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Hammer's Grave Loss

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juniusjunius
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I was reading my story on this forum--which is a neat way to read it--and I realized several minor mistakes that may be momentarily confusing for the reader. So here is the corrected version. I hope that the moderators can delete the former one, and keep this one only. I apologize for any confusion.

Junius Junius

Hammer's Grave Loss—By Junius Junius

Goodwin Centre was destroyed in a terrorist attack on Toronto by a Muslim Terrorist Group. The target was an office of the Universal Weapon Inspectors. The twenty story tower where they had their office was valuable property located near one of the wealthiest and oldest parts of town.

Bloor and Sherbourne was an illustrative landscape. North of Bloor a bridge runs across Rosedale Valley Road below it, allowing for Sherbourne to continue to the north. North of the bridge is the community of Rosedale, where large expensive houses are scattered throughout a slithering road system. South of the bridge is a tremendous block, St. Jamestown, that is jailed in by Howard on the North (just south of Bloor), Sherbourne on the west, Wellesley on the south, and Parliament on the east. The prisoners of the block are several large, tall apartment towers: see them white with orange or blue or brown or green bands. They were built in the seventies and have become rundown since. Witness: crime, substance addiction, poverty, savage values, and notably, the pool of street gangs. North of the bridge are some of the elite of our city. The bridge serves more to separate than to connect the two unlike classes. It almost reminds the poor class of the abyss that they must cross before they shoot out of where they were born; or perhaps, to remind the rich class of the abyss even they can fall into.

But the rich class is not responsible for the poverty of the poor class; maybe, only in part as they are taxpayers and voters, and should have been fighting harder against the "liberal" legislators of the past forty years, at least. The tower's neighborhood was important to describe. What is also important left to mention, and emphasize, is that gangs breed in St. Jamestown. There are other districts: Rexdale in the north-north west, Jane and Finch (east of that), west Lakeshore in the far south west, and Malvern at the farthest east. In 2005 the gun-murder rate was fifty; today, 2018, it is past two hundred. I wholeheartedly don't think that there is essentially a difference between gangsters like the ones popularly identified in connection with rap music—and Al Capone or Butch Cassidy and his Sundance; and more importantly, there is essentially no difference between these thugs and Islamic Terrorists.

The land-ruins of the Goodwin Centre Tower were very valuable. It was still in the downtown core, just blocks from the famous Yonge Street, on the busiest subway line running below it. The view from some of its high floors, to the south of the skyline, was still spectacular. The owners, the Good family, decided they would sell it, as a decisive move to pump a new vitality, revenue, into their investments, for the long term health of the Goodwin Corporate entity.

There were many prospective buyers, a long, eager line that extended to even Donald Trump in New York—but in the first decade of the millennium there was a gargantuan soar in gang gun-murders, motivated by rivalry for leadership and prestige. They were not your Italian Mafiosi, not Russian, Albanian, Asian, nor Latin. They were white kids, just as there were black kids; it really had nothing to do with the color of these criminals' skins. The decadence of music history really had nothing to do with this new gang phenomenon. It is true that too many of the members listened to rap music—but this is not a primary cause of the murderous phenomenon, though it doesn't help. I doubt they would be no different if they listened to jazz—the lyrics do make a difference—so let's make them people jazz fanatics, who happen to kill without conscience. Their music should no more be essential to their killer motivations, than pasta and red wine were to a John Gotti or a Lucky Luciano. The same savages even existed in the colonial towns of American Independence, a good cause if there ever was one. Today it is just easier to operate criminally and "profit" financially.

Recall that the murder rate in Toronto, by 2010, soared to close to 200, gradually increasing yearly since 2005. Then, it was realized that something had to be done. It would take years to stop something so bad and with so much momentum. The Canadian government had already banned all hand guns, including those of collectors. Since the seventies public funding to police, army, and courts were eclipsed compared to social spending such as Universal public healthcare, education, and welfare. It was clear in 2005 that the first few things to do were to higher and train new police, lawyers, and judges. City Hall, Queens Park, and Parliament Hill were starting to do that … but time is time.

