The Damayear

At least she coined a word.

The word was “damayear,” and it was a unit of time that represented the length of one of Lily’s depressive phases.

She discovered it walking home from the bus after work one day. At work, she’d received official notice that, while everyone knew she was qualified as an accountant and thought she’d done a great job filling in as one, they had decided to hire someone else to take the position and the salary. (Although, as her boss enthused, “Knowing what you can do, we’re going to keep a lot of this work in your lap!”)

It was rainy, and cold, and windy. Her umbrella—the high-quality one that she had splurged on because the cheap ones she usually bought always blew inside-out—blew inside out. With some struggle, she managed to turn it right-side in for about eight seconds, before it burst open once again. This time, three of the spokes ripped free from the black fabric, leaving the umbrella useless for any purpose but serving as the inspiration for the letter “k” in the title of a creepy animated film.

Lily smashed the umbrella against the sidewalk three times. Then, realizing that there were plenty of people around who might find this behavior insane, she stopped. Then she decided she didn’t care and gave the sidewalk three more mighty whacks. It was only when she realized that the people around were, in fact, watching her that she came back to her senses.

Pretending she had pride to gather up, Lily brushed past a young girl and her mother waiting to cross the street. She deposited the former umbrella in a trash can forcefully enough that it bounced a foot and a half and finally, just to set a bad example, crossed the street against the light.

“It’s been a crappy day,” she muttered to herself.

“It’s been a crappy month,” she amended. And finally, “It’s been a crappy year.”

It was a sequence of phrases that she’d muttered too much recently. So she could at least introduce a bit of efficiency to it.

“It’s been a crappy damayear,” she concluded.

Yes, that felt right.

A damayear averages six to nine months, although this one was pushing the upper limits of that timeframe with little sign of things improving. Lily briefly considered and dismissed therapy; she had tried it once and spent time discussing vague and hypothetical situations and using strange and indirect words for “I’m angry,” followed by a prescription of drugs that dulled her senses and made her sleep for fourteen hours a day. Lily knew that it was probably her specific therapist that was defective, rather than the entire profession, but she didn’t trust it anyway. At least, she didn’t trust her ability to not find another defective therapist.

She would get through this on her own, Lily knew. Somehow, someday, life would give her some glimmer of hope, some reason to care, and she would relish that blessed week or two of pure sunshine before the next damayear began.

*****

This little happygram to start the week is one that I wrote a couple weeks ago after a reasonably bad day. It will come early in Receptacle, as it makes a nice character sketch of Lily, who will be one of the major characters in it.

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The Forgiveness Gun, Part II

Part 1 is here. (I posted this more than two weeks ago, but it turns out it was just saved as a draft. Oops.)

*****

“When you were a child,” Garth began unsteadily, “did you ever misbehave?”

“Our observation doesn’t extend that far,” Johnathan piped in, although his attention remained focused on his blade.

Garth shrugged at Lily helplessly, hoping she wouldn’t judge him by the company he keeps and begging her to just answer the question. At least that’s what he thought he was doing; Lily just saw even sadder puppy-dog eyes, which caused her to take the requested action anyway.

“I guess so,” she said. “Not much, but, you know, who doesn’t?”

“And when you did, were you punished?”

Brief terror flickered across Lily’s face. “Yes,” she declared.

Garth noted her steel gaze. “No, no, nothing like that. Just, did, well, did your parents ever do anything to make you mad?”

Lily replied immediately. “All the time.”

“Did you punish them?”

“No. I was a kid. Kids don’t punish parents.”

Garth nodded his encouragement. “All perfectly normal. But did you ever wonder why kids don’t punish parents?”

“No.” Lily considered this question. “I guess it’s because we punish them enough by our misbehavior.”

Johnathan put down the knife and dropped his face into his hands.

“What, that’s not right?” Lily panicked.

“No, no, no. I mean, yes. I mean, no. I mean…” Garth took a breath to compose himself. “It’s not bad, it’s just not right. You know?”

Lily shook her head, bewildered.

“It’s a mentality, a victim’s mentality. Right? You accept your parent’s misbehavior, and even justify it, even though they don’t extend you the same consideration?”

“I still don’t understand.”

