Lonesome Travelers (Guide to City/Forest)

A comedic horror novel of ancient mythology and 20th century events converted to legend and song.

Lonesome Travelers

A teenage girl comes to read at a nursing home and is assigned to an elderly man no one ever visits. She doesn’t want to be here. It’s a court order. She interrupts him in his spartan room where he is staring out the window at a great bird in the smoky afternoon haze. Instead of her reading to him, he starts to tell her a story.

The story is about the trickster Rabbit, condemned by the Fates to act as the fourth incarnation of Fire. His twin Brother, his shadow, is jealous of him and locks him away in a special box where he burns alone, consuming himself.

The Rabbit’s best friend, Mister Love, is a great bird, a brood parasite, an orphan. He is forming an army of love to liberate his friend Rabbit, and to protect Rabbit’s heir. His duty is clear. He is to adopt lost souls, those capable of giving love even if they have never received it. He travels with his people, ghosts, artists, and revolutionaries.

Rabbit’s heir is a girl who lives alone, a refugee, in a land of perpetual darkness, in which she is the only burning light. She is visited only occasionally by her abusive father. But one night Mister Love visits with all of his interns, and they offer to be her chosen family, if she wants them.

Post-traumatic stress expressed as a grim fairy-tale, a ghost story, a tragic comedy. 

the spoiler summery of Lonesome Travelers

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Summary Judgement

The book is dedicated to a Dutch resistance fighter with the statement “Her aim was true.” She is an assassin. A declaration is made that this is a trauma narrative.

The book begins with “A Who’s Who so you know” as in the beginning of an absurdist play.

Chapter 1: judgment

Two angels argue about whether one of them has blown the vuvuzela horn. It is the vuvuzela horn of doom. It signifies the end of all things. It bothers one of the angels that because the horn cannot be blown without triggering consequence it is impossible to rehearse blowing the horn.

Chapter 2: fellow traveler

This is an introduction in the second person such as in a travel book. It promises the traveler to introduce those who came before and pleads for courtesy to those who will follow. It mentions three books which are in the traveler’s bag which may be consulted during down time. Like all chapters in the second person this is a message from the Rabbit to the traveler. It ends on a somewhat passive aggressive note.

Chapter 3: hymn of creation

This is a retelling of a Hindu creation myth. It shows how the universe began. In the beginning the Fire and the Warmth created each other. Then arose Love, Desire and the others. But the Fire is the only one who consumes itself. And must be replaced periodically. It is mentioned that later incarnations of Fire have tried to hide in the water, but were found and dragged away to burn anew. It asks the question if that which is must always be.

Chapter 4: doing time

An unnamed girl enters a nursing home to read to the elderly as part of community service. She does not want to be there. She is assigned to an old man no one ever visits. When she enters his room she finds him staring at a bird on the outside sill of his window who similarly looks back at him. She has three books to read which are similar to the books mentioned in the introduction. Instead of her reading to him he begins to tell her the story of the Rabbit, without even asking her name.

Chapter 5: curtains for you

An unnamed traveler is visiting friends overseas and is told a story about a suicidal man who, when things start to look up, dies accidentally. The chapter ends with a joke.

Chapter 6: Sisyphus has this attitude

Sisyphus has been condemned to roll a rock up a mountain until the end of time. He has decided to have a good attitude about this. It is a punishment for a crime unmentionable. A bird comes to peck his liver. He tells the bird it is his best friend. The bird reciprocates. And continues to peck his liver as he rolls the rock up the hill. Sisyphus laughs.

Chapter 7: the council meets

The long shadow comes of his own free will to the council chambers. He is there to answer for orchestrating the crime unmentionable. He tells them they have no quorum. And that he is the highest authority for can they not see in his face that he is the mirror image of the highest authority? He demands to know the whereabouts of the infernally squeaky Mr. Love. He is told Mr. Love is on a special mission, to take on interns, a mission which is pre-approved and cannot be revoked. The shadow says this does not matter anyway and abolishes the council.

Chapter 8: the first betrayal

Rabbit, exhausted from always burning the night away, is visited by Brother Rat who brings him a gift —an ornate box. A firebox. He traps Rabbit within this box.

