Nathaniel’s E-Journal, Feb. 5th, 20– “Memories of Music and Fibromyalgia”

I had just gotten back to Pointer after doing some book signings up in Allentown Pennsylvania.  The night was still young, but I didn’t feel like dropping in on Brian and his family.  After spending hours talking and signing books I felt like having some alone time.  So I headed downtown to where my club awaited.

Being a Thursday night, I knew it wouldn’t be open to the public so it was a safe bet I’d have the place to myself.  After quietly leaving my car near Doctor Jack’s office, I walked the streets for a while in order to stretch my legs.  It felt good.

I never knew being an author could be so tiring at times.  Oh the late nights writing suit me fine, but ever since I signed a few deals with Hollywood, my presence has been in demand.  Meetings, lectures, book signings, and personal appearances have kept me busy lately.  So not having to be anywhere in particular and being able to wander a bit is very relaxing.

But as I drew close to the alleyway that led to my club, I spotted a familiar figure lingering nearby.

It was Teddy, one of my regular customers.  He’s a nice kid who I helped out a few weeks ago when one of the jocks tried to bully him for asking a cheerleader to dance.  I put a stop to things rather quickly, especially when I realized he suffered from Fibromyalgia.  Ever since that night I’ve felt a kind of kinship towards him.

Although I never got a diagnosis, I know I shared his affliction when I was even younger than him.  The constant pain left me tired and unsteady at times.  But I was labeled ‘lazy’ and ‘clumsy’ by many, including my father.  So I had to learn to hide my constant discomfort and fight my body’s tendency to not want to cooperate at times.  I don’t think my father ever realized how much work I put in to just trying to appear to be normal.  My mother on on the other hand knew better as did my little sister Isabella who often asked that I accompany her places to read to her.  Being so young and blessed with eyes like an angel’s, Father barely ever refused her requests thus getting me out from under his watchful eye.

It wasn’t that he was cruel, I think he simply believed that being firm with me would lead to my becoming a ‘real’ man down the road.  The idea of disappointing him always haunted me, which was part of the reason why I joined the Which is part of the reason I joined the 7th West Virginia Volunteer Regiment when the Civil War started.  The day I appeared before him and mother in uniform for the first time I could see the pride in his eyes.

But I also saw something else, fear.  This is probably what led to his pulling me close, something he rarely did with me and said, “I know how much you hurt sometimes and that your body can betray you.  They say this’ll be over before Christmas, so don’t be foolhardy.  Come back in one piece and know I’m always going to be proud of you, my son.”

Oh how I would’ve loved to have heard those words so much sooner, but just hearing them once was more than enough.

Looking at Teddy I knew he could use some words of comfort as well.  His shoulders were slumped and in his face was a trace of tiredness I knew only too well.

After a brief greeting I invited him inside the club.  He seemed surprised but was more than willing to accept my invitation.  We both knew the seats were comfortable and that the place would be nice and quiet.

Soon we were sitting quietly near my piano, chatting away.  He was now dating Tina, a member of the cheerleading squad.  She wasn’t the one he’d been asking to dance when the trouble started, but she had been on hand and had helped him up after I intervened.  Like him, she too suffers from Fibromyalgia, but that was not the reason he was alone tonight.  She had gone out of town to visit relatives, leaving him with time on his hands.

“So what brought you out this way?” I asked him. “You knew the club wouldn’t be open tonight.”

“Nothing,” he replied, a little too quickly.  “I was just in the neighborhood and needed to take a moment to rest when you saw me.”

He was hurting.  That much I was sure of.  But he also wasn’t telling me everything.  I decided to dig a little deeper.  “You know, when my Fibro was acting up I didn’t always feel like taking long walks.”

Teddy gives me an odd look, but says nothing.

“And I know you live all the way over on the other side of town,” I continued.

This time I saw realization sink in and his shoulders sagged.  “Okay, I came all the way over here to try and get to the music store before it closed, but I didn’t make it.”

By this time my curiosity was aroused.  “What were you going to get there?  Sheet music?”

“No a guitar,” he tells me.  “I’ve been getting lessons from one of my cousins for years now and I’ve gotten really good.  But I only really get to practice when I can borrow his or at school.  But I can’t take the ones from school home with me.  So I saved my money and was going to finally get my own, but my Fibro slowed me down and… well, you know the rest.”

I was both impressed and a little confused by his determination to get the instrument.  “You came all this way, even though you were hurting like hell to buy that guitar?  How come?  Why was it so important to you?”

