I Killed A Crow

It might have been a raven, but I don’t know the difference. One is bigger. I don’t know which. But I killed it. We were hiking in the Italian Alps, and my sister-in-law called to me, “Oh, McPhedran!”

I didn’t know why she called me – except that I post dead animals on social media – but there it was, not a dead crow but a struggling, gurgling crow. It squawked and flapped terribly, on the verge of the abyss.

“No problem,” I replied. “I will take care of it.”

Everyone in the family continued on up as I looked for a rock to bash its head in. I found a good one, the size of my fist, and realized I didn’t have to bash its head in but only had to place it over its neck and step down hard on that. Much easier and much less gory. It struggled against me. I had to replace the rock a number of times, but then I had it in place and stomped hard. And it was dead. Easy. I looked up to see two small girls – maybe ten years old – aghast. I smiled back, trying not to appear a serial killer, and flicked the dead crow down into the bushes.

“Morte,” I explained.

“Morte?” One of the them, tiny eyes wide, clarified.

“Morte,” I repeated. I continued up the hill, after my wife’s family. Done. I didn’t think about it much at the time – oh, maybe a little – but then, later, I did consider the ramifications of my actions. It was a mercy killing. That was how I saw it. But I had killed a crow. Or a raven. Whatever. The portent of bad things and all of that. No, I didn’t really think that. I conjectured vaguely or something about that. And I knew it was ridiculous. Life is life, and death is death, and there is nothing other. You live and then you die.

And then my life began to unravel. It started with my stepson, who doesn’t like me at all, snapping some nasty retort in my direction, and then me overreacting to that and retreating, feeling hunkered and stupid, hiding in my room, writing, and then arguments with my family ensued, followed by me getting overly angry. And so I would not partake in anything with them the next day. I needed to be on my own. That was the thought in my head.

And, amazingly, it was a wondrous day. I went up alone, straight up, no pausing for food or water, and found myself in an alpine meadow. I sat there, remarkably content.

And I am rarely – never – content. I sat and looked out over everything, the air and sun and sky perfect as it was – alone but for some sort of Italian Marmot squeaking for its mate, and thought I could die here. It was a weird thought that I half embraced but didn’t do that and returned to the town. I vaguely thought that I might have cleared the air in myself, and everyone else would see me as so. But it did not go as that. England were playing Italy in the European Championships, and I got too intense about that. I am used to backing a team that never wins and did that too much with the Saxons and everyone got mad at me again. I sent wildly inflammatory messages to a close English friend about the Italian squad, and those were seen by the family, and nothing went well after that.

My bag was thrown from the car, and I was told to find my own way back – which I did – and found a hotel and thought about how I should never have killed that crow – or raven – even if it was going to suffer a bit.

Writing Process: Opening It Up

The key to writing is finding the way into it. It isn’t a question of discipline – although it is – nor Hemingway’s leaving something for the next day – although it is. The route needs to be found. The thing has to open up.

Otherwise, it is just copy and you’re selling jeans with freedom catchphrases – not that I’m knocking it if they’re giving out the pay check. The access point can be as easy as remembering what an ass I was for doing something awful. Not to be obtuse.

The Mother of All Writing Advice

A story can’t be self on self. Avoid the Uber Voice. Seeing someone else through another’s eyes just might be the highest level of interiority.

Looking down a cold tunnel at a mother

Omniscient first person, that’s the thing. Whatever you decide, modern literary theory states that it’s all about what your mother says you didn’t write.

Writing Process: Knowing Something Clearly

I feel like I know something now, something with clarity. Or just not so lost. Might have even got somewhere. Probably not. But I feel like that.

I’ve never known who the hell I am, and now I’m thinking that I just might. I am a white male, and an older one at that. But that’s not it. I’m not even an asshole, like so many people have said. I know that’s just them being lost and new.

I have come to somewhere and I know something about that. It’s not much but it feels like it might be something. I just hope that I can sell and then get that Malibu estate, be surrounded by beautiful people and complain about the masses.

And how great it was getting to where I got.

The McPhedran Way – A Typical (Bad) Day in My Writing Process

6:30 am Play Fishdom and Words With Friends. No thoughts on writing.

8:30 am Play Fishdom. Read emails, watch YouTube videos and search for “inspiration” by porn surfing. A general malaise dominates thinking.

11:00 am Half think about writing but retreat from that, afraid to start.

12:30 pm Lunch. Watch random bits of film – anything from Battleship to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

2:00 pm Ride stationary bike and listen to intense music (Rage Against the Machine, Cheap Trick, Nine Inch Nails, etc.) in an attempt to get brain moving. Watch birds flying past, beds being changed in hotel rooms across the street and people working in adjoining business. Writing problems do not come to mind.

Entertaining things can occasionally be seen in Artezan Hotel.

3:00 pm Read more emails, watch more videos and porn. Snack.

4:30 pm Open the Anori document. Close it. Play Words with Friends and Fishdom.

8:00 pm Think about what I might do tomorrow

So it goes on a bad day. Which oddly enough can lead to a good day.

My Tendency to Overwrite

I push hard to get my point across and, to make that clear, write the thing again. I might write it in another way. Or maybe not. I repeat myself to make sure that my point is getting across. It is the point, as simple as that. And I have to make that clear.

Modified excerpt from Anori

This veers toward a tendency to overwrite, filling a cup well beyond its capacity, thus defeating the purpose. The trick is to find the right words and use only those.

Excerpt tightened up…but too much?

The right words. That’s the rub.

Fear of Writing the Perfect Thing

Death cannot be far once you have realized the purpose, right? I had that feeling, of having realized my purpose, in the early 1990’s.

I was in the basement dark room of our house on Marlborough Road in Toronto. I was in the midst of writing Wreck of Dreams, an autobiographical snippet written at age of 28.

Cover design for Wreck of Dreams

It was earnest at best, but mostly trite, like the feeling. And yet, oddly enough, the feeling has seeped back. I am older now, 30 years hence, and so it seems that may be the real issue. Vain and dumb, all I know is that I’m still writing

The Cx Trilogy: Visions of the Apocalypse

The apocalypse isn’t a gloriously massive event, although that’s what we would like to think, with colossal tidal waves, mountains collapsing into valleys, cities vanishing into dust, the wicked witch waving her squadrons of monkeys over all. 

The Wicked Witch of the West waves on the forces of destruction

It’s more of the hiding in a wooden teepee without walls (Lars von Trier’s Melancholia), a face buried in the dirt (Terence Malick’s The Thin Red Line) or the burning of a solitary house (Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice).

The end of the world for one man in Andrei Tarvokshy’s “The Sacrifice”

No matter your vision – be it annihilation or silence – the drone sounds of Ekca Liene’s Sion Suspension will give full effect. At least that’s what I have on repeat as Dee Sinclair contemplates finalities in Anori.