Sudden Denouement Classic: Everything Wasn’t Enough – Jasper Kerkau

Laughter echoes down long hallways, gives way to arguments and eventually more giddy children’s laughter. Plastic toys are left in my restroom, socked feet bouncing on beds, falling down and I scream from the other room. There is silence that eventually erupts again with the delight and carefree abandon of childish glee. I bury my face in my hands at my desk, waiting, waiting, always waiting for everything to change, for the laughter to eventually stop, the shadows to take over, the long unwinding of a life built on endless toil–nothingness.

The sword of Damocles looms over me. My skull anticipates the shattering strike; blood and fragments of bones mixed in a concoction of death.  My fate sealed by icy hands. Alas, they have come to purge me of what is left; they have come for my children. They have come for my words; a blind witness, left with the bloody rags of silence, childless, suffering for the sins of my oppressors. Blood upon blood upon blood. They relish in feasting on my fear and devour my heart, desperately trying pull the fruit of my loins from my bosom. Am I vanquished?

Splayed on cold table, I am pulled apart slowly. My eyes affixed on the past, the mistakes left in closets among unmatched shoes and discarded summers. It all rolls off of me as the they slowly drain my life, whisked the children away, leave my words fatherless, left as an empty vessels that once held such promise. I could have been better. I could have been better. They smirk and guffaw, standing over me with forks and knives, waiting to dine on my soul, exposing their vicious appetites. Will everything be enough?

There is something inside me that is immune to their illicit desires. I hear the hymn of sacred souls, the chorus of magnificence sang from distant places, songs of hope and sorrow. Each voice carries its own unique message of personal salvation. I am not alone; they cannot destroy my sacred vision, the words sewn with the sinews of travail and perfect love into each verse. I am a writer and a father, with undying affection for my children; the words create divine tapestries which can never be wrested away from me. They will live long after I am gone.

I stand steadfast in the light, accompanied by the remnant chosen for the articulation of suffering, their special dispensation due to the ability to speak the secret language of the universe, their affliction decoded and turned into consecrated arias. The shadows will eventually flee, leaving me vindicated, left to tend to my words, nurture my children, guard them from the profane hands which seek to drag them into the dark places, strip them of their beauty and joy. There is nothing that can stand against truth, innocence, and pure love. I hear a voice in the darkness, fingers intertwined with my own: “I love you daddy.”


Jasper Kerkau is a founder of Sudden Denouement and editor and writer for The Writings of Jasper Kerkau.

I Still Don’t Know How To Love Jasper Kerkau

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Love is so allusive. Everyone is looking for something that will ultimately disappoint them. I have mild conversation at laundromats and book stores. I have taken up a life of leisure, try to find God in simple things, but it is all so complicated. Everyone is so broken. The disconnection is sad, the broken mirrors and long silences are overwhelming. It only gets worse. We are spiraling into the void. I am not alone. Everyone wants to connect, find meaning with tea leaves and the soft glance that gives hope. So afraid, so sick with the burdens of modern life. I find silence in a quest for the soft flesh pressed against flesh, the simple embrace, the tongue touched to lips. Everything is nothing, at least for those who make a home in the desert, who become sick with the gadgets and toys of our misery. I yearn for something meaningful, but I get lost, hide in strange places. Disconnection didn’t save me. Perhaps forgiveness is salvation, true love is understanding, not groping hands or vapid expression of desire. I spend nights thinking about my failure, the loss, the misery, the abundance that destroyed me. The rat race was a fool’s errand. I learn how to embrace the quiet, but I still don’t know how to love.

[Jasper Kerkau is a writer/editor/co-creator of Sudden Denouement. His personal blog is Jasperkerkauwriting.com]

Rehab Chronicles (excerpt) Jasper Kerkau

 

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The Rehab Diaries (excerpt) Jasper Kerkau

When I got off three vomitus days of detox, we had a game of Big Book Jeopardy. My team won. My prize was that I was given the honor of having a “little brother.” My understanding was sparse, but I was going to look after him for a week. I assume it is an easy errand, pointing out house rules, which I didn’t know yet, meeting schedule, telling him which members of staff to steer clear of, and where to put his cigarette butts. My “little brother” who looks like a broken down drunk, an elderly biker, with a long grey beard and a surly demeanor was actually a retired NASA engineer who had fancied himself a biker. He is shaking uncontrollably from the alcoholic DTs. Jacob, a young staff member, with an affable personality comes to me with a frantic look. He implores me to stay with Mike, my “little brother,” while they try and get the doctor on the phone.

