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ONE MORE-Circa 1900
The cards fell to the floor as JED's knock on life's door startled his mother into a leap that she could not negotiate. The leap ended when Mr. William O'Toole Diston caught his wife as she fell forward. The cards landed face-up before her on the floor. The display revealed the card hand order: three twos: (two of clubs, two of hearts, and the two of diamonds), but the deadwood in the hand was one eight and one ace as an omen.
Mr. Diston was never able to beat his wife at card games, regardless. He originally intended the competitive game of Gin rummy as a relief in the midst of the pregnancy tension, albeit more for himself than for Mrs. Diston's benefit.
Possibly a foot or a fist crashing against the rather fixed walls of womb confinement, a thrust that expressed discontent coupled with a thrashing declaration of desire was stating that time had expired. Possibly, the burst related to JED not wishing to remain past the time allowed for growth in the womb, period. This was, the first recorded position stance and exercise of power by JED the control fanatic.
Mrs. Diston, Mary Martha, was less than pleased, not so much with the flamboyant attempts at the womb exit and world entrance of her newborn but more with the fact there was another in the ever-expanding line of succession to the Diston fortune. All previous siblings were boys: Harold Henry, Price Walter, Grant Sean and Ian Alfred, and the thought that another boy might enter the line-up was troubling at worst and compromising at least.
Mary Martha, filled with hope, prayed daily that her Lord Jesus and His blessed mother working in concert would bestow a girl upon her, not another boy. The Diston name owned a head start on perpetuity without the addition of another male legacy carrier. She knew her heart would pine for gratification forever if it were not a girl. Her prayer fell upon deaf ears.
The Diston English-Irish roots smacked of Roman Catholicism after the family migrated out of Birmingham, England into Dublin, Ireland. The Diston name spread like the plague, each marriage duplicating the brood of the previous clan with the male gender to the extreme that the family laughed at how difficult it was to birth a Patti in the family.
The many broods numbered to twelve for each nest and over three quarters of the total production was male, a reality that set in motion a massive contest for attention, power, and resources. Gaming rules neither restricted nor controlled the outbursts of emotions that gushed forth when broods and clans configured against one another, either in families or in mixed configuration teams, for contests. The competition was brutal.
When a slugfest erupted either within the nuclear family or within the cousin clans that gathered to feast a holiday, each construction brood needing instinctively to display their prowess as males by defeating the competition, regardless of the perpetrator, fathers repeated the phrase, "It's a Diston thing." The few girls in the bloodline life-circle hid while telling tales of the best, who was and who was not as strong as the other was, and at what they did better most simply because they were Distons.
When JED arrived on April 1, 1900 as James Edward Diston, Mary Martha struggled, torn between appreciation and regret, the latter was weakest, and she never granted an audience for the weakest beyond the concept form of her mind. Smiles dominated the candid camera moments. Secretly, thoughts raced wild through imagination images, diluting her smiles with grins and grins with frowns, of what might have been if the child were Patti not James.
William O'Toole Diston expressed his desire to call his son by the title J. Edward rather than the typical James or James Edward or Edward, "God forbid another Henry." Mary Martha rejected the master's offerings and after considerable debate, discussion, and compromise of spirit, they decided unanimously, so to speak, that the newborn would be nicknamed, JED, not Rory after the Last Irish throne contender, Roderick O'Connor. The decision included the privilege for the mother to refer to him as J. Edward in moments of stress and contender Brian Boru if he was seriously bad.
At first, the JED handle tended to hang on the tongue of mother Mary Martha but with frequency came the taste of contentment, knowing the name regardless of being an anagram, was special to the signature category; thus, she took comfort in setting JED apart as unique, like King James.
Mary Martha affirmed her inclination that she should go the extra mile in order to address the needs of her last-born; the doctor telling her she would have no more children. Sadness trapped within gratitude allowed her to retrieve the child after his first whimper of discontent. Arm rocking, hip holding him and extended on-demand breast feedings were the normal.
JED was a healthy and contented child, strong in physique of body and defiant in spirit of temperament, i.e. if he saw it and decided that he wanted it, he took it and ran with mother on his trail as if playing a repeating game of steal, run and catch. JED loved it! Moreover, it delighted his mother as well.
