Walking the Circle

That's the title of my book. I have been working on it for about a year. During the summer of 2005, auto shows/cruise nights, unemployment and doubles of good (and not so good) scotch, slowed my pace.
The book has its central character (Nigel) who finds himself befriended by a master (Frank Hsu) of Pa Kua Zhang , also know as Eight Trigram Boxing.
It is Mr. Hsu's contention that he and Nigel were connected together in another life and that Hsu owes a karmic obligation to Nigel. It is his intention to teach Nigel all of his knowledge of Pa Kua Zhang and the Tao and in doing so, any karmic obligations to Nigel will then be fulfilled.
Our journey through the past and present, brings us through the Christian vision of Hong Xiuquan (Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864). and into the Boxer revolution of 1900 and into the present day.
Here are a few select chapters;
Chapter one
Two quarters, a few pennies and a dime sat beneath three inches of urine in the bus station urinal. Afraid to flush and risk losing them, Nigel leaned over and stared into the grin of the broken porcelain grate and despised himself for wanting to cry. Anger seemed a more reasonable emotion. It kept you strong when feeling weak. It kept you warm when shitty nights like this threatened to freeze you to death. It gave you the ability to overpower a bad day. It’s not like reaching through urine in a public toilet for sixty three cents was a bad thing!
Walking down Main Street in this city was unlike the many other cities Nigel had spent time in. You could walk from the Veteran’s Statue to the end of Main Street in eleven minutes. The city was like a pimple on an otherwise unblemished face. It just sprung up out of nowhere. There were multi storied buildings with businesses and law offices, clothing, food, and tobacco shops with a City Hall wedged in. Looked like downtown Manhattan had shrunk and transported itself through the Star Trek "Beam me up, Scotty," portal. There were the usual kids driving up and down the street preening and showing off their cars or new clothes or the girls waving their big boobs at the boys and to one another. There were the usual assortment of cultural clashes wandering down the street as well. Cambodians or Vietnamese. Indians or Pakistanis, with many unidentifiable people as well. "We’re all Americans with a capital A, eh?" he thought to himself.
"Twelve minutes, twenty seconds!" Nigel observed. "I must be getting tired". He had found the perfect place to sleep. The overpass near the railway was warm due to its close proximity to the row of loading docks and warehouses. It was noisy with the constant stream of traffic overhead and the loading and unloading of railroad cars and trucks. Nigel had perfected closing his mind to the constant drone of everyday life. It was his own little paradise of noise, exhaust and privacy.
The bridge overpass was less than twenty or twenty five years old. In other cities Nigel had been able to tuck himself neatly under the end spans and between the steel girders that ran to the support columns. Here there was no such luxury and a little ingenuity was required to turn this space into a home. He had three working tie downs he rescued from a dumpster behind the furniture warehouse. He pulled a canvas painter’s cover- all from the dumpster at Marvin’s Paint & More store. With the canvas running from the five foot girders that ran every six feet between the end of the bridge to the support columns Nigel managed to make a six foot hammock. The length of the tie downs were used to their maximum so the hammock showed no sign of a dip or a sag. Unless you were standing directly the hammock, you would not notice it being there. For it was a perfect blend into the concrete and steel. With a few packing blankets that Nigel had managed to borrow when some workers went for a smoke, he could sleep through the night undisturbed.
Sleep was the one place that he could not control his thoughts, regrets and memories of the past that has led him to his current state of homelessness. The night’s dreams were his haunting and it was a wonder that Nigel sought sleep at all. Although his dreams caused his mind distress every night, he seemed to forget them when the day came to a close and it was time once again time to enter the realm of sleep and brings its uninvited guests.
She would always wake him when he was in the deepest stages of sleep.
"Push over, God dammit", she snapped.
He could feel the anger well up and tighten his jaw and chest as he obediently pushed over. "Sometimes," he thought to himself, "I could just kill her!"
The morning came with the rising sun hanging low and shining in and under his private space. It signaled the time to get up as the sun would only warm his spot for a few minutes. It was September 10th. The days were getting shorter and the trees gave evidence that not all change is bad. There were the bright reds of the swamp Maples and the yellows and orange of Autumn were already beginning to appear on the trees that outlined the city suburbs. Some dogs could be heard barking over the constant drone of the traffic running overhead. The granite blocks that once lined the upgrade on the underside of the highway had long been picked clean, except for a few near the top. With the strategic placement of a few blocks he had easy access to his home.
"Making plans for Nigel," he snickered as he began to formulate his plans for the day. On this morning, it took eleven minutes and three seconds to walk the length of Main Street to the Veteran’s Statue. Here he turned up the side street to Joseph’s House where the well meaning Christians passed out breakfast to the many, the downtrodden, the unfed. With a plate of scrambled eggs and oatmeal and government peanut butter on toast, Nigel felt ready to seize the day. Considering that he had started every day like this since arriving here in early April, seizing the day perhaps only meant getting through the day and arriving at Joseph’s for another round of boxed eggs with their side car of oatmeal one more morning.
