disagree. In high school, we were part of the local FCCLA chapter, doing community service work, and traveling across the country. We went to Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, and Nashville, and came in as one of the top teams in the nation for the Parliamentary Procedure competition as freshmen and as seniors. Nashville was our last big adventure together, and we didn’t talk a lot after we went off to college. An occasional “Hey, how are you?” or “Happy birthday!” was the closest we really got.

Some time later, I heard that Kurtis had been diagnosed with cancer, but he fought it. With help from his wife, Liz, and his friends and family, he fought. And for a while, he won. On Tuesday night, though, after another long bout, Kurtis knew that it was time for him to say goodbye. I wish that I could be that brave, and that strong. I wish that I’d taken the time to talk to him a little more. Others knew him better, I know, but I am proud to have known him.

Let’s face it. Not everyone can be as awesome as Geoff.

Seriously. Awesome.

I was properly introduced to Geoff via one of my professors at UCCS, a man named Tom Napierkowski. This was during my junior year, and one of the rare occasions when V and I actually had a class together. I learned a lot about classic literature from this class, and I started to learn more and more about the authors that I was studying. Now this was hardly the first literature class that I had taken where my professor was highly knowledgeable and very passionate about their particular subject. After all, it’s hard to argue with the people who wrote this or this. Still, my class on Geoff (for that is how Dr. Napierkowski will always refer to the man) was one of the first where I realized that I could understand my professor’s desire to know everything there was to know about a writer.

It’s not just that Chaucer wrote fantastic pieces of fiction. The Canterbury Tales are still read and retold, over six hundred years later. It’s that Chaucer wrote incredible characters. The man understood other people. Want to get a handle on an ensemble cast centuries before Stephen King did it? Read Chaucer. Every one of the characters on the pilgrimage to Canterbury has a story to tell, and each one of their tales reveals a little bit about who they are and what they believe. Whether it’s the noble Knight or the foul-mouthed, but funny Miller, Chaucer put in something for readers of every class and standing. He understood his audience, and he crafted something for everyone, and did it in a believable fashion. If that’s not a sign of an awesome writer, I don’t know what is.

Unlike Dr. Napierkowski and V, I’ve not had the opportunity to swing by Westminster Abbey for a chat with Geoff. I’d love to find myself in Poet’s Corner, and just think about the great people that have been buried there since he was. That’s going to have to wait a little while, I’m afraid. For now, I’ll stow that goal away with all the rest, and try to do some writing that will likely pale in comparison. I had what I hope will be a great idea for a short fiction piece the other day, so I’ll be spending my free time today (so, you know, today) working on that and a load of job applications. If it turns out to be a long enough piece (1000 words or so), I may submit it to Chuck Wendig’s latest challenge, since I’m still waiting to see what Sonia‘s going to throw my way this month. No rush, Sonia, seriously.

As for my reading, well, I decided to go with Larry Niven’s Ringworld to start, and snagged a copy of Fahrenheit 451 for the next reread, since those happened to be the two best titles in their respective shelves at the local branch of the public library. Halo fans take note. Ringworld is a huge inspiration to the titular Halo devices. Potential science issues (which have been addressed by Niven) aside, it’s shaping up to be a great sci-fi read. I’m sorry I didn’t get to it sooner, back in the days when I was first discovering things like Dune and Gateway and 2001.

