Drifter: Footloose

My feet are itching to lead me into the tangles and out of them.

feet19

I’m not leaving for good, for my grandad’s land has my name on it, and that’s where my mailbox is, the one tether that keeps me there, but I’m leaving for now.

feet17

This new old country sprawls and calls and I got new rhythms to find and new crickets to hear and strange air to breathe.

feet18

I got the road.

feet10

I got the road and the sound of my boots and the feel of my pulse and not a soul here who knows my name.

feet14

Freedom, freedom, freedom–each step slaps out that sound, empty poundings on the flagstone–my pulse beating in an easy one-two, my mind singing in a sideways tune of no one, nowhere, but here.

feet15

Air and sun and space and not a soul in sight and rushing through my veins that steady pulse: freedom.

feet16

That joy of a waiting vista: what’s around the bend? The meadow stretches, the bluff curves, the line of sight reaches for the horizon.

feet13

And then. The open space at the end of the road.

feet12

This is what I run toward. To be above it all and look down on clouds and roofs and streams and treetops and the road is a river that runs through it all, that road I’ve been down tracing all the travels and all the leavings behind and all the turnings toward.

feet11

This new old land where forests still stretch and cottages cluster like forgotten boulders in the lowlands and from up here, each life contained within is distant and unknown.

And then, to come face to face with a villager, and to smell the garlic on the breath and hear the rasp of a voice from a man who’s smoked his cigars and drank his wine in the café down in the forgotten huddle of a town below.

feet20

And before long, I’m a stranger no more, for I know his name and he knows mine and as night falls, he says, “Do you need a place to sleep?” and when I say yes, he says, “There’s a house down along the road where they take in travelers. Tell them I sent you.”

The scent of nicotiana flowers–that heady narcotic sweetness–perfumes the air and my knocking on the door sounds muffled, like time itself is cushioning each rap.

feet22

And a voice like a glass of aged burgundy says, “Come inside. It’s open.”

feet08

She’s got a name with all sorts of strange vowels and unexpected consonants and it rolls off her tongue like a forgotten lyric, but I can’t form the sounds, so I call her Link.

It fits. For she’s a link to every reason to ever come back from every ramble and every roaming. She’s freedom and ties and forgetting and remembering all covered in daisy tattoos and a fierce Armageddon of conscience and abandonment.

feet07

And this is the source of inspiration–everything any artist needs to rip out his lifeblood and spread it over that empty white to see if there’s anything at all in his soul that’s worth examining.

feet23

This is why I leave home. And this is why I return.

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Drifter: Still Here

Jack Bivouac

How many times have I stood in this spot…

Seems a long time ago now that I rolled into this town. I came with a single intention: check out this land my granddad left to me. Then I figured I’d head out, follow the road wherever it lead next, knowing that, if I got into a tight spot sometime, I had this resource stashed back here I could fall back on.

Jack Bivouac

…shipping off another manuscript…

But I’m still here. And while I sometimes look off towards that vanishing point on the horizon, wondering what’s beyond, I haven’t yet felt a strong urge to take my feet to where the town disappears.

Jack Bivouac

…waiting to see what royalties will come rolling in?

I’m sticking.

I’ve got every reason to stay. I’ve got the Robisons at Oakenstead who expect me every night to crash in their west bedroom, wake early the next day, and put together pancakes or breakfast scramble before the kids head off to school.

Jack Bivouac

I knock, but I don’t have to…

It feels funny in a good kinda way to have a place that I know is always open to me, a place where I’m expected.

Jack Bivouac

…the door’s always open.

Though I seem to be doing all the cooking, it still feels good to know that someplace in this town, there’s a fridge stocked with food, and all I need to do is come in, grab a plate, and I’ll have a meal before I hit the sack.

There’ve been far too many nights in my life when I went to bed–if you can call a bedroll under the trestle a bed–without a meal in me, lying on my side to keep my empty stomach from stretching out and aching in its emptiness, making plans for scraping together enough of something the next day to get at least a burger and a cuppa Joe.

Jack Bivouac

I feel kinda wistful, thinking back on all those days of nothing, now that I know I can count on something.