The city had an estimated 3,000 homeless. It was difficult to tell how many found themselves living on the streets or in shelters because of mental illness or because of alcohol and drug addictions. Some cities were a draw to the abused and drug addicted kids while some seemed to attract the older group of State Hospital releases and alcoholics. But one thing was certain, those that held jobs and had homes sought to avoid the homeless whenever possible.. There were those brave souls who made a living out of panhandling and those that forced themselves upon the windshields of drivers trapped by the cities many intersections. A few greasy smears across the windshield and the drivers shelled out a buck just to be rid of them. Some areas attracted those that were willing to sell themselves just to buy their drug of choice and make it on to the next day.
It wasn’t that way with Nigel. He didn’t see himself as having anything in common with the homeless and vagrants that wandered the streets. He walked the outskirts of the city and explored little patches of woods where he could enjoy the sounds of birds. He would nestle himself up under a tree off the beaten path and read what ever he could find. Nigel explored with the curiosity of Darwin and sought his own origin in every rock and interesting find of nature that he could fit into the deep pockets of his woolen coat.
"Thirteen minutes," he breathed aloud. "I must be getting old. Seems like it takes longer to get home every day." He turned up the pathway and slid through the fence to the overpass. He emptied his coat pockets and placed the day’s find into his cubby. A pretty rock, a magazine and some day olds from the dumpster behind the donut shop. He settled in to sleep knowing that breakfast was only eleven hours away. With his mind focused on tomorrow’s breakfast he ignored that his dreams were only a short distance in time away.
He heard her come in and rustle about the kitchen. He glanced at the clock and saw it was thirty three minutes past one and rolled over onto his stomach. She wouldn’t allow him to sleep with pajamas on. He slid a little closer to his side of the bed. She entered the bedroom and Nigel breathed as if he was in very deep state of slumber.
"Nigel, my baby." she whispered into his ear. "You’re my little love! You know that don’t you?"
She ran her hand through his hair and continued down his back.
Nigel swallowed hard.
"Wake up baby. Turn over."
She grabbed his shoulder and turned him towards her. She brushed his hair from off his forehead and began to slowly kiss him. First the forehead, then the cheek. Her hand slid down under the sheets and began to rub against him. She was kissing him hard, full on the lips and when she deemed him ready, she climbed on top. Nigel tried not to look up into her face and looked at the clock. He closed his eyes and sought release in the hopes that, she would be satisfied. She rode him hard and threw her head back with a moan and he felt himself arch his back into her, giving his own muffled moan.
"There, baby. Don’t we both feel better?"
With the smell of cigarettes and alcohol in her hair and on her breath, she kissed him one last time and rolled over to fall fast asleep.
Nigel watched the reflection of car lights cast upon the ceiling and then glanced at the clock. "One fifty five." She was right. He did feel better. But Nigel knew that somehow this had to stop. How could sleeping with your sister ever be right. Anywhere.
The morning came and Nigel threw back his covers and his dreams and prepared for the walk to Joseph’s House. His one guaranteed meal of the day. He looked with disgust at the wet spot on his trousers between his legs.
"Making plans for Nigel," he said aloud.
He then sat and cried.
Frank Hsu was a man that drew no particular attention from anyone. At five foot five with a weight of about 135 Lbs and short cropped black hair, he was nearly invisible. A quiet man that worked and paid his bills was a perfect blend into the busy city life. His building super could hardly remember what he looked like. Other than the neighbor in 4C with the heavy makeup and a perpetual cigarette in her mouth, nobody knew who lived in 4B.
He awoke at five thirty as he did every morning without the aid of an alarm clock. He placed his kettle on the boil and opened a small apothecary that held assorted bottles of roots, herbs and liquids. He cut a piece of root and placed it in a pestle along with herbs from two types of herb. He ground the trio into a powder and added it to his selection of tea leaves. Placing them in his teapot, he added the water and covered to steep. He withdrew three incense sticks and placed them upon an altar. He then took a small dish of water, some flowers and a small candle and placed them upon the altar as well. He poured his tea and returned to the altar and sat before it on a deep red pillow. The candle was placed and lit along with the incense and the flowers were arranged beside the stone dish of water. He sat and sipped his tea until he felt prepared to enter into his daily meditation.
With his meditation now complete, Frank slowly rose and relaxed his shoulders. He stood before a ten by twelve foot rug with an obvious circle worn into the outer portions of the rug. Like a big "O" perfectly pressed into the intricate spacing of colors and symbols. He began his third and the last portion of his morning ritual and began to walk the circle. First counterclockwise, and after several laps, clockwise. His hands moved as kites in the wind. His feet drew him along effortlessly, heel to toe, heel to toe. With the grace of rain on a mountain top, as it gathers depth and gains strength, and forms into a new mountain stream, Frank Hsu’s movement channeled the unseen, creating a force within him that only served to make him a part of all that is, the nameless, the Tao.


