dragonlaire: (Default)
2011-04-10 05:33 pm

Blaire's Lament - Preface

        None of this material is new. It was written in November, 2005 during my first attempt at Nanowrimo. Although the manuscript contains more than fifty thousand words, the number required for validation, the work is only distantly related to the goal of a finished novel, presumably the desired prize for participating in the annual literary ordeal. What it does contain are two fragments of two separate stories joined by a few common characters and similar circumstances. If it had been continued, a third story, less independent than its tributaries but still meandering along a disparate narrative stream, would have been composed to stand with the first two, trying desperately to guide all the dangling plot elements toward something resembling a reasonable conclusion. Despite my fondness for the story, those plans have not been realized, and I shall refrain for the present from venturing any prediction about their uncertain future.

        A few of the earlier chapters were never posted online, and even those that appeared as entries were posted in an untidy jumble, more to indicate progress than to display coherent work. My purpose in re-posting the earlier work during the next few days is twofold. Moving them to an online storage facility like the Live Journal servers is a sensible precaution against possible hardware failure and other nightmarish domestic disasters. At the same time, it seems like a commendable idea to re-post the work, together with a few later sketches, in makeshift chapter order. That will improve its organization, although it will contribute little toward raising the quality of its contents, a ragtag affair that inevitably resulted from abandoning the original plan.

        In a weak moment, I thought about changing the title; it bears little relationship to the work that unfolded beneath its banner. I was successful in resisting that temptation, attractive though it was. For now I will let things stand as they arranged themselves more than six years ago, giving equal prominence to both the story‚Äôs promises and its ghastly blemishes.




        
        
        
dragonlaire: (Default)
2010-08-04 01:13 am

From "Early Winters"





10.




An artist, commissioned to capture an idyllic woodland scene on canvass, erected his easel in front of a dense forest, bathed in fog. Every now and then, an ocean breeze parted the moist, opaque layers for a fleeting moment, revealing patches of leaves and branches concealed beyond. In haste, the artist transferred those fading images to oil before they were forgotten, but upon raising his eyes and renewing his gaze, he was greeted by a lowered curtain, the fog returning as impenetrable as ever. As he persisted over many hours in his endeavor to paint a faithful rendition, a collection of images were assembled and joined together on canvass. They were individually accurate, and they overlapped properly so that no gaps occurred, yet the resulting landscape was very different from the partially hidden scene the artist sought to reproduce. Synthesis is not analysis, you see. It is not enough to understand a whole through its disparate parts; It must be grasped in its entirety.

To say that Alfred Fischer was an enigma was to inscribe a wide circumference around an indefinite shape. Recording his history was similar to assembling a puzzle, each piece chosen from a different box. The pieces were separately recognizable; they made sense in themselves, but in the aggregate none of them fit exactly together. He was the penultimate man of mystery.

Fischer claimed to have been born in Berne, Switzerland in April, 1927, and in truth his speech was colored with a Teutonic accent, but he was never seen reading or speaking French, German or Italian, the common languages of that country. After his seventeenth birthday, he heard the call of ocean sirens and made his way overland to the port of Marseilles in Vichy controlled France where he smuggled aboard a steamer bound for Barcelona, Spain.

The year was 1944; Europe was engulfed in world war, and its cities were being reduced to rubble. Fischer planned to escape the looming destruction and seek refuge in North America. He traveled south by train through Malaga toward the Royal Naval base at Gibraltar, and under cover of darkness, avoiding British patrols, he slipped across the border.

Fischer lived by his wits for a while, through begging and petty theft. Once he had accumulated enough funds, most of it gathered illegally, he purchased a ferry ticket and sailed across the Straits to Cueta, Morocco. His next destination was Tangier, several hours distant to the west and a major port for Allied shipping. After some obligatory haggling, a column of Free French paratroopers gave him a ride into the city in exchange for polishing their combat boots. A few days later, he was in the North Atlantic aboard a hospital vessel carrying wounded servicemen home to North America, earning his passage as a scullery mate.

He landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia and remained there for nearly a decade, working in various trades and even publishing several mystery novels under the pen name Morris Brooks. During that period, he married Marcy McLean, a pretty Scottish girl from Cape Breton. The marriage lasted eight years and produced two children, both girls.

After the dissolution of his marriage, Fischer returned to sea, his first and most enduring love. He returned to Europe on an oil tanker, landing in The Hague, Holland. After a short stay, he shipped out again, working as a seaman on a short haul freighter to Liverpool, England. Fischer remained in Great Britain for two years, teaching history at a girl's boarding school. He never attended university and wasn't qualified for the position, but Fischer had a quick wit and the skill to spin a convincing yarn. At some crossroad, he married, for the second time, another teacher on the staff and divorced a year later. This time he avoided the complications of children.

In 1957, Fischer left Liverpool and boarded a Cunard White Star liner heading for New York City. He worked as a steward during the ocean crossing, a position that gave him an opportunity to inspect the staterooms of more affluent passengers. He was thirty years old and imperious to harm, or so he thought, but this time his luck changed, and he was apprehended and arrested. He spent the rest of the voyage locked in a make shift brig. When they landed in New York, Fischer left the ship in handcuffs, but during the confusion of processing a prisoner through customs, he stole away and spend the next week on the streets avoiding the police.

At a chance encounter with a stevedore along the docks, he learned that the container barge O'Donnell was shorthanded a seaman or two. It was a decrepit old vessel headed for Miami through the intercoastal waterway, probably on its last voyage before the scrap yard, so they weren't too particular about a seaman's past if he agreed to complete the trip.

Upon arriving in Miami, Fischer changed ships. The Emerald Sea was leaving for Buenos Arias, Argentina. They needed a good boiler hand and Fischer knew the work.

For the next three years, Fischer worked as a cattle herdsman on the Argentinean pampas, first in Rosario, and later on, further north in Santa Fe. Then his previous bad luck returned for a visit. Several men were killed during a drunken brawl at a concert, and a warrant was issued for Fischer's arrest. He left the area on horseback and crossed the Pre Cordillera range into Chile, a feat in itself, just hours ahead of his pursuers. These were curious circumstances into which Fischer had stumbled. He rarely drank, never became intoxicated, and although occasionally violent, his behavior was always controlled, purposeful never emotional. Fischer, above all, tried to control everything in his environment, including himself.

Afterward, he slowly made his way south to Valparaiso, the Pacific port west of the capital at Santiago. It was 1961, and he was headed for the United States, a seaman on board a container ship bound for Oakland, California.

Once he landed in Oakland, Fischer decided to suspend his maritime career, at least for a while. He bought a used car and drove south to Los Angeles.



This summarized history of Alfred Fischer's life prior to his arrival in Los Angeles, California is the most widely accepted version. It was derived from various sources: scraps of conversation, rumor, a few scattered documents, and simple guessing. How much of it is true will never be determined, not any more at any rate. He was a quiet, even tempered man who rarely spoke about anything, least of all about himself. Undoubtedly, certain parts are true, but other parts, perhaps the most important parts, were surely, as will presently be shown, the product of fabrication, wishful thinking and legend. Much of it is probably grounded in deception, and perhaps all of it designed to mislead. Who was Alfred Fischer, really? Different answers could have been given, none of them satisfactory, and when the available evidence was examined, it oftentimes seemed difficult to believe that he ever existed at all.

In the end, the truth or fiction of his past became a subject for the curious, just as a person might wonder absently about the depth of a plant's roots, when his real concern should be the edibility of its fruit. He was a strange, dark figure of a man, who for a time, came to dominate the lives of all those who chanced to cross his path. It might have turned out differently; it wasn't the force of his presence that came to influence others, only their willingness to let it happen. Perhaps it was best to think of him, not as a person, but as an instrument of nature, a chilling wind that arrived, blew through everyone's life, and then left.



Fischer left Oakland for Los Angeles in May, 1961, but he seems to have vanished on his way south. Several months later, the invisible man resurfaced. He was living in a boarding house on South New Hampshire Avenue just north of Pico Boulevard, but his whereabouts during the preceding months were never determined.