At night, I’ve got a shower, set aside for my use, with hot water every night and clean towels and soap that smells like cocoa.

I’ve got a bed with satin sheets and a down pillow and it’s always empty, waiting for me.

Jack Bivouac

So many nights, I never hoped to dream that bed would be anything other than a shared double after a night of getting lucky, knowing I’d be kicked out before the sun rose.

I’ve even got flipping bird songs every morning, when I take my meal out on the porch. Life feels downright serene at times, which is a strange thing for a drifter like me to say.

Jack Bivouac

Sun on the porch and a song sparrow warbling.

I’ve never thought about what to stay for before. I always thought about why to go. You go because you’ve slept with half the girls in town and they’re starting to talk to each other about you and you figure they’re getting ready to draw straws to see which one gets to lay claim on you or one of their boyfriends or brothers might hear about it and come pressing you with talk about honor and all that, so it’s time to tail it out of there.

You go because you’ve already been down all the streets at all hours of night and there are no more dead ends you haven’t been stuck on, looking around for a quick exit to dodge the cops.

You go because there’s a train whistle down the line, and its lonesome mourn hits you right in the middle of your chest until you’ve got to stir, too.

I know every reason to go.

Jack Bivouac

Having an empty plate AFTER a meal sure feels a lot better than an empty one before.

But now I’m getting some reasons to stay. I haven’t slept with any of the girls, and they’re looking sweeter than Modigliani paintings, though just a little skinnier, maybe. And I don’t have, at present, any plans to be with any of them in any way except as that dude to talk with.

I don’t mind being known in town as that writer dude.

I don’t mind it when my gal Summer calls me up when she wants to talk about something intellectual. I like being that guy. That’s worth staying for.

“Was it Nietszche that said, ‘I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves?'” Summer asked me.

“Nah,” I answer. “That was my man Wittgenstein.”

Jack Bivouac

I like it when she has me over just to talk.

I keep thinking about Emma. Emma’s mind.

Emma’s eyes.

You ever look in somebody’s eyes and you see way down past where you thought a look could go? You see all the way into what it is they’re feeling and thinking at that moment.

That’s what Emma’s eyes are. Wells, or something.

Jack Bivouac

“I’m sure it was Wittgenstein who said, ‘I am my world!'”

I can’t pull anything over on these two girls, Cathy Tea and Emma. They’ll call me on every fake.

But it’s worth staying to be made to be real, too.

Jack Bivouac

“He also said, ‘Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself!'”

I like unrealized potential–my own and others’. I like knowing that one day, that big book might make me rich. One day, Emma might take me in and tell me I’m not leaving. I’m spending the night with her–it’s out there, hanging in air, just waiting as a possibility for someday.

Right now, that’s what I’m staying for–the someday that might happen right here in this little town, with me in it, me that hasn’t left.

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Drifter: Mind Blown

I’ve been looking for that dude in the white hoodie, my buddy Bryon Heck.

Jack

There’s not a soul at my lot except me.

He’s nowhere to be found. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen that crazy joker Vivek, the bro who can’t tell a joke if his life depended on it.

Jack

I’m the only one at the park, too.

I used to run into them everywhere, everyday, without even looking for them.

Go to the library–they’d be there. Grill up some hotdogs, there they were. Stop by my mailbox to drop off a manuscript, one of them would stop by.

Jack

That’s their spot in the library, but that’s not them.

Plum it all, the drifter life is hard. When you’re homeless, everybody sees you everyday, and they just expect that you’re always there, like a lamppost, and you’ll be there everyday. Sometimes, they don’t even think to say hello or goodbye because you’re a fixture in the town. They’ll see you tomorrow, right.

Jack

I’m feeling kinda alone.

But these dudes are gone. My brothers.

Did they get swallowed up by that rogue culling disaster called DTS? All my drifter friends have been worried about it. We don’t think it’s hit our world yet, but no one seems to know when it comes, and when it hits, it hits hard, fast, and without warning.

Like I always do when I’ve got something on my mind, I stopped by my gals Emma and Cathy Tea.

Jack

Even if I’m feeling down, these two girls can bring a smile to my face.

“Have you seen Wilkes and Heck?” I asked them.