Johnathan smiled at her warmly—the first warmth he’d demonstrated in her presence. “What Garth means is, forgiveness is what you do when you don’t have the power for revenge.”

“No,” Lily insisted. “No, that’s not… I mean, yeah, but…”

And her face erupted with the ecstasy of discovering a new world.

“My work here is done,” Johnathan declared. He sheathed his blade, and jauntily high-fived Garth on his way out of the room.

“Couldn’t have done it without you, buddy.”

Johnathan’s guffaws disappeared well after he did.

“He really is an okay person,” Garth explained. “Once you get to know him. And good at what he does.”

“What’s that?”

Garth looked around instinctively for something snide from his partner before it fully hit him that yes, he was alone. This realization provided the same agreeable awkwardness that Johnathan’s presence would have, a point that Garth knew he could bring up at the next meeting to make the fellow do a rare bit of squirming. It also put him into a familiar, if not calm, place to explain.

“I thought you realized,” he said with a goofy giggle. “He stabs people.”

“Oh,” Lily responded, nearly a minute later. She knew it was wrong, yet she suspected it was also right.

“He might slice, I guess. I’ve never really watched or asked. Probably slicing makes more sense, though. Would you need to sharpen the edge to stab?”

Lily shrugged.

“Oh, you won’t need to stab anyone. Or slice or do anything violent. Reg is very clear on that. Not unless you want to.”

“I might want to,” Lily blurted, which she immediately followed by clasping her hands to her mouth.

“Don’t worry,” Garth assured her. “There will be plenty of time to decide that.”

The Forgiveness Gun, Part I

“I know you know that rage inside,” Garth insisted. “I know that no matter how positive you try to be when someone drops their plate of problems on you that you want nothing more than to rip their heads off and then rip their legs off and stick the legs through the neck hole.”

A flicker behind Lily’s eyes told Garth that he was right. But when she spoke, she did so insistently. “What good would wishing for violence do? It would consume me from within and do nothing to anyone who wronged me. The only weapon that we have against people like that is forgiveness.”

Garth genuinely didn’t mean to be rude, but he guffawed hysterically anyway.

“I mean it!” Lily demanded. “You can’t change what other people do, you can only change how you react to it.”

“I didn’t mean to…” Garth stammered. “I mean, we have a higher standard of respect here. It’s just that, you know, Conan the Barbarian doesn’t carry a plus-three sword of forgiveness. There’s no forgiveness rays, or forgiveness sabers, and Rambo doesn’t invade Vietnam armed with a forgivenessthrower.”

“Not even a light forgiveness shield,” piped in Johnathan, who had apparently been listening to the conversation even though the machete he was sharpening should have consumed all of his attention.

“I’m just saying, anger doesn’t have much of an application.”

“I’m sorry, Lily,” Garth said, finally stumbling upon the phrase recommended by etiquette. “I shouldn’t have laughed. I do have to dispute with you, though.”

Lily already recognized Garth’s social awkwardness. She silently accepted his apology, and invited him to continue.

“I suppose your theory is even right, as far as it goes. But it’s not complete. You have no children—“

“I don’t, but how did you know?”

Johnathan chortled. He had watched Garth fumble through this section before, but it never got old. It was a big part of why he enjoyed this particular task so much.

Garth, cursed at himself silently, but visibly. “I apologize once again. There is no easy way to identify people who belong in our group, so we do spend quite a bit of time observing potential candidates. I assure you, we will not use the information in any way, regardless of whether you join us or not.”

“And what exactly is your group?”

Johnathan clapped slowly and sarcastically at Garth.

“Lily, please,” Garth pleaded. “I—I will explain, but it will be easier if we go with this example first. Okay?”

Garth seemed so much lower than Lily. She was somehow looking down at him, despite him being at least a half a foot taller than her, and he was looking back up, and moreover he was looking back up with such earnestness that Lily had no choice but to accept.

*****

So, this is a bit from Receptacle, which is a bit down the line on my project list, but one that I’m excited by. Without giving too much away, the backstory is that Garth (and Johnathan, in his way) are trying to recruit Lily for… well, they’re trying to recruit her for something. I guess it’s not the most backstory I’ve ever given out, eh?