Another Story Recalled

I have a tendency to tell stories about my past in this webspace, often doing so on Wednesdays so that my Mondays and Fridays can generally be given to the Robin Hobb reread on which I continue to work. (As I write this, I am approaching the end of the Liveship Traders series; there’re three more series in the Realm of the Elderlings, along with several shorter works, as well as the Soldier Son trilogy and some miscellany to plow through, so there’s no shortage of work left on that project.) Given some events, both those I’ve discussed and others I’ve not, I’ve had more cause than usual to look back and reflect; that means it’s storytime again.

You know you need it.
Image from Wikipedia under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license, used for commentary.

Back when I was in the high school marching band, I was one of a great many people who were…irreverent, given to assing off instead of showing the discipline to do good work and get things done well. (For the most part: I had my moments.) But as much of a cut-up as I was–quipping, often lewdly, about things the director or other members of the band said, or making odd noises with things other than my horn–I was as nothing compared to one of the older percussionists, a guy I’ll refer to here as DB. (Those who know, know, but initials offer at least some pretense of deniability). Among others, DB had laid out an interloping kid in the bandhall, one who was in the room for a required speech class and who did not heed the friendly warning not to mess with the percussion equipment that was left out; I am told it took removing the carpet from the room entirely to get rid of the bloodstains.

Anyway, DB would, from time to time, be observed walking through the bleachers at other schools’ football stadiums, taking with him a cowbell and a drumstick. He’d take a few steps, hit the bell a few times, listen, and usually shake his head before repeating the process. Over and over again, until at last, he’d smile and nod and come back to where he was supposed to be. And he’d do this while the rest of us were loading in, week after week, occasioning…comments from the rest of us.

But there was a reason DB did his noisy little walk. My second year of high school saw us get a new band director; a scandal had, rightly, forced the one in place my first year to resign (he should’ve been fired and prosecuted, really), so a replacement was sought in haste and found. Said replacement was…less indulgent than his predecessor had been (which was to the good, really; the next year, the band finally started doing well again), and he…disapproved of certain songs in the band’s bleacher repertoire–among which was “Low Rider,” a student favorite. Copies were smuggled out to the students who needed them, and DB would make his way to his smiling little spot, cowbell in hand, and hammer out the opening measures of the song–a cue that I was not alone in following.

Admittedly, it’s a stupid little story, and I probably tell it badly. And it’s not mine, as such; I was never the person to step out first, although I’d follow gladly. Still do, most of the time; make of the example what you will.

The move continues, and more help is appreciated!

Not in the DSM

Spending years chasing dragons and
Finding the high just often enough to
Let me taste the eternal uncanny and
Whet my appetite for it again but
I lost my access to the steady supply
Suffered the pangs of withdrawal from
The intoxicants rolled up in those papers and
Taken in through eyes and hands and nose
Eased by grinding through the baser stuff
Enough to keep me going through the pain but not
Enough to ease the longing that
I still feel
The methadone with which I dose myself now
Does not stop the cravings that wrack me and
I need no naloxone to end the high
That ended long ago even though
I still chase it across the world and
Sometimes one of the few hits I can get
Will bring a touch of that old joy again but
There is no treatment program for this addiction and
There is no cure for it for any of us
Who have taken this thing into us across the years and
Tried to make it our lives
Freebasing in the basement of the ivory tower and
Unable to ascend from its lower floors to where
A steadier supply can be had
Even if it, too, is cut with other things

Care to send some help my way?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 208: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 29

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

And a content warning regarding sexual assault and related concerns is in order.

The succeeding chapter, “Kennit’s Women,” starts with the serpent Shreever considering the tensions between She Who Remembers and Maulkin. Neither seems to have decided anything as the group follows Bolt through the waters, and Shreever voices some small criticism to Sessurea, and Maulkin inserts himself into the conversation. He notes the peril of the sex-imbalance among the serpents, noting Bolt’s reticence and pointing to Wintrow as a possible help to them all.

Simpering little shit, sometimes…
Image from gil-estel on Tumblr, used for commentary.

Kennit approaches Althea’s cabin aboard the Vivacia, contemplating both his assault upon her and resuming it; the exercise of power entices him. Althea assaults him as he enters her cabin, trying to escape; he has his crew restrain and return her to her quarters; Wintrow is one of the restraining crew and hears her allegations against Kennit as Etta makes to tend the pirate captain. An argument ensues, and Wintrow suffers his aunt’s imprecations as he sees to Kennit’s orders. Kennit realizes he is losing control of the situation, and he tries to reassert it as Bolt summons him; the wizardwood charm on his wrist mocks him and notes Kennit’s coming doom.

Not long after, Wintrow tries to comfort Etta, who is acting strangely to his understanding in the wake of the encounter with Althea. Etta rebukes his folly, and Kennit intrudes upon them, demanding service and ordering Etta to the Marietta. He also rebukes Wintrow, expounding on his control of matters aboard the Vivacia. They are interrupted by the outcry of the ship, to which Kennit responds at length. After he does, Wintrow tries to comfort Etta again, and she avers her belief of Althea’s accusation against Kennit, accepting her supplanting in Kennit’s affections by Wintrow’s aunt.

Kennit makes slow progress across his deck to the figurehead, and the ship demands to see Althea and Jek on the foredeck. Kennit demurs, and the ship accuses him of raping Althea; he deflects the accusation, turning discussion towards Etta before the Vivacia returns it to the destruction of the Paragon. Kennit deflects there, too, and the ship accepts his dissimulations as Kennit has Wintrow bring Althea and Jek on deck. The latter is angered as she tends to the former, who moves through a drug-induced haze to confer with the ship and be told that she is no longer needed. Wintrow tries to offer some comfort and is rejected, and Jek conducts Althea back to her quarters.

There, Jek and Alteha confer, Jek raising some doubts as to Althea’s story. Wintrow again attempts to offer comfort and aid, only to be rebuked; he chides her, in turn, and considers circumstances.


The gaslighting going on in the present chapter is astonishing, and Etta is right to rebuke Wintrow’s folly. Honestly, it’s infuriating and distressing to read the chapter this time around, knowing what I know now that I did not in many of my earlier readings; I suppose it marks me as having grown as a person that I react to events in the book the way I do now. And I suppose that they’re to my chagrin both that it took me so long to arrive at such reactions and that I do not react more forcefully and emphatically to such things in real life.

It’s one of the values of literature and of literary study that reading the stories others tell helps us to reflect upon ourselves and our understandings of and place within the world. Literature is, among many other things, a means of self-examination; what we read and how we read it show parts of who and what we are. What I see in its particular mirror is not necessarily to my liking, and I know I will be taking some time and expending some effort to improve the image by improving the thing reflected.

We’re moving; lend a hand?