Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine

a novel by Juli Kearns

Traveling in the opposite direction of Odile, Johnnie hadn't seen the UFO that had distracted Odile from noting certain disaster. As far as he was aware he was not the Hand of God, Fate in a Strait Jacket, Destiny with a Ticket to Ride Your Sorry Ass into the predispensational, apocalpytic horizon, but even had Odile seen his thunder ball car she would have been unable to avert what was coming next, which several seconds in advance was as good as a police report already, there being paths of no return after all, some of which are writ for the long haul and others which tumble past your peripheral vision on the sly.

-- Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine (A Folk Tale)

"First, there was the space ship" is a conceit, a come hither wink of a dark alley lie down the order of a spit polished shoe of a movie that grabs you by the nape of the neck the moment the intro credits stop rolling and, before you've an opportunity to scream at the film noire drama queen assaulting you, propels you out of your spectator seat and professionally slam dunks your head into the toilet bowl of a plot right in the red velvet curtain draped theater of said alley. The first handful of hot buttery popcorn not even in your mouth yet and you're bobbing up from a kinky money shot. But what is about to be related is far more mundane than all that, so we'll scratch away the "first" and instead simply remark, "There was a UFO," because it's not even known if the object was a space ship that Odile McDonald happened to see.

--Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine (a Folk Tale)

After Odile McDonald sees an unidentified flying object, Johnnie Jackson's Thunderbird collides with her car.

What does it mean when your horoscope says your life is over? A comedic philosophical quest and serious inquiry into the fool’s journey, Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine explores the fragility of our conclusions on being and consciousness when based upon the fragmentary sharing of experience and elusive, illusive perspective constrained by the regulating thermostat of cultural expectations.

Published 2011. Paperbound. 560 pages.

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See chapter headings
Sightseeing Thunderbird - Locations and Fun Stuff

Excerpt

If there is any such bird of a feather
as an ordinary evening,
then the Phoenix in question
was much like any other
dusty fan dancer
who elected to end her career
in a lavish display of
self-immolation.


To the West, somewhere beyond distant Arizona, past Paradise Valley, hidden behind an azimuth value, the sun was full of itself and the sky as true blue as ever, which meant that the edge of the world, where the fan dancer's smoldering feathers gathered on the horizon, was closer to Odile than a flat, far away disk that simply, slowly slid down a flat, painted backdrop until it disappeared altogether behind a just as flat, two dimensional earth.

Of course, the sky wasn't true blue at all. The blue was a kind of mirage, even if come by honestly. So, too, was sunset's fanfare all artistic shenanigans inviting photo ops as a record of another day done. Somewhere between science and fiction, due light's trip increasing to out of bounds, the ordinary atoms of the atmosphere had exhausted themselves of efficiently Rayleigh Scattering the sun's blues at Odile's lame human eyes which, no matter the efforts of those atoms and the mathematics involved, would never see how the seeming blue sky is really truly most efficiently scattered wavelengths of violet, her human cones being deficient of recognizing the truth, and Odile confidently submitted to the appearance presented as fact. The deficiency of those cones was not unique to Odile; in fact it was shared with every other human she'd ever met, though never discussed. Just as Odile had failed to ever discuss most of her insights and observations with her fellow travelers in life. The general consensus was that despite the enigma of their existence becoming a known fact through the compounding enigma of self awareness' evolution, which had flung them out of paradise with its first denuding question mark (the fault of a terrible contagion, perhaps), the best way of dealing with this great big problem called Being was to keep the sharing of personal experience to a minimum after the establishment of a few vague storylines and the regulating thermostat of culture.

Not that Odile had a clue about the how of her eyes or what wonders they might be viewing beyond what was granted her normal human apprehension.

She had vague memories of third grade science schoolbook graphics of an upright universe turned upside down en route to her brain, then that brain's moral compass magically restoring proper orientation.

Despite believing otherwise, Odile was secretly certain that when she died this knowledge would accompany her into the great hereafter.

Not that Odile was reflecting on any of this. Odile's body actually, customarily went to great lengths to ensure she needn't think much about what she saw or what she did. Because humans are not so good at multi-tasking as all that.

The sun dropping below the horizon of the ever turning rock with a heart of iron called Earth, tumbling down below the three days' distant Rocky Mountains, the area between Over and There having eaten the blues up with Sally Rand abandoning East for West and the great burlesque stage beyond, Odile's own Sunset Strip might have made her sigh poetic with its quick fading red an orange revelations if Odile had been paying attention. Which she wasn't. Maybe it was because there wasn't much sunset left, maybe it was because Sally Rand had been paying penance in the jaws of the great Ouroboros of eternal return for millions of years and you kind of get used to it--but Odile was contemplating neither the mechanics nor poetry of what may as well have been a painted stage backdrop.

