Greg Larson is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing-Nonfiction at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He is a nonfiction reader for the Barely South Review, and his work has appeared in Proximity Magazine, Ruminate Magazine, Switchback, and others.
The Boatload Mentality
They say the true fireballers throw so fast that when a batter fouls it straight back he can put the bat up to his nose and smell the wood burning. This only happens when the hitter just misses crushing the ball—it spins so ferociously that the momentary friction of the leather and seams against the maple grain of the bat creates a burn. On July 3rd, 2012 Enrico Jimenez didn’t light any bats on fire.
Enrico came off the mound to a chorus of boos from the record-breaking crowd of 6,904, most of whom were only in attendance to see the post-game fireworks, given the IronBirds’ 5-10 record and history of futility. The Baltimore Orioles’ Short-Season Single-A affiliate had, in its ten-year history, nine losing seasons. The team had failed to live up to the standard of greatness set by its owner, lifelong Oriole Cal Ripken Jr., who holds one of baseball's most hallowed records: 2,632 consecutive games played. The feat granted him the nickname Iron Man. The IronBirds were named in honor of Cal and his tie to the Orioles (nicknamed “the Birds”) as well as a nod to the Aberdeen Proving Ground just east of Ripken Stadium on the Aberdeen Throughway, where the fighter jets are nicknamed iron birds. The team logo was a cartoon airplane with eyes, a mouth, and a number 8 on its fin in honor of Cal’s number when he played for the Birds.
I had the postgame meal spread out on blue tables below the IronBirds logo painted on the cement wall of the clubhouse. The meal was chicken, green beans, and mashed potatoes, all leftovers from the hot buffets in the Club Level seats, which I always acquired with a palm-greasing twenty to the teenagers in food services. The quick clicks of cleats on the concrete outside signaled the flood of players coming in after the game. This was always the most nerve-wracking part of my day because I never knew if I would have enough food to feed the whole team. As a clubhouse attendant, the majority of my income was based on dues and tips from the players. If the food sucked, or if we ran out, they would be less likely to tip and more likely to dodge the dues in general.
The game was a blowout in favor of the IronBirds, 21-7, but the crowd was more concerned with the bright bursts of pre-independence day fireworks than the score of the game.
“Pants and jerseys in the carts before you eat!” I shouted.
“Take a shower for your hands!” Rivera, another pitcher, yelled in imitation of his American teammates, who always insisted that the dirty Dominicans learn how to “shower” their hands before eating.
The hiss of hot showers echoed through the bathrooms. The stink of sweaty, dirt-stained jerseys climbed up my nostrils as players threw them into the carts before dishing up. Enrico Jimenez came lumbering in from the field, not eager to eat like his teammates. He had pitched 2 innings, given up 3 hits, 2 walks, and 3 earned runs, raising his ERA to 5.40. He pulled his number 26 white home jersey with blue numbers and orange trim off of his body and hurled it into his locker with more speed and accuracy than any of the pitches he just threw. He screamed “Fuck!” as the lefty punched his solid wood locker cubby with the most valuable asset on his body. The outburst startled me enough to look up from sorting through the dirty jerseys—Jimenez was 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, and I was still green and fearful of players’ tempers. Nobody else seemed to care about his outburst, as they went on eating and disrobing around him. Some grabbed a plate and stood outside the clubhouse to watch the fireworks barefoot, shirtless, and with their pants undone. Rivera turned on the speakers above his locker and blasted his fast-paced, heavy-bassed Spanish music. The other Dominicans immediately danced their naked bodies to the beat, as a few Americans shook their heads—some with smirks, some without.
Jimenez, after sulking against his locker for minutes, finally got his clothes off and walked toward the shower. His birth certificate said he was born on February 7th, 1989, which made him 23 at the time. Sure, 23 was ancient in low-level minor league baseball, but I couldn’t help but notice the way he walked with an arched back that cartoonishly stuck out his pot-belly. His mouth was framed on either side by a deep wrinkle that led up to his high, perpetually sweaty cheeks. If he were a position player he would probably walk around using a baseball bat as a cane. As it was, though, he was a pitcher and had no need for bats. I had even heard the coaches hypothesize that Jimenez was one of the Dominicans who had forged their birth certificate when they first signed, the better to increase their potential value to a team. Our manager, Muggsy, had estimated his age at being somewhere around “forty-fuckin’-years-old”, give or take. Jimenez walked into the showers, head down, distraught after an unsuccessful pitching performance in an IronBirds win that set team records in margin of victory and runs scored. We could hear the boom of fireworks through the concrete of the clubhouse, and outside the smell of sulfur dominated the air. It was July 3rd, and Enrico’s American dream was falling through his fingers like powdered rosin.
Although July 3rd was the beginning of the end for Enrico Jimenez, for many young baseball players just like him down in the Dominican Republic, early July is a time of hope and anticipation. July 2nd of every year is the day that Major League Baseball opens up its international signing period. Unlike American players—who are selected in the 40-round, 1200-player draft—international players are signed exclusively as free agents, most of whom are from the Dominican Republic. The island nation is home to only 10 million people, about 3% of America's population, yet Dominican players made up more than 11% of major league rosters at the start of that 2012 season and more than 25% of minor league rosters. This discrepancy is due in large part to MLB’s more lax rules regarding Dominican players. Whereas Americans have to wait until they’ve turned 18 and graduated from high school to sign with a major league team, Dominicans can sign as young as 16-years-old—sometimes for millions of dollars, sometimes for just a few thousand. A Colorado Rockies executive named Dick Balderson once said, “Instead of signing four American guys at $25,000 each, we sign 20 Dominican guys for $5,000 each.” This is known as the boatload mentality: sign a bunch of cheap Dominicans for less than they’re worth, that way even if only one or two of them becomes a major leaguer, the team’s investment has more than paid off.
These rules that allow teams to sign 16-year-olds starting on July 2nd have created a Dominican talent-scouting environment much different from America’s. They’re called buscones, and they hunt the island in search of children, sometimes as young as 13-years-old, who they think could someday be a star. These buscones (from the Spanish buscar, to search) are men who have no affiliation with any Major League team. They give young boys instruction at fields that often use busted-lace baseballs and tied up car tires that boys chop against for batting practice. Buscones may even give the boys equipment, food, and transportation if they need it, all in the hopes that they will sign a contract with a Major League team on the July 2nd after their 16th birthday. Then the buscones wind up taking a cut of the signing bonus, sometimes as high as 30% (as compared to about 5% with most American agents). Or, if a player does not develop as the buscones had thought, they may drop the boy like a bad habit, and he must hope to be picked up by someone else. These boys often drop out of school at a young age in order to chase this dream—sometimes as young as 2nd grade, which was the case for a few players in my clubhouse over the two seasons I worked there.
