Wordcarpenter Books

Juvenile Fiction

Visigoths in Tweed

Chapter One

The Student Ghetto


Life-altering events tend to happen in a bottleneck of time. For Reid everything started that freshman year of university, during those days of indulgence and undiminished possibilities. Everything was different back then, more relaxed, which might have had something to do with what happened to him. It started the first week of university. Frosh Week was a baptism of fire. He had heard that students purpled their faces with purple dye with enthusiastic encouragement of their group leaders called Gaels. Having been founded by the Scots in 1844, the tradition had something to do with Scots painting their faces before battle. But traditions ran deep at Queen's University. The big things were drinking and rugby and engineering - in that order. To some that's all that school was, engineering and some drunken rugby games. If you were an electrical engineer, played varsity rugby and liked to drink, then you were pretty in.

The first day for Reid was a blur. The first sign of impending mayhem first surfaced on the way to university with a read a large canvas sheet hanging over a road sign along the highway.

Beware of the
Gaels of ‘86 

"We're getting close," said Reid, trying to subdue his nervous anxiety.

"The cops must expect this vandalism every Labour Day weekend," said Drake.

A corpulent woman in a passing car gawked at their over-packed horse trailer they pulled behind them. The horse trailer was Drake's; he had already brought up his horse to a farm north of the university the previous weekend so they used the trailer to transport their stuff to their house at school. The last items to be packed were two mountain bikes strapped to the roof.

"I guess we're travelling at maximum density," Drake said as he tried unsuccessfully to stretch out his long legs.

Reid looked at the layers of ancient limestone at the sides of the highway sneaking out from vast patches of flaxen grass rumbling slowly in slow waves. Fallow fields of deathly yellow he thought to himself. Past miles of rolling fields lined by broken-down wooden fences through a mixture of maples, oaks and birch spreading east to lake Ontario, his uneasiness grew in the ruckus of invading gusts from through his open window. His neatly combed hair now a dishevelled nest.

Both of them knew the way to the campus from a visit last winter on an organized tour.  Their guide had continually referred to Harvard as "the Queen's of the south," as if he had to define a Canadian university by American standards. It was just past an old defunct drive-in theatre where weeds had overrun the parking spots that they turned off the highway, reaching the main road in minutes. The electricity in the air was contagious driving through the epicentre of the action, music blaring into their station wagon. Decrepit lawn chairs were scattered on soiled front lawns of old Victorian homes with banners bearing allegiance to a brewery or brand of beer hanging from balconies where students relaxed drinking and yelling at people on the street. Some stood shirtless around barbeques under the mature maple trees that lined the street. Despite the heat many students were roaming around in their university leather jackets. The student ghetto during Frosh Week was all a big party he had been told, but he hadn't imagined anything like this. A stray football hit the station wagon when they turned onto their street past a big house with a turret on the corner.

Most freshmen spent their first year of school in residence but both Reid and Drake hadn't been accepted. It was based on a lottery because there weren't enough spaces in the dorms. So during the summer they had gone to find a house in the ghetto. Most of the places smelled of stale beer and had holes in walls, with hardwood floors scraped and worn but that was part of the student ghetto culture. Future business and political leaders living in squalor.

Two people stood on the lawn of their house when they pulled up in their over-packed station wagon.

"Well, you must be either Drake or Reid Mc-something," said the student wearing a baseball cap.

"I'm Reid," he said, nervous.

"How are ya? I'm Taylor, your new housemate." A smile dominated his face under his cap covering a crop of short black hair.

"Hi Reid. I'm Michelle," she said, shine shining in the sun.

"Are you-"

"No, I'm not in your house. I'm over there." Michelle pointed down the street packed with people throwing footballs and Frisbees, laughing and drinking beer. A colony of unsupervised youth in a concert of celebration of newfound freedom. Concerned-looking parents glanced around apprehensively.

"Why don't I help you guys unpack? But before I do that why don't we all have a beer?" Taylor's easy-going disposition accompanied with a grin of mischief.

"Oh, no thanks guys" she said. "I should be getting back to my place. My housemates are probably wondering where I am." Michelle placed her finished beer on the front porch.

"Ah, c'mon." She looked from Taylor to Reid with a small tilt of her head, her pale eyes sparkling metallic green under a mane of golden-brown hair. When she smiled he noticed the delicate creases around the edges of her mouth.

"Don't forget to come over to our barbecue tonight. See ya later."

Casually nonchalant, Taylor turned to them. "Yeah, barbeque ce soir. Good way to dive into the year, non?" He went in to get the beers while he and Drake sat on the front porch surveying the ambience under the umbrella of blue and leafy green.

"What's with the Mohawks?" Some had shaved their head on the sides like a Mohawk Indian. 

"I don't know," said Drake. "But I can deduce the purpler the jacket, the redder the eyes." Taylor arrived with the beer.

