The Unicorn

Monday morning, and not only a new week but a new month. May, of course, is when the Formosan termites swarm; usually they join us sometime around Mother’s Day, but I saw people posting about them last night on Facebook. Maybe it was the extremely mild winter; hopefully, the early start means an early end. It really does seem like one of the plagues of Egypt when the termites are swarming; our first experience with it back in May 1997 was absolutely horrifying. Even typing about it now makes my skin crawl. We’ve been relatively lucky over the past fourteen years or so; living in the back as we do, we only get a few inside the house and once they do, off go the lights and we light candles.

It really surprises me that there really isn’t anything that can be done with these things.

Last night, we watched the documentary Tower, which is about the first mass shooting at  a school, and another episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, which continues to be riveting. I vaguely remember the events of Tower;  I was almost five when Charles Whitman went up to the observation deck of the University of Texas Tower and started shooting people. It really did seem as though the world, and the country, was going crazy. Only a few weeks before the Texas Tower murders, Richard Speck raped and murdered eight nursing students in Chicago, and in retrospect, my mother’s paranoia about our safety–a young woman with two small children and a husband from the rural South living in the big city–really isn’t so surprising. There were also some horrible riots in Chicago in 1996, and of course, the riots in the wake of Dr. King’s murder in 1968 were still to come (in the wake of those riots, some of my father’s relatives who lived in Chicago packed up and moved back to Alabama). The Democratic National Convention was also in Chicago in 1968… and the Chicago Police Department’s brutality against the protestors documented by news cameras for the world to see.

Tower is incredibly powerful, and an interesting way to film a documentary. The filmmakers interviewed and spoke to the survivors, and then used filmed actors the right age to reenact what happened, then animating them, while interspersing actual film footage and photographs from the ninety-six minutes of pure hell the city of Austin, and the University of Texas, endured. What happened that day was horrifying enough, but reliving it through the personal stories of the survivors, and their memories of what happened that day, made it even more heartbreaking and moving. The documentary primarily focuses on the point of view of two of the police officers, one of the students who helped victims, another witness who watched it all happen through the windows of a nearby building (one of the most moving moments is when this woman, a young girl at the time, says, “This sort of thing is a defining moment. I stood there in the window, knowing there were people out there who needed help, but I was too afraid of being shot to do anything. That was when I knew I was a coward.”), the University bookstore manager who climbed the Tower with the three officers to take out Charles Whitman, but the two personal stories that moved me the most was the young paperboy who shouldn’t have even been there, but was filling in on the route for another boy, and had his young cousin riding on his bike with him when he was shot in the leg off his bicycle, and of course, Claire, one of the first victims, eight months pregnant and leaving the student union with her boyfriend, who was killed instantly. Claire’s baby was killed when she was shot in the abdomen, and she lay there, on the cement in front of the Tower, with her boyfriend lying dead near her, unable to move or get helped because anyone who went out there was in the line of fire, roasting on the hot cement in the heat of an August day in Austin. A young woman named Rita ran over to her, talked to her the entire time, lying on the ground near her, keeping her conscious and keeping her alive.

I cannot even imagine how horrible the ordeal must have been for her, or how she has lived with the memories of everything she lost that day for the rest of her life.

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Simply extraordinary.

I’ve almost finished reading Cleopatra’s Shadows–have maybe another hundred pages to go, and also made some serious progress on decluttering the apartment. I’ve decided that I am going to clean out the storage space–both the one over the laundry room as well as the rented one–and try to declutter the Lost Apartment as much as I can. I am only going to  keep research books, my children’s series collections, signed books by friends, and my Stephen King hardcovers. Anything else is going to be donated. If I had more time I might try to sell them on ebay or Amazon, but I just don’t have the time and I don’t want to mess with it, to be perfectly honest. So, every Saturday morning–or every morning when I have to work late–I am going to take boxes out of the storage places, go through them, and start donating. I feel very good about this decision, quite frankly.

I also intend to finish the outline of the WIP this week, as well as a second draft of “Quiet Desperation.”

Onward and upward, y’all.

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