One influential city councilor and president of the New Democratic Party of Canada (the welfare-statist party), had a great idea. This would be his contribution to the gun problem. He proposed the establishment of a new urban cemetery that would belong to all Torontonians for one specific purpose. It was to be the civic burial ground for victims of gun violence. It was to be publicly funded by the taxpayers of Toronto. It was predicted that most of the persons buried there would be young black youth from the city project neighborhoods. However, if the victim was a wife shot by her husband for trying to leave the physically abusive relationship, then she unquestionably had the civic right to be buried there. It had to be located somewhere downtown, because downtown is where all Torontonians from Morningside drive to Martin Grove, and the Islands to Steeles in the north, have the right to call home—coz it is what all the world sees on postcards.

Lo, an excerpt from the lobbying website:

Imagine, sympathize with the agony of a mother of a murdered son.

The poor mother, living in the ghetto,

Could not afford the plot of her son.

Imagine another mother who lost her son when he was driving home drunk.

Imagine she is a wealthy lawyer. Imagine the solace that she has

When she can walk to the gardened grave … for a visit.

It is something our innocent mother has not.

A thug killed her thug—the thugs of society and its disenfranchisement, poverty, and injustice.

Citizens, rise up and push to erect the Solace Cemetery!

City Hall loved the idea. They passed it. But where would they get the downtown land? There is only one cemetery that is said to be downtown and this is on Parliament running east. It is called St. James Cemetery. The politicians wanted something in this area.

And then that tragic day of January 12, 2010 happened. Al-Qeada reached Goodwin Centre. The entire complex crashed into dust and smoke. A young beautiful wealthy man received a phone call at his Greek Villa in Athens from his cousin in Toronto.

"All of it?"

"All of it. She couldn't be saved in time—it's not my fault."

"I know. It's mine for leaving her behind."

This man, Hammer Good, wept for an entire week. He knew he had lost his beloved in the explosion. He could not get her back, no matter how much he tried. Though Hammer is wealthy, he is also talented and a champion of Laissez-faire Capitalism and Individual Rights.

So why did he support this whole nonsense about a Solace Cemetery in his backyard? It was because of the pearl he had lost in the rubble. A cemetery there, where the two had spent so much time, was the quintessential symbol of the tragic loss he had suffered. His gesture was not philanthropic, except for philanthropy as a gift to his own tortured soul. His life would never be the same. After losing Rebecca, he gave up his central purpose in life, his planned career. He became a wanderer, roaming around the city, becoming known at bars, coffee shops, malls and parks. He became quite popular in his neighborhood of Bloor and Sherbourne.

When the proposal, a year after the explosion, was made known, he backed it with full force. He convinced his Uncles to give a discount to the city. He was present at all the neighborhood meetings about the matter. He wrote eloquent articles about the matter in the newspapers, even when City Hall announced it would raise property taxes and add a one percent city wide sales tax to pay for the project.

At the risk of sounding malevolent, I have to tell you that the city bought it. But think about it, if only to attain the sanity of understanding a cause of this evil. Take one example of one of those tragic murders. The time is Boxing Day 2005, and the place, busy Yonge and Dundas. Outside a large shoe store two groups of young gang youth started firing at each other. None of the thugs die. Who dies? In the crossfire, a beautiful, intelligent, athletic, precocious girl of fifteen is stolen away from her family and from her right on this earth. That was the message to the city that something had to be done. This sense of the city assisted Hammer's cause.

He helped bring into existence Solace Cemetery at Bloor and Sherbourne, to replace the building that once housed his office; the cemetery that soon became a popular tourist attraction. But he never ever stepped one foot in it, in the five years that followed its establishment.

He would not dare to see the grave of the thing he once loved most in life, Rebecca, glorious Rebecca, complete, beautiful, moral Rebecca. For him the place was the Rebecca Cemetery. Only to him, for no one ever even knew that she existed. He wanted to surprise everyone with her magnificent existence.

As the years went by he did ask himself if he was ready yet to enter. His melancholy could not last forever, he told himself. During those sad years, he learned what it really meant to be Byronic, an attitude to life that previously he had valued as silly and childish. It is the feeling of one person representing the entire reason for living—and its loss. It is a most glorious "altruism", seeming proper due to the power of one's love and the moment when it sends you into the abyss.

A new girlfriend tried to console him but it was not the same. Not even existential love and sex made sense without the existence of Rebecca. How strange. But since he was a happy man, still somewhere in his soul, he worked on a pleasant relationship, even when the sadness lurked around him.