But unlike other major American sports, players who sign professional baseball contracts do not go straight to the highest level: they go from being the stud at their college or high school to being a nobody toiling away for years in the minor leagues. For Dominicans, though, coming to America is like jumping straight into Las Mayores: bright lights, clean water, air conditioning, and the shot at a dream. It’s a dream that, unfortunately, most of them won’t achieve.
Jorge Rivera’s scouting report said he was a 6-foot tall, 200-pound lefty. Under the “school” category it said Dominican Republic. “Deceptive lefty who sits 90-94 mph and can touch 95 on his good days. Average breaking ball. Good arm speed. Effectiveness will be based on command of fastball and control of secondary pitches.” What his scouting report didn’t say, however, was that Jorge Rivera was stealing baseball bats. My job as clubhouse attendant included doling out equipment, all of which I kept in a walk-in closet-sized room toward the back of the clubhouse—jerseys, caps, pants, belts, baseballs, and, yes, bats. It turned out that Rivera (cap size 7 ¼) had been pilfering bats from the team bag during road trips. Trek, our trainer—who walked with a lurch and only consumed hot dogs, Diet Mountain Dew, Budweiser (which he called Bud Heavy), and Grizzly Wintergreen chewing tobacco—he was in charge of equipment during road trips whenever I didn’t travel with the team. But he was more focused on treating injuries and staving off hangovers to worry about how much guys were stealing from the equipment bag.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” I said as he sat in his training room office, “how’d we use so many bats this last road trip?”
He smirked. “Greg, I don’t make them turn in their broken bats to get a new one,” he said, referencing my policy. I’d take the broken ones and sell them in the gift shop for a cut of the profit. “If they need a new bat, I give ‘em a new bat. This is baseball. You need bats and balls to play.”
At the time, I had no idea Rivera was the one stealing them, I just knew my supply was being depleted. It was mid-July in 2012, and the IronBirds, too, were fading fast and tensions in the clubhouse were building between the American and Dominican factions. The disagreements went as deep as music choice—whether to play Dominican or American music seemed more important than wins and losses.
Relief pitcher Alex Schmarzo, my best friend on the team, came to me during the afternoon of a home game as I threw a load of towels into the wash. (Schmarzo was picked in the 48th round of the 2010 draft, a round so late that it no longer existed in 2012.)
“Hey, man, you don’t happen to have a screwdriver do ya?”
I reached into my fanny pack and pulled out a Leatherman. “This work?”
“Fuckin’ A, G, what don’t you have in there?”
“Probably a decent fastball.”
“Shit,” he said, “that makes two of us. I’ll bring it right back.”
“Anything I should be worried about?” I called after him as he walked away.
He clicked his head to the right. “We’ll see.”
I slammed the door of the industrial washer and turned the latch.
On July 22nd, the IronBirds were 11-22 and in the middle of an 8-2 loss to the Hudson Valley Renegades, when, after not pitching for seven days and amassing an 0-2 record with a 5.63 ERA, Enrico Jimenez walked out in the middle of a game. He came in from the bullpen, put his jersey in his locker, got dressed, and left. Alan Mills, our pitching coach, had made a call to the bullpen to get another lefty loose to go in the game. That was the breaking point for Jimenez, who was a lefty himself. He made the short walk from the bullpen behind the right field fence to the clubhouse. Rivera followed his friend and came back to tell the rest of the bullpen that Jimenez was packing his shit up to leave.
“Whatever,” they said back to him. “Where’s he gonna go?”
The next inning, Alan Mills made another call to the bullpen. “Get Jimenez loose.”
“He’s not here right now,” the backup catcher Scott Kalush said.
Mills hung up, probably assuming Jimenez was in the clubhouse taking a dump or something.
The next inning another call came from Mills. “Get Jimenez loose.”
“He’s still not here,” Kalush said, fighting back laughter.
“The fuck you mean he’s not there? What’re you talking about?”
“Dude, he left.”
Mills hung up the phone and stormed up the right field line toward the bullpen in the middle of the inning. Hometown fans who’d watched Mills in his years as an Oriole begged for his attention as they all bathed in the electric light of the Aberdeen evening.
“Mr. Mills! Can I have a ball?”
Usually eager to talk to anyone, Mills continued walking, occasionally turning his back to make sure he wasn’t hit by a ball in play.
He opened the padded-fence door of the bullpen. “Where the fuck is Jimenez?”
Schmarzo, ever the diplomat, spoke on everyone’s behalf. “He’s gone, Millsy, he left a couple innings ago.”
“How the fuck you lose someone, meat?”
Everyone tried to stifle laughter.
“We didn’t lose him,” Schmarzo said. “He’s just gone. He left. Pulled a Mota.” Jose Mota, a Dominican, was Schmarzo’s old friend and roommate in the Orioles organization who had escaped in the middle of a game before he knew he would be released.
Mills leaned in close and whispered to the pitchers. “Listen. If the Orioles start hearing that I’m losing pitchers I’m gonna get my ass fired. I know y’all don’t like me, but you can’t go pulling this shit when I need pitchers to pitch in the fuckin’ game.”
“I mean, let’s be frank,” Schmarzo said, “the only guy you should be mad at just left.”
I didn’t see Jimenez leave; I was busy doing laundry in the back and cleaning up the dishes from the standard pre-game meal of cold cuts and orange slices. After the game, when the position players had caught word of Jimenez’s disappearance, the clubhouse was abuzz with gleeful laughter from some of the Americans and a certain solemnity from the Dominicans. I was busy hustling around the clubhouse cleaning and getting postgame laundry into the wash. Muggsy, our manager, stopped me dead in my tracks as he walked out of his office toward me—always on a straight line, always upright, always pissed. He was all mustache and beady, penetrating blue eyes. He had a five-year major league career that ended with a .221 batting average and he had gone from being a bench coach for the Orioles to managing the IronBirds.
“Were you in here when Jimenez left?” he said.
“Yeah, but I was—”
“You see that happen again, you come down to the dugout and tell one of us.”