Chapter 9: more troubling issuances

An unnamed traveler is trying to secure papers for travel. There are problems. There is a question about whether this traveler is who they claim.

Chapter 10: New York, 1969

A bellhop brings trays of food to the hotel room of the great one, Mr. Love. The bellhop listens through the door as Mr. Love has a conversation with Mr. Al Jolson and the Divine Miss Divine. They’re discussing the sad state of someone they refer to as “our father” who lies in observation diminishing. The bellhop swears he hears a thousand people sing a song: keep the home fires burning. The bellhop pulls open the door to see only the great one, alone, then he is gone.

Chapter 11: the lesser shadow

A short chapter narrated by a small demon who whispers terrible things. It has been sent to guard a girl. Over time it has begun to care for her and whisper kindly things. Out of concern it has called for help from a group he refers to as “THEM. The scum of the earth.” He declares that while he is a betrayer he is now confused about who he should betray.

Chapter 12: House party

A girl lives alone in a house in a land of perpetual darkness. She is visited, rarely, by her abusive father. One day she is visited by what looks like three people, though it is confusing. They introduce themselves as Larry Love, Mr. Al Jolson, and the Divine Miss Divine. When she allows them to enter they flow in like a trickle and then a faucet left to run. Her house is filled to the brim with souls. She is introduced to Millicent “Peg” Entwistle, magnificent star of the Broadway stage. She sings a song: I’m a lonesome little raindrop looking for a place to fall. They sing songs and celebrate the girl’s birthday. Her father comes and they hide. He is brutal. When he leaves they reappear and declare that they will be her new family if she desires it.

Lucky chapter 13: wonderful places I have been

An intrusion from one of the three books. A first person description of a road trip gone south.

Chapter 14: fly friendly skies

A traveler gets on an airplane and finds themselves seated next to a Rabbit. The traveler starts to read a children’s book to clear their head.

Introduction to chapter 15: hi! <insert customer name here>

An introduction to a children’s book which is personalized but the printer has screwed up the personalization. A poem describing how the Rabbit has abandoned its protagonist, and run haywire to the woods.

Chapter 15: the trials of Billy Bunny

In this chapter the Rabbit abandons its protagonist and runs haywire into the woods. Rabbit catches a train and begins reading a book he picked up at the station.

Chapter 16: Joe Hill

An intrusion from one of the three books and also the book Rabbit is reading on the train. It is the story of the folksinger Joe Hill told in the first person. He is sworn to protect the honorable lady whose name he will not disclose no matter how many times he is shot through the heart.

Interlude: if you wish to write me

A song from the Spanish Civil War.

Chapter 17: Amsterdam, 2008, Invictus

The traveler hears a story of heartbreak.

Chapter 18: Rabbit digs the hole

Rabbit is tunneling to escape. While he is sleeping in the tunnels he is tripped over by a blind mole. The mole is traveling with others, and shames rabbit for his inaction. They are traveling with a shrew named Vanja. They announce that they have lost the war and now they travel the underground appearing occasionally above to tell their story and then disappear. Vanja tells the song of the traveler. The traveler appears at a picnic, falling from above, sees a man hanging above the festivities, and asks “Who is this man? Why does he hang around here?” The crowd turns ugly.

Chapter 19: I’m just a cuckoo over you

The Rabbit runs haywire into the forest. His mission is the only thing on his mind. He must find the bird. Cuckoo. He finds him in the tree. They lament the state of things. The Rabbit tells the bird he must gather a new family for them. He must collect those who give love even if they have never received it. The bird accepts this position. The Rabbit renames the bird Mr. Love. They declare themselves to be brothers, chosen family.

Chapter 20: the 40 year anniversary picnic 1972

Peg is trapped within one half mile of the Holly-wood-land sign now only reading Hollywood. She’s been stuck there for 40 years. She has a picnic with a man named Ed Marsh behind the H. He does not understand she’s a ghost. The chapter tells of his struggle. Just after he meets Peg, and the picnic begins, the chapter is suddenly interrupted.

