Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Other EscapeA Chapter by Nick Peugh
Who would want to read the memoirs of a lonely man?
For some reason, I find this idea fascinating. Because in this question lies the idea that there could be someone craving a late night read about someone else who, just like themselves, drowns their nights out with soft ballads, mint ice cream and a good book, rather than talking to friends or going out. This person would happen to be me. I wish I could say I listen to Mozart while sipping a fine 1982 Bordeaux Margaux and watching the fire die down, but I’m not that sophisticated of a man, and though I wish I had such refined tastes I don’t think I ever will. And in this realization I put my pen to the page, hoping to show some sort of sophistication, hoping that someone can drown out their sorrow by reading about mine.
The night was young, and I had nothing better to do than to read a good book. The day had wound down at a rather slow pace as I had not worked that day. Work was the only thing my life had really consisted of for a while now. Though it had not been my dream to be a low-pay children’s author, it worked well with my talents. I had been aspiring to become an elementary school teacher, or possibly teach high school English, or become a music artist. But all the aforementioned ideas fell through rather quickly, and with rather low gumption to push forward I settled writing short stories to an attention deficit disorder audience. But again, who really ends up where they want to, intend to?
Part of me knows that when it comes down to it, dreams are dreams and reality is reality. People always say "you can do whatever you set your mind to" or "chase after your dreams" but those people are usually wrong, and they know it. I certainly doubt that anyone aspires to be plumbers, or garbage maintenance, or electricians, or anything like that, but it’s all needed. This world wouldn't survive without all of its necessary components. And this is the way God made it; people settle. This is why I’m starting to question the whole “you can do whatever you set your mind to” idea. In theory, yes, that is true. But it would be ridiculous for a blind man to be a cop, wouldn't it? Not being bias, but it would. He doesn't have one of the most necessary skills needed.
So I keep thinking.
What if we actually weighed ourselves according to our attributes, rather than what we wished our attributes were? Wouldn’t that make it easier for everyone? Fewer mistakes made by someone who wasn’t supposed to be a doctor? Consequently, fewer deaths? Or would death just keep taking the same toll? And if it did, then maybe we can choose our profession, because in the end, none of it matters?
I feel as though I’m tearing into two opposing viewpoints. My heart has been lied to enough that it believes success is happiness, when really its happiness that is success. And not many people realize this, and so they want to be astronauts, and the president, and nuclear engineers, when really all they need to focus on is being themselves. If people could just be happy with who they are, they wouldn't worry so much about what they could be. Because it’s all dreaming till we get there, wherever "there" is. Maybe it’s naïve to say this since you can’t preconceive it, but if someone has an uncanny talent for nuclear engineering then that's what they will be, they shouldn’t worry so much. In the end they will end up exactly where they were intended to end up.
Therefore I believe that life is the journey, and death is the goal we strive for. I know it sounds morbid, but that’s exactly the point. If we don’t stop and look around every once and a while, we will totally miss out on the good things. Like nature, family, and friends. That was my fatal mistake. And now I’m trapped in this hell of a life, with this near empty tub of mint ice cream, and this near completed book, the ballad almost to the last strain. And I think of whom I could have shared this tub of mint ice cream with, and who I could have read aloud to, and who I could have written a ballad for. But because of the conceded, arrogant young man I was, I am now a lonely writer who sits and recycles these same thoughts, night after night, with the soft ballad, and the mint ice cream, and the good book. Hello, friends, it’s nice to see you again. Won’t you join me tomorrow night as well?
Once upon a time there was a little boy who wanted to own the Castle of the King. Every day he ran to the castle’s gates and stared in wonder at its tall towers and beautiful features. “One day I’ll own this beautiful place,” He said. He ran there and straight back every day, and didn’t stop to notice anything.
