Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It can be done


The beautiful woman in her paiseley dress wanted to know why I persisted as a teacher of writing.

"Why are you wasting your time at this," Eleanor Gallagher wanted to know. "You should be writing, not teaching.

"You are a writer. .

"And all you do is teach.

"People are counting on you. You have to go out and do something really fine. Stay out of classrooms.

"If you can't make it, none of us can make it."


This was more than just a challenge.

This was like me poised at my stake. Saint Sebastian, about to be executed by archers.

There is a school that says all creative wriing instructors are frauds and should be shot. Better with arrows. More pain.

I don't know how many times I had taken Eleanor Gallagher's advice.

And proved that I could do it, only to have to go out and prove it again.

Eleanor kept taking my course, over and over again, as had many others over the years.

I suppose my support group of perennial students spoiled me.

After the challenge from Eleanor Gallaher, I won my own column in Topic Magazine in these parts, and was soon writing essays for the Toronto Sun. My novel, The Black Icon, began to be reviewed in Toronto.

I began to have groupies, but never Eleanor Gallagher.She was my lady. My lady challenging the knight. This was courtly love.

Eleanor Gallagher wanted some proof from me that I was worthy..

If I could not produce something fine-- and no student ever surpassed a teaching master in York Region--then
I might as well give up both teaching and writing and go back to the ways of my father, master carpenter, probably a more honest trade in the first place.

"You must go out and write another novel, Ivan.

"Not just a fragment, like last time.

"The real thing."

I don't know why I had allowed a student to be a guide for me.
Maybe she had taken the words right out of my mouth.
Every teacher feels at some point in his/her life that she's a fraud. I was beginning to feel like a fraud.

I had to do a second novel.

Well, I did.

Eleanor Gallagher, who by this time must surely be a senior, would have been proud of me.

But the cost, the cost.

Loss of home. Loss of job. Loss of spouse. Loss of mind.
Loss, loss, loss
And yet enough love within the loss to almost make it worthwhile.
And proving to Eleanor Gallagher that I was not entirely a bullshitter.

And yet Ozymandias.

Shattered statue in the desert. Look how great I am.

Could this be what Eleanor wanted?

Do not the roads to hell start with good intentions?

There was a time when life was simpler, more authentic.


Young man on the make, with beautiful young wife, driving to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to write the great Canadian novel.

What was ultimately produced was a fragment, the story of my mother and father.And maybe that may have been enough.

Why did you torment me, Eleanor Gallagher?

The Black Icon is what got me the teaching job in the first place, that and some sheepskin.

Let's start at the beginning, at least where it all began for me, Eleanor Gallagher...


THE BLACK ICON--Chapter Four


Michael Podolski sat astride a joist and busied himself with trimming X-braces before inserting these between the rough-hewn beams. The yellow wood smalled fresh, incensed. Chips flew under the broadaxe, the piney smell rich in Michael's nostrils. Things, materials, these were so uncomplicated, workable, solvable, so unlike the life that was beginning to confuse him.

Sophia, Sophia, bullheaded, clumsy Sophia, once so young and fresh; putting up with the bullwork into which he had forced her while they bruilt; washing his clothes the neolitthic way, by the stream, hauling water, chopping wood, loving each object that belonged to him as if the thing were he himself.

Now, after eight years, two misscarriages and two children, Sophia had grown shrewish, bitchy, nagging. Nagging all the time. "Why don't you go into partnership with Danylo Shankewitch? He always has building contracts. Is it because your have such a lousy business head that you keep hiring yoursel out, freelancer? You, who never settles anything on paper, letting your best friends rob you. Idiot. Biggest fool in the village. And all you do with your free time is pend your mony at that Spaniard's in the korchma, kicking up your patched heels at those parties. While you play your fiddle, the children and I stay home and starve."

