ROI – The Water We Spend

Aerial photo of Beaver Valley Power Station in Pennsylvania, showing evaporation from the large cooling towers.
This article is part three of a series.

“People don’t have any idea that when they flip their light switches on or their air conditioner, there’s huge amounts of water involved,” said Neil Carman, director of the clean air program for the Texas Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Water is behind absolutely everything we do. Let’s begin this story back home. How does our domestic water use break down?

Pie chart of our water use

According to the EPA the average family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day. If you look at the pie chart above (which comes from their website) you can see that we use this water for worthy goals.

Sanitation cannot be overstated. It is what makes life bearable. As such I deem this to be a good ROI for water spending. Though I would stress that we must strive to carry out these use-cases more efficiently.

Efficient use of resources at home is laudable. But we shouldn’t sink into the comforting fantasy that small changes at home will make a big difference for water conservation. The illusion of control that we get from being ‘good people’ is, like most illusions, detrimental.

Even if everybody followed the most stringent conservatism in their domestic water use it wouldn’t begin to make a dent in our ‘water debt’ (To be explained). This is because the biggest water hogs are irrigation and Thermoelectric power.

US Freshwater Withdrawals Chart

As you can see from the above graph almost half of all freshwater withdrawals in 2010 were for Thermoelectric power. Irrigation is the second largest water hog at 32%.

Power and food are essentials. It is a good return on investment to spend water on these things. As with domestic use we must be more efficient here. The efficiencies that we improve in these two areas will have a far greater impact on making sure that we have plenty of fresh water available for the future.

The good news is that we do seem to have had a positive impact on water use.

Bar showing showing trends in fresh surface-water use, 1950 to 2010

What the above graph tells us is that there is a relationship between water use and population.

According to this graph water use peaked in 1980. It has since that time remained more or less steady. Though population growth continued along with a greater need for irrigation and industry, total water use has not risen. This seems to suggest that we’ve become more efficient at using water.

While I don’t doubt that greater efficiency in water use has contributed to this pleasant steadiness, I can’t help but think that offshoring a good chunk of our industry may also play a role. (As of the writing of this article I don’t have the exact data but I feel the possibility is worth mentioning.)

Now that you have some idea as to how we use water it’s time to get a bit more in-depth. The next article in this series will delve into the technologies and practices that have allowed us to get more out of water since the 1980’s.


Applying ‘ROI Thinking’ to Environmental Questions

Image result for the atchafalaya basin

This mini-article could have also been called:

‘Why I Apply ROI Thinking to Environmental Questions’

But it looked awkward in the title bar so I opted for what you see there up top.

So, why apply ‘ROI Thinking’ to environmental questions? Well…

Bottom Line: Money represents resources. If we can use ROI to talk about finance which is a roundabout way of talking resources then we can use it to talk about resources.

So, what is ROI?

It’s a business term that means ‘Return on Investment.’

For the Pedantic:

“Return on investment, or ROI, is the most common profitability ratio. There are several ways to determine ROI, but the most frequently used method is to divide net profit by total assets. So if your net profit is $100,000 and your total assets are $300,000, your ROI would be .33 or 33 percent.”

-Return on Investment(ROI) – Entrepreneur

This acronym is useful not just for business but pretty much for everything.

What is it that you get out of the work and resources that you put in?

Some may think this a cynical way of looking at things.

But that’s not an accurate interpretation.

ROI has nothing to do with generosity or stinginess it has everything to do with economy.

If you expend all your energy and resources on something then you may not have that energy and those resources for something more vital.

This is why it is vastly important to pay attention to your return on investment.

So what are some resources that we should be careful with.

Let’s start with the general and important ones:

Time, material, and health.

If you spend all your time with one job or friend then you won’t have any for another.

If you eat all your food and don’t have money then you’re gonna be hungry.

If you ignore your health by sleeping only a couple of hours a night to do XYZ then you won’t be doing XYZ for very long.

This is why you need to pay attention to ROI. Which I will now just call Roy.

Roy is easy to understand but difficult to apply.

Like lots of business terms Roy is basically formal wear for simple ideas.

Roy is about getting as much bang for your buck as possible.

The issue that I’m using Roy to evaluate is an environmental one.

I’m trying to figure out better ways of utilizing the vital resource known as water.

By figuring out I mean describing the problems surrounding water by listening to scientists, journalists, and other professionals and then relaying that information through this journal and coming up with my own ideas.

I’m hoping that in so doing I learn a lot and am able to provide an accurate picture of water issues and possible solutions.

I think that a good place to start is Roy. What are we getting out of the water we spend?

Or it’s counter: what are we losing by spending water in the ways we are now?

‘What are we getting out of the water we spend’ and ‘what are we losing by spending water’ will be the subjects of the next two nonfiction essays in this journal.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned.

ROI Today – Are we productive?

Image result for commute

Take cars, for example. It takes 75,000 gallons of water to produce one ton of steel. Since the average car contains about 2,150 pounds of steel, that means over 80,000 gallons of water is needed to produce the finished steel for one car.

An issue that I will be tackling in upcoming weeks is the amount of resources we spend versus what we produce.

I have had a recurring thought on many a commute that the ratio of products and services rendered versus the cost of production is wildly askew.

