Thursday, November 20, 2008

Leif Back in Civilian Life - The Cyberpunk Novel - Summer 2001

When Leif came back to Manhattan from Fort Drum, New York, at that time temporarily retired from the army for medical reasons and a 30% disability rating due to his asthma, and also from shin splints that developed from carrying such heavy loads, he was a very depressed man, given to dark moods and apathy. That summer, he lived with us again, in the back bedroom of the old stone house. He didn't have many belongings there, just what he had brought in his car. He couldn't get his household goods delivered until he got his own place and had room for them, and they hadn't arrived in Kansas yet.

He had a fancy black backpack that carried his laptop, important paperwork, and some other things. Mail was coming to our house, mostly bills that he left on the table unopened. He wasn't making any effort to find a job, pay his bills, or anything else but seemed to be in a black hole of depression. I finally asked him whether I could open his mail. I was shocked at the bills that needed to be paid, the same sort of situation we had saved him from before he went into the army. I asked him whether he wanted my help to straighten out his life, and told him that if he did, the condition was that I had to have a power of attorney to make it legal for me to open his mail and help him deal with his affairs, and that he had to cooperate with me in doing what needed to be done, and that he should apply for unemployment, for which he was eligible, but hadn't done. He agreed.

He was surprised that unemployment actually paid him a reasonable amount. While he was staying with us, he could have saved a good bit of that money, but he didn't. Meanwhile, I told him that rather than just paying his bills off as we had before, this time he was going to have to do it himself, using a bill consolidation service. I went with him to Consumer Credit Counseling and had him make up a budget. They helped get his bills consolidated into one payment a month, with reduced interest. Leif was to give me a lump sum each month and I would see to it that the official check was sent in on time. Leif did this faithfully, and he did manage to pay off those bills and repair his credit rating, and keep it reasonably good until the year before he died, even thought he was often scraping the barrel to pay his bills or even eat or put gas in his car because he didn't do well at curbing his spending on electronic "toys," guns, and alcohol.

He was going to go back to school at Kansas State University in August, to finish the degree he had started before going into the army when he couldn't keep working and going to school, and couldn't pay his bills. I told him that we would keep our bargain to pay for his education, but this time, rather than paying for it up front, he would have to get educational loans on his own, and that we would pay them off if and when he graduated, but that if he didn't, he would be stuck with them himself. We thought this would provide him with more incentive to stay with it and graduate.

Meanwhile, I was very worried about his mental and emotional state and it was clear he needed some outlet for his feelings. He didn't want to show his inner feelings to us and there wasn't anyone else for him at that point.

Leif had loved playing Cyberpunk role playing games before he went into the army. I don't know whether he played with people at Fort Drum or not, but I do know that this had absorbed a great deal of his time when he was in college before. He also loved science fiction movies and television shows. He started telling me about some story ideas he had, and it was clear to me that they had some possibilities, not only as Cyberpunk game scenarios, but as a possible novel. Leif had excellent storytelling abilities, but he had never been interested in doing sustained writing. Even so, I suggested that he write a novel.

To my surprise, with a bit of coaxing, Leif decided to try it. He spent a lot of time on it, and he did allow me to read it. The story wasn't polished, more like the first draft, but it definitely had some good possibilities and I wanted him to finish it. I could also tell that a lot of his pain and heartache, as well as things he loved and experienced, were going into the story. I not only insisted he should finish it, but begged him to be sure it was backed up so it wouldn't be lost. I should have insisted that he give me a copy to keep on my computer, but unfortunately, I didn't.

When Leif died and his brother, cousin and a friend and I went over his computers carefully, and I did repeatedly, we never found the Cyberpunk novel. The only conclusion I could come to was that it must have been on the laptop that was stolen in July 2006. That wasn't the one he originally wrote it on, but if he kept it, he may have transferred it to that one. I feared it was completely lost forever.

However, in looking all over the ZAON forums for things Leif had posted, again looking for insights into his life and death, I discovered that in December 2002, he had posted the beginning parts of his novel there. It wasn't all he had written, but at least it was a part. I copied them and corrected things like capitalization and punctuation he had done hastily and not checked, but otherwise, I am going to post what he wrote just as he wrote it the summer of 2001.

I looked for a photo taken at that time and found I had hardly any. I think that was because he wasn't around for photo taking opportunities much that summer, preferring to stay up late into the night, sleep late during the day, and go out as much as possible. The photo posted here was taken August 19, 2001, and was actually part of a family portrait I insisted we have taken. He is actually smiling his "Mona Lisa" smile here, the result of some cajoling. Leif was 26 in this photo.

I will post what he wrote in four parts beginning tomorrow.

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