He sits in the chair moaning. I lite his cigarettes and pat him on the back awkwardly. “You know all of my friends are dead. I have no children. I have a bad heart; I am going to die tonight and those cocksuckers are taking their time getting me my detox meds.” He stamps at the ground dramatically. I try not to laugh. I squeeze my eyes trying to figure out if he is going to die on my watch and wondering how I got into this situation. I ask him obligatory questions. He nods off and then wakes up to moan, curse and then regain a remorseful composure. He jumps up and grabs his heart, stumbling toward the office. “I am having a fucking heart attack, call 911!” I bolt after him and help him walk toward the office. David, a sixty year old who fluctuates between baffling ignorance and brilliance, is sitting at his desk. He seems to be in charge, though he actually job title is allusive. He looks at Mike and I over the top of his readers with a steely expression.

“What is it Mike?” he sounds perturbed. His voice is tense and raspy.

“I am having a fucking heart attack,” Jacob, the young tech has a deer in the headlights look. He seems to wants to usurp Dave’s aloof authority.

“Okay Mike, we will get you an ambulance.” He turns to Dave with urgency, “he said he is having chest pains; we don’t have a choice. That is the key phrase.” Jacob and I share a common peril. Neither of us want to deal with the Mike’s death.

“Bullshit Mike,” Dave barks, jumps out of his chair, regaining control. “You know good and God-damn well you are not having a fucking heart attack.” Mike stands with his eyes closed, clutching his heart. I get a panicked feeling. I want to go home.

“Fuck you David,” Mike opens his eyes and blurts out with a sudden alertness. David counters by kicking the chair. I automatically grab Mike by the arm and lead him out. He pulls arm away and turns to Dave.

“His name is Jimmy Boy, not fucking Roscoe!” Mike screams at David. I turn to Jacob shaking my head in bewilderment. He shrugs in agreement. “You can do a lot of sorry, rotten fucking things, like leaving your shit in another man’s garage for a year, but you don’t change a dog’s name.”

“Get the fuck out Mike, get your sorry ass out of the office,” Mike snaps back into his dying routine. I take him again by the elbow and to the door. David sits back down and tends to a bonsai.

“And the dog is Roscoe, not Jimmy Boy, you stupid fuck.” Mike gets in the parting shot as I close the door behind us.

“I guess you guys know each other?” I put Mike back in his chair.

“We were friends for twenty years, road Harley’s together. I tried to join the Banditos and David and I got into a fist fight at an AA meeting. It is a long story. He is supposed to be watching my dog, but he can’t perform one simple fucking task.” He never opens his eyes. “I am going to die. I need you to come and pray over me as I do.”

Happy Birthday – Jasper Kerkau

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Happy Birthday

The reason I get up in the morning is having a birthday. I remember standing in front of the hospital smoking, sending the pictures, beaming. Everyone wanted to know how much he weighed. I never wanted children until he came into the world. They told me my cholesterol was high when he was one. I drank apple cider vinegar and jogged a thousand miles. Before he was able to speak, he would clap his hands and bounced up and down when I came in. Life had meaning every time I heard his laughter. He was old enough to understand the night we had our last fight; he got down on his knees and cupped his hands and prayed. It broke my heart because I knew he sensed nothing would ever be the same again. He loves me more than anyone, even now as his bones pain from growing. I think about his birthdays, the Elmo cake he smeared all over his baby cheeks, the little boy birthdays with Nerf gun fights. Now there is the worst birthday. The one I would never see. The year that didn’t happen, the one that was stolen. I will light candles and think of the best thing I ever created. I will unwrap a present and patiently wait.