One day that boy became a young man, and in that little town there was a young woman who considered him to be very handsome. But before she could say anything, he ran right past her, eager to see the castle which he yearned to own. He couldn’t even notice her beauty for the speed at which he was running, rather, she was just another form that slipped by him at an incredible pace. But he just knew that he was on his way to something great, something so amazing…
One day this young man became a grown man. And still he ran, right past a servant who called for him. He did not even hear the servant, he was running so fast. All he could see was the top of the highest tower of the beautiful castle he dreamed about. And after gazing in wonder at the monument of wonder, he ran back home and fell into dream yet again…
One day the grown man became an old man, and he could no longer run the way he used to. As death loomed, he longed to see the vibrant colors and textures of the castle once more. So he set out on a vigorous walk that tested every ounce of his strength. But he continued.
On his perilous walk to the castle, he ran into the woman that had wished to speak to him, all those years ago. She stopped him, saying, “I remember you! You were always in such a hurry to see the castle.” And he told her his dream of one day owning the castle, and how it would sadly never happen. And her eyes became wide with shock. “My,” she gasped, “if only you would have stopped to say hello to me that day! I used to be the princess of that castle, and I was searching for the man that I would choose to marry! I wanted to stop you because I found you attractive, but because you did not stop I found no one, and my father would not relinquish rule… he continued to rule, while I was banished to be a peasant the rest of my days.” The old man was shocked at this turn of events. As they parted and he continued along, he thought to himself, “If only I would have seen her… my dream could have been mine!” And he continued along.
Rather soon after this first meeting, he encountered a very old man with many scars of battles past fought. The scarred man yelled in a hoarse voice to the old man. “Hey, you there! I saw you years ago, running, and I was on a mission from my Lord and King. He had sent me here to find a rather healthy-looking man to take his place as king, for he was gravely ill and there were none to succeed him. I saw you and immediately knew you were exactly what the King wanted, but… I called for you, and you did not hear me. I had great plans for you, and you were not listening.” Again the old man was astonished that he had missed such an important person! If only he had heard the servant’s call! What riches he might have bestowed now… but alas, he continued his journey to catch one last glimpse of the castle he could have owned and the kingdom he could have ruled all those years ago.
Finally, he arrived at the gates of the castle of which he was so intoxicated with. But when he looked upon it, all he found was a barren, shambled land, with ruins in the place of what was once a beautiful castle. “This should have been my castle!” he exclaimed, with tears in his eyes. He was pitifully ashamed. Why hadn’t he stopped running? Was it so important to dream that he lost sight of what was right in front of him? But now what was right in from of him was gone, as well as his dream. He had not paid attention to the present, and so he went away, with no happy ending.
This was one of my children’s stories that didn’t get published. I usually stuck to happy endings, but my editor didn’t like it. She said that the story ended too quickly, and said either the ending changed or it wouldn’t get published. And I, being the stubborn person I am, retracted the short story, and refused to let it be worked on any further. Because regardless of what she thought, the ending was perfect for me, and I couldn’t bring myself to change it. The ending had meaning, the ending left you saying “What just happened?”
Life. Death. What just happened?
My editor didn’t know it, but that story was an autobiography. I look back with disdain on what I was and regret what I am. And once I realize the extent of my mistakes, I walk away, with no happy ending.
Who says you shouldn’t live with regrets? I sure don’t. I think quite the opposite. If you don’t live your life with regrets, you reject the idea that you’ve made mistakes along the way. There are so many things that I regret and I regret them for a reason. For all the times I could have been there for my wife, I look back and feel guilty I wasn’t.
Here is the part in the story where you find out I used to have a wife. Her name was Jade. It was a wonderful two years, ending in an argument over what I didn’t bring home from the grocery store, and her storming out at 11 o’clock at night to get said items, and getting hit and killed by a drunk on I-95. If only I had picked up the Downy and the Clorox bleach, as I drove home thinking “it’s late, she won’t need that stuff tonight.” I said this to myself even though she had called me only an hour earlier saying “I need to wash clothes before we travel to Mom’s funeral, John. Make sure to pick it all up tonight.” My actions were truly out of selfishness. I wound up never going to her mother’s funeral. A different funeral, instead.
