The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line;
Nor all thy Tears wash out a word of it.
Omar Khayam lays down the basic law of all psychology
The unexamined life is not worth living.
–Another old guy
Table Of Contents
Chap. I: The Psychogenesis Posted 48 pages
Chap. II: The Psychonautica Posted 47 pages
Chap. III: The Psychodrama posted 100 pages
Chap. IV: The Psychosis posted 100 pages
Here I am. Safe and sound; a healthy mind in a healthy body. I make mention of the fact only because so much effort was expended in my youth to destroy my body and corrupt my mind. I have not only survived but prospered. I was thrown into the depths of the slough of despond. But now I have passed through the fires of the pathology of my childhood fixation and emerged hale and hearty on the other side.
Yes. I broke on through to the other side.
Timothy Leary who, as you may know, was a clinical psychologist before he lost himself in drugs, once observed that of the people treated by psychologists one third got better, one third remained the same and one third got worse. Of the afflicted who weren’t treated by psychologists one third got better, one third remained the same and one third got worse. He concluded that the practice of psychology was fetish.
Tim undoubtedly included himself in the third that was getting worse. In despair he took leave from his job right at the midlife crisis to winter on the Costa Del Sol. Now, Timothy always thought of himself as a Christlike apostle of a new age although it would take several years for him to admit it.
In a slow motion take on symbolism he retired to a dark cave carved from the living rock to wrestle with his dilemma. While wrestling he had a psychosomatic reaction in which first his face broke out into blisters and then his body. Finally his joints swelled and locked in rheumatic tension. Consciously he resolved to quit his job while subconsciously he determined to find a means to realize his calling as a saint.
At once his blisters and swelling disappeared. He was transformed into a Christ sans apostles or a god. He had a new face.
He was too rational to believe in a supernatural agency.
In a scientific age he turned to science. He found his salvation in the psilocybin of the Magic Mushroom of Mexico. Having despaired of changing human consciousness from the inside of psychology he found hope in changing it from the outside with drugs. He imagined that psychedelics were something new. Vain hope, foolish man.
Timothy Leary began his Odyssey in 1959 just as I was entering into young manhood. We never met but still he was a major influence on my life as indeed he was on that of the entire population of the United States as well as that of the world.
He was passing forty while I was passing twenty. I intuitively recognized his psychosis as being that of mine. Like him I denied having a psychosis, characterizing myself as troubled by the problems of life.
Having accepted his election to sainthood Tim went about forming the basis of his new religion. In full rebellion against all standards of conduct this was no easy matter as he wished to have nothing to do with established religious patterns. Tim had never heard of peyote or mushrooms before 1959 so he wasn’t aware that the items were already fairly common in drug circles. He thought he had discovered them.
Lacking an intellectual basis for their drug taking the old users just considered themselves addicts. Tim was about to change all that.
Thus when on vacation in Mexico he sampled the magic mushrooms. People had been taking these items for decades without associating them with religious experience. They thought they were just taking drugs. But for Timothy the mushrooms were an amazing religious experience. Drugs were to form the basis of his church.
Further Timmy professed to believe that these ‘sacraments’ would replace psychology, achieving in a blinding flash of light what could only be achieved over years or decades, if ever, of patient endeavor. I saw clearly the error of his understanding. Thus while thousands upon thousands of my generation raced to receive this false deliverance I rejected the approach for a patient search through what I can only describe as my excess baggage.
For the problem of personal psychology is that the baggage has to be searched discarding what we can and converting to usefulness what we can’t. Tim was not patient enough to examine and identify the contents of his baggage.
There is an interesting case of a man in France during the Nazi era who shared the elements of the psychosis Tim and I had although he expressed them in a singular way. But then as Hitler created an environment in which his psychosis could flower in the way it did everything was made possible and easy for him.
This man went by the name of Dr. Petiot. His baggage weighed heavy on his mind. During the war he found a way to relieve the pressures on his mind. There were many people seeking to flee Paris and occupied Europe in a clandestine manner. Dr. Petiot posed as a man who could smuggle people out of Nazi Europe.
But the good doctor was burdened by a load of excess baggage. Rather than smuggle people out he murdered them confiscating their baggage in a mad orgy to acquire as much as he could. Strange man.
He might have lived his lifetime without the means to achieve his ambition but in the most incredible chain of circumstances Nazi Germany moved into sequence with his desires. Just as quietly the war ended and the times phased out of sequence with Dr. Petiot’s ambitions.
Left high and dry in post-war France he was arrested. After his capture it was discovered that he had warehoused the effects of all the people he murdered. Among them were several hundred items of baggage. The authorities sentenced him to death. On the scaffold when asked whether he had anything to say he turned with a benign smile and said: ‘No. I’m the kind of man who takes his baggage with him.’
It was that psychological baggage I realized that could not be disposed of by drugs.
The load that had been dumped on me had to be disposed of by patient and laborious effort. Tim was wrong. Drugs were not consciousness expanding but consciousness limiting. The only thing that can be gotten out of a mind is what is already in it.
As the Drunken Poet said: The Moving Finger writes and having writ moves on. You have to carry that weight. No matter how many drugs you take when the morning breaks the face in the mirror doesn’t change. The baggage remains the same.
Time, I think, has proven that the use of drugs is futile.
I’m not sure that all psychology isn’t futile. There are too many variables that can’t be controlled. Insane men have achieved great things while many sane men have done great harm.
Although aware of possessing a troubled mind since I don’t know when, I never sought professional help. There were many who undoubtedly thought I should have but then who is the pot to call the kettle black. I have never seen any avatars of sanity walking around in my vicinity. If they’re there I have never met them.
Perhaps, and I only say perhaps, professional help might have been useful but I read many life stories and those undergoing psychoanalysis did so for decades with no results. I mean how can anyone else understand your symbolism when you can’t understand your symbolism yourself. Your referential structure is so obscure you yourself can’t penetrate it. I decided self-help would be cheaper and less humiliating. I present the results of my endeavors for your approval.
Above all there is that numbing fear.
Why talk to you? What do you know? You are not a self-creation anyway. You were made by others. Why not go out into the Field and talk to the people who created you; the ones who presented the Challenges to which you responded. Talk to those who forced you to Respond as you did making you what you are.
Why not find the Challenges from the Field against which you are reacting. It was only when I stopped dwelling on my narrow self and reconstructed the Field that I made progress.
Well, I did succeed in unlocking my mind. Yes! I did! I did what they all talk about. I integrated my personality. I eliminated my subconscious and became totally conscious. Now there is nothing hidden from me. As Jung predicted, the memory becomes prodigious. He was wrong in thinking you would be able to remember everything but the expanded memory is truly astonishing.
The way wasn’t easy and it wasn’t painless. No. No. It took a long time. Far too long. Almost too long. I found the key in Freud, not that Freud’s understanding of the mind is all that profound. In many ways he seems willfully obtuse, complicating the simple. He is hardly one of the three greatest geniuses of the twentieth century as so many maintain. Put simply, he was the culminating point of what had gone before. He boldly formulated what others were trying to say before they did.
But in his writings I found a clue, only a clue, but a way to the truth. He believed that the problem was the central childhood fixation. That central fixation, that central suppressed Challenge and Response, for that is all that it is, that dominates your subconscious and through that directs your conscious acts against your conscious will, or intelligence.
That fixation is difficult if not impossible to approach because it is such a thoroughly terrifying thing. Although the fixation itself may be a commonplace occurrence it is fearful mainly through your subjective Response to a Challenge too difficult for your unprepared young mind to handle. The fixation is fearful to confront which is why you have suppressed it.
I must have read Freud’s notion in my twenties. I have always been honest with myself so I didn’t deny that I had a fixation. Most people think that if they have a fixation that makes them insane so rather than deal with their problem they deny it. Freud’s notion then took its place dwelling in my subconscious side by side with the fixation.
Yet, Freud’s understanding of the mind did not seem quite right. So it became necessary for me to evolve a more correct notion of how the mind works. Like Freud I have built on the efforts of those who have gone before just trying to put my hand to the oar.
An understanding of the physiology of the central nervous system or Power Train as it may be called, is essential to understanding the mind. The mind may be said to be composed of the brain, the spinal chord and fluid and the genitals. No one element functions independently of the others. Recent discoveries in physiology of course post date Jung and Freud so they could not be incorporated in those psychologists’ understanding.
It follows from the bicameral structure of the brain that a unisexual organism preceded sexuality whether in the form of the Amoeba or what. But it is necessary because logically neither male nor female can precede the other. It is common to believe that woman preceded man since she gives birth but that doesn’t explain the origin of woman.
The unisexual organism therefore contained all four sexual chromosomes: the X1, X2, X3 and y. This unisexual organism must have been male in character because it had the y chromosome which determines maleness.
When sexuality came into existence there was only one y chromosome so the male of the species received the chromosomes X and y while the female was given XX.
Thus the ovum which is provided by the female is invariably X while the sperm of the male provides either an X to create a female or a y to create a male.
The body has two distinct sides corresponding to the egg and the sperm. Thus when the sperm and ovum combine the active sperm contributes the more active and stronger right side of the body and the active left side of the brain while the passive ovum contributes the weaker left side of the body and the passive right side of the brain.
The Power Train is anchored at the genital end in the gonads of the male and ovaries of the female being connected by the spinal chord and fluid directly with the brain. The two chromosomal elements anchored to the ovaries or gonads which lead to the spinal chord travel up the spine where they join the brain stem at the top of the neck.