[Jasper Kerkau is a writer/editor/co-creator of Sudden Denouement. His personal blog is Jasperkerkauwriting.com]

Excerpt from Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective-Upon the Anniversary of Your Death/Jasper Kerkau

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I carried your books—Mencken, Nietzsche, and other misanthropist tomes—boxed up and sold by the pound, exorcising all your existential angst. The body still warm, I drove your mother in silence to bookstore, trivial task, your prized possessions discarded in the abyss, torn covers and scribbled footnotes heralding a new aeon. Ten years removed, I am still touched by unforgivable grief, remembering your deep laughter and explosive spark—the glass-smashing, room-clearing nihilism that left fragments of strangeness everywhere.

I carried your grief, standing in your place, eulogizing your father and all the sadness in the world. I thought of your heartbreak, his rheumatoid-afflicted limbs, the never-ending horror of merciless suffering that drove you into nothingness as he wasted away. My shoes too tight, among strangers, swallowing my tongue, perspiring, hiding under table, echoing I can do this…I can do this…I have to do this for him. Tie crooked, I shake hands with your family—“thank you for standing in for him,” they tell me with a wink and pat on the back. I bury my face in my hands afterward in the car. I will never again speak over the dead. 

I carried your energy with me into adulthood. Swimming in blue waters, experiencing the miracle of childbirth, thinking of your eternal resignation—Methadone and Xanax—as I pass out cigars. I can’t help but think that a child would have saved you, as I see the future in the helpless innocence of my fruit.  I “bought in,” pushing carts down long aisles, groceries, comfort, pitter-patter of little feet, bank accounts, and Sundays strolling through antique stores. All the while, I feel the spectre of your life casting its pall over my experience. The sadness is at arm’s length, though I know one day we will drink from the mead horn in the great hall. 

I carried your failure with me through tragedy, running in circles, ankles and knees aching, never stopping…jogging past your childhood home. Finding God at the worst times, finding life in the place where you surrendered. She walked out and you died. I thought of this when mine left, rose from the dead, evolved, while you lingered in my shallow sleeps, haunting me as I struggled to overcome. Every day I pushed myself further away from that place you created. I was only an inch away, pushed into the shadows only to embrace the light. I did it because you could not—I did it for you.

I carried your passion, your love of knowledge, finished a degree, never walked but hid in bathroom at work, thought of you as I visualized them calling my name. “It was all for naught,” I tell friends, secretly, of course, it was for you. Your brittle life redeemed by the marrow and bone pulverized and ingested in magic concoctions, secret rituals, great revelations thrown up in silly rooms with people I never knew as well as you. I bear the cross that people will never understand, never letting go—making the life that we dreamed of in the dreadful three a.m.’s when there were too many lines and too much talk that was all so fleeting.

I carried your beauty, your friendship, your combustible insanity with me. Sat on couches, bored, trying to find that madness, but I am cursed forever to a life of mundane drinks and civil discourse, dreaming of the past. I ask your mother if they ever got a tombstone. I think of your brilliance, unmarked, given over to eternity and worms—forgotten. My life is defined by you, looking forward, being better, not being swallowed by the same monsters that carried you away. You are with me in my dreams. After ten years, I think of you ever day.

Available at Amazon.com, Amazon Europe, Amazon Canada, Book Depository, and other major book retailers


Jasper Kerkau is co-creator of Sudden Denouement, as well as Jasper Kerkau Writing.

Jasper Kerkau Interviews Talia Carner

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Jasper Kerkau recently sat down to chat with Talia Carner, author of  Hotel Moscow, Jerusalem Maiden, China Doll, and Puppet Child, and upcoming in 2019, The 4th Daughter.  Talia’s work is published by HarperCollins.

When I speak to writers, they often talk about a moment in which they decided to identify themselves, first and foremost, as a writer. Was there a moment like that for you, if so what precipitated it?

There was a time of “no man’s land” between my successful career as a marketing consultant to Fortune 500 companies and my nascent interest in fiction writing. While I had nothing to show—and certainly didn’t yet envision writing as a career—it consumed me both emotionally and intellectually. To compel myself to accept my new identity I printed business cards that read “Writer/ Marketing Consultant,” not only stating that I was a writer, but placing it first. That was the moment.

I have discovered that everyone has a book, writers are a dime a dozen: what has allowed you to succeed in a sea of dreamers?

