Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9)

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The doctors had told her that she would die if she drank. I suspect that that night, after a long binge, she came close. She was forty-five, fifteen years younger than I am as I write this. I sat with her through her delirium tremens, and held her hand, or kept my hand on her arm, while she shook.

My grandfather and I had taken turns watching over her, going to her, through that time. He and I were in contact. He wanted to know if I thought that she would be all right. And, once again, she embarked on sobriety, which lasted, this time, for the rest of her life. I was born in Sarasota, Florida, on a September night in In the story that my mother tells of my birth, I was taken from her by force.

My mother was not allowed to hold me. My father, who had graduated from college the summer before on an R. My mother told me that she and I were distraught; I cried and cried, but her mother would not give me back. There was panic, she told me, and more fighting and crying, and it took my father a day and a night to get there.

George Orwell

Where was my grandfather? I remember that house. My sister and I lived with our grandparents when our parents were divorcing for the first time. They would remarry a few years later, when Terry was seven and I was eight, and then divorce again when we were in our early twenties. But, at the time that I am writing about, Terry was five and I was six. I remember lying awake in the heat. Fans blew. Downstairs, a sunporch with orchids and potted shrubs faced a little square yard planted with orange and tangerine trees.

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There was wisteria and hibiscus. The air was wet and sticky. Down a little walkway out back was the two-story garage where my grandfather spent part of each day, where he had tools hung on a pegboard, stacked paint cans, a worktable with a vise, and beer in an old refrigerator. The garage smelled of paint thinner, insecticide, and lawnmower fuel. My grandfather sat at a bench and mended kitchen-cabinet drawers, or rewired appliances, or sanded wood, while sipping from a can. He chewed cinnamon gum and toothpicks. My mother recounted a succession of operations, demanded by her mother and performed by compliant doctors.

In one story she told, she was a teen-ager, at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Under anesthesia on the operating table, her chest cut open, she heard the doctors pronounce her dead. She could not move or speak, but she could see them peering down at her. She told me that they fought and were violent, and that her mother had tried to drown her in a well when she was tiny. I was in my socks on the fire escape. I imagined my body on the ground. It was something that I could picture. But the fall, how long would that last? My motor control was failing.

I clutched the railing, then let go a little, then grabbed hold, then let go again, but caught myself.

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It was a relinquishing, though at the time I would not have been able to articulate it. I did not want to die, only felt that I would, or should, or must, and I had my pain and my reasons. Whatever terms we use, whatever the specific nature of their origins and progress, our so-called mental illnesses are themselves traumatic and stigmatizing. They isolate us from others. I was thin and cold. I held my arms to my sides. I peered up at the clouds and the jet planes and the sunset. It was hard to look at the sky. I was taking Klonopin for anxiety and insomnia.

My mother was dead, and my socks had holes.

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The light hurt my eyes, and sounds felt like sharp little jabs at my head; when the helicopter came, that afternoon on the roof, I hunched over, protectively. Was the helicopter coming for me? Regan had raised her voice with me.

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It was happening more and more. She and I were in the living room. It was a bright April Friday. For months, Regan had been with me, sleep-deprived, anxious, angry, afraid, untouched, breathing my cigarette smoke, not eating, not laughing, morose—the winter. Then, in early spring, I had staggered into Manhattan and spent the night with a former girlfriend. I remember Regan screaming at me that I would go to Hell, and that she hoped I would die. I wrote so many letters. I wrote them all winter long, on a notepad, while sitting on a tarp on the living-room floor.

Writing, moving my arm, my wrist, my hand, was effortful. My grip on the pen was rigid, and my hands ached, and were always cold. I wrote an opening, ripped the page from the pad, and began another note. The notes were apologies. Sometimes I called friends and held them on the phone. I was fine, I told them. When I lay down, I crossed my arms over my chest, in the position of a corpse. But then I was up, startled, pacing, shaking, scared, awake without having slept, worrying about my heart, spreading out the tarp, not wanting to leave a mess, and then sitting with pills, pad, pen, and a knife, an old Sabatier that had been in our kitchen when I was a boy.

