there's some gap between this post & the last... hopefully SOMEONE out there will get this. lemme know...
The Project - May 2004
When I cut into my uncle's stomach that afternoon, I also stabbed the children witnessing my murderous exorcism. They told me as much with their eyes.
This is my fiercest regret.
There were bright bubbles of children in the sand-pit and on the swings when I revealed the knife. It was a hunting model, with a gold handle, though I don't profess to know anything about knives, or any weapon for that matter.
I only knew it could kill a man.
The weather was wise and gentle on the day I trailed my uncle's car down to the park. Borrowing hope from the memory of summer, the stillness of air and strength of light touched everything, even the sand-pit that would soon be filled with blood.
Recollection: I had once seen a dead body before that afternoon and I would later think the death strange, because it came from apples and oranges and lemonade. I thought it strange also, that the first day I rode without training wheels was the day I first saw blood on another human's face. But then I thought that perhaps these things weren't as strange as dungeons and dust and leap years… I was never sure except about what happened. Which was this:
It was an April morning in the sixth-grade when Alan dumped his bike in the park. It was an act committed with a youthful abandon that scattered birds, but they would be back soon, and he ran to Joe and I who were sitting by the pond. It was a large park with a larger sun, and the old Turks played backgammon for the tenth time that day.
Alan ran against the wind and yelled: "Let's go to the orchid!"
Joe sat looking at the ducks. I did the same. "Maybe we should get back to class. It's after lunch," I said.
"No, let's go, my father's away… c'mon!"
The birds came back and the eleventh game began when we mounted our bikes and set out for the orchid…
It was a broad and brilliant place… idle picking nets lay in small shadows and the rusted tool shed stood amongst the fruit trees as a modest headquarters. We dumped our bikes and the citrus-smell stung our noses and our abandonment stung our feet.
"Here," Alan said and we sand-skipped to the tool shed that was so glad to see warmth come from the shadows of the trees.
The shed was full with tools and cob-webs and the promise of secrets, but they were only shadows, and on the top shelf was a .22 which had only ever shot clay-pigeons.
Alan took the gun down. And so it stood.
The orchid was all bright greens and oranges and dull greens and silence until Alan discharged a small calibre bullet into the sky aimed at nothing he yet knew about.
"Let's take some shooting practice, my Father showed me how," and Alan knelt outside the shed and aimed at a tree trunk. He missed.
"Here," and he offered the rifle to Joe.
"Look, it's easy," and Alan re-loaded and placed an illustrative finger on the trigger.
Joe took the gun, luke-warm and heavy and fired at the same tree and with the same result except that he hadn't braced himself and the kick-back bruised his shoulder.
Alan snatched the gun back. I stood some distance behind him. "Like this," and with his 11-year-old spirit and muscles braced himself and fired into the base of the tree.
"Yes!" and Alan fired again sending the bullet, his bullet, past the tree and into distant brush.
"I've never fired a gun before," I offered.
"But it's easy, just like diving school," Alan replied.
"But that isn't easy. I'm still in those shadows," and I pointed to the shadows the apple trees made.
Joe nursed his shoulder.
"You know Mr. Davies?" Alan offered, "our Mr. Davies? When does he ride a bike? Nah, he's just the same as the rest of 'em. We don't need to be there," and he handed me the rifle but I couldn't alight with the easy deviance that came with diving school and firing rifles just as he couldn't go to school.
Joe turned to Alan. "I'm gonna set up something to aim at," and he ran off towards a thick cluster of citrus trees, presumably to establish a makeshift target.
We could see Joe run into the trees, scouting the ground for something suitable.
"Watch this," Alan whispered to me, "this'll scare him good."
And I watched.
The bullet was quick, as bullets are, and Joe sunk to the ground, making no sound we heard.
And we were there, on top of him, and instead of buying meat and summer that day, we knelt beside a dying friend.
His eyes opened and closed gently, and his chest rose and collapsed with a soft grace and the blood was dark.
And there was nothing to be said so we evaporated in the sun.
An amateur. That was my first thought when I stepped back from the body of my uncle. He lay on his side, his hands clasping his stomach; his face was still contorted by a grim cocktail of fear and confusion. I was an amateur.
I knelt beside him, embarrassed in front of the confused children, and whispered "I'm sorry".
