Archive for February, 2015

[This story begins where “The Stranger” ends]

Live Long and ProsperI leaned into a sitting position when I saw a shadow in the corner. It shifted and grew taller, and I saw it was not a shadow, but a man.

“Meursault,” he said, as he stepped into the dim light of the fading stars. “We do not have much time.”

The way he said “we,” as if he was somehow a part of my life, and I of his, struck me more than the fact that a stranger stood in my cell on the morning of my execution. As he stood in front of my cot, I wondered what preparations they required of a man about to die.

At least it was not the chaplain visiting one final time. I had said everything I wanted to say to that man, every bit as condemned as I.

“Meursault, do you know me?”

I shook my head and stood. My eye level came only to his shoulders.

“What did Maman tell you … about your father?” More than his question, the urgency in his voice sent a tremble whispering through me. I did not like the sudden feeling and sat back down.

“Who are you?” Even as I asked, I told myself it did not matter. Whoever he was, he would only be another spectator. Another voice reviling me in hatred as I walked my final steps. He also was condemned. As I. As the chaplain. As everyone walking the streets of Algers, believing they have forever.

“I am your father, and I cannot explain all the reasons why I was not here until this time, why I could not raise you and love you as a father should. I think, in time, you will understand.” His words rushed together, and carried with them a strange light that hurt my heart much as the blazing sun struck my eyes the day happiness died on a burning beach.

“You cannot be,” I said, although I knew that I was no surer of those words than I was of any other moment in my life. Or perhaps I did not want to be sure.

“I know why you are here, Meursault. I know what happened. I do not blame you.” I blinked hard against the tears brimming beneath my eyes. Crying was more foreign to me than the stranger in front of me claiming to be my father. Whoever he was, he had no right not to blame me.

Everyone blamed me. Everyone despised me, and they had every right to. I abandoned my mother. I abandoned every dream I dared to hope for. In their place, I surrounded my heart with a throbbing core of emptiness. For that, more than anything, I was despised. And he had no right to deny me blame.

I turned away. “I am dying today.” That moment, I knew I would rather die than face the terrifying freedom of forgiveness.

“No, my son, you are not dying today. That’s why I am here.”

I heard voices outside my cell door. The echoing siren began once more. Sounds announcing my condemnation, and the price of my deeds. A chill rippled into my heart. How had fear reached past my defenses?

“Meursault, you are different. You always have been, and you never knew why.” I looked up at him, seeing for the first time his small eyes, his upturned eyebrows, his hair the color of a raven’s wing. He took my hand, his grasp like the grip I held on my heart for so long, protecting it. Stifling it.

“I don’t have time for a mind probe. You could not absorb it all. Not now. My son, come with me.”

He touched his other hand to his chest. “Scottie,” he said, “two to beam up.” Light shivered around me, and for the first time, it brought a tremor of hope.

The End – The Beginning

[Posted in honor of Leonard Nimoy; may his soul find joy and peace.]


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the strangerThis semester, I’m taking “Contemporary World Literature.” The first book the class read was The Stranger, by Albert Camus. It is a novel by a French author, and was published in 1942.

The professor asked us to keep a dialectical journal as we read, as a sort of dialogue or conversation with the book and with our own thoughts. I’ve never kept a dialectical journal while reading a book, although I’ve written a number of literary analyses, essays, and reports. This was something new.

Here is the first set of dialectical journal entries I made, from reading the first half of the book.

Page 3 “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.”

Some first paragraphs draw me in immediately. This is one of those. The narrator’s mother died. He doesn’t know whether it was today or yesterday; all he received was an impersonal telegram. I do not know when this story was supposed to take taken place. Perhaps it is not really that impersonal, but it seems a harsh way to receive word of one’s own mother dying. Or perhaps it is the narrator’s own rendering of the tragic event that seems harsh and impersonal.


Page 4 “When I woke up, I was slumped against a soldier who smiled at me and asked if I’d been traveling long.”

It has been a while since I read a book written in first person. When I began writing, the first-person narrative was my natural point of view to write from, perhaps because at that age (11 or 12) I read Judy Blume and her stories were written in first person. It seemed natural. Over the past year, although I’ve read probably 30 or 35 novels, most of them were written from a third-person perspective. It seems disjointed to read a story from a first-person narrative and only receive the limited information he is willing to give, rather than see into his mind and know what he is thinking about his mother’s death, or his ride on the bus, or his waking up to realize he had been sleeping against another person. I’m waiting for some emotion, some reaction, some deeper response.

Page 4 “I wanted to see Maman right away. But the caretaker told me I had to see the director first. He was busy so I waited awhile.”

