Beautiful Feet & Other Myths

I’ve been thinking a lot about myths lately.

The other day, I happened upon this article, which claims that American films (and TV shows, etc.) find inspiration in Greek mythology in times of great social turbulence.  If this is true, I think we can expect to see several million remakes of the Odyssey next year.  Maybe more.

Around the same time, a friend of mine and I were talking about the mythical counterparts that we saw in our respective lives.   That day, I found myself on a bridge over the Fraser River, biking through a torrential rain storm.  The river was dark gray, and the industrial land on either side of the river looked barren and deserted.  It all felt very much like a journey to the underworld.  This may read as an unnecessarily harsh indictment of the Vancouver suburbs, but it actually made my ride feel less miserable, maybe even a little heroic.

Maybe that’s why we like stories about myths, because they make the struggles of life — getting soaked by the winter rain, having a government which raises taxes on the poor and middle class to give corporations tax breaks, feel more noble, more universal.  Maybe that why Greek tragedies have lasted so much better than Greek comedies.  Or maybe it’s just that they make us feel smug.   Yeah I was wet, but at least I didn’t murder my father and marry my mother.  Take that, Oedipus!

So spare a moment for a Joseph Campbell-esque thought:  today – what’s the mythical counterpart of what’s going on in your life?  What mythical creature or hero or god(dess) are you feeling?

Speaking of myths, below I’m pasting a story I wrote a few years ago and never published.  There’s a mythical creature in it.  Maybe several.

forest

Beautiful Feet

By Ari B. Goelman

Then she was gone, and I missed her.

We had met at an outdoor dance party in late July.  It was one of those endless summer nights you get in Vancouver, when the sun sets at 10 and it still feels early.  The party was on the roof of a friend of friend’s apartment building, high enough that you could see English Bay to one side, while on the other the mountains glowed in the setting sun.

The next day I woke up in her bed, with her asleep next to me.  Her feet were sticking out of the blankets.  I remember noticing how big and beautiful her feet were, right down to the glittery toenail polish, and tufts of fine, golden hair catching the sunlight.  She wanted to go hiking in the mountains that Saturday, but I convinced her to see some stupid Danish movie at the Cinemateque instead.

The summer stretched into a beautiful autumn.   A warm September, a mild October.  Our last night together was Halloween.  She dressed up as Liberty, I dressed up as Truth.  No one at the Halloween party understood our costumes.  We fought about it afterwards.  Our last fight.

I said, “What’s the point of dressing up if no one knows what you are?”

She blinked  — she had these beautiful, long eyelashes, the same golden color as her hair.  “What’s the point of dressing up?” she said simply.  She patted my cheek.  “Anyway, it’s over.”

“What’s over?” I said, hoping she was talking about the party, even as I understood that she was talking about us.  I couldn’t believe it.  It hadn’t been a particularly nasty fight.

“My heart is a mountain that you cannot climb.  It’s better if we just end it now.  I want to spend the next few months sleeping.”   She walked out of my apartment.  She didn’t say goodbye.  She didn’t bother with a final hug or fake tears or any of the other annoying parts of a break up.

And that was that.

She stopped returning my phone calls.  She didn’t come by the parties where I used to see her.  For hours, then days and then weeks, that was that.

She was gone, and I missed her.

I didn’t show up at work for so long they thought I had quit.  I had quit, I guess.  I bumped into my manager outside the office a few weeks later, and I made up lies about how I was spending my time.  I was learning to snowboard.  I was writing screenplays.  I was road biking, hiking, winter kayaking.  My blog had sponsors.  He should check it out.  Totally.

Really, I was spending my time thinking of her.  I was spending my time thinking that there had to be some combination of actions I could take, some perfect combination of words and flowers and calculated occurrences that would win her back.

And then, one day, I saw snow covering the mountains north of the city.  She had always wanted to take me hiking in the north shore, where she was from, but I never wanted to go.  Until now, without her.

