The following paragraphs arose from my on-again off-again effort to write about a fictional character, James Kneeblood.  I conceived of him a few years ago and have written quite a lot about him, but my writing has never been satisfactory.  Unsatisfactory writing has never stopped me before, but for some reason, I’ve been more sensitive about the quality of the writing, or lack thereof, concerning Kneeblood.
My ideas about him and about his strange relationship with the world are by no means fully formed.  I’m posting this very short snippet simply to get a reaction from those who might stumble upon this page.  I have much, much more that I am not prepared to share at the moment.  This tiny snippet is one of those bits I find unfit for public consumption, but I post it here nonetheless.  I am not looking for praise, but for criticism.   Thanks.  ~John Swinburn~

Kneeblood gravitated toward women who willingly agreed to engage in behaviors that would lead to a larger population.  And he was attracted to women who would be willing to bear his children but who, nonetheless, held children in low regard, women who did not feel much, if any, responsibility for children, whether theirs or others’.

His wives’ indifference, coupled with Kneeblood’s egotism, allowed him to select what many would say were unfortunate names for their children.  There was a bit of twisted kishmo ken hu about his child-naming practice, inasmuch as he half-held the belief that the name he chose for his child would represent the child’s future character as it would evolve from attributes of the mother.  He did not seem to care that his propensity for picking odd names for his children would subject them to years of relentless, cruel teasing inflicted by other children. Later, though, his failure to consider how his children’s names would influence their lives would lead him to protect them in the only way he knew how.

He named his first daughter Phaelaysho.  Phaelaysho’s mother, Phaedra, was a veterinarian.  Phaedra was far better equipped to care for dogs and cats than children, so Kneeblood took on the role of caregiver from the outset, though unsuited for the task.

His next daughter would be named Rumour, followed shortly by Mexican, then by Inebria and, finally, Lugubria, each of whom arrived about ten months apart, most born to different mothers. Only Rumour and Mexican shared both their parents.  In every case, the mother’s involvement with Kneedblood, and with the child, ended abruptly after a short time.

In the space of just over three years, Kneeblood assembled a family of five strangely-named daughters.  He had just turned thirty-nine years old when Lugubria was born. There is more to say about each of the women who bore Kneeblood’s five daughters, but it is impossible to understand them without first understanding something of Kneeblood.

Kneeblood’s career was pockmarked with entrepreneurial deviance.  His earliest efforts played out in Louisiana swamps, trying to farm salmon using fry he stole from Idaho fish hatcheries.  When that inevitably failed, he raised enough money to buy a bar in old East Dallas, a place that had failed more than once under multiple owners in recent years and was destined to fail again under what would become Kneeblood’s notoriously bad marketing and management skills.

He called the bar in old East Dallas The Third Place, after the term Ray Oldenburg coined to describe centers of social life that augment the two primary ones, home and work.  The genesis of the latter failure was his desire to end his sense of isolation and his desire for a place to enjoy being be with people like himself. That desire could not be satisfied in Dallas, Texas, though.  That impossibility was not simply because the city has laws against progressive thinking and rational thought.  It was also because there were no other people like Kneeblood in Dallas.  And there were no other people to like Kneeblood.

Kneeblood had tried, off and on, to be a sociable person, though the paucity of depth and intensity of those endeavors were evidence of the degree to which his heart simply was not in it.  His cursory attempts to fit into the normal social landscape amounted to abject failures. His closest friends, apart from his wives, were no more than casual acquaintanances who, on rare occasion, would be invited to share a bottle of wine and engage in conversation of Kneeblood’s choice, which choice would never include discussions of sports and other subjects Kneeblood found boring or offensive. While most of us acknowledge that participation in conversations about topics we find dull or borderline offensive is simply the price of social engagement, Kneeblood believed such acceptance was tantamount to one’s surrender to intellectual inferiority and his ego would not permit such a thing.  He did not consider himself an intellectual giant, but he was, by god, unwilling to listen to and engage in conversations that could endanger what intellectual capacity he did have to a level he would have found unacceptable.

Fortunately for those with whom he interacted, Kneeblood did not frequently articulate his opinions and assessments.  Instead, he tended to stay out of conversations he found unworthy or annoying, thereby hiding his disdain for such topics and the people who promoted them.  It was not his intent to berate people for their intellectual flaws, so he simply kept silent about them to the extent his limited self-discipline would allow.


© 2013, John Swinburn

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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