Many if not most people drive two tons of steel to and from work  a day. You don’t have to even take carbon into consideration to see why this is potentially wasteful from an ROI standpoint.

First there is the metal itself, then there is the time in production and maintenance, then there is the cost of the fuel. Then there are hidden costs such as the 80,000 gallons of water it takes to produce a car.

Understanding how to balance the ratio of resource use and productivity requires abstaining from finger-pointing and taking a long hard look at what’s actually happening.

My goal is to find out how to produce more than we consume.

Here are some links that can provide insights into the scale of consumption for one very vital resource called water.


Of News and our Digestion

Image result for newshound

Musings of a Hound

The ‘ring of truth’ is still just an after effect…
The case for print and excessive subtitles!

The news often ruins my digestion. Not because it is bad news mind you. I’ve made peace with the fact that the world isn’t peaceful long ago.

No, the news ruins my digestion because it’s artificial. To be more precise, it ruins my digestion, because recently it has become crassly artificial. It’s a bacchanal of Tupperware and plastic confetti.

The news is artificial by nature so artificiality in and of itself isn’t the source of my dependence on Pepto Bismol. Yes, the news is artificial, But that does not mean it has to revel in it. Unwholesomeness of this sort will ruin anyone’s digestion.

So how is the news artificial exactly?

It’s artificial because it is by its very nature a representation. Most representations today are far from representative of the truth. The ones that hit really close to home still miss the exact mark because they are facsimiles. See: Xerox loses fidelity with each copy, the whisper game, etc.

This inescapable fact of the nature of news means that you have some serious digesting to do.

It means my friends that you are going to have to READ the news and not just hear or see the news.

While both audio and video recordings have their merits, and can be revisited as often as one likes, there is still much to be said for the static black and white of print.

First its immersiveness, and its cognitive effects promote deeper learning; that is less encumbered by the visual tricks of a news mink’s legs, or the tonal ploys of a beseeching moral crusader.

While lots of devilry is possible through turns of phrase, white lies, and outright chicanery these things are less pernicious in print. They are less pernicious because they are easier to spot and there is less of a blend between the real and virtual world.

The virtual world of a corporate news room, or talk radio broadcast is really good at getting in your head, because it is your heads native environment rendered electrically. When someone says something convincingly, or a sexy charming sort claims to be objective, you may know better but these messages will permeate deeper. They will permeate deeper without being properly digested.

The reason that I favor and profess the merits of print is because it gives you a broader space for assessment. The rapid fire bombardment of multi-sensory information that happens with audio and visual news services doesn’t give you adequate time to digest. Which means that there is a greater likelihood that you will come away having assimilated more views without assessment than you may have realized.

Print just stays there staring you in the face. It is because of this stasis that you can get a better feeling for the fact that ‘things can be found out.’ Things can be traced back.

Reading you see promotes further reading. Therefore it promotes research. Because when something you either fancy ,or despise is sitting there, staring at you in all its static glory:  you want to know why it’s correct or detestably false.

And you know that you can do it, because you know that very likely there is somewhere  supporting statements, that are also black and white. Thus you participate in a culture of deeper searching and thinking.

When I listen to news banter, or hear of the latest from this or that event, my impulse is more often to chat with friends or blast out an opinion column. However when I read I think deeper and reach for more sources.

I think the case for reading is actually stronger today with the advent of the internet. Because with the internet you can dig through much more things almost instantaneously.

The world, especially today is incredibly complex, and monumentally nuanced. We must visit and revisit issues ad infinitum because there is always something new to be gleaned in the old. Such is honesty, such is philosophy, such is science. We now have more tools than ever to do this well on a grand scale. Therefore we have a duty.

Yes, because of all that I’ve mentioned and the nature of technology: I have to say that reading news is a duty. That thinking about news is a duty. That rereading news is a duty. That perhaps even columnisting, blogging, book writing of your own is a duty.

It is a duty just like making sure that your gut is healthy is a duty.

Eat your fiber lest you get the runs and die.

Image Credit:

Lost and Found

I couldn’t believe that I’d lost it. I was sitting in my friends grunge rock kitchen and I couldn’t believe that I’d lost it. In aggregate it was at least a hundred pages. Yet the most hurtful thing was the seventy-seven pages of a manuscript that had seemed to write itself.

So how did I lose hours upon hours worth of work?

I’m a recent Linux convert. I started by letting my friend put Arch on my gaming laptop. I really liked it. I liked the control, the security, the performance, and the privacy. I was so thrilled by all of the above that I didn’t mind dealing with proprietary driver issues with my Broadcom WiFi.

As time went on I decided to go full Linux and banish Windows 10 from my HP desktop. I am not normally a purist but Win 10 slow performance on a machine it came pre-installed with, as well as its standard issue Spyware-like features, turned me into a Linux zealot.

I did miss playing Chaos Theory and having the capacity to install Halo PC and other gaming gems on my machine. But nostalgia is a small price to pay for having a computer that works like it should.

As I grew increasingly annoyed with Windows and Silicon Valley in general I couldn’t wait to distance myself from politically correct, self-righteous, intrusive, proprietary nonsense.

