Chapter 8: The Big, Living Cliffhanger (2014 - 2017)
I like to think that writing fiction is good training for writing life. In the good times both feel like I'm spinning literary gold, but in the bad times it feels like my every word and action is doomed for my trash pile of bad drafts and regrets. The trick is, I think, to know that I'm the Writer, not the Reader, and ultimately it's not my job to judge whether or not my life, or fiction, is good or bad.
My job is to stay committed, keep writing, and do my best to please my Readers...
Emily my Favorite Reader and we were married in a brilliant flash of light born of Pure Love, but (as many of my work buddies like to point out) we're in what they call the "honeymoon phase."
"To hell with that," I've always thought. "I'm never going to be one of those guys who's always grumbling about The Wife."
Then again, The American Way of Life is an unforgiving Blood Beast. It will permit you to love your wife, husband, children, friends, and family, but it will not permit you to love those you hold dearest without sacrifice, lots of sacrifice. America is a jealous god, and it is only happy and proud of us when we're working for its Dollars.
With that said, the road to The Big, Living Cliffhanger chapter of my life began soon after we were married. Emily discovered a non-government, government program called a "farm incubator" in Gresham, Oregon. For a fee, the program would provide her with a plot of land, tools to share, the use of a wash station and walk-in cooler, and most importantly, a small community of farmers to band together with and fight the good fight for better food. It wasn't long after, while I continued my struggle to rewrite The Living City on my Mondays off, I began to feel the tremors of a big change waiting for us on the horizon.
My first meaningful tremor happened one winter's day when I realized that I still had a ton of unbound copies of The Living City that I'd have to move to Gresham sometime in the future. That realization manifested itself in what became The Final Solution to the Old Book Problem. I drew strength from the idea that, if nothing else, my old books could be transformed into some strange form of book-based lumber.
I was so inspired by the creation of my first book-based lumber book bookcase, I made another with the last of my printed copies.
Then I introduced both of those book-bookcase production scenes at the 2014 NW Book Festival, a few weeks after the eruption: We were now living in Gresham and I was producing the first few scenes for a global, transnational corporation called Ecolab...becoming Pest Eliminator Jake.
The master plan was thus: 1) become a Pest Eliminator, because it was the best paying/most interesting job I could find near Emily's new farm. 2) remain in that role for approximately three years (until Emily's non-government government program ran its course), save enough money to put a down payment on a farm plot of our own, and then break out of this long, cliffhanger scene with the production of a first draft for my next novel, The Great Game, which is its working title. But, as it goes...
Sometimes life doesn't agree with such ambitions.
As the Cliffhanger hung, I stuck to the pest control theme best I could...I started with the role of Pest Eliminator for the Global Giant called "Ecolab," then worked for a local, slumlord-friendly mom-and-pop company called, "Northwest Pest Control," then a greenwashed hack of a pest control company called "Axiom" for one painful month, then was saved from hustling by a company called, "Pioneer Pest Management." Pioneer was, by far, the best of the Industry yet...
...which meant they didn't paint cute puppies and happy babies on the side of their pesticide wagons. Instead Pioneer painted their pesticide wagons to look like covered wagons with faceless pioneers driving them, each side of my "service vehicle" drawn by a team of large cartoon ants.
As Emily likes to say, "Oy vey!"
And so death goes as well. That's an image of a roof rat in Milwaukie (my hometown) caught in a live trap meant for squirrels. The issue here is not that a Pest Control Operator set this service up wrong...squirrels can ALWAYS be caught outside our homes, because squirrels are everywhere. It's also easier to check traps and such when the home owner isn't home. But that's not it. The issue is the fact that roof rats (one of two species of rats in Portland) are moving into Milwaukie...
For some perspective, you will not likely find roof rats in Vancouver, or anywhere in the Metro outside of the core "River City," Willamette born rats of Portland. What are these rats doing way up on Flavel? on the uplands of what I called "Felony Flats" before The Great Green Colonization of Oregon was finally completed circa 2016, the day they finally finished ripping the heart of Division St open for the transplant.
My theory is...rats follow change, progress, and civlization as they ALWAYS have. If anything the Pest Control Industry FOLLOWS the rats. I have little experience that shows othewise. At best, the Pest Control Industry culls the masses of blood-sucking insects, home-infesting rodents, and unwanted wildlife "pests" in a profit-driven effort to wish away our wilderness creature friends from the earth. The good news is that the Industry, on every blah, blah greenwashed advertised level, fails to free us from the untamed lives lived in the wild.
The Wilderness and its supporting cast keeps coming on strong, every spring...
I'm tired of being on the losing team.
Time to switch sides, once again.
"Be free rat friend!" I cried into the dark night of civilization as I freed "Peanut." "We will meet again in the wild...where we belong!"
Thus ended The Big, Living Cliffhanger.
And so began The Novel Corporation: www.thenovelcorporation.com