I looked around the park. It was otherwise quiet. I knew it wouldn't be for long. I wiped the knife clean on the grass and stored it in my leather sheath, hidden beneath my shirt.
I took one last look at my uncle. He had stopped breathing. I remember being surprised at the quantity of blood.
And then I ran.
And so it all started.
Run. That's what I had to do. And I did a good job of it, for a while. For those recidivists out there, you could do better than listen to my tales of exile. You could also do a lot worse.
I ran in no particular direction after the death. The children's screams came late, but they came, they rose from that sand-pit, and they chased me down the back streets I was using for my escape.
I kept running.
The screams followed me to another park in another suburb. There were public toilets there, equipped with a shower, and I used them. I watched as his blood fell from my hands and I watched as the hair in the drain blocked the water and soon I was ankle deep in brown water.
I noticed I was shaking, and so I thought about music. I thought about the very first CD I had bought (Weezer's Blue album) and I thought about the last (I couldn't remember) and then I unblocked the drain, and stepped from the shower.
I put my clean jacket on and checked the contents of my backpack: a CD jacket containing 20 discs; a half-finished bottle of Coke; a copy of Baudelaire's "Flowers of Evil"; and an old t-shirt.
That would do. My bank account contained $600. I knew I would have to withdraw that quickly, before authorities froze the account.
And so, with the suicides close, and night falling, I finished my Coke and set out for the bus depot.
It was dark by the time I reached the bus terminal, and the full moon was powerful. I scanned the timetable. I had missed the last interstate bus.
I sat on a bench, and felt pressure on my chest, and so I removed a cigarette from my breast pocket and lit it.
And that was the longest night of my life, and of anyone else's.
I spoke to the moon, searching for council, but it would only agree with everything I said. Sample dialogue: Me- "Did my uncle deserve to die?"
Moon- "Of course."
Me- "Do I deserve to die?"
Moon- "Of course."
I smoked my pack of cigarettes and followed the tendrils of smoke from each exhalation. They married the wind and soon disappeared, only for me to arrange another union, which I would follow just as closely.
I imagine it grew cold, but I couldn't feel it, just the smoke and the knowing grace of the moon and I tapped my feet imagining I was listening to the CDs that lay in my bag. I played with my knife, and thought of using it, only to think of that music again, and so I would light another cigarette and bless another union. Bless.
And so the sun rose, but I was too tired to ask questions of it. I already knew the answers and I hadn't slept.
I strapped my backpack and reminded myself to buy another pack of cigarettes. I reminded myself to call my parents, but I knew that wouldn't happen.
"One way adult, please," and the teller was tired too. She didn't look at me.
I took my ticket and stepped upon the coach. There was still 20 minutes before departure, so I reclined, determined to get some sleep.
And it was then that I met her. Sally.
She jumped aboard loudly, whistling "She Loves You" out of time, and shook me out of my reverie. I stared at her as she approached me down the aisle. "Hello," she said.
"Hi," I stared blankly as she took the seat beside me.
She had down syndrome, that much I knew, and she wore a purple woolen jumper three sizes too large.
"Do you like The Beatles?"
"So do I," and she continued with her whistling. This time I couldn't determine the song.
I kept staring at her, and she turned to me and smiled.
"My name is Sally. What is yours?"
There was that face… a cosmos of dumb and beautiful pallor. I told her my real name.
"Hi," she said.
And she kept whistling and I kept staring and then the engine started and the suicides grew fainter.
Recollection: On April morning in the fourth-grade we became, by accident, news stars on the evening bulletin. It came about this way: we were in the right place at the right time when Kevin was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Final school bell rung and we filed out in volume to the corner shop across the road. We bought meat-pies and crisps and the older ones amongst us would try to touch the pimple breasts of the seventh-graders.
Kevin Sanders never joined us. His face was disfigured from a long-ago fire accident and his family was very poor. The sixth- and seventh-grade terrorists would often call up pizza shops and order huge meals to the Sanders' home.
They could never pay the bill.
Kevin had a rusted bike too big for him and a helmet that had begun peeling, exposing the white polystyrene egg employed to protect his head.
We were sitting against the shops' wall when Kevin crossed the street without looking. In retrospect it was not carelessness on his part, it was this: the bike was too big for him to control immediately and Kevin's legs had not yet reached the pedals before gaining momentum. His momentum took him under the wheels of a 4WD.