The mountains weren’t so far away from the city, not really.  It took me two hours to get there, but only because I had to take two buses.  The first bus smelled like gas and sweaty people, but the second bus – the bus to the mountain – smelled like snow.

By the time I got there I was hungry.  I had brought three granola bars with me.  I ate one, wondering how I would get home.  The buses didn’t run very often.

I started walking.  I put on my hat and gloves, zipped my jacket up to my throat.  Goretex clad hikers jogged past me.  Some were carrying weights.  Some had dogs running next to them.

After an hour my legs hurt.  I rested, until I got so cold I had to keep walking.  Finally I got to the top of the mountain.  I still hadn’t reached the snow.  The snow line is higher than it looks from the city, where the mountains seem to be covered with snow.

There was a gondola on the mountain waiting to take me back down, and I realized I could have taken the gondola up from the beginning.  But there were more mountains behind the gondola.  It was just the beginning I realized.  Mountains on top of mountains on top of mountains.  It started to rain.

There was a little concession next to the gondola.  I bought a muffin and a cup of tea in a cardboard cup and kept walking.  After a while the rain turned to snow.  It smelled of her face.   The leaves were red and falling, blanketing the path and slippery.  I tripped once.  I got up and kept walking.  I tripped again.  After the third time I fell, I lay on the ground for a minute.  A leaf near my face was heart shaped.

A man’s voice.  “So.  You’re looking for my sister.”

She was tall, but he was huge.

He offered me his hand, just a bit smaller than my head, and hauled me to my feet.

“Yes.  I’m looking for your sister,” I said.  I recognized him, of course.  She’d told me about her brother, showed me pictures, but we’d never met.  She was protective of her family.  When we had been together, I had liked that protectiveness.  I had imagined her being protective of me some day.

“She doesn’t want to see you,” he said.  “When she finishes with a guy, she’s done.  Anyway, she’s asleep.  We sleep a lot in the winter.”

I shivered as he spoke.  The sun was dipping below the tree line and I was cold.  My feet were wet with sweat and snow.  Her brother looked at me seriously.  He had big brown eyes which reminded me of her.  “You need to go home.  The nights are cold up here.”

“I need to see her.  At least I need to talk to her.”

“Why?”

I searched for some shred of bravado, or failing that, some tattered bit of reason.  “She left some clothes at my place.”

He shrugged.  “She’ll pick them up in April.  If she feels like wearing clothes again.”  He was naked I realized, covered with long fine fur the color of the overcast sky.  You’d think I’d have noticed that immediately, I guess, but he looked so comfortable, and in the dim light I’d thought it was a fur coat.

I tried to remember her clothes.  I couldn’t quite picture any outfit.  I couldn’t quite picture her face, even.  Though I knew she was very beautiful.  Though, I knew I loved it when she smiled.

“Go home,” her brother told me.

I didn’t move.  He started walking down the mountain, beckoning for me to follow him.  His fur glistened silver in the rain.  “This way.”

I followed him.  It felt faster going down.  We got to where we could see the gondola in the distance, and he pulled a battered piece of paper from a little bag he was wearing around his neck.  “Here,” he said.  “She said you might be up here looking for her, and she told me to give this to you.”

I took the slip of paper.  It was a gondola ticket.  It had been purchased three weeks ago.  She had thought of me at least once since leaving.  “I don’t think it’s still good.”

“They’ll take it,” he told me.  He put his giant hand on my shoulder.  A stray piece of his hair brushed my ear.  His smell reminded me of her.  “Let her go,” he said.  “What are you going to do?  She doesn’t love you.”

I wanted to say something clever.  Something about how all love is mythical, so who better to long for than a mythical creature?  But I couldn’t figure just the right way to say it, and after a few seconds he said, “Really.  Give up.  Her heart is a mountain that you can’t climb.”

“I can,” I told him.  “I’m not done trying.”

He squeezed my shoulder and said.  “Be done.”

