Monday, April 17, 2017

32 - Xavier Wants Something

Xavier wanted something, but what he wanted was unclear to him. Whatever it was he wanted he wanted it badly. Being a young man of action, this need drove him to scour his environment for opportunities to move him closer to his destination. But, not knowing what he truly wanted, he often took actions that brought him no joy, and only a short rush of excitement. Xavier was smart. If only he would have taken some time (maybe a day, maybe a year) to think about what he truly wanted, he might have figured it out. But his need for action and excitement always short-circuited his contemplation.

One sunny summer day, Xavier was walking along the railroad tracks, his hands in his pockets. The sound of a train engine arose behind him. It was a train loaded down with new automobiles on their way to dealers. The sides of the train cars were covered with a mesh so the automobiles would not get damaged by debris – or people like Xavier. Xavier fancied himself more athletic than he really was, and thought he could probably throw a rock right through some holes in the mesh and break a window of one of the new cars.

Xavier picked up one of the many rocks in the rail bed that seemed to him the right size. He waited a moment while judging the speed of the train and then let it fly. The rock ricocheted off the mesh and landed again in the rail bed. Xavier threw another rock. This time he threw it harder. Same result. The third rock he threw madder. Same result. His lack of positive results got him down. The fourth rock he threw sadder. Same result. Then a switch flipped inside Xavier and he threw rock after rock at the cars as he became enraged. Same result. The train passed and Xavier, feeling depressed, disgusted and disdainful continued to walk the rails with his hands in his pockets.

A rush of excitement was the usual tonic for Xavier’s bad moods. Destroying things always brought a rush. The bigger the thing, the bigger the rush. But again, if Xavier would have thought about what he really wanted at this point he might have realized that a rush of excitement paled in comparison to actual satisfaction.

Now Xavier was mad at the trains. He had a brilliant idea to break windows and the train had denied him. What if he could derail a train? That would be exciting and very satisfying – or so he thought. Xavier began to look around for debris he could place on the tracks to try to derail a train. There wasn’t much around, a lot of rocks, a few thick metal spikes, trees…what if he could put a car on the tracks? That would be cool. But he had seen enough movies to realize that trains just push cars off the tracks after crumpling them and making them explode. There was no way Xavier could move something big enough in to the path of the train to make it derail. This thought disappointed him.

He walked further along the tracks. Surely, Xavier had enough time to contemplate why he wanted to destroy a train. He had enough time to ponder many things about himself. Instead, he was distracted by a crow in a tree that wagged its head and sounded like it was saying “tsk, tsk.” He noticed bugs flying around his head. He felt the heat of the sun on his neck. He thought about how he would like to own half the town some day like his dad. That would be an achievement. People would look up to him and if they didn’t, he could fire them, or put them out of business, or have them arrested. Xavier heard another “tsk, tsk” from the crow that flapped its wings and disappeared into the blue sky.

Why did things seem so hard? Why did things never turn out the way he wanted? One big giant rush of excitement was just what he needed to help set him straight.

Xavier saw a figure coming down the rail toward him. The figure wore a robe with a hood and sandals and held a bowl in his hand. Xavier decided to take whatever this person had. Usually, Xavier had his brother Khua do the dirty work of roughing people up, but this time he would have to do it. He was becoming excited.

The robed figure was within a few feet of Xavier. It was a man who looked out from the hood and said, “Peace.” Xavier grabbed the man’s robe and held up a fist shining with brass knuckles and said “Give me everything you have.”

The man did not seem afraid. “All I have is this bowl and my robe and my sandals.” The man held out his bowl to give it to Xavier. Xavier slapped it away.

“I don’t want that stupid bowl!”

“Then here,” said the man as he took off his sandals that were obviously too small for Xavier.

“I don’t want those stupid sandals!” spat Xavier as he kicked them across the railroad tracks.