Nigel changed his pants and thought of how long a wait it would be before he could slip into Union Station and wash himself. Some days were difficult due to the many delays in the daily schedule. There were times he arrived believing that the station would be empty only to find the platform filled with nervous commuters waiting for their ride to work. Nigel felt the sun beginning to rise above the trees and warm his space under the bridge.
"Hey, asshole! Move that God Damned junket outta there!" yelled a big Swedish looking guy from beside a truck at the loading station. The strength of his voice startled Nigel and he looked to see who he was directing his anger at.
"Yeah! I don’t care if I’m late. I need to unload and be outta here! Move your ass and when I’m done you take all the time in the fricken world, for all I care," he screamed at another delivery driver already in the process of having his truck unloaded.
Nigel sat back and watched as Frank Hsu appeared to try and reason with the ill tempered driver. Nigel couldn’t hear any more of the exchange but could see the smaller of the two men trying to talk. He could see from the Hsu’s gestures he was adamantly resolved to remain unloading his until he was finished.
Nigel felt himself flinch as the bigger man swung his fist and tried to express his full fury with one wide swing. Hsu stepped back with his hands at his sides and looked towards his opponent seemingly unfazed. Nigel walked down the bridge embankment to have a better view.
The big blonde walked towards the direction of Hsu and swung once more, only to have Hsu roll back, toe to heel and out of the reach of the man’s enormous fists. Hsu then rolled forward, heel to toe and circled towards the blondes left.
As the larger opponent looked to size up his challenge, Nigel saw the smaller man step forward and suddenly change his direction to the man’s right. He moved forward and tagged the Swede once in each ear and quickly stepped back. Stunned, the Swede lunged forward with a yell of anger and sought to grab his opponent to the ground, only to find his feet swept away. In the Swedes forward momentum he tumbled ungracefully to the ground. He rolled and crawled to face Hsu once more. Frank Hsu stepped forward and moved towards the other delivery driver. Nigel heard the crack all the way from where he stood and the blood began to gush from the Swedes nose. In the increasing light, Nigel saw that the smaller man was Asian.
Frank Hsu helped the man to the main office of the warehouse in search of first aid. He returned and picked up the Swedes manifest and tossed into the cab of his truck nearby. He then turned and looked at Nigel and walked a few paces closer.
Nigel tensed.
"I see you!" the Asian spoke in a loud but unstrained voice.
"I’m not hiding, if that’s what you think" returned a nervous Nigel.
"I see you!" he echoed. Hsu returned to his truck and found it ready. The Swede stood by all nicely bandaged waiting his turn.
In the days that followed, Nigel began to experience what all new car owners do. Up until you buy the car you hardly notice your make and style. After the purchase everywhere you look you see the same make and model of the car you just purchased. At least once a day, if not five to ten times a day, Nigel would spot the Asian in every corner of the city at all times of the day. After a full day of exploring places in the city most inhabitants were ignorant of, Nigel turned and began his walk home.
"Fifteen minutes, even," he mused. "It has to be the cold," he thought to himself and cut through the fence from the far end of the street. "I used to make this walk in just eleven minutes."
"I see you!"
Nigel was startled and stopped in his tracks. His eyes adjusted and he saw the Asian standing below his home among the steel frame of the bridge.
"I see you," repeated Nigel. "I didn’t tell anyone about what I saw. I don’t want any trouble."
"I am not here to hurt you. I am here to thank you for what you did."
"But I did, didn’t do nothing," Nigel stuttered.
"I know you don’t remember me. It’s alright. I remember you. I see you. That in me, sees you!"
With that, the Asian turned and walked past Nigel to the private path through the fence and headed back down Main Street.

