Monday, November 13, 2017

Thoughts on Fall Cleaning

Fan Mail, not from Some Flounder, though.

The Bear's Secretary Divulges Odd Discoveries

You do Spring cleaning. Bears do Fall cleaning, getting their caves ready for hibernation. He found all sorts of odd and wonderful things in his secretary this morning. (A secretary is an essential old piece of furniture: a tall cabinet with bookshelves on top. a fold-down writing surface that reveals many little drawers and cubbyholes, and big drawers below.)

Was the generation before boomers made up of hoarders, or was it just the Bear's family? Perhaps it was because the Bear's adopted parents were so poor growing up. When the Bear's mother passed away, the task of disposing of everything in her house and garage was staggering. Much of it was sheer junk.

And, yet, this morning, the Bear found a folded envelope with "first haircut" written in his adopted father's hasty and difficult to read handwriting. The hair was blond and looked as if it were cut yesterday. (The Bear did not turn gray, except around his muzzle; his fur just got dark.) How do you throw something like that away? Not because it means much to the Bear, but it meant enough to his father to keep a tiny part of his childhood forever.

A silver pocket watch that was Red Death's first Christmas present back when we were dating. The Bear wound it up. It works just fine, so he found a mismatched chain that used to belong to her grandfather and put it in his pocket for the first time in 30 years or more.

The Dead Hand of the Past

And, yet, we try to avoid too much sentimentality when it comes to things. We just don't keep much, preferring to spare our children the pang of having to throw away things that will not mean a lot to them. The Bear thinks parents are often afraid to let their children grow up to be their own persons. After a certain age, continuing to parent them is unhealthy.

That need for control can even extend to the dead hand from beyond the grave. Countless stories were told about hundreds of items with the expectation that they would be passed down generation to generation. By analogy, the law of wills and estates wisely forbids gifts that depend on an heir doing some particular thing. Many of a parent's fond dreams get buried long before the parent, although many parents don't seem to recognize that.

The Bear and Red Death are not hoarders, or even keepers. In fact, we just rented a giant trash bin to clean out the garage. Even so, we have managed to accumulate a lot of stuff. Some things are just hard to throw away. Most of what has accumulated is stuff we just never got around to getting rid of.

The Bear wants to die with empty paws. He feels strangely non-attached to the things around him. He has seen others die trying to hold onto everything. "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither." Job 1:21. In a similar way, he realizes his cubs are all grown up now. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they don't need him anymore.

Thank God! If adults still need daddy, there was something wrong with daddy.

Unexpected Treasure

You should always keep some things around, though, to find years later during your Spring cleaning, or Fall cleaning, to bring a smile or a tear.

At the bottom of a bookshelf the Bear found two original final drafts of Judging Angels, printed out at Staples and spiral bound in two volumes. The published version is completely different, especially toward the end. And yet, he still loves the "wolf-witching" (no, Bear hadn't read or seen Game of Thrones) and a resolution that depended upon cleverness and tear-jerking sacrifice. It was sweet and melancholy and unresolved, like Wagner's Tristan Chord.

Of course, there's a reason Judging Angels got published as a much different story. It's indisputably better. The original draft will always be a private treasure. Okay, 99.9% private. Here's the very end of the original draft. Don't worry, no spoilers. This is the... Let's call it the "No Place Like Home" version.

A Very Different Ending

Now the flashing sign said: BRING ON THE DANCING GRILS. The nihilistic message had been replaced by the lure of dyslexic dancing girls. He thought it a vast improvement. Bring on the dancing grils!

His choices were the stuff of headlines in Heaven. He had a stack of bad clippings in his head from the Future Past Edition.

He sped along a highway that was, for all he knew, the stuff that dreams were made on; toward a home that might exist only in his heart. It didn't matter. He was happy to be alive, even turned inside out.

His cell phone broke into his thoughts.

Did he want to collapse the wonderfully open world to a point of cold certainty just yet? He pulled it out and glanced at the screen, and furrowed his brow beneath the brim of his baseball cap. 


Now, this was unexpected. When the brief conversation was over, he shrugged, shook his head, and turned his frown into a smile.

Pop Quiz

Work in Progress for a Work in Progress.

The above picture depicts which of the below?
  1. Red Death contributes to nest-building material.
  2. Concept art for Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."
  3. A symbolic representation of the typical redhead.
  4. A badly botched infiltration.


  1. Are telling us you were going through the drawers of your secretary? Another celebrity confession! Will these relevations never cease?

    1. At least it was his secretary and not his cabana boy.


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