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If a Miracle Occurs and There’s No One There To Give Witness

So, here’s the thing: I started writing a novel a few weeks back with an opening that goes like this:
Before going to bed one night, Jimmy Mullen laid out everything he needed for the last morning of his life.  His suit was cleaned and pressed; likewise, his shoes were shined.  After dinner, Mullen took three neckties from his closet.  He painstakingly knotted them together and fashioned the makeshift cord into a noose.  For several weeks, Mullen busied himself with the task of finding the perfect venue for his exit.  He did not want to be so far removed from civilization that it might take weeks before someone found him.  Hanging, by his estimation, was a gallant way to leave this world.   
The idea for this present novel came in a dream.  I know: you’re thinking ‘yeah, right’.  Actually, it was one phrase I heard in my sleep. 
This novel is something of a departure for me, owing to my taste for the fantastical in fiction (not to mention some good old-fashioned horror).  My hurdle with this one is to portray a story in which a miracle of sorts occurs that affects everyone in the town where my main character Jimmy Mullen lives; that is, to portray a story but leave out any magic realism, fantasy, etc and keep the story grounded in the real world. 
Miracles, depending on what your belief system might be, may occur every day without our knowing.  Or if you happen to be of the agnostic or atheistic bent you may ascribe certain unexplainable occurrences to chance, chaos theory, etc.  Whatever the case, my intention then is to write a novel in which said miracle may or may not have a positive effect on Mullen my main character who intends, at the start of the novel, to take his life.
Right now, if I have even one reader of this god-forsaken blog, someone is reading this and thinking: oh no, O’Brien wants to kill himself.  Why else would he write about a guy who is suicidal?  Of course, people said the same thing about Michael Chabon when he published his Mysteries of Pittsburgh novel.  Any man who can write about two men having sex must be gay.  I submit that you look up Chabon and his beautiful wife Ayelet Waldman and tell me what you think. More to the point, however; though a more historical reference; is Stephen Crane who wrote with such realism about The Civil War despite being born after the war.
Anyway, back to my dilemma: Mullen is a guy who believes he’s been a dealt a bad hand throughout most of his adult life.  What I mean to show in this novel is how Mullen’s beliefs, distorted and undoubtedly crippling to him, do not jive with what’s real, and certainly not with what’s true.  Yes, his inferiority complex has kept him from striving to reach certain goals; but early in his life his mother steered him on a course that was detrimental to the path he should have taken.  Yes, he married and divorced a woman who was, shall we say, more independent than he (or at least possessing the chutzpah to live a life without regret; despite what society deems appropriate).  In the end, or more specifically as the novel opens, Mullen asks for a sign, any sign, a minor miracle if you will, to show him that his life is worth living despite a succession of disappointments, failures and enduring pain that has defined who he is.  His answer comes in a form that not only affects him, for better or worse, but his community as well.
So where was I?  I am 30,000 words into this new baby of mine (or ¼ finished, give or take tens of thousands of words).  And while I continue to plot an outline and write diligently every day, often creating character stories that have nothing to do with the novel itself (I think this little time-consuming exercise helps to make for characters that are more whole), I am not sure how things will turn out for Mullen. 
As with the majority of my stories I have written over the years, and a few novels that never saw the light of day, I often write the end before the book is even finished.  Or if I can’t write the final chapter I at least can write a summary detailing how the story will wind up.  The same goes for this new novel.  Still, I’m torn. 
The question that plagues me now is two-fold: are miracles enough to change the course of a man’s life, and if they are, does a man even recognize them, even the little ones, when those miracles occur?

Judge Not, Lest You Be Accosted

Lately, I have noticed a phenomenon going on around the area where I live.  People are becoming more and more agitated.  When I lived in northern New Jersey, not far from New York, I decided it was a given that people were rude, short-tempered, etc.


Now, I live in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.  In every region of our country each population possesses its own habits and foibles.  Anyone who has ever traveled anywhere (save maybe for Vegas which is another story that will stay in Vegas) knows this.  But socio-geographical differences aside, I have noticed the same in my quiet little neighborhood.  Unless there are transplants arriving enmasse from places like the greater New York metropolitan area (or Paris), then I can only surmise a few scenarios that have turned people in mean-spirited, pupil-pinpointed, raging lunatics.


Scenario #1: Economic difficulties.  This is one that has merit, but judging from the agonizing looks on people behind the wheels of their Mercedes and their BMWs I have serious doubt about how much the economic decline has hurt their wallet.  I would pass judgment too on those drivers who hide high above the road in their Humvees but my compact Korean-made car doesn’t allow to see those folks eye to eye.  In our society there have always been the haves and the have-nots.  This will never change.  The titles just shift from time to time, but the margin is not that great.


Scenario #2: Conspiracy Nut Spoiler Alert: a virus released into the air that effects those portions of the human brain that control compassion and reason.  Not for nothing, but my half-assed research has proven a correlation between chem trails in the air and my run-ins with the emotionally unstable, rabid few that ruin the day for the many.  Take from this what you will…


Scenario #3: A moving away from any sense of spirituality.  I’m not talking about goose-stepping, Lord-praising, mindless born-agains who lack the wherewithal to question the validity of their faith.  I’m talking about a simple feeling that exists within us more rational types that allows us to differentiate between the micro and the macro.  In other words, the sense that humbles us when we pause and consider something greater than ourselves.  We, as a society, have moved away from family as a center of gravity in our lives.  In its place we became possessed with the desire to define ourselves as consumers first.  And let’s not forget the myriad pharmaceuticals prescribed by the mental health industry that rain down on this great land of ours like sweets from the Big Rock Candy Mountain.  The very same drugs that are altering the neuro-chemical processes in our brains faster than any data from drug companies that can be made available to the public about real, long-term side effects.


It pains me to leave the house most days.  I don’t want to deal with people who sacrificed any shred of decency long ago for the sake of the ego-centered universe.  Still, I do go out and suffer their delusions of grandeur and ignorance.  Perhaps if I started taking medicine for the mind I wouldn’t feel so bad about being accosted by these monsters.  At the least I wouldn’t be aware of it. And at most, perhaps, I might even view arrogance and meanness as acceptable behavior.


In the end I suppose that our Beloved Maker gave us Free Will as means not to choose what is right or wrong, but as a means to solidify our own miserable end.  And people ask me why I don’t go to church anymore…It has less to do with a failing sense of faith in something greater than me and more to do with the tantrums my fellow congregation members throw once a church service lets out and everyone jockeys for position to exit a church parking lot.  These are the faces of the possessed.  The ones who exist outside God’s good grace.  Only, they don’t know it.  Or maybe they do and that’s why so many people seem so mean and crazy these days.

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