Death and Love
Bathed in the light of a full moon, Isaac awoke and regained his bearings. In the distance, the port city still blazed bright against the horizon. He stood gazing at the ghostly beauty of it all when his attention was shifted to two men approaching the wall beside the outer courtyard.

"I look forward to going back," stated a Chinamen to Bostwick. His English was impeccable. He was dressed as a peasant but spoke like an English businessmen.
"I hope to accommodate you, my good man," replied Bostwick. "With a little effort, perhaps we can double our count. Another dead coolie is one less heathen to contend with and one more devil in hell, uh?"
Chow X’ing shifted uncomfortably and seemed at a loss for words.
"What is it?" demanded Bostwick. "I can read your oriental ass like a book! Spill it, man!"
"The boy. What are you to do with the boy? We could use the help you promised"
"He’s too sick. Only good for an occasional buggering. When I’ve had my fill I think I’ll sell him. Tell you what, mate. Whatever I get for him, I’ll split it fifty-fifty with you.
They approached the house and soon went from Isaac’s view. After a few minutes the Chinamen was seen along the courtyard wall. He turned down the narrow street and walked in a direction opposite the port. Isaac stood numb. He did not want to believe what he overheard. It was too much to deal with. What was he to do? His feet seemed unable to move. Which way was he to go? Should he act as though he heard nothing? Should he confront Bostwick? His head was dizzy with indecision. His mind went back to a time when his school chums had chased him with dog excrement on the end of a stick. He ran until he fell and laughingly they smeared it over Isaac’s face from the end of the stick. Humiliated, Isaac pulled a deep rage, up from the depths of his being and confronted his attackers. He managed to grab on to one of the three by the shirt sleeve as they ran away in laughter. His fist caught the prankster square in the teeth. Satisfied, he ran until the other two understood that Isaac meant business. The two stopped to confront Isaac figuring that the odds were in their favor. Isaac flung his body, all arms and legs, against his attackers. As they toppled to the ground, Isaac violently kicked at one while pummeling the other with both fists. His three classmates returned to Coll’s nursing substantial wounds and never bothered him again. Isaac realized that he would need to pull that anger forward again. It was time to confront Bostwick. Isaac went down the stairway and entered the house and passed through the inner courtyard. Undeterred, he yelled for Bostwick to appear!
"Master Isaac, why the alarm?" Bostwick approached. The look and smell of opium was recognizable with the large grin and sweet smell upon his coat.
"I heard of your intention. I was on the roof," he stuttered. I will pack my things and find my way from here!"
"You will do no such thing, you ungrateful bastard. You are mine to do with whatever I please. You were bought and paid for. If you don’t like it, take it up with your old School Master Dillingham!"
"And that I will! I am leaving and you can’t stop me," Isaac shouted and brushed his way around Bostwick to collect his things. He retired to his room and collected his things into a sailors sack and opened the door to leave. Isaac’s face was immediately met with a swinging fist. Bostwick sent him reeling backwards onto the bed, where he was met with another blow that pushed the wind forcibly from his lungs. This was followed by another and another until Isaac was almost unconscious. "I’ll show you who the captain of the ship is, mate!" Bostwick grabbed Isaac’s night clothes and linen and anything else that was available. He stripped Isaac down to his skivvies and tied him face down onto the bed. With his arms and legs stretched out into a human "X", Bostwick stripped off his belt. The first few strokes of the belt were slaps as if to tease Bostwick with growing excitement. As Isaac moaned, Bostwick’s pleasure intensified. "Ah, yes. Talk to me, Isaac." The strokes of the belt became more fierce until Isaac began to moan in pain. Bostwick briefly stopped and began to undress. Taking up the belt again, he continued to administer a fierce beating. With Isaac’s every moan, Bostwick would fondle himself until his passion could no longer be contained. He dropped the belt and tugged until Isaac’s remaining clothes were ripped from his battered body. He punched and pulled until Isaac’s position was applicable to his intentions. With violent thrusts and growls he relieved himself. "Now, what were you saying?" he asked Isaac, pulling his face from off the bed.
"I thought so."
