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Greatness – Scott Tienken

    

   Greatness is the first novel by Scott Tienken.

The anti-memoir of institutionally uncool Edward French who navigates deserts of self-help, organized crime, and women in search of Greatness.

Greatness is now available in Portland bookstores, including Broadway Books, Oregon City Friends of the Library Bookstore, Reading FrenzySt. Johns Booksellers, and Wallace Books. Or click below to order on-line.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

EXCERPT:

Friday, February 11, 7:45 p.m.

The Doc said I can’t delete so I won’t. I might be cured by a sentence. A word. Since all my thoughts are “valid” the cure could be right under my nose. We can wrap this up after one entry and say goodbye to each other forever:

“You should have been in the circus, Mr. French.”

“You are a genius, Mr. French.”

“You should join the church, Mr. French.”

Blogging” like this shows that I’m “willing to work.” Maybe I will get my company’s money’s worth out of this “laptop” now. Perhaps everything in my life will become “useful” and “manageable.” All my loose ends tied up. See, I really was taking notes, Doc. I do give a damn.

Can you tell I’m not a writer and do not like talking about myself? Doc found this out and now all of you will. But most of you probably can’t talk or write that great yourselves. Still, I’ll do my best to make sense. Just don’t expect Shakespeare or The Bible. Hopefully, we get along and learn something. And who knows, we might have some fun.

Let’s get something over with: I am here “blogging” for Doc because I’ve been having more and worse “episodes” lately. For the last two months now, three or four times a week, mostly at night, I wake up thrashing, spitting, kicking, hitting, yelping, you name it. It lasts about twenty seconds. It is half fit, half seizure. I can’t stop it and wait inside myself for it to end. When I come out of it the strong, disgusting aftertaste of metal makes me nauseous and sometimes pukey. It used to be I only tasted metal just before the episodes started. I’ve had these since I was a kid. But until now at most only once or twice a month. And nowhere nearly this severe.

On the bright side, I’m exhausted afterwards and sometimes fall right to sleep. Though overall I’ve had a harder time falling asleep since they started. But I’ve always had a hard time falling asleep.

The sleep experts found nothing. Tests say my brain is fine even though Doc isn’t convinced the episodes aren’t “lower-form dreaming.” Either way, I refuse to take any medications. I don’t want to be a zombie. I still manage to do a hell of a job at work every day, come home, and make Evelyn happy in bed when she wants to be made happy.

Worst of all is that the episodes are starting to happen in the daytime more. And these are the strongest. I’ll be sitting at my desk, totally fine, and all of sudden get very hot and the metal slowly fills my mouth. Then a full seizure starts. It feels like I am drowning, disappearing, blacking out. I feel like what I picture dying to feel like; being buried and not being able to dig out. Like I have no say in the lights being turned out on me. And though it makes no sense now, when it is happening, the only thing that saves me is hitting at anything within reach. Desk, window, people, anything. Stapler, soda can. If I don’t, I will die. That is how it feels. Desperate.

Two Saturdays ago while watching television with Evelyn she got hit in the ribs and I kicked her. Not very bad, but enough. Obviously she knows I’m not a batterer. She’s been through most of the night ones and come back for more. Still, she threatened me. See Doc more often or A) She would break up with me and or B) Call my mother. That’s how she put it: “A and or B.”

So now I see Doc twice a week and pay him to take a more active interest in me. Will you all take an interest? I’m nothing like what you like on television. Or anything like you I bet. But there are tens of millions of you out there and most of you probably speak English. So chances are there will be lots of you who pop in to see what Edward French is all about. There are comment boxes. Feel free.

To be in “good faith with myself” I will be blogging every day except Sunday to “talk things to their root” and “work to be happy.” I am also supposed to be leaving the house more and “engaging the world,” having more “interactions.” Just because Doc talks like this doesn’t mean he is a hippy or space cadet, just that he has a way of talking that is fancier than it needs to be. It’s the sort of talk you hear in the boardroom sometimes when the account execs are having a contest to see who can seem more impressive. They will have worn their best suits that day and figure talking fancy goes with the suits better than their ties. Mike Muller does this. So does Anthony The Jerk Cabrini. If you like modern television you would like Cabrini The Jerk but definitely not me. Doc said I should “be positive.” But there is nothing positive about The Jerk. Knowing who your enemies are (like The Jerk) is useful. I know to avoid him. I wish him nothing but bad luck. See, Doc, this is the “thoroughness” you recommended. I have considered The Jerk’s role in my life and “expressed what (he) means to me.” I am comfortable thinking of and treating him in a way consistent with the nickname I have given him; The Jerk.