Michel watched his hammer gild the nailhead with each blow. He drove it home with his characteristic three-tap finality, set th tool down and rolled a cigarette. There seemed to be no way out of this. "Work, sleep, eat, shit. There's got to be something better. If not for me, then for my son and daughter." Just at that moment, someone called Michael from below. He lifted himself up on the joist, balanced along the beam like a tightroper and made for the edge of the rigged ceiling. Down below, one-eyed Fedko, the grizzled old letter carrier was shouting and gesticulating.
"What is it," Michael shouted down on him.
"I've just been down to the telegraph office on my rounds," said Fedko, wiping his red face with a linen rag.
"Good for you. What's so interesting over there?"
"Don't be so self-satisfied. Wait till you hear this: The Germans are coming. They've overrun the Polish border and are advancing east at twenty miles a day. Nothing can stop them.

"Jesus Christ. Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure. You'll be able to read it in the paper for yourself."

Michael whistled. For as long as he remembered, there had always been Poles in this mountainous part of the Ukraine. It was a fact of life. The hated Poles. who had taxed, cajoled and beaten the Galician provincials. Young Galicians disembowelled in the bushes after a dance.
Now the Germans,the efficient, no-nonsense Germans whose engineering works and machines Michael had often admired, now they were coming.
"Thank you, Fendko, thank you very much!" he shouted to the postman. "At last," he said to himself.

Now, cap tilted back, whistling, Michael attacked his work with a new vigour. "Now we'll see what will happen to our shitty-assed Pans," he said to no one while his hammer thunped into the pine.

War, schange, stark, evil and ominous; but it mean change. Above all, change.


...............end Chapter Four THE BLACK ICON

30 comments:

EA Monroe said...

Good evening, Ivan. Michael and Sophia sound a lot like my Grandma and Grandpa Timmons -- like farm life out in Western Oklahoma and raising six kids with no running water. Hard lives and hard times.

Whatever happened to Eleanor Gallagher?

Well, I'm heading over to the Gazebo to see what mischief Bad Boy Erik has stirred up!

ivan said...

Hi Liz,
Wow. Your grandma and grandpa.
I guess the Depression was tough on everybody.
Eleanor Gallagher may have been a teacher herself, checking out my course. She was certainly beautiful in those days.

Yeah. Erik. Enfant Terrible! Hah.
...I thought I had full dibs on that. LOL.

Josie said...

Omigosh, a cliff hanger. I can hear the Germans marching. Can't wait for the next installment.

Josie

ivan said...

Hi Boo,
Gonna check out your blog as soon as I settle down.
Some female bus driver, married, seems to want to make my life miserable.
To ascertain that she loves her husband and not me?
Is my smell of booze on me ticking her off?
She asked to see my transfer three times, and then she wanted to see it again.And wanted to argue.
I finally flung it in her face and got off the bus.
Have I got SCREW ME, I'M A SENIOR emblazoned all over my tee shirt?
Full moon and female problems, I suspect.
That or it's that old Chicago blues song. "You know that you love me and you don't know how to show it.
Bus drivers who look like Renee Zelwegger.
And change the motor on their husband' cars weekends.
I don't get it.
Am I a Dutch boy and do I stick fingers into dams?
We gotta get that SUV.

Josie said...

Ivan, our local news station did a news report yesterday about rude bus drivers here in Vancouver. We have TONS of them. Snotty as hell. So don't feel too bad.

Josie

EA Monroe said...

Hey, at least it wasn't one of those signs pasted on your back that says, Kick Me! heehee I vote for snotty bus drivers like Josie said.

ivan said...

I think the lady bus driver is obsessed with me because of some psychotic reason of her own.
Likely she is not feeling well.
Got some information from the time we actully talked.
Doctors had been tinkering with her uterus (she never had any children, though she's forty and looks twenty).
I guess if you don't follow your biological clock, you end up chewing out old guys. (Oh my, what an interesing montage of words).

I suppose I could have ha said, "I got something for your uterus," but you're supposed to ignore crazy people, especially on a full moon.
Stupid woman.
Is she not fully cognizant of the fact that I am god?
Jupiter and Semele.
Fry her!
Heh.

Josie said...

Well, Ivan, I hope you got to wherever you were trying to get.

You actually had a chat with a bus driver about her uterus? That's too funny. We can't even get our bus drivers to call out the stops.

Josie

EA Monroe said...

Want me to "fry" her, Ivan? Hey, thanks for the cure, O Sorcerer's Apprentice! I'm still smokin'. ;-)

ivan said...