Chapter 21: talk to the wind

The muse Calliope stands at the chasm next to the dying tree accompanied by her friend Echo. They have come to present a declaration of war to the Wind, who serves the long shadow. The council has been accepted by the Fates as refugees and has reconvened in exile.

Chapter 21: Echo and Narcissus in the wood

A retelling of the story of Echo and Narcissus, the tragedy of our sister Echo.

Chapter 22: the hymn of night 1875

A man writes the poem Invictus while suffering great pain. The muse of tragedy holds his hand. She has set aside her dagger to do this.

Chapter 23: the Haber process

This chapter begins with the same line which finishes the previous chapter, “I am unafraid.” An inspector comes to the house of Mr. Haber. Mr. Haber’s wife has killed herself in the garden. The only witness was their son. There was a party going on at the time. To celebrate success at his work. He describes his work. He has invented gas warfare. While this is a tragedy he must get up in the morning to continue his work.

Chapter 24: if the clerk processes the paperwork

Upon retirement it is found that the clerk has not been processing the paperwork.

Chapter 25: let’s dance the night away

Musicians have been recruited by the propaganda ministry. As an insult to decency they are fed rabbit regularly. A joke is told about a god overhearing a gross indecency.

Chapter 26: Desert landings

Coyote narrates from afar as he watches two men and a woman come to the desert, form a crossroads with torches, and chant an incantation. The rush of wind garbles the name of the one they’re trying to raise. The coyote announces that the sacrifice has been accepted.

Chapter 27: Hollywood landings taking off

Chapter 27 resumes chapter 20. The picnic behind the H. Ed Marsh offers Peg a role in a film in New York. He still does not know she is a ghost. She does not tell him, but gives her regrets. He leaves. She sit there and cries. Mr. Love sings to her from a tree. She asks Mr. Love to take her away from here. The Fates release her to Mr. Love, but he warns her she may not like it where they go. They leave.

Chapter 27: shockwaves

Short horror stories cycle rapidly. A cross burning. A fire. A seemingly happy man kills himself. A bear is an addict. He shows a visiter a forbidden room. He overdoses. A poem laments a trojan horse. A man, friend of the bear, helps another friend who then kills him. The survivors cannot get clean. An unspeakable act is spoken of. The traveler is addressed personally for the purpose of shaming.

Chapter 28: Mr. Haber is a stateless person by decree

Mr. Haber has come to the place by the river to speak to Mr. Hahn because Mr. Love has denied him. Mr. Hahn shows him sympathy but also refuses him, his punishment is fair. He offers him the mercy of wading in the water to forget. Mr. Haber refuses. He will wander in the wilderness forever.

Chapter 29: take them to the woods, show them what to do

A girl lures a boy into the dark forest. His mind is clouded with love. Eyes watch from the darkness. There are more girls. Rabbit is there. Rabbit directs that the boy be killed. Now. Mercy. The Warmth comes to argue with the Rabbit about intrusion in the affairs of mortals. A girl moves to kill the boy. The Warmth strikes the boy dead in an instant, to save the girl. She tells Rabbit she is angry with him. He says that he knows, but that “It is done.”

Interlude: fence

The fence has been constructed to surround the following chapter. A man on the radio describes the Hindenburg disaster. The announcer says he must go away now because he cannot look at it any longer. Flames everywhere. He stutters and cries.

Chapter 30: Blue who

The traveler visits a girl in a house. It is a forbidden place. It has been sealed off by the council. They are now in the underworld. The traveler has twisted around the rules to come here. The girl shoots at children from the window. The gun had been given to her by her father. A gift for him. When the traveler appears in the house she turns the gun on the traveler. They have a confrontation. The traveler is trying to help her. As she shoots at the traveler the traveler disappears to the next destination leaving the girl there.

Interlude: Poland 1945

The traveler falls from the sky and lands hard in a field. The field is full of emaciated men lying in flowers. One of the survivors says he understands why the traveler is here but does not understand why he is here. The survivor is Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist. The traveler speaks to him but the Rabbit tells the traveler what the traveler has said is stupid, and that the traveler should instead feed them. They sit and eat in silence. This was not the most unbelievable thing the men had seen. It was hardly memorable.