No, at the moment Odile was sitting at a long stop, her brain's cells talking amongst each other and nudging her into awareness that she'd been staring idly at a bright shining light hovering in the west beside the tallest of skyscrapers on a city hall about a mile distant. Wondering about nothing much, she continued to stare, other cells casually making up her mind for her the light was far too bright and large for a star and was probably the beam of a helicopter, most likely a news chopper, so ordinary an occurrence there wasn't much reason for it to have been nudged out of the background landscape of everyday event into conscious awareness, yet there it now casually was almost and she waited for the beam to move closer or waver and glitter blink as it turned. But it did none of these things. Instead, as soon as Odile realized the bright blue-white light was stationary, and became curious about it rather than holding a lackadaisical witness--yes, it was at the moment her brain's cells democratically elected a question mark over a period that she sensed the light return a kindred moment of recognition, a "yes" granted to what question she didn't know, at which point with no acceleration, leaving no trail at all, the light zoomed at about a sixty degree angle into the dark dome of sky and was gone in less than a quarter of an instant.

"So there," it seemed to wink.

More likely it was a cluster of her brain's cells that said, "So there."

To which some other cells of her brain replied, "Well, uh, that's different."

Still, the event seemed in some ways so mundane and unremarkable that Odile felt no cause to exclaim aloud over it. "A falling star falls down not up," she said to herself. She discounted the possibility of a NASA space rocket hovering in the air beside a midtown skyscraper, on top of which, as far as she knew from news reports and sci-fi films, normal rocket propulsion made for energetic production of flame. And no missile of war she'd ever seen on television could travel so fast as to disappear into the black in the wink of an eye, leaving no reminiscence of a trail. "I believe I've just seen a UFO," Odile decided, and rationalized that indeed it was only that, an unidentified flying object, which was perfectly acceptable, whereas people would argue with her if she'd seen a flying saucer. The event, however, seemed so weirdly tailored for her (though wasn't so weird to her, as she was open minded that way) the UFO having shot out of sight only after rousing her curiosity, that she came near mentioning nothing about it to her companion. Then she decided she should mention the occurrence after all, because who knew but one day she might have reason to refer to it as a matter of consequence.

She took a breath and said, "I think I just got a cosmic greeting card."

Odile's response was not so out-of-the-ordinary for a person who has been amazed by an out-of-the-ordinary happening. If Odile had seen the oncoming car that was preparing to smash into them head on, though the impending crash would be an uncommon occurence for her, it wouldn't have rebelled against her experience and knowledge of the world to date--even a trusted inevitability--and she would have spontaneously shouted something like, "Oh, shit!" a split second before the righteously restored Thunderbird struck them. Instead, Odile had to make up her mind to share the privy info of the UFO, which surprised her, it didn't just pop out of her mouth.

And then her little Kia was a crumple of fiberglass and metal that by equal and opposite reaction physics was sitting a number of feet away from where it had been, and though Odile escaped without being very much broken at all, she almost but didn't quite forget about the UFO for the time being.

Read an extended excerpt of the first several chapters in PDF form
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THE FAQ

1 What kind of book is Thunderbird?

Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine (A Folk Tale) is out-of-this-world literature.

2 What do you mean, out-of-this-world?

I mean it promptly plunges deep into the subconscious well, a grappling hook on the numinous horizon, straddling dark and light throughout.

3 I thought you were going to say its out-of-this-world because there's a UFO in it. Like Twilight Zone out-of-this-world. As you can see, I already know something about the book.

First off, this is talk-talk communication. This is not my fiction voice.

Odile McDonald sees a UFO moments before Johnnie Jackson, in his wonderful golden Thunderbird, trashes her little Kia. The UFO is the pearl of light nexus from which the rest of the story, leading up to then speeding beyond, radiates. Well, speeding beyond as best as one can in two cars that are totaled. You've probably never seen Fantastic Voyage but in it Raquel Welch and some guys are put on a submarine that's shrunk down and injected into another guy's blood stream so they can voyage his rivers of blood to his brain and bust a clot and save him. Think of the UFO as a tornado that transports Odile and Johnnie to an alternate realm, and Glenda the Good Witch sends them to the Wizard for the means by which they may return home, which necessitates Johnnie and Odile being shrunk down, like Raquel Welch and that submarine of hers were shrunk down in Fantastic Voyage, and injected into their very own brains. That's an analogy. But it's just like that.