I am starting a chapter of the Inter-University Christion Democrats, i.e., IUCD.
Something of a patch job.

ivan said...

I have heard it said that if you were being hexed by a conjure-woman, you needed to enlist the help of another conjure woman.
The bus driver is trying to set me up somehow. List me as an objectionable person. Maybe ban me from that route for some arcane reason of her own.(She is selling drugs and knows I'm intuitive?...She really wants to have an exttramarital affair and the potential lothario is just too damn stupid?...She is already banging somebody else and she doesn't want me to know?...She is a stone dyke and doesn't want to catch me cabbaging some friend on her break?).
This is all very Dostoevkian. Certainly Dr. Seuss with the Right-going Zax and the Left-going Zax.
I am going to need serious witching here, Liz.

Josie said...

Ivan, the bus driver is just being a bag. I agree with Liz. Let her fry her. Let Liz get on the bus and hand her an electrified toonie. That'll do it.

Josie

ivan said...

Eureka.

EA Monroe said...

hhhaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaa! You guys are too funny. Okay, where's the electric toonie?

Hey, Ivan. Wake up, it's time to get into more trouble. Erik and you bring out the naughtiness in me! Good thing I am at work!

Josie, let us know about your shopping excursion at Tiffanys... and try not to get into trouble while you're there!

Josie said...

Hi, everyone. JR gave me a good idea. A smash-n-grab. Maybe if there's a crowd, they will cause a division and I can make off with something. Knowing my luck it will be a sterling silver telephone dialer like in Breakfast at Tiffany's....

Josie

ivan said...

I am surprised Erik hasn't gone into Oriental themes yet.
Six months ago, he had something on
orgasms.
Cream of Yung Gai?

ivan said...

Good morning, Liz.

I do so miss work, cloying as it had been.
I had rejoined the labour market at 65 out of pure necessity.
I had been amazed at young guys who could party all night and still make it to work in the a.m.

Then I became one.

Slugging auto parts on 20 minutes' sleep.
And not a sick day.
Nowadays I wake up with my poor member drooping, taking ten minutes to pee and "daring to eat a peach."
When I worked, I had cast iron stomach, eating crap off the coffe truck and drinking Aqua Velva when stuck and giving the foreman a sqweet bouquet in the morning.

Friggin bulletproof.
I guess the extra money must have given me that feeling of omnipotence, especially when I'd win writing contests and pin them up on the wall in case the foreman thought I was even more stupid than the oher drones.
A lot to be said for working.
We sort of miss it when it's gone.

Sound like BS to you?
I am probably over-nostalgic.
It was just nice to belong somehwere, like a draft horse, somewhere to go every morning.
But at least we have this web thing, this odd club that keeps our brains in tune--that or it's an addiction. And how pleasant a one it is.

ivan said...

Egad,
We had to learn time zones as part of our navigation course in the RCAF, but I still have trouble converting, what with daylight saving time and all.
But I recon, since it's noon here, Josie must be over at the Tiffany display in Vancouver first thing in the morning.
I suppose Truman Capote could have used any old place as a theme, but he really hit it with Breakfast at Tiffanys.
I would dearly love to have Holly Golightly take me into the women's washroom on this bleak Newmarket morning.
"You need fifty bucks," she might say.
"I got fifty bucks," I would surely answer.
"Hell, I got 500 bucks, now that my Mastercharge card is back...Do you take Mastercard?

But yeah, it's the beatuty of the story, the peace of mind somehow brought on by the opulence of Tiffany's.
We are waiting for Josie's report
and the sure Nutcracker Suite feeling it had no doubt will have brought.
I once bought my girlfried rubies.
She wasn't happy with this, so she commandeered my guitar, typewriter, all my published clippings and books, thirty-five dollars in cash-- and sequined jock strap.
Maybe I was just too fancy a guy.
Heh.
Gallows humour.

EA Monroe said...

Hey, Ivan. I was going to suggest to Josie that we could clear the aisles at Tiffany's for her. I can wear my Electric Girl costume and shake my Electric Toonie; you can dress like Voodoo Man and rattle your Joystick... I mean wave your Voodoo Wand... I mean... I think I better get back to work before you skin me! Afterall, I am trying to stay out of trouble!