His exaggerated effort had the excuse that they were from different worlds, different careers; he an artist, she a computer engineer and whiz kid. Thus there was an obvious gulf, an obvious excuse, for a comfortable distance between them. What he liked about her was that when he couldn't stand anymore basking in her love and affection, she was fine with it, and was content with working with her mysterious gadgets. He once grew the suspicion that she was hacking into government systems, but it was just a hunch, perhaps more a confidence of her computer savvy than hunch. She was brilliant and he appreciated her empathy towards him. She knew when they met that he had suffered a great loss and was still healing. She was willing to live with his moods. What also kept him loving her was that she was still tolerable of his life as a wanderer. Though he would not cheat on her, he demanded that he go where he wanted and when he wanted. She accepted so long as he had him when she had him.

He frequented the Groundhog Pub just a few steps east of the old ruins and the new cemetery, usually with a pint of Guinness in his hands. On Friday nights you could hear him sing karaoke, popular songs of lamentation. He was not turning into a drunkard; he just had lost his central purpose, and felt too lost. He did not know what now to do, for, Rebecca was his centre of balance. The process used to be learning so much from her all those hours that he had once spent contemplating her. He used to once re-create her in his mind for his sole enjoyment. He even decided what she wore, how she wore her hair, the music she listened to, and the subjects of her thought. He caressed every plain, fold, and crease of her. The love he had for her was akin to the love a god has for his creations.

The cemetery was popular in the neighborhood, and its design made it so. It was a rectangle and at each corner a line was paved to the corner opposite; such was the x-shaped walkway system. There was an entrance at each corner and it served as a short cut for those walking from the area of the Rogers building to the restaurants and shops at Bloor; or those walking from St. Jamestown towards Yonge. It was a good place, due its high walls and consequent seclusion, for drug-users to ingest their drug choice, or highballs to swig from their flasks, or the odd couple to romance, or the teenagers to congregate—and several times people even came to pay tribute to the victims of gun violence. That was the intention of this cemetery. The occupants were exclusively those persons killed in relation to gun violence. That was a strict policy at City Hall.

But everyone in the neighborhood used this park for something. But not Hammer Good. The fact found its way through the neighborhood gossip, some believing that he was superstitious and was afraid of cemeteries. Others more sympathetic thought that perhaps he lost someone to gun violence, perhaps he/she is buried there. Sufficed to say, he did not reveal any clues about his real motive for avoidance.

One night, after his sixth pint of Guinness, a fellow patron, an acquaintance, Paul Cooper, approached him.

"Hammer—you're sure hammering back those pints."

"Guinness is my favorite brew."

"Do you want to go the cemetery and smoke a spliff?"

"I never step foot in that cemetery."

"But it's the best place to chill."

"No."

"It's there—or nothing."

"Big threat! I'm rich, remember?"

"Okay. Sally, give me another pint of Canadian … so what's the deal with you and the cemetery?"

"I don't like to talk about it."

"Afraid of monsters?"

"Nothing."

"You don't like to walk where the dead are laid?"

"Nothing."

"Is someone you love buried there?"

"Nothing."

"I'm sorry. But it's just a place. The soul dies with the body. There's nothing there but tombstones, bones, and fertile soil."

"That's it!" Hammer got up. "Thanks for ruining my Guinness experience. You can have it!" And he threw the contents of his pint into Paul's face and walked out of the bar.

A week soon after that Hammer's girl began to get an interest in the culture of street gangs. A close friend from University lost a younger brother in a drive-by of a rival gang to the one he belonged to. She knew the boy when he was younger, and loved his charm and enthusiasm, as he was a boy with much intellectual promise; surprised she was to hear him running with the wrong crowd and devastated when she heard the news of his murder. Consequently she was reading books on organized crime and gang-rap culture.

One day she insisted that he accompany her into the cemetery as she was then ready to look at the faces on the pictures on the plastic laminated posters, telling the story of each victim, next to each tombstone. He immediately refused. She insisted again. She made it clear how important it was to her. But he wouldn't let up.

"If something happened to someone you know, if he's buried there, I want to help you deal with it."

"It's not that … I just can't go in. My family used to own that building."

"But you were the one who pushed for the cemetery's establishment!"