Annette Jennings was born somewhere in Northern Tibet and became entrusted to the care of John and Linette Jennings, two American missionaries. Knowing neither her mother or father, the Jennings provided a healthy and loving family environment. She accompanied the Jennings as their own daughter as they traveled through South Africa, India and Southeast Asia spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Cholera claimed the lives of the Reverend and Mrs. Jennings.. Annette hired herself out to the master of an educated family of Chinese origin who would often visit the Jennings for lengthy discussions about God and Western Government. Mr.Chou felt obligated, knowing that Annette was twice over a foreigner in a foreign land. After several months in Chou’s employment, the family packed up and headed for a government position in Shanghai and Annette with them. During the weekly meetings that Mr. Chou held with representatives of the local merchants, the militia commanders and the local magistrate, Chou offered up an idea to help infiltrate the members of a growing opium trade.
"We need to infiltrate this man’s life and discover who is involved." The local magistrate, acting on government orders had discovered the futileness of direct aggression or diplomacy. It was known that a steady supply of high grade opium was being smuggled from Shanghai upriver. It was later discovered that Richard Bostwick was an active participant, if not the ringleader himself. It was felt that there were Government troops receiving bribes enabling the success of the trade. Some felt that the Sabbath Keepers at Nanjing were responsible. Regardless who was involved, the magistrate wanted some arrests and he wanted them soon. "I have a house keeper and teacher in my employment. Her white parents died. She is very ugly and not Chinese, but she understands and speaks several dialects well. We can arrange for her to gain employment there, stated Mr Chou, and gather information for us."
It was rather easy to arrange. Especially after the release of Isaac’s old care taker. Annette fulfilled her responsibilities while keeping her eyes and ears open and reported to Mr Chou weekly. Today, Annette worried that she had given herself away when she stopped Isaac from entering the opium room. Later that evening, Annette overheard the beating of Isaac and again wasn’t sure if she should intercede. In the late hours of the night she slowly made her way to Isaac’s side. Annette recoiled in shock to see his naked and bruised condition.
"Isaac. Quickly. Let me help you," she softly stated untying him. "Let me help you." Isaac sat up humiliated and tried to conceal his manhood. "No time for that, Isaac. Help me get you dressed and I will get you some help."
"Well, well. Not quite what I expected to see here. Nice English, by the way." Bostwick stood in the door way blocking their exit. "I’ve been looking for a young girl to take pleasure in. Looks like I found her. I’m good at finding my pleasure, right Master Isaac?" he said with a laugh.
"Bostwick! Stand down and let us pass."
At hearing this, Bostwick began to laugh. It began as a snicker, a creaking groan from his expanding belly. "Stand down? Stand down?" he laughed. His laugh became almost contagious in an obscene sort of way as his face reddened with amusement. "Stand down?" In an unexpected turn, he struck Annette to the ground. In a moment all became a total silence. Reaching under her smock, Annette pulled out a long and ornate silver dagger. With a swift kick, Annette was disarmed and the dagger skipped across the bed. Bostwick slapped the girl aside and lunged forward to retrieve the weapon. Laying inches from his hand, Isaac wrapped his finger around it and just held it steady above the bed. As Bostwick tripped forward over Annette, lying upon the floor, Bostwick became impaled up under his ribs below his breastbone. In seconds, Bostwick was alive and then, dead. Isaac stood leaving the body of Bostwick kneeling at the bedside as if saying his prayers. Annette led Isaac to the street and signaled for bearers who brought him to Mr. Chou for medical aid. The career of Master Richard Bostwick had come to a fitting end. When his body was finally retrieved it was so stiffened with death that his body was laid in a hole without the protection of a casket, kneeling, as if in supplication to the God he had so often mocked. The only person in attendance for his burial was the caretaker of the foreigners cemetery. No one from the British Embassy When the last spade of dirt was thrown onto his grave, the cemetery worker set his spade aside and fumbled for relief. His urine cut a deep hole into the loose dirt. In a final act of disapproval he spat into the pool of urine and grinned at the sight.


