Wednesday, August 18, 2010
40 vs. 50 - A Parable
Current mood: Handsome
I recently turned 50. I have long held the position that a birthday is just another day. I felt so little for the celebration of the event that I once handed it over to my daughters, who had the misfortune of being born on December 23, which is simply unfair. With the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the Christmas holiday, a birthday in the vicinity is inevitably overlooked, leading to a dearth of gifts and attention beyond that wrapped in colorful paper decorated with holly. I figured we could celebrate the girls’ half-birthday in July, giving them a chance to recoup some valuable lucre and I would not have to age beyond 43. It has been a sporadic success at best, but this is not the point of this piece.
My fiftieth birthday came and went with little fanfare, just the way I like it. Friends who had recently gone through the same “milestone” had told me that this was the big one – the one I would really feel as it approached and feel even more as it passed. I found, however, that I had determined my fortieth to be the more significant event. I even had an epiphany that would lead me to write my book “A Bunny Screaming”. As I stepped over the threshold of my fortieth year, I realized that the older I got, the more it seemed that I was turning into my father. He was a curmudgeon of world-class standards and a recluse of note. I found myself following these same lines with an alarming sense of comfort. Once gnawing at the bit on any given Friday night to go and seize the weekend and shake it to a memorable and violent death, I now found myself looking forward to a good book or a long nap. And if anyone wanted to see me, they could stop by. I would let them in, but with a healthy dose of grumpy. Those that found this unacceptable could go on their way with my colorful blessing.
I thought this revelation might make a fine tale and began outlining my life to this point, with all the stories that had been passed my way through parents and aunts and uncles and memories I had managed to cultivate on my own. Rather than put them in a pure book form, I decided to incorporate a variety of styles with which to relay the story, which took the form of a middle-aged man named Jerry struggling with the fact that he was turning both into his father and forty years old with equal struggle. I managed to weave screenplay format, short story, essay and stage-play forms into the manuscript along with the straight narrative and came up with what I felt was an enjoyable reading experience. All of my real-life experiences were woven into a fictional storyline and when I struggled to find an ending, my real-life father died and provided me with not only a means to end the book, but a way to attempt to voice my need for closure. Writing had always been therapeutic for me and I have long used the line that writing books has actually helped keep me out of therapy. Not that I couldn’t still use some therapy, but a good line is a good line.
The cover of the book is a moose’s head, which makes little sense, given the title “A Bunny Screaming”. Perhaps a nice screaming bunny would have been more apt, but I had a hard time finding a photo of that on the internet. Google “screaming bunny” and you will be appalled, yet strangely intrigued by the glut of disturbing triple-X websites that might pop up. The moose-head was actually a part of the fictional storyline, while the title of the book had a more personal base. As I explain in the novel, I once heard a noise coming from beneath our porch as a boy in Ohio and when I looked through the latticework that framed our crawlspace, I saw that a cat had trapped a baby rabbit in a dark corner and was toying with the bunny, using its claws and teeth to torture the animal. I was appalled and screamed and cried and beat at the lattice with my fists to little effect. Before it died, the bunny screamed. Now, obviously, for a seven year-old boy, this was quite traumatic. I didn’t even know rabbits were capable such things. I managed to block the entire episode out of my mind for years, holding cats in contempt without a real plausible reason in my mind aside from their innate sneakiness and tendency to be lazy. In my thirties, I eventually dreamed of the episode and the memories all came flooding back to me. I now knew why I didn’t like cats. And that was nice. But more importantly, I felt the image of the trapped bunny screaming was an apt metaphor for a life stuck in a depressing transition, so I used it for the book.
By the time I finished the book and moved toward yet another decade, I found that I was content making it through my forties and looked forward to the years ahead. So, Bring It On, Bitch, I say. We’ll see how it all shakes out – maybe I’ll get another book out of it.
Purchase “A Bunny Screaming” at: http://www.lulu.com/jeraldford