Their eyes got big. You seen saucers? Yeah, like that.

Emma told me to pull out my tablet. She dialed up this blog. Bryon’s face looked out at me from the screen–dude was clean-shaven with fricking ruby studs in his ear. Vivek smiling over some gorgeous wisp of a woman.

Jack

There’s Bryon. And this looks like Vivek. And who is that gorgeous goddess?

What the plum.

“It’s ok,” Emma said. “Take it easy. We’ll explain it the best we can.”

Jack

Cathy Tea got a little out there as she started trying to explain it all to me.

The best they could didn’t do plum for me. But the gist of it is that Heck and Wilkes are gone. Out of this world.

“That’s not the only thing,” Cathy Tea said. “I’ve been having memories. Well, not really memories, but more like…”

She trailed off and just looked at Emma.

“Do you know anything about string theory?” Emma asked.

“My guitar’s got strings,” I said.

“Yes! Exactly!” cried Emma. “That’s where it all starts! Now imagine the guitar string released from the guitar, curled upon itself, and in places it crosses over itself.”

Cathy Tea

“Where the string crosses itself, the data can transfer!”

Here’s where it got too big for my feeble mind. Sometimes, I get this duh-look. I think I had it then.

When I started listening again, Cathy Tea was going on about these other lives she had.

“In one, I’m young, with all these skills, and I’m living, well, actually, I’m living with Emma!”

They both started laughing.

“In the Emma world, I live with a bunch of hippies, too. We just hang out and have fun. In another, the world is so quiet. I live in this simple, peaceful house, full of books and a piano and a sweet, wise, funny, chess-playing man. And it’s like we’re there, waiting. I don’t know what we’re waiting for.”

“But what does this have to do with anything?” I asked. “This metaphysical stuff. It’s just electrical impulses, right? Your digital hormones gone wrong shaking up some illusions of other aspects of reality.”

Emma shook her head. “It’s not that simple. There are other simultaneously existing worlds, dimensions, places in space and time. And in some of those, there is an Emma and a Cathy Tea. They are us–and Cathy Tea is learning to feel connected with those other aspects of herself living in those other worlds. I’m not venturing there, myself. I’m allowing myself to fully and completely live in the here and now–wherever that here and now happens to be!”

They burst into laughter again, but whatever it was they found funny beat the plum out of me.

Cathy Tea and Emma

“A bunch of hippies!”

“Are there other me’s?” I had to ask eventually.

They shook their heads. “Not that we know of! There could be, there could not be. It’s not essential that one have multiple instances of one’s self.”

“And it doesn’t really matter,” Cathy Tea said. “If there are other instances of you, and if it’s important for your growth and development to know about them, you’ll know about it somehow. The knowledge of other experiences will come to you. You don’t need to do anything to try to bring them about. Just live this life–fully, completely, and in your own way, being the you that you want to be! If you do that, everything else will fall into place.”

“What about Heck and Wilkes?”

Emma and Cathy Tea looked at each other.

“We have reason to believe,” Emma said, “that there are only single instances of each. Just one Bryon Heck. Just one Vivek Wilkes.”

Cathy Tea continued softly, “And they’ve left this world, Jack. They’ve gone to another hard drive. There’s something there that they need to do. The lives of many homeless depend upon it.”

I felt something strange in my eyes. Like they were tired or heavy. My throat felt tight. I couldn’t really talk for a moment, and I could only blink.

Jack

My eyes just felt heavy and kinda tight-like.

Wilkes and Heck left, without saying good-bye. And that mattered to me. How many countless times have I just drifted out of others’ lives, without saying good-bye?

I took my contrition into my heart, hugged Emma and Cathy Tea good-bye and told them I’d see them soon, and headed over to the Robisons’.

Jack

“Thanks, babe, for all you shared with me.”

Jack

“Emma, sweet chick, I’ll see you soon.”

I headed to the Robisons’ because they were expecting me.

Jack

I know it’s the middle of the night, but I told them I’d be by.

Somehow, it seems like it matters that I do what I tell people I’ll do.

Jack

This little boy actually seems glad to see me.