So it was that I got into a mad rush to rid myself of Windows. I thought I’d put a less esoteric version of Linux onto my desktop then was on my laptop. Since I’m a Lunduke fan I opted for openSUSE over Mint which I had a copy of (thanks to a friend who’d installed it on a desktop I’m going to donate to a Luddite.)

Yes. The expression though trite is true. The expression being “Haste makes waste.” I loaded the openSUSE leap 42.3 ISO onto my trusty USB 3 Gorilla. The thing has upwards of sixty gigs. I was mighty ticked when for whatever reason the ISO kept complaining about not having enough space! The ISO was 4 gigs!

Then after some Discord sessions with my techie friend I realized that I wasn’t formatting properly. Something I would have realized on my own if I had only slowed down.

In fact if I had only slowed down and taken a deep breath life would be substantially better. I would still have my work.

What happened was that I formatted a drive that contained files that I didn’t realize had been cut rather than copied. So the original files were gone from my primary computer, they were gone from the USB to which they had been cut, and they were gone from the HP desktop which was purged of Redmond Spyware along with everything else.

Because I got busy with research, music, and studying Java I didn’t revisit my main writing project for days.

My friend needed help moving a washer and dryer. I arrived at his house and since he wasn’t back yet with the truck I pulled out my laptop to get some much delayed writing done.

As I clicked around my file,s and tried various USBs, the realization that I had royally screwed up slowly dawned on me.

So why am I sharing this tale of typical Bohemian absent-mindedness?

Well for one, I would enjoy reading something like this. I’m a writer so obviously I like stories and I like to tell stories even more. It’s good practice to write most anything. I have to stay sharp! But furthermore there is a realization I had as I was sitting there staring at my friends stark little kitchen clock that I feel is worth sharing.

This post is called Lost and Found and I did find something. I found that I wasn’t particularly worried. Despite the fact that I had lost hours upon hours of work, and probably some rather original ideas, and turns of phrase that I might not be able to replicate; I felt at peace.

I felt at peace because a fact that I knew; the fact of perishability; of the eventually loss of everything; was realized. I had realized it before but this particular iteration of realization was a bit mystic.

Perhaps it was the unexpected loss in the unexpected place but I felt a certain gnosis.

Even my favorite greats like Michael Crichton and Bach may eventually be forgotten. The thousands upon thousands of copies of their works may fade away. The millions upon millions of people who have read Crichton and listened to Bach will certainly perish. So of what consequence is it that I lost a good start to a novel?

However great Bach and Crichton may be at what they do, and however much I fancied the first seventy pages of my novel; these things aren’t irreplaceable. Sure they are irreplaceable, ‘as they are’, as in there is no such thing as an exact facsimile. But something like it will recur again.

And since most of what I’d written is still fresh in my mind; perhaps as I rewrite, it will all largely still be there, and perhaps it will turn out even better. Such is the beauty of iterating and why I chose it as the name of a podcast.

So, the big Find is that despite everything being perishable, it is still unique and worthwhile, and more hearteningly, renewable.

Maybe I’ve been listening to too much Alan Watts but I find a certain reassuring Zen quality about this realization.

Thanks for reading.

The Archivist

British Columbia

His hand slipped over the paper again. It was practiced. It was familiar there was a sort of hum to it. A hum like the server fan in the corner of a chilly little B.C. Apartment.

Dirk Vidette sat on his best piece of furniture, an Aeron. He’d bought the chair a couple of years back. Two years being a stark contrast to the rest of the furniture he’d hauled around the past decade.

A worn out green couch, ten or twenty ceiling length filing cabinets, a coffee table, and some metal shelves were the sum of his living room furnishings. That is aside from a corner desk bearing the weight of a powerful PC several monitors and a drafting table modification.

At the moment he was hand copying the blueprints for a 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

He wasn’t a car enthusiast, an engineer, or an artist. This was simply part of a ritual.

The subject of memory had always fascinated Dirk. It was such an intangible thing. And yet it was the very fabric of being. There was nothing without memory. Even the brain-dead had some inkling of remembrance.

Dirk had often thought about doing something like neuroscience. He really wanted to understand and preserve memory. He didn’t have the patience for the niceties of formal schooling and preferred to read.

A thing that he noticed as he read and read was the richness of his memories growing. It was as if the facts, the stories, and the fiction lent high definition to his musings and recollections. His dreams were incredibly vivid.

Not that he had much time to dream. There was very much to read and very much coffee to drink.

It was one such rare siesta that had yielded a strong and sudden insight. He had to copy everything. Or at least as much as he could that he found important..

Sometimes, and especially early on, Dirk found very interesting and important things, more recently his subject matter was more mundane.

There was no neglect of directed study for the sake of playing copyist. His interest was very much memory. It was his goal to learn how to keep it and how to hone it.

That was the end of the copy ritual. He’d always relished contact between pen and paper. He delighted in recreating and preserving beautiful sketches and books. This was the act of remembrance made tangible. The metaphysical manifesting in the corporeal. It was his favorite sacrament.

Having finished his Jeep print he stood up stretched, crossed the room, and placed the drawing into a protective sleeve. A sleeve that he then inserted into one of the larger cabinets that were essentially the eastern wall of his work-room.

As the years wore on he’d become more and more concerned with information loss. This was somewhat baffling given the technological advances that marched on at a leisurely but steady pace.

