The (1974) Eleventh Hour
|The New Writers Forum||February 10, 2002||Dempsey's Pub, 61 Second Avenue, NYC|
Announcement: "When I accepted the La Mama Experiments Reading commission in 1999, all I had to guide me was the back cover of Bacharach's "Lost Horizon" album with the numbers I penciled upon it, reordering the song sequence; but there was something more -- an essential addition -- my High School Electronics Class Notebook. Yes, friends, that book with the indelibly horrible eye infection drawing on the inner cover contained 10 pages of narrative, which I have just last month deciphered."
1974 -- The Eleventh Hour, by Peter Dizozza
1. I Come To You
In the time needed to replace the air we breathe, generations will have passed. The ridding of old blood and the filling with new is the body’s cleansing of the mind and soul, diluting hate and fear. Yet, faces of revenge rarely mellow with age; they only get ugly.
Young Erik Weinstein is the innocent, the poor boy upon whom blind fate has cast a shadow of darkness, just as it could upon any one of us; the debts of our ancestors must be paid. Living each day in solitude of grim satisfaction, then one dark and dreary night, to be flung into the depths of the past. Yes, friends, Erik is to be cast into the clouded land where people dwell on fear and violence, where the slightest breach of foundation stirs turmoil toward the accused. Young Erik has entered the Eleventh Hour.
Wilma’s divorce caused such a frenzy, damn that husband of hers. Soon she would marry the most handsome, vibrant, fun-loving man alive. And thanks to her family, she sure had the money to prolong the holiday. She had it all planned out. First to London, then to Paris, from there to Rome, to Monte Carlo, she couldn’t even name them all, throughout Europe they would travel -- Austria, Germany, Spain and oh, the beloved Swiss Alps. Then back to America to a new home, where she was, at this moment, composing a letter to her mother.
3. Lost Horizon
“Silver Horizons is just like the man said. Gazing at the lovely Appalachians through my picture window, I can’t help but say ‘I wish mom was here.’ Think of it, this is a place where people leave their doors unlocked, where children can walk the streets at night, where neighbor helps neighbor.
“Erik loves it here, and I can just tell that the fresh air is doing him good. We’re going, Frank and I, on our honeymoon. Given his plans to invest in the American dollar, we leave on Sunday. Until you change your mind about visiting, Clara will stay with Erik. She has always looked out for the best interest of the family. It’s a shame none of our relatives would care for him but I don’t suppose we can change people’s feelings. Clara’s like a sister and I’m sure that temporarily she’ll be able to handle Erik. He becomes obnoxious but I put that to all the changes he’s been through, with the pollution of that father drummed into his head. Be hearing from you soon. Thank you for not standing in the way of my happiness. Love, Wilma.”
Wilma’s new house was one of many cookie cutter mansions built upon a subdivision of a large estate, remnants of which surround it like the ruins of an ancient empire after a war. These pieces of carved boulder and stone serve a purpose. When the middle class drive by in their Sunday car they can not help but comment how much money must be involved to live there, and how so many of the residents are "So-and-so, Junior." It wasn't a lot of work; it was inheritance. The middle class is a lot of work. They sure do like to see what they're heading towards.
Until his thirteenth birthday, Erik had led a normal life; the fact that his mother was young did not bother him. While he had never lived anywhere longer than three years, and often as short as two months, he felt little resentment, except for Clara, their maid. At their former house she lived like a guest and did little beyond cleaning her own room. His parents did not mind. All arguments and conversation between them ended upon her arrival.
Besides Clara, Erik had no worries until the divorce. What a mess that was. He was apathetic until the move. He was leaving few friends but his prospects in the new ranch home added up to even less. Furthermore, he was stuck with Clara, whom he called “A Mother of a Maid”.
Wilma and Frank’s honeymoon continued into the fall. Daily Erik awoke to the icy cold at the crack of dawn, boarded a bus, went to school, did the minimum, and went home where he was virtually independent. He rarely saw Clara, though she never left. She kept on one side and lived out whatever she had to do, while he ate cold cereal and watched TV on the other.
4. The World is a Circle
Erik joined the school band. Its leader was partial to a song by Burt Bacharach, so they daily practiced it. Eric’s trumpet never correctly blew out the tune, but the insistent ¾ beat pervaded. He could just see the whole school waltzing to its chorus. With nothing for the mind to dwell on, the smallest thing can drive one crazy. One day, Erik stopped attending rehearsals.
Thursday, 10:30PM. Clara remembered a schedule change in garbage removal. For almost the first time, she walked all the way across the house to Erik's room. Would he please take the garbage out? "Go to hell!" he said. She explained that it would be a week before the garbage was picked up again and they do have so much. For the sake of himself, Erik agreed. He shoddily assembled his clothes for the few minutes he was to spend in the cold and firmly took hold of the Hefty trashcan liner. Outside he was immediately chilled. As he walked down the passageway toward the street, he stopped to button his coat. Having contained his warmth, he decided to sit down and take his time. The air awakened him and his perception was sharp and clear.