He looked away from me and stared down at his hands.  “When I play, I lose myself in the music and I can forget the pain for a while.  I don’t feel like a loser or a lame-o,” he replied quietly.

“I know what you mean,” I told him and stood up.  Wandering over to my piano I continued, “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat here and just cut loose so I could become lost in the music.  The same thing happens when I’m dancing as well.  I can forget whatever’s bothering me and with that respite my mind can clear itself for a time.  Then, when I’ve finished, I feel recharged.  Invigorated and ready to face whatever’s coming.”

My fingers brushed the white keys ever so gently.  This piano and I were old friends.  It had been given to me by Jimmy Durante, the great Schnozzola himself, as a gift some years ago and I treasured it.  His charitable nature extended way beyond his friends.  I remembered all the work he did for boys, girls and teens all over.

Just then I heard his voice as if it was coming from behind me saying those immortal words, “Do it for the kids.”

Without a second thought, I asked Teddy to stay put while I went down into the storage area.  After a brief search I found what I was looking for and came back with a guitar cases.  It had belonged to one of my many nephews who had given up playing after less than a year and had gone onto working on cars instead.

Opening the case I pulled the instrument out.  It looked as new as I remembered.

Teddy gasped and came over to take a closer look.  “Oh man, it’s a Gibson!  And it’s in mint condition.”

Smiling, I handed it to him and said, “See if it’s still in tune.”

It wasn’t, but my companion quickly fixed rectified the problem.  He had a good ear and definitely knew his stuff.  Soon he was treating me to a display of his skills that held me in awe.  I’ve learned to play a number of instruments over the decades, but I’d never mastered the guitar.  Harps, keyboards, violin and a couple of wind instruments were my limit.

But Teddy knew exactly what he was doing.  Watching his fingers flying up and down the guitar’s neck and picking those strings was a marvel to behold.  He played for an hour and then we talked until it was time for him to go home.  I sent the guitar with him on ‘permanent’ loan.  To say he was grateful would be an understatement.  But I knew it would do better in his hands than just sitting in the storage room. Especially since I knew it would help him through those difficult times when the Fibro was getting too much.

I don’t feel those pains anymore of course.  My condition freed me from the shackles of Fibromyalgia and a great many other infirmities.  But I never forgot what it felt like, or how even a small respite of any kind could mean so much.

Nathaniel’s Blog January 4th, 20–

It’s been two days since my last entry.  I had expected copying the letter I’d left Isabella to be hard, but not like that.  I should have known better.  Father told me in one of his letters that Isabella had kept my note on her nightstand to look at every night before she went to bed.  I had made her a promise that she had hoped I’d be able to keep, in spite of all the news that came back from the front lines.  I had always been able to keep my promises to her.  No matter what the odds were, I always found a way to fulfill them.  Which was probably why she was still clutching it in her hand that December night when…

 I’m getting ahead of myself again.  There are more letters and journal entries that must be copied and saved, but not tonight.  Something happened after I left here the other night, that I need to follow up on. 

You see, after Brian took the letter away to clean it, I left and began wandering the streets.  I don’t even remember what I saw or whether or not I passed anyone as I walked.  I just had to keep moving.  At times I ran, even though there was no one chasing me.  It was foolish of course, one cannot can run from memories of guilt, pain, or loss.  Especially not when you’ve had a hundred and fifty years to accumulate them, and God knows how many more decades ahead to add to them.

Probably that was what my brain was telling me when I finally came to a halt.  Back when I still had a breath to catch, I’d probably have been bent over trying to do just that.  But not these days.  Instead, I simply stood there taking in my surroundings, trying to figure out where I was.  Imagine my lack of surprise when I realized I was standing in front of my old homestead.  Perhaps the old saying you can’t run away from the past is more accurate than we think.

Civil War House

I stood there for several minutes staring up at the old manor.  Time had not been kind to it.  Probably because no one has lived in it since the 1970’s, when the last of a series of relations tried inhabiting the place passed away.  After she passed on there was no one else to take over the place, so it became another forgotten edifice from a bygone era.  I could have come forward to try and claim the place, but there would be awkward questions about my lineage,  Especially since I’d had myself declared among the fallen back at Gettysburg during the Civil War.  But that’s another story.

 Anyway, I felt compelled to enter the old grounds.  I did not go inside the building itself, I rarely do these days.  Maybe it’s seeing how time has and has not touched the interior.  Oh, the wallpaper has faded and peeled in many places.  Yet, a lot of the furnishings are still there, untouched, preserved by yellowed sheets that have accumulated layers of dust.  On the shelves sit figurines and books, untouched and forgotten.  As if waiting for someone to brush away the cobwebs and clean them off to they can be admired once again.

