A snippet of fiction commanded me this morning to unleash it from the cage inside my head. It’s only a tiny fragment of what must be hidden inside my brain, but it claims there’s more where it came from. I may try to mine for it later. Or I may not. Well, whichever the case may be, here is the miniscule, utterly incomplete, fragment:

The stresses of her everyday life accumulated the way dust in an abandoned house collects from years of neglect. The little bothers and more emphatic anxieties banded together in an attempt to overwhelm her—they arrived slowly yet steadily. Sometimes they sprang on her suddenly, leaping at her from behind dark shadows that concealed unpleasant surprises. Over time, the cacophony of nerves scraping against nerves muffled the pleasant sounds of her hoped-for sounds of serenity and calm. The incessant noise grew loud and more insistent, as if determined to chase away from her every delicious morsel of peace. Almost all of her waking moments began to be filled with angst. And when she closed her eyes in the evenings—a rarity—sleep slogged through the night like an escaped prisoner fleeing bloodhounds in a mucky swamp.  Eventually, the intensity of her stress morphed into more powerful tension. And then into mental trauma that felt as burdensome as a heavy stone on her chest. Finally, after years of coping, her resolve collapsed. She could no longer maintain a front; no more could she pretend to be strong and sane and able to deal with her demons. All this came out later, after the episode that triggered everything that followed.

It happened on a chilly Saturday night in February. As was her Saturday evening routine, Siobhan Greely had dinner alone at the Prim Peacock, the quiet six-table restaurant on the first floor of the building where she lived in her walk-up flat. After dinner and her post-meal walk, Siobhan climbed part way up the stairs toward her apartment when she stopped. Later, she said she stopped for a moment to listen to the music wafting up from the street below. But that night, there was no street music. That night, the woman who managed the Prim Peacock said she heard a bone-chilling howl coming from the stairway. A moment later, the manager said, Siobhan came racing down the stairs, screaming incoherently that “the goddamn furies are after me!”


For the second consecutive morning, I demanded that I take a short walk outside. I made two passes around the street’s circle just outside the house and walked up toward the end of the street, to the fire hydrant, and back. It’s not far, but for someone with my extremely limited stamina it was sufficient to get my heart started. The doctors I’ve seen recently have individually suggested that I need to do moderate exercise to help me regain my stamina. Moderate exercise may be too forceful a term; I just need to move a little each day. Yesterday, I saw a deer bound off as I entered the circle at the end of the street. Today, I saw nothing but heard birds make a racket in the distance; perhaps a creature, running from the sound of my footsteps, disturbed the birds’ resting places.


Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.

~ Thomas Jefferson ~


This morning, we will make a two and one-half hour drive to visit friends for lunch. Coincidentally, we’ll take my collection of vinyl records to them; my friend was the first to claim them, so they are hers. I feel the need to get back on the road again, even though it has been only two weeks since we returned from our three-week road trip. This short trip is not going to satisfy me, either; I can feel that. I have a hankering for cooler weather; Wisconsin seems too hot these days. The appeal of eastern Canada grows by the day. Oh, well. We’ll see.

I have little intellectual energy this morning, so I’ll stop trying to accomplish the impossible. I’ll charge into the day, instead.

About John Swinburn

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