Now, this is difficult, a chromosomal sexual element enters each lobe of the brain but they are not anchored there as in the genitals but act as a loose end or in horned animals actual horns. In humans they remain unformed horns.
The left or spermatic horn forms what Freud designated as the Ego. The right side is what Freud designated as the Libido as I understand his rather confused notion of the mind. Following Jung I will call them the Anima and Animus.
Jung got it half right when he said that the male had an Anima and the female an Animus. Differing from his view I say that the individual has one of each. The X or spermatic chromosome forms the right/left combination while the y forms the left/right in the male while the female has a spermatic and ovate X answering to the Xy of the male.
The brain itself can be divided horizontally to create the conscious and subconscious portions of the psyche.
In the case of Challenges to the sexual identity, that is to say the Animus, which cannot be resolved a fixation occurs. Not all fixations are permanent, some can be resolved in the natural course of events some are identified and named by the mind at which time they cease to function.
Merely being named resolves them as Freud discovered with his ‘talking cure.’
A recent example is the pop singer Meatloaf. He felt unworthy to be successful because of his youthful baggage. He phrased this in the form that he was not a star. As a consequence he lost the ability to use his voice in order to validate his notion that he wasn’t worthy. If he couldn’t sing he couldn’t be the star he in fact was.
He regained the use of his singing voice when his psychoanalyst persuaded him to accept the fact that he was a star. Being prodded to admit this simple fact that he was a star, Meatloaf at first refused but then reluctantly admitted out loud: OK, I’m a star. By this simple acceptance of his worthiness to be a star he immediately regained the use of his singing voice.
The fixation was not caused by adult success but by the childhood fixation that he was not a worthy person. His psychiatrist exorcised his childhood fixation, but not necessarily his central one.
I too was given the notion that I was not worthy of success by my childhood fixation which was to haunt me through the major part of my life.
During long decades I made scant progress in solving my problem or so it seemed. Actually my early baggage was so compacted that the process of differentiation so that the components could be identified was scarcely noticeable. During those years I compulsively committed the same mistakes over and over although my conscious mind knew better. I reenacted the fixation in many different contexts and forms. I constantly thwarted my own best efforts.
The worst occurred when I was forty-two when through this mental block I lost a multi-million dollar business I had built up from scratch. I don’t know whether the price of enlightenment was too high but from that moment I began to approach my fixation. Perhaps my subconscious rebelled thinking the price was too high.
Still, consciously I do know whether the price was too high, for as it is written: What profiteth a man to gain the world if he lose his soul. I regained my soul.
As I approached the fixation the accumulated fear was stultifying. Even though my dreams were haunted by these troubling nightmares I eagerly went to sleep in hopes of resolving my problem. Ah, but the fear. The closer I came to the goal the more that suffocating fear increased. My mind turned into a solid block of stone.
The complex of events forming my fixation took place in my fifth through tenth years; the central fixation took place in my seventh year. In my terror I had totally confused the period in my mind. The whole period formed a ball of memories which I was unable to differentiate. Some memories were available to me but their sequence and meaning was blocked by other suppressed memories. I had never been able to put those years and memories into chronological order. I began to try.
My desire to uncover the fixation was strong; my method was sound but I was impotent against the fear. However auto-suggestion, a mental tool I had employed for decades, was at work massaging my subconscious. Through a series of dreams my subconscious began to release a stream of clues. The symbolism seemed inpenetrable but it was mainly the fear that held me back.
The constellation of facts began to take form. The symbols were very difficult; I came right up against the fixation rebounding away as that stifling fear prevented me from interpreting the symbols. This happened several times in symbolism that seems transparent to me now. Then, almost as in disgust, my subconscious dream mind tore the veil away, actually a stone wall had a hole blasted through it exposing not the memory, no, but as it were a snapshot, a still photograph of the exact moment of my life. The deed that compelled me to act against my best interests was exposed.
To this day I cannot organically remember the situation portrayed in that snapshot but recently, very recently, the memory has begun to take organic shape. I have heard a snatch of what was said to me repeated in my mind. I have been able to pick out the constellation of deeds, ordering all the memories on either side of the fixation.
The fixation was revealed to me in my forty-eighth year. Since than I have probed my subconscious actively and effectively. Having resolved the central fixation I have cleared layer after layer of suppressed memory. What was always conscious I can now see in its true perspective.
This central childhood fixation I know as the Hirsh Constellation. It is independent but related to the Sonderman.
About three years later I eliminated all the suppressed memories clearing my subconscious down to the brain stem as it were, as it is. My baggage hadn’t gone away but I could now manage it.
At last I am of one mind.
My inhibitions and compulsions have disappeared. I can do as I will. I speak my mind as I wish. I can now conduct my affairs and relationships on a rational level.
But there is no expansion of the consciousness Leary talks about. Alas, Tim Leary, there is no real better; there is no leap to a higher consciousness. The face in the mirror is still mine although the features are more relaxed; the baggage remains the same. There is no escaping the confines of your mind; that is an illusion.
There was a great emptiness where those memories used to be. Over the years a gentle infusion of later experience has eased my feeling of the void created by the evacuation of those memories but I understand all my dreams now, there is no longer any mystery. I had grown accustomed to my old face; my new one seems strange.
In a way it is artificial.
Yes, I anticipated what would happen. I had prepared for the clearing of the rubble of the past because I knew there would be a void and it would have to be filled with something. I could see it developing.
I feared that I would have no persona left so I adopted several historical role models so I would have an acceptable male persona to step into but the feeling of emptiness is still there. All that activity wasn’t necessary.
I have filled my mind with reams of history, volumes on the development of consciousness. I have sacrificed hecatombs of hours on the altar of learning of the psychological development of consciousness in the attempt to replace the dream basis of my life.
I learned it all too, am still learning. I can discourse non-stop for hours on a myriad of such topics but the void is still there. It hurts; it disturbs me.
But then, as I contemplated this void searching for something to fill the void, I noticed that one image always seemed to occupy the left side of my brain while another occupied my right. The left side was a male image while the right was a female.
Strangely I could think of them separately, simultaneously or in combination. There was no mystery as to who they were. I knew them well. Neither had been off my mind since I left home. But now, when all my memories were voided from my subconscious I couldn’t understand why these images stood exposed so starkly.
I had penetrated to another level of psychology. I had exorcised my fixations, that is gotten my baggage under control, but it seemed these images were permanent. Indeed, there seemed to be no memories left behind them. I remembered each image perfectly. As far as I knew I had examined our relationships in detail, but they wouldn’t go away. They sat shining against the constellations of my memory like those big pictures of Marx and Lenin in Red Square on Party days. I couldn’t exorcise them.
But as I pondered them it slowly dawned on me that these were the Animus and Anima Jung talked about. I hadn’t yet evolved the idea of the two horns of the Power Train but these two images were what clothed my naked Animus and Anima and gave me my sexual identity. My character was directed in emulation of them.
Jung allows an Anima to the male and an Animus to the female. Had he studied his ancient mythological sources more carefully and had access to subsequent physiology he would undoubtedly have come to realize as I had that man and woman have one of each.
Jung who came from a parented family believed that the Anima in the male was determined by the mother while the female Animus was represented by the father. He didn’t take into account orphans. I never had a real mother or father to clothe my Anima and Animus.
Oh, I know, I know. How did I get here then, right? What I mean is that while I was fathered on a woman neither were part of my life during my formative years. As I used to say, I wasn’t born, I blew down in a storm.
My father left and my mother put me in foster homes and the orphanage until I was ten. I didn’t need her after that. Didn’t want her. There was no possibility that Mom and Dad could form my Anima and Animus.
Oh no, the answer was more startling. The Animus and its Anima are in reality composites of the various qualities of human kind. The dominant aspect of my Anima was the Good Mother or Female. She was my childhood sweetheart, Ange. She is the only person who ever loved me. And I hurt her so…but…well, that has no place here. I have told her story in the Angeline Constellation. No, she has little place in this story. This story concerns the Animus of my mind. However he was not the Good Father or Male but the Terrible Father.
As the importance of Sondeman dawned on me I was even more than amazed. While he had been one of the central figures of my childhood I would never have believed he was so important as to form my Animus.
As I pondered this phenomenon all my memories of Sonderman which before had been isolated fragments unconnected to each other began to order themselves in my mind. It was as though my psychic baggage containing the constellation had opened allowing them to escape transforming themselves from leaden baggage to ethereal stars that seemed to stud the dome of my brain as the night sky is studded with stars.
My consciousness had matured.
As in the mythical creation of the world when all was mixed in chaos there had been a wind on the waters that differentiated the above from the below. So my mind with its consciousness undifferentiated had felt a divine wind breathe upon the plane that separates the conscious from the subconscious. The subconscious half had been translated to the realm of consciousness. My consciousness had differentiated, indeed atomized, was translated from the brain core to the perimeter.
To the unintiated the stars seem to be only a myriad of twinkling lights, some brighter, some dimmer than others. Unseen among the stars distant constellations and galaxies unfold. With optical telescopes still more stars and galaxies become visible with radio telescopes an infinity of stars and galaxies stretch out toward the edge.
Edge of what?
An edge that the Hubble can’t even see?
There is no edge.
There is no limit to the embrace of Mother Space.
It must go on forever just as the female is infinite.
So male matter must always penetrate to her center.
I thought I saw all the Sonderman Constellation at first glance but with each attempt at explaining it, half submerged memories rose to clarity while hidden causes and effects that I had never considered sharpened and became if not clear at least more significant.
