The House That Jack Built: Block 2 Draft

Here it is, the long-awaited draft…the main character is a weird cross between L Ron Hubbard and Rory Williams, two characters whose stories and ways of doing and thinking about things you will hear more of in the future, if I haven’t posted already by the time this scheduled post goes out on September 7th. There’s not actually much to this one…Block Zero was really all I cared about, and I couldn’t bring myself to actually finish it. It sort of…fizzled. If the mood strikes me I’ll pick it up, though. I’d really like to. But this is Block 2…blocks count up in order, much like Apollo spacecraft. Block 1 tomorrow, September 8th!

“It all started, as most things do, with words.” The college librarian – wearing thick black glasses, hair close-bobbed and grey, lime green blouse cut demurely like a fifty-year-old Kodachrome slide,. bearing relaxed the way a willow cane is relaxed – sat forward in her chair. The day was hot, and she needed an anchor to concentrate before getting lost in the research stacks again. The locked room she kept this tale in received so few inquiries…

“Go on. Tell us about what it was like then.” The young woman and her brother were transfixed. A cobra and a mongoose, each tensed to strike. A Selectric waiting for the bell.

“I am. It started with words. With stories. With a man. Although with Rory Forbush you could never tell which was which. You almost wouldn’t want to. He was the story, and the story was him. And he lived in a rented room over what was then the Shambala Book and Curio Shop. He came downstairs for dinner and conversation, of course. Took me to a restaurant once.” Her eyes were far away.

Robin and Jay Conley said nothing. Rosemary McKinnon would use exactly the words she meant to. He’d taught her that much. It wasn’t prologue material anyway. And in her beat reporter days, she’d learned more about effective communication than to just…wear the core of the tale on her sleeve. In Naval Intelligence during the war, she’d learned you needed things to hang your postulates on – the things you wanted to do in reality. They needed facts. That was why Pearl Harbor. People who finally had bacon couldn’t care about things like that. Not that bacon wasn’t factual. Much like good words, you could chew on it.

“He lived here. As much as anyone did.” Her mind reached out to the Far East, to Europe, to the Moon…to all the places she’d been promised. Then back to the 1870s, when her Grandmother had come here. Just as quickly, it withdrew. Although it did not withdraw from the story.

“We didn’t live anywhere back then. Things were always going to be better. We lived in a weird mix of Zane Grey, Jack Williamson, campfire tales, and the future coming out of MIT. Not in deposit slips and paychecks, shelves and whether Mother Hubbard can throw her dogs a bone. We didn’t live in perpetual war, even though we were fighting Hitler, and we didn’t live in the bank, even though we didn’t have much we owned. So he lived the same place we did. His home was just on the second floor of old Shambala Books. I think in some ways it was the truest home any of us in Calvin had.”

“So not much has changed, huh?” Jay rested his chin on one palm.

“What does? Still a bright-eyed young man and a story. I’m the one telling it, so…” She laughed. “Not much indeed, young man.”

Robin murmured quietly, a sort of modern “mm-hmmm” that sounded like wind through the trees. Trees were few, and words less when she was in the zone.

“Anyway, he was the story, and the story was him. And he told the story that in many ways became the one we lived, until we could not distinguish the two. Old Rory. He had a name for the story and everything. The Yup System. He pronounced it Yawp.”

“The Yup System?”

“Yup. Or Yupology. That too. He sold it in magazines, said you could change the world by saying yes to yourself and in the process everything else. It was ridiculous. No one took him seriously. So they sort of said yes to him, in a way, and I think he wanted that.” Rosemary’s eyes twinkled. “That wasn’t a cover story, although many thought it was. The system was down-home country logic with a science fiction writer’s sensibility, and you could see its magic in his eyes. A lot of people said he was part of…bigger things. The Navy, spies, some MIT project…and he always carried himself as if he had seen things. Rory Forbush had a big head. Who knows what he fit in it? But yep. That was him. All story, no matter which way you sliced him. Against the grain either way.”

An invisible Selectric dinged. The air felt charged, cool. Rosemary looked out the window. “Well, looks like a storm coming in. You kids had better hurry on home. I gotta close up.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Robin stood. “We’ll be back tomorrow evening.”

“No. Thank you. Rory had one problem, you see.”

“What was that?” Jay inquired somewhat earnestly.

“He was too busy being his own story to tell it. Or to let me tell mine. You two aren’t. And you get both.”

Robin stood silently, the emotion carrying like a right hook to her chest. Definitely a knockout bell.

“If this keeps up I’m gonna have to make you cookies, and not the other way around!” Jay grinned at Rosemary. His demeanor could only be described as flirtatious, but the way a teddy bear in a children’s story might be flirtatious.

Rosemary laughed. Even bowtie-clad, polite bears had teeth, smoke was fire, and no matter what the calendar said, she had not been born yesterday, “I think that might be a good change. See you tomorrow, Master Conley.”

“Yes’m.” Jay slipped through the door of the head librarian’s office, dragged by his sister’s firm hand. Down the hall, to the right, out the door, and they were standing in front of a campus transit bus stop, under a flickering streetlight, in front of the Wilson Library of Calvin Wesleyan University, in the eastern part of New Mexico, which was more properly West Texas, and neither New nor Mexico. To outsiders, it appeared all madness and no method. To Jay and Robin, after what they had just heard, nothing about that perception of their hometown could be further from the reality and closer to the truth. Except possibly Rory Forbush. And his tale still hung unresolved and therefore unknown – unread, like an ellipse at the end of a chapter…

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