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 The portraits still hang in the gallery beneath dust cloths, their colors preserved and vibrant thanks to being spared and denied the light. Forgotten and unappreciated works of art by some of the most skilled painters of their time.

Why has no one ever gone inside and tried to steal any of the these forgotten treasures, I do not know.   Not that I mind, but still it puzzles me.  Perhaps, some of the rumors of the place being haunted have a ring to truth to them?  I wouldn’t put it past some of my ‘nephews and nieces’ to have come up with story of the place being inhabited by spirits.  They probably even played a few tricks to help reinforce the idea.  Heaven knows the number of times they’ve begged me to claim my old homestead and live here permanently, so I can be close to them.  Generation after generation have made this plea, and I always refuse.

Not that the idea isn’t tempting.  But as I pointed out in my last entry, the longer I stay in one place, eventually tongues wag and trouble follows.  I couldn’t bear the idea of the place and all the things within, being destroyed.  I know time will eventually take its final toll, which is why I helped Brian’s father create the museum forty years ago.  My goal was to slowly remove the more valuable and treasured items from here and transfer them into the museum for safe-keeping.  Yet, every time I go inside the old place, I cannot bring myself to remove even a simple knick-knack.  It always feels like someone is glaring down at me with disapproval.

I did not enter the house, that night.  Instead I walked the overgrown path towards the family plot which sits a back in the trees behind the house.  There was once a little chapel as well, but that fell during the ‘Night of Fire’, along with my parents and our servants.  Again, another story, for another time.

The family plot is surrounded by a wrought iron fence which is only a few years old.  The original had long fell into disrepair and I’d had it replaced, with a new one that still had the old world look to it.  Oddly enough, the new gate creaked like its predecessor.  I could have had it fixed, but the sound seemed appropriate somehow.

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So when I heard it groaning in the distance I new we had visitors.  Normally, it would be one of my extended family, but not at three in the morning.  Besides, I’d already caught a whiff of smoke in the air.  No, these were most likely unwelcome guests.  And as the only liv… still walking member of the household, it was up to me to greet them.

My footsteps become silent, even thought I’m walking over layers of dried leaves from autumns long past.  Not only do I make no sound, there are no imprints to mark my passing.  I’m still not sure how I manage this little trick, it just seems to happen whenever I go into stealth mode.  Even after one hundred and fifty years, there are questions I have yet to answer about my condition.

I turn the corner and see three figures entering my family’s resting place.  Young would-be toughs.  I’ve seen countless numbers of them over the years.  The costumes may change, but the attitudes and arrogance is always the same.  I’m tempted to wait and get an idea of what kind of mischief they intend to get up to.  But I already hear the rattle of a spray paint can coming from one of their pockets, while another starts brandishing a crowbar.  The third kicks an old white stone I know so well.  It belonged to William, our butler.  It strikes me as disrespectful to see someone of African descent violating the grave of one of his own kind.

I decide to make my presence known.  “If you’re not here to pay your respects, I suggest you take yourselves elsewhere and find some other form of enjoyment,” I say loudly.

I won’t bother repeating the profanity they shoot in my direction.  Needless to say, it was followed with threats against my person if I didn’t start running.  Naturally, I did not retreat.  I merely stood my grounds and repeated my request in the form of a warning this time.

The one with crowbar was the first to start walking towards me.  He was white, about sixteen, with all the swagger and arrogance of someone who’d watched way too many ‘Gangsta’ films.  I kind of felt sorry for him, which is probably why I didn’t kick the living shit out him like I wanted.  Yes, I do curse and swear with the best of them.  However, I was also raised to be a gentleman and as such I refrain from using unnecessary violence when a simple scare can be far more effective.

He was about  twenty feet from me when I smile at him, put my hands in my pocket, and then and look down at the bottom of the jacket I’m wearing.  It goes all the way to the ground, similar to the style of coats back in my day.  It’s a style I’ve always been partial to and have kept using throughout the years.  Though I make sure the cut and collar are always in keeping with whatever the ‘modern day’ trends are of the time.

In this case, my coat has what’s called a Mandarin or Banded collar, which I leave unbuttoned as is the custom these days.

I glance up at him and smile.  This enrages him and he gets even more angry, which pleases me.  Anger can be your worst enemy sometimes.  While it may give you an adrenaline rush and maybe add a bit more to your punches, it can also make you careless.   He obviously has not noticed the movement taking place at my feet.

He soon does though.  The first dog head slips out from beneath my coat when he’s just ten feet away and growls.  That catches his attention.