The Ancient Ones thought that great lessons lay concealed in the stars which with understanding could be read. By connecting the stars in patterns great constellations were formed telling the stories of titanic struggles that had occurred on Earth but had been translated to the heavens- the Bull, the Lion, The Great and Little Bears, Perseus and the Gorgons and the hero’s reward, Andromeda.
As above, so below.
My heroic struggles had been translated from the brain stem to the extremity.
As below, so above.
The differentiation was more or less complete.
The isolated memories were there; some stronger, some weaker.
Necessity had forced me to connect up those memories into coherent events and individuals. Having formed the constellations I was forced to read them; to make sense of them in order to put my life together.
Thus having worked out the main outlines of the much larger Hirsh Constellation with great difficulty which involved my central childhood fixation I was able with relative ease to read the Sonderman Constellation which was half in and half out of the Hirsh Constellation.
Even though the Sonderman had always been much closer and clearer than the obscured Hirsh Constellation the decoding and meaning of the former depended on the prior decoding of the latter.
How strange that he should be my Animus. And what a peculiar Animus. Sonder means special in German. Sonderman was always trying to find ways to demonstrate superiority over me. He ridiculed my name because he said it meant nothing. This caused me a certain amount of chagrin until one day my step-father, Tuistad, who was German himself, pointed out to me that ‘sonder’ also has the sense of being peculiar.
Sonderman flew into one of his foaming rages when I laughingly told him but he never reminded me of the meaning of his name again.
Sonderman was peculiar too. Not that I mean to exaggerate the fact but that he is my Animus it means he transmitted some of the peculiarity to me. I resent that.
He was certainly not the type of person who I would voluntarily give such preeminence.
I didn’t know Sonderman all my life. I moved into the neighborhood in the seventh grade so our lives crossed for six years. The strange thing is that though I knew Sonderman that long we had only brief intense contact twice in that period; eighteen months from the end of the seventh grade to the beginning of ninth and for about nine months during the twelfth grade.
My memories of him which I had never analyzed were quite benign but as I thought of him he emerged in an entirely different light.
After high school I didn’t see Sonderman again for twenty-five years. The occasion for visiting him again was our twenty-fifth high school reunion. My personal troubles prevented me from achieving any distinction in high school while Sonderman had excelled scholastically. I had always admired him.
I had to overcome scruples to attend the reunion but as I had to make sense of my past I traveled the twenty-five hundred miles to find I knew not what.
I had been gone for twenty-five years. During that time in a state of denial I had romanticized both my childhood and my relationship with Sonderman. I found upon returning that nothing was as I had imagined it. Instead of having been idyllic years I found that they had been quite the reverse.
I expected to see Sonderman at the reunion but even though he lived in town he refused to attend. I now learned why.
I was very eager to see the guy again but I was wary of how he might receive me. I feared that he might refuse to see me both to my own chagrin as well as to my embarrassment as my wife was at my side.
For believing in a romanticized notion of my relationship with Sonderman I was unaccountably apprehensive. I found it very difficult to explain my apprehension to my wife in a manner that would account for a hostile reception.
He had of course been notified that I was on my way over. To my surprise he rushed from his house to greet me effusively before I had even closed the car door.
I was so overwhelmed I staggered against the car as he reached out to squeeze my hand with one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen on his face, perhaps the first.
Perhaps for the moment he subconsciously realized that I was as important to him as he was to me. As I later reconstructed the Constellation it would turn out that I should have been more important to him than he was to me. But he would never be as conscious of our relationship as I was. His conscious mind quickly reasserted itself and he only grudgingly tolerated my presence from then on.
Still, he invited me in. Sonderman introduced me to his very lovely wife, Donna. In that area of competition we might have been even although I am compelled to give the nod to my wife.
The house was a modest tract house in an area that had been undeveloped when I left. The interior was a combination of Sonderman’s parents’ style and that of his wife. The living room which reflected that of his wife was roped off to keep everything fresh and new, used only for ‘state’ occasions. I wasn’t state.
I was escorted to the living quarters which were just as messy, if less dirty, as his parents’ home. A quite ordinary house actually. I was fairly disappointed because when I left Sonderman’s prospects were glittering while mine were rather dull. I quietly took satisfaction in the knowledge that my house was three times the size of Sonderman’s while my furnishings displayed a much more refined taste. My house was practically a mansion in comparison.
The years obviously had not been kind to Sonderman as he seemed to have become if not an alcoholic at least a very heavy drinker. He had been drinking before I got there. As we sat and talked we downed Bloody Mary after Bloody Mary. Many, many Bloody Marys. He drank swiftly insisting that I keep up.
When I left home Sonderman was on his way to be a cadet at the West Point Military Academy. I was eager to hear of what I imagined had been a splendid military career. I thought he had put in twenty years or so returning at least a Colonel. Then he dropped a real bomb on me. He said he guessed I must have heard at the reunion so I might as well hear it from his own lips. I shook my head no and waited to hear.
He said that he had been cashiered from the Army.
My mind grappled with the meaning, which was clear, but my mind couldn’t process the information. As the idea sank in I was stunned. Whatever our personal differences may have been I had always been respectful of Sonderman’s abilities. He’d had a 3.8 average in high school, all in demanding courses, so he had well deserved his appointment to the Military Academy.
The story was that he had graduated West Point in the top quarter of his class. Sonderman had always wanted to be in the Cavalry but they made him an Artilleryman instead. While on duty in Alabama Sonderman was ordered to set up a gun emplacement to show the locals what they were getting for their tax dollars.
I find it very difficult to understand what Sonderman did next.
During the six years I knew him Sonderman had deeply desired a military career. He always claimed that he was descended from General U.S. Grant on his mother’s side. We played war games on our street in Junior High. Sonderman wasn’t but he insisted that he was a natural leader. He had trouble leading me; still, everything indicated that he would have no trouble accepting military discipline.
In our games he always criticized me for being careless and sloppy. He pointed out to me that the Roman Empire had been built on iron discipline. He said with the pride of someone who had obviously been there that the Romans always built their camps for maximum security even when there was no obvious danger and the camp was as temporary as one night. I mean, this boy had learned the lessons before he got to the Point.
So, and even now I cannot credit my belief, Sonderman just took the gun and left it sitting haphazardly on the ground. You’ve seen the pictures of gun emplacements. They’re all dug in on level ground surrounded by a neat row of sandbags, right? He just set the gun down and walked away. I was stunned, my jaw dropped. I had been in the Navy; I could feel the reaction of his superior officers.
Sonderman seemed genuinely dismayed twenty years later that he’d even been reprimanded. Sonderman gave me the lame excuse that it was only display for civilians. He argued with his superior officers and insisted that he would not dig the gun in. He told officers of higher rank that he would not obey an order!
Well, they don’t put officers in the brig so they just gave him his walking papers. Sonderman caught the next train back home.
My mind was reeling as I was hastily dismantling my old image of Sanderman and was trying to assemble another when he dropped another bomb on me as though what he said next was connected in some way to his refusal to follow orders.
Leaning forward for emphasis while fixing a breathless steady gaze on me he said he had never liked me because I copied everything he did.
He leaned back intensely relieved as though he had won a jackpot at poker.
Just as he had leaned forward I reeled back as though struck in the face by the allegation. I had no idea what he meant as I had never known Sonderman to initiate anything. He always sat passively on his porch gazing blankly out at the street unless I proposed something.
I had no ready reply nor did I wish to challenge him as I hoped that we might become friends, as I thought at the time, again.
My life had not been particularly pleasant up to the time I moved into the neighborhood. Nature which does not provide the young with adequate defenses against the Challenges of life at least gives youth the strength to bear them without too many external evidences of the pain although childhood pictures of serial killers and miscreants of all sorts often portray a distracted face with eyes foreboding future retaliation.
I was always amazed that as difficult as my childhood was many of those from advantaged backgrounds had more difficulty in adjusting than I did. Sonderman was one.
After having placed me in the orphanage for a couple years my mother remarried taking me to live with her new husband, Dick Tuistad. This was three years after the war was over. For the first couple years we lived in a converted garage behind the house of Tuistad’s parents. Because of the shortage of housing after the war we were lucky to have that; otherwise we would have had to live in the Projects where many of the returning Vets resided.
Boy, that would have been a one-two punch– from the orphanage to the Projects. I might have been a different person.
Then after a couple years when things returned to what passed for normal they bought a home over on North Caterina. I moved in kitty corner from the Sondermans. That was in the middle of the seventh grade. Since we moved within the same school district I didn’t miss any days nor did I have to make new friends. The worst of it was I didn’t lose old enemies. They were still there to plague me.
My character had been unalterably stamped by my stay in the orphanage. I find it hard to believe that my mother didn’t know what she was doing when she put me there. There shouldn’t be a mother alive who doesn’t know what kind of punishment that is. The orphanage might as well have been a leper colony. Upon entrance you were unceremoniously stripped of whatever social acceptability you had. The house mothers plundered you of your meager possessions for the benefit of their own kids. The community treated you as not only subhuman but non-human. Definitely they wanted you to stay on the other side of the fence.
For a comparison of our status you would have to go to the South of the days of Reconstruction. The self-righteous Puritans of New England who had after all been Roundheads in England were determined to humiliate their ancient enemies the descendants of the Cavaliers of the South. Having won the war they were determined to punish the Whites by reversing the roles between them and the Negroes. They placed Blacks in authority over the Whites trying to strip them of any means of defense.