Kevin and his bike were dragged ten-metres before the car stopped; we watched with our hands down girl's tops or on our mouths wiping excess sauce. There was a lot of excess sauce on the road and someone screamed.
"Is he dead?"
"I don't know."
"Rich, is he dead?"
"I don't know."
We stayed there until the ambulance came, watching the middle-aged driver wipe sauce away to get to Kevin. We caught a glimpse of his helmet before passers-by raced over and pulled the driver away. Her white skirt was red and shiny and we realised it had been her screaming.
A news crew arrived and we were all pleasantly surprised. Four of us, myself included, were interviewed, but only Richie's account was aired that night.
"What actually happened here, boys?"
"Well, Kevin just zoomed onto the road and got stuck under the wheels. You could see the blood and everything."
"So you know this boy?"
"Yeah, yeah. Kevin Sanders. He's a fifth-grader. His bike always was too big for him."
Kevin was released from hospital a month later. A month later the principal called for the seventh-grade terrorists to come up to his office.
"Have a seat, boys."
The five of them sat on the bamboo seats and stared at the principal's head. They all agreed later that it looked like a pumpkin.
"Listen boys, this is serious. It's about Kevin Sanders. You know Kevin Sanders, don't you?"
The boys nodded and thought about the pumpkin.
"He will be returning to this school in a week's time…" the principal noticed his secretary at his door and shooed her away, "…he will be coming back to this school, boys, and do you know what I want you to do?"
"I want you to make his time here as easy as possible. I shouldn't have to say this, but Kevin's been through a lot, and it will be difficult for him to settle here again."
Kevin Sanders had never settled.
"Is this understood?"
Chorus: "Yes, sir."
"Now why have I called you five gentlemen here to ask you this? Mmm? Any ideas?"
Chorus: "No, sir."
"Because, gentlemen, it has been brought to my attention that you five played a significant role in bullying, generally excluding, Kevin Sanders. Considering his previous, and most recent misfortunes, I think it's fair to say that this behaviour is inexcusable. Are we agreed?"
"So what are we going to do to prevent further exclusion? Mmm?"
Pumpkin stares; blinks.
"Well, we could stop teasing him, sir."
"That's a start, but it goes a lot deeper than that, doesn't it?"
"I want you to go out of your way to make Kevin feel welcome. I want you to ask him to participate in your games. I want you to consider him a friend… Now, if there's any word that you have been tormenting Kevin, as I know full well you have been, there will be immediate suspension for all of you."
The five turned their pointed attention to the wall clock. They blinked in time with the second hand.
"Is this understood?"
Kevin re-enrolled, as promised, one week later. He was no longer Kevin Sanders to the school fraternity but a nameless freak; a misfortunate cartoon character shaped from an impecunious family and gross physical abnormalities.
He could not understand why he was invited to birthday parties and he never attended any. He was as aware as anyone that the burnt flesh and shaved head would bring anybody down. So all he did was eat his butter sandwiches at lunch on the quadrangle and shiver at the sinister familiarity with the asphalt beneath his legs.
I turned my attention away from Sally and tasted the acid rain in my mouth. We hit the highway and headed east.
I closed my eyes.
I woke with Sally's fingers prodding my shoulder. I checked the buses' clock: I had been sleeping for forty minutes.
"You look sick," she said.
"Where are you going?" and she smiled.
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"You need to know where you are going. I'm going to Adelaide. Have you been to Adelaide before?"
I admitted I hadn't.
"It's really beautiful. Do you like churches?"
I admitted that I hadn't paid them much attention.
She smiled out of what seemed like sympathy and I turned my attention back to the road.
"Why don't you know where you are going?"
"I… because I'm running."
"Myself, Sally. I'm running from myself." And I lowered my voice so the other passengers would not hear my confession.
"I think it's a little early for this conversation, Sally. I haven't really slept."
She winked at me. "You should sleep then. Here, take my pillow," and she removed a pillow from the overhead storage.
"Thanks," and I fell into a blue-blue sleep filled with pot-holes and dragons.
Sally woke me again. I had been sleeping for two hours. "There's a knife under your shirt," and she pointed.
I inhaled sharply and looked. Sure enough, my shirt had lifted, revealing a portion of the blade.
