Friday, February 21, 2020

Your Obedient Servant - 1

Here we go. The state of my health is telling me not to get too ambitious about finishing this novel, but I'm going to do my best.

What I'll be posting is a first draft. Except for spelling and grammar, the finished product may be very different.

Feb 21 

“It’s damn well about time. I’ll be right there,” the senator said as he put his phone back in his pocket and glanced at me briefly. “You will come with me.”

The prison van had been due at sunrise, almost two hours ago, and the senator’s anger had risen along with the sun. Even a free man, if they had any sense at all, would have known better than to question him now. I nodded, keeping my surprise off my face, and my mouth shut on my own questions.

He didn’t wait for me to open the door for him, striding out into what was already a furnace of a day and would only become more deadly with each passing hour. My domain was the household, so I rarely had any reason to be outdoors. The heat and humidity struck me like a suffocating blanket that made me flinch back even as I tried to take a deep breath. But if the senator said I was to go with him, I had no choice but to obey.

The cart was waiting at the door and I was grateful to see that the awning had been put up. I would have at least a minute or two out of the sun. The senator pushed me ahead of him, into the back seat, and I scrambled over as far as I could, leaving him most of the space. The driver didn’t need any instructions, thank goodness. Having to tell him where to go would have raised the senator’s ire another few notches. No one on the estate would ever take that chance if they had any options at all. Anticipate. Always anticipate his wishes. I had learned that very quickly myself.

I had little time to wonder why the senator wanted me with him, and even less time to worry about what it might mean for me. The transport van was right ahead of us now, parked outside the slave barracks, its back doors still closed.

The senator jumped out before the cart had quite come to a stop and headed for the man standing beside the van, looking worried. The man dipped his head, a poor excuse for a bow, and kept his eyes aimed at the ground.

“Murphy! What the hell is going on? Why was the van late? Have the slaves been unloaded?”

“Sir,” the man said, still not looking at the senator. “I don’t know why it was late. One of the guards…” and he pointed to the cab, its windows closed, “said they wouldn’t let us unload until you arrived.”

“Well, I’m here now, damn it.” 

The senator banged on the passenger-side window. “Open up, damn you. I want those men out. Now! Get your asses moving or I’ll have one more complaint to file with the warden.”

As the door opened, he backed away. I was standing just a few steps behind him, and the cool air enveloped us both for a blessed second or two before dispersing into the heat.

I followed them both around to the back of the van, wishing I was back in my proper place. What was I doing out here, anyway? But I had no more time to wonder, or to think about the sun hammering down on my head, as the guard fumbled with a key and opened the back doors. They swung wide and I backed away as fast as I could, practically choking on the wave of overheated air that poured out. But it wasn’t the heat that was so awful, as bad as it was; it was the smell. Not smell—stench! A stew of sweat and urine that had to have been cooking for hours to be that toxic. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

When There Seems to Be No Hope

At the age of 83, I know I won't be around long enough to see the drastic effects of global climate change. But it's still a subject that weighs on me, and that my over-active imagination struggles with. The news media is already presenting us with articles on the psychological effects in play at the present moment. Whether you are of the new generation whose lives are going to be very different from our own, or the generations that are mourning future losses that they won't even experience, climate change is becoming, for many, a source of despair, regret, and hopelessness.

What are we leaving to our children, and how are they going to cope? Can the movements inspired by and headed by youngsters like Greta Thunberg make a difference in how humanity's long-term future will turn out? However much difference they do manage to make in how we are conducting our affairs today and in the near future, it's clear that many destructive processes in nature are accelerating and already past the point where humans can influence them to our benefit.

Global climate change sounds like doomsday, and it may well be, but we don't know for sure. If we don't want to assure that it will be doomsday, this is no time to indulge in "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Or the opposite: declare that life is now meaningless, give up entirely and submerge yourself in depression.

So, where do we find meaning, out of which hope can grow? This morning I read a discussion of Victor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning It isn't a terribly long article, and if you can find a few minutes to read it, you will learn that you are the one responsible for finding meaning in life. It isn't something that can be given to you. The article alone might be enough for you to find some light in the darkness, but I encourage you to read Frankl's book.

Survival, both individual and global, depends on finding meaning, and therefore, hope. The struggle will be longer than Dr. Frankl's, though life in Auschwitz and Dachau must have seemed impossibly long, and impossible to survive. Those of us who won't be around much longer still have a responsibility to future generations, if for no other reason than that it is our thoughtless lack of responsibility that is burdening them with such a dreadful task.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Not Downton Abbey

One of the topics that has engaged me over the years is slavery. The first two novels I wrote, serializing them on Live Journal as I went along (many years ago), were about an alternate world in which one country's economy and culture were slave-based. The first one developed a nice readership, and when I published it online, it had fairly good sales, for a book that had no publicity except the blog. The second one didn't do as well, but I didn't consider it a failure.

Since then, I've self-published a few other things, all of which attracted very little attention since they weren't publicized either. Supposedly, I would have learned by now that unless an author is willing to spend time promoting their writing, it will sink like a stone. Certainly, I've learned it, but basically, I just don't care. It's the writing that's important, the development of ideas and scenarios, not how much money I can make.

Still, there's the always present desire to be read. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't part of the motivation for writing. So I'm going to repeat the Live Journal experiment here. Will it interest anyone? Who knows? But at least, it will offer me some motivation for continuing to work on a story that's been underway for several years now, without making a whole lot of progress.

Your Obedient Servant takes place in a United States which has legalized slavery. Climate change is well advanced, and slavery is just one of its side effects. The office of President is now hereditary, as are congressional senators and representatives.

The story is written as a memoir by a man who has spent his last 40 or so years as the indentured servant of a senator. It's a position that, for him, became no different from that of a slave.

In our world, slavery has never gone away, and if you do a Google search, you'll find more than you want to know about its persistence and the ways in which it is changing.