His landlord was a woman from southern Idaho named Maggie Thurston who had spend her younger years on her father's cattle ranch. She claimed to be able to ride, shoot, and pend cattle better than any man she ever met, including her deceased husband.

While he was living at the boarding house, Fischer became friendly with another lodger named Ronald Martinson. He was a few years younger than Fischer, but they shared many interests and became fast friends. Martinson's father had been an army career officer; he spent most of his childhood shuffling between a series of military bases. For a few years, just before the beginning of World War II, they lived on Corregidor Island in the Philippines. Fischer minded Martinson for information about the period. He remembered playing in Malinta Tunnel, the underground complex running along the spine of the island. At one time, a system of trolleys ran through the tunnels, but the service was ended and the tracks removed prior to the Japanese invasion.

Martinson was working as a stagehand on the Paramount Pictures lot off Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, but his real ambition was to become a motion picture celebrity. When Fischer met Martinson, he was taking opera lessons but acting was his primary objective. And to achieve those ambitions, he devised an outrageous plan and reserved a part for his new neighbor.

At the time, Fischer was unemployed, but money had never been much of a problem. He spent little and saved most of his earnings over the years. Martinson learned about a vacancy in the carpentry department and requested a transfer. His first priority was to hire Fischer as an assistant.

In those days, Cecil B. De Mille was one of Paramount's leading directors. Martinson discovered that every year carpenters from the studio inspected the roof on his Beverly Hills home. It was only a matter of waiting for the right opportunity. When the work order came, Martinson and Fischer donned their coveralls, strapped on their tool belts and drove out to the De Mille estate. One other preparation was necessary. Martinson checked with De Mille's secretary. She confirmed that he was working from home that day.

As the two workers expected, the clay tile roof was in excellent condition. Annual inspections guaranteed that it be kept in good repair, but skylights had been installed above almost all the rooms, but the seals about the openings frequently leaked during the fall wet season and had to be renewed each year.

Martinson carefully made his way along the roof, ostensibly looking for crumbling seals but really looking for De Mille. He found him in his study, and before Fischer could deter him, Martinson cracked the wire glass with his hammer and leaped through the opening. He landed sprawling across the floor of De Mille study, cut and bleeding. De Mille was startled but once he realized that Martinson had fallen by accident, he rushed to his aid. Fischer crept over to the opening and looked down into the study. Martinson was laying upon a carpet of broken glass, moaning, while the director knelt by this side trying to comfort the stricken worker. When Martinson looked up toward the ceiling and saw Fischer's astonished expression through the opening, he winked and grinned while De Mille was administering to his wounds. Fischer, for his part, broke out into convulsed laughter mixed with admiration at the audacity of his friend in obtaining the great director's attention.

After the incident, each was rewarded according to his part. For a time, De Mille was solicitous about Martinson's well being; eventually, he referred him to a casting associate. Martinson took advantage of the opportunity to launch a film career as a character actor in second bill features, a profession he followed until his untimely death forty years later. Fischer received less acclaim. He was summarily fired for insensitivity and carelessness that probably caused the accident. He accepted those judgments in good humor and soon after left drifted toward the nearby community of Venice.



Now the story is amusing, but some of the details, like many others in Fischer's life, were a little sketchy. After his death, a surviving child who heard these accounts tried to confirm their accuracy.

Evidence survived that Fischer actually landed in Oakland, California in May, 1961. The bill of sale for the automobile was filed with the state Department of Motor Vehicles and preserved according to law. The date was recorded as May 11, 1961, and the buyer identified as Alfred E. Fischer. A skeptic might argue, with justification, that the existence of such a document really proves nothing. It might refer to someone else or the details could have been changed afterward.

Maggie Thurston did own the boarding house on South New Hampshire Avenue in Los Angeles, but she died in 1948, thirteen years before Fischer became a lodger. He would have been living in Nova Scotia at the time. Cecil B. De Mille never directed another film after The Ten Commandments; he died on January 21, 1959, at least two years before Ronald Martinson leaped into his study seeking recognition as a promising actor.
dragonlaire: (Default)
2009-12-02 05:48 pm

Diary Entry One

       Entry One )