"Shall we have toast gentlemen?" Taylor raised his dangly arm for the toast.

"Yes, a toast Taylor. What shall it be?"

"A toast to the burning bush of our prime." The three of them clinked their bottles and drank their first beer of university. Slowly they dismantled the trailer of things while drinking more beer. The amber liquid began to cool his turbulence and anxiety until he felt a new culture beckoning.


On their way to Michelle's barbecue they came across a group of students sticking their faces into a big barrel full of dark purple liquid. They were gulping it down.

"Look at this stuff! It's in a garbage pale!" Reid looked at the student bent over it.

"What's with this purple drink?" Drake looked at Reid but Taylor answered.

"It's called Purple Jesus. Grain alcohol and Kool Aid I think."

"Why?" Drake didn't like the looks of it.

"The story goes that the Gaelic tribes of Scotland used to cover their faces with a purple dye, and drink this aqua vitae before they went into battle."

"I've heard of Purple Jesus but what the hell is aqua vitae?" Flushed, Reid looked with interest.

"Yeah. I think it means `water of life' or so my brother told me. It's Latin or something." They watched students drink like horses. "Here-" Taylor went to the barrel of rich purple liquid on the lawn, put his head down and drank.

"Ah! It's a Queen's tradition man!" His teeth were stained purple when he smiled.

"So what's it like?" Reid curious.

"Wicked! Tastes just like grape juice." Taylor smiled at the girl beside the barrel.

"You guys want some?" She offered them cups and they all scooped a cupful.

"To our prime!" said Reid, raising his cup.

"To our bush!" said Taylor.

"To Jesus!" said Drake.

He took a sip of his purple drink, watching waves of students walk down University Avenue with drinks in their hands.

"This is good," said Reid, smiling.

"I can't taste the alcohol," Drake perplexed.

"It tastes just like grape Kool-aid." He was thirsty from the heat so he couldn't help drinking it down fast. Cold and sweet. He and Taylor took a second hit before they left for Michelle's barbeque. Crossing the main street they were accosted by drunken students with the sides of their heads freshly shorn so they stuck together in the storm of verbal abuse by Gaels. Reid quickly surmised that the Gaels with Mohawks were the most abusive to freshmen. As he walked he was having a glimpse at the dawning of a new freedom. No more curfews, no more rules, and finally no more strict parents.

They arrived at the barbecue with the cups of Purple Jesus in their hands. A live band began to play in a house across the street inside, attracting people from the roving mobs. That's when Taylor disappeared into the house. Reid saw Michelle with a friend and walked over to them.

"Can you believe this?" Stumbling students who had finally broken free from their ball-and-chain lives of high school surrounded Reid. A stereo set up in Michelle's living room window competed with the sounds coming from the band. The scene was becoming surreal under the warm western glow of the setting sun in an atmosphere pungent with the smell of barbequed cheeseburgers.

"So what's your major?" Michelle's eyes still sparkled in the light.

"Commerce, you?"

"Philosophy." Something in Reid's gut dropped, a heaviness that drew him downwards as if a chunk of lead had materialized. He looked in her eyes and saw an inviting depth which both attracted and somehow threatened him.

Then Taylor reappeared.

"I'm Dionysus with a Mohawk!" Reid laughed at the contrast of his strip of jet-black hair against the freshly exposed white scalp around the sides of Taylor's head.

"What happened to your hair?" Michelle with her hand over her mouth.

"Well, some of it is lying on the dining room floor."            

"Why?" asked Daphne, her teeth glowing against her tan.

"Perpetrated in the name of tradition! I only have one Frosh Week to live, n'est-ce pas?" From the half-bald figure in front of him all Reid could see was the pink glaze in his eyes.

"Who's Dionysus?" Daphne trying her best to understand.

"He was the Greek god of wine and truth!"

"Did Dionysus have a Mohawk?" The question caused Michelle and Reid to laugh harder.

"I don't know, but I suspect not. I think Mohawks are a North American phenomenon."

"You're crazy," said Michelle. Taylor's teeth were stained purple when he smiled.

"Let's go across the street to where the band's playing," Taylor said, like a magnet to action. Under the rusty light of the setting sun, the five of them walked across the street where they were immediately swallowed up in the stream of people. Taylor, with his freshly shaved Mohawk, emerged as a target for abuse by upper-year students. The Mohawk showed he was willing to play the game and be initiated fully into university life. Two purpled Gaels wearing their leather jackets and sporting Mohawks grabbed Taylor by the shirt.

"Frosh!" they yelled. "We command you to drink this beer." They took out a fresh beer and a funnel from their bag.

"What? Through the funnel?"