Loralee Choate said…
I'm not sure if you wanted any comments/crits of this, so I will follow my true self and say something.

The first bit was my favorite. Complex, compelling and very interesting.

I was worried when I read the summary of your book because I had no idea what most of the things you are talking about are.

I know nothing about Taoism (Like you and everyone else on here didn't know that!) and I didn't know if I would be able to grasp it.

SO far, it seems like a very good way to introduce an ignorant like me. I am hoping that Nigel knows as little and I can learn along with him. It would be less intimidating.

I really like Nigel. The discription of homelessness, his days, his "home"-very good. The thing you are doing with time and his character in general (I relate to being amongst people "Like you" but not considering yourself to being like them)are compelling and interesting.

The last part seemed very sudden...I wanted it fleshed out more, but I also realize this is just a snipped. I thought the peeing on the grave was a nice touch!

Tiny things I noticed:
Your strengths seem to fall on character construction and detail of emotion. LOVELY.

I get a bit lost in description of action (The fight scene with the Swede and when Bostwick dies) they also seem a bit sudden. (Again, I know they are just bits of a whole story, though).

I had to do a double read to make sure Nigel hadn't bought himself a new car(Obviously there was no way of that!). I love the comparision, and very slight rewording would fix it.

I'd love to have you post some more as I really want to know what happens to Nigel.

Anyway. Good work. BTW--We have one of the biggest car shows in the west in my little hometown every July. The "Cruise In". There are some REALLY beautiful cars...
Tim said…
Thank you (((((loralee))))) The difficult thing about snippets of a story are the surprise and lack of flow from one to the other. I am in need of a good editor. Your feedback was well received and very respected. I wish I had more friends like you. As I told you before, you are remarkably blessed with having so many friends...and it's easy to tell why.
Loralee Choate said…
THANK YOU!!! :D :D :D :D :D`