Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The House Bustling with Activity, but Gutted

Here's a little taste of Latitudes, the story of Will Kogan's youth and teenage years. I wanted to tell a coming of age tale that ends with the realization that life is largely shaped by one's self-perception. Most teenagers see themselves as in the grip of larger forces than they can understand, at least that's the sense I get from my job as a teacher. Becoming a functioning adult is getting that first inkling that the direction you take your life in is up to you. Mostly the rest depends on getting better at steering.

Will played on the tiled living room floor and ran through the kitchen, terrorizing the maid and the two sisters with a plastic shield and sword, a roundtable knight from the book about Arthur and Guinevere. Another book about Greek mythology had pictures of the Medusa with her snaky hair. But the backyard and the swaying sea of dried elephant grass beyond the fence, the ominous and mysterious tower like the ramparts of some castle, formed some pole star of fatal attraction. He had a plastic yellow car, which you could pedal. He liked to position it at the top of the hill and careen down it, pedals screaming, bouncing off the rocks and rutted earth towards the region of myth.

Mother and a female friend stood at some distance.

"Watch me," he yelled, and flew down the hill, landing at the bottom in one piece, dragging the car back from the edge of the fence.

"Bravo," her friend said and clapped. Mother turned with a vague sort of pride, and they walked back to the house across the paving stones.

Will played by himself, exploring the territory around the house. The street was forbidden and the fence was too high to scale. The ants, however, could get around any of these restrictions with their small size and formidable will. He admired them. You could attract one with a fingertip, have it climb on, carry it a distance away and set it down on a blade of grass and it would resolutely set off down the blade of grass and back in the direction of its original destination. They seemed to be attending to important matters, and the hole they disappeared down sucked him down along with them. Will forgot himself. Hours later, in the rapidly descending tropical twilight, the maid's voice called him home. Without pleasure he complied, returning to his childhood and assuming the role of the son in that strange, lonely house, bustling with activity, but gutted, caving in on itself out of some unknown physical force in its routines and orbits.

(photo by Joe Jusko
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