Yesterday was pretty much awesome. I rocked both of my job interviews (I think) and should be hearing back from them by the end of the week. The one at Sofa Mart was one of the coolest interviews I’ve ever had. I mean, in a building full of comfy furniture, the manager just picked a couple of couches for us to sit on and chatted about where I came from, what my interests are, etc. None of the boring situational questions like “Tell us about a time when you had to do such and such a thing, and how you reacted to it.” Quite honestly, those kind of questions just irritate me as an interviewee, and I don’t feel that they are nearly as effective as getting to really know a person. I digress. My point is that my interviews both went well. I’m hoping that I can secure new employment (or additional employment, because I would like to still be able to at least sub/volunteer at the library still, I love that job) before the end of the month, because it would make the house/apartment hunt a LOT easier. Knowing where I’ll be working lets me narrow my search to a certain area, and knowing how much I’ll be making lets me know how much I can afford to spend on rent each month. Oh yeah, and in addition to those two interviews, I decided to make the most of being a former Resident Assistant at my college and a former resident of a particular apartment complex. I dropped off a copy of my résumé (I love using the accented “e” when I type that word) at my former home, thinking that, if nothing else, my experience living there would give me a slight advantage in their hunt for a new leasing agent.Productivity: awwww yeah. Today’s goals: Get down to Motor City to pick up my parts for my car, pick up some stuff from the library, and submit a story to Strange Horizons.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my time at Borders, the good and the bad. One of my coworkers, and the first person I met at the location where I would eventually work, contacted me recently, asking if I would mind providing a personal reference for him. We chatted briefly about the end of things at our store, and he told me that I missed nothing but sadness and boredom. I’ve recently come across some pictures of other stores that were closing, and I found humor, resentment, and sorrow.

Closing Borders displays empty hangers with the sign "Invisibility Cloaks: 50 Percent Off"

Pottermania persisted until the bitter end.

Pictured here: The humor. Some Borders employees decided that, with nothing else to fill the shelves, they would attempt to make their customers laugh one last time. I know that when I went back to my store the last time, I wouldn’t be going in as an employee. I wasn’t going in as a customer either. I went in to say goodbye to friends, and to a place that, despite being sold out of invisibility cloaks, still held some lingering magic.

Borders employees list things they never told you.

And the transition from hilarity to bitterness begins...Sadly, this list is accurate.

Have you ever wondered if the booksellers are judging you for every question you ask them? 98% of the time, we were. The other 2% of the time we were too busy marveling that you were one of the smart ones, and trying to secretly signal our coworkers that we had someone who actually knew what they were doing in a bookstore.

Last, but certainly not least, is this image down here. Faint of heart, turn back now. This is the sorrow.

"I cannot live without books." And now my heart has been mercilessly removed...

I found this via an article critiquing this marvelous photograph. The composition of it is sheer beauty, the content is heartbreak for people like me. As the critic said, there is nothing quite so telling about this photo as the small “World History” sign on the floor below. Say what you want about big chains and corporations ruining bookstores. The loss of so many places so loved by so many is a genuine tragedy.

I’ll do whatever is within my power to maintain the written word. Yes, I said frequently that I was considering buying an eReader device of my own. Dear customers of mine from Borders, I lied to your faces. I was a salesman. I’m sorry, I truly am, but the lie I told you allowed me to survive. I don’t think that they’re all that bad, but I have no desire to replace my collection with an electronic device. Those of you who wanted one, you might have needed some convincing, and I got bonuses to my paycheck at Christmas for every one of the Kobos I sold to you. I thank you sincerely for providing me with the income I needed to get by. Those of you who didn’t want one? I share your feelings. I said a great many things at Borders when I knew that my managers were listening. I’ll keep my books. I’ll take yours too, if you don’t want them. I’ll construct my library from the cast-off fragments of civilization.

The smell of a book

Now you know the science behind it.

I will happily make this smell my cologne of choice for the rest of my life.  I will devote my life, much as I can, to the preservation of the printed page. “A man will give his life to the turning over of a collection of books.” Gene Wolfe wrote that in Shadow of the Torturer, a novel I need to finish at some point in the future. I would love to be a person like that. Wolfe, in the same scene, wrote that “Of the trail of ink, there is no end.” I’m sure that it may seem to some that books are reaching there end, but it is not this day. Nor will it be tomorrow. I’m going to dedicate as much of my time as I can to ensuring the survival of the book.

Opus, you may be a comic strip penguin, but at least your priorities are right.

I’ll keep my “obsolete pile of pressed tree pulp,” thank you.