A Procrustean Bed

The sunrise of January 30th, 1914, brought no warmth to the little town of Jujinetz. The temperatures had hovered around freezing for a week and smoke billowed continuously from the chimneys of the cottages at the edge of the Carpathian Mountains as everyone struggled to keep warm. All of the chimneys that is, except for one.

Inside that home, there was no fire. The front door was open to the elements and a freezing wind blew in, depositing a hard slippery frost across the first several feet of the foyer. Staring at an icicle-draped hearth sat Leon, dressed only in his long underwear.

His pupils were dilated. Deep ridges punctuated his orbitals, starting at both corners of his eyes and running almost straight down his cheeks to the edges of his whiskered mouth. The tracks allowed perfectly for the rivers of tears he had shed to be channeled effortlessly from his face to the floor.

The cartilage in his stiff joints crackled as Leon rose to his feet and walked absentmindedly out the front door. The far-off focus of his eyes never changed as he crossed the pasture, passed a bull that was mounting a cow, and waded into a livestock pond until it reached his sternum. His body shook involuntarily but he didn’t resist the painful sting of the frigid water. He stayed there for several hours before returning to his house.

Leon didn’t die from the pneumonia but he did eventually die from the tuberculosis that resulted.

When young Wilhelm heard of his father’s death, his transformation was at hand.

The discovery of his mother’s affair had confused him. Her suicide devastated him. His father’s ensuing depression had devoured him.

Sadly, Wilhelm Reich would take all of the ugliness he knew and try to make sense of it.


Mark Kerstetter said...

I didn't know these these things, and I'm thankful for the way you've told them. I'm reading Reich's American Journal (and letters) right now, and although I'm not qualified to make sense of his science, his humanity speaks very deeply to me.

cyurkanin said...

Hi Mark, and welcome! Remember this is a fictionalized bit; the only thing we know is from Reich himself(and his brother), who wasn't there when it happened. Some accounts say he just went out in a rainstorm, others say he went fishing, etc. I read a little about him and by him when I was younger; I'm no fan of the man personally and make no excuses for his later morals and politics, but the fact is that his childhood contained nothing resembling innocence. Very sad.

Warren said...

Interesting, and very nicely written. I love it when a writer can "sum up" a character, which in this case, as you put it in the comments, is somewhere in the vicinity of a "historical fiction" thumbnail sketch. It is for the characters that I think it worthwhile to know history. Even if sometimes we only know them as the writer has spun a tale of them, at least there is something human, alive, and comphrehensible.

To every madness, there be a method. It irks me when we cannot see it. To hide it for a while, and then let it be seen, this is a writer's craft. I can't help but think that this man's life could be used to build a great screenplay or novel.

cyurkanin said...

Thanks, Warren, generous but insightful comments and I agree, Reich's life would make one hell of a novel. I'm really surprised that it hasn't been done (or maybe it has, just not well enough to be of note anywhere). By the way, you need to post more often on your blog!