Again? I thought.
“He’s gonna hop on a train up to New York and disappear. Then the Orioles will be out a visa.”
Muggsy was making an outdated reference to the limited H-2B visas that minor leaguers from the Dominican Republic used to need to play ball in the US. Now international minor leaguers can use a P-1 visa just like the Major Leaguers, which allows teams to give out as many visas as they want. Either way, losing a player did not look good for a coaching staff that had just turned their record to 11-23.
I heard a couple guys joking about Jimenez as they got ready to shower.
“Does he even have a car? Where the fuck’s he gonna go?”
“No, dude, he’s a Dominican. He’s probably gonna try to bike back to the DR.”
My car was nicknamed The Boat: a 1997 Cadillac Deville that had almost 200,000 miles on it and no longer had air conditioning. I drove it down to my parents’ house in Fort Myers, Florida after I graduated from Winthrop University in 2011 with a degree in English. The Florida heat was hell on my skin and I had to start getting moles lopped off one-by-one like the dermatologist was picking chocolate chips off the top of a cookie. I was jobless, aimless, and living in my parent’s retirement community spending the days watching the stock market and playing golf. After almost a year in my parents’ condo, I started applying for baseball jobs prior to the 2012 season. I grew up with dreams of being a Major Leaguer myself, but certain unforeseen circumstances kept me from achieving that goal, the most prominent of which was how bad I was at baseball. My freshman year of college, I tried out for the team at Hamline University, a Division-III school in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I was cut before the season started. Division-III sports teams don’t make cuts. I felt hurt by the game, my dreams dashed: I had imagined being drafted out of college and working my way up the minor league system for a few years before eventually making it to the Majors. So, rather than try out again the next year, I left the game completely and transferred to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Three years later, as a senior, I finally came back to the game and started working as an equipment manager for their Division-I baseball team. When I graduated, it was the only job experience I had. As a baseball lover and desperate college graduate, I accepted the position of clubhouse attendant for the 2012 Aberdeen IronBirds, the only job offer I got that spring.
The Orioles’ spring training complex was just north of my parent’s condo in Florida. On my drive up to Aberdeen, I stopped at Ed Smith Stadium to meet Jake Parker, the Orioles’ equipment manager who used to have my job in Aberdeen. I was told to meet him at the stadium and he would give me the ins and outs of my new job. Ed Smith Stadium operates all summer with Orioles rookie ball teams that are (almost unbelievably) even worse than the IronBirds. Lowest on the totem pole is the Dominican Summer League team that operates out of the Orioles’ academy in Boca Chica, DR. Players in the Dominican Summer League live in dorms that often cram eight to a room and have entire wings without air conditioning. The players in rookie ball at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota live with a single roommate in a hotel near the complex.
Jake was wearing a black Under Armour Orioles shirt when he grabbed me from the entrance of the stadium. He was muscle-bound, had spiked hair, and was attentive (polite, even) despite his seeming brusqueness. He moved with a speed that was referred to as the clubbie walk, an exaggeratedly fast gait that clubhouse attendants (A.K.A. clubbies) adopted as a necessity to move between places to get things done. Before the end of June (and forever after) I would start using the clubbie walk myself.
“You look just like your videos online,” he said as we walked. It was downpouring and players and coaches alike were all indoors, bored. I wondered how many of them were Major Leaguers.
“Oh? Which ones did you watch?” I said.
“Stand-up routine. Said Winthrop University, I think.”
“You were kinda funny.”
We walked into his “office” which was nothing more than a cluttered desk up against the wall of a classroom-like space. He told me everything I would need to know for the job: how to keep the stadium beer supplier geared up so I could get free beer for the coaches, how much food to put out for pregame meals so that it looked like a lot but would still yield leftovers.
“That money comes out of my pocket?” I said.
“And I use their dues to pay for it?”
“If you do it right, you’ll have plenty of money leftover. What’re you charging, seven a day?”
“That’s a lot at your level—I think guys get 1200 a month there—but you should be good to go. You’ve basically included your tip in the dues, which is fine, but don’t expect any extra on top of it. Plus you’re new. Respect is earned not given.” He eyed my chest. “You look like you might work out. A little bit.”
I shrugged. I stayed in shape but I wasn’t very muscular—about 6-feet, 185.
“You might wanna start lifting weights once you get there—helps to maintain order in the clubhouse. I used to be a teaching sub and you gotta treat these guys just like middle schoolers, because that's what most of them are. Last week I wrestled one of the players because he said he could take me. Was it joking? Sure. But was it a little serious too? Abso-fucking-lutely. These guys have to know you’re not afraid of them. If they come up giving me an attitude, trying to get extra equipment they don’t need or causing a problem in the clubhouse, I cut a fuckin’ muscle in them and let ‘em know who’s in charge.” He flexed his bicep at me and nodded as if to say, “Capiche?”
He took me to the laundry room and I asked him how much he made when he worked for the IronBirds.
He looked around my shoulder out the laundry room door.
“I’m only telling you this because we’re part of the same fraternity now, but my last two summers in Aberdeen I made 19,000 a summer. Net.”
“You won’t make that much, but you’ll still do well. You don’t show it though. You live like you’re fucking poor. The second guys start seeing you’re making hand-over-fist, that’s when the tips go down and you lose the clubhouse.”
He pulled out a pair of surgical rubber gloves and snapped them over his wrist before grabbing a pile of dirty orange and black athletic clothes and throwing them into the washer.
“You use gloves when you did laundry for Winthrop?”
I shook my head.
“Start using them. You don’t know where some of these guys have been. Especially the Coños.”
“Coños,” he said. “Dominicans.”
I hated the way my hands would get sweaty inside the rubber gloves. The load of laundry was done, so I opened it up and threw the wet towels into the dryer and hit start. It turned out I should have been worried when Schmarzo came in asking me for a screwdriver. When I had gotten to Aberdeen, I set up the lockers according to Jake’s suggestions. I could have never known that putting Jorge Rivera next to a fellow pitcher by the name of Mark Blackmar would be a problem. Apparently, the Americans had gotten so fed up with listening to Rivera’s music that Schmarzo finally unscrewed the electrical outlet above his locker to put an end to it. Schmarzo got his degree in Economics—which was ironic in itself considering he was a minor leaguer living on $700 paychecks—and not Electrical Engineering. I was happy he didn’t kill himself trying to put an end to the music. How Rivera eventually got the outlet working again I had no idea, but he did, and so he turned up his thumping Spanish music even louder than before. His locker neighbor, Mark Blackmar—a 16th round draft pick with dark stubble, a double chin, and black eyebrows—finally had enough. He reached up to the outlet above the locker and yanked the plug out of the wall.