JED ate only what he wished to eat, nothing else. Mother Mary Martha would block in defense his privilege to be eclectic in the palate.
Clothing was an issue for JED. He selected what he wished and he donned nothing else, whatsoever, at anytime. Mother Mary Martha allowed the trait, feeding it periodically with extravagant colors and dashing styles that set JED aside for attentions otherwise never given. The combination of motherhood and last born was solid and would remain such in the hearts and minds of both forever.
Father William O'Toole Diston coined the condition during a dispute of actions by remarking, "JED, your mother spoils you terribly." The indictment always extracted a verbal barrage from Mary Martha who smiled and blurted, "You speak as if I were the only one complicit. That is not so, William O'Toole Diston. You and JED's protective brothers serve the problem equally as well as I do, without comment regarding preference."
As JED grew in years, he played the piano, danced, sang, and provided the family with costumed entertainment respective of the occasion and celebration. All Saints festivals were a high watermark for creativity. JED put together combinations requiring costume changes that dazzled beholders. Whenever he added a dance, a twirl, a pirouette, and a song, the stage ignited. JED loved the attention and he craved the applause, allowing it to elevate his spirits in preparations for the next review moment, Advent, and then Christmas and on to Epiphany, etc. It was a smorgasbord feast for an ego.
However, JED's hand to eye coordination mixed with his phenomenal finger dexterity lifted card games to the excellence level adding additional attention as needed. When he wrapped his physical skills around his full intellectual concentration powers, the combination proved the game of cards to be at a new echelon to behold, even for the Diston family. JED was a whiz with cards, not only at handling them but also at remembering them.
Mother Mary Martha recognized the innate skill early in JED's development and she massaged it with attentions, devoting extra effort and time to hone the ability. Games of card memory, card combinations, and intellectual process became daily exercises that lifted mother Mary Martha's spirits as it increased JED's skills. It was a marvel to behold. The combination proved fodder as an asset in the pursuit of power throughout JED's life.
Leaving mother and the brood was a taxing experience for JED.
Rumor had it from his brothers that the selected private institution had a reservation with James Edward Diston written on the placard in the hall, in italic letters.
JED was frightened. He repeatedly sought solace in his mother's lap. The nagging from his brothers who poked comment after comment at him about being a baby was horrific. Father William added fuel to the combustion causing JED to eject from his lap safety, stand with hands on his hips, and shout defiantly to all, "Go to hell." Such outbursts caused Mary Martha to gasp, the father to blurt a question at JED's mother, "What did he say?" and the brothers to laugh a belly roll on the floor.
Again, JED stole victory from the jaws of defeat with a tantrum.
The price he paid for the blurts and displays was minimal compared to the stature the act provided not only at the occasion of the event but for years when tales were told and retold as family folklore. Each revision added a twist and each twist gave JED new colors for his banner of ticks and tricks.
Still, school arrived without regard for the disposition of JED.
It became obvious to JED that he had to adjust in order to win.
Winning for JED meant the defeat of the standards of the institution, including those who stood in his path toward victory. Several years passed and practice allowed JED to master to a fine art: lying without lying merely modifying, cheating without really cheating merely a shift of ownership, conning without conning beyond the limitation of distraction and manipulating without really manipulating past the limit of facilitating for the purpose of achievement. Everything for JED was a rationalization.
JED became the master of spin! School proved to be a valuable experience and he nurtured each opportunity offered with finesse.
Daily chapel was a drag. Of course, if used as a moment for stage activities then chapel was an opportunity to overcome and to dominate. Consequently, miracle plays became a treat for the audience and a narcotic for JED. Besides, the myriad mood caricatures allowed in a theatre presentation easily transferred to compromising situation escapes, "Oh I was playing a part, or I was acting a role. I know you understand the humor of my painting the statues in mixed color combinations for the festival."
Breaking school rules became a routine challenge for JED, one in which he enlisted participants to their peril periodically, such as the "NO" sign rule. JED befriended a skilled opponent in an election by placing placards on the unauthorized high maintenance lawns, on maintained bulletin boards that prohibited notice postings, and on moving staff vehicles that interfaced the campus. Culprits, hands-on-friends of JED, placed the signs inappropriately. JED escaped capture but his cohorts did not. The act elevated the skilled opponent to prominence as a victim and into election victory. Subsequently, after a spin session, the winner appointed JED as editor of the paper, giving JED that which he sought in the first place. The con worked the con.
