The Book of The Wounded Healers
(a study in perception)

Chapter 2 – First Meeting

You can read the backstory on The Book of the Wounded Healers in The Book of The Wounded Healers/(a study in perception)/Frame and Chapter 1 – The First Communication, and it may help understanding the story’s universe a bit.

This chapter is…different. I’m not going to tell you any more, and I encourage you to remember the novel’s subtitle.

Let me know what you think.

The Book of The Wounded Healers
(a study in perception)

{This is what happened – }
South Street Seaport with Jiminy, my son. This is my weekend with him. It’s Saturday morning and we’re okay. Gayle and I separated a year and a half ago. It was her decision and I don’t blame her. It got to the point that I yelled at her if she took too long shopping when I was with her. Couldn’t she see I wanted to get back to work?
That was it. “Don’t let me keep you from your damn equations.” The words bit into me like a dozen ancient ticks. Then, more quietly, more lifelessly, “Sorry I kept you from what you love.”
The divorce papers were on my notes the next morning. I moved out. It was their home. I never really lived there, just slept there. Ate there when I wasn’t at Columbia.
You know, it took me a week to even realize something was different? What was different was I wasn’t annoyed by her and Jiminy – his real name’s Jimmy. James – bothering me with small talk.
I called her up from LaGuardia. “I’m really sorry about what I’ve done to you.” Dead air. “I’m going into a hospital up in New England. For some rest. It would be nice if you could come and visit.” I hung up, totally forgetting to tell her where I’d be. I’d had maybe ten minutes of lucidity before my mind went back to solving equations that had no purpose in life.
Gayle had the sense to call Larry at Columbia and find out what I’d told the department. He didn’t know I’d left, but Grace Krazinski did because she made the flight arrangements and saw the page torn out of the phonebook.
Jiminy said he knew.
“How did you know?”
He said he just knew, that he was a kid and didn’t know how he knew, he just knew. He called me at the hospital to tell me it was okay, he still loved me, and if I ever needed a little boy to talk to he was there. All I had to do was call.
Not bad for a seven year old kid.
I went up north when I was real close to a real breakthrough, close to the equations for “hello.” I was going to experiment with dolphins at the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Lab in a week.
Back to real time. Jiminy is devouring fried dough coated with brown sugar & cinnamon while we watch a juggler because he lost interest in the two mounted police officers’ horses. I’m busy with an oil soaked Italian sausage, onion, and pepper grinder. The first I’ve had since I went north to the Home for Mental Wanderers and I’m happy. The juggler is pretty good and lots of people are tossing real folding money into his hat.
“Everybody ready for the big finale?” he calls to the crowd. He lets the balls he’s juggling drop into a box beside him, reaches into the same box, and pulls out a machete, a bowling ball, and a tomato. “Please, folks, be quiet. This is going to be real difficult because, as you can see, these are different colors.” The adults laugh and most of the kids ‘ooh.’ “Ready?”
A stray wind from off the water. All the trash thrown on the ground is whipped intown. The wind is hot like a hair dryer and so strong you can feel the Seaport pushed towards TriBeCa and up the World Trade Towers. Jiminy screams and I grab him just as some lady’s umbrella pulls open and lifts her off the ground. Another lady screams and points to the juggler. I tuck Jiminy’s head in my shoulder and move towards the subway. “Don’t look, Jiminy.”
He isn’t looking at the juggler. He’s looking out towards Brooklyn and the East River. The wind dies down and other people look that way, too. “Dad?”
I put him down. The wind is still strong but not like a moment ago. It is still hot like late August even though it’s early May. From the edge of the seawall south and east is a desert. Lots of people are staring and New York’s finest are already showing up in cars, the mounties already working crowd control.
One of the mounties calls to the other and both look out over the desert. Both talk into their lapel mikes and push the crowd back, up Beekman. Some of the people closest to the desert run.
Three creatures walk across the desert. I bend down to get Jiminy but he’s gone. “Jiminy!” I yell. Everybody’s screaming and yelling. I envision his little body trampled by the people around me. “Jiminy! Where are you?”
I grab one of the mounties’ legs and yell up at him, “My kid’s lost. Help me find him.”
He looks out over the desert and yells back, “I’ve got more to worry about right now, mac.”
No. This isn’t how the day is suppose to be. South Street Seaport is not at the edge of a desert. Brooklyn and the East River are still there. Early May is not as hot as late August. There are not three monsters less than a football field away from me.
I drop my sandwich. It falls on a mashed, brown sugar and cinnamon crusted piece of fried dough.
Jiminy is gone. “No!” I grab the reins of the horse. “Listen, – ”
The cop kicks me in the gut. I fall to the ground. The mountie’s horse gallops and I roll so it won’t crush me.