So, at the revealing of this example, I feel my opinion is quite valid. I will always look to that scenario with regret; it doesn’t mean I’m wrong or naïve. In fact I would be even more twisted if I didn’t regret that night.
I always make sure I am stocked with Downy and Clorox Bleach.
A knock at the door brought my attention back to my book. The Count of Monte Cristo, a perilous novel. Much better than the movie, and that’s saying something. I had read this book a few times, for sheer brilliance of the work, and for some reason the one thing that stood out to me the most was one of the torture methods they used to execute people, where they would slit the throat of the prisoners, then jump very hard on the stomach, squelching the intestines and some vital organs out of the throat. Gruesome torture, indeed. There’s a reason it stands out in my head. But back to reality, the knock came a second time. I sat forward in the recliner and got up, grumbling at the lateness of the hour. Why would someone be here so late? I rarely had any visitors, besides the mailman, but the mailman didn’t usually show up at 7:30 at night. I unlatched the door with a swift movement that only comes from years of constantly doing the same, and opened the door to a greeting from a middle-aged man in postal clothing; a mailman. The first thought that came to mind was those prisoners being tortured.
“Good evening, are you Mr. John Fredrick?” The man was a heavyweight, obviously one of the students that rejected physical education in high school. Ah, my own creative inner slandering makes me giggle.
“Yes, are you my new mailman? I hope this isn’t your normal route time.” I stated, looking at my watch, even though I knew exactly what time it was. I guess I did it to spite him. Indeed, these words and actions made him blush a bit and get somewhat flustered for what his next words would be. It was one of those moments that you wish you could laugh but were too afraid to.
“Here is your mail for today, sir. Sorry it’s late.” Ah, good. Another image from The Count of Monte Cristo. Justice is hardly ever what it seems.
“Ah, yes. Well thank you.”
I took the assorted mail from this postal serviceman rather begrudgingly, and fanned the mail in my hand. Ah, bills. Intestines, vital organs, gushing down my front steps and onto the grass.
I gave him a look that could have melted the concrete out in the street.(which is a big deal, when it’s February in Chicago.) As he turned quickly to leave, I thought once more about the lateness of the hour. “Uh, wait one second, sir!” He turned, possibly wondering if I was going to offer him a pizza, because he looked somewhat expectant. It hurt me to have to let him down like that.
“What exactly are you doing knocking on doors so late?” I asked him. Again, he blushed and became flustered, then, sheepishly, “Well, I um… it’s my first day. I didn’t know the routes.” Poor guy. And I was giving him such a hard time. For a second I though about ordering that pizza for him, but after a few seconds of staring each other down, me from the door and him from the sidewalk, I said an “ah, ok. Thank you” and shut the door, swiftly latching it again.
Now, to sort the junk mail from the good mail, from the bill mail. I noticed this time that my bills had actually decreased; if the man had thought I had a lot of bills, he should have delivered here a few years earlier. So many of the bills came from Jade’s college loans she thought she would be paying off as an interior designer; yet when she died it was me paying for them, and to top it all off, she would probably be disgusted by the interior design of my current abode. Well, you can’t have it both ways. Pay the bills or live in luxury till they take everything away. Good ‘ol America. Still billing the dead. But I was used to the bills, they were a constant reminder as to why I shouldn’t try to see anyone. I don’t know what I’ll do when they stop coming, but in two months they will. Maybe I’ll buy a brand new convertible, keep the tradition alive.
After sorting the bills, I proceeded to put the stack of bills on top of my laptop for future deciphering, and threw the junk away. All that was left was a single card; the simple To: John Fredrick kept me intrigued, because letters personal to me were hard to come by, and opened it with a slight interest. Who would be contacting me? If it were friends they would simply call or drop by, and if it were family they would surely do the same. I didn’t attend a church, so it wasn’t anyone “reaching out” to me, and furthermore, I wouldn’t expect anyone to do so. Why the formalities?
Well, it could wait a while. I hadn’t eaten dinner, too into reading. That torture sequence was just too interesting.