The Whites could not tolerate this position nor should they have. Having been suppressed beneath the Negro, as people of spirit, the Whites had no choice but to form the Clan to reestablish the status ante quo. In a fit of indignation they disarmed the Negroes in turn pushing them back down.
Down means not only beneath the Southern Aristocracy but below what the Aristocracy charmingly called White Trash.
In the orphanage we were considered not only below our equivalent of White Trash but also below them ‘uppity’ Negroes.
This was no mere matter of attitude either. We were subjected to physical disabilities as bad or worse than anything the Blacks have suffered. Indeed, we were treated no better than Jews in Nazi Germany.
We were allowed no dignities. We were not allowed to walk on the streets to school. We were forced to use the alleys upon pain of thrashing by four or five boys or even adults if we didn’t. I refused to accept this and I was very nearly attacked by three grown men for presumptuously using the thoroughfare.
Attempts were made to exclude us in a body from public school just as the Japanese had been in San Francisco in 1906. In the absence of that there were two fourth grade classrooms in school. One was in a large well lighted, well ventilated high ceilinged room on the first floor. The other was in a small dingy half basement before the coal room. All of us orphans were assigned to that room.
The parented students among us hated the fact that they had been condemned to the basement room with us. They expressed their dislike by making us all sit against the wall in a row just as the Jews had been made to sit in the Pale between the wars.
When we went out to recess we were ordered to sit quietly on a bench while we watched the parented kids at their games. If for any reason they were short a person or two for a game orphans were selected from the bench to fill the team but we were not allowed to score points.
Like the Negroes before the Aristocracy we were denied all equality; we were expected to be submissive and know our place. We were not permitted to perform to our abilities. Any attempt to equal or excel the parented kids was visited with severe punishment.
We were not allowed to learn or use socially acceptable manners. It was demanded that we be goofs. It was coldly assumed that we be inferior or else. This was just after Our Boys had returned triumphantly from Europe having crushed the racial arrogance of the Nazis. I don’t have to tell you that some of our oppressors were Jews. I hope you’ll pardon me but I have to laugh every time I hear the Jews complain about Hitler or the virtues of Americans are lauded while the Nazis are derided as criminals. What do they say about the mote and beam?
I can only say that the orphange was a harrowing experience which has developed my attitude toward our delusive self-righteous ‘democracy.’
I have never forgiven my mother for what she did to me and I never will.
She was the most foolish of women. I would call her criminal but it takes a certain amount of forethought to be a criminal. She didn’t have the necessary amount of self-awareness to be responsible for her actions.
Even when she remarried and removed me from that particular hell she had no idea what was going on. She acted like I had been away for a weekend visiting relatives. Boy, that wasn’t where it was at. Getting out of the orphanage is like getting out of prison. All of the survival skills you learned on the inside not only do not apply on the outside but are an absolute hindrance to getting along. One has to be brought along as it were, re-educated to an entirely different reality. You have to taught how normal people react and do things.
I was not given this luxury with the result that I alienated all my classmates and neighbors. On the other hand, they alienated me.
It may be excusable in my mother that she was unaware of my psychological needs but she could at least have been glad to see me. She wasn’t.
Rather than attempting to understand or realize my situation she merely dismissed me as acting weird. Heck. I didn’t even know her while Tuistad was a total stranger. She and he didn’t realize that after seven years on my own I had been cooked in a crucible that they couldn’t understand. I had grown up on my own without help or guidance. What she and Tuistad took to be fact I could contradict from my own experience. I wasn’t about to renounce my own experience for their fairy tales. Gosh, I had heard things about them that they weren’t even aware of.
My transition from the orphanage into society had been a rocky experience that netted me more new enemies at school than friends.
Now as I moved into my new neighborhood I found a hostile reception had been prepared for me there, too.
Insulated as I was from town gossip at the orphanage I never had any idea of the relationship of my elders to each other which were the residue from their own childhoods. It seemed like there were more hostilities than friendships as I look back on it.
I didn’t know at the time but Hirsh and Mr. Sonderman had been buddies and partners in crime in the old days. Hirsh came from one of the most prominent families in town whose reputation he exploited to the full in arrogant disregard of everyone’s rights. Mr. Sonderman had been his sidekick thereby incurring the wrath of his generation.
Both Tuistad and my mother had been in Hirsh’s and Mr. Sonderman’s class at Valley High.
Although I never learned exactly what, something had transpired between Hirsh and my mother which was remembered by Tuistad with great outrage even though he and my mother hadn’t been friends in high school. Whatever happened was apparently well known at the time.
Breaking into a new neighborhood is never easy. I was overjoyed to find that Sonderman was my own age. I had no idea that my chance of acceptance had been poisoned by the enmity of Hirsh.
I should have known who Hirsh was but because of the psychological quirk of my central childhood fixation even though I subconsciusly reacted to Hirsh and his minions I had no conscious knowledge of who he was nor could I recognize him. Even though I had seen him and his son many times he was still able to act incognito in my presence. I am sure he found this puzzling.
I am also sure that they believed I was arrogantly ignoring them as I never recognized them by name or actions. When I talked to Michael I always addressed him as a new acquaintance with no allusions to the past. This strange attitude must have incensed him and them much.
Because of my fixation I always assumed an attitude of guilt or perverse self-criticism so I always blamed myself for my reception by Sonderman because I thought I had been gauche or over friendly. Without absolving myself completely, you can see how that early training works; it always gets you. As Hirsh put it: as the twig is bent so the tree will incline. I have come to the conclusion that I had no chance of acceptance by Sonderman.
He always believed himself superior to me although this was far from the truth even though for psychological and parental reasons his scholastic attainments were greater than mine. But he thought he was morally and socially superior to me. He went to the Congregational Church which was derived from the Church of England and all those people thought they were superior. Oddly enough the kids from the orphanage attended the same church although I refused to go. Still, I attended certain functions there.
I didn’t copy him. Actually I was the catalyst and initiator. He copied me more than I copied him; if he wanted to put things in those terms. I always had the superior imagination. I usually suggested the neighborhood adventures.
It now became apparent to me that by being active I aroused great antagonism in Sonderman. Each time I organized something it became necessary for Sonderman to humiliate or punish me in some way. Neither he nor the Hirshes were to allow me any self-respect. As the twig is bent…
As we sat knocking back those Bloody Marys the fact that he thought I always copied him came as a revelation to me. I copy Sonderman? Sonderman had the least imagination of anyone I ever met. He never did anything on his own but sit on his front porch with his brother Little staring out at a silent street.
I had never thought of our relationship in those terms. Actually the reverse was true but the comment revealed a layer of personality that I had not suspected.
When I met Sonderman he was already carrying quite a load of baggage. He was always in a suppressed rage; he always had a preoccupied look about him as though he were viewing a distant battlefield. A terrific inner conflict was always in progress.
He too was struggling with an oppressive childhood fixation. I remember a revealing incident in woodworking class during the second semester of seventh grade after I had moved into the neighborhood where Sonderman’s actions struck me as particularly strange.
We had to take several shop classes in Junior High. If they taught me anything it was that I wasn’t going to be a manual laborer. In seventh we took metal and woodworking classes. My group took metal in the first semester and woodworking in the second. I still lived in the converted garage during the first semester, that semester was a tremendous battle for precedence. The Hirsh group fought successfully to establish their dominance as the premier group. The were aided and abetted by the metal teacher who retired to his cage at the end of the room and watched the terrorism with relish.
He only came out to judge disputes as when the Hirshes provoked an actual fist fight. They were in training by their fathers to place the onus on the victim. They had harassed or discredited those outside their group including me. I did notice that they never harassed Sonderman. They succeeded in provoking one boy, Larry Dubcek, into defending himself and he was suspended from school. By the end of the semester they had established their supremacy as the dominant group having succeeded in placing everyone else below their members.
The similarity between their methods and those of the Nazi Brownshirts was strikingly similar.
I was aware of Sonderman in metal class and actually was attracted to him although we never spoke. He was conspicuous in that he worked alone in an isolated manner.
The Hirshes roamed freely trying to damage everyone’s work. They succeeded in ruining the scoop I was working on which cost me at least a grade. That’s the only way they could get better grades to show that they were superior people. To oppose them meant fighting and suspension so we were compelled to endure them or submit. I have never submitted to anyone.
It was singular that they let Sonderman alone.
Mr. McMahon of woodworking in the second semester did things strikingly different than the anarchist teacher of metal class. Whereas the metal teacher encouraged trouble making, Mr. McMahon was of the orderly peacemaker disposition.
I presume that seventh graders are like young lion cubs always tumbling over each other fighting for dominance. In acknowledgment of this propensity Mr. McMahon placed his desk in the very center of the room dividing the room into four quadrants somewhat like the occupied Germany of our time.
He wisely allowed us to sort ourselves into our respective groups. Thus the Hirshes, or white collar group, took the North Window quadrant which they thought was the prestige place on the principle that wherever they sat was the head of the table.
The blue collar group under the leadership of Jim Bremerwald took the North Wall Quadrant opposite. A loose confederation of friends took the South Wall Quadrant.Those of us who were unaffiliated, or perhaps misfits or outcasts, appropriated the South Window Quadrant.
Once we had established our places Mr. McMahon insisted that we not leave our quadrant during class. Thus it made it more difficult for the Hirshes to damage work in progress although not impossible. So the class was realtively free from harassment by the Hirshes.
When they had fixated me in the second grade a side effect was that I thought I was affiliated with their group; that was sort of like licking the boot of the oppressor. As a result I had no interest in the other groups even if they would have accepted me. I took a seat with the outcasts where self-loathing prevented one from speaking to the others. I didn’t object to being left alone.
