In chapter 23 of King of Soul , my 4th novel, we awaken somewhere in Ohio, on the morning of Sunday, May 3, 1970:
Up in Kent, in the big old house on the hill where a bunch of activist students lived, Lars, the de facto leader of the commune, answered the phone.
“Sure,” he said. Turning his voice up toward the stairs he called out, “Buzz! Phone’s for you. It’s your cousin, Kevin.”
Lars handed the phone to Buzz. “Thanks,” he said, then into the phone, “Hey man, how’s it going?” After a pause, “Late this afternoon. That’s great. Yeah, we got a couple extra beds up in the attic for you guys.”
With that little connection done, Kevin resumed the road trip while Donnie snoozed in the back seat.
At about 11:00 Sunday morning the house members had a meeting to talk about what would happen tomorrow on campus.
Even in the intensity of all that was going down at Kent State, there were other things that needed to happen, other agenda items that needed to be addressed. Word had come down from Arbor. The campaign against the war would be as it had been, ongoing, until mission accomplished. Tomorrow the Kent group would step it up a notch or two with a noon meeting, along with some other groups, at the Victory Bell on campus.
But there’s more to the SSD than just stopping the imperialist war in Southeast Asia.
It was time for the revolution to enter its next phase. This would be accomplished through, among other things, implementation of a new plan to smash monogamy. Couples, married or otherwise, were spending too much time and commitment on each other instead of working for the Movement. Such bourgeois sentimentality had been denounced, and declared to be a tool of the system. Ultimately it would soften a couple’s devotion to the work that would be required of them. If allowed to flourish, long-standing coupular relationships would neutralize their resolve and maybe even morph into full-blown middle class irrelevance.
Lars and Candace accepted the dictum without comment. Their position as acknowledged leaders of the House required that they tow the party line, so to speak, by setting an example for the others and thus establishing a behavioral standard to focus energy and build commitment on the work at hand, revolutionizing the university and eventually the nation as a whole.
After a week of being cool with it and cultivating an arranged detachment toward each other, a fissure appeared in Lars’ and Candace’s enactment of the policy on Thursday night. After a planning session in which the group hatched strategies to pump up the Monday rally, Buzz made assignments since he was in charge of that kind of thing. An outcome of this session was that Lars and Sylvia would work together tomorrow talking to students who were lolling on Blanket Hill. When the meeting wound down, Sylvia sidled up to Lars with an expectant smile.
“Come take a walk with me. I need your advice on something,” she suggested.
“Uh, sure,” Lars mumbled, trying to look as if he already had something to tend to. “Give me a minute, will you?” He stepped over to Buzz and asked him if the circulars had been printed yet.
“I’ll have them for you in about an hour,” said Buzz, adding a friendly wave as he headed for the door.
Sylvia was rocking slowly on her heels, the wispy smile still nuancing her face. Inside the little sewn pocket of her sari, her left hand fingered a joint that somebody had left on the table earlier. She watched nonchalantly as Candace approached Lars and spoke to him. She could not hear what was said. Lars responded to her entreaty with a slow shaking of the head, negative to whatever. Sylvia sat down. Some of the group were still milling around in the main room.
“When?” asked Candace, mildly irritated.
“I don’t know.” Lars was cooling it, but obviously had something else on his mind. “We’ll figure that out tomorrow, okay?” The last word registered a mild exasperation.
“It looks like tomorrow is written off. Let’s take a look at it tonight.”
"Lars looked across at Buzz, who was still in the room. “Buzz, what was that guy’s name we were talking to the other day about the radio?”
“That was, ah, Rick. He’s over at Ash,” Howard called out, still trying to move out of the room.
“Right. Thanks.” Lars, slightly disoriented, nodded his head, looked down at Sylvia, who was trying to be a fly on the wall. But as soon as her eyes caught his, he knew there was no easy way out of the dilemma. He hovered for a minute, looked down stupidly at the notepad in his hand. Seeing nothing there but gibberish, he looked up again, lost in space.
Candace left the room.
Now that you've landed here, have a Listen to some vibes, songs of Rowland:
Or how about this? Consider this snippet of quasi-fictional dialogue. In chapter 10 of Smoke , the third novel, three men share a meal in a London diner. They discuss what is presently happening in Europe. The year is 1937. Here we find Mark Chapman, an informed Londoner, speaking of current events:
The little German colonel is a troublemaker, a treaty-breaker, and probably a damned lunatic. Nevertheless, Franco’s Falangists, and the Carlists with them, are perhaps the lesser of two evils. I’m not so sure that our deceased, Mr. Wallris, understood that. In fact, though I had a lot of respect for him, I never understood why he was so ardent in his support of the government. He was risking—I daresay I can admit this in your hearing, and perhaps that of the young American here—serious consequences from the British government itself, for defying their gutless non-intervention blockade. And there were elements of our business community here who had detected what Paul was up to in supporting the Spanish government.”
Itmar retorted, “I don’t think Moseley’s blackshirts represent any legitimate part of our City or its business. Most of the fascists out on our streets appear to be unemployed workers who have nothing better to do than make trouble for the rest of us.”
“Those unemployed ruffians are, like it or not, a consequence of our capitalist way of doing things,” said Chapman. “God knows I have little sympathy for them; they are a constant pain in the arse over in East London where our office is. They are arrogant and rude when they come looking for jobs, acting as if they’re entitled to work just because of their British citizenship. But they are just pawns in the game, and there are rooks, and knights—one in particular I can think of—who manipulate their disruptions for their own purposes.”
“And what purposes might those be?” “To prevent the damned communists from taking over Spain, or any other country—Czechoslovakia—that’s what.”
