Around the Bend

Institute History


Turner Lair passes his last night in prison as he has many others: making up rituals. The 60 year old man lights a candle, rings a bell, undresses and dances naked while singing an old Beatles song. He's not mad or imbalanced. His earnestness in this rite is genuine; his faith is too. He just made a decision one day that he had to heal. Had to right his wrongs (which were numerous). He had to stop "taking" from the world. And the only way to pull this transformation off was to get out of Time and Space. "Let's face it," he says. "I'm just gonna have to go sacred with this shit. It's the only hope." The actual details of these rituals he more or less made up along the way. All things considered, there were worse hobbies.

Several hundred miles away, his father, Henry, lies dying. The 80-year-old man spends his days and nights in a room filled with archaeological relics, fruits of a lifetime of collecting. He lies in bed, with an equally ancient dog, and peruses various religious texts trying to decide the best way to dispose of their eminent corpses. Like his son, Henry has a soft spot in his aged heart for myth and magic.

The old man lives with Turner's son Jason, a successful contractor in New York, and his own wife and son. Jason does not have a fondness for things sacred. More than anything, he wants to be normal, to have a normal house, a normal family; "to put the Lair bullshit behind us." Even though he loves Henry dearly, his grandfather's "funeral obsession" wears on him. As these burial plans change daily, from constructing a funeral pyre, to being stuffed, Jason grows increasingly impatient.

Turner hasn't seen his father or son in nearly thirty years. He walked out, loaded on heroin shortly after Jason's mother died, and never came back. The last thing Jason remembers about his father is a vague memory of violence and fear. The boy was raised by his grandfather, and needless to say, he's not anticipating Turner's prodigal return.

But Henry is. He drums nightly, trying to summon Turner back before he dies. When Turner shows up at the door, the floor drops out. The man, now sober, is really a stranger to this family. For Jason, it's a bad dream. But for Henry, the homecoming is an opportunity to "fix the Lairs," to close this gap between the men. Jason's relationship with his own son, Zach, is strained by the little boy's interest in his sudden grandfather, and in Henry's "crazy bullshit about magic." As Jason says, "The Lairs were basically thieves and liars. And the only thing they disappear from is their families. Where is the magic?"

A few days later, before finally dying, Henry tells Turner to "fix the family." That's all he says. Turner nods, makes a vow, and sets about to do it. How? Ritual, of course. He informs Jason that his grandfather's final request is to be cremated with his ancient dog (who dies, on cue, that day). He wished to have their ashes scattered a teaspoon at a time, as his Spirit directs.

Is he lying? Jason doesn't care. He tells his father politely, "no way." But when it's clear that young Zach also made a promise to his great-grandfather to obey his funeral wishes, the refusal becomes more difficult. Eventually, the ashes are prepared, dog and all, and the trip begins.

Along the way, both the men and the young boy discover the limits of forgiveness, the hunger for "father," and the strange difficulty we have putting away the monsters of our childhood. They also learn to dance.

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