He was a nice guy.  He waited for me to say something, but I just kept thinking about how cold my feet were.  How I wished I was covered in fur, too.  About how sometimes, no matter how much you want something, you don’t get it.

“Be done,” he repeated.  “Take the gondola down the mountain and go home.”

I took the gondola down the mountain.  I went home.  Then she was gone, and I missed her.

The End

 

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Frequent Flier (a story excerpt)

So, for years, I’ve intended to periodically publish excerpts of my writing on my webpage.  Stuff which was published ages ago, or that I’m no longer trying to get published.  I write stories, so it always seems a bit odd that my web page is filled with writing that ISN’T stories.  All that to say, the following is excerpted from a short story I published in GUD seven years ago.  It seems sadly topical …

 

Frequent Flier (first published in Spring, 2007)

When third generation superhero, Walter Bennett Remington III, swooped down from the sky, supporting the 747 on his back, no one applauded.  Not the people in the airplane, not their worried relatives on the ground.  Everyone knew about the second law of thermodynamics.  They weren’t sure of the details, but they knew the basics:  all power has to come from somewhere.  Each time power changes hands, you lose a little of it.

And they knew where the power that had Walter swooping in the sky, grinning and pirouetting, had come from.  It had come from them.  The passengers felt little and diminished as they climbed down the stairs to the cement landing pad.  One older man pressed his hand into his back.  “I already had a slipped disc,” he told no one in particular, “But it hurts worse now.”

Walter pretended not to hear, although his super hearing made it impossible not to.  Instead he flew off to his family’s Ski Chateau of Solitude in the mountains of Switzerland.

Superhero couple Free Vector

(Cartoon vector created by Freepik)

“The world doesn’t appreciate us,” he told his mother.  She was halfway down the mountain on her new short skis, but she heard him just fine.  She skidded to a halt, kicking up a plume of the untouched powder.  “Great skiing today, Wally,” she told him.  “Really great.  Pure powder.”

Walter flew past her to the highest mountain in the Swiss Alps.  The view would have been spectacular for anyone, but with Walter’s super-vision it was incredible.  He could see most of the inhabited world.  Billions of humans going about their business.  Working in factories, farms, offices.  Sitting on the street begging for pennies, and walking down the sidewalk in their business suits.  And they all hated him, and the rest of his type.

“What if they didn’t know the power came from them?”  Walter said.

His mother, executing a perfect spin as she finished the slope, shrugged.  “Who cares?”

“I care,” Walter said.  He looked down with his extra-perfect vision, looked straight into brains of the people for thousands of miles around and watched.  It took him eighty-three days, seven hours and forty minutes until he finally understood the way their brains worked.

For a moment he just smiled.  If he had wanted he could have written a book that would have got him tenure in every brain and cognitive science department in the country.  But people still would have hated him.  They would have known where his genius came from.  It came from them.

Instead, he did what he had to do.  Or at least what he wanted to do.  He burned the knowledge of where his power came from right out of the cerebral cortexes of every human being in the world.  About 2.7 billion people paused, and looked at each other.  About 500 million people commented in about 43 languages, “Do you smell something burning?”  About one tenth of these checked to make sure they hadn’t left their ovens on.

And then they went on with their day.  Every once in a while they caught a bit of motion in the sky high above them.  Sometimes they would look up and see Walter Bennett Remington III, or someone a lot like him, soaring through the sky.  They would stare for a few moments, admiring his chiseled muscles, his noble face.  Although his muscles weren’t really that chiseled.  Although his face wasn’t particularly noble.

Sometimes – this world being the pit of irony that it is – they would even say, “Hey.  That guy really deserves what he has.  That guy really has it coming.”

And far, far away – even further away then it looked to them, because it’s hard to gauge distances when you’re on the ground looking up – the person flying through the sky would smile.

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October 27 Book Launch — Details!

Hey, remember how I promised to post details about my book launch?  Here’s the flyer that Chapters produced for us!  More details to follow:

Ari&Eileen

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One Month to The Innocence Treatment!