As none of the manual ‘arts’ was to my liking I was looking around distastefully appraising the tools of this particular loathsome trade when I was surprised to find Sonderman sitting next to me. I had just moved into the neighborhood so even though we were merely acquainted I felt as though I had known Sonderman all my life. Must have had something to do with a similarity of fixation.
I always felt close to him.
With the naivete of youth I asked what he was doing in the South Window Quadrant with us misfits and outcasts. I had expected to find him among the Hirsh group where, because of his father’s and Hirsh’s chuminess, he really belonged. I could see from the signs they were making that he was welcome among them. But he preferred to stay glued to me. I was flattered.
I could see from their expressions that, confined to their quater by Mr. McMahon they champed at the bit to do mischief; they not only would accept him but wanted him. I urged him to go. He mumbled something but stayed with me. He elected to remain among the misfits. As events will show he truly belonged among us.
Mr. McMahon expected us to undertake a project for which at the end of the term we were to receive our grade. Everyone was making lamps and whatnot for their moms but, here’s the kicker, Sonderman chose to make something for his dad. The only boy in class making something for his father.
Sonderman worked hard all semester long. He was very good; his workmanship was meticulous in detail and beautiful to behold. All the details were perfect; the sanding, the staining, the lacquering and buffering. He did an extraordinary job for a twelve year old.
Mr. McMahon’s grading system was sensational. He allowed me to defeat the efforts of the Hirshes and get a very good grade. Mr. McMahon allowed us to grade our own work. Le me tell you I was not bashful! I made up for the damaged scoop in metal class. I did OK.
I was very surprised, absolutely astonished to hear Sonderman ask for only a C. His work surpassed mine by far. He definitely deserved an A which I got but Mr. McMahon true to his word gave us the exact grade we asked for. Pays to have a practical turn of mind; when you’re cheated in one area where the moving finger has written it is moving on to point to another area where you can make it up. I made it up. While grades were being assigned Sonderman sat legs extended turning the box over and over in his fingertips contemplating it, studying it from every angle like French peasants are reported to examine their affairs.
The box he made for his father was one of those trick boxes you can’t open unless you know how to push the slides. I was really lost in admiration; the box was astounding work for a mere kid. I urged him to ask for an A but he only valued himself as a C.
At that moment I realized that I was psychologically no worse off than Sonderman who had had all the apparent advantages.
The psychological significance of the box was that his father had put him in a trick box and he didn’t have the key to get out. I guess the present was a hint to his father to show him the way out. That was the reason for Sonderman’s dark brooding and foaming rages.
Sonderman’s father had done something to fixate his son. Mr. Sonderman was torn between his desire to have his son become a great military figure and to remain home to manage his wretched chemical business.
The immortal Bard said something to the effect that the fault lies not in the stars but in ourselves. The Ancient Ones believed that the fault lay in the stars. One’s whole life was predetermined by the natal conjunction of stars and planets and couldn’t be changed. Freud hinted that the fault was imposed on us in fixations caused by others. The Bard was an unconscius link between the Ancient Ones and the modern Freud.
Like each of the others the Bard was only half right. We are only free, if free we are, to choose the lesser of evils in later life. The direction of those choices are determined by circumstances occurring during infancy and childhood over which we have no control.
Did Sonderman have any say in his father’s fixation of him? Was he ever free to pursue the military career he was directed toward? No. The invisible elastic string held by his father drew him back. Sonderman was not at fault; he was controlled. The astral metaphor of the Ancients while not wholly true is apt.
Sonderman was aware of his psychological dilemma if he was not conscious of it. In the summer between the seventh and eighth grades Sonderman and his family left to visit relatives somewhere downstate. As I considered Sonderman my only friend I insisted on writing to him much against his wishes. He was not so keen on our friendship but his mother compelled him to go along.
I forget the exact details of what I sent him or what my joke was but the result was revealing if puzzling to me at the time. As I say I forget the joke; I have a bizarre sense of humor anyway, you wouldn’t be interested, I mean I’ve already told a dozen, but I sent him a picture of a row of mansions with an X over one with the inscription: This is where I live. Not this is my house but where I lived in one of the rooms of that imaginary Mansion of the Father and not in my parent’s house.
Whatever the joke was Sonderman found it hilarious but he was furious with himself for finding anything I said funny. His response was curious. He returned me a picture of a golf course green with an X over the hole with the inscription: This is where I live.
I think the incident really shows the difference between us but at the same time why our characters were, or should have been, complementary. I was hurting seriously but I had hopes for a future when I would enter a glorious destiny commensurate with my true worth. My hopes were the hopes of desperation while Sonderman could expect the brilliant future I was only hoping for yet he was living in the depths of despair, trapped and unable to free himself from his trick box or get out of his hole. Perhaps Sonderman envied or hated me for my mansion while he lived in his hole.
Sonderman’s father was really something of a failure. Although he had inherited some kind of chemical company from his father he had no skill in running it. Probably his father had psychologically impaired him as he had his son. His earnings from his company barely allowed him to get by.
Considered one of the elite in high school Old S had now fallen considerably behind his fellows. Hence he was vulnerable to pressures by his fellows to do things to remain in their good graces.
He was approached by his high school chum Hirsh who was himself falling on hard times but as his downfall was more recent his reputation as a leading light still retained considerable luster.
As Hirsh had had the ascendancy over him since childhood Mr. Sonderman agreed to make life difficult for his new neighbor.
Had Sonderman not been boxed in it is possible he would have been less diligent in harassing me although he certainly would have followed his group’s wishes. Possibly if he had had a free will he would have been more balanced. As it was he allowed himself to be used by others which caused him both temporal and further psychological injury.
The use of Sonderman by the Hirshes continued throughout Junior High and High School.
I thirsted for recognition, achievement and distinction. It was the Hirshes goal to deny me any success no matter how small.
The Patrol Boys were a perquisite of the eighth graders. I longed to be a patrol boy all during the seventh grade. God, I could just see myself standing on a corner arms outstretched, white Sam Browne belt blazing in the sun directing the traffic. I applied as early as I could. I was accepted and given an assignment. I received my Sam Browne belt and armband with a feeling of pride that I couldn’t possibly begin to express. At last I was somebody.
I had reached a platform on which to build greater successes. I felt that I could take my place in society. I was on the job and more than capable of doing it. But this is where the Field arises to thwart personal ambition. It wasn’t in the stars for me to be a patrol boy. The Hirshes noticed my satisfaction.
As I was below the most abject in their minds, lower than the Negroes, they did not believe that I had the right to self-respect, social status or self-satisfaction. They didn’t want me walking tall. They wanted me to shuffle along like the Negro boys, abject in the presence of my ‘betters.’ They set about to destroy my contentment, to ruin my prospects.
How known this conspiracy against me was I am unaware. All I know is that everywhere I turned I ran into a stone wall. The violence against me was I am sure recognized by many teachers who did what they could to mitigate the activity or it is quite possible that I would have been destroyed rather than just being overwhelmed.
I was unaware of what was said and done in the Hirshes’ private councils. They must have felt they couldn’t interfere with me directly without exciting suspicion or else they thought I was beneath their dignity. If it were clear that they were carrying on a vendetta against me then that would have redounded to their discredit and perhaps reprisals. They didn’t want to bring the onus on themselves which is a cardinal rule of Law and Order people. One must conceal one’s true intent while passing the onus to your victim.
As it is always necessary to deflect the potential blame on someone else so they employed their dupe Sonderman. In retrospect I am amazed Sonderman never learned that he was being used. My patrol boy post was on the corner of Caterina. Sonderman naturally crossed that intersection on the way home. I had been having a splendid time doing it up in the finest dramatic manner. It was terrific. I was terrific.
The Hirshes concerted their plan giving simp Sonderman his intructions.
As I was standing with my arms outsretched in the approved manner waiting for the traffic to pass to release the waiting students Sonderman rudely pulled my arm down brushing past me. I was really astonished; he had criminally violated the rule of society. Feeling betrayed by him, I reprimanded him. He replied that he didn’t need me to give him permission to cross the street.
He did this everyday encouraging others by his example to do the same. Soon no one would respect my authority, Sam Browne belt or not; everyone walked around me. The Hirshes pointed the situation out to the administration. As I no longer had any authority the administration was compelled to remove me from my beloved Patrol Boys. I was crushed as I turned in my glowing white Sam Browne belt for the last time but that soon turned to indignation when I found that I had been replaced at my post by…Sonderman.
The Hirshes were laughing hard at me now, adding insult to injury.
Here was Sonderman who was accusing me of having copied him in everything he did. The guy didn’t have the initiative or desire to sign up on his own but under the direction of others he usurped my place. As I sat looking at Sonderman over the Bloody Marys I was unable to articulate my feelings so rather than just argue I said nothing. It was obvious that in the Freudian sense he had reversed the roles to salve his conscience.
Eight grade was the year that Civil War caps were all the rage. My mother who failed me on every possible occasion adamantly refused to buy me one and further said she would destroy mine if I found a way to earn money for one. Inexplicable.
If I had been able to get one I would gotten a Southern cap. Sonderman did have a Union Cap of which he was inordinately proud; reminded him he was descended from U.S. Grant.
Sonderman’s cap plus my mother’s denial of my right to have one increased my rage against him as he usurped my place. Although my inclination was to respect convention I could not stand the sight of that cap so I stood respectfully behind him waiting for him to lower his arms. I could stand it no longer; I knocked his hat off, pushed his arm down and walked past him as though he wasn’t there.