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Drifter: Giving

I’ve always been a taker. I took from my parents. I took from my friends. I took from my teachers until I took all I could take and then I took off. I took this plot of land from my grandfather after he left it to me and took off for the greener pastures beyond that big blue dome of sky, and since I’ve arrived in this town I’ve done nothing but take from the neighbors that have become my friends.

I’m sick of taking. I’m ready to give.

I’ve written 16 books since I’ve moved here, and I’m saving up money. I’ve got enough spare cash to throw a party and give something back to the neighbors and friends that have been generous enough to let me take from them.

Now it’s their turn to give me a chance to give.

The Spencer-Kim-Lewises let me use their place for the party. They brought the space, and I brought the crowd.

Party

Looks like my pal Eliza Pancake is sharing her off-color humor with little Olivia.

I invited as many of my friends as I could–and I still had to leave lots off the list. I had no idea I’d made so many friends in such a short time.

party

Mr. Kim didn’t seem to pleased to have all these people he didn’t even know storming through his kitchen, even if they are all my good friends.

We kept looking around for a stereo so we could dance. What’s a party without dancing? Either the SPK’s moved their music box, or they never had one to begin with. We had to settle for conversation and noodles.

I found my gal Emma upstairs after we cleaned our plates.

Party

“Whatcha doin all the way up here, Em?”

Vivek joined us, too, dressed like Mortimer.

Party

“Dang, these garlic noodles are good!”

I crashed at the SPK’s after the party, and when I woke the next morning, I still felt good from that rash of giving. I decided to give a little more, so I headed out to the park and grilled up some tofu dogs. Met this new guy in town, Homer, I call him, though I’m sure he told me his name, and that’s not what it was.

Party

“Are you sure these dogs are made of tofu?”

Before I knew it, a whole crowd of people had joined us, including my good pal Summer. Even Bob Pancake forgot his melancholy once we got the jokes flowing.

Park

Joking with Bob and the tofu dog eaters

It felt pretty good, dang, it felt great, to be there with old friends and new ones, sharing a meal I’d made, sharing jokes, sharing good feelings. Who knew giving could be so sweet?

Later, when I headed into the library to work on the next novel, I decided maybe it was time to give a little more of my heart. One enchanting introduction, and this beautiful married woman and I became instantly a little more than friends.

Party

I do like something I can get my arms around!

It was pretty quick to finish up that novel. Something about giving just seemed to get all my juices flowing, and about the time everybody headed out of the library for the night, I’d finished the thing.

The Robison family had just moved into Oakenstead, and they’d invited me to stay with them any time I wanted. I didn’t have a place set up to crash for that night. Seemed like a good time to take them up on the offer.

Oakenstead

They’ve got a sweet kitchen that looks like it’s never even been used. I could give them some good home-cooking in a kitchen like this!

The daughter, 16 going on 30, was feeling pretty hot when I got there, and she cornered me in the bathroom as soon as I got out of the shower.

Shower

“You still smell like soap. You gotta little soap there behind your ears you need me to help you with?”

I don’t know what it is. Every place I stay, it seems like somebody wants something that I just can’t, or won’t, or shouldn’t, or better-not-if-I-want-to-keep-clear-of-a-shotgun-or-the-law, give.

Allie

“Darling, you’re gorgeous. And if we had that patch, I might give you a different answer, but lucky for me we don’t, so get back to me once you’ve aged up.”

These kids must be lonely, living with a single mom and all. They both followed me into the bedroom after I sacked out, and they hung around, just watching me sleep.

Allie

“Do you think he snores?”

I asked their mom if she minded me hanging out at their place. Seems like maybe I can find something to give to them in exchange for them sharing one of their many rooms.

Oakenstead

“What do you think? You got this room all the way over here in the back of the house, and you and the kids sleep over in this wing… I could hang around, share maybe a little male influence for your son, make a few meals, help out a bit.”

Ms. Robison agreed that it would be helpful to have me around, any time I wanted to stay. As we were talking later, I saw a real mean streak in her, though. She’s always been nothing but loving around her kids, but it made me wonder if maybe the reason they seemed to starved for attention was because they were. It got me thinking a little more about finding ways that I can give. I mean, even just time and conversation is a way to give, isn’t it?