It throws him for a second and then he laughs, “Oh you got a dog, huh?  You think he’s going to stop me from cracking your fucking skull open?  You a dead man, you here me?”

Then the second head emerges from the folds of cloth at my feet.  His blustering begins to waiver as the two hounds emerge.  Both are black with heads the size of  beachballs, with bodies to match.  I decide then to make their eyes glow red, a little something I picked up from the countless movies I’ve seen over the years.  It may seem trite, but the effect they have are always impressive.

As he takes his first few steps backwards, I can see his friends coming out of the gate looking worried.  There’s just something about seeing something that looks like a Pitbull, but is the size of a Great Dane that is really off putting to people.

Tough guy yells as the first dog lunges for him.  He takes a step back and tries to hit it with the crowbar.  He connects and the dog’s head splits in two.  For a moment he thinks he’s won, then realizes that each half is now shaping and becoming whole.  Now he’s dealing with an angry two-headed beast.

Unfortunately, I can smell the urine running down his legs as he screams like a girl and flees.  His buddies are already far ahead of him, chased by the second hound which had silently shot past Mr. Crowbar before he could blink.

Once I’m satisfied that they’ve had enough I retract my pets.  I’ve not moved an inch from where I’m standing, with good reason.  Thanks to the darkness, none of the trio noticed the long black lines stretching  from beneath my coat, across the ground and all the way to where the dogs should have hind quarters.  As the canine figures distort and stretch back beneath my coat, I sigh.  I could’ve easily shape-shifted into the form of a huge wolf, but that would start rumors.  And as you know I abhor those.

After my ‘pets’ are back in their proper place and I can feel my legs again, I enter the family plot and right the headstone.  I’m relieved to see that it hasn’t broken, or even cracked.  I was worried, considering its the original stone and fragile.  Eventually, I’ll have to replace it, but not yet.  Maybe in another few decades, but for now it’s still quite legible and beautiful in a weathered sort of way.

I check on the other graves, none of them were harmed.  I got here just in time.  But the flowers have been trampled, plus there are a few looking rather wilted.  I know what needs to be done.  As sacrilegious as it sounds, I slowly walk over each grave.  As the tails of my coat pass over them, the flowers are looking more healthy once more.

Satisfied with my handiwork, I take a final look around.  There’s no one near. I can even hear the trio still running, they’re at least a mile and half away.  Good.

I knew they wouldn’t be back, but I checked on things last night and stayed in the shadows until I sensed the dawn coming.  I intend to do the same tonight.  Brian is insisting on coming with me this time.  He wants to keep me company and go over some of the other letters I have to transcribe.  I think he’s going to bring his laptop with him in case the mood to type strikes me.

If he offers to do it for me I’ll decline.  Those letters and journal pages tell just a part of the story, only I can fill in the other sections.  No matter how hard or difficult I may find it at times, it needs to be done.

I can see it’s almost nine now, I’ve been here for over an hour already and Brian is looking antsy.  He wants to read what I’ve typed, which I will let him do.  He’s a good man, just like his father and grandfather and so on all the way back to his great-great-great grandfather, the first Brian Hennesy.  Or rather I should say Captain Hennesy, hero, and childhood friend.

I’ll probably speak more of him in my next entry, since the next letters will begin mentioning my military service.

Good night.

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First Blog Entry of Nathaniel Steward January 2nd 20–

So here I am, creating my very first blog entry.  Night has barely fallen outside, I can hear the rustlings of nocturnal creatures, who are as familiar to me as my own portrait, just outside these walls.  Soon I will join them again.  Enjoying our nightly rambles, through the brush and empty streets.  But first I must complete that which came here for.

 I confess that I still find the idea of using a computer to record my thoughts and memories a little… strange.  Especially one that can rest in my lap.  I saw the pictures of the early ones that took up room after room of space back in the 1950’s.  

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I even got to work on some of the ones that came later, with their huge spools of tape.  These days, you can fit more data than those eve could on a flash drive that is smaller than my finger.  Amazing.

 In just a few short decades the technology advanced by leaps and bounds.  Some would say it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye.  I know better, it was hardly that quick, but it was fascinating to watch it happen.

 But I digress.  I’ll have plenty of time to dwell on the things I’ve seen over time later.  Right now I need to take advantage of the museum being closed and copying some of my old correspondence into electronic form.  My godson Brian assures me that the words I copy will continue to exist in the ether of the internet for centuries to come.  We’ll see.  If I can still access them in another hundred to two hundred years, I’ll be more at ease.