I set the letter on the couch and made my way to the refrigerator, where food was in bountiful supply. I had just stocked up recently, bumming my way into cheap food with a fake Costco id. I know, terrible. But I always took about a third of what I bought to the Homeless Shelter down the street, so it made me feel like a modern-day Robin Hood, relieving me of any remaining guilt.
I opened the fridge and immediately spotted what I was craving; leftover spaghetti. Always better the second day, I had just cooked it yesterday. I had been expecting company, a high school friend of mine, but he had to fly to Los Angeles rather suddenly to attend to family matters, so I was left with more spaghetti than I had expected. It was fine with me, I watched a rerun of “Deadliest Catch” and slurped the spaghetti, ruining my white t-shirt. Oh well, I had about twenty more.
My, I just keep getting off subject. I pulled the spaghetti out, partook of some of the contents, then sealed the container for later tastiness. I loved cold spaghetti, and I would never understand why. Maybe it was a sort of childish rebellion of eating food cold. Maybe I was just weird. Or maybe it was just better cold.
So, with a rather satisfied stomach and no further needs, I sat down on the couch and reached for the letter that was written in an elegant hand. I wondered again who possibly could have wanted to write me a letter as I tore open the envelope.
I unfolded the letter to see that it was handwritten, which further intrigued me. The personal touch of hand writing a letter meant something. And then I looked to the end of the letter.
With Sincere Hopes,
There it was; Deck. The name had been handed down generation to generation, all the way from Josiah Deck, to Joseph Deck, to Sophia and Jade Deck. They had always been close sisters, and when their mother died Sophia was at the house almost every day. When Jade died, Sophia was ridden with grief, so much so that her and her father Joseph reconciled, and they lived together now. It made me almost fear what was written. But I looked to the top of the page and began reading.
I’m sorry to bother you, I know how busy you are. I would have called, but I was worried about invading your privacy, so I decided to write a letter instead. I thought you should know that my father Joseph has passed, and his funeral is on the fifth. I know you never really knew him, but I figured I should at least let you Know, in case you wanted to come and pay respects to the man who raised Jade and I. I’m sorry for bothering you. However, if you want to come, you can call my cell at 1-555-354-9908.
With Sincere Hopes,
Poor Sophie. She had been so close to her father in the past few years. They had relied on each other. Now he was gone, and she was the only one left. I hated feeling bad for people, because it’s my opinion you reap what you sow, including things out of your control. But this just seemed so unfair to her. She had been through the worst of ordeals; the loss of her mother, the loss of her sister, and now the loss of her dear father, making her the last living member of their family of four.
Interesting how your problems so quickly dissolve when someone you care about is hurting. I would have never expected to want to go to that funeral. There was a reason that I had avoided Jade’s family ever since her death. I hadn’t even spoken to them since the funeral. And it wasn’t because I didn’t like them, on the contrary, I loved her family. But it was much too painful to continue interacting with those who were closest to her. It just brought up painful memories. But seeing someone else in more pain than you helps you to be stronger, to be the fighter. I would be on a plane by Tuesday, two days from now. Wednesday was the 5th, and most likely I would be home by Saturday. I needed to prepare to leave.
The last time I had gone out of town it was for a reading of one of my children's stories. I had written a short story called “Lying Tommy” about a boy who lied about something as simple as stealing a pencil, but because of his little lie he began to have to lie about bigger and bigger things. Then when he finally came clean with all the lies he had told, he was in a huge mess. Anyways, I traveled from my little home in Chicago to an elementary school in Cedar Rapids, a four hour drive west. I woke early in the morning, four to be exact, and left my house by five, to arrive there by nine. When I got there I stopped at a local IHOP and had a nice meal. I wasn’t going to completely rush, I was supposed to be ready to read by ten thirty, and I was hungry.
When I finally arrived at the school, I entered and was immediately confronted by a flustered-looking vice principal.
“Ah, you must be Mr. Fredrick…” She started. Her tone was serious and I was immediately worried that my visit would be short-lived. “Well, Mr. Fredrick, I don’t know how to say this… There has been a miscommunication. We don’t have you scheduled to speak today.” I was taken aback. How could they tell a professional children’s author that he traveled four hours and wasted gas money and work time that the had scheduled him incorrectly?