"Oh, don't worry about that." What did I just say?
"I'm not worried. But why do you carry a knife?"
I stared hard. "I'm not sure."
"You're not sure?"
"I guess not."
"I don't like knives."
"No, nor do I," and I silently cursed my oversight.
"Do you drink?" and my head roared at her words.
"Do you drink?" she repeated and opened her hand-luggage revealing a bottle of vodka.
I managed a laugh. "Sure."
She bent, to disguise her efforts, and poured two large tea-cups of the stuff.
She handed one to me and winked. "Thanks," I said.
"Okay." She clinked my glass and took a large swill. I did the same and checked the backs of the passengers' heads that sat in front of us.
"When I got on the bus I saw you and thought 'that guy likes to drink'."
"Well Sally, you're right. I need a drink real bad right now."
"I could tell that to."
I took another swig. I shuddered, but felt better for the warmth in my throat. I took another and finished it.
"Here," and Sally topped my cup with her shaking hands.
I felt looser and less nauseous and the bad dreams that were on my head lifted a little.
"Where are your parents Sally?"
"Is that where you're from?"
"I was born in Adelaide. I love Adelaide. I'm going back there. See?" and she pointed out the window to something invisible and strikingly significant.
"I see." I threw the vodka back.
"You drink fast," she said.
"At times," and I drank some more and felt a comfortable dizzy.
"I spoke to the moon last night, Sally."
"What did it say?"
"It told me that I deserve to die."
"What else did it say?"
"That most of us, in some way, deserve to die. But especially me." I took down the rest of the vodka.
"No, you don't deserve to die. The moon told me that much."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm not sure of anything, except that I'm drunk."
"Me too," and she giggled.
An elderly passenger sitting five rows in front turned to inspect our loud and unusual companionship. Sally waved. The passenger turned back around.
"Do you want a little more?"
"Sure." Top up.
"I did something very bad, Sally…"
The crackle of the buses' speaker system emerged. "Passengers, I hope you've been enjoying your trip. This is just a short announcement to let you know in about 30 minutes time we will be stopping in Coolgardie to refuel and to allow you all to stretch your legs. We will stop for approximately 25 minutes. Thank-you."
I looked outside. We were well and truly ensconced in the outback. As far as the eye could see: sand.
"What did you do?"
I had momentarily forgotten Sally. "What?"
"You did something bad."
"Oh. It's nothing." And kamikaze pilots banked steeply and plummeted into my stomach. I pushed past Sally and raced for the bathroom. I slammed the door shut.
The vodka came out in a thick stream. It was yellowed with bile. I hung over the bowl for five minutes, shaking, and I counted my fingers. There were ten.
I washed my face in the basin, careful not to catch my reflection in the mirror. I counted my fingers again. Still ten. I resumed my seat.
"Are you okay?"
"Too much to drink?"
"No, not enough," and I finished another cup of vodka.
"You're sick, aren't you?"
I looked at her and thought I really saw her. But so did the moon, and I sat in silence until Coolgardie.
It was 10.20 in the morning when we hit Coolgardie. A dust bowl filled with just 15,000 people. That was 15,000 too many.
I collected my backpack and followed Sally from the coach. The sun was fierce and it stung my eyes and in exhaustion I sought a bench and collapsed.
"Don't you want to have a look around?" Sally said, slurring.
"There's nothing here," and I pointed around illustrating the monotony of sand and sheds and vintage buildings.
"Besides, we leave in 20 minutes."
"Well, I'm gonna have a look. I'll see you on the bus."
Evidently the few other passengers were tourists, piqued by the nothingness. Cameras were pulled from bum-bags and the scenery was caught excitedly by disposable gadgetry.
I left my bag on the bench and approached the ticket booth at the station. "Do you sell cigarettes?"
I requested my brand and paid for it. I returned to my bench and lit up. Inhale. Exhale. I didn't pay attention to the smoke issued from my mouth.
It was on the fourth drag that I wondered why I had not been more anxious about being caught. And then the obviousness of my guilt surfaced and I vomited at my feet. The bus driver pretended not to notice. I wiped my face, kicked some sand on the puddle and resumed my cigarette. I resolved to think of something else. I settled on cricket.
I resumed my seat next to Sally. We were both still drunk and a distance had settled itself between us. I smiled meekly at her and, at the sound of the engine resuming, I turned to stare from the window.