Chapter 31: why I will always remember Rachel Corrie

This chapter is an intrusion from one of the three books. It is about the sorrow of losing that which never was.

Chapter 32: fly right

A lengthy travelog. The traveler has a mostly pleasant trip, though there are some serious matters raised.

Chapter 33: Rabbit runs the race

Rabbit is running a relay race. A starting pistol has been fired. Someone is dead. Perhaps a part of Rabbit has been wounded and is angry. A girl interrupts the old man telling the story. She only likes true stories. He tells her that all stories are true, more or less. Rabbit has racing thoughts. He watches a couple who are looking at a turtle with concern. Rabbit stops running the race and sits on a rock. A bird sits beside him and complains that his extra weight is not fair to Sisyphus. Rabbit makes the rock immovable and releases Sisyphus from his bondage, which also frees the bird. Rabbit states that he does not care much for fate.

Chapter 34: two views of/from the freak show

In a dusty western town people come to see the freak show. Among them is a very old man. They’re shown the girl who was kept in the basement. She looks at them and they look at her. Which one is the show. The old man is the only one who is not in awe.

Chapter 35: Saint George’s Hill, 1649

The traveler lands in a dirty field and is met by a welcoming party. One of them tells a story about a dream of chasing a Rabbit into a bush which burst into flame. The man had been given a revelation. But he says that he sees the traveler has come too soon and must now leave.

Chapter 36: missed connections

Mr. Al Jolson and the Divine Miss sit on a bench on the sidewalk. They wait for the traveler who is not appearing. They discuss their own problems. Mr. Al Jolson admits that he does not trust Rabbit. The Divine Miss points out that there are some laughs in this tragedy. Mr. Al Jolson admits that there are. Some.

Chapter 37: hang a picture

A humorous story about finishing the work of another. This story is also a scene from a pornographic film though it contains nothing Prurient. This is a story being told by the old man to the attendant.

Chapter 38: triangle factory fire March 25, 1911

A bird the next building over watches people jump from a burning building.

This is also a story told to the attendant.

Interlude:

A Short excerpt from Dante’s Purgatorio.

Chapter 39: a thousand pardons

Mr. Al Jolson and the Divine Miss are on the bench waiting. Mr. Al Jolson complains about the names of the gods not matching their duties. The two of them discuss their own duties as interns of Mister Love. 

Chapter 40: New York New York

The traveler arrives in New York. The traveler is taken in by Marsha P. Johnson, who runs an organization called the Angels of Light. They go to a safe house, the temple of Aphrodite at Acrocorinth, a place paid for by prostitution. A commune for abandoned souls. Marsha tells her story. She was arrested by pigs for hustling. She told the judge she would blow all their exclusionary houses the hell down. She takes the traveler to a wedding. It is revealed that the traveler was killed in the underworld by Blue and hung on a hook as a show of power. The Fates stepped in and demanded an alternate time line, a joining. Demons fill the street outside that night and Marsha goes out in the street to fight them. The traveler heads to the door to help but instead ends up in the Collyer House in Harlem. The Collyer Brothers are cordial to the traveler and tell their story of extreme hoarding and their fears of the outside world and its changing complexion around them. Then they ask to be left alone in the dark.

The traveler is met by Joe Hill. They go to a cavernous performance space. The moles and shrew from the earlier chapter (Rabbit digs a hole) are there asking for donations and telling their story. Someone says every text is a work of intertextuality. Joe Hill sings a song. Someone says, “I killed a drag queen named Marsha and threw her in the river.”

Chapter 41: don’t put down that rebellion

The story of the Kronstadt rebellion 1921. Includes a parable about a man and a goat based on an old joke.

Chapter 42: gate of heavenly peace Tiananmen

A western journalist is situated in a hotel room where he can see the Tiananmen Square massacre from above as it unfolds. He describes what he saw. Including a man dancing on the street with a partner cold as steel. After he is evacuated from Beijing an old woman tells him in a far province of the student’s last gambit. In the end, no hope, they sent runners into the forest in every direction. They were to appear suddenly in far provinces, tell their story, then disappear, to be believed or not. This is how they would raise the struggle from the ashes.