The blade was rusty. None of the letters got finished. At the end of the day, at around five or five-thirty, before Regan came over after work—she was a poet but worked then as an administrator at a hedge fund—I stored the tarp, replaced the knife in the kitchen drawer, cleaned the ashtrays, put away the pills, and buried the suicide notes deep in the garbage.

On the roof, late that day in April, after running from the apartment and up the stairs, after a session of hanging from the fire escape and letting go in stages, I climbed the ladder to the roof and huddled against the stairwell bulkhead, next to the door to the stairs. I was breathing fast, and my body hurt. Beyond the Brooklyn rooftops was Manhattan. Lights were on in the skyscrapers. The pain seemed to come from my skin and my muscles and my joints and my bones. I felt as if I hurt everywhere, but also nowhere. My chest was constricted, as if a weight were pressing in—but from where?

There was no weight, no feeling of a source or origin or cause, nothing to palpate. Have you?

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  • Have you felt as if your body were collapsing from the inside, collapsing and hardening? Where was Regan? Where were my friends? I wanted a bullet. I remember lying in bed, imagining the bullet easing in. Was Jesus waiting, or a trip into brightness, some stellar afterlife, like the one my mother had imagined on her deathbed? Was death knowledge, or nothing, or might I wake up, a baby again, born into some new violence? What were the chances? Might I, after falling, be maimed and alive?

    If I was gone, would Regan live? I grew up sleep-deprived. I was sickly. I had anxiety, allergies, and asthma, and irritable-bowel syndrome, and headaches, and, starting in fifth grade, when I was ten, awful and incapacitating back spasms. They began early one morning before school, in the upstairs bathroom in our house on Lewis Mountain Road, in Charlottesville, while I was bending over the toilet, throwing up after a night of staring around my dark bedroom, struggling to breathe, listening to the fighting.

    Sometimes, in the middle of the night, my sister and I crept out of our rooms and sat in our pajamas on the landing, behind the bannister, afraid to look. You could say of our childhood that she played in her room, while I went out to the yard. Or you could say that she fled into her room, and that I fled outside. I made friends, but my friends were always changing; our family moved almost yearly, moved up and down the southern Atlantic seaboard, or sometimes just across town—Sarasota, Gainesville, Charlottesville, Tallahassee, back to Charlottesville, and then south again, down Interstate 95 to Miami.

    Pretty much every year, we packed up the old house and unpacked into a new one: single-story, two-story; driveways, sidewalks; screened porch, no porch; three cats, four cats; swimming pools, beaches, ponds; a converted Army barracks in Gainesville, a bungalow in Tallahassee, suburban tract houses in Miami, a farm at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    I remember, as best I can, the houses. I remember the crying. I remember the questions: If he kills her, and the judge asks me what I saw, what will I say? If she kills him, and the judge orders me to tell what happened, how can I speak? If he kills her, and goes to prison, what will happen to Terry and me? If our mother kills our father, and goes to prison, what will we do?

    How can I prosecute my father? How can I accuse my mother? I imagined myself on the witness stand. I was in fifth grade. I remember that I was failing math. While the teacher talked, I imagined a courthouse scene. There was a lawyer, and it was quiet; people waited for me to speak.

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    There were knives in the kitchen, and I remember my mother screaming, one night in Charlottesville, when I was ten and Terry was nine, the year in the house on Lewis Mountain Road, that my father was trying to kill her with one. My father was a graduate student then, a T. Eliot man, at the university. Even the bad times, in recollection, seem somehow not to include him, though he was right there, drunk, sarcastic, maudlin, a phantom. Maybe the knife that my mother was screaming about that night was the Sabatier that I took from the drawer when I left home, back in the late nineteen-seventies or so, and then, nearly thirty years later, carried from my own kitchen in Brooklyn, through the bedroom, up the hall, moving fast, off balance and stumbling to the living room, where I laid it on the plastic tarp, beside the pills, and then sat on the tarp, next to the pills and the knife, sat out the day, smoking, trembling, not yet dead.