Rivera screamed something in Spanish, his anger betraying the boyishness of his face, red accentuating the dark freckles on his light skin. He unfolded his metal fold-up chair (which had his name “Jorge” written in permanent marker on the bottom) stood on it, and plugged the music back in, bass thumping. He got down off the chair and stared down Blackmar.
“No,” Blackmar said, “no more of this.”
One more round of unplugging and plugging back in.
“Hey,” Rivera said, “you turn it off again—”
Without hesitation, Blackmar yanked the cord out for a final time. Rivera’s face turned even redder and he dug into the bag in his locker to pull out a bat, rearing it back to go after Blackmar. By this point the whole clubhouse was watching, even perpetually injured catcher Pedro Perez, who had anticipated his friend’s move. Pedro quickly limped up from the couch, just a few feet away, and made two hops before tackling Rivera into his locker.
“I hope you hit me, Jorge,” Mark said as Pedro wrestled the bat out of Rivera’s hands. “I hope you hit me and go to jail.”
Pedro took the bat and limped over to his locker to deposit it on the other side of the clubhouse, away from Rivera. Blackmar sat down and shook his head, but before he knew it Rivera had pulled out another bat from his bag and was about to take another swing. Hollars came in from all around the clubhouse.
“Mark, he’s got another one!”
Then one final shout came from Alan Mills, who had stomped into the clubhouse at the right time. “Shut the fuck up!” Everyone froze and turned to Mills, standing there with a bat of his own and his 1990s style sunglasses on his sweaty face. “You think you’re gonna take a swing at him, meat?”
Rivera tried to plead his case in broken English, but Mills cut him off.
In the middle of that night's game, alone in the clubhouse, I climbed up to look in Rivera’s bag. I pulled out one bat. Then another. Then another. All told there were 15 bats up there, which would be a lot even for a position player—someone who would actually need bats to do his job. He confronted me the next day once he realized his stash was gone. I was cornered in my equipment closet, cutting up oranges for the pre-game meal, when he entered with our gentle bench coach, Cesar Devarez, as his translator. Cesar told me that Rivera had gotten those bats as a gift and they were Rivera’s property that I had stolen from him. I knew this was false because the stolen bats were the brittle ash wood Rawlings brand that I issued the team—bats so bad that nobody would be mean enough to give them as a gift.
Cesar put his hands up. “I don’t know if what he sayin’ is true. I just telling you what he says.”
All the while Rivera was staring at me through his eyebrows.
“I—I can’t. He’s a pitcher, you know?” I gestured to Rivera. “Why would he need all those bats?”
Cesar translated what I had said for Rivera, who fumed to him in Spanish and angrily pointed at me until Cesar finally shoved him out of my equipment room. When Jake Parker, the Orioles equipment manager, came back to do an end of the year inventory of the clubhouse, the Americans told him about the music fiasco that led to Rivera’s bat attack.
“If your clubbie had any balls,” he said in front of me and a few players, “he would’ve done something about the Coños.”
“I took Rivera’s bats,” I said.
“So what? These guys don’t care about bats.” He addressed the handful of players. “If he had come in here and said ‘no more music’ you guys would’ve given him a fucking round of applause, wouldn’t ya?”
They nodded. “Yeah, dude. That shit was kinda ridiculous.”
“Tips probably would’ve gone up too,” Jake said.
They nodded again.
I had lost the respect of the clubhouse.
On the morning of July 23rd, one day after he had walked out in the middle of a game, Enrico Jimenez biked to the stadium from his host family’s house. He wanted to catch the bus to Brooklyn, where we had a road series against the Cyclones. He went about his business as if the night before had never happened. As I walked around, marking guys off of my sheet as they paid dues, I heard whispers that Jimenez had a friend in New York. Apparently he was just trying to catch a free ride on the bus so he could escape before the team released him and sent him back to the Dominican. Instead, he was suspended and left in Aberdeen for what turned out to be a week before he was released. I got anxious as I waited to hear his fate: we had some new players coming in and I had to assign them jerseys and lockers. Any given jersey number might be worn by four or five players in a season, depending on who gets released or moved up in the organization. Enrico’s number 26 was a popular size (48) and I needed to know when I could give it away to an incoming replacement.
Rivera stayed with me the rest of that season and the season after, despite his stolen bat escapade, but 2013 would be his last season pitching in the Orioles organization. According to their Facebooks, Jorge is living in Sarasota, Florida and Enrico finally made it to New York—both living illegally, I can only assume; they won’t message me back. When I look up their player pages on the official minor league baseball website, I only see a blank silhouette where their headshots used to be when they were players—nothing left but a shadow.
In a quiet moment, as we folded towels in his training room, I asked our trainer Trek what took so long for the front office to release a player who had walked out in the middle of a game.
“That’s a good fuckin’ question, Greg. Welcome to the Baltimore Orioles.”
I went back to folding towels. “You know where any of these guys go when they get released?”
“I don’t know, Greg. If a guy’s here, I’ll worry about him and give him the treatment he needs.” He stowed a pile of towels and swiped his hands clean. “If they’re not here, I’m not worried about ‘em.”
Clemencio Montecillo Bascar was a former Professor and Vice President for Corporate Affairs of the Western Mindanao State University. He is a recepient of various local, regional, and national awards in songwriting, playwriting, poetry, and public service. Several of his poems had been published in international literary magazines and journals such as, Foliate Oak , BRICKrhetoric, About Place, Torrid Literature, Mused-theBellaOnline Lietrary Review, and The Voices Project. He had written and published by the Western Mindanao State University two books of poetry, namely; "Fragments of the Eucharist" and "Riots of Convictions." In the Philippines, some of his poems appeared in the such magazines as Women's, MOD, and Chick.
At present, he writes a column in the Zamboanga Today daily newspaper and resides at 659 Gemini Street, Tumaga, Zamboanga City, Philippines. He is married to the former Miss Melinda Climaco dela Cruz and blest with three children, Jane, Lynnette, and Timothy James.