Many people have interesting, complex life stories. That also means that they are potentially “one-book authors” who wish to write about themselves. Indeed, many do, mainly for posterity, if not out of need for self-introspection. That is not what my novels are about. My stories are completely imagined. As a character, I am yet to appear in any of my books, nor do I use any of my personal life’s dramatic events—with the exception of business-related experiences. (In PUPPET CHILD the protagonist works in magazine marketing, and HOTEL MOSCOW was based upon my teaching business in Russia.) What I do exploit, though, are the emotions, the sympathy toward social issues I care about, and I am able to crawl under the skin of each novel’s protagonist and live the events through her.

Then, of course, the key to success is rewriting, revising, restructuring and editing ad nauseam—except that it is a process I greatly enjoy. It’s no exaggeration to say that I go over each manuscript 50 to 80 times. Unfortunately, in these days of easy digital self-publishing many would-be writers skip this months- and years-long stage, and their books often reveal their impatience with the process.

There is a lot in your experience that young writers can glean and hope for. What advice would you give to those who are smitten by the passion for writing, but don’t know if it will lead the to anything except poverty?

Please allow me to dispel the notion that even success in publishing brings more than poverty. There are only a handful of American authors who make a comfortable living from their books; someone estimated that there are less than 100 such authors. Those are the ones publishing every year and selling millions of copies along with international rights. The rest of us, while successful in getting audiences’ praise and adulation still do not make enough to live on…. The simple math is that if a novel takes me four to six years of work, whatever I earn is divided by the many hours invested and means an income of merely a few cents per hour.

Many successful writers I know supplement their income by teaching creative writing, editing, or pitching magazine assignments. Therefore, a novice writer’s hope for riches is no different from an inner-city kid hoping to be the next Michael Jordan. I say: Just enjoy the basketball game (or the process of writing,) and find a lucrative career elsewhere.

I have found that fear of failure can be debilitating for many writers. What has been your experience embarking on a major project such as your last novel? Did you have that moment where you were paralyzed with fear?

I am never afraid, and therefore I don’t know what it feels like to be “paralyzed with fear.” I enjoy the intellectual challenge of each phase, and also know that there are worse problems in life. The worst that can happen when I launch a new project is that my finished novel might not find a home. Nevertheless, the writing is fulfilling in its own right, I learn a lot about subjects I never knew about—and anyway, if the novel is rejected now, it may get reincarnated years later. Every short story and essay that I put my mind to publish has indeed found a home, because there are hundreds of outlets and options; it’s a matter of persistence.

What is your latest project? How long did it take for your vision to come to fruition? What do you want the reader to take away from your book?

My next novel, scheduled to be released in Fall 2019 by HarperCollins is The 4th Daughter. It’s a story of tango and prostitution in Buenos Aires at the end of the 1800s. The topic percolated in my head for more than a decade. Surprisingly for me, once I found the groove of the story and started writing it, it took me only two years—not five as had my previous novels. However, this shorter time is no predictor for future works, because I’m already a year into researching my next novel (my #6) but am not writing it yet. I give myself five years to complete this book.

What I’d like readers to take from The 4th Daughter is the heart-wrenching inside picture of trafficking—and come out with the determination to bring a stop to human slavery.

Do you feel that there is something special about writers?

We are a bunch of people willing—and loving—to toil in silence and solitude for a very long time. We get transported into the lives and worlds of our characters to the point of routinely getting lost for many hours at a stretch. Does that make us special or quirky?

What is your experience communicating with other writers, and how important is that fellowship?

My writing group is an integral part of my writing process. I cherish their feedback and constructive critiquing as I develop a story. Over the years we’ve become close as we became familiar with each other’s inner worlds. Not all of my writing buddies are at the same point in our careers, and they may have different focus, but the common denominator is that they are good reviewers and we all care to invest time in each other’s work and help make the final product shine.

Once a manuscript is ready for publication, I get endorsements from other authors—often ones far more successful than I am, such as Nelson DeMille who had followed my career from the start (we used to sit on the same board of an art center.) HOTEL MOSCOW was one that covered his area of expertise, and his praise is printed on the front cover. Those blurbs that appear on the back cover and are quoted in press releases help launch a book out of the gate. I give forward by endorsing other authors’ pre-published books.

I am honored to have the chance to ask you questions. I hope that everyone would take the opportunity to read your books.

Learn more Talia at www.TaliaCarner.com

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