    When I was a boy, in bed I brought the covers up to my chin, wrapped them tightly around me, and lay without moving. I held my arms close to my sides, or crossed over my chest. I gazed up at my model airplanes, moonlit, hanging by threads from the ceiling. My chest, my body, felt tight, tight in the sense of a contraction, but also tight in the sense of being bound and squeezed. I remember that I felt paralyzed, or not exactly that, though something like that. It was just safer to lie still. I felt numb yet in pain, and breathed shallow breaths, restrained. Even now, at sixty, if I cry hard I will be frightened, and you may find me in a corner, crouching, turned toward the wall, my hands raised to protect my face. I will sob and shake, and make myself small, and beg, Please, go away.

    I will not be able to look at you. If you touch me, I will scream in pain and run from the room. If any single feeling has defined my life, it is the feeling, more an awareness than a thought, that only lonely rooms are safe. This is how I feel and imagine shame, not as guilt or regret or remorse, not as some particular emotion or amalgam of emotions, but as a basic provision, abjection, the condition of those who have been cast out, neglected, harmed. The sun had gone down, and I was on the roof.

    I was forty-seven, middle-aged, at the time of life when, for men living on their own, the incidence of suicide rises. I could see the city in all directions, buildings and bridges. That had been earlier, such a long time before. There had been a plane in the sky. I remembered a helicopter. I realized that I would go to a hospital. On the roof, looking out across the city, I pictured Gothic piles and state psychiatric prisons, stone dungeons and brick barracks; and the wards, paint peeling, floors stained, locked and dark, fenced in.

    I opened the door to the stairs, stepped through, and drew the bolt behind me. What did they mean, better? I imagined that I would be in the hospital, in hospitals, for a very long time. Sometime around the New Year, my heart started pounding. I checked my pulse over and over with a watch, hour after hour, day after day. Regan assured me that my heartbeat was normal, but I contradicted her, and then asked for reassurance. Waking was sudden—the new dark day. My gut seized, and I rolled into a ball. I felt as if my body were burning. But I was also cold and shivery. Klonopin is a strongly sedating drug with a long half-life.

    Like other drugs in the benzodiazepine family—Valium, Ativan, and so on—it is addictive; its effects are systemically transformative. Over time, I adapted to a schedule, one little yellow pill, four times a day, a schedule around which, over the winter and into the spring, I organized my worsening days and nights, counting down the hours and minutes to each new pill.

    Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia but to keep the very structure of society intact. All of the lines are excerpts from various parts of Goldstein's book in part 2, chapter 9 of the novel with some paraphrasing.

    Note that the fourth sentence begins with "This new version". In Moore's speech there is no antecedent for this phrase; consequently, the sentence makes no sense there. We have a hunger for something like authenticity, but are easily satisfied by an ersatz facsimile. Actually a statement by Miles Orvell, in The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, — There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them. Possibly a paraphrase of Bertrand Russell in My Philosophical Development : "This is one of those views which are so absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them.

    The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it. This has been attributed to Orwell on the internet, but the earliest source citing him as author appears to be a post from Jsnip4 on the RealistNews. Wikipedia has an article about: George Orwell. Javier Cruz, a cast member who was dressed as Pluto, was about to enter Frontierland in the parade.

    Cruz was struck and killed before entering the public viewing area. The tragic incident sparked controversy in the fun-filled park. A scary situation involving hostages resulted in a man taking his own life at Walt Disney World. In , Allan Ferris entered Epcot an hour and a half after the park had closed, apparently searching for his ex-girlfriend. When three security guards denied his demands, Ferris took out a shotgun and fired the gun into the air three times.

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    All three security guards fled, but after Ferris fired off the gun again, only one guard escaped and two were held hostage in the Journey Into Imagination pavilion. Ferris released the guards after 10 minutes, but shortly turned the gun to his own head and killed himself. Goode sadly fell into the five-foot deep water to his death. His mother ended up suing Magic Kingdom, due to negligence of proper fence height. Both bobsledding incidents were shocking. In , a rider unfastened the buckle of year-old Mark Maples.

    Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9) Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9)
    Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9) Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9)
    Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9) Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9)
    Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9) Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9)
    Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9) Murder on the Mountain (Safe in All Things Book 9)

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