So you know, I have been quoting from The Bible. Me and Doc put it together. His pocket-sized pamphlet with my notes on it. Living by its tips and sayings will bring the “structure” and “accountability” I need in order to “heal.” It shall never leave me. I must “put my faith in it.” Not being much of a believer I am not feeling “positive” that The Bible will work. But I will try because I am frightened. The episodes make me feel dangerous. One of them could end me or someone else.

Doc won’t believe that I am “happy.” Is it because My unwritten Bible does not have so many rules? I just live my days and do what I feel like doing. Isn’t that the American Dream? Outside of the episodes, I live a normal, healthy life. I rarely cry or get angry. I do not have any conditions or allergies. I am not oppressed. Traffic is only a problem when it rains. My job pays very well. I have a girlfriend who likes making love almost as often as I do.

But to Doc, none of this is enough. He thinks that despite Evelyn, I am “too alone with myself.” Man should not live in “isolation.” I must “enjoy humanity.” Jeez, Doc, gimme a break! This is why I have never gone to church. I don’t want a big brother. I want to be talked to like a man. By tricking me into making all these new rules for myself, you are implying that my version of “happiness” is not as good as yours. Or that I am keeping something from both of us and am actually insane and miserable. Can’t it just be that I am a little insane, Doc? Just like people at work, on the bus, on modern television, Evelyn, Cabrini The Jerk, and probably you too, Doc? Don’t worry, I like you and you come strongly recommended.

 

To the reader: I’m not insane. Or special. There is no reason we cannot be friends. And I would definitely like to make friends here. Try putting your “faith” in me. Be my fans. “Comment.” I intend to be a great man some day. Get in on the ground floor. Let’s be in this together. Don’t pass judgment on me. Or anyone for that matter. We’re all insane, ok. How about that? By the end of this I will be one of the greats, not suffer from episodes, and have friends who are also not insane.

The only time the episodes affect my life is when I am trying to go to sleep or if I am at work. I am afraid to go to sleep because I am afraid I will wake up in an episode but think it is a dream, and instead of hitting and reaching I will just let myself sink under and be swallowed by a metal ocean. If it happens at work it looks bad for me (the Lead Accountant) and is also just plain embarrassing. Something for jerks like Cabrini to make hay out of in the break room.

So I often choose not to sleep. I’m used to being tired. But Doc is “very optimistic” that if I take medication my sleep will improve. So I suppose he has won and I will fill the prescription.

Darn, the episodes are only dangerous if people try to be heroes. When the episodes start DO NOT TOUCH ME. Very simple. I told Arlene Johnson (Human Resources) this after I pushed Susan Crandall (Human Resources Assistant) that one time and she sent a memo to everyone about my condition. People steer even more clear of me now.

And Evelyn doesn’t sleep over as much. She suggested I get a dog to sleep with and “bark me out of an episode.” Real blooping helpful. I have begun to appreciate what it is like to suffer from discrimination. But I have always got along fine on my own.

I probably won’t meet any of you until I have achieved greatness, so I have nothing to be embarrassed about telling you now. For example, I can tell you that I did not have sex until I was 27 years old. (I am 37 in February.) And I am very hairy. Does that make you laugh? See, it will be easy to tell you everything because I don’t give a darn what you or anyone thinks. Besides, you can tell I’m a good guy by now anyway.

“Total honesty” feels good, Doc. Maybe I will be like this from here to eternity. Who knows?

By the way, my name is Edward. Not Ted or Ed or Eddie. Only Edward. “Edward French” if you want to start a fan club.

All of you might want a better picture of me in your head. I can give you some details, but won’t say too much too soon. I mean we hardly know one another. I can say that I am not very tall, not too thin or too fat, and have most of my brown hair. I have “stunning green eyes and could be a model if (I) lost some weight.” (I overheard Evelyn say that. I cannot tell a lie.)

I don’t have any embarrassing birthmarks. I am not an alcoholic. I rarely even drink. I don’t even drink that much coffee. I’m not good at sports, but I can walk for miles at a time without a problem. I’m not “in shape,” but could probably be a champion walker if I put my mind to it. And if there was not so much darn rain here. All the clouds and soaking you could ever want. It takes character to not let it get to you.

I have an above-average-sized penis according to Evelyn. She would know much better than I would about that. And no, she is not a whore. She has seen more than me because I avoid locker rooms. Oh, and I am very good at sex and like it a lot.

I do not have any real friends.