He responded in a shocking way by abandoning his post to chase me down the street. Unable to believe the response of this Roman Centurion I ran ahead then stopped to allow him to catch up then ran ahead again. I had him a full block from his post before he realized what he was doing. Perhaps it was inevitable that he would fail in the real Army.
How did he like it? Not much, but Sonderman didn’t believe what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander. He felt justified in disregarding my authority but thought it was criminal for disregarding his. You might say Law and Order equals hypocrisy.
I disregarded him everyday as he had done me until students streamed by him as though he wasn’t there. He once again and then again abandoned his post to chase me as I laughed down Caterina while he raged, foaming at the mouth. Complaints were lodged against him. He whined to his dad who turned to Hirsh who complained to the principal. The cheeso Hirshes turned me in. I hadn’t turned Sonderman in. Sonderman and all those Hirsh guys were always running off at the mouth about how men settle their differences between themselves and don’t turn each other in. That’s all a ruse, a ploy to catch you off base. They aren’t man enough to settle their problems; their problems cant be settled, they’re part of their psychosis so they turn you in.
Sonderman was a cheesy guy. He had an in so they didn’t kick him off the Patrol Boys like they had me; they kept him on and told me to use a different corner. I suppose the Hirshes thought they’d won that one. They really did; the effect on me was to withdraw from trying; not all the way, from that incident, but the cumulative effect was growing. The Hirshes were getting the job done.
The effect on me was really quite profound. I had been emotionally battered by the Hirshes since the second grade, physically too. I was ignorant of what was happening in the Field so I was increasingly trapped within myself. I only knew that people, it seemed like everyone, didn’t like me. But I didn’t know why. I tried everything to make them like me. Nothing worked. My loss in self-esteem at being kicked off the Patrol Boys made me seem entirely an outcast.
It was obvious that I wasn’t going to be allowed to have anything. I was going to be denied every shred of respectability. Don’t give me any of that baloney that the fault was mine either. I had a serious Challenge from the Field for which there was no adequate Response but surrender. My enemies would accept nothing else. I refused to surrender and I’m proud to say it.
Unable to process the information any other way my mind entered the information as a fact that I wasn’t liked not that I was being unjustly persecuted. After all we all had it drummed into our heads that if things weren’t working out well for us then it was because of some shortcoming in ourselves and not as the Bard says in the stars. It’s always a good maxim to make sure first that the appliance is plugged in. If it’s plugged in then something else is the problem. I was plugged in alright but somebody was shooting me direct current while I was made for alternating current. There was nothing apparent for me to analyze or resolve.
My unpopularity was merely a burden on my mind. Nothing was clearer than that I couldn’t get them to like me. If they wouldn’t like me then maybe they would like someone else. I began to devise an alternate persona. I pretended that I was my cousin visiting me from Ol’ Alabam’.
When people greeted me I said I wasn’t me introducing myself as my twin cousin. I persisted in this charade for several weeks until it became clear to me that even being effusively friendly with a charming Southern drawl I was liked no better than before.
I abandoned the persona and reassumed my own; no doubt just as the authorities were about to take action. I had carried the thing to the point where I wouldn’t answer to my name in class. I didn’t associate my bizarre Response to the Challenge with my dismissal from the Patrol Boys nor did I associate it with Sonderman and through Sonderman to the Hirshes.
In fact until Sonderman jogged my memory over Bloody Marys I had forgotten ever being a Patrol Boy remembering only the second half where Sonderman stood at my post. In trying to explain my reaction to that my own role surfaced.
Now twenty-five years later Sonderman was sitting across from me telling me that I copied everything he did. I can’t imagine how he represents the Patrol Boys in his mind. So, as we sat guzzling our Bloody Marys I listened in quiet astonishment.
I was amazed that he gave up his military career to come back to manage his father’s wretched so-called chemical business for the rest of his life. He took me out to show it to me once in the summer of the eighth grade right after the big train incident. I tried to burn it down. The place was a relic from the nineteenth century. It must have been just as it was when Mr. Sonderman inherited it from his father. They hadn’t changed anything since Sherman left Atlanta for the sea. Another crime no one wants to talk about.
There was no activity; no one worked there. There were just a bunch of old ramshackle buildings with the doors hanging off their hinges just like their garage. Totally decayed facilities. Their only income came from selling saltlicks for cows. The visit really taught me to respect the vision of people like the DuPonts. The difference is as between black and white.
What really set my mind astir was why Sonderman thought I imitated him. I just shook my head in disbelief; I had no answer for him at the time. In fact I didn’t think too much about it until I realized he was my Animus. Then I began to shape the formless group of memories into the Sonderman Constellation.
Each activity of mine apparently triggered an extreme reaction in Sonderman; not only extreme but criminal. Murderous.
On Sundays Tuistad used to take our family, such as it was, on drives around the Valley. On one of those drives I noticed a very nice aquatic area reminiscent of Deindorfer Woods. The woods were over where I used to live in the garage. I always enjoyed them immensely until I made the mistake of introducing Sonderman to them.
We all had bicycles in our neighborhood. As the wetlands I had noticed, in those days they were called swamps but latterly we refer to them as ‘wetlands’, was a nice bicycling distance. I organized the neighborhood kids to ride out to it as an excursion. The way out was a very pleasant ride. Sonderman was skeptical about our destination but I was sure he would like it. I was right. Everyone was getting into it, even Sonderman, when he suddenly noticed everyone was having a good time. His expression changed as he became insanely jealous because I had organized the excursion rather than himself. Perhaps I had unknowingly challenged his image of himself as the great military leader, natural one, of course. He became really agitated insisting that we leave immediately. He leaped on his bike and dashed away.
Somewhat like the Patrol Boys everyone disregarded me leaping to their bikes to follow Sonderman. He was in one of his foaming rages pedaling furiously demanding I keep up with him even though everyone else would be left behind. I begin to see why he failed in the military; he knew neither how to lead or to follow.
Well, I couldn’t keep up with him. I blamed my bike which I thought was slower than his. He demanded we switch bikes. The he proved to me that my Columbia wasn’t inferior to his Schwinn. Previous to this Sonderman had claimed his Schwinn was better than my Columbia. Schwinns were the prestige bike. Leave it to Tuistad and my mother to buy me a Columbia. It was a pretty blue though to Sonderman’s green.
I guess he had to show that while I organized the outing he was still better because he could break it up and pedal faster. I didn’t understand then but I do now. He couldn’t stand an innovator so he said I copied him. If he didn’t originate it then he wanted to destroy it. Since he lacked the ability to originate he could only imitate or destroy. Being embarrassed to be only an imitator he reversed reality projecting the image of copycat on me.
He had done the same thing when I showed him Deindorfer Woods. Now, this visit to the Woods began the curious trio of incidents centered around trains. Let me give a little background because this is really extraordinary. Hirsh had a cousin who was a railroad engineer, Pere Marquette Line. When I was in the orphanage in the Spring of 1948 after I had declared my love for Susan Webster, one of the Hirsh/Webster clan, and been denied the right to use the main streets on penalty of being beaten up by the Hirsh clan for my impertinence I had to develop other routes to the orphanage. The route I chose was behind the school along the railroad tracks.
I used to leave the tracks for the street just as the little four wheel drive switch engine thundered by. Sometimes a six wheel drive came along. I never saw an eight weel drive come along and I’ve never even seen a ten wheel drive in my life. Probably never will now. I used to really enjoy waving to the engineers who themselves enjoyed being heroes to we little boys.
Hirsh, who always dogged my steps, I kid you not, discovered my route and noticed my satisfaction at being recognized by the engineers. He got his cousin to request the route who, when I waved to him, merely sneered disdainfully at me. A sacred trust had been broken between boys and engineers which completely enraged me. Next time a train came by I threw rocks at it. Now I had violated that same sacred trust myself. I was able to explain my actions sufficiently well on the run and over the roar of the engine so that Hirsh’s cousin was compelled to apologize to me by waving back. I thought I had won that one which I did but the case was not closed.
Just as Hirsh, parked on the side street, had laughed with delight at my anger at being snubbed he was now driven into a frenzy because I had compelled his cousin to wave back at me. Hirsh and his cousin seethed over what they considered a humiliation but was in fact, justice.
Five years later they were working out a plan of vengeance. If you think this is incredible so do I.
The Woods was a wonderful place full of sand redoubts and pollywog ponds until they dried up in August. Train tracks ran along the northern edge.
When we got there Sonderman was wearing his sullen face. He even seemed to be trying to keep a distance from me. Then that dark man dressed in his black suit, tie and hat appeared with a demented grin on his face walking rapidly toward me. If I hadn’t had that memory block I would immediately have recognized Hirsh. In all the time I had been visiting the Woods I had never seen an adult there.
At Hirsh’s appearance Sonderman leaped on his bike and rode off. Subconsciously I associated railroad tracks with Hirsh. I don’t know why but I thought he was going to tie me up and lay me across the tracks. I would have thought it was just a weird premonition except for what happened subsequently.
Well, I didn’t hang around to see what would happen either. I grabbed my bike and made a dash for the street. Sonderman was already long gone but as I rode down the street alone I heard the big diesel engine roar on down the tracks.
I don’t know exactly what the connection between the Sondermans and Hirsh was but they seemed to be in pretty close communication. Sonderman or his father must have related my doings to Hirsh soon after they occurred or even before if they were apprised of them. The Field is always obscure to the participant concealing connections that would make explanations easy if we only knew them.
