First a Book Review, Then a Painful Yelp

Here is a blog entry in two parts. The first is a review of a book. The second relates a tale that happens the day after the book had been finished.

But first, I will complain that my car’s transmission, when engaged, will squeal like a dog but only for a second.

Now on with the blog entry.

A Collection of Four Tales, Each Attributed to a Season of a Year

[[image:seasons01.jpg:Different Seasons by Stephen King:left:0]]Stephen King might write what critics consider the fast food of literature, as documented in the opening paragraph of this essay by Marylaine Block. Why settle for a Big Mac when you can savour cuisine? But Stephen King undeniably serves a very tasty Big Mac.

I have experienced two tales told in Different Seasons before, but as movies instead of the written word. I have seen the adaptation of Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption – Hope Springs Eternal (shouldn’t be a chore to figure the title of THAT movie) and the adaptation of The Body – Fall From Innocence where Rob Reiner made Wesley Crusher cry. I also know of Apt Pupil – Summer of Corruption because of ITS movie adaptation. However I know not anything of the fourth short story which I soon discovered was entitled The Breathing Method – A Winter’s Tale. I wonder how long before this one gets its own adaptation.

Each tale is about normal people (and sometimes kids) who does extraordinary deeds when faced with tough choices. But the choices aren’t anything otherworldly.

In the first story, Andy Dufresne is a banker who is incarcerated in Shawshank prison. Was it for a crime he didn’t commit? We don’t really know for sure until we’re far into the story. Even though he is faced and undergoes violently horrific encounters, he chooses to persevere, gets Red to get him a poster of Rita Hayworth and a rock hammer and culminates in an awe-inspiring ending. Red, by the way is red-haired Irishman in the movie, not the dude from Electric Company.

I went on to the third story of Gordy Lachance, Chris Chambers, Vern Tessio and Teddy Duchamp. Four kids in a small town who discover the location of the corpse of a dead boy from a nearby town. They decide to take a walk in the woods to look for it. But it turns out to be more than just a walk in the woods for Gordy and Chris. Choices are made not just for the trip, but for their entire lives.

The fourth story is a the nested story, a tale which tells a tale within. The framing tale tells of a man named David who is invited to join a gentleman’s club of sort where tales are told. “The Breathing Method” is a tale heard by David as told by one Emlyn McCarron, a doctor who was born at the turn of the century. In the story, David doesn’t have any major choices to make. The fantastic part of the tale is relegated to Dr. McCarron who tells a story of when he was a young doctor in the 30s and he decides to do the fantastic at the climax of his tale and is rewarded by something even more fantastic.

The final tale I read was the second story in the book. A young teenager named Todd Bowden meets an old man named Arthur Denken. Actually, Todd discovers that Arthur Denken is Kurt Dussander, a Nazi war criminal. A holocaust aficionado (a word which Dussander describes wonderfully), Todd forces Dussander to tell him everyday stories and description of atrocities that occurred during the war at Patin concentration camp. The more he learns the more he descends into darkness. And the more he pulls Dussander into the darkness with him to the point where each has to cover for the other for each other’s dark deeds.

It is this last story that gripped me the most. How does the boy go from being an intelligent teen who reads about Nazi war atrocities into a person that develops sociopathic tendencies? What does it take for the boy to first hurt a living thing? How does he suddenly find pleasure from running over a wounded bluejay with his bike, hearing the breaking of its bone over and over again as he goes back and forth over it? And why does he goes even further after that?

Could it happen to anyone if one is put in the right circumstances? Could it have happened to me in my teen? Could I intentionally and maliciously harm an animal for a start? Break its bone?

Let’s Go Shopping At Econsave

I finished Different Seasons the day after Christmas at Sitiawan. I haven’t gone through a book so fast for a very long time. It felt great to be able to do that again.

That afternoon Ain and I thought we would head to Econsave to buy grocieries before we returned to Kuala Lumpur. Cause, of course, Econsave is obviously economical and you save money there.

The car was parked under the somewhat warm afternon sun by the road in front of the fence. With Irfan left behind to play with his Atok and Opah, we went out to the car and got in. I put the gearstick into reverse. I slowly pressed down on the gas pedal and did the opposite to the clutch pedal. The engine or perhaps its transmission squealed loudly as usual. The car began to move rearwards. The patch of earth between the house and the road was filled with grass, fallen leaves and branches. I heard the branches cracking.

And the squealing of the transmission did not stop. In fact, the more I reversed the car the louder the squealing got.

Then the car shook.

It became apparent that the squeal did not originate from any part of the car, but an animal trapped under the car. I then pinned down the sound. It was a dog. I was driving over a dog.

I had to make to so it could get out from under us. I tried moving forward a bit. I couldn’t there was a mound and a stump. I tried reversing a bit. The squeal grew louder with pain. I had no idea where to move the car, while very much aware that a living creature was in great agony under the car. What was that cracking noise that sounded like a branch?

I got Ain to call Atok Irfan who came out of the house. Only on his second try to look underneath the car did he see the dog. Atok Irfan told us to just drive backwards. I put it into reverse and just backed the car, no matter what would happen.

A second later a medium sized black dog, a mongrel, came running out from under the car, one of its forepaws held limply as it fled and disappeared into the thick brush on the opposite side of the road. I put myself in the dog’s position and felt sick for a second. There was a cold pit that formed in my stomach that would stay with me for the rest of the day.

What WAS that cracking noise that sounded like a branch?

Waving thanks to Atok Irfan and driving off to Econsave, I finally had the answer to the question which I asked at the end of the first part of this blog entry.

Posted in Books, Recent News and tagged , , .

Khairul Hisham J. is a tabletop RPG artist, writer, proofreader, translator, teacher, grad student and learner-in-general.

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