MINDANAO AND SULU WERE BIZARRELY SOLD
Up to this point of my academic effort, I still could not find any research- based and jury-validated account or narration that supports the claim or contention that the Sultanates of Maguindanao (Mindanao) and Sulu were conquered and colonized by Spain.
On the contrary the authoritative references, research data, and the relevant diplomatic documents I have at present overwhelmingly tend to support and uphold the historicity that Mindanao and Sulu were not conquered and colonized by Spain. Let me buttress the factuality and truthfulness of this assertion by citing four of the many eminent and most credible authorities I have on file:
1. "The arrival of the Spaniards in the second half of the 16th Century and the subsequent conquest of Luzon, led the Muslims to retreat to the South where they maintained their independence from foreign powers to the end of the Spanish regime."- Teodoro A. Agoncillo and Milagros Guererro, History of the Filipino People, p. 22.
2. "The Sulu Sultanate remained practically independent for four hundred and twenty five years. The tenacity with which the Sulus resisted Spanish dominations, their obdurate opposition and bravery in battle, and their obstinate passive resistance in peace baffled all Spanish efforts to subvert their political organization or gain a simple point of advantage without paying so dearly."- George A. Malcolm, The Government of the Philippine Islands, New York, Copyright 1916, pp 357-359.
3. "The close of the unsuccessful Spanish conquest of the Moroland marked the beginning of the end of one of the most remarkable resistances in the annals of military history. The Moslems had staged a bitter and uninterrupted warfare against the might of Spain for a period of 377 years. It is doubtful if this record has been equalled in the whole bloody history of military aggression. The Dons accustomed to the easy conquests of Peru and Mexico met their match in the jungles of Mindanao."- Vic Hurley, Swish of the Kris, page 14.
4. "In the year 1886 Spanish troops under General Terrero began the campaign in Cotabato against Datu Utto. They demolished some Muslim cottas but failed to penetrate the enemy territory. In 1891 General Weyler undertook personal command of Cotabato campaign. After short time, however, the strength of the Muslim kris and the ravages of the jungle fever forced him to return to Zamboanga. In 1895 General Blanco took the field against the Lanao Muslims, but gave up the campaign after three months of hard fighting. In 1898, General Buille resumed the Cotabato campaign. The Spanish-American War of 1898 found the Muslims and the Spaniards stalemated in the jungles of Moroland. After 300 years of invasion, Spain had failed to conquer and Christianize the fierce Muslims. The Spanish soldiers retired from the field with only the empty glory of war to their credit."- Gregorio F. Zaide, Ph. D., author of the textbook entitled, 'Philippine Political and Cultural History,' page. 320. Gregorio F. Zaide is popularly known as the Father of Philippine History.
In my preceding articles, I posited several times that Mindanao and Sulu were deceptively included as parts of the Philippine Islands which was supposed to be the only colonial possession of Spain that should have been sold and ceded to the United States in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris. As I have over and over again asserted and confirmed by internationally- respected and distinguished historians, researchers, and authors, Mindanao and Sulu were not conquered and colonized by Spain and therefore, were not her territorial possessions which made the sale of these two ancient monarchial states grossly anomalous further aggravated by the fact that they were included surreptitiously as parts of the Philippines Islands only by way of coordinates and without the knowledge and consent of their respective reigning Sultants, Councils of States, and adherents.
Once more I am recapitulating my academic assertion with stronger sense of certainty and confidence that this bizarre commercial and diplomatic transaction between Spain and the United Sates became the powder keg for the outbreak of the secessionist or liberationist struggle in Mindanao and Sulu but seemingly has always been deliberately side-stepped, brushed aside, and or just unceremoniously ignored by those key players and top power wielders and decision makers in the "perpetual ferriswheel-like " peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the two major revolutionary fronts. No wonder, the Peace Process after more than four decades of continually going around in circles, is still in doldrums despite claims of major diplomatic breakthroughs, record-breaking peace building feats, and history-setting legislative acts which in reality only ended up either declared "failed experiment" or "unacceptable" sub- political entities. Even the latest legislative creation, the ARMM, is now irreversibly heading toward the same political graveyard. Mainwhile, the taxpayers are relentlessly being bled dry to sustain a shockingly opulent diplomatic charade.
What made the sale and cession of Mindanao and Sulu highly anomalous? It was because Mindanao and Sulu were not territorial possessions of Spain by virtue of conquest or other means of acquisition and ownership considered lawful at that particular period. As I stated previously, it was grossly a case of one colonial power selling and ceding to another colonial power two monarchial states which the seller country did not own. The lawyers are in the best position to provide the right term of the crime committed in this particular real estate commercial transaction which could easily qualify for the books.
Making the sale and cession of Mindanao and Sulu by Spain to the United States stunningly unimaginable, was the fact that even the erstwhile President of the United States of America (USA), William Mckinley expressed doubts about the sovereignty of Spain,most particularly, over the Sultanate of Sulu, and yet he approved the spurious mercantile deal. To support the veracity of this confused state of mind of President Mckinley, may I quote a distinguished American official and author, Dr. Jacob G. Shurman who became the President of Cornell University and was appointed head of the five-person First Philippine Commission to assist in governing the Philippines, as follows:
"President Mckinley who had entertained doubts as to the sovereignty of Spain over the Sultanate of Sulu, promptly directed that a formal agreement be made with the Sultan." J.G. Shurman, Philippine Affairs: A Retrospect and Outlook, a book published in New York, in 1920 by Scribbers, pages 15-18.
Another world famous American author-historian who confirmed that Spain never acquired sovereignty over Mindanao and Sulu, is quoted, to wit:
"Preparing for their mission, Bates and his staff scoured the Spanish archives in Manila and discovered that Spanish sovereignty had in fact been no more than a myth and a contrived fiction. Of greater significance, it was dubious Spain had ever had the 'right' under international law to cede the lands belonging to the Moros as part of their land holdings in the Philippine Islands." Robert A. Fulton, The American Occupation of Moroland-May 1899 to August 1903, htt://w.w.w.morolandhistory.com/03PG-Amerricans/1.american.htm.
On the basis of the historical fact that Spain failed to conquer, colonize, and Christianize Mindanao and Sulu as confirmed by world-recognized and respected historians and authors, the cession of Mindanao and Sulu by Spain to the United States as parts of the Philippine Islands in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris, was conclusively and grossly irregular.