Yet that was precisely what he found troubling. Technology was replacing capacity. It was functioning as a sort of prosthetic. In his childhood he’d remembered when email was a crazy new thing. He remembered letters and postcards as primary means of communication, he remembered his families dated but well maintained rotary phone, he could chart a progression from these to the reliance on keyboards and magnetic disks.

He was not a Luddite. Far from it. He was a techie, a computer enthusiast, a geek, a nerd. The clacking of keys, and the hum of cooling fans; were as welcome to him as the sound of his pen slipping on paper.

But. There was the ever present throb that certain skill-sets were being lost. While it was true that there were experts for many things from penmanship, to counterpoint, the fact remained that numerically such skills were declining. This of course meant that a certain psychology was lost.

He did at times laugh at his paranoia. Of course, of course, there are disks, and servers, and hard-drives; and if those fail, well then there are libraries and archives, and secure facilities dedicated to hard analog copies of things.

Yet he still couldn’t shake the feeling of something being a bit off. It was the synergistic coordination of decaying capacity and the over-reliance on technology. He felt that a certain chain of command had been broken.

He felt that it was his task to help repair that disconnect. Such a task of course had many difficulties.

Strange is a thing that can be tangible, but in many cases it is simply something out of vogue. It was because current trends made explanations difficult that Dirk kept quiet. It was a reticence fortified by his personality.

He was comfortable with solitude. It’s not that he was anti-social, or had any particular love of isolation, he just didn’t mind being alone as much as others did.

Feeling his work to be important he derived satisfaction from it. This satisfaction coupled with the dubious reception his claims would likely bring made doubly sure that he kept to himself.

(This chapter has some salty language and mildly adult themes. )


Extracting another cup from a well stained coffee maker he stood for a bit musing. For now he supposed he’d just press on. His goal was to more or less build a museum. A museum that existed not only in his cabinets but also in his mind.

The reason for this goal was to build his knowledge, to preserve memories, and to enhance his abilities so that he could share what he felt was necessary to share with the world. And the world would listen.

At times it of course felt silly, and forced, and grandiose. There were already many people out there espousing the merits of doing things by hand, of training the memory, and of maintaining records.

But there was something that he had felt once.

He wasn’t one to take stock in feelings and whimsy but he also didn’t entirely discount the role they played.

How febrile everything was. How absolutely subject to what so often seems mere whimsy. As central players in a life that’s often called a game we are thrown off balance by perspective shifts. Shifts that come with sudden violence.

There are in this regard of course the time worn standards of death, war, and disease but perhaps the fiercest of all is sudden knowledge.

The feeling that catalyzed Dirks whole endeavor was such. As with all things sudden it sprang abruptly from the mundane.

If now the only thing that kept him warm was the dark and pungent liquid that sat steaming on his desk it was weather a million miles removed from his youth. That climate was more like the hot tears of his favorite acrid beans; then the Vancouver wind, that was ever ready to find the smallest crack, through which to invade his cramped quarters.

He’d come to America from Niece as a child and spent his adolescence in the Arcadian lodgings of his decadent uncle. Phil Vidette was as immersed in Creole spices as he was soaked in a Merck Catalogs worth of illicit substances.

In the end uncle Phil had to be put up in a mental home. There in the dullness, devoid of chemical support, the wild man dwindled and died. Word of this made it to France. The reality being that Brigitte, Philips sister, and Dirks mother was next in line to inherit the old drunks Louisiana seat. Phil’s wife having long ago divorced him and left for greener pastures.

This tragedy, such a common symptom of the ennui of easy money, did have a silver lining. Dirk’s father had been embroiled in a company wide scandal. Legal fees, long hours, and constant surveillance had made life unbearable for Brigitte and her son.

The news of a ready home far from the noise was timely and welcome. Dirk was eight, and Brigitte was young, and Mark Vidette was far from happy to see them go. But it had to be done.

So it was that 1999 found Dirk in Louisiana. The house was messy, and the smell a bit sickening, but the locals were accommodating francophones; and so repairs and adjustments came readily.

Despite the rather atypical start, Dirks life was fairly mundane from that point onward. It was an adolescence filled with all the normal adolescent things, dotted here and there by brief visits from his father, when the law would allow it.

There was a settled sort of calm that flowed as steady as the waters of the Mississippi. The origin of his electric mission arose from such placidity.

It began with an infatuation. A rather unexpected one at that. The girl wasn’t beautiful. She was just pretty. An old friend whose looks and personality were very much average for an American.

But what’s average is rendered gorgeous when one sees the familiar flicker of a peculiar smile.

At 22 years old Dirk was bored. He found the prospect of college and following in his father’s corporate footsteps to be dull. His ‘gap years’ were beginning to wear his parents patience thin and so he moved out.

It was fortunate that the father of one of his high school chums was a honcho of sorts at a local textiles mill. It was one of the relatively few industrial centers that hadn’t been exported eastward. Something that allowed an unskilled youth a start of sorts and enough income to cover food, half the rent, and some play money.

Rooming with his friend was fun but it had the expected challenges. Art loved practical jokes. On one atypically cold night after an especially exhausting shift for Dirk he turned the AC on, lowering the temperature to about 29 degrees Fahrenheit. Dirk woke up panicked and freezing with only three hours before his five am shift.