Facing the sky he projected himself back into his old bedroom in Queens. Although callous to occurrences at the time, while sitting on the cold walkway, garbage bag by his side, he shivered at his thoughts. His parents were arguing and, gradually, he realized the subject was he. He heard tones, though not specific words. First they sounded frantically normal, due to concern for neighbors, but their pitches rose, hesitantly, then silence, the silence of a one-sided conversation. His father's strategy was to stop reacting, for the sake of the child while his mother explained her efforts in child rearing to include the "fun" idea. Everything should be "fun;" there will bloom motivation. His father ignored her; so his mother yelled. Then she raised a topic where his father was to blame, a missed opportunity to buy a beautiful house, and his father emitted a crazed hysterical sound, exhaling completely. "I love my child. It was you who turned him against me! It is for his sake that I stay here."
On nights like those, Erik dreamt of planets rolling over each other, with him being mashed between them. He remembered neither falling asleep to nor waking from those dreams. With new alertness, he arose to take down the garbage.
On the street was a light whose yellow color served no purpose in the winter, there being no bugs for it to ward off. However, it effectively set a mood.
Erik often felt he was being watched. While used to it, it still made him uncomfortable. As it was happening he became very casual. Turning abruptly would show that he was frightened; casual was the way.
The tin can was upside down, left thus by the garbage collectors. Turning it aright, Erik dropped it. The can fell loudly on its side. The road became more silent than before. A car approached; he saw bright lights bounce in the distance. Every hill lit by the car’s beams cast shadows and as the car passed Erik’s driveway, its lights highlighted a forked figure whose hair resembled a fuzzy moon during an eclipse. Then brightness overwhelmed the area and the car disappeared down the road.
Facing this problem with bravery, to disguise his real feelings, Erik asked, "Hello?" The figure walked out from among the shadows and materialized in the yellow light. He was Erik's age, wearing climbing boots, straight blue pants and a white shirt. He answered, “Hello, is you name," consulting a paper scrap, “Erik Weenstien?” The frightened boy nodded and made a slight attempt at correcting pronunciation. This merely brought on another question, "And this is your Estate?” Erik affirmed with a small hum, taking the casual approach. The curious one announced, "My name is Mark Euclar; I'll be speaking to you again.” With that he went off into the darkness.
Erik remembered neither falling asleep that evening nor waking up the next day.
5. Where Knowledge Ends (Faith Begins)
Things got more and more unpleasant for poor Erik as he knew of no second of privacy. All he had to do was search about whatever room he was in and somewhere he would find this Euclar boy, usually busying with the furniture or looking over family portraits and paintings with diminishing curiosity. This continued for weeks with Erik neither asking questions nor attempting to lock out the boy. In fact, very few questions ever rose into his tired mind; his only feeling being resentment.
One day he decided to make friends, hoping to combine kindness with diplomacy. Whenever he sensed the presence of another he explained aloud his reasons for various actions. In the living room he said, "Hm, it sure is cold. I think I'll raise the thermostat. Here it is, right here. I hope this will be more comfortable." When he identified a nick-nack that had caught the attention of his guest, he walked over to the fireplace, and, picking it up, said, “Isn't this a nice boat? Do you see? It is made of shells; they're supposed to be sails. I like it very much. Old boats are interesting, alone, out at sea. We bought this in the Poconos. I'll always remember that trip.”
As always, Mark provided Erik with a note of approval. Unfortunately, Erik miscalculated while replacing the souvenir upon the mantle and, while walking away, he heard it crash to the floor.
One of Erik’s teachers took him aside while he was walking through the school hall. She mentioned a few clubs that Erik might wish to join. There was the sports department and well, if he wasn't interested in that then there was the stamp club, the poster club, which she herself was in charge of, the chess club, the school newspaper. Erik explained about the music club and the Bacharach song that drove him mad, and the teacher finally came out with it, "Do you have any friends, Erik?”
"Well, no one ever talks to me," he explained.
"But maybe you are to blame. You're new here; I suppose you just want to warm up to everyone.”
"I'm busy at home."
"That might be, but I hope not too busy for a little healthy companionship."
"All right. You're right."
"I hope you think about what I've said."
"You're dismissed, Erik."
* * *
That night, while Erik sat eating cereal in front of the kitchen TV, he saw a program catch Mark's eye. He identified it as “The Mothers in Law.” They enjoyed watching it together, although Mark missed many of the jokes and confused the show with the commercials that ran between it.
While sleeping, Erik had a new dream. He found himself married to a lovely woman who begat him one child, a pretty daughter whom he loved dearly. They played games while he exercised, and he told her many stories of his youthful escapades. Apparently he had been married before because, during dinner, there was always a seat reserved for a rather large, obtuse, housefly, which he took to be his former wife. She was extremely obvious and always seemed to obstruct the otherwise pleasant meal. Whenever his family sat down in front of their chromacolor T.V., she was near, busying about. At night she was on their bed. They fed her fly food to stop her from eating their daughter.
As Erik sat in his imaginary study balancing bills, his lovely new wife and daughter peaked in. “We’re going out to the porch,” they said. He stopped his work to ask, "Are you sure it's safe?"