Peter Dabbene’s poetry has been published in many literary journals, and collected in the photo book Optimism. He has published the graphic novels Ark and Robin Hood, the story collections Prime Movements and Glossolalia, and a novel, Mister Dreyfus' Demons. His latest books are Spamming the Spammers and More Spamming the Spammers. He writes a monthly column for the Hamilton Post newspaper. His website is www.peterdabbene.com.
Suburban Complaint #1232 --The Basketball Hoop
When I first moved to suburban Hamilton, New Jersey from Staten Island, New York almost twenty years ago, what struck me about my new home wasn't the comparatively limited public transit system, or the increased amount of open space and greenery, or the abundance of backyard pools—it was the fact that everywhere I looked, there were driveways with basketball hoops.
To understand why this might seem shocking, you first need to understand that Staten Island holds nearly 500,000 people in its 58 square miles. Hamilton, by contrast, contains about 90,000 people in roughly 40 square miles. As a result of denser population and smaller average lot sizes, backyard pools in Staten Island are rare, losing out to swim clubs, community pools, and illegally opened fire hydrants. With more demand, public buses and trains run more frequently, and are a viable means of getting around, unlike in New Jersey, where public transportation seems to exist only because it's somehow required by law. And in Staten Island, basketball hoops, and the driveway or street space to use them, are at a premium.
Thus, kids in Staten Island often go to a playground or schoolyard to play basketball. With children congregating in a limited number of areas, and around a limited number of basketball hoops, pick-up games are common, as opposed to solo shoot-arounds. In central New Jersey, though, there's plenty of space for the suburban dream—a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, and a basketball hoop in every driveway.
(Here's where I'd happily list some curmudgeonly complaints about the loss of community, and parents never letting kids out of their sight, and those kids being too lazy or too preoccupied with their smartphones to walk down to the schoolyard anyway—but since I've sort of just done that—sly, wasn't it?—we'll skip it and move on.)
My own kids had played basketball a couple of times at parks, but most of their limited experience came when we visited my sister's house, which features a hoop on the back patio. Then two of my friends, who have kids the same age as mine, got hoops for their backyards. Having a basketball hoop on the premises soon began to seem like a God-given right, like breathing, freedom of speech, and the ownership of semiautomatic weapons.
I knew there was a strong chance that whatever hoop I acquired wouldn't be used more than a few times a year, so I didn't want to pay several hundred dollars for a brand-new, top-notch one. I also wanted no part of the four hours one friend said he spent putting his store-bought basketball hoop together. If the Little Tikes plastic basketball hoop for toddlers that we got as a hand-me-down extended higher than six feet, all of what follows would have been moot.
With my parameters determined (not too expensive, not too much work), I set about my search. Allow me to describe the process, but keep in mind that this is not, as you will see, a process you should aspire to replicate in any way.
I went to Craigslist, specified "central NJ", and looked up "basketball hoop". A fouler, more wretched-looking collection of hazardous metal, weather-beaten plastic, and rotting wood may not exist anywhere outside your local junkyard. There were plenty of pictures, which accurately highlighted the loneliness of each deserted basketball hoop in its current location; this could, perhaps, be the heart-wrenching subject of an art series by some young photography student. Some stood among bare trees and assorted backyard detritus—gardening tools, piles of leaves, and sheet-covered, rusting cars that would one day find themselves listed on Craigslist as well. Other hoops stood perilously close to telephone or power lines, or sat on curbs, waiting for delivery to a new home, or the garbage truck, whichever came first.
Descriptions are important on Craigslist: a photo might show a complete basketball hoop, attached to a post and ready to be shot upon, but the item for sale might be "backboard only", or "rim only", leaving one to wonder what disaster, natural or man-made, had contributed to the demise of the missing components.
Most sets had large bases that could be filled with water to anchor the hoop in place; after missing out on one in Princeton (free to whomever contacted the owner first), I found one in Colts Neck that looked promising. It was $75, seemed intact, and was adjustable in height, a key feature. Colts Neck was 45 minutes away, but I was going to be in the area in a few days' time. There was just one detail that would later turn out to be more of an issue than I'd first considered: the owner had filled the empty base with concrete.
I understand the impulse—what could be more solid, or safer, than something that absolutely would not move, once placed? And there were wheels at the rear of the base, so that if lowered at an angle, the hoop actually could be "moved easily". More on that later.
I'd measured the interior of our emptied-out mini-van, but wasn't completely certain the hoop would fit. I negotiated a bit via text message and got the price down to $50, cheap enough to take a chance. Bungee cords packed, I made my way to the house.
The owner was a guy in his thirties whose girls hadn't used the hoop in three years. We lowered and carefully wheeled it out of his garage, over to the back of the mini-van. We removed the backboard and rim, then slid the post into the car as far we could. Then we lifted the base. It should be noted that I was having second thoughts about the wisdom of all this, but at that point, the immediate challenge of getting everything into the car seemed paramount.
Luckily, the seller was a big guy, and between the two of us, we were (barely) able to lift that concrete-filled base the two feet we needed to clear the lip on the trunk. I estimate that it weighted about 9000 pounds, but I could be mistaken. We pushed the post forward until it touched the front windshield, which was protected by a towel, and after a few minutes of adjustments, managed to get the trunk closed. Good thing, as the prospect of holding back a runaway load of concrete-filled, heavy-duty plastic with a few bungee cords seemed more than a little naïve, not to say hazardous and irresponsible.
After a slow but successful drive home, the worst seemed over. In the morning, I'd just slide the hoop out, roll if to the backyard, and bask in the glow of hero dad-ism.
At dawn, the truth revealed itself. The raised lip at the edge of the mini-van's rear cargo space, which had helped to keep the base secure during its transportation, also made it extremely difficult to get it back out. In lieu of a big, muscular guy to help me, I drafted my wife into service, just as she was preparing to leave for work.
Determined not to make the metal post or its base permanent features of the car's interior, we pulled, inch by inch, and finally cleared the trunk. That's when the third member of our team, gravity, took over.
To some people (including me), that might first seem like a good thing. I knew the heavy base would come down quickly, but it didn't occur to me that as the base dropped to the ground, the top of the post would rise like a see-saw and collide with the auto's sturdy, Korean-made (South, not North) ceiling. The two oppositional forces—gravity pulling against a now-stationary post—tore loose one of the bolts fastening the post to the base. This was not ideal.