This was the first sign that Dirk wouldn’t be able to get the real work, that he hoped to get done after his shift, accomplished.

Then there were the strange neighbors who’d come in and out of the complex. Peculiar and perennially suspicious cat ladies, boisterous frat types, and dramatic couples.

Some complained to the landlord about Dirk’s guitar and on an especially noxious occasion that jockey fellow knocked on Arts door. This was following an incident where Dirk had missed the alarm for his shift, and Art had to bang on Dirks door to wake him at four am. The landlord who was maybe only five years older than his lodgers informed them that if there were anymore complaints the pair would be evicted.

This of course led to some tension between old friends that coupled with testosterone had the makings for a great opera buffa.

Aside from the regular fisticuffs and banter of two young men living in close quarters there was also the intrusion of women. Art would have girls over. Dirk was in no mood for this after his shifts. He was itchy from fiberglass dust and didn’t care for the teasing, and the flirting, and the competing that this brought into the situation. He’d get a girl of his own but he really wanted to avoid the mess until he had gotten something accomplished. Something indie and useful.

One day Dirk came home from work in a good mood. He had been getting used to the workload and his sleeping schedule was normalized. He was stoked to have the energy to finally get some real studying and writing done. He dumped his tools on the kitchen table, took a quick shower, dressed and then made his way to the corner of the living room that acted as his office.

He looked at his whiteboard. The notes he’d made for himself had been erased. In their stead were the broad and neat strokes of a feminine hand. They spelled out Dirk is a 3. He assumed the three was a butt. Beneath this profound message was a heart and the name Rachel.

He found it annoying but he laughed it off. He was hungry. He was going to get to work after a sandwich and some beer. But the constant female visits and the reminders of their presence had triggered something in Dirk.

He skipped the sandwich, got a beer, and plopped himself down on the couch with his laptop. He went to a site he had promised himself never to use but which friends had impelled him to use.

He was scrolling Facebook for old acquaintances. Preferably female ones. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a pair of girls in swimsuits and a familiar name. He hastily scrawled a message arranging a meetup for memories sake.

That night as he was going to bed his phone buzzed. It was a text from Sarah.

The next day after work she was seated across from him at a diner. She was very thin, pretty but not beautiful. There was a sort of elegance to her long limbs and the large luminescent blue of her eyes paired well with auburn hair. She was roughly just how he’d remembered her but also different.

She was just a smoke buddy then. He’d noticed her in class because she was quiet and didn’t engage in dramatics or prissiness like the other girls. He recalled vividly her Mudd purse because he always found the torn jeans and band names like Sick Puppies to be one of those bizarrely American things. Did she think herself to be mud? How delightfully melodramatic.

He contacted her and found that they both had a passion for music and the sweat leaf. So it was that they’d hang around cheap southern diners, smoke, eat, and listen to music.

It had been years since those times. Heart palpitations had made Dirk quit both tobacco and weed and he’d become somewhat of a fitness fanatic. He actually found the robustness of his own frame pleasant. There was something nice to the dynamic. He was strong and he’d just gotten off work and his movements were precise and measured. She was wispy and delightfully girly in that quiet way peculiar to some introspective women.

He was surprised that she invited him to her own house after dinner. How did she land a house?

Apparently she was still a student and an elderly family friend was allowing her to use it. It was still crammed with her boxes, and they sat on an old dusty couch, as she lit up a joint and he refused it.

Canvases, paints, and books were littered about. Apparently she was still serious about becoming an artists or some such thing.

He played some guitar. They talked and laughed and then he left to go home and sleep because he had a shift in the morning.

She called him a few days after. Her voice was incredibly beautiful. He didn’t understand why. Maybe it was because he’d been avoiding women, and now as he was sitting in that industrial setting with machine oil staining his fingers; he was especially receptive to the contrast, of the sweetly lyrical and distinctly feminine tones, of an interested young woman.

It could be said that what they shared was a relationship and a fairly serious one though the style of it was very modern. So it would be more accurate to say that though there were sublime moments it was altogether an ugly pagan sort of thing. Something akin to what’s termed a friendship ‘with benefits.’

It was during one of these sublime moments that the sudden knowledge came.

Dirks interest were deep and broad and he kept up with them fastidiously. Currently his attention was concentrated on neuroscience and medicine. He even thought at times of re-entering college to become a neurologist. He opted instead to read quite a lot on the subject and take careful notes.

As he did so the tenuous fragility of life impressed itself deeply into his imagination. The myriad connections of the body were but wispy electrical flashes held together by a chemical glue. Though there was incredible resiliency, and he believed in the nobility of the human will, and something like a soul; he couldn’t help but feel that life was subject to a billion witless whimsies both seen and unseen.

She was sitting in front of her computer. Her knee was touching his. He loved the delicate curve of her pale neck, as it ran its course from the sweet arc of her head to meet silky shoulders. Shoulders that were dotted here and there with lovely little freckles, like happy constellations in a brilliant sky.

He placed a hand on that shoulder. Her skin was soft and warm.

“Whacha doin’ Mister?”

Dirk caressed the nape of her neck.

