Crônica of 13 Beginnings

Rone Shavers

The most logical thing would be to say that it started on a Wednesday, but that’s definitely not correct. Instead, here it is, the unadulterated and possibly too-detailed truth: It started on slaveships. It started on slaveships and piece-by-piece, limb-by-limb, it just grew. Until there was that one Wednesday, you know the one, when what happened was…


Believing in the invincibility of youth, I set out from the town of ________ to seek my fortune among those who shared my sensibilities.


A like-minded soul once told me, “In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.” (Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress)


Having received no formal training, I determined that if I were to be an outsider, I must first create with an outsider’s eye. So I diligently trained myself to absorb as much as I could, not in order to forget what I’d learned, but so that I could pervert and distort it, for I knew that these seemingly innocent missteps would mark me as one who —


On the Titanic—or wait, was it the other ship?—it fell to me to re-arrange the deck chairs. I often gleefully did it, until one day when it wasn’t so much fun anymore. I’m not speaking metaphorically. There are only so many turns around the deck you can make, adjusting slants and keeping things slightly askew. Then again, maybe I am speaking metaphorically. It’s up to better read people than myself to decide.


After all, if one can conceivably write anything, why write? If one can say anything at all, then one well as may mutter into the void. Or better yet, yell, if only to hope for the comfort of an echo.


Respect the giggle, because there’s a joy and wonder in it. Amazement at the world, or at least that’s what she told me. Being young, and as I now know, foolish in even my ideas of rebellion, I intended to prove her wrong. And this, this is the story of how what I discovered turned out to be much, much different.


Is there no sentiment sweeter than, “Who would have thought the old man would have had so much blood in him?” What better way to express remorse?


War is a germ we carry in our flesh and souls, and it’s only in the activity that we make its anti-body. We enable violence so that we can someday repudiate it. Hysteria, catharsis, hysteria, catharsis; lather, wash, rinse, repeat. 


You may ask yourself, just what does a prison visitation room look like? You may compare it to movies, privately noting all the many examples you’ve gleaned from television, but they will be of no use when you finally find yourself in one. It is the attempt at reconstruction that fails you, that causes you to be so unprepared in such a spectacular way.


The next morning, that first morning, she rolled over and said, “You should know. I’ve committed to certain pieces of furniture longer than I have to some relationships.” That was 15 years ago.


And when we found ourselves lost, we would find our way home with a statement that was part realization, part secret, path-finding prayer. It said, “All of the preceding except the last few sentences is exposition that should’ve been done earlier or interspersed with the present action instead of lumped together. No reader would put up with so much, with such prolixity.” (John Barth, “Lost in the Funhouse”)


It was all so different. Every morning at 8:00 am, after a sensible breakfast, he’d exercise. To “sweat out his sins,” he’d say, although none of us could ever name what those sins were. Envy or lust were good guesses, but even those most secretive of passions made us feel as if we were grasping at straws. So then, imagine our surprise when the truth came out; to think that we were once so smug about all that we didn’t know. But it’s true what they say. The greatest mysteries are those right in front of you, so maybe we should begin at the beginning. The most logical thing would be to say that it started on a Wednesday, that there was that one Wednesday. You know the one…



Audio Recording of Rone Shavers Reading “Crônica of 13 Beginnings”


Rone Shavers is a writer who publishes in multiple genres. His fiction has appeared in various journals, including Another Chicago MagazineBig OtherIdentity TheoryPANK, and The Operating System. Shavers’ non-fiction essays and essay-length reviews have appeared in such diverse publications as American Book ReviewBOMBEBR: Electronic Book ReviewFiction Writers Review, and The Quarterly Conversation. Shavers is also fiction and hybrid-genre editor at Obsidian: Literature and Arts in the African Diaspora. His experimental Afrofuturist novel, titled Silverfishis forthcoming from Clash Books in September 2020.