"Yes. I know. I still can't go in."

"Fine! We're broken up until I get a phone call from you telling me that we will go in."

"Fine."

It took him a week to call her. He told her to meet him in the area of the grounds about one hundred feet from Huntley Street on the horizontal axis, and about fifty feet on the vertical axis from Bloor. They were to meet at six in the evening.

The park was well lit. It was not frightening at all. She passed by several people and they did not look frightening. She had entered through the northeast entrance, and had reached mid point, when she got off the pathway and walked directly west. She could not spot him. She circled the general vicinity a few times, and then she heard sobbing but there was no one to be seen every place she turned. She listened closer and then looked up. Hammer was up in a tree, sitting on a branch, sobbing. She waited until he stopped, and then he saw her. He stood up, and with one arm held the rising Bark for support, and screamed at her.

"I told you I couldn't do it."

"I see … Will you now explain this to me?"

“It was here where I am standing now, where they have transplanted this large tree, exactly here, where she lay when I last saw her … Rebecca. This is where my office was. I had an office here. My Uncle gave it to me.” He pointed north, “There was Swiss Chalet.” He pointed south, “There was a loading bay.” He pointed east, “There was the pharmacy.” He pointed just below him. “There was an elevator that took one to all three basement levels.” “Here, below me there was a staircase that led up to the public washrooms when I was a boy. I had them relocated and I converted the space into my office, my get away. That is where I left her.”

Though she was a bit jealous, she let him continue.

"You may not know that I fell in love with a man once. It was not a homosexual thing. It was the love of men fighting the same war, and the same specific battle. He was a writer. He worked at the Burger King. He left too quickly. We're still in touch. What is important about him is that he inspired me to discover what I really wanted to do. I wanted to write … you didn't know that, eh? … He taught me the basic principles and then he left me all alone to write. I did that. Five years I wrote! I began to outline, then construct, then to write my first novel. It was magnificent. It was special. It would have stood the test of time. And I wrote it. It was finished. But once it was finished I had to leave it alone. I had to let my mind rest before I went to the last and final edit before I got it published. So I went to Greece for a couple of weeks."

"And this Rebecca?"

"She stayed here."

"She was in your office when the explosion occurred?"

"Yes."

"She was probably there reading your novel?"

"No!" He looked at her a little puzzled. "My novel was about a dancer who is too flamboyant for the people of her valley. It is because no one can really understand her inner core, because most men and women, and those people in that valley, had no time to learn that art. It is about the struggle for her to win their attention, to get them to take a vacation from their passions, their careers … to take a course in dance with her …Her name was Rebecca and so was the title… I forgot my hard copy rushing to the airport … My cousin was supposed to rescue it but his work postponed his mission. He was the only person who knew about her and he vowed never to tell a soul before I did. The computer is ruined. I lost Rebecca."

His girl laughed. And when she stopped she climbed the tree to him.

"Do you still have the hard drive?"

"Yes. I've taken it to experts and they can't retrieve the file."

"I'm an expert too."

"Do you think you can?"

"I believe so."

"It's nice to tell someone. Nobody knows but you about Rebecca."

"I hope I can help the world learn about her."

"I hope you can."

"And if I can't, consider the loss romantic drama applied to your own life. At the worst possible moment, when the achievement that took all from you, when it is ready to be bare beautiful before the world—it is destroyed. It would be magnificently heroic for you to overcome. I know a little about the writing process. You must be so intimate with the structure and the theme and the characterizations. You have it within you to rebuild. You may even make it more beautiful. The experience of writing it is done, you own it, and it will always remain inside you. Take some time to refine your literary and philosophic principles—you should be able to re-create something even more beautiful. But I will do my best."

"I didn't look at the situation that way. I was still in mourning all these years."

"I will do my best. There is still much for me to profit by, by saving your masterpiece from the grave of electronica. If you don't have to re-write it, then that is more happy times we will spend together. Perhaps I can even deserve to be the muse of your next great work."

"I love you. I've never told you that ... Let's dance!"

They jumped off the tree branch they were standing on, landed with agility on the grass, and then began to dance a happy Salsa.

THE END

Edited by softwareNerd
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At least I'm going after perfection ....