With that, the man disrobed and stood naked before Xavier. “Here, then,” he spoke and handed his robe to the confused young man.
Xavier became completely exasperated. This man had nothing he wanted! This was just his luck today.

“I may not have what you want, but I have what you need if you will let me give it to you,” said the man.

“What do you have that I could possibly need?” sneered Xavier.

“Peace,” said the man who held out his arms and moved toward Xavier to give him a hug.

Xavier stumbled backward as the man, genitals and all, moved too close to him. He lashed out and hit the naked man hard in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground. Xavier stood over him for a moment taking in a rush of excitement. Then he turned and walked away.

“What a freak!” thought Xavier.

“Peace be with you!” yelled the man who then gathered up his few possessions, rubbed his shoulder and went on his way.

Xavier traveled down the rail until the excitement wore off. He now had a little time to wonder why he felt so afraid of a smaller naked man who owned nothing and wouldn’t ever want to hurt him. He might have pondered why he felt so afraid that he had to lash out and punch the man. But Xavier’s brain did not approach these questions. He wondered if this naked man who wanted to hug him was a homosexual. He wondered if this man was homeless or mentally deranged. He also thought about how Khua had beaten up people much worse than this and had been injured himself during those fights. Xavier began to realize that it was nothing to beat up the robed man. There would be no push-back, no retaliation and no challenge to his actions. Now, where excitement had been, Xavier only felt disappointment. He was not at peace.

What would bring him satisfaction? What would make his day right?

Voices rang out in the still air of the hot summer day. Xavier became aware of the smell of creosote as it rose with the heat. There, over some kind of hedge, Xavier could see Bartholomew and Claire gathering food from a garden planted near the tracks. He snuck up to and hid behind the hedge and eavesdropped on Bartholomew’s and Claire’s conversation.

“How many of these peppers should I pick?” asked Claire.

“About five or six,” replied Bartholomew.
“This was the greatest idea, Bartholomew. It has been such fun making this garden with you. Everybody has enjoyed it! Ned even stops complaining about his accounting job when he’s here.”

“Thanks. When I said I wanted to do this at the New Year’s Eve party, I had no idea it would turn out like this. The food has been just what I’ve been wanting and it has been even better getting to know all of you and sharing…this,” said Bartholomew as he held up a giant tomato.

Claire laughed.

Xavier felt a twinge in his chest. The phrase “just what I've been wanting” rolled around in his head. There was no room for thoughts such as “I wonder if I can join them in their garden?” or “Bartholomew and his friends found something wonderful to do together, I wonder if I and my siblings could do something like that?” No, these thoughts did not go through his head. All Xavier could feel was that someone else had what they wanted, but he had nothing. Yes, he had a big home and lots of money, but he did not have that “thing” that he had been wanting. He determined right then and there that he would either take over the garden from Bartholomew or destroy it.

A low growl came from behind Xavier. He turned to see Hump-Pug baring her teeth at him. He chuckled to himself and
brought his hand down on the side of her head with a slap. Hump-Pug spun around but returned immediately with a threatening growl. Xavier reached back even further and slapped her even harder. He had a rush of excitement. He was about to hit her again when Bartholomew called out, “Geraldine!” The little dog looked at Xavier one more time and took off through the hedge and joined Bartholomew and Claire.

Xavier carefully peered over the hedge to watch the threesome leave the garden. “Geraldine? Why did that idiot call out my sister’s name?” wondered Xavier. He knew the girl with Bartholomew was named Claire. This made no sense to him. Did Bartholomew know he was behind the hedge? Xavier looked over the hedge down into the garden. A smile wriggled across his lips. He now knew how he was going to get this garden and ruin everything for Bartholomew. To make this work, he was going to have to sit down and contemplate awhile. Would he be contemplating his sense of jealousy, his need for revenge or the general misdirection of actions in his life? No, he wanted to make a plan that would destroy Bartholomew’s happiness.
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrated by Justin Terlecki

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