“But ‘mam, there must be some mistake here… I was told to come today.” I was grasping at thin air.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Fredrick, we wouldn’t normally to do this to any guest, but…. We’re having some internal problems right now, and can’t host you right now. I’m just so sorry.” She did genuinely look sorry, but the nerve… Where was the Principal anyways? It had been a soft-toned man that I had talked to about reading my story here, not this middle-aged flustered lady.
“Where is principal Riggs, we need to talk about this-“
“Principal Riggs will not be here today, he is…. Currently busy. That is the reason we can’t have you here. He was supposed to host everything. I’m sorry, but you need to leave. Have you tried our IHOP I’ve heard it’s very tasty compared to others…” I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even say goodbye, all I did was turn and leave. The nerve of those people…
on, however, I did learn through local news about a scandal in Cedar Rapids
between an elementary school principal, his vice principal, and various of the
children. The whole city and some of the state was in an uproar about it. I
then realized why I hadn’t been allowed to read “Lying Tommy” to the school. I
guess the administration didn’t want any children getting guilty and speaking
up to their mommies. I guess eventually they did anyways. That trip... it still haunts me. So very sad.
night I packed my things and I realized how strange it was that I always seemed
to be packing for a Deck funeral. First Jade's mother's, whose I never made it
to because of Jade's funeral, and now her father's three years later. An
interesting turn of events, since I had not contacted any of her family since
her death. I was probably looked upon with scorn by her family, and none of
them would probably expect me. But something inside me, some inner force pushed
me, urged me to go to this funeral. I did not know what to expect, and
furthermore didn't know in full what was to come of it all, but I was going,
without a moment's hesitation I was going.
Dreams make me restless. It doesn’t matter what kind of dream, just dreams in general. Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth it when it’s a good dream, but I rarely have those anymore. Normally when I dream it’s about that night, three years ago… This night was no different.
“Don’t make this about us J,” I said bitterly as I opened a can of Pepsi and crashed down on the couch. “I’ve been at work all day. You’ve been here at home all day. I am so incredibly busy, on the verge of being let go because of cutbacks, and it slipped my mind. I’m sorry, ok?” I took a sip, feeling the comfortable tingle of the carbonated drink sliding down my throat.
“No, John, it’s not ok!” Jade yelled, sounding very hurt. “You’re not sorry, I can tell” I sighed, turning on the TV to find a good baseball game. She drastically, not to mention very overdramatically, proceeded to tip the 32” plasma screen over and off the entertainment center, making it crash to the floor. With a crackle and shatter, it breathed its last.
“What the- Jade! Do you know how expensive that is!?!?!?” I screamed, infuriated with the damage she had just done. She nodded with complete certainty and pushed me backwards, startling me. She was never aggressive.
“My mother is dead John! She is dead and it’s hard for me to even stay awake! I would hope that when things like this happen you would be there for me, but obviously I was wrong!” She backed away, obviously shocked at her own aggression. Then, with a tinge of remorse, she whispered, “Don’t you care about anyone but yourself?”
We stood there staring at the ground for a few seconds, each of us thinking about our own problems. And then she disappeared into the back room while I stood there, then returned with her keys. She made her way to the front door, opening it.
“Where are you going?” I asked her.
“I’m going to get things I asked you to get me, John.” And she slammed the door.
Then there was silence, all except for the sizzling of the Pepsi carbonation.
I snapped awake. The most common dream I had was of me holding limp body in my arms. But I preferred that dream to the one of us fighting.
The remainder of the night was spent trying to sleep but fighting off the terrible memories.
Then, with a sudden burst of light, it was morning.
© 2011 Nick Peugh
Added on October 27, 2010
Last Updated on February 4, 2011
AboutI'm at Willow International Community College in Fresno, CA. I am a lover of art and music and writing and Jesus. I help lead worship at Soma Christian Church. I have a wonderful girlfriend. The fo.. more..