4 Is it fanciful? It sounds fanciful and maybe comedic.

Thunderbird is a gritty book. Though ripe with dark comedy, it's not liberally alleviated with LOL humor like my book Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. What happens to Johnnie and Odile is sometimes told in a humorous way, and has its funny moments, but their circumstances are too relentlessly bewildering for the kind of humor in Subatomic World. One may laugh and then consider, "I really shouldn't laugh at this." It's a fine line between gentle and very nervous dark comedy that's walked in the book.

5 If it has a UFO, is it a paranormal book?

We think of myths, fairy tales, folk tales and certain types of legendary figures not as being paranormal but as belonging to an alien prehistory that has no connection with today, only a faint shadow of which is felt in dreams. Dreams are contained in their nice safe sleep boxes, but everyone has had the experience of a dream or several that refuses to let go when one wakes up. These are characters whose ordinary lives are invaded by inexplicable forces that behave according to a seeming intelligence that stands outside their rational spheres of knowledge and experience. They find themselves entwined in a complex web of weirdness, of peculiar, alternate terrains usurping their ordinary, daily maps. The book may begin with the UFO sighting that will bring Johnnie and Odile together, but then it jumps back months preceding the collision, when their lives are already being rearranged by seeming unrelated events and odd synchronicities. As for the collision, it only gives them a glancing acquaintance.

I've described it like this. Into every life a seeming nemesis must creep, if one is to have an opportunity to evolve or dissolve, whichever way the narrative blows, and on the shore of his consensual reality world, spyglass to eye, Johnnie Jackson had watched and waited for the dot of a black flag ship to appear on the horizon, the telltale flotsam and jetsam of its existence having already swamped his beach. Then his golden Thunderbird collided with Odile McDonald, who had just been sideswiped by a UFO. Insurance information exchanged, down that dark alley between respectable, upright science and sly, illegitimate synchronicity, they each turned and limped away. A comedic philosophical quest and serious inquiry into the fool’s journey, Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine, a Folk Tale explores the fragility of our conclusions on being and consciousness when based upon the fragmentary sharing of experience and elusive, illusive perspective constrained by the regulating thermostat of cultural expectations.

6 What do you mean by the fragmentary sharing of experience?

Most of what streams through our minds and lives daily is not only unabsorbed, unreflected upon, but deliberately shunned as meaningless and irrelevant. We don't begin to share even the slimmest portions of our experience--mental, psychic, sensory--with others. We can scarcely process but a little of it ourselves. We're born into cultural boxes that define our realities for us, tell us what to think, for what we should strive. Even those who think they're "alternative" are usually walking just another one of those culturally contrived paths. What's off those paths, outside those boxes, we end up keeping hidden from ourselves because we reflexively shield ourselves from it, as we've been taught to do. What we end up knowing about each other is a garment of culture, as with ourselves.

7 What served as inspiration for the book?

The book is fiction but aspects of it parallel that experience, though considerably altered. For eight years I deliberated on the how of writing it, then spent five years on the writing once I'd decided on the "how".

8 You mean you saw a UFO?

Yes. I was sitting at a stop light in urban Atlanta, and was watching what I believed was the bright light of a helicopter. When it occurred to me that the helicopter wasn't moving, the bright light zipped away, at remarkable speed. Had this been during the age of iPhones, I wouldn't have gotten a photo as I believed I was looking at the bright light of a helicopter until I realized I wasn't and it was gone. Rather than being overtly excited, I was quietly awestruck. I went on to the rehearsal for the play of mine that was in production at the time, and I didn't even think to mention it that night to anyone, not because the event wasn't impressive or because I was uncomfortable about it, but because it needed some sitting with and processing, which involved years later seeing how it fit into other peculiar experiences as a paradigm shifter.

I'm speaking in retrospect, hindsight, while at the time the event naturally moved to a very quiet back seat. I didn't think to myself, "I'll just have to see what happens next." Some of those experiences transpired over an extended period of time, others were brief, like the greeting card UFO. Subsequent my most dramatic experiences, when I knew they were over and done with--it was almost as if they had a predetermined on and off switch--I started reading around and found they shared similarities with those had by writers such as Anton Wilson, P.K. Dick and Terence McKenna. Only without the drugs. I trusted most of their accounts because they spoke of the nightmare aspect of it, the soul deep terror aspect, whereas many think instead the numinous-mystical is going to be all love, light and bliss. Old initiation mysteries were staged to scare the hell out of you for a reason. The human concept of bliss doesn't figure in--though I've experienced that transcendent, multi-eyed bliss as well, and perhaps the way I've experienced it wouldn't have been likely without all this other.

