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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Still Waters" Chapter Nine

The following details were added to Chapter Eight's description of Var in the courtroom:

"Var never took the stand, but his presence in the courtroom was palpable. The cheap suit they made him wear hung like a paper sack on his lanky frame and did nothing to upstage his sideburns and rockabilly, slicked-back hair. Wrong as it is to judge on appearance, he was the archetype of the kind of man who preys on needy girls with no sense of self-preservation, the kind who at thirteen try to look twenty; and at thirty try to look sixteen....."

Chapter Nine

It was early-May, two weeks before final exams, and the air conditioning had gone kaput in Dr. Sinclair's lecture hall, but the slight breeze coming through the back windows made it bearable for the thirty-seven students who sat scattered in the sixty-seat room. Dr. Sinclair stood at the front of his lecture hall and paced as he spoke.

"The opposite of innocence comes in many forms. While none can truly claim title to it, innocence is often treated like a birthright to be guarded by every living soul who at some point in time is free to dissect and compartmentalize it, thereby claiming innocence in selected behaviors while choosing to forsake it in others. How many times have you said, 'I may have done this, but at least I've never done that'?

"It should never be assumed, however, that the opposite of innocence is guilt, for wherever accountability to God is rejected, man becomes his own god and does that which is right in his own eyes. Guilt is then reduced to a feeling, a remnant of ancient notions of lost innocence and a longing for redemption. Once those old notions are expunged, guilt also becomes a thing of the past."

Dr. Sinclair was on a roll, and his voice echoed in the room.
"What man fails to see is that the relationship between innocence and guilt is much like that of justice and mercy.  Without the former term, the latter has no meaning. This is important in civil discourse. Take tolerance, for instance.  We are to be patient and long-suffering toward others, but that does not mean we must turn a blind eye toward debauchery. The difference between patience and tolerance is that the former sees wrong and defers judgment while the latter sees judgment and calls it wrong.

"Do you see the difference? Individuals and cultures can be characterized by their understanding of these terms and by the tolerances they adopt to avoid feelings of guilt, but their absence of such feelings should never be confused with innocence. There is a world of difference between Paradise and living among people who have eliminated the concept of guilt.

"Classic literature illustrates the human condition in that conflict not peace drives the storyline. We long for resolution that seems beyond man's reach. This hope of restoration can be seen from William Shakespeare to William Golding.  We are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. We prefer to think of man's troubles in abstract terms, but the conflict is not so much between good and evil, for instance, as it is between those who believe that good and evil exist and matter ...and those who don't."

A young lady's hand rose in the third row. "Will this be on the exam?"

A patch of non-threatening clouds blocked out the sun, and the river seemed colder to their feet. No one said a word as they drifter deeper and deeper their own thoughts.

As a father, James was well aware that the innocence he wished to preserve in his daughters was not a moral state but an ideal, a reflection of his desire—if not their own—to live as if accountable to God. He wanted for his daughters the kind of unblemished beginnings with their someday husbands that were once presumed of both parties. It's was an old-fashioned notion, but he knew the heartache it prevented and the honor it brought to wedding vows. He also knew that the man who does not believe in such things enjoys nothing more than soiling the lives of those who do. In his gut he knew Floyd Vargus was just such a man. He could see it in the brazen familiarity of his eyes. The fact that his daughter could come face to face with such a person in the middle of nowhere while floating down a river disturbed him more than he chose to say.

This tubing thing was to be a carefree change of pace for all of them. For Anna from the coffee shop; for Clair from her endless summer inventory of books; for Kenzie from the television; and for himself it was a cool-down from toiling with a ton of limestone from sunrise to noon.

He was satisfied with his work in the turtle garden: waterfalls and grottos, a pond with lily pads and cattails in the speckled shade. The fact that it was still on his mind was evidenced by his casual gathering of colorful rocks along the river's edge. Until ten minutes before the river had seemed like the idyllic paradise he was making for the box turtles. Now, try as he might to prove that he “was not going to let one jerk ruin their day,” the water seemed murkier; they felt more unseen twigs and weeds against the backs of their legs; and the carefree flow of their banter was gone.

Rounding another bend, the Sinclairs entered a long straight stretch of river. Ahead they saw another group that they had gained on while James was pushing them. This new group also had coolers and the glimmer of cans in hands held high. Within moments, Var's group rounded the same bend behind them. It was nothing to worry about James knew, but his family was now sandwiched between echoing choruses of crass laughter. After an audible sigh, James spoke.

"You know...the thought of catching that five o'clock bus and heading home is starting to sound good to me."

He got off his tube and began pushing again. As they passed the group ahead, they endured the friendly comments of drunken teens. Each of them was nursing a beer, and while some of them may have been "of age," there did not seem to be an adult among them.

"What sort of parents," James said aloud without meaning to, "let their children spend a day like this unsupervised."

"Children?" Anna asked. "You said children. Kenzie is the only child I've seen on this river."

He did not reply, and wished he had held his tongue, but, yes, he had said children. Perhaps he meant it in the sense that these young adults were presumably the offspring of parents who had relinquished their oversight duties long ago. Even those parents, when they turn eighty and these young people are sixty, will think of them as their children—it's one of the side-effects of parenthood. In James's case, he was of a mind that until he walked his daughters down the aisle, he was responsible for their well-being. A somewhat Victorian concept, but fortunately for him, Anna and the young man she was dating did not seem to mind.


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