Heliopoli_Full_EX81Twenty years ago I met a man through my work who said he had decided not to worry about anything anymore. This was a conscious decision on his part. He had decided. It was a decision. Simple as that.

I was young. I found him a bit odd. He carried a large satchel all the time.

“But what about — ?” I asked.

He shrugged. He decided not to worry about anything anymore. Simple. As that.

“But what about — ?” I persisted. “But what about — ?”

Shrugs. I even ran into him at a mall. He still carried that large satchel. No, I’m not going to say he carried his worries in the satchel; it was just part of what made him a little off, a little unbelievable.

I think about him once in a while, even after all these years. I think about the choice he had made and … yeah. Yeah, I see it now.

I still can’t do it myself, and I still think he was a little nuts — but he had made the right decision.

Unfinished Things

I had a teacher in the seventh grade, Miss Allem, who encouraged my creative writing. One day she gave me a book that contained an unfinished science fiction novel by C.S. Lewis called The Dark Tower. She wanted me to finish writing it. She said that when she got to the end and learned that it wasn’t finished, she threw it across the room. That was the level of her encouragement: she wanted me to write the rest of it. It was also the level of her frustration: she didn’t want the book anymore if it wasn’t finished. This was decades ago.

Every once in a while I try to think of an ending for The Dark Tower, just for myself, mind you, or for her, actually — I sure as heck don’t presume to be able to finish writing anything by C.S. Lewis — but it would be nice to do something to acknowledge Miss Allem’s faith in me. A few years after junior high I learned that she had quit teaching. The class after ours was rambunctious, too much to handle. She left to work, I was told, in a chocolate factory.

I still have the book. She had written her name in it, because it belonged to her. It has been through a few rough patches, and nearly expired from being stored in a damp basement; and I think it has those paper mite thingies now, since I come over all itchy when I touch it, so I have it wrapped in plastic and stored in a box.

I dutifully bought a reprint copy a few years ago. I’ve read The Dark Tower a few times and it doesn’t seem possible to write an ending for it, especially with how it kind of shifts focus. And it needs more than an ending; it also needs a middle and the rest of the beginning. It’s hard to guess where it’s going; there must have been reasons Lewis didn’t finish it, after all. (And, frankly, the story creeps me out, but that’s also its appeal.)

I think it would be nice, though, if I could come up with some bit of writing that made allusions to Lewis’ The Dark Tower, with little references, an homage of sorts, a short story, something, the way one does when one tries to be clever and usually fails. His story has stuff to explore, revolving around a screen that sees into another world, another time, and people can watch events there in real time — Lewis’ description of this is fantastic and creepy — and I could call it “The Dark Tower.”

Um, yes, how very clever. But if it saw print I could dedicate it to Miss Allem. That would be nice.

And then I wouldn’t have something unfinished as well.

In Memory

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

— Sir Arthur C. Clarke
1917 — 2008

Rendezvous With RamaImperial EarthA Space Odyssey
Thank you, Sir Arthur, for everything.