This is a story being told to the attendant. The attendant asks how long this has been going on. The old man says he is surprised the attendant has not heard that this is still going on now. Have you not heard?

Chapter 43: Banana split

Three unnamed revolutionaries sit trying to eat a banana split. It is inequitable. They bicker. There is a three-way schism.

This chapter is written as a stage play.

Chapter 44: the assassination of Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton tells the story of his life and his struggle to feed the children. Within it he tells the story of old John Brown and Nat Turner. He is then betrayed by the Judas goat.

This is an intrusion from one of the three books which are now rapidly bleeding into the main text.

Chapter 45: don’t let’s be beastly tea party

The girl is a refugee alone in the house. She is suddenly visited by the three Fates who emerge from the closet. They ask if she knows where the story is going and that it is all leading up to a fiery cataclysm orchestrated by the Rabbit and the Bird. This ending is to be subverted. Though the Fates suspect the Rabbit is tricking them to get exactly what he wants, as he is a “Fuzzy ol’ trickster.” They offer to accept her as a fourth Fate and also as the new Fire, replacing Rabbit, who never wanted the job.

She will leave by wading across the water, though it is clear by context she will forget herself after.

Chapter 46: Prick up thine ears to hear

The old man tells the attendant a terrible truth about his past, but will say no more.

Interlude

A short poem about the descent of the Babylonian god Innana to the underworld. A demand that the door be opened, or I shall begin to raise the dead.

Chapter 47: Ground Zero, Amsterdam, that auld triangle

Peg meets the traveler at the airport. The intrusions are starting to cycle rapidly. The parable of Mao’s mangoes and the good farmer are interspersed with other scenes. There is also travelog. They go to a street market and then the Anne Frank House. After, the traveler raises Peg from the dead and she walks dazed down the street.

The traveler wanders alone, meets Hannie Schaft, who the book is dedicated to, who is stuck in a loop, and raises her from the dead, freeing her, though she does not realize this immediately.

Rabbit and the traveler begin quarreling over narrative control.

The traveler meets Fred Hampton at a sidewalk cafe. He tells the story of the Tulip Panic and the beginnings of the slave trade. They walk to the red light district where Chairman Fred chastises a young man for not respecting the prostitutes with his words. The traveler moves to resurrect Chairman Fred but he refuses this (don’t you dare), stating that he is needed in the larger struggle.

Marsha P. Johnson appears and opens a door. The traveler is transported to a weigh station where Mr. Hahn waits.

Interlude

The Last Will of Joe Hill

Chapter 48: Raft of the Meduse

The old man tells the story of the life of physicist Richard Feynman and the wreck of the Meduse, the shame of the sea. The great bird appears in the man’s room, the man addresses the bird as “Old Mister Death.” The bird tells him he prefers his chosen name. The man tells the bird he is his best friend and the bird says likewise. The man requests that the bird listen to the end of the story and he requests that the bird sing him a song. The bird sings, “I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.”

Chapter 49: The Rabbit, he rests

The traveler meets Mr. Hahn at the bridge. Rabbit’s cage lies at the top of the bridge. The traveler is ushered into the cage to meet Rabbit. Rabbit has only survived so long because of the cage. He is old and weak. He has gone somewhat mad. He gives the traveler a letter transferring his power to the traveler, who is the girl from the house, but warns her not to read the letter twice. She is both a Fate and the new Fire. She can never burn out. She blinks, thus looking twice. Because of this Rabbit will always be with her.

The girl goes to the door to leave. Rabbit requests the door be left open. When his shadow, his brother, his other half comes he says he will “Help him out.” He does not know what he will say when the Warmth comes, though he hopes she does come.

The narrative voice shifts to the girl.

Chapter 50: Re-Creational Music

The two angels bicker about whether one of them has played the primordial theremin. No one knows what it will do.

Afterward

Rabbit, no longer the Fire, plays mind games in the new Fire’s head.