His little girl said, “Oh daddy, worry, worry,” and then added “Doing the bills?” He explained, “Well, you know how tight things are getting. I just am trying to make ends meet.” His wife said, “So long as we are happy.” Then Erik added, as he felt he had, so many times before, “I just don't want anything to happen to the two most precious girls in my life.” His daughter giggled as she and her mother exited.
The housefly was beneath his desk eating a chocolate bar. As the patio door swung shut there was a thunderous explosion, causing red and orange lights to flash around the study’s windows as they blew in. Falling to the ground, Erik felt as if he was being told a joke and he had just reached the punch line.
It was 5AM when he awoke from the dream. Mark was sitting on a chair across the room. “The atmosphere is very bad here,” he said.
Erik explained about industrial wastes and where they go, but Mark had not meant that, and Erik knew it. Mark said, “You are pathetic. Do you like being pathetic? I would be embarrassed, to say the very least, if I was you.”
Realizing an opening for conversation, Erik said, “I'm stuck here. There’s nothing to look back at or forward to… Sometimes, it gets so bad that I wish I was dead."
“Really? That's why I’m here. To put an end to your troubles."
Did I do something to you?"
“It's not you. It's your forefathers.”
"This sounds very troublesome. How did this come about?
“I only do what must be done.”
“What if I apologize?”
“It's no good. Apologies are of no use to someone who is not of this world. You know that.”
“You mean to say that you are… supernatural? I don't believe it. I can’t believe it."
"Listen, kid, there are things that you see; other things you feel. Feelings can't be seen, yet we know they are real."
"Are you a feeling? But you’ve materialized. If I weren't so busy…."
“Look, I'm on your side. We play around for a while, then I do what I have to do.”
Erik lay back and thought about being dead. He wondered where he would go afterwards. Not just the bullshit of heaven and hell, but what he, Erik the Personality, would do, think and say, afterwards. He thought of all the people in the world and how death, the equalizer, is what makes us all human, and he fell asleep.
The next day he knew true companionship with Mark. Mark pointed out the color of the billboards and how nice it must be in Marlboro Country. In school Erik felt a curious resurgence of enthusiasm and confidence, but in the school bus he zipped up his green Eskimo jacket and pretended he wasn't even there, garbled in his own various visions.
6. Living Together, Growing Together.
"Do you live here alone?"
Mark and Erik were having a heart to heart conversation as they walked about the backfields of Silver Horizons. The date and even the day of the week were unclear.
Avoiding the question, Erik replied, "Tell me about the circumstances that bring about your frequent visits.”
"That's something of a mystery to me. It's quite simple, though. My dying breath was a promise to avenge my father and our family."
As they walked on, Erik asked, “Just what ever happened to your father and family?”
“From what I can remember, I was eating dinner at a man's table. The room was aglow with a hundred candles.”
With a gust of wind the field wavered into an immense castle warmed only by the heat of the mammoth fireplace in the far corner of the dining room. Erik and Mark watched from a balcony where they had a wide side view of a long table beneath a lovely chandelier. Mark exclaimed, in recognition, “Look! There's my uncle Ezra, and strange man he was.”
In his bewilderment, Erik asked, "Where are we? I don't recognize this place."
"Oh, why this is my uncle Ezra's mansion in Australitz. In the summer he would move down to a cottage by the sea but it is only early spring. And look, there's my father. My father hated uncle Ezra; they were always fighting over some little thing. See? Like now, they are fighting over my sister and the common help. And there I am."
"Oh yeah, how come I can't understand what they are saying?"
"I don't know. I can understand. Look. They're saying something about my mother. She's over there, on the left, talking with my sister and a friend of hers, and, oh, I remember that girl. Watch what's going to happen."
And sure enough, a young girl who was speaking with Mark's mother placed her napkin down on the table and walked over to the boy uttering some garbled German and together they walked up a wide flight of stairs that led to the balcony where Erik stood. They stopped for a moment, their digestive systems having taken a bit of a turn, and walked on upward.
They heard a door creak open and slam shut. The father below stood up and he and Ezra began a heated discussion. Erik found himself alone in the room with Mark.
Both boys turned upon and began tearing at each other in hysteria.
12/29/2001. Toby Goodshank, CockRoach, Abbey Soft, Kimya Dawson and, hopefully, Robert Anthony, are helping me present a reading of the 1999 version of The Eleventh Hour tomorrow evening at SideWalk. During this past Christmas visit to my parent’s house I found the notebook from which I transcribed the above (It was a physics notebook.). At this time I have no independent recollection of writing it. I am astonished to find the same names for the boys, Mark and Erik, and to find them reversed, Mark in this version being the Ghost.
There are two independent dream descriptions, the first, the enigmatic split globe, I have since attributed to my being circumcised
and the second, the housefly dream, which somehow has its origins in an episode from the TV show, Lost In Space, falling within the independent heading of another group of materials, the song, the short film, and the three etchings, entitled “Sadder Yesterday.”
This version raises the paranoid's question: How shall I entertain thee, my assassin?