Everybody runs away. Sand gets in my eyes. I can’t breathe. I can’t see my son. The only things around me are seagulls and pigeons. I don’t know what they’re doing because all the scraps are blown up South Street and Beekman. The birds look at me as if I’m their Christ. My eyes burn with sand and grit. I start to cry.
I feel myself in shadow.
I roll back. Has the mountie returned? I stare up at the monsters.
“We are Healers from the Land of Barass.” The one in front says, then points to the one on his right. “He is Cetaf, who cries for his own pain.” He turns to the one on his left. “This is Jenreel, who tends to his own needs. I am Beriah. I will tell you how I feel. We are Healers from the Land of Barass.”
I stare at them, my jaw goes slack and gurgling sounds leak up my throat as I think of something to say.
Greetings. Welcome to Planet Earth. Please help me up.
Beriah offers his hand. It has four fingers, one opposing the other three. I take it. If a chicken grew six feet tall and offered you its claw, it would feel the same.
Beriah is only an inch or two taller than me. If shape and size are an indication, he is the same weight as I. He is red everywhere, the only exceptions are his eyes which are black pupiled and gold irised, and head, where he has a brownish, rough, horny kind of skin where we have hair. His features are human enough except for his eyes which are big like a frog’s. I think he is seeing everything even though he is looking at me. For a minute all my other fears are dwarfed by the image of a large tongue snapping out of his thin lipped, wide mouth and pulling me back in. He wears a sleeveless robe which ends at midcalf. The rest of him, as far as I can tell, is just like us.
Cetaf, the one on Beriah’s right, is yellow with the same features and color variations as Beriah, except he is nine feet tall and six feet wide. A walking wall. His legs and toes are like an elephant’s, but his face is more like a man’s than Beriah’s, except it is flattened, like a boxer’s. Jenreel is the most human looking one of the three, except he is blue with similar color variations, about seven and a half feet tall and thin as a wraith.
The desert vanishes behind them and they don’t move.
“I’ve lost my little boy.”
Beriah’s still holding my hand even though I’m now standing beside him. “Then you must find him.” Our hands are clasped like arm wrestlers. All we’re missing is a table and referee.
I nod, let go, and walk away. They follow. In the kingdom of the insane, the rational man is sacrificed.
I stop and face them. “Where are you going?”
They don’t answer. They look around them, lost, I think. Lost or stupid.
I take a step, they take a step. I move left, they move left. Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch.
Rationality is not big in my book. “Excuse me, I’m going to look for my little boy.”
“Then do so.”
“Then stop following me.”
“We are not following you. You are on our path.”
People stare at us from Beekman and poke their heads out from behind the museum. “Then just let me stand the fuck aside.”
They stop for a moment. Everything stops for a moment. Beriah licks his eyes. “What does that mean?”
“Let me get out of your way.”
They look at each other then back to me. Beriah seems to be the spokes…thing. “You can get out of a way?” Jenreel nudges him and Beriah asks, “Will you teach us?”
One of the mounties steers his horse towards us, his holster unclips and his hand moves shakily to his gun. He stops ten feet away. “You speak English?”
Again they are silent. Lost or stupid, I don’t know. Cetaf, the walking wall, looks down at the horse and rider. The horse nuzzles Cetaf’s hand and the giant holds it palm up for him to search. “That is for you to answer.”
Part of me goes ten feet away and takes a seat, offering commentary of what’s going on. My ringside observer-self says “Fucking great. Earth’s first contact is an interstellar committee meeting.”
Beriah stands beside Cetaf and strokes the horse’s side. “Is English what you hear?”
The cop is about to say something but my ringside observer kicks me, Say Yes. “Yes.”
The three smile. Obviously smiles. They don’t look like smiles, but I know they’re smiles. Beriah, Cetaf and Jenreel congratulate each other. “We speak English!”
“Don’t move,” the cop says. “Just stay were you are.”
“Thank god.” I start to move away.
The mountie unholsters his weapon, “I said, ‘Don’t move.’”
“I’m not with these -”
“You been having one hell of a conversation, mac. You just stay put ’till we get word from headquarters.”
“My boy is lost!”
Cetaf moves closer and stares into my eyes. “Your little boy isn’t lost. You just don’t know where your little boy is. Become him to find him.”
Police are everywhere. One approaches us, his nametag reads “Distasio”. He is big and looks like a film star. I wonder if he is chosen because everybody’s taking videos. He stands to my side and smiles at me. “Hi,” he says, all teeth and curls. He says “Hi” like we’re old friends gathering together at a pub. He’s between me and the aliens {how do I know they’re aliens? They didn’t arrive in a ship} and says “I understand you speak our language.”
Someone shouts “Down!” and my old pub-gathering friend knocks my feet out from under me. My head cracks against the pavement and my eyes tear with the pain. The throb in my brain is met and vanquished by the sounds and smells of gun fire. The tears in my eyes yield to a blue flash.