This is how the close to the very ending reads:

"It was here where I am standing now, where they have transplanted this large tree, exactly here, where she lay when I last saw her … Rebecca. This is where my office was. I had an office here. My Uncle gave it to me." He pointed south, "There was Swiss Chalet." He pointed north, "There was a loading bay." He pointed east, "There was the pharmacy." He pointed just below him. "There was an elevator that took one to all three basement levels." "Here, below me there was a staircase that led up to the public washrooms when I was a boy. I had them relocated and I converted the space into my office, my get away. That is where I left her."

It is wrong, this is how it should read. To those who are not from Toronto, it really makes no difference, but I want it to read as it should, north should be south:

"It was here where I am standing now, where they have transplanted this large tree, exactly here, where she lay when I last saw her … Rebecca. This is where my office was. I had an office here. My Uncle gave it to me." He pointed north, "There was Swiss Chalet." He pointed south, "There was a loading bay." He pointed east, "There was the pharmacy." He pointed just below him. "There was an elevator that took one to all three basement levels." "Here, below me there was a staircase that led up to the public washrooms when I was a boy. I had them relocated and I converted the space into my office, my get away. That is where I left her."

....

Junius Junius

Mod's note: Junius, I incorporated the change. I undertstand that it is convenient to put a version here and then make changes. However, I recommend you do the drafts "outside" if you know it's just a draft and you aren't specifically seeking feedback. You could do the following: create a PM to yourself and Save it. That will keep it in the forum, let you preview the formatting, and let you edit, while it remains private. - softwareNerd

Edited by softwareNerd
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"Junius", There is a huge difference in style between this story and the other one you posted. In the previous story, events were dramatized. Not so in this one. Much of this one reads as a quick narration without specific dramatization. So, it comes off as a synopsis or plot-plan for a story, rather than as a story itself.

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"Junius", There is a huge difference in style between this story and the other one you posted. In the previous story, events were dramatized. Not so in this one. Much of this one reads as a quick narration without specific dramatization. So, it comes off as a synopsis or plot-plan for a story, rather than as a story itself.

The short stories I write currently are exercises, though the best I could do during the period I allow them, in mastering the art of the short story. There is a principle of Poe, in his discussion on Hawthornes twice told tales. For him the goal of a story is about the effect one wants to make on the reader. This is a very helpful principle at least to get the story on paper. Then you got Ayn Rand's few lines in The Art of Fiction saying that a short story deals with one issue. But to develop a system of appropriate issues is quite difficult. And in order to come up with first-hand writing principled exclusively for short stories is to write them, which is helpful certainly to the serious writer of short stories. Which is what I'm currently working on. I plan to have dozens of stories collected and then go back and ask the same type of question to myself on my own writing as the one you just asked.

This story was inspired by a story by Leonard Q. Ross called THE PATH THROUGH THE CEMETERY. This is often how my story ideas arise. I read another author and I want my own version. In that story there is a cossack afraid to travel through a cemetery. We know not why. But at a bar he is coaxed and told that he will be paid if he does. He is given a sword that he must plunge into the ground and in the morning the payer will retrieve it as proof. He does this but filled with dread. The sword is plunged through his coat and he thus is stuck. He dies there but he did it.

So my story is the benevolent version of that story. I knew early when structuring the story, that I wanted Hammer not to be cowardly afraid of a cemetery, and not to lose a human being buried there, but something so unexpected, as mourning for an inanimate object yet so precious because it is the product of one's consciousness. I had to make the reader believe that Rebecca was an actual human and beloved. I knew I wanted the guy to be rich. And I knew the place in Toronto where I wanted the cemetery to be. Then my imagination did the rest.

A general guide for my short story writing is to have dynamic characters, a character who will change in the end, on some moral issue, and yet have it in as few pages as possible. That is my challenge. Maybe, maybe, I will come to know first hand that it is impossible in a short story and the result will only be sketches. But I have to know that myself.

There are parts that could be dramatized and thus the story would be longer. But my goal right now is to write stories of about 10 pages which is what I usually need, and also to write stories of about 2000 words so I could maybe get them published eventually.

So maybe others can give me suggestions. Perhaps a sort of workshop will ensue. I write stories right now as evidence gathering for future data analysis and induction for principles on short story writing, which does not really exist from an Objectivist standpoint. It's a very complex endeavour.

Junius Junius.

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