The many errors I had committed in my escape struck me, and I chewed them over with the scenery. The knife should have been judiciously disposed of, for one, but I settled into a dark fold of antipathy and felt determined that none of it mattered. Not now.
I caught Sally stealing glances at me, but I didn't respond. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
I closed my eyes and for the next hour feigned sleep.
My uncle was 52-years-old and had short black hair when I killed him. He liked blue collared shirts left untucked, and was wearing just this when I performed my ambush.
My uncle was an academic, and was popularly sought on international lecture junkets. My uncle's academic life bent on masculinity studies and race relations within the education system. He had published four books. I suppose, in these circles, he will be missed.
One of his books was dedicated to me, when I was just eight-years-old. A copy was sent to me explaining how the text wouldn't make sense to me now, but I was to hold on to it until a time when it would. I read it 12-years after I received it.
There is another thing you should know: I am named after him. M name is Alan.
I soon grew guilty about ignoring Sally, and so I rose from my fake slumber.
"Hello," she said. "Did you sleep well?"
"I … I wasn't asleep, Sally. I just needed a rest."
"Okay. Do you want another drink?"
And that did it. I laughed and laughed until I thought I would faint. Great green pastures of laughter swept up before me, and soon Sally joined in, inspiring other passengers to sneak looks. We told them nothing.
I settled back, still chuckling at the absurdity, and blessed my luck.
"I'll take a drink… you're crazy Sally, you know that?"
"Yes. But in a good way."
"Yes. In a very good way."
And we resumed our vodka succor, drinking from our great, green pastures.
"What makes special people special, Sally?"
"I don't understand."
"Who's a special person to you?"
"Why is she special?"
"She gave me to the world."
"She helped me go to the toilet. She fed me my favorite foods."
"Does that make her special?"
"And how did she become to be a special person?"
"Because she loves."
I took a sip of the vodka.
"Are your parents special?"
"I… I haven't decided yet. Yes, possibly… I was thinking of artists, though."
"Yeah. You know, musicians, writers…"
"Like The Beatles?"
"Yes, like The Beatles. The Beatles were special," I took another drink and wondered why I was here.
"I love The Beatles."
"You love The Beatles because they were special people and they made special music as a result. I want to know what went into making them so special."
"They just were. They had talent. They were born like that and I was born like this," and I turned to take her face but she smiled at me. A genuine, strawberry smile. I was going to theorise that early trauma and abuse soldered inordinate strength and creativity in some individuals, but that smile washed it all away.
And so did the vodka.
And the sand became pleasant to look at as did the brush and the sun and the monstrous wash of the azure sky. We are where we've been I thought, and for a few hours, while we drained the bottle of vodka, I managed to dismantle the barbed wire behind my eyes.
"Why don't you stay with me in Adelaide?" Sally said at a moment I was studying the bounce of a kangaroo.
"You don't know me, Sally."
"That's okay. I have some good friends, they will let us stay for a while."
"I don't think I could, Sally."
And I said yes, yes, yes, to hell with it, and I brushed my hair and felt the road and the pot-holes and I was going to Adelaide.
My parents had me locked away in a home for mentally ill children after I shot Joe. The institution was called Glendale.
As I write this now, from my cell, I whisper that name: "Glendale".
It was a grotesque cathedral of white walls and white noise and it was in the country but there were no trees. A creek ran by and its stagnant smell reached us in our rooms. I was there for six months.
I was assigned a doctor and he would call on me twice a day, conducting interviews and making tests. Sometimes we would walk outside to look at the creek, but the smell was bad and we would turn inside.
You must know this: I was institutionalised because of the dreams.
When I was seven, and before the orchard, I began to love dreams. I became a movie projectionist and if I tried hard enough I could select what movies I would play that night. But then I shot Joe, and my career began its descent. One night, in front of a full house, I accidentally played a grim and spiritless film that didn't have a happy ending. I guess you might call it a thriller.
The setting was my school-yard; there was sprawling concrete and asphalt and there were basketball courts and four-square and a red helicopter that circled the yard at a perilously low altitude.
I was the only actor in the film, so I stood in the courtyard alone, watching the helicopter scream and the blades twisted and the pilot screamed and then the helicopter fell from the dark sky and exploded on the asphalt and I stood there with no-one to tell.