Addiction or not, I certainly have fun keeping up with Josie and you!

ivan said...

Ha ha ha ha.

Well, I was never much of a stick- in-the-mud, though I admit of late I've become sort of thoughtful,like Pee Wee Herman, tending to sort of got off by myself, like John Boy in Little House on the Prairie of olden times. He needed to be alone, privy to his own thoughts.

This should twig Josie: Sears-Roebuck shoe and boot calendar.
Something about those red boots!

Shaking your Toonie, you say.
Heh.

Just thinking about U.S. money.
Have you guys got a two-dollar coin yet?
In Canada,we have a single dollar coin, kind of like a silver dollar. We call it a Loonie because the loon on the face looks so much like or former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Our two-dollar coin is called, naturally, a Tooney.
Looney-Tooney melodies in Canada!

If pictures of you do you any justice, I would dearly love to see you shake an electrified Tooney. I would not be at all shocked.

This old conjure man worries about what they've done to Canadian money. The loonies and toonies look so much like Mexican Pesos that it's starting to scare me.
A pocketful of toonies gets to feel like ballast on the Titanic.
...I mean, if we're going to stay a good copycat country, we should get back to quarters and dimes like any sane society.
But everything is automated these days and we need those Tooneys.
But why do they have to be so flippin' huge?
Like Canadian sardines. They are really Mackerel and once you eat them, the whole street knows it, they are so smelly.
This brings me to a joke I dare not finish.
"Why do little girls carry minnows in their pocket?...

I think I've had too many sardines.
Sardines and oysters are like Viagra!
I gotta stop letting Erik influence me. LOL.

Josie said...

You guys are too funny. I don't even dare go to Erik's blog. I'm at work.

Going to Tiffany's after work. I have to check it out. It will probably be filled with rich tourists.

Josie

EA Monroe said...

http://www.answers.com/topic/united-states-dollar-2

paste that into your browser, Ivan. It has an interesting history on US coins and $$. We have Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollars. There's nothing like buying postage stamps at the post office and walking around with about 20 pounds of change in your pocket! ;-)

ivan said...

Josie,
Was it you who told my that the little black dress Audrey Hepburn made memorable in Breakfast at Tiffany's just sold for $924,200?
According to the premium paid to auctioneers at Christie's, this was the total cost for the sleeveles,floor-length Givenchy cocktai gown,but then it rose to over a million.

Not that I have taken to dress design, backing up on lightbulbs, talking endlessly about antiques and humming show songs--I just find it interesting from a literary standpoint.
--Gaylord.

Josie said...

Ivan, it was auctioned in London yesterday for $807,000. The proceeds are going to charity to a village in India.

Gaylord? Okay, I just spitzed my cranberry juice all over my computer screen. I'm going to take out shares in Windex.

Josie

ivan said...

Josie,
Certainly not in Sappho Cannisters.
LOL.

ivan said...

Must be my frequent reading of Erik's blog, but it does appear that size matters.
I get from your info that the Susan B.Anthony coin, or "Carter Quarter" was confused with a regular quarter, etc., etc..
Drove vending machine guys crazy for a while. Sacagawea more like a reasonable way to go.
We just have the Looney and the Tooney here. These coins are huge and not confused with quarters.
Size matters?
Some say JFK was killed because he wanted to produce real American greenbacks and not some abstract from (Japan?). Seems the JFK coin was the real deal.
What do I know.
I come from a strange enchanted place where frogs chop down trees.

Josie said...

How is it that all of our blogs start out so intelligently and just deteriorate as the day goes on?

It's too funny.

Josie

ivan said...

Blame it all on Erik and Dostoevsky.
Dostoevsky said once that all men really wanted to be was arse-banditry .
I don't know what Erik is doing, except that it's bringing out the Yahoo in me.
Can't blame Erik.
I think I spent too much time in the service, revelling and carsousing.
One would rather be a holy fool, but with this traumatized webhost, it's turning out to be more of a one-word thin.
Next blog we hope to get serious.
Ha.

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