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The Book of The Wounded Healers
(a study in perception)

Frame and Chapter 1 – The First Communication

I finished Tag on Sunday, 1 May 2022, at 8:11:40PM (aren’t time-stamped files great?) and took a few weeks off to catch up on other things. The May Tag posts were already entered so I let them run their course (I put posts into my blog week’s ahead. Usually).

I edited The Absolute Limit of Sound (a longish story at about 8.5k words), started on another section of the Tales of the Northern Clan arc, and started work on The Book of the Wounded Healers.

My first draft of Wounded Healers dates from 12 Sept 1991 at 9:14:08AM (that time-stamped file thing again. Gotta love it). The next was in Jan ’92, March-May ’92, Aug ’92, Nov ’92, a few rewrites in Dec ’92, the next spans mid Dec ’92 through Jan ’97, and there were two complete rewrites in Sept ’99.

I’ve always thought this a powerful story and must have realized I was not up to writing it.

Until recently…

Told in first person, the storycrafting and storytelling hold up pretty well. There are some edits, yes, and not enough to have me toss it out.

My greatest challenge this time through is time. The story is firmly set in the New York of 1991. Things and places which gave the story relevancy are gone or changed.

What to do, what to do, what to do?

I’ve decided on a story frame (the opening of the story shared in this post).

Let me know what you think.

The Book of The Wounded Healers
(a study in perception)





Chapter 1 – The First Communication

My name is Ben Matthews. I am a mathematical linguist. My specialty is simultaneous/spontaneous languages. I’m thirty-six years old. A black man, a little over six feet tall and around 173 pounds, once leanly muscular and now going to pot, brown eyes, slightly graying at the temples, and never able to grow a real beard.
Who am I?}

Continue on to Chapter 2 – First Meeting

Terry “Tales from the Greenhills” Melia and I talk about Writing, Authoring, and Publishing

The amazing and incredible author Terry Melia talked with me this past Saturday. It was a fun chat and we covered lots of ground, hopefully some of it will be useful to others.

Here are two excerpts starting with using your own emotional experiences to add realism write fiction events

and one with some advice to writers.

You find the full video on Terry’s YouTube channel (and we both hope you do and comment).

Attribution via Action

People who’ve worked with my in critique groups or in my trainings know about attribution via action because

  • I use it often in my own work and
  • I use it often when editing/critiquing someone’s work as it tightens scenes considerably.

Almost a year ago I wrote

The desire to have characters do something while talking is good, the execution is usually poor, and now we’re dealing with attribution via action which I’ll cover in another post.

in Toing and Froing and now, for various reasons, here’s that post.

Attribution via Action became increasingly important to me when writing my last novel, Tag. I noticed the actions I used for attribution purposes were stale, generic, didn’t apply to what happened in each scene.

I’ll defend myself with “It was a first, rough draft” which is true. I recognized the problem and made notes in the manuscript to fix it during rewrite, which I will because I tend towards anality about such things.

And still, it’s better not to have such issues in any draft, especially first drafts, as the more corrections necessary the more time taken not publishing and promoting the immediate project and all projects together.

So as I often do when I recognize a weakness in my own work, I gave myself exercises to improve my storycrafting and storytelling. In this case, use attribution via action specific to what I want the reader to experience when they read the sentence/paragraph/page/scene.

I’ve also learned from workshops and teaching that the term “attribution” isn’t in vogue any more.


So some definitions/explanations first.

Speech Tags
The reader has to know who’s communicating in a scene. Knowing who’s saying what is often more important that knowing what’s being said. This is done by identifying the speaker with what they’re speaking.

Words like said, talked, shared, spoke, … are now called “speech tags” and use to be called “attributions” but far be it for a writer to use a single, exact word when a weak, two word phrase can almost do the job not as well.

Said, talked, shared, spoke, … are fine words and they are weak because they lack emotional content until we use a adverb modifier such as said angrily, talked quietly, shared emphatically, spoke loudly, …

A thesaurus helps because said angrily becomes hissed, talked quietly becomes whispered, shared emphatically becomes emphasized, spoke loudly becomes shouted, … becomes … and so on.

Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
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Mani He (part 3) now on Bewildering Stories Issue 949

Continuing the success of Mani He (part 1) and Mani He (part 2) in Bewildering Stories Issue 947 and Bewildering Stories issue 948 respectively, Mani He (part 3) appears today in Bewildering Stories issue 949.

And if that’s not enough links for you in one paragraph, wait, there’s more!

Mani He originally appeared in Magic 1995, Crumb Elbow Publishing’s Read ‘N Run Anthology 1996, and my self-published Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires in 2016.

It’s wonderful to know a work is so appreciated it’s anthologized again and again, and again and again.

Many writers contributed to Bewildering Stories Issue 949 and I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading them all.

Please be sure to comment.

It means a lot to us.