The full-house didn't appreciate the film. My audience numbers were never the same again. They expected free popcorn and happy endings. My cinema closed down shortly after; the husband- and-wife owners dismissed my films as "boring and valueless contrivances" and "mean-spirited hubris" but I couldn't understand their criticisms.
I was only nine.
When the cinema closed down, I naturally lost my job as projectionist. The owners had enough money to establish another place, which opened soon after, apparently to much fan-fare. I saw my old position advertised in the paper:
Reliable movie-projectionist w. exp.
No cow-boys, recalcitrants or geeks.
I didn't understand what it meant.
And so it was a Saturday, one month after the new cinema opened, that I snuck in very early in the morning to play one of my own films. I had written, directed, produced and starred in the thing. It was about a boy who collects minnows in a stream while his parents watch from a hill. It was a happy film.
It was called "The Sun and Me".
I fixed the light on the screen and, except for the light whir of the spliced film, I drank my lemonade in silence.
And then something went wrong.
The film credits had me listed as a Wellian-autuer. Fair enough. But then the film title rolled: "A Grey Death".
I spilt my lemonade all over my shirt.
It was a silent film of me sick and grey and tired in a hospital bed. Scorpions crawled over my bare chest and played in my hair.
I never remembered writing this film, but I understood why the cinema owners had to let me go: I just wasn't reliable.
And so, for the ensuing months, films like these continued to flow from my skull, leaving nasty stains on my pillow and my pyjamas were always wet. My mother could smell the sweat in the air when she woke me in the mornings, but she never said anything.
Shortly, however, my mother applied for an elevated position at the Department of Classification and Censorship. She got the job and became a big-wig in film censorship, but she never told me.
My mother would camp outside my door at night, waiting to intervene my viewing of some contemptible cinematic swill, and place her stamp of censorship on it. And in occupying this space my mother soon discovered one of my secrets: I was forcing myself to stay awake.
My skull hurt too much from the dreams and so I would sit in bed and read with a small light on. Sometimes I would draw. Sometimes I would pull the curtains back and make pictures of sorts with the stars.
Sleep would always come though and even if I fell asleep on the floor the dreams would come.
My mother couldn't believe that I was responsible for the mean and violent films I was watching. She considered them separate - ugly products of a vague but morally bankrupt production company and by persistent intervention (mum would stir me at any sign of unrest) I would be weaned off of my disturbing indulgences.
Her belief, of course, was wrong; indeed it skated dangerously close to gross professional negligence and so mother soon bit the bullet and took me to therapy. Pop-culture could no longer be blamed. I had killed a boy and was now going insane.
My parents attended the first session at Glendale and on the second I asked them to remain outside. They refused, so I refused to speak.
The doctor was a young man, but I can't remember his face - I never looked at it. He caught on though, that my parents were slowing proceedings, and mentioned to them that my time at Glendale was best spent under the sole watch of the staff. And so they left for the city, leaving their child-killing child to doctors and nightmares and walls.
"You're not sleeping?"
"You don't like to sleep?"
"I used to."
"When did you 'use to'?"
"When I wrote my dreams. When I knew what my dreams would be. Or sort of be."
"So you're saying you have no control over your dreams?"
"No-one really has control over their dreams. We can never be certain of what they'll be."
"But I can. I know they'll make my head hurt. I know they'll be full of flames or spiders or exploding planes."
"So you have nightmares?"
"Nightmares with flames and spiders and exploding planes?"
"Only sometimes with flames and spiders and exploding planes."
"So what happens in these dreams?"
It went on. And on. I talked about my dreams, my nightmares. I talked about my ambitions to start to write the films I wanna make. I talked and talked but I never told him I thought I wanted to die.
I think now how much this must have cost my parents.
Adelaide. It had taken a day-and-a-half and two bottles of vodka. A small city; green and quiet.
Sally had taken to throwing up twice in the toilet, and the driver made to reprimand our unusual behaviour with cold stares in the mirror.
I had thrown many stories of my past to the earth, from that bus window, and I could see the small fires they had caused smoke in the distance.
So be it.
"We're here!," Sally cried and she bounced off the coach to collect her suitcase.
With no suitcase to collect, I strode off and lit a cigarette. I surveyed my surroundings: yes, churches and trees and it was alright.