Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Behind Dweller On The Boundary: Part One

That's me as the book begins, down to the coat and bike in the book.

Since Dweller On The Boundary is a novel inspired by true events, I thought I would write about how the book came to be and some of the background that it stands upon. This is the first in this series.

If you have not read the book, I hope that I do not give too much away in what is written below.

I will begin with myself. I was born in the early 1970s in Paulding County, Georgia in the county seat of Dallas. The new county hospital then was Paulding Memorial, which has since been replaced by a newer and much larger hospital in a very different environment than I grew up. Paulding County of today, is a commuter suburb of Atlanta that was a rural and forgotten place when I was born. Moonshine was still being made in the hills there in the 1970s.

As in the book, I was raised on a pine-covered hill a few miles north of Dallas in the small community of New Hope. It was a place known for its battle in the American Civil War during General Sherman's March To The Sea in 1864. New Hope was a roadblock for Sherman in his quest to go burn down Atlanta. He was forced to detour to Kennesaw Mountain after fierce fighting from the Confederates in a deluge of rain. After that nothing notable happened in New Hope for a long time until the Southern Airways plane crash in the middle of it in 1977. The crash was on the road in front of my elementary school, but thankfully school was not in session at the time.

They deemed me a gifted child early on and I was in the program through elementary and junior high, for whatever reason it was not available then in high school. We did often play chess, take field trips, take lots of tests, play other games and spent plenty of time on the Commodore 64 computers in the library learning BASIC programming. I had a few computers at home throughout the 1980s such as an ADAM, an Atari 400, a couple of Texas Instruments computers and a Sinclair ZX81. I spend little time writing about computers in the book and I wish I had more of an opportunity to write about them, but they did not fit into the plot. I loved computers and spent much of my indoor time on them through elementary and junior high. I was never much of a television watcher after all. I was a rural boy, but I was not a redneck, I was more geek/nerd whatever you want to call me that happened to be fascinated with the other boys.

Being surrounded by so much land and nature around me, it was difficult to keep me indoors from an early age. I wrote that I had a club left foot, but I actually had two club feet and wore casts and corrective shoes. The aerobics part is true also, I was a scrawny boy that did not grow much until the fifth grade. I was picked on for a variety of reasons from the first grade, but mostly because I was extremely shy. Other children had it worse, much worse than I did, especially the poor children. As school began, I was from a good family and had nice clothes and most of the time that remained the case in terms of my clothes, despite my family disintegrating. The children from poor families were always accused of being dirty and I never understood why there was such snobbery in such a rural place among children. Class was a big divider at an early age.

My fifth grade teacher was the worst teacher of my life. She was a mean, unhelpful snob of a person. I had good teachers before and after her, but there always has to be one bad apple I suppose. For a small place we had good teachers that cared about their students. In retrospect, I felt that I had a good public education.

The most difficult part to write about myself in the book are about my sexual experiences as a child. These are delicate matters that I did not enjoy writing about and want to minimize the discussion of it here. I had to write about them, they were some of the worst parts of my childhood and I was tired of the secrets. Yes, my sexual experiences began at an early age and continued. What is in Dweller On The Boundary is true in regard to those matters. More happened than what I decided to share in the novel. However, I do not like to call myself a victim or a survivor. I do not want to wear those labels and simply consider myself a human. I am more than what happened to me as a child and I do not wish to be defined in those terms, they are limiting and one dimensional and can be bad for your own mental health. It is a part of me, but not the sum of me. Though it was a struggle to hide who I was and I was figuring myself out, I dated several girls throughout grade school too.

I was in the marching and concert bands in junior high and high school. I was a trombone player and loved band. Band and the gifted program are the two classes that kept me interested in school. I was a bad math student, but otherwise I felt unchallenged in the other subjects. English and history were my two favorite classes. I began writing creatively and kept a journal beginning in 1985. My creative writing was a serial about a gang of animals and their adventures. By high school I was writing poetry, probably bad poetry. It was my creative escape from all the misery in my life. I was deeply depressed and suicidal as written in the book.

There is very little about me in the book that is not autobiographical including being an avid Braves fan as a child. I had several dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, fish and a horse and pony too for a time. My home life was worse than what is written in those pages. I never went hungry, but I never had a family either after 1980. Without those woods around me and certain people in my life, I would never have made it. I loved where I grew up in those wooded hills of Paulding County, but not how.