She smiled. The tilt that had been drifting in his direction increased. He felt her shoulders and frame relax into his chest. He could smell her hair. He knew a secret about her. He nibbled her ear a tad.

“Hey, hey…don’t you go star-tin anything.”

Dirk knew good and well that he could start anything he damned pleased. But he didn’t want to. There was something about her with the soft evening gathering outside their window and her delicate features illuminated by the comically artificial glow of the monitor.

She was so light against him. His other hand was round her waist and he could feel her breathing. She was alive but wispy like a lilac.

She seemed to be enjoying the moment as well. They just kept it there in that perfect place between contentment and expectation of yet greater pleasure.

Her left hand was on Dirk’s knee and the other was on the mouse. A truly modern romance.

“Hmm..hey you like classical don’t ya, that’s your thing…I think I…” She clicked something.

Dirk recognized the first measures of Ode to Joy instantly. He felt that it was cheesy at the moment but he was in too good a place to complain.

An den Brüsten der Natur, Dirk sang with mock seriousness as he became friskier.

She was resting against him completely now. He could feel her happiness.

“Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben,” Dirk re
sumed as he continued his perverse game.

Then the actual choir began and the couple were very far along in synchronizing. Each shift in the dynamics of the piece seemed to reflect some motion that the pair made. He ran his hands all over her body appreciatively. Sex barely entered into it. The sensation was one of love raised to rarified heights of transcedent ecstasy.

When the music ended they just sat there with him holding her in his arms. They sat like that in silent wonder for hours. She was the first to fall asleep.

He could feel the beating of her heart. It was steady and in the silence of that small old country house he noticed that it matched his own perfectly.

‘We are one flesh.’ Was Dirks last thought before he fell into a heavy sleep filled with many deep and vivid dreams.

This experience was still powerfully fresh weeks later.

One morning he woke up and she was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette. She was wearing nothing but a shirt, and as he approached, he noticed that her legs had blotches of blue paint on them.

She had nice legs and normally he would hate to see anything marring their perfection. But there was something lovely, about the haphazard little spills, on something so pretty; illuminated by the Dixie sun.

He stood and looked at her for some time. She was just a wispy thing shimmering momentarily in the sea of time. He loved this blooming little flower.

Take a picture it’ll last longer. she said facetiously.

He grabbed the cigarette from her mouth and tossed it in her coffee cup.


She looked at him defiantly. You better wach yourself.

Or what? Lady blacklung is gonna cough on me and give me second-hand cancer quicker than the old fashioned way?

You know I can’t deal with your bull without my deathsticks.

Well ya won’t have to.

Goin somewhere?

Yeah, maman needs me to help move a couch.

Awwwww…isn’t that sweet wittle Dicky Dirky wuvs his mommy.

Damn right. She cooks a hell of a lot better than you.

She started to complain but Dirk was already headed for the door with a grin on his face.

The image of those lovely legs, with that goofy art-chick paint splotched all over them remained in his mind throughout the entire drive to his late uncles house. It was a happy thought.

As he was in the middle of moving a couch in the parlour his phone went off.

The number was unfamiliar but he was in such a good mood that he picked it up.

“You French fuck! You! What did you do! Frog cunt what did you do to my sister.” The turn of phrase would have been hilarious had the voice not been so shockingly cold. It was like falling into an icy pond.

“Whoa, whoa, buddy, hold on. Who the hell are you?”

“You know damn well who I am you little fucking shit. I’m Paul Pardee and I’m going to kick your fucking teeth in. Curb stomp this bitch. UGHHH”

‘What in the hell.’ Dirk thought. Then it came to him. Pardee was Sarah’s last name. This must be her brother.

“Dude, you need to calm the fuck down and tell me what’s going on. Cause I only left a couple of hours ago and she was fine having coffee and shit.”

“MOTHERFUCKER!” The man on the other line just kept yelling the word over and over again.

Dirk waited patiently for some coherency but it wasn’t coming so he began, “I…”

“YOU!” There was some heavy breathing. “You need to come to St. Martha’s. Now.” There was more vehemence and fright in the tone of the last two sentences than in any of the prior

Dirk drove to the hospital.

A very tall and angry bearded man who seemed only slightly older than Dirk sprang out of his chair, as Dirk entered the waiting room of the E.R. He seemed barely restrained. Dirk could feel threat coming off every motion of the strangers body.

You Dirk?


Come this way. Said the stranger as he laid a heavy hand against Dirk’s back hooking his thumb round the collar.

Dirk was led through a maze of hospital walkways.

A nurse tried to stop the pair by asking, Hey where are you… But she was narly shoved aside as Paul Pardee pawed in her direction. Out of the way cunt.

The pair finally arrived on the scene of a bustling ER. Paul drew back a curtain and shoved Dirk into a small wide room.

Sarah’s mom was sitting on a chair beside a bed next to various machines. There were traces of tears round her eyes. Her face contorted into a mask of fear and concern.

Then Dirk saw that Sarah was in the bed. She was hooked up to some tubes going into her mouth. He recognized from his reading that she was on a ventilator.

‘What the hell?’ He thought as he noticed that one of Sarahs legs was peeking through the hospital sheets with that dumb paint on it. It was no longer sexy.

He just stood staring wordless. He forgot about the large menacing brother, and the weeping mother, and the hospital. He was just simply transfixed.