Shortly after the neighborhood expedition Sonderman approached me to take another bicycle ride, this one of his own choosing. He said it like that as if I had taken unfair advantage of him by suggesting the ride to the wetlands. He seemed to be seething deep down in his belly which projected from his eyes as fiery sparks with a drawn down mouth. I didn’t relate his request to our trip to the wetlands nor had I done so would I have been able to relate it to the violence of his reaction.
I was overjoyed believing Sonderman to have come around to my way of thinking. I suggested we get everyone together but he said no. He wanted only me and him and his brother, Little, to go.
Sonderman had a brother who I will denominate only as Little rather than honor the little creep with a name. Little the Inseparable. Little had no friends nor did I ever see him except in the company of his big brother. He was a year younger than Sonderman and me, although taller than us both, and therefore had no right to hang around with us. Little and I had no love for each other. I disliked him intensely the first time I saw him. He didn’t seem to understand he was a year younger than me. He reciprocated my dislike in kind but he started it.
Sonderman proposed we ride out to a little crossroads by the name of the Shield. I didn’t have any objection but Sonderman took the attitude like he was managing me; like he was my handler as the spymasters say. Kind of like the Mad Comic strip Spy vs. Spy. There was something a little sinister in his manner that, while it didn’t alarm me, put me on my guard. I had begun to suspect, or fear really, Sonderman’s good will but I would never have accused of of being so evil.
As I recall the Shield was a fairly long way out. I expected some kind of wonderful like Deindorfer Woods or the wetlands we had just visited but when we got to the Shield it was nothing, sort of like Sonderman’s and Little’s minds. There were just a few houses, a corner store and a filthy little creek with a railway trestle over it. I saw nothing particularly interesting there which fact I bluntly and unceremoniously related to Sonderman. He just gave me a cold fish eyed stare and said I was free to ride back alone if I wanted.
That was a very inappropriate response between friends. There was an implied threat in the way he said it. Besides it was a long way back alone.
Let me say that over the years I have been accused of having a paranoid personality, whatever may be meant by that. In point of fact I am very good at reading vocal inflection, body language and demeanor; that coupled with the fact that most people are incapable of concealing their intent. Quite naturally I sometimes have misgivings about my ‘paranoid’ readings and disregard them. I can’t think of a single instance when I wouldn’t have been better off to have indulged my ‘paranoid fantasies.’ This was one of them.
I was torn between going and staying. I apprehended danger whether I left or stayed so I chose to stay rather than take my chances of being run down on the highway.
There was absolutely nothing stirring in the crossroads called The Shield. The place could have been a ghost town; no cars, no people. For a while we just sat on our bikes in the middle of the road, they looking at me with a gurgling look, leaning on the handle bars and gently rocking back and forth. Some little white clouds no bigger than bread baskets moved past over head in stationary phases.
I could see that the Sondermans had no natural wonders in mind to explore. I asked again why we were there.
There was only one side street in town. Sonderman pointed down it telling me to ride down and stop before a particular house. Naturally I told him I didn’t have to do what he said but anxious to do anything I rode down and stopped looking alternately at the house and back at the Sondermans. The Sondermans stared steadily at me. I was completely mystified as nothing stirred in the house. The whole street was silent; there was nothing shaking, not even the leaves on the trees.
Inside the house Hirsh and the little Hirshes including Hirsh’s son Michael stared out at me from behind curtains and blinds where they couldn’t be seen. Some were behind basement windows, some behind the bay windows of the first floor, some behind the curtains of the second floor and two from behind the attic blinds.
The sacrificial victim stood before them. The instrument of death was rolling down the tracks a few miles distant. That was what we were waiting for. They gloried and gloated over their victim, seeing but unseen.
They thought a wonderful thing was about to happen. They thought the earth was going to open up and swallow me. I would be out of their hair forever as they expressed it. The beauty of it was that in their infernal cleverness they would kill me and go unpunished. They would commit the perfect crime. It would be beautiful. I would be dead but there would be nothing to connect them to the murder. Murder? What murder? It would be an accidental death; it would appear just to have ‘happened.’
That was how the ‘better sort’ killed their enemies. Nothing messy like the lower classes; no violent rages like with serial killers, no bodies laying around that had to be explained or investigated; everything would be in order.
Hirsh was a Law and Order type of guy. He wanted everything legal and orderly. A rural Hitler, he thought a dead body was OK just so long as it could be explained in a natural reasonable way. In this case a stupid kid was playing on the tracks and was squashed beneath the big steel wheels. Unfortunate but nothing our of order; just a dumb kid being where he shouldn’t have been at the wrong time.
It would be within the Law too. There would be no violent shooting, stabbing, cutting or beating; no bloodshed per se, just an unfortunate accident such as dotted the chronocles of the Valley from time to time. Hirsh was a Law and Order man.
Law and Order has to be separated into its component parts and more narrow interpretation. Most people confuse equity and justice, right and wrong and Law and Order. Justice and equity, right and wrong can be purely subjective interpretations. For instance it would be wrong to think that Hitler did not believe in justice and equity and right and wrong. He did. He had thought about them deeply before he acted. It’s just that most people disagree with his application of the terms. The same people who think that nothing is right or wrong but thinking makes it so. It should be noted to Hitler’s credit however that he was a Law and Order man. He took over the State legally and in that capacity passed laws to authorize his programs. Those laws were no different in intent than the so-called ‘anti-hate’ laws of today. Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. That’s what Law and Order is. Hitler’s laws are bad because they are thought so; ‘anti-hate’ laws are good because they are thought so although both laws are equal in intent. It’s easy. Law and Order.
However, justice, equity and right and wrong were so subjective in the mind of Hirsh and his ilk that it could be properly said that he disregarded them or so completely fused them with his own needs and desires that they were one and the same in his mind.
The Hirshes of the world, and there are lots of them, want Law that serves their interests and Order that keeps them from harm yet allows them to exercise their prejudices. They want this narrow self-serving conception of Law and Order forced on everyone else and they demand that others observe their will. If this world isn’t the Hirshes’ oyster then something is wrong with the world.
This concept of justice is that their enemies should be punished at whim. They know that political man cannot allow this to happen openly or chaos would ensue. Therefore they form alliances with the police, the lawyers, the judges and officials so that their ‘peccadilloes’ are winked at. They don’t ‘own’ the judges in the crude sense so many people think but as all these men have proven their merit by being at the top they maintain respectable facades and trade favors that would be crimes committed by those outside their circle. They belong to the same clubs. Clubmembers look out for each other.
No one would think to question the death of an inconsequential boy even if the circumstances should appear more questionable that they would in this case. Why would anyone ruin the reputation of an eminent man for a simple outcast boy? It just isn’t done, you see?
It is important to know how to do things. The Sondermans and all the little Hirshes were being given valuable hands on training by their folks on how to do these things when the administration of affairs would be in their hands and they would in turn have to educate their sons. After all, good breeding will out. You can always spot those without it.
Then too, once gone the dead are invisible. Only the living have rights. There would be no question in this case of the Hirshes being implicated but if that question should arise the rights of a live criminal are more important than a dead victim. Think about it; the victim is gone hence forgotten, dead men tell no tales, but if the penitent criminal shows ‘remorse’ there is a chance he can be ‘saved.’ Besides why destroy a person’s entire life for just one mistake- especially if he’s one of the ‘better sort?’
The living are here to remind us of their existence; the dead are gone and forgotten. Hirsh wanted to see me dead. If it was good for Hirsh it was good for mankind. His self-indulgence knew no bounds.
They stared at me chuckling in anticipation. I sat on my bike wondering, what? I was not yet familiar with Hirsh’s technique. He used this one a lot; he never varied. He’d used it on me before. Had I powers of reflection at that time I would have gone up to the door and thrown the fear of god into him. I never did catch on till long after his death. Hirsh gained great satisfaction, I pity him, by having his victims, how many others he was at war with I have no idea, lured before his place of concealment to stand unsuspectingly before him while he studied them with cool contempt, while his mind glutted itself with a feeling of unlimited power. What a pervert! What a queer!
It seems clear to me in retrospect that Sonderman had gone crying to Hirsh after the wetlands excursion and this trip to The Shield was the outcome. I do not know by what mechanism Hirsh and the Sondermans coordinated their efforts. So far as I know Sonderman was always at home. I don’t remember their going out at night but they must have. It is clear that they must have met together and planned. Yet not at this time nor at any other in all the time I knew Sonderman did he give any indication of knowing Hirsh or any of the little Hirshes. At no time did he associate with them or even acknowledge them in public. I find their relationship mystifying.
As I sat on my bike before the house nothing stirred on the street, not even a cat or dog; nothing stirred in the house. I looked back down the street at the Sondermans who were talking to a woman in a white car who had stopped. White cars were really unusual at that time. They looked from her towards me; I raised my hands as if to say- now what? The woman drove off while the Sondermans merely sneered at me. I rode slowly back wondering what was going on.
Little did I know that what we were waiting for was that train that was intended to carry my blues away beneath its huge grinding steel wheels.
The sheep sized clouds that studded the sky in even shoals running from horizon to horizon and side to side as far as the eye could see looked down serenely as once again I asked Sonderman what there was in The Shield that he had brought me out to see. He pointed to the corner store telling me to go in there. I didn’t have any money, I could tell something was up. I could see that Sonderman was trying to manage me so I told him I didn’t feel like it. I suggested again that we leave. Sonderman said go ahead: I could ride back alone. The haunting thought of crashing through the shrubbery as I was run off the road was still with me; I elected to tough it out.