Another long pause. Then Itmar asked, in a low voice, “What would you say, Mark, if I told you—and I know this may be hard to believe—if I told you that Hitler’s Nazis, the ones sending military support to Franco, are systematically rounding up people I know in Germany, then commandeering their personal property and sending them, on trains, to camps out in the country to do slave labor for the Third Reich?”
Mark Chapman thought for a moment. He looked quizzically at Itmar, as if this man-to-man encounter between an Irishman and a Jew in a dockside diner were an event of some fateful consequence, yet hanging in the stars. Slowly, he said, “You mean the Jewish people, your people, are being arrested, as if for crimes they did not commit, and then convicted and sentenced without trial, to some sort of prison?”
“I have heard that,” said Mark Chapman. “I heard it, in fact, from Paul Wallris, about three days before he died.”
On the other side of history-- on the other side of the Big War that came as a result of the German colonel troublemaker-- we find in chapter 2 of King of Soul, the novel published in 2017, a young American, Donnie, and his neighborhood pals making the transition between cowboys/Indians and baseball. On a summer morning in 1963:
The next morning, on the other side of town, three sixth-grade cowboys were running through a big grassy back yard, aiming at each other with toy pistols, whoopin’ and hollerin’ at each other, imagining themselves to be like their heroes in the movies. On this twelfth day of June, summer vacation was still new enough to be a wild pleasure. The boys paused from their make- believe gunfight to sample the plum trees in Donnie’s back yard, but the plums were not yet ripe.
A few minutes later those holstered playthings were dropped on the lawn when Troy and his buddies from down the street showed up.
“Y’all come down to the lot for a game,” Troy yelled from the next yard over. Donnie, Mike and Joe watched Troy and three others as they traipsed through the neighbor’s yard along the backside of the chain-link fence. When they got into Donnie’s yard, Troy voiced his challenge again. “Us against you. Come on.”
“Four against three?” asked Donnie, as if it made any difference.
The point was—it’s time to play ball, y’all. The numbers didn’t matter, especially to Troy, because the score always somehow ended in his favor anyway. “There’ll be some other guys showing up, you know.” Troy responded, with confidence, as if he could make it happen. “You can have the next one who comes. Just like last week, we’ll have a bunch more guys before long, since school is out.” Troy had a fielder’s glove on his left hand. He was tossing the baseball into it, then retrieving the ball with his right and tossing it into the glove again, with an easy fluidity of motion that demonstrated, in the midst of his friendly provocation, his baseball agility. He was doing this little perpetual motion between hand and glove while keeping his eyes trained steadily on Donnie.
So how could he not? Donnie knew it was time for baseball, because Troy said so. Troy was leader of everybody on Meadowbrook Lane. And he actually had a point there. This make-believe with cowboys and Injuns was going by the wayside anyway. Donnie knew it, he just didn’t have any direction about it yet, but he knew that because Troy had issued the challenge, now was the time for something more intense, more real than cowboys, more real even than cops and robbers—baseball. Troy knew. He was always ahead of everybody else, except in school. He was, however, king of the playground, the recess time. He was king of the hill too, although they had not played that one for awhile. Donnie’s mama had said it was too rough a game when Troy was involved. Now Donnie was watching Troy’s face, while the bigger boy moved slowly toward him. Troy smiled. His smile looked like the shark’s smile on some cartoon.
“You ready?” he asked. “You can use my glove.” He paused from his ball toss mantra, lifted the mitt up as if for Donnie’s inspection.
“I got one.” Donnie replied.
“Go get it. What’r you waitin’ for?”
I’m waiting for you to get outta my face.
Troy turned and began his next maneuver, which would be exit. The other three fellows followed dutifully. And so Roy Rodgers, the Lone Ranger and Tonto fell by the wayside, like ole Western clips on the cutting room floor of a Hollywood backlot. Now it was time for the real world. Now it was time for, as Donnie’s friend Chris called it, hardball. Maybe Chris would show up. He was a pretty good player—a better player than Donnie, and a better captain. Donnie would make sure to get Chris on his team, if he showed up.
Now it was time for Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra to step up to the plate. And Donnie and Mike and Joe, and Chris and whoever else would show up. Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Play ball, y'all!
Copyright 2017 © Carey Rowland
Consider this excerpt from chapter 19 of Glass half-Full , in which we find Marcus working hard to remove the stain:
Marcus opened a can of turpentine. He tipped it slightly so that its upper contents would spill onto a rag that lay on the parking lot next to his car. With the rag partially soaked, he began rubbing on the driver's-side door. Someone had painted a black swastika on it while he was working late. His cell phone rang.
Or this: From chapter 8 of Glass half-Full, we find Hilda, a restaurant-owner, telling some friends about an experience she had in Germany.
"Hitler and his thugs tried to take advantage of the situation; they launched a coup d'etat, called a putsch in German. But it failed, and they ended up getting arrested. The event has been named the beer hall putsch of 1923. Well, I was reading about these police officers who were killed by the Nazis that night. And I was reading in my guide book some information about the incident. I kept hearing this beautiful music, really spirited music. We walked in the direction of the music. We turned a corner...and there they were, five musicians playing five instruments: clarinet, violin, accordion, cello, a drummer. I could tell they were Jewish right away. I considered their courage: to stand there at the Odeonsplatz where the Nazis had made their first move to try and take over the world, and declare, with their music, that Jewish people, along with their music, were alive and well in the 21st century. They inspired me. We must have listened to them for an hour...the Bridge Ensemble."
- Or read blog, no blahblah, current entry : "Stickin' to it"
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Carey Rowland writes where he lives with his wife of 37 years, Pat. They live in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. Their three grown young'uns, Micah, Kim and Katie, are long gone from the household and have moved onward to blaze trails of their own, here, there and yon. God only knows where all the Rowlands will go and what they will do.