He wants to see his mother first, but he must see the director; I’m expecting to read of his emotions. His frustration. But the books skips details that I would expect to see in a novel. Perhaps I am too accustomed to American novels, and the point of view that they are usually written from. This novel seems lacking in the emotion of the narrative character. Perhaps this is simply the way books are written in certain countries?


Page 6 “… the funeral is set for ten o’clock in the morning. This way you’ll be able to keep vigil over the departed.”

I like the idea of an overnight vigil with the departed family member. It seems foreign as a practice – and it is foreign – but it also seems the right thing to do. To remember, to pray, to commit the person’s soul to the afterlife, to honor a life well lived. In America, we seem afraid of death. We hide it away. Even people close to death are left in hospitals or homes; although it’s understandable because they need more care, we are all too eager to leave them there. Perhaps to forget that death is a natural part of life. A vigil, I believe, would help to bring that home more; maybe even take away some of the fear.

Page 6 “While not an atheist, Maman had never in her life given a thought to religion.”

It’s odd that we get very little about the narrative character’s emotions or inner thoughts, yet he states that his mother never in her life gave a thought to religion, as if it’s something he would really know. The narrator jumping into her point of view without us really knowing his struck me as funny.


Page 10 “The woman kept on crying. It surprised me, because I didn’t know who she was … ‘She says your mother was her only friends and now she hasn’t got anyone.’”

I want to know more about the woman who cried at the vigil. She said the narrator’s mother was her only friend. Who was she? Why was that woman her sole friend? Where had she come from? Did she have any family? Some stories – although I know I can’t know the back story of every minor character – bring in someone I wish I knew better.


The last paragraph of chapter one flies past. Everything leading up to it reads almost too slow. The long bus ride that he almost sleeps straight through. The slow, almost painful, vigil that he slept through. Walking towards the town; the colors, the blinding heat, the blue and white of the sky against the monotony of the colors around him. Then everything flies by so fast and it’s over. Perhaps, in a way, like life itself. It seems like it will stretch out forever and then, almost before we know it, it’s gone.

Page 31 “I’d smack her around a little, but nice-like, you might say.”

Maybe I’m old school, but “nice-like” and “I’d smack her around a little” do not fit in the same sentence. It’s disturbing. I hope that the narrative character stands up for this abused woman. He needs a backbone. He seems a bit too unemotional and unconcerned about things.

Page 56 “You can either shoot or not shoot.” Page 57 “To stay out or go in amounted to the same thing.”

I think I’m figuring out the bottom line of why I don’t like this character. He seems to have no sense of right or wrong, of good or evil, of any values whatsoever.

On the back cover, it states that this book has had a “profound impact on millions of American readers.” I’m surprised that such a book would make a profound impact on anyone? The only impact it’s having on me right now is a sense of irritation mingled with sadness that books like these are highly acclaimed while truly meaningful material is forgotten or put aside as unimportant.

I’ll post the next set of dialectical journal entries in my next blog post. Then I’ll post an essay/analysis I wrote about the book, from the perspective of the character’s development. For fun, I’ll also share an “alternative ending” to The Stranger.  Because every story deserves a good ending, even if it has a sprinkling of speculative. 🙂

If you read The Stranger, I’d be interested in knowing your response to the book. I believe that I was the only one in the literature class who disliked the rendering of the main character (the reasons for which I’ll explain in the character analysis). Please leave a comment if you have a perspective on The Stranger or the main character, Meursault.

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Beloved, Valentine

A thousand broken promises

As many shattered dreams

You wish that you could find somewhere to cry

But you must put on a smile

Force it to stay a while

No one lets you ask the question why


Endurance now a trademark

And sorrow still your cloak

You try to brave the storm and fiercest gales

Raindrops mingle with your tears

Which have fallen countless years

Merging like rain with their lonely tales


Dreams no longer now a hope

Only an effort to cling and cope

As a fragile cry pours from your spirit

It seems all that you can do

Calling out that you are through

Your strength is gone. Hush now, can you hear it?


A voice like many waters

In the whisper of the wind

Its very sound embracing, holding tight

A gentle warmth transcending

Pouring healing, mending

Bathing you in iridescent light


With words soft and kind and wise

From one who heard your deepest cries

The Beloved brings peace into your soul

Giving joy where there was pain

Cleansing guilt’s pervasive stain

The journey has begun to make you whole


A message, kind, is spoken

To a heart so deeply broken

His words bring healing to a hurting heart

From the Beloved, whose sacrifice

Paid forever the only price

Creating of your life a work of art

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