Just about exactly one month before The Innocence Treatment hits bookstores!  Preorder your copy now!

The book launch will be Friday, October 27 – 7 p.m. at the Metrotown Chapters – details to follow.  I’m also speaking at a panel at the Vancouver International Writer’s Festival on October 17 (which is the actual release date of The Innocence Treatment.)

I also just heard that I sold my short story “Real Estate Listing” to The Intergalactic Medicine Show.  That’s exciting as it’s my first sale to that particular market, and the first short story I’ve sold in something like six years.  (I haven’t written many short stories lately, as I’ve been working on novels, and … you know, life.  Still, every once in a while, a short story emerges, seemingly on its own.)

One of the cool things about publishing with The Intergalactic Medicine Show is they let you write ‘the story behind the story.’  This is particularly cool (and easy) with “Real Estate Listing,” as I don’t know that I’ve ever written a story with such a coherent back story.

I’ve lived in Vancouver, Canada, for the last decade or two.  During this time period, housing prices have gone through the roof.  The real estate industry has basically become THE industry of the city and the surrounding area.  It’s also the primary topic of conversation in the city:  how long will the bubble last?  Who do we blame?  Have I told you about my latest renovation?  Blah blah blah.

The story’s called ‘Real Estate Listing,’ so clearly all that is simmering in the background of my mind when I wrote the story.

This really happened, too:  a few years ago my (then) wife and I bought a place together — a little 1200 square foot duplex in east Vancouver.  The unit had a little detached garage behind it.  We didn’t think much about the garage — we glanced at the garage, saw that it existed, and that was about it.  The home inspector spent a good deal of time looking at the actual duplex’s attic, but the garage attic?  I don’t think anyone even realized the garage had an attic.  I certainly didn’t – not until a week or so after we moved in, when I was moving our stuff into the garage, and noticed the ceiling panel in the garage.

“Hmm,” I thought.  “More storage space?”

I dragged my ladder over to the panel, climbed up, and poked my head into the tiny attic.  It took me a while to make sense of what I was seeing.  There was a huge, stainless pot up there, and it was filled with some kind of liquid.  Even with my flashlight, it couldn’t make out what kind of liquid it was.  There were also a half dozen enormous, empty containers of Crisco vegetable oil.  And finally, there was some kind of apparatus on the ground that looked a little like a hot plate you might use in your college dorm room.

I threw the plastic bottles down and put them in the recycling bin, but the pot full of liquid was too heavy for me to wrestle down the ladder on my own.  Instead, I waited until my brother-in-law came over.  Working together, the two of us managed to get the massive pot out of the attic without injuring ourselves, nor spilling oil everywhere.  Because, of course, the pot turned out to be a deep fryer filled with used oil.

So to recap – someone had brought gallons of oil and a deep fryer up to the tiny attic of a tiny garage.  Why would anyone put a deep fryer in an attic that you could only access with a ladder, that you shouldn’t even climb into, that had no structural support, and certainly wasn’t designed to take the weight of a single person, let alone a single person using a huge deep fryer?  Also, who cooks in the unventilated attic of an unventilated garage?

Clearly someone who was trying to hide their cooking from someone else.  Maybe someone had a health-conscious partner, and this was the only way they could satisfy their deep yearning for fried meat?  Maybe the workmen who had been putting up the duplex four years earlier?

Your guess is as good as mine.  But that situation – the attic, the oil, the overpriced duplex, a real estate market where everyone wants to be a winner, where everyone is a winner … until they’re not — all of that was simmering in the back of my brain, when one morning I sat down and wrote the story “Real Estate Listing.”

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Win a Signed ARC of THE INNOCENCE TREATMENT

My latest giveaway is now live — right here.  I’m giving away two signed advance review copies of The Innocence Treatment!

This is the third month I’m doing this, and I want to invite you all to participate in a little experiment.