While Wilson, Dick and McKenna wrote and spoke of their experiences very soon after their occurrence, even during, I needed some time to see how things evolved subsequently. Plus I needed that time for Thunderbird to form. I can say this, that when the most dramatic paradigm shifting experiences were ongoing, I certainly learned to not jump to conclusions.

Eight years may seem like a long time to think about the "how" of writing this book, but I didn't want the novel to be just about the experiences. I had to develop the people to whom these experiences would belong and come up with the "how" of translating and changing my experience to fit their worlds, while also trying to be true to the essence of my own experience. It took a while working on Unending Wonders before the characters were so real to me that they've remained kind of personal friends to this day, though static, their stories ended when the book ended. The same had to happen with Thunderbird and Johnnie and Odile and Irma and Kyoko and Claudia and Cliff and Hellene. Only after they were solid and walking around with me daily, could I begin. Then for five years I had to sit with them and let the evolution of their lives take place. As I've told someone, it's more like being an explorer of the psychic and archetypal ocean that exists between the folds. You wait for a form to pass and then you have to eat and drink and breathe with it to get it to trust you and tell you its story, the real one, not the gloss. Get careless and the gods and goddesses become offended, they flee, and their essences turn into simple math.

I don't mean to give the impression that any of the writing is stream-of-consciousness, and that how it works out on paper the first time is how it stays. No, every word and sentence is a matter of stylistic choice in the how of the telling. I rewrite numerous times, always. I'm a very conscious sculptor of what unfolds, very deliberate in the manner and how of the telling. So, when, about three-quarters of the way through the book I alter the style in which I've been relating the story, as I do with Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine, that too is a deliberate choice.

There are things which, too, are left loose ends, and that is purposeful, deliberate. Life's not like a novel or a movie in which reasons are established for everything and all mysteries are solved.

9 Who are Irma, Kyoko, Claudia, Cliff and Hellene?

Irma is Johnnie's sister. Claudia is Odile's aunt. Simply put, Kyoko is Johnnie's employer. Odile and Johnnie needed their rocks of Gibraltar. Cliff is Odile's boyfriend. Hellene is Johnnie's girlfriend. It's a very concentrated book--not short, but concentrated--and so there aren't many characters, I had to keep a tight focus on the separate story arcs of Johnnie and Odile and their interior worlds. This wasn't a book for the extended flights of digressive exposition I interspersed throughout Unending Wonders.

10 Why should I buy this book?

It's entertaining. And it has some very good people to know, with whom to be friends.

11 Can I read a chapter?

Read a PDF of the opening chapter and chapter headings here.

12 Where do I buy this book?

The paperback version is on sale at Lulu. I've not released it as a paperback on Amazon because the mark-up there would make the price too high.

However, Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine (a Folk Tale) is also available as a Kindle ebook at Amazon.

PURCHASE THE PAPERBACK AT LULU
PURCHASE THE EBOOK FOR KINDLE AT AMAZON

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SIGHTSEEING THUNDERBIRD AND THE BALL OF TWINE - LOCATIONS AND FUN STUFF

For more information on the novel, and to purchase, go to top of page

The Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine Photo Sessions – Pt. 1, Ground Zero
Where it didn’t really happen as it’s fiction but what didn’t happen has its base in this place kind of as well as something that may have occurred here or a place like here but is very different in the book

The Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine Photo Sessions – Pt. 2, Hellene's Apartment
Where it didn’t really happen as it’s fiction but what didn’t happen has its base in this place kind of as well as something that may have occurred here or a place like here but is very different in the book. This is not where Johnnie’s girlfriend, Hellene, lived, and my friend is pointing this out.

In Which I Explore the International UFO Museum and Research Center at Roswell, New Mexico - Part 1

We are back in Roswell, New Mexico, at the International UFO Museum and Research Center, at 114 Main Street, which used to look like this in 1988. - Part 2

We are still in Roswell, New Mexico, at the International UFO Museum and Research Center, at 114 Main Street, but now we are no longer loitering on the sidewalk and have made it into the lobby - Part 3

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