Sonderman and Little brushed past me as though I wasn’t there entering the store. I followed them. The man in black was there as well as the store owner. I was obviously being dandled before my enemies to give them their parting shot at me. They began to insult and revile me. I looked at these grown men abusing a twelve year old boy with disgust.
I told Sonderman that maybe I would ride back alone walking out of the store to jump on my bike. The man in black took Sonderman by the shoulder whispering in his ear as he looked in my direction. The train was only a few minutes away; I would have to be kept there. Sonderman came outside as I was mounting my bike to suggest we go play on the train trestle. Play on a train trestle? I had no idea Sonderman was so creative, what kind of madness was this?
The situation was quite eerie. Everything was in such a state of stasis, just like in that Hopper painting: Nighthawks At The Diner. The road through town had the town on one side with this filthy little creek below street level like a big ditch. It was narrow and shallow; it really was a big ditch rather than a creek.
The Shield residents were either so dirty, or so cheap or both, that they didn’t even take their trash to the dump. The creek bed and sides were littered with cans and garbage and old tires. It was thoroughly disgusting. They might has well have thrown the garbage off their back stoops. It wouldn’t have made any difference. They should have been ashamed of themselves. Probably called other people names too.
The train tracks came through town in a curve around the back of the country store to emerge between the store on the right and large copse of trees on the left. The train couldn’t be seen until it began to cross the street. As the crossing was unmarked this was a very dangerous situation. Of course in those days of a smaller, slower America before cars went a hundred miles an hour and insulated you from the world with air conditioning, complex stereo systems louder than themselves, telephones and even TVs then you were expected to know what the train schedules were, besides the crossings were so rough you had to slow down to a crawl anyway or blow your tires out. Still, there were no bells or crossbars. Even at that time I was amazed. Well, we were out there aways.
The trestle was about seventy-five feet across, maybe a hundred. At the far end were two copses of trees through which the train passed before it took a sharp left and disappeared into farmland. Twenty feet below the road bed lay the filthy little creek. A pretty long fall into a slimy mess.
As we stood on the trestle looking down into it Sonderman speculated that a guy could get killed or break his legs or his legs and his back or his legs, back and arms plus maybe drown if he had to jump when a train came by. Little gave an approving laugh and leered at me. I thought they were both nuts but then I was too young to know they were telegraphing the game plan to me. Maybe, consciously. I still worked out a game plan for if a train came along. My mind just worked that way.
I walked over to the far bank looked around and walked back to the Sondermans in mid-trestle where they blocked my way. My thought was now that we’ve seen this we can go. But the Sondermans wanted to stay on the trestle. About a third of the way from the street the railroad had constructed a steel railing as a leanout if workmen were caught on the trestle when a train came along. You stood with your toes on the end of the ties and leaned back into the steel railing. I guess the railroad men like the idea of danger. The leanout was ample for two very large men; certainly large enough for three small boys.
The Sondermans stayed in the vicinity of this leanout insisting that I stay in the middle of the trestle. They blocked my way with the implied threat that I would be pushed back if I tried to get by them. I had no idea what was up. I was still trying to figure out the game when a huge diesel engine exploded from between the store and the copse. Hirsh’s engineer cousin hadn’t even sounded his horn before he entered the crossing.
Three years after I had won the first round the second round was being played out. The wound of my triumph was still fresh in their minds while I had forgotten about it. I had been in the right and they had been in the wrong. Justice had been served when the engineer was compelled to wave at me. But I had violated the rules of Law and Order. An inferior had brought a superior to the bar of justice. Justice has a different meaning to a Law and Order man.
The train caught me entirely by surprise. I stood in the middle of the tracks with my mouth open. I was not so stunned that I didn’t notice what was happening around me. In the half dozen seconds it took for the whole thing to transpire I saw the white car pull up to the crossing; I saw Hirsh, the store owner and a half dozen young Hirshes emerge from the store where they could see more clearly. I saw Hirsh signal to the engineer with a look of devilish glee on his face.
The Sondermans stepped back into the leanout. I ran to join them but they pushed me back on the tracks saying there was no room. There was but not for me. I thought quickly shifting my feet more than once.
The train was rolling slowly perhaps at two or three miles an hour. In my excitement the noise of the huge shiny steel wheels was enormous. I began a run for the other side which I could have made easily but I feared that I might trip on the ties which were six inches apart with no underlying support. If I tripped I was done for sure.
Thinking quickly I leapt over the left rail to the end of the ties. The engine was already passing as I balanced on my toes at the end of a couple ties. Hirsh’s cousin came down the steps from his cabin to offer me his hand but I recognized that ruse; I could see him throwing me under the wheels; I refused his proffered hand. At that point I realized that if I stayed where I was the train would pass without hitting me unless a gate or some such thing swung out to hit me. I couldn’t take that chance.
As the Sondermans stood passively watching me Hirsh and his minions danced up and down excitedly. I hopped backward and dropped. Clasping my hands I grabbed a tie on the way down dangling there above the creek.
I suppose as I hung dangling I probably looked more terrified than I was. I was no longer in danger and I knew it. Still, the big steely wheels ground slowly past me just above eye level with a terrific din. Those big shiny steel wheels were bigger than I was.
As I looked over at the Sondermans they were staring at me impassively obviously enjoying my dilemma but disappointed that I was out of harm’s way. Beyond them on the street I could see the man in black staring at the tracks hoping to see my blood gush from under the big steel wheels. The store owner stood leaning in his door watching with folded arms. All the little Hirshes stood to Hirsh’s left dancing up and down in the street in excited animation. I took a certain amount of pleasure in disappointing their expecatations.
The train which was only an engine, coal car and caboose rumbled or really from where I was screeched past to disappear between the two copses at the far end of the trestle. But as the caboose passed over I could hear the loud giggling of a number of girls. I stared uncomprehendingly as the Hirshettes leaned out the door of the caboose to wave me goodbye.
In the excitement of trying to hoist myself back up on the roadbed all the details fled my mind. Getting back up wasn’t as easy as dropping down. I could get up about waist high but my belt caught and I couldn’t get on the roadbed. I called to the Sondermans for help but they just sneered that I got down by myself so I could get up by myself.
I could have gone sideways hand over hand to the bank but then I found I could reach through the ties to grab the rail. My hand flew away from the hot steel of the rail. Those grinding wheels must really have set the molecules colliding. In a few seconds the rails cooled and by throwing a leg up and hoisting myself over like a high jumper crosses the bar I was able to get back on.
I turned to demand of Sonderman why he hadn’t let me into the leanout but he and Little turning their backs on me walked away. How long it takes for the obvious to penetrate. He had said there wasn’t room for me so I called him a liar to his face. I missed his meaning. What he had really said was that there wasn’t room for ME. He wasn’t lieing after all.
I was quite pleased with my maneuver on the trestle. I expected to be congratulated and marveled at by Sonderman and his brother. But they disparaged my move refusing to discuss it as they yawned in my face. I was a little hurt.
By the time I brought my senses into focus the white car was gone. Hirsh and his minions had disappeared. The scene had returned to primordial stillness as the little white clouds no bigger than pillows evaporated into the afternoon heat to disappear forever. It was a little surreal.
As the Sondermans refused to respond to my animation a grim silence fell over us. I was unaware of the guilty disappointment that filled their minds. I didn’t get the meaning of the sagging shoulders of Sonderman as he sat on his bike twirling the pedal as though he didn’t know how to put his foot on it.
To me there was only the satifying conclusion to an exciting adventure. To them the feeling of guilt caused by a failed murder attempt began to stir in their subconscious. All of the really important conclusions are formed there passing to the conscious mind in a more or less sanitized and acceptable form. From there our actions are taken while we are completely unaware of what we have decided or how and why.
Just in that manner I came to the unarticulated conclusion as I pedaled home that murder is a legitimate way to eliminate those you don’t like.
While on the personal level this may be so yet there is a conflict on the societal level where the solution is definitely frowned on and may, on occasion, be severely punished. Especially if you’re from the lower classes and messy. So, good form is absolutely essential.
Having the background of an orphan I was predisposed to chaotic responses. You see, while the Hirshes were being trained to be responsible citizens I had been trained to be a goof. You see, I really didn’t have good breeding. It was too late for me to acquire good breeding too but Law and Order did make sense to me because I saw clearly that Hirsh and the Sondermans would have walked. That was only the result of good planning. My soul was torn between the emotional satisfaction of chaos and the necessity for Law and Order.
If one reflects, Pretty Boy Floyd the Outlaw is reported to have said that some will rob you with a six gun; some will use a fountain pen. That’s actually pretty profound. It’s the difference between bank robbers and lawyers. As all the people in prisons are of the six gun mentality and all the bank presidents surrounded by their lawyers are of the fountain pen variety I think that fact speaks for itself, and loudly, don’t you? Who would prefer prison to a suite on the forty-fourth floor of a high rise looking out over the top of everything.
Unwilling to ride home alone previously I now feared riding back with the Sondermans. I could imagine that man in black riding me down as I rode behind or ahead of the Sondermans. I insisted on riding in the middle with Little in first and Sonderman behind me in order to make it more difficult to get me.
When I heard a car approaching I looked back preparing myself for another jump. I saw the car driven by the man in black coming up. I bated my breath apprehensively as he slowed down studying me intently as he passed.
Once he was past my fear of danger abated. Swinging around Little I left him and Sonderman behind as I raced for the safety of home.
Chapter II: The Psychonautica