Words and thoughts floating about in an electronic pocket, insubstantial yet as real as if they were put to paper, still fascinates me.  In spite of all the things I’ve seen and learned since I took my first and last breaths so long ago, humanity continues to amaze.  Thank the heavens, my father always encouraged me to be curious and try new things.  He also taught me not to let go of the past and the things I loved, learned and lost.  He told me, nothing is truly lost if one can hold onto it in the heart and mind.  

He was right.  There are many who I can no longer touch or hold in my arms, but are still very much still alive within me.  But even a brain like mine cannot remember every little thing on a moment’s notice.  Our brains are constantly filling with new data, faces, likes, hates, and information that things can get cluttered.  Which is why I started journal writing back when I was only ten.  Even back then I understood how easy it was to lose track of one’s thoughts and memories at times.

I’ve kept all my journals, at least the ones that survived time, the elements and of course the fires.  I have a tendency to stay too long in some places.  Even when I hear some of the murmurings whispered in voices so faint, the speakers have no clue I hear them as if they were standing right next to me.  Murmurs give way to speculations.  Speculations then lead to secret meetings of those with a like mind.  Eventually, they in turn lead to spying and eventually open hostility.  Finally, action is taken, either by a few chosen or an entire community where entire homes and their contents are lost in flames.

However, I have an extraordinary memory and can recall most of the things I put to paper so long ago.  But this is not always the case. Which is why I have come to the museum.  My godson and his father, another godson of mine, oversee the place and all its treasures.  They and their families know me and what I’ve become, or rather what I became long before any of them were born. None of them fear me, only for me.  They are my guardians and defenders, as I have been theirs since the day I came back from the battlefield in 18… no.  That’s as story for another entry.  I’m digressing again and I know why.

 I glance down at the yellowed pages that lay preserved in plastic sheets at my right hand.  The ink has browned with age, but the handwriting is still very legible.  As well cared for as they are, these pages will one day crumble and be lost to me along with their words and the emotions they convey.  As painful as the task before me is, I must once more read those words and copy them onto a new page where time will not take them away from me.  An electronic page that will not crumble if touched by hand or age.

 I take a deep breath, well not really.  It’s more an old habit that never leaves you.  A memory the body has not forgotten and continues to do without you really thinking about it.  I have to admit, it’s one of those little details that keeps people from wondering too much about me.

 There I go again.  ENOUGH!  No more distractions.  I must copy these letters, or at least this first one.  Perhaps after I’ve done it, the others will be easier.

September 19, 1861

 My Dearest Isabella,

 I will be gone by the time you find this letter.  Pray forgive me for leaving without saying goodbye, but I know you would’ve tried talking me out of going if we’d met.  Know that I am fully aware of what I am doing will be dangerous.  However, there is so  much more at stake than just my safety.  

 Father himself spoke to us all at length about things discussed at the convention in Wheeling.  Our state of Virginia has become as torn asunder as the country itself due to the growing conflict.  Brothers are being drawn into conflict with each other on the expanding battlefield.  This can only be stopped if the rebels and traitors are forced to lay down their arms and return to the Union, before the war becomes too large to contain.  So, I go with my friends who have donned the blue uniform, to try and end this nightmare before it becomes too much to stop easily.

 Know that our commanding officer, a good fellow named Captain Hughes, assures us all that we can have this whole matter resolved within two months and that we will all be home before the year is out.  So rest assured, that I will be back in time for you and I to share Christmas along with mother, father and all our friends within the house.

 I want to see you hail and hardy on my return, which means you are to listen to Doctor Henry and take the medicine he’s prescribed for you.  That cough you developed recently sounded very unpleasant.  So rest and get well while I’m gone.  I shall return, perhaps with a medal or two for acts of heroism.

 Until then know you will always be in my thoughts, and I remain your loving  brother,

 Nathaniel

 

A barely finish typing the last words when I hear, “Uncle Nathan,?”

 I sit up and turn to Brian, holding out a box of tissues to me.  He gestures with his head to the plastic covered letter on the desk.  Drops of red have splattered across the protective covering.  

 Automatically I reach up and touch my cheek and feel tracks of warm, sticky moisture.  

 Sighing, I take one of offered tissues and wipe my face.  Brian tells me he’ll take care of cleaning the sheet protector.  

 “Thank you,” I tell him and stand up.  This was far harder than I expected, but it needed to be done.  A first step.  Perhaps the other ones will be easier to transcribe.  Then I think about the house I grew up in, just a few blocks from here and the family plot in the back.  No, it won’t get easier.  It never did.  Especially around Christmas…

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