She’d been sitting up just hours ago. He remembered how he’d turned around one last time before he’d left her, and caught a glimpse of the facetiously reproving grin, lamenting the loss of its cigarette.

Now there was just this moment. There was just her. His blossom suddenly wilted. There was no history. There was no future there was only this. There was only the spectre of death.

‘But she’s not dead.’ A voice kept dully repeating somewhere deep in the recesses of his mind.

Doctors and nurses filed in and out for hours. Did tests, asked questions, conversed. The brother had noted Dirk’s state and relaxed. The mother was just sitting there fiddling with a rosary.

He had arrived at around two pm. It was now nearly eleven.

Finally, a venerable looking Doctor entered.

He waited until every eye was on him and then said, Sorry to keep you all waiting for so long but as you saw we were very busy. It is definitely an embolism and we have to keep her in the hospital overnight and quiet possibly for more than several days. Hopefully it won’t be much longer before a room is cleared for her upstairs. Any questions?

No one said a word. Everyone was too exhausted.

No Doctor, just hurry up with that room would ya. Paul finally spoke up.

We’ll move as fast as we can. The Doctor said and then disappeared.

Dirk had not been able to approach Sarah’s side this whole time on account of her mother shooing him away.

He tried again now. No one stopped him.

Her eyes were closed, her breathing shallow, he hated the alien tubes that were around her. They seemed so unnatural so unceremnoniously glommed on. But they were the only thing keeping his favorite flower watered.

He studied her brow, noting the auburn ringlets grazing over the eye cascading to form ringlets near her ears. He saw her now as the most beautiful and delicate thing that he had ever beheld. There was also something hideous here, something that wasn’t her.

Images danced in his mind of all that he had read, he saw synapses firing, and empires rising and falling, and all the bizzare business of life and death, animate skeletons danced across his fevered imagination. Grim spectres, ghouls that mocked the blossoming things, revelling in the strength of their great god death.

Something snapped in Dirk Vidette at that moment.

A thin smile formed on his lips.

‘I will make you live forever.’

(This Chapter some accounts of violence)


Dirk’s Alsatian stubbornness eventually found him in the same nuthouse as his uncle. He had tried bizarre things.

The sudden knowledge was that death was so mundane. It would just appear and it had no more malice than a tide, no more intent then the phases of the moon, and no more conscious than the dirt that was its bed.

But the living things were not dirt. It was not natural for them to be thus subsumed.

All he wanted was happiness. All he wanted was life.

To say that Sarah Pardee’s sudden illness was the cause of his enlightenment does no justice to either the scope or the nature of that realization.

He had realized the need for cultivation. He had seen it in his books, in the daily affairs of the world, in the struggle of an old man rising arthritically from a park bench, and in the deep blue of Sarah’s eyes.

Eyes that no longer opened.

He kept her image ever in mind. It was sunny and she was smiling in the quiet of a country house.

His smile wasn’t quite as wholesome. He was very calm now. He was always very calm. He was so calm that people avoided him. There was in those days something off about Dirk.

Which was fine by him. It gave him time to paint.

He’d become quiet the visual artist. A skill that had sprung up as if from nowhere.

He drew many portraits of Sarah from memory. Portraits that may as well have been photographs. This subject, along with surreal scenes, varied landscapes, and technical drawings were what allowed him to support himself now.

There was in those days something off about Dirk. Even his mother avoided him.

“You shouldn’t smile like that.”

“I’m not certain what you mean, maman.”

“Grandfather smiled like that. That is… your great-grandfather.”

“What’s the problem with a little family resemblance?”

Brigitte sighed, “There is some family that it is best to forget.”

“Why. Did he get in trouble with business folks like Papa?”


“A criminal?”



“There were rumors.”

“Rumors are a silly grounds for disowning a relative.”

“These were very bad rumors.”

“But rumor non the less?”

“I suppose.”

“What were these rumors?”

“He was a doctor, a very good doctor, too good.”

“That doesn’t sound bad at all. Was he practicing in some Alsatian backwater?” Dirk replied in a oddly wry sort of way.

“Actually yes, but still, there was something wrong about him. He was cold to the touch and he always smiled just like that…”

Brigitte tried to tug the corner of her only sons mouth to try and dispel the offensive expression.

Dirk was as impassive as he had been since the incident. He just calmly moved his mothers hand away from himself, and took a step back, studying her in a detached sort of way.

“O de bebe you should not look at me like that!” Brigitte covered her eyes.

“I think it would be rude to have a conversation without eye contact.” Dirk replied as he picked up his portfolio.

“Why do you move like that. It is so much like him. You are like a machine.”

“Well that just means I’m efficient.” Dirk said as he turned around to head for the door.

“Dirk. Dirk! You were supposed to stay for dinner.”

“I don’t have time for that.”

“Well, why where are you going?”

“I need to sell another painting.”

“But why? You are doing so well. Stay.”

“I can’t. I have to sell it. Well being has nothing to do with it. I need supplies.”

“Supplies for what?”

“For my project.”

“Oh, is that the computer project that you are talking about?”


“Well, don’t worry about it. I will give you some money. You stay for dinner.”

“It won’t be enough.”