I told all of the above to Doc and he thinks all of this is “possibly very relevant.” I don’t. Even if I am insane and possibly violent I look and do just fine.

I like old television, my job, driving, and weekends. I work very hard when I am at work and relax when I get home. If the rain isn’t drowning the city, I go for a walk around the office park on lunch. I love this. No jerks, just freedom. Just the sound of my heart beating. (Doc doesn’t like my blood pressure, either. So I am supposed to lose weight.) You don’t have to think about anything besides putting one foot in front of the other. Maybe I will become the world’s greatest walker.

 

I like television because I like seeing what other people’s lives are like. Shows like The Honeymooners, Dick Van Dyke, The Odd Couple, and Mary Tyler Moore. I think Mary Tyler Moore is beautiful and the perfect woman. (Sorry Evelyn.) I like nature programs but not being around animals since they are capable of anything. They are animals after all.

I like Evelyn but am not in love like she is. She likes snuggling and hugging all the time and I only like these things some of the time. This is probably not abnormal for a boyfriend, but she makes me feel bad about it, especially if it happens while we are watching the Mary Tyler Moore show. Does this make me a bad boyfriend? I think it makes me normal. I confess that most of the time I would rather just be alone.

More total honesty is that she is the only girlfriend I have ever had for more than five months. We do alright together. We both think the sex is “hot.” We get on each other’s nerves sometimes, but that is to be expected. Our biggest problem is that she does not trust me. When I tell her something that is not just what she wants me to say, she becomes suspicious that I am lying to her or keeping something from her. She asks me to explain myself. She wonders why or how I could have said something so “mean.” She starts crying and I have no idea why. She may be more insane than me or all of you for that matter. In fact, I would not be surprised if she were reading this along with all of you. She is the one who strongly recommended Doc. I wonder if they are still friends. Couldn’t say that I blame you for still carrying a torch for a pretty damn sexy woman, Doc. But hands off, ok? You are a married professional according to your ring. At the very least you both better not gossip about me. I guess a little suspicion is only human.

I don’t like talking about myself and don’t know what else to say. My father is dead, my mother is alive and lives in Boise, Idaho, and there are a million cousins from her 4 brothers and 2 sisters. Each year there is a family reunion in Spokane, Washington where I humor Uncle Randy and have an onion sandwich, watch a football game I don’t care about, make my girl cousins husbands jealous for me being un-married, judge the Cake Bake-Off, and have an ok time.

My apartment is in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Lake Oswego borders Portland. It is one of the richest towns in the state. But you can’t pay to keep the rain away. Or the grey. People here joke about the weather instead of being honest about how much they hate it. Everyone looks stupid in raincoats and carrying an umbrella is a pain in the neck. Rain also usually keeps me up at night. Even a drizzle. It makes me and everything feel heavy. I wind up wishing I weighed less. But I repeat: I am NOT fat.

I moved to Lake Oswego three months ago because I got promoted to Lead Accountant at my job for a market research firm whose name will remain anonymous. Lake Oswego is close to the muddy, green, garbagey Willamette River. It is polluted and has seven or eight bridges that cross it. The lake in Lake Oswego is more like a huge pond and not very impressive. It’s very full of wet garbage that makes me sick to look at. Even rich people will throw garbage in a lake given the opportunity. I am not rich, but have plenty of money in the bank because I do not buy anything. I don’t go to modern movies. All of my furniture is secondhand. I buy a new suit once a year. There are no paintings or sculptures or “art” in my apartment. The trillions of little bumps in the stucco are every animal and art I need. They are decoration and keep me company. The only things I have hanging on the wall are a picture of me judging the Cake Bake-Off in 1999 and the originals of all my CPA certificates. I use copies at the office.

I wear a blue or black dry cleaned suit to work every day. Around the house I wear sweat-pants and t-shirts. My favorite item of clothing is a sky blue t-shirt with Wile E. Coyote under a falling anvil with “April 15th” written on it. Wile E. is holding a sign that says “Eek.”

My apartment has a view of the lake. I am on the third floor of a four floor complex that is surrounded by trees. I like the privacy. The trees are a beautiful curtain. I do not know any of my neighbors, but I say “hi” if they say “hi.” Some are very friendly and invite me to do things that I do not want to do. So I don’t accept. It’s not that they are jerks, but, more, that they are losers. They depress me like the rain.

The most important things in my life are myself, my job, and Evelyn. That is the order. Sorry Evelyn.

My goals are: No more episodes and to some day become Great. I don’t know how I will do it, but I will. There is a show on that I want to watch now. It will make me “happy.” Goodbye.

 

Legend