JED never served detention time at school! His record sparkled with purity. Schools love winners. Students who excel with consistency make good icon images that shape the thinking of others and help inflate the value of their product for sales. Losers do the reverse!
As an additional edge in the challenge of life, JED took an experimental speed-reading program, hoping to add to his arsenal of tools for engagements.
Debates at school were a forum for the formidable. As paper editor, JED announced debates and participants lined up to show their talents. The best of the best would participate and applause determined who won. Victors loved to display their excellence.
Nevertheless, after the excellence displays were fact, JED challenged victors in a formal written notice of a match-debate with him, shortly after the initial debate ended. JED always chose a special topic and the opponent's ticks, flaws, and limitations were a matter of record in JED's mind. JED attacked the tick moments, cut the premises of logic as wrong at their roots, and emerged victorious defeating the one who had defeated the best making JED the best. Moreover, he did it in one setting after allowing others to display their flaws and faults. It appeared that he had done the deed with a minimum of energy and literally with one hand tied behind his back.
JED never lost a debate in his lifetime. His sinister mind was keen.
Nevertheless, JED was also an athlete of note. His specialty was track. Since he was tall and lean, a distance run proved most advantageous for his physique. It also helped if some sand found its way into opponent's shoes, if partially severed shoe cleats appeared, and if motor skill abilities became shaded by a prior night drinking of alcohol. JED was a dude, a shifty dude, nevertheless a fellow that required reckoning with when challenged for the lead or the win. A modest amount of shading, shaving, and slicing of reality for JED was always an option. After all, winning was everything, especially if bets and money were placed.
Preparation school was a luxury for JED. He walked away with honors, talents, and skills most sought by institutions of learning that catered to elite models. Sought scholarships appeared with side enticement fringes.
In addition, JED exited the preparation school program a relatively rich young man. He played cards, specifically poker, but whatever game available that pleased the competition. He generally won handily and consistently. His fortune was at the expense of the wayward wealthy for he never took excessively from the poor imprudent fool, at least never beyond their need to learn that they should not play in competition. He considered such occasions to be teaching moments, thus sating his pompous ego.
Generally, he targeted the rich, the naive, and especially so, he chased the arrogant, probably because he was arrogant.
JED's coffers, a secret to the world, transacted only in hard gold coins, buried appropriately in secure protected wrappings, far away from the traffic of life.
It was JED's secret, an edge against the folly of an uncertain future.
WORLD WAR I
The dogs and the drums of war beat and barked loudly. JED needed a dodge so as not to get caught-up in the sweep of a national draft that would haul him away to even more excessive and unsettling challenges.
However, pride struck. JED enlisted after prep school.
He caught the one nation fever, the stop-the-fighting, and the final-war mantras that filled the communications of the time won his mind. He decided to appear for duty assuming he faced potential rejection as physically unfit.
JED had eye problems. His eye problem rested in his sight, he could see. He not only could see to read eye charts, which he faked, but also he could read records that he altered. If his records showed that, he volunteered which was the key factor, and if they showed that they rejected him because of his sight, he assumed a hero status, at least a champion posture in his own mind.
Flaunting the rejection was in tandem with barking his desire to enlist initially as patriotic, the first bringing sympathy for a physical fault and the second stirring praise and admiration as a hero.
When asked on his entrance application for college about his civic duties JED recalled his enlistment and subsequent rejection as evidence of his humble patriotism, submitting it under the heading of humility. He played the card as if performing for an audience of patriots.
Naturally, the path to acceptance and scholarships, when greased by the superior grade average, the presumption of patriotic loyalty, and the reality that he was a Roman Catholic, all of which floated to the attention of authorities on numerous occasions proved helpful at Boston College.
The only wrinkle was the pandemic attack that was underway nationwide. It was fall, circa 1918.
JED became a recluse.
Not only did JED wash his hands frequently but he also bathed regularly to the exception, twice daily. He ate only healthy foods washed and cooked thoroughly. Nevertheless, he added to his scheme, no personal circulation in the midst of human traffic, none that was unless it was necessary, absolutely. He hid.
Excerpted from JED by RONALD LEE WEAGLEY Copyright © 2011 by Ronald Lee Weagley. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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