"You know the drill Frosh." One of them lifted the funnel above Taylor's head and began pouring the beer into it. Taylor, with an eagerness that seemed to backfire on the two Gaels, put the end of the tube in his mouth and gulped down the beer. But just before he was done, one of the Gaels poured the beer he was drinking into the funnel without his knowledge, but he drank it all. When he finished, he belched and said:

"Thank you gentlemen." This earned some laughter from bystanders watching. Then it happened. A stray football hit him in the arm. Seizing the football, he underhanded it to Reid and said: "Going for the long bomb." He took off down the street.

Thinking there was no way he would catch it with so many obstacles in his way, he threw it sky high over the trees way down the street. Taylor saw the launch of the ball and quickly weaved through people trying to keep his eye on the ball. They could hear him yelling, not words, but slowly raising his voice the closer the ball came. Reid darted to the nearby porch where he could watch. There in the distance, he saw the baby-white skin of a shaved scalp with hands outstretched knock over a lawn chair, the final leap propelled him forward to catch the ball and tumble onto a driveway, bloodying his elbow. Because he was so loud, there were a dozen students who witnessed an impossible catch. Fearless, the guy was a real-life madman, some his parents would call a bad influence. But his parents weren't in Kingston so he tried to enjoy his baptism into his new milieu.

And Reid attributed that catch to what happened the following day.



Table of Contents

1.     The Student Ghetto
2.     The Living Tree Principle 
3.     Overcoming Neophobia 
4.     Socrates' Big Swinging Ice Pick 
5.     Life As An Adjective 
6.     The Timestealer 
7.     Range of Multiplicity 
8.     The Banks 
9.     The Means is the End 
10.  The White Haired Doctor 
11.  Mortally Wounded 
12.  Visigoth Code of Ethics 
13.  Cognitive Dissonance 
14.  The Chinese Laundry Café 
15.  Catching a Crab 
16.  Sheer Recklessness 
17.  Shattered Glass 
18.  In His Father's Voice 
19.  The Dreamstealer 
20.  The Vine of Resentment 
21.  The Golden Mean 
22.  The Altered Eye Alters All 
23.  Missing the Middle Part 
24.  Anima 
25.  Taylor Not Afraid 
26.  Beyond the Monoperspectival Norm 
27.  The Grip 
28.  Visigoths in Tweed 
29.  The Unseen Hand 
30.  Dislocation 
31.  Pouring Heavens of Valhalla
32.  So Then...  

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Dedicated to the memory of

Nicholas Shaw.



Let us admit to ourselves, without trying to be considerate, how every higher culture on earth so far has began.  Human beings whose nature was still natural, barbarians in every terrible sense of the word, men of prey who were still in possession of unbroken strength of will and lust for power, hurled themselves upon weaker, more civilized, more peaceful races, perhaps traders or cattle raisers, or upon mellow old cultures whose last vitality was even then flaring up in splendid fireworks of spirit and corruption.  In the beginning, the noble caste was always the barbarian caste: their predominance did not lie mainly in physical strength but in strength of the soul - they were more whole human beings (which also means, at every level, `more whole beasts').

         - Friedrich Nietzsche[i]


The only reason for human failure is man's lack of faith in their true self.

- William James


If you bring forth what is within you,
What you bring forth will save you. 
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
What you do not bring forth will destroy you.

- Rev Edward Bakhurst


Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting, and doing the things historians usually record; while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry, and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.

- Will Durant

[i]. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Part Nine, "What is Noble?" #257, 1886. 

What is a Visigoth?

Visigoths, (West Goths), a member of a division of the Goths. One of the most important of the Germanic peoples, the Visigoths separated from the Ostrogoths (East Goths) in the 4th century AD, raided Roman territories repeatedly, and established great kingdoms in Gaul and Spain.

The Visigoths were attacked by the Huns in 376 and driven southward across the Danube River into the Roman Empire. They were allowed to enter the empire but the exactions of Roman officials soon drove them to revolt and plunder the Balkan provinces, assisted by some Ostrogoths. On Aug.9th, 378, they utterly defeated the army of the Roman emperor Valens on the plains outside Adrianople, killing the emperor himself. For four more years they continued to wander in search of somewhere to settle. In October 382 Valen's successor, Theodosius I, settled them in Moesia (in the Balkans) as federates, giving them land there and imposing on them the duty of defending the frontier. It was apparently during this period that the Visigoths were converted to Aryan Christianity. They remained in Moesia until 395, when, under the leadership of Alaric, they left Moesia and moved first southward into Greece and then to Italy, which they invaded repeatedly from 401 onward. Their depredations culminated in the sacking of Rome in 410. In the same year Alaric died and was succeeded by Ataulphus, who led the Visigoths to settle first in southern Gaul, then in Spain in 415.

While persistently trying to extend their territory, often at the empire's expense, the Visigoths continued to be federates until 475, when king Euric codified laws issued by himself and his predecessors. Fragments of his code, written in Latin, have survived. The first of the Germanic tribes to invent their own twenty-seven-letter alphabet, they prospered until the Moors of North Africa defeated them in 711.

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