Kirk VanDyke's Figures on a Beach

Elm Books ( is currently selling three books.  I'll talk about Death on a Cold Night and Christmas is for Bad Girls in other posts but today I wanted to discuss Kirk VanDyke's Figures on a Beach.

Kirk is an author and poet who grew up in Texas and now lives in Wyoming.  His work, including his short mystery in Death on a Cold Night, his poems in hatred of one's fascination with an idea of wilderness (soon to be distributed by Elm), and Figures on a Beach deal with the implications of schizophrenia, trying to sort out the fact and fiction of one's own senses.  Kirk self-published Figures on a Beach in 2008 and we are really proud to be distributing it.  Elm Books has a commitment to diversity in its offerings and this includes the world of disabilities, disability memoirs and well-informed disability fiction.  Figures on a Beach is loosely based on Kirk's own experiences and captures life as a schizophrenic.  Told from the first person perspective of John Jones, we get to feel what it is like to live on a beach in an old van with a random group of strangers, make do on a couple of dollars a day, and be yelled at by the random figures of one's imagination.

Figures can be found at Goodreads at:

and is also available as a part of a free giveaway that ends March 31:


I try to take a drink of coffee but find only an empty cup. I throw off the blanket and grab my jacket for a walk on the beach. I walk toward the surf and then wander down the beach, passing wood, trash and clam holes. I step around the tar balls that dot the brown sand. A plover darts back and forth with the tide, busily looking for food. I was beginning to feel sorry for myself, for my situation. The sorrow was turning to anger and it was becoming pointless. I could turn round and round in self destructive mental gymnastics, but what good would it do? Exhaust me. I walk the beach quickly, but as the surf changes my mood, my pace slows. I like walking along the National Seashore better, but this state beach is also nice. It seems a bit more crowded, though.
"You where an idiot to trust that old couple from Colorado. You should have known from the beginning that something was up. Remember the bad feeling you got from them the moment you met them? You didn't trust yourself and you never can because you are a fuck up. Now look. What are you going to do now? You can't trust any of these people on the beach to help you. Are you going to run back to your family?" Ben is back and he is as annoying as ever.
The hell with you, Ben. But maybe he is right. He is probably right. I walk faster again and feel lost. I was feeling better but now I am completely confused. I stop. Slowly and purposefully, as in a ritual, I remove a can of Copenhagen and forcefully pack it. I take a pinch and place it between my cheek and gum. I walk. I stop. I turn and begin walking back. What does a suburban business man know about life on the road? Why does he have to vacation with me? The hell with him. He is probably right, though. Four pelicans glide over the water with effortless motion. I want to be like a pelican but I feel more like a plover, running back and forth. At least the damn plover is accomplishing something. I don't seem to accomplish anything. God, I am worthless. I would pray but I don't believe that any absolute being or activity would give a shit about my neurotic rambling. Why would it? Why should any other human, for that matter?
My perceptions have become increasingly disjointed so that fluidity no longer exists between multiple experiences. I don’t know when it began, a gradual process that leaves me looking at the world as though I were inside a pinball machine. But the pinball player- not me, I’m the ball- I think the pinball player is on acid, a perverse omnipotence that rearranges my thoughts and all input. Like I said, it was gradual, so that life now seems normal this way. Sometimes there are breaks in the disjointed nature of my experiences, but these breaks constitute a swing of experiences to the opposite of the fluidity continuum. During these breaks, experience flows like a salty wave that leaves me paranoid about the exact nature of reality. It leaves me swimming in a fishbowl of phenomena, peering at the world through thick, contoured glass.
Presently I am alone and lost, but I am going to find something some day. I don't know what that something is but I will find it and it will be good. Life will be like a chocolate bunt cake and I will grow fat and lazy. What kind of life is that? Fat and lazy? I reconsider my position and decide it would be better to live and experience some discomfort to remind me that I am alive. Maybe I should be like those Zen monks who train themselves to embrace pleasure and pain equally. Take it all in and eat it up!  


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