Two months ago, the first time I did a Goodreads giveaway, I blogged once, tweeted twice, and maybe wrote a FB post or two.  That month, the contest got about 900 entrants.  The next month, I did another giveaway.  But this time I did nothing to publicize it.  I neither tweeted, nor blogged — I didn’t even talk about it much.  That month, the contest got about 1800 entrants.  Twice as many!

So the question is — is this just natural variation?  Does it have to do with the publication date getting closer?  Or maybe the fact that, for the second competition, I opened it up to every country I could, including Azerbaijan, (which (I assume) is full of people who are super eager to get their hands on The Innocent Treatment)?  Does my social media presence matter at all?

Let’s answer this important question together.  I invite all of you to sign up here to win. Then share this blog post / FB post / tweet.  Together we’ll learn if it matters.  Or don’t — that will give me some useful data, too.  Pretty much whatever you do, scientific understanding will be advanced.

Also, here’s a picture of the sunset I saw at the beach the other night.  Vancouver is a little bit nice in the summer.  (What’s weird is how rarely you see people posting pictures of the 300 nights a year when it’s raining or cloudy…)

beach sunset

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Win a Signed ARC of The Innocence Treatment!

Advance review copies?  I’m practically giving them away.  To be precise, I’m giving exactly one away.  Don’t worry.  There will be more down the road.

I’m running the giveaway via the Goodread website.  You can sign up here:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30340872-the-innocence-treatment (you’ll see the ‘enter giveaway’ button on the right near the middle of that first screen.)

That’s right.  It’s your chance to win the very first signed ARC of my new book.  There will probably be thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people getting their names into this draw.  I suggest you run, not walk to get your name on this list.  That’s a joke.  Really you don’t have to move at all.  Just click  here.  It’s possible the below widget might work to get you there, too.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Innocence Treatment by Ari B. Goelman

The Innocence Treatment

by Ari B. Goelman

Giveaway ends May 15, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

p.s.  I intended to make this giveaway open to people from anywhere in the world.  Instead it’s open only to people in the U.S., the UK, and Canada.  My apologies to the impatient readers of Luxembourg  — next month!

 

 

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Cover Reveal — The Innocence Treatment

it_cvr_final_newcaptions

Bam!  There it is.  Cover revealed.

Here are some questions you might have for me.  Let’s imagine they’re asked by a hypothetical, slightly jerky, person.

HP:  Wow!  Who made that cover?

Ari:  Beth Clark.  The art director at MacMillan’s Children Publishing Group.  Awesome right?

HP:  Totally.  Hey, what’s with all the lines of typing in the background?  Who did those?

Ari:  Me!  I wrote them, I mean.  But Beth put them into the picture.

HP:  So she actually made it look cool?

Ari:  Well, yeah, but I’m the one who wrote them.  Also, I got to choose which quotes she would actually use, which was fun, too.

HP:  Whatever.  The words hardly matter.  They just make the picture look cool.

Ari:  Sure they matter.  They intrigue you, and they make you want to read the book, which is the purpose of the cover, right?

HP:  Maybe.  Maybe it’s not all about you and your book.

Ari:  Sure it is.  I mean that’s what a cover is all about!

HP:  You’re so conceited.

Awkward silence

HP:  So… you what are you working on these days?

 

Ari:  Well, this book, The Innocence Treatment, is almost done the editing process.  My editor (the amazing Kate Jacobs at Roaring Brook) and I got through line edits in September / October, and copy edits in November.  Now I think the publishing process is just kind of rolling forward towards the eventual release date which according to the MacMillan webpage (check it out here — you can already preorder!) is October, 2017.

 In  the meantime, I’m working on editing my latest manuscript.  I have a new agent (the wonderful Molly Ker Hawn at the Bent Agency), and she had a bunch of really thoughtful comments on my latest draft, so I’m  currently hard at work on revising that in order to get it ready for Molly to send out to publishers. 

Also, last week I kind of accidentally wrote a short story — the first one I’ve written in ages, so that was fun.   I’ll blog about that later (next week, even?) and post a snippet or two so you can see what it’s like.

 

 

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