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Haunts

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi: The Ghost of Asakura Togo (undated)


"Exclamation Point! Period."

If I possessed the power to give advice that might be heeded rather than mocked by people younger than I, I would find some way to convince those folks that they author their own stories. Because of this one fundamental fact, we might be incapable of victimization without our own active collusion. Plot twists notwithstanding, if we're each authoring, then we get to decide where to place the final piece of punctuation that designates the end of one of our stories, nobody else. An adage much older than I insisted that no story ever need end up a tragedy if its author simply waits until an uptick before calling the story quits. An uptick always seems to emerge, however modest. I won't argue that this world does not host true tragedies, absolute calamities, but I will insist that these are never necessarily the whole or essence of any story, and that it does everybody some good if the soul of a mangled body gets reported as transported to heaven after its fall. That's what Authoring contributes, and it's fundamental.

Not everyone—or even most—take the Authoring notion as far as actually writing anything down, but we all seem to collect our stories. I maintain a spare few dozen which seem to most exemplify who I've been and become. You probably do to, and it seems to matter who authored them. I'm no journalist myself, and not only because I can't quite convince myself to believe in the existence of objectivity. My stories tend toward the impressionistic. In the latest manuscript I'm reading, The Muse and I visit Budapest without me describing what we're seeing. My story, the one I was so actively Authoring at the time, was filled with thoughts and philosophical impressions, not pictorial descriptions of the beautiful Danube and its bridges. It never occurred to me to produce a visual travelogue. I rarely take pictures lest taking them infringe upon my primary experience of simply being somewhere. My story tends to be heavily weighted toward what each context inspires in me and out of me, rarely just what I'm seeing.

My dad kept a journal at the scale of one inch equals one inch, created in the very best Joe Friday, just the facts, mam, tradition. No literary genius, he catalogued is-es, for his existence simply was as it was to him, not a flight of fancy, no allegory allowed. When he received his terminal diagnosis, he reacted by claiming that he'd never expected to live as long as he had, and he seemed perfectly self-satisfied with his fate, as if he'd been especially blessed, but then he was Authoring his story, thumb on the scale. I keep my thumb on my scale, too. It's just something we authors do. We believe it improves the quality of the story if we're characterized as the hero. We might just as well be.

We become our stories. Whether cast in an adventure or a bodice-ripper, these tales haunt us. They inform us. They remind us who we were and strongly suggest who we in turn became. It seems simply tragic when someone accepts another's story about themselves as if it were somehow definitive. Self as other never works. Never has. Never could. Us authors are in charge and each of us are authors, or might just as well think of ourselves are being. We're powerful because we have been charged with providing the punctuation that determines how our stories turn out, defining our Haunts. Exclamation Point! Period.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved







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