I was able to roll the entire apparatus to the backyard patio, which at least hid it from public view, sparing me the indignity of curious neighbors and onlookers politely inquiring, "So... what'cha doin'?" or "Is that supposed to be like that?"
I saw that the plastic base had torn around the bolt, but there was still hope—the main post had come a bit loose from its bolt, but what's loose could be tightened, couldn't it? Access to the bolt was underneath the base, which led to a farce consisting of me trying to flip the very heavy base onto its side, and every time, the base rolling away from me.
Fueled by frustration, I kept at it until I got a good look at the bottom and realized that repair was, to put it gently, unlikely. It would never be tight enough to assure that my kids wouldn't one day find a big, heavy, metal pole embedded in their heads. Some people might have called it quits there, and I was nearly among them. But as I stopped and considered my options, I realized there was one chance left—a long shot, but if I could salvage the hoop, it would be worth it.
A non-working and long-abandoned light post that was cemented into the concrete patio had been a fixture of our backyard vista for years. It was a relic from before we owned the house, and the only reason it was still there is that I'd never been motivated to get it out (one doesn't dictate inspiration). The basketball post, meanwhile, was hollow and looked as if, freed from the base, it might fit like a sheath ON TOP of the light post. If it did, I'd have a stable post, and with an adjustable height backboard, everything would be just peachy.
I got a ladder and lowered the hollow metal basketball post over the five foot high light post. It fit nicely, but the light post was wider at its lowest three feet than it was the two feet above. So now I had a ten foot pole sitting on top of a three foot booster. Regulation basketball rims are exactly ten feet off the ground, so this would have been a bit of an added challenge for the children, especially considering they could barely heave a ball up to the standard height.
Simple math meant that if I could cut the basketball post down to seven feet, I'd have regulation height, if not regulation process. So how does one cut a metal post?
A visit to Home Depot brought me to two employees in the Tools section, whose combined age barely surpassed mine. They were talking about their girlfriends, and I sensed immediately that they had never cut a metal basketball post. I would later recognize their standing under the "Tools" sign as a rare instance of truth in advertising. Though not particularly forthcoming with their assistance, they eventually pointed me to a small, hand-held saw tool they claimed would do the job. I took a chance, purchased it, and soon began the operation.
It was slow going, but the post did get cut. If you're wondering about the total time and money invested to this point, let me remind you that it's the principle of the thing that's important—the principle of of not admitting failure, which can be judged as inspiring or stubbornly pig-headed, but unquestionably important.
Sizing the basketball post atop the lamp post again, everything seemed good, with the exception of a slight wobble— the result of some extra space between the upper part of the lamp post and the inside of the basketball post. I needed a way to stabilize it, so the backboard wouldn't wiggle every time a ball hit it.
Looking around the house, I determined a possible solution. As a longtime supporter of print newspapers, I've learned they're useful for many things other than reading. Millennials who get their news online, aside from having a skewed view of what news is, presumably often find themselves lacking proper materials to line birdcages, protect tabletops from the use of watercolor paints, and create paper hats. Here, wadded-up newspapers could function to stuff the gap between the two posts, and thus stabilize the hoop.
I "filled out" the upper part of the lamp post by wrapping the newspapers around it and securing them, using Disney Princess Duck Tape. The latter will go without further comment, except to say that it's embarrassing enough to own Duck Tape (a brand that owes its very name and existence to the failings of American literacy), without adding a smattering of Disney Princesses to the mix.
My wife, who had inadvertently, and somewhat unwillingly, observed bits of the last few steps from the kitchen window, seemed surprisingly able to focus on other things, rather than the master craftsman at work outside. When I came in to get more newsapers, my own curiosity wasn't as easily restrained:
"What's it like to live with a genius?" I asked.
"I wouldn't know," she replied.
Once the job of securing the newspapers to the light post was done, I set the height of the rim and tightened the bolts that held it, got the stepladder, and lowered the basketball post again.
In any task, the greatest feeling of accomplishment—the climax, if you will—comes in the instant the work is done. The cleanup afterwards is a necessary evil. Thus, there was great satisfaction in testing the backboard by tossing a couple of lay-ups, but an equal and opposite sensation in realizing that there remained a large plastic base filled with concrete, yet to be addressed.
The weight of the base, plus the difficulty of maneuvering it without leverage from the post, meant some of the concrete needed to be removed where it stood.
The plastic base offered only a small hole, a few inches in circumference, to provide access to the interior, or empty its contents. Draining water via the hole would have been easy enough. Hardened, heavy concrete, however, was another story entirely.
Luckily, I now owned a metal-cutting (and presumably, plastic-cutting) hand saw, with which I set about expanding the opening. Expending no small amount of effort, I was able to cut a line about a foot long, and then cut perpendicularly to make a fold. I found a crowbar in the basement and used it to break up the concrete, a little at a time, and shake it loose from the base. Slowly but steadily, the base grew lighter.
The end to this ignominious adventure came when, after several refusals by garbage pickup employees to accept the mangled and not-quite-empty base into their truck, I unloaded the final bits of concrete and brought them to the local ecological facility. Later, I watched as the now feather-light plastic base was taken away on a garbage truck, the final evidence removed.
Today, the basketball hoop sits proudly outside my kitchen window, a monument to bad decisions and partial redemption; periodically used, awaiting the day when, in its now-altered state, it will rejoin the ranks of listings on Craigslist, inspiring pity, and perhaps for one poor soul, ambition.
Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Commonweal, Guwahatian Magazine (India), The Galway Review (Ireland), Public Republic (Bulgaria), The Osprey Review (Wales), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey) and other magazines. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs
A Stranger in the Soup Kitchen Spills the Beans
I have a friend, old and retired, who keeps busy helping the poor. Let's call him Ted because he wants to remain anonymous. Some of his ideas, he says, wouldn’t make many of his neighbors happy.
Ted has had problems of his own in life. No need to list them. He managed to survive them. As a result, he knows what the poor are up against. And he believes that in 2017 their plight will be worse in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Bigger odds are piling up against them.
It won’t be any easier for Ted, either, now a solid member of the lower-middle class having escaped a life of poverty. For example, he has always wondered why car insurance, house insurance, estimated taxes and property taxes all come due in November and December. He says it's like having the Grinch chew on his posterior during the holidays.
While his income in retirement remains stagnant, his bills, Ted says, are always rising. Fortunately, he and his wife have planned ahead over the years and have been able to make things work despite modest salaries and even a more modest retirement income. They may not eat steak but they still have enough left to donate something more than their time to charity.
