Tonight the father feels scratched and bumped, as if the entire day has been a running of a gauntlet of nasty trolls that were determined to throw him off what he had in mind or at least to enjoy seeing him driven to a brain-snap. He had always toyed with the idea of having a brain snap, old school: cops, blood, ambulance—but then he'd seen the results in a paddy wagon late one night: brain-snapper handcuffed and placed in wagon; wagon accelerates towards red traffic lights; wagon jams on brakes; crunch! Offender hits inside wall of the wagon—and everyone in the pub laughing. Not worth it.
So whence the scratches and bumps? It had started out as such a sweet day: May sunshine; the last daughter and her friends chasing and wrestling (and being chased by) the family dog up and down the house until it was barking; the last boy cheerful and lanky in a windmill hat for his mufti day at school; the immaculate working mother up bright and early to the office; and lastly himself off to teach a vibrant class full of laughter and jokes with bright students who understood quickly, saw implications and immediately entered into enactment. What more could a teacher want?
'Not a teacher,' he tells himself. 'Just a mover of stuff around in people's brains; door-opener and rebellion starter—that's me. 'Teachers imprison and tell lies. Teachers make you do stuff you don't want to.'
First little grump of the day but he gets over that, tells himself to wake up and grow up, finishes the class; goes to a meeting; has lunch and then makes for the computer where he attempts to create, edit and send a file before he leaves for the next appointment. But even with the help of the button with the magnifying glass he is unable to find a cherished paragraph he needs to click and drag from another file. He knows it is in there. Time runs out and now he is really angry.
He stands, walks along the hallway to the laundry and stops, not sure what to do. But he knows what to do. He apologises, feels the power—of an already broken curse—fading quickly and is ashamed of this nasty little rush of complaint against fact, of angry gibberish, and is glad of Calvary. The almost finished and sent file must now be left till after dinner to be completed and sent.
By the time he returns to the job it is well into the evening, but with a cool head he finds the paragraph easily enough and sends the message. With not much of the night remaining, the father pours himself a port and heads for the next level—down that is. Down is always the preferred option, for that is where the books live; the secret world of dreams, which at the moment is a moderately busy street: a thriller about a geek girl who's apparently going to solve a murder but has taken a hundred and thirty pages and still hasn't been stabbed. And this in a book that has sold twenty six million copies. The father is sure that this is a bad sign re: the reading public. Next is a fat book of theology by an old Englishman holding forth on resurrection. The father (although he is a religious teacher) had virtually given up reading theology books twenty years ago, but this old gentleman researches and thinks as painstakingly and honestly and
interestingly as the (fictional) geek girl in the murder thriller. Lastly is the warlock father in a supernatural thriller, who has just manufactured a plasmoid human body that he is using as a kind of router: a device, which, in the computer world, forwards data packets along networks.
This occult-router has been shaped into a dwarfish middle-aged lady, with no soul and a limp, who's job is to connect with two others living in the the world of the dead, who, if they accept her data packets from the warlock, will be en-trapped into assisting the warlock-father to enslave his real target who lives in the world of the living. In other words he is arranging an ambush by using the plasmoid body and it's spirit connections as a conduit to plant dark viruses in the soul of his victim. Kind of like shooting someone in the back, but in such a way that your alibi is impeccable. The intensity, persistence and bitter determination of the plotting monster father sobers this father's mood.
That mood is sobered even further when he arrives at a place in the story where the dwarf plasmoid lady pauses and grapples with some opposing force. The author's words take on an unmistakably coincidental significance …
'Those who passed it heard a low croak coming from it, but not what it said. What it croaked to itself was a mass of comments and complaints: “But you would think, wouldn't you?” or “It's not as if I were asking much” or “I did think you'd understand” or “ After all fair is fair” or “ She might” or “He needn't” or “They could at least” … and so on and so on through all the silly and sinful imbecilities by which the miserable soul protects itself against fact.'12
That bit about 'the miserable soul protecting itself against fact' goes home, reinforcing the great sense of relief that the father has been feeling ever since the moment earlier in the day when he made his apology. The thought reminding him of another from the same author: 'Fact: the only thing that can be loved. “From him that has not shall be taken away, even that which he seems to have.” ' It would appear to the father that his fact-resisting moment earlier in the day had the potential to somehow make the rest of his day float away into non-fact and to cease to exist, and—unresolved and held onto—could have gone on forever until the rest of his life became not much more than a trailing cloud of smoking rage. All just for the sake of getting his own way. Every cell and nerve and muscle employed on and on into eternity for nothing other than the
satisfaction of self will. For a moment or two he pauses to remember and to cherish that moment of recognition of sin—in all its justifiable harmlessness—and of confession and of freedom.
12Charles Williams – All Hallows Eve p. 220