I ran the idea past Homer when I met him the next day walking past the lot that used to be my grandpa’s but is mine now.

Homer

“Of course! Giving your time is one of the best things you can give!”

Homer was full of these big ideas of ways he wants to contribute to what he calls “the betterment of Sims everywhere in every dimension of digital time and digital space,” and I got to admit, it was mostly way beyond my comprehension. I was glad when Emma walked up.

Emma

“Dag, Jack.”

She was wearing–what was she wearing? And why was she wearing it?

Emma

“Emma. I don’t know what you want me to give, coming over dressed like that. I always thought we were more friends of the mind…”

Homer had to head over to the library to do some research, so Emma and I just stood around talking until the sun went down.

Emma

“I tell you, Emma, I feel like a new part of me is opening up and coming into the fore.”

I got to thinking later, after Emma strolled off to the park, about how much my life had changed since I arrived in this town not even a year ago. Back then, I hadn’t a skill, hadn’t a friend, hadn’t a book to my name.

Since then, I’ve published 16 books and mastered the art of writing. I’ve made around ten friends and a dozen more friendly acquaintances. I’ve got my cooking skills at about the halfway point, and my charisma is almost topped out, if I do say so myself. I’ve been on the receiving end of so much generosity and affection that something inside me has shifted, and I’m starting to feel like I want to reciprocate. And even more. I might even want to initiate.

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Drifter: Settling In in an Unsettled Way

What’s in the pollen in the flowers scattered through this one-horse town? Happy dust?

Jack

I’m not quite feeling like me, walking around with a grin on my face, but I’m starting to like the feeling of sore cheeks.

I’ve been happy since I rolled into town. Me. Happy. I’m not a happy guy.

It feels kinda foreign to be walking around with a smile sprouting on my face, like I’ve been supplanted by alien spawn. Inside me, there’s a smile even wider than that coursing round my face.

It’s not just the pretty women in this town.

It’s not just the green, green surroundings, some kind of sylvan glen for renegade hearts.

Maybe it’s me discovering that this vast empty wasteland of solitude within me is becoming settled, populated with friends.

Jack

My new pal Emma always shares some words of wisdom. “We don’t have to worry about culling! We live in a house! Besides, it doesn’t hit until generation three or four, according to my research.”

Friends. Me. The rolling stone. This puts a new twist on life.

When I feel like a little intellectual stimulation, I stop by to see my sidekicks Emma Bennet and Cathy Tea. Emma’s some kind of wunderkind genius, and Cathy Tea’s got this creativity thing on a roll.

Jack

“You know, Jack, we’re kinda short one bed here. But I guess we could sleep in shifts, or something.”

They’re nice Sims. Even though they don’t have much, they open their homes to me. I can crash on their single bed any time I want to, which, given how hard the bed is, isn’t all that often.

At the library one afternoon, I felt this woman watching me. We struck up a conversation. Seems she’s like the most influential Sim in the town across the way, over in the desert part of the country. “If you think the Sims here in Willow Creek are hospitable,” she said, “you should stop on by Oasis Springs to see what real Western hospitality is all about.”

Jack

“So, I hear you’re like some kind of up and coming best-selling author? I’ve always had this thing for literature, myself. I even read a book once.”

I took her up on her offer. She and Geoffrey, he’s the Blic-Bloc-playing dude I met in the library here my first day in town, they’ve got this fancy place they share with their son.

Jack

Didn’t look like their million dollar kitchen had been used much to make actual food.

It was all right staying there.

Jack

Tell ya the truth, I felt kinda lonely in that big house. Sort of empty.

I got along well with Geoff and Malcom, the son, even if he did creep me out a bit with his nudist colony ways. At home. With his mom and dad. And me, some kind of drifting stranger passing through.

Jack

This is what I woke up to my first morning at the Landgraabs’.

Jack

Then the dude follows me to the table for a breakfast of left-over burgers.

Jack

“You know, kid? I can understand if you’re feeling kinda lonely. This big house hasn’t exactly got a family kind of warmth. But I’m not sure that what you’re getting it here is the answer.”

Whatever.