But every time Ted pays a bill he thinks about the stranger he met at the local soup kitchen where he volunteers as a server two days a week. The man was eating by himself as usual. Ted had finished his time behind the steam table, approached the man and asked if he could sit down and talk with him.
The stranger said okay and it only took a few minutes for he and Ted to get along. Ted said the stranger probably would have talked to anyone who sat down. He obviously needed to talk.
Eventually the stranger told Ted the current chapter in his life story. It wasn’t a pretty thing to hear. But his life today may be typical of what many of the poor and elderly are living with now. And this is not happening in some Third World country. It’s happening in the United States, where people from other nations want to live.
The stranger said he can't afford his little house and laughed slightly when he said he was too old for a tent. He lives in one of the row houses built after World War II. He said utilities, taxes and insurance make it hard to stay there. Not much left for food or prescriptions. He also has a bit of a heart problem. Nothing that taking his medication regularly can’t keep in check.
Being alone is difficult enough, the stranger said, but the hot lunches at the soup kitchen help him pay his other bills. This is his only hot meal of the day unless you count an egg in the morning with a slice of toast. Otherwise he snacks on crackers and cheese. And the cheese is free, he said, given away once a month by another charity over on the other side of town.
Listening to the stranger, Ted felt very fortunate. He and his wife have always been able to pay their bills. They eat well enough, nothing fancy, and they dine out once every two weeks at a fast food restaurant. Chicken fingers with a rainbow of sauces. However, Ted has new concerns about the stranger and the other poor in his community and throughout American society. He has heard that a new tax plan is being considered by Congress, a tax plan that will force a worker with a spouse and two children to pay taxes if their income is $12,000.
Ted would hate to have to live on $12,000 if he were by myself much less with a wife and two children.
He says that as the middle class continues to evaporate and the poor continue to get poorer, he finds less empathy at his level and above for either group and he doesn’t expect that to improve in 2017.
America's old people, he says, are truly up against the wall. As time goes by, he thinks their problems will grow more severe. He doesn’t know what the poor and elderly will do if that new tax plan becomes law. And he thinks that in 2017 the time is ripe for that to happen in Washington.
Ted admits many people spend too much of what little they have and don’t worry about their future, But in his volunteer work, he finds many of the poor spend what little they have to get to the future.
Some things, Ted says, are worth writing to one’s representatives in government about. He has already written to his senators and his representative about this restrictive tax law and hopes it won’t pass. He hopes other Americans will write to their representatives as well.
He thinks there will be plenty of other opportunities to write letters in 2017 and the years ahead to help stop potential laws like this.
The electorate has spoken, he says, and it will be awhile before they have a chance to speak again.
Author is a retired attorney having practiced for 35 years in Illinois who now lives in Texas and started writing stories about a year and a half ago.
Short Book Review: The Prison Compendium
This is not so much a book review as it is a plug for a book in which one of my stories appears, The Prison Compendium. It consists of thirty three stories by thirty one authors. The editor is Jennifer Word. It’s two hundred and seventy seven pages long and it’s in paperback. It’s available through Amazon.
The stories are obviously about prisoners but they all over the place. One story invokes Elvis, another Pete Rose. One entails a flood and another a zombie apocalypse. One is gross, in my opinion. It’s about eating fleas. One is definitely erotic. A lot of them have that traditional pulp noir flare to them. And of course there’s the stories are about busting out of prison and and the success or failure thereof. There’s tragedy, pathos and humor enough for everyone. The prisons involved range from the east coast to the west coast and from Montana to Mississippi. And to top it off there’s even some prison poetry.
There’s a much better, more elaborate, and well written review of The Prison Compendium on Amazon. I suggest you read that one, and the others, if you might be interested in the book. Thank you.
Dixon Hearne is a book reviewer for University Press of Mississippi. His work has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, as well as the PEN/Faulkner and PEN/Hemingway awards. His recent novella From Tickfaw to Shongaloo was awarded second place in the Faulkner Novella Competition. Other work appears in Oxford American, New Orleans Review, Tulane Review, Louisiana Literature, and elsewhere. Visit www.dixonhearne.com
Review - Far Beyond the Pale by Daren Dean
Fiction Southeast Press, 2015
ISBN: 13: 978-0692347621
Far Beyond the Pale is first and foremost a coming-of-age story about disaffected 13-year-old Honey Boy Kimbrough, who is forced to grow up too quickly in a dysfunctional home—indeed a dysfunctional world, characterized by broken people, broken spirits, and broken promises. Like Faulkner, Dean cultivates his own “postage stamp of native soil” for the setting (and perhaps substance) in 1970s Missouri, which Honey Boy calls—metaphorically--Misery. The story exudes anger, rage, and retaliation. Honey Boy struggles to bring order to the chaos that engulfs his young life—much of which becomes self-inflicted as he spirals out of control. The son of a seemingly hopeless and unresponsive mother, Lorene, and an abusive father (back in California), he is desperately searching for identity, acceptance, and manhood. Honey Boy’s motivations and actions ultimately spring from a dire quest for his mother’s love and a better life for them both. He is life-weary from years of travel and disruption by his mother’s pursuit of hope and happiness with the wrong men.
The need for validation drives Honey Boy into foolish, sometimes dangerous situations, spurred on by local thug Elston Vaughn, who treats him with respect. Under the spell of Vaughn and the influence of other bullies and misfits in his orbit, Honey Boy loses moral direction and clear reasoning. He lunges headlong into self-destruction. The story takes the reader on a spree of petty crimes and mischief—edging characters “beyond the pale.” At some point, Honey Boy becomes aware of a shift from feeling manipulated by outside forces to a state of conscious decision-making—a moral dissonance with which he grapples. He does not know whether a newfound “conscience” is ruled by God or by Satan. Dean creates in Honey Boy the kind of conflict and ambiguity that nag and linger in the reader’s mind—an indelible character worth caring about.
The story feels familiar, the characters archetypal, and the conflict real. It is written in raw, sometimes emotionally-charged language reminiscent of Larry Brown and Harry Crews—and accentuated with a pitch-perfect southern dialect. Far Beyond the Pale delivers a moving and skillfully-written work of dark fiction that leads the reader on a circuitous course toward potential dead ends and disappointment. Resolution, however, lies in the capable hands of the author, and Dean does not disappoint.