Here We Are Now, a novel of the Grunge Generation
by philip scott wikel
… when I was young and full of grace, spirited, a rattlesnake…
– REM, Life’s Rich pageant
Dylan enjoyed writing poetry. This was a strong connection between he and his parents, but his true love was baseball. Since the age of 7 he’d wanted nothing more than to be the next Babe Ruth, the Big Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the King of Crash. His grandfather loved baseball too and Dylan wished grandpa Felix had never had to die. The year after Dylan was born, his parents, Morgan and Olivia, had moved to a town in upstate New York. For them it was convenient to the city. For Grandpa it was like visiting Mecca because of the horsetrack and it’s glory of being the home of the Hambletonian. For Dylan, upstate was a vast unexplored wilderness of pine trees, rivers, lakes and rolling pasture land.
Felix would come up from the city often to see the trotters run and he would take Dylan back to the city with him during baseball season. But while he was in town he would take Dylan down to the races. They’d visit the stables and Grandpa, being a friend to all, would strike up a conversation with the jockeys, trainers, and owners of the horses. And through this Dylan would have the opportunity to meet the men behind the scenes. Many suggested that Dylan, being small in his stature, should consider being a jockey one day himself. This idea resonated with Dylan since he was a great fan of Walter Farley and the stories of The Black Stallion. Dylan placed upon his meetings with these men, the romance of these books, and would often dream of riding the great “Black” on some deserted island or in one of the great races in the Triple Crown. Hearing the stories of the great ones like Secretariat, Ruffian, and Willie Shoemaker made days like this with Grandpa feel like glorious lifetimes lived in a single day.
Grandpa also brought with him his love for Switzerland and all things Swiss-German; things like bratwurst, liverwurst, muenster cheese and pumpernickel bread. Felix enjoyed his Cointreau and “JB,” which he called “Jew Booze,” and ate onions like most people eat apples, whole, with deep, juicy and hearty bites. The Swiss-Germans were less stringent and rigid than many of their purely German relatives and Grandpa had a “joie de vivre” much like a typical Italian or Greek.
He was no Zorba but he found great joy in the little things:
“Try this Gouda Olivia, I got it from Finster’s in the Bronx.”
“It’s brilliant Felix,” replied Dylan’s mother smiling; hints of her London accent still very much apparent in her speech.
The house that surrounded them at lunchtime was an extension of Olivia and Morgan’s inner life. 15 Oxford Road sat on acre of springtime green. An entire wall of the living room was filled with books ranging in their subjects from the influence of sea power on ancient history to the collected essays of H.L. Mencken to the essential Basho and a modest attempt at creating a library of the classics. Paintings, in some places floor to ceiling, chronicled the developments and pinnacles of several movements; Olivia’s favorite being the Impressionists. For Morgan it was the Fauves.
Philodendrons, Boston Ferns, and Ficus trees gave the house the feeling of a jungle, especially at that moment in April of Dylan’s eighth year. And Dylan liked being eight, especially since today was Easter Sunday and they’d just returned from the annual Easter Egg Hunt.
The hunt was held around the imposing stone structure of the Presbyterian Church. The grass of the grounds was as green as Ireland and the spires of grey stone in the center of this was no less magnificent to the citizens of Goshen than the Eiffel Tower. It seemed that every kid in town was there if not every kid in the world and the hunt was alive with the same excitement as the classic foxhunts of old England. All of Dylan’s friends were there but today it was understood among them that it was every man for himself. There were only a few golden eggs to be found and golden eggs were not something one could share.
“All right,” Dylan said to Franklin and the boys as they awaited the whistle from Mayor Whittingham, “may the best man win.”
The whistle blew and they were off. Every squirrel in the vicinity dashed for points north, south, east, and west as the hordes descended on the trees, bushes, stones and benches around the church.
“Remember the Alamo!” one boy yelled as he made his way to the front of the pack and toward the thick shrubbery where it was guaranteed there’d be treasure. Dylan took a slower tack. He watched the crowd fan out over the grounds and then made note of the places being overlooked. He then systematically inspected each patch of bushes and stones the others had passed. In one he found a baseball, in another, a Yo-Yo. He was down to two patches now. His father, not understanding his plan, yelled, “Over here Dylan!” Dylan glanced at his father and smiled but continued toward his aim. In the first patch there was a bag of Jelly Beans “this is getting sweeter,” Dylan thought. From there he moved to the final patch. He saw, in the corner of his eye, another kid breaking away from the crowd. Dylan quickened his pace and made it to the spot just seconds before Skeeter Hanlon, the town bully. He felt his heart pounding out of his chest as he reached down through the bushes, pushed aside a stone, and wrapped his sweating hand around the Golden Egg. “It’s mine he thought. I’ve done it.”
Dylan turned toward the crowd looking for the Mayor. Dylan bolted in his direction, catching sight of his father as he ran. He held the egg up over his head and smiled. His father smiled back, then moved in the direction of the church, the mayor standing on a makeshift stage near the front door.
“You’ve done it young man,” said Mayor Whittingham, shaking Dylan’s hand, “now hang tight until the rest are done with their search, and I’ll present the Grand Prize.”
News of the discovery traveled fast and many of the children abandoned the hunt, leaving many treats undiscovered. A crowd gathered around the Mayor and a reverent hush came over the green lawn. As the Mayor extended his hand, Dylan stepped up to the stage and saw the eyes of all the kids he knew from Sunday School, and quite a few more. Mr. Whittingham broke the seal around the egg, removed a slip of paper, and read:
“The finder of this Golden Egg is entitled to anything priced up to $100.00 at Lippincott’s Toy Store”.
“Yes!,” Dylan exclaimed as his parents and Grandpa Felix made their way to the front of the crowd.
“You did it kid,” his father said, “you’re the man of the day.”
Buy Ticket to Ride, the prequel to Here We Are Now: