Unclean – A Novel
“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”
Back in the early 90’s, an idea for a story sprang to life while I was watching a tv show called Sisters. My story involved a gay, middle-aged guy, depressed, anxious, and extremely guilt-ridden over the accidental death of his father years before.
Long story short, the death occurred when the 13 year-old son tried to escape to the house across the road during a beating he was receiving at the hand of his father. And not just any beating. This was the beating that made all others seem like love taps. Chasing after the boy, the father is accidentally hit by a car and fatally injured. His last words to the son, however, are to the effect that the punishment is still outstanding and inescapable. (If you’re familiar with the tv series, you may be wondering how it inspired this idea. Hell if I know.)
Through the years, the guilt over inadvertently causing his father’s death grows until it’s overpowering. In an act of desperation during a therapy session exercise, he begs his father to finish the punishment he has coming. He would rather be dead than continue living in pain and isolation like he’s been doing.
His words bring back the father’s ghost from the dead. Now instead of being haunted just in his head, he’s got to contend with one pissed off mf’er. The son is left to decide whether he wants to remain living or die by his father’s hand. He chooses life and the chase is on.
* * *
Skip ahead a few years. (Ok, make that almost 30). The idea is still there in it’s basic shape although many details have changed. Characters have come and gone. The setting has transformed numerous times. While it usually takes place in the “real” world, sometimes it takes place in an alternate reality populated by shamans, totems and splintered soul parts. A love interest is usually present, but depending on the setting, he is either living back home in the small town or dead, existing in the alternate world of spirits.
In the majority of cases, the story usually revolved around what was going on in my own life. The job I currently held at the time also became the son’s. When my spouse and I became homeless, so did the son. (When I eventually realized that the story was actually mirroring my own life, I began to look at the idea that writing it could help exorcise at least some of my demons.)
After a particulary bad spell of depression and anxiety ended this past April (2020), I knew it was time to begin work on it again. Our housing situation had stabilized after living in a tent for 6 months – we found a place to live in a seniors-only apartment complex with cheaper rents. I felt ready to finally work again and found a part-time job.
Sure, I’ve had a few false starts: COVID and the current political situation have definitely not helped my mood any. At times I could feel myself backsliding. Still, I’ve managed to not sink below the surface. I began to journal about the story again and started making headway toward a new synopsis.
I would have tried writing solo once more but then something strange happened. Through the wonders of Facebook, I began to find my voice, posting items to a private group and sharing comments. I’d never done this before – I was always the lurker and here I was, starting to “speak”. And my words had some traction with the group. I found that once I started talking, I didn’t want to shut up again.
Thus, here I am. And this web site is designed to support this change – a place where I can give voice to the many parts of myself that want to speak after a lifetime of silence.
The majority of the blog will concern itself with various aspects of this story. Sometimes there will be posts where I brainstorm different ideas that I’m working on. Other posts will deal with the writing process I develop and how it relates to the story. Still others will cover specific topics like the development of a formal premise. And through it all, I’ll be tying it to what’s going on with my real life.
There will probably be spoilers – the way I’m doing things here almost guarantees it. And, based on past experience, there definitely will be a lot of wild goose chases and going in circles as I figure out the story in my head. If anything, this site is a record of how I got from the proverbial Point A to Point B. As I define specifics, I’ll include them here in the tabs at the bottom of the page. That way, if you’re interested, you can follow along as things become more defined.
(I’m not sure whether or not I’ll eventually include a full outline. I guess I’ll see what develops and how people react. Whatever the case, know that I’m glad you’re here with me. And again, don’t hesitate sending me a note letting me know your thoughts. Thanks.)
Shortly after the main pieces of the story fell into place, I ran across the work of a Finnish photographer named Mika Suutari (https://www.mikasuutari.com). A good share of his work consists of photographs of a lone figure (himself) in various settings. To me, there’s this sense of isolation, loneliness and hauntedness in these pictures – the same emotions that drive my story. I continually use them for inspiration. (I can even see the picture titled “Stardust” at the top of this page as the cover for this book when it’s finished.) Be sure to check out Mika’s website for more of his beautiful, evocative work. (Note: If you click on these images, you can make them larger.)