“Oh fine I’ll buy it then.”

“It won’t be enough.”

“Dirk. Do not insult me. First, I have cooked for you. I have cooked your favorite chicken with lemon. And second I am not poor.”

“Do you have 50, 000 dollars?”

Brigitte laughed. Who would buy her sons paintings for that much? He had never drawn until about a month ago.

Dirk was implacable. His face remained the same Sphinx like mask.




“It’s a commission.”

Brigitte looked at the man standing in her parlor. Normally a mother would be proud of a son making his way in the world. But Brigitte was not proud. There was a stranger in her house. This was not her son.

“I am sorry Maman. I had forgotten about dinner. But I must go my client is waiting. Au revoir.”

She was not sorry to see his back.

As he made his way down the hall his preternatural calm was suddenly broken. He thought that he’d passed a mirror.

“What is it Dirk? Did you forget something?” His mother called after him.

He stared at the portrait. It was a portrait. That’s what it was. He’d thought he’d seen a mirror.

The face in the portrait was his own. The same aquiline nose, dark eyes, and the same little smile. Save for the late Victorian fashion sense it may as well have been a mirror.

Renart de Guerin read the description beneath the canvas.

He was transfixed a bit. He just stood there staring at the painting. He felt a resurgence of old memories from his own self. The same emotions. The little country house became more than a mere icon but it was all being pulled away even as it rose up. It was pulled away back to place somewhere behind his spine. It was odd that such an intangible thing have such a physical feeling.

“Dirk!?” Brigitte called out as she saw something familiar come back into her sons expression whilst approaching.

“Mamman. Who is this?” It was the calm quiet tenor again.

“Merdere!” Brigitte Vidette stamped her feet.

“It is you non!?”

“Back again with your chemicals and your trips to Allemande non?!”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

Brigitte sighed. She’d allowed her own imagination to run wild. Her son had taken his girlfriends illness hard and she really did want to understand.

“That is your great-grandfather. Renart De de Guerin. He was nearly forty when the first world war broke out. But he was an excellent physician and had already served. His health was excellent. He’d always been well loved for being a man of honor. So he accepted the militaries request for yet further service. He was very lively and a bit of a flirt. But when he came back he was different.”


“No, no. He was just very removed. And he never stopped working on God knows what. He wouldn’t tell anybody. But he was still a good doctor. Better than ever really. All he did was work. He would work at the hospital, and make house calls, and when he got home he’d go directly to his study and work some more.”

“Sounds like a dedicated man.”

“No. I don’t think that’s what it was.”

“What then?”

“I am not so certain. But there were rumors that he was possessed or that he was no longer human. I knew how imaginative country folk were so I laughed this off until I met him. There was something wrong about him. Some people would start to cry just by being near him and not in a good way. One old woman became a shut in after he’d treated her. It was nothing medical. She was just shaken to the core. She said the walls spoke to her. Maybe it was just a coincidence maybe she was just crazy. But he did have this strange effect and he was far too friendly with the Germans.”

“The Germans?”

“Oui, he made many trips to Germany and back before the second world war broke out. When asked about this behavior he just kept repeating: La guerre est fine the war was over. They’d also come and visit him.”

“The Germans?”

“Oui. They were a scholarly bunch. Primarily other physicians many of whom had served on the front. They would always come out of the trains with large boxes that they’d load onto trucks to take to his estate. I remember my mother telling me that she’d make a game of watching the German Prere Noels dropping of gifts for Papa. All this German, this was of course despised by the locals, who had already experienced enough Germans to last a lifetime. But they put up with it because he was such a great doctor. He seemed to have a hundred percent success rate. Some said he was the best physician in all of France.”

“So what happened to him. Did anybody figure out what he was doing?”

“He was killed.”


“Murdered yes.”


“It’s hard to explain unless you met him. Even though I met him I don’t know why people would kill him. But there were just so many rumors and he was so… I don’t know.. démoniaque. He was cold. I swear to you that he was cold to the touch even on warm days. He never showed fear, or love, or concern. He was just a good machine. Gascon had once joked that the Germans had replaced de Guerin brains with mechanical parts. After he met him he was far less certain that it was a joke.”

“What do you believe?”

“Well, I don’t have to believe anything because we know that he had regular brains. On account of the fact that they were splashed all across the floor of his study.”


“Yes. Henri one of the towns folk had put a Enfield round through his head. He was found dancing in the blood in de Guerin’s study singing ‘He bleeds, he bleed so red. It’s so good so good he’s dead. But I do not believe it – it is a German trick.’ or something to that effect. But, yes, by all accounts de Guerin was fully human and we will likely never know where his supernatural skills came from or if it had anything to do with the Germans.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about him before?”

“Like I said some ancestors are best forgotten.”

“Then why do you have his portrait?”

“Well, it is not mine obviously it is Philips. He always liked the man for some reason. I kept it up to honor my brothers memory but also after thinking about it Renart did help a lot of people.”

“Well, why don’t we try to clear his name, restore our family honor?”

“Eh, that is silly and romantic, and besides we are in good standing since everyone has forgotten him anyway.”

“Yes but should such a person be forgotten?”

“Dirk. After they hung his killer…that killers grave had more wreaths on it than Doctor de Guerin’s.”