They had plenty of extra computers, but they didn’t have an extra bed, and I didn’t really feel like sharing one with anyone there, if you know what I mean.

I’d been reading on some of the forums for drifters that back in Willow Springs, the Spencer-Kim-Lewis family really knows how to open their home to strangers.

Everything I read was true.

Jack

Dang. Who knew that little kids could be so cute? Or so smart? This little Olivia has got me wrapped around her finger.

I don’t think I’ve ever found a friendlier, more loving type of family, even if they are an extended family plus. I guess when your own family doesn’t quite fit the norm, it opens you up to be more accepting towards others who don’t fit the mold.

So, I’ve got places where I can crash. I’ve got the library to do my writing, and the grill at the park if I get too hungry. It’s turning out to be a type of a life that’s worth sticking with for a while. Might even be fun to have some friendly faces I see every day.

Jack

“My dad was an author! Ever read his books?”

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Drifter: Rolling into Town

Drifter

I’ve traveled the world over. There’s not much I haven’t seen.

I love everyone and I love no one. I can do everything and I can do nothing. I live everywhere and I live nowhere.

Call me a drifter.

Drifter

Guess you could say I’m world weary.

My granddad left me a plot of land, and I’ve got 300 Simoleans to my name. I’ve got my guitar, my fiddle, a tablet, the clothes on my back, and the bandana on my head. That’s about all I’ve got.

Oh, yeah. If you treat me right, I’ve got a smile on my face, and, if I’m lucky, I could charm you into buying me a drink or a meal and sharing your bed with me for a night or two before my feet start itching and I’m ready to head on my way again.

No moss. That’s my motto. This rolling stone just rolled into town. I hit up the library as soon as I checked out my land.

Drifter

Dude’s got some serious game going on. Blic-bloc face if I ever saw it.

Got a feeling me and the library will become good friends. They’ve got a john there, computers I can use for my writing, and plenty of marks–err, neighbors–to meet. Met these two roomies there, Liberty Lee and Tristan something. I think that’s his name. Can’t really recall. Anyway, they seem cool. Invited me to stop by later.

Drifter

“Jack Bivouac’s the name. Writing’s the game.”

I wrote a book that morning–little treatise for the kiddies on how to live. Open road, free range. All that stuff.

Drifter

“Let’s call this one, ‘On the Road for Kids.’ Never too early to foster wanderlust.”

The park behind the library has a grill. I grilled up some veggie burgers. Pretty sweet life when I can call the public library my office and the park my cafeteria.

Drifter

Eating outdoors–that’s the free life!

My eyes felt a little heavy after supper, so I thought I’d take Liberty and Tristan what’s-his-name up on their offer to drop by sometime.

Drifter

“Honey, I’m home!”

They’ve got a sweet little place.

Drifter

Nobody here but us bookworms.

Liberty was feeling frisky. I kept the talk on the friendly side, not wanting to stir up trouble of the heart just yet.

Drifter

“So I’ve been wondering, handsome… where you been all my life?”

Shared a few words with Tristan, too. Guy’s got a serious interest in computer games.

Drifter

Seems like a geeky town to me. Everybody’s a gamer.

They had a nice empty bed in one of the rooms. Felt good to crawl between clean sheets.

Drifter

Hey, even a drifter can sleep in a pink bedroom when it’s free.

I met their other roommate early the next morning. Summer. She’s cheerful, like her name.

Drifter

I had the feeling she was looking down her nose at me at first.

I told her about life on the open road, and we became friends. My first friend in Willow Creek.

Drifter

“Think about it. You, the road, and one direction–outa town.”

I scrambled up some eggs to thank them for letting me stay the night. Summer was kinda put out. Guess she doesn’t like the guests to make themselves at home in the kitchen.

Drifter

I’m not a bad cook, if I do say so myself.

But she ate my eggs anyway.

Drifter

“Hey. Gotta go. Got some things to do.”

I had something to do after breakfast.

Drifter

“Ya ba doo!”

I headed back to my lot, where my mailbox is, and I sent off my manuscript to be self-published. Feels pretty good.

You know, some day, I just might build a mansion on Granddad’s lot.

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