Thoughts on Sampsell’s Excerpt

20 Sep

Following links and following links and following links this morning, and I am at Spork Press from a click in Reader, and the story there didn’t quite move me, and I click again, “Selection from ‘This Is Between Us’. (a novel in progress) by Kevin Sampsell,” and there, there I’ve found it.

Last night, I read the Book of Ecclesiastes–all that vanity of vanities stuff clouding me up lately–and so I thought it might be a good release, and no. No not really.

After my mom died, things seemed inconsequential. Mostly, they still do. Vanity of vanities, all that. At her showing, her long-time friend Linda shuffled to me, hissing under her breath, What’s he doing here?

In the corner, in tears, sat a grizzle-faced man the size and shape of a sagging Volkswagon, wearing a striped black and grey sweatshirt and grimy jeans that tented his thick legs. For the last 4 years of her life, Dave had been mostly worthless. He took up space on their couch and chain-smoked and played Ninja Gaiden on an old Sega that once belonged to me or maybe Mahjong on their discount store computer and collected a Social Security disability check for feet that had long grown tired of supporting his bulk.

Linda blamed the hole in my mom’s heart on him. She had called a couple days earlier, her voice trickling on and on from the receiver about Dave, how they were always fighting, how unhappy she was with him, how Linda had always tried to encourage her to kick him out of the house, but Mom always said she needed the money. He paid half the mortgage with his disability. I finally said, “Linda, I can’t do this right now. The last thing I want to hear is someone telling me she died unhappy,” and I hung up on her.

She meant well though. I believe that, and I believed it hard, and I still did when I found out a few years later that Linda too had died from an unknown medical issue that she’d had since I could remember knowing her. I didn’t go to her funeral though I probably should have.

Linda didn’t hesitate to take me in when I was only 10 and my mother and I showed up on her doorstep at 2am, our bruises from my step-father fresh and deepening. I stayed there for 2 weeks playing Masters of Magic on her son’s Compaq 486 and working on my fuseball slam shot until Mom called and said it was safe to come home, my step-dad had agreed to start going to his AA meetings again. My mom made a lot of mistakes.

I’m not sure why I didn’t go to Linda’s wake. It seemed inconsequential at the time. We all die. For most people, I think death is the most inconsequential part of a person’s life, unless they’re a martyr maybe. My problem has always been that I never know what is and isn’t consequential. Probably everything is, but how could we go on living with that anymore than if everything isn’t?

“What has he done to prove himself to you?” she asked you.

You remembered how I bought you flowers, how I said I was sorry, how I undressed you like a starving man, but that was about it. You told your friend that it had to do with having time apart and how that put things in perspective. But in the back of your mind, several sad defeated thoughts scrolled by: This is as good as I will ever get now… I can’t remember what I was unhappy about… I have always overreacted about simple things… Why should someone prove themselves to me when I can’t even prove myself to anyone?… It would be nice to have someone help with the bills… I don’t want to die alone.

Read the rest at Spork Press.

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