Global Haiku • Spring 2010
Dr. Randy Brooks

Previous Home Next

Nathan Bettenhausen

Country Boy

Nathan Bettenhausen

Monday, March 29, 2010

Once upon a time there was a tiny town in the middle of nowhere that was home to a bright, lively boy. It was just like any other town in the middle of the countryside. If you asked him today, he wouldn’t even be able to tell you where it was that he grew up. Once he told a man that is was in rural Ohio, and another woman was told the mountains in Colorado. He did remember things about the town though. He remembered the old bakery on the edge of town with its big, beautiful windmill. He spoke with a smile about the convenient store on Mayberry Street and often talked about their famous toffee and trinkets. In any case, that little town is now just a distant memory for Julien Roux.

You may not have heard of Julien Roux, but anyone who has met him can attest to his charming creativity. You see, Julien left his home to become a poet many years ago. His parents made him finish high school, but just a day or two after graduation he packed his bags and moved away. He started out in Chicago, but he quickly grew tired of it. He then proceeded to move all over the world, never staying anywhere longer than a few weeks. He could never stay anywhere too long. China, France, Tanzania, Colombia, Canada, and England all grew old for him. He then moved back to the United States. He was excited to start a life in another new country!

Oh, I suppose that came off as a bit confusing – that bit about a “new country,” I mean. Julien has a very unfortunate combination of multiple personality disorder and memory loss. It’s very curious to wake up every morning as a new person. He had three very different personalities. He didn’t know it, but those close to him called his alternate personalities Jekyll and Hyde.

Julien was a perfectly normal young man who had the same ideals, passions, and yearnings as any other young man. Jekyll was a very studious persona. He was very interested in learning and analyzing the world around him. Most of all, he was fascinated with love. He spent hours upon hours reading romance novels and anything else that could hopefully enhance his imagined definition of love. A stark contrast, Hyde was a brash, disturbed character. As a matter of fact, Hyde was the one who always decided to move. This would normally leave people like Julien and Jekyll very confused, but because of their memory problems, they didn’t usually think twice about it. (He had a sign that he put on his door to remind him of his mental condition and that told him about all of his personal information.)

Like any other morning the boy woke up; it was always difficult to tell who it was until he read the sign… He stood up and read the sign on the door. This day he turned away, shrugged, and went to the bathroom. It was a Julien day. (Jekyll often searched around the room curiously and Hyde normally kicked the wall or went back to bed for a bit.)

The last line on the sign always put a smile on the boy’s face (whether or not he was Julien). It read, “You are a poet of haiku.” This day Julien went into the bathroom and decided he would try to write some haiku. It was very strange that he had no problem writing haiku. He forgot who he was, where he was from, who his friends were, and even what his favorite color was. He never forgot how to write haiku. He thought and mumbled to himself in the shower, trying to come up with a good haiku. He got out of the shower and wrote on the glass:

steaming water
fogs the mirror
smiley face

He smiled to himself and went to the bedroom to get dressed. As he was tying his shoelaces, he thought of another haiku:

tying my shoelaces
on the floor I find
a penny

Ok, so maybe his haiku weren’t all great. He didn’t care much. He enjoyed writing about the little details that he noticed, and usually carried a small notepad with him. He’d keep it in his pocket, whenever he had pockets, and would write down whatever came to mind. His notepad was full of many haiku. Some were brilliant, some were terrible, some were edited multiple times, some were started and never finished.

The boy frequently left post-it notes around his room to remind him of things. He never could place why exactly he did it, but he did. This day he found a post-it note on his sign telling him that he was to meet someone in the park. He had no idea where the park was, but he set out to find it. He began to walk down the street. It was a bit chilly and he wished he had brought a jacket along. He paused for a moment:

brisk morning
walking along
a bit faster

He put his notepad away and continued down the street. Luckily he found the park without much difficulty since it was just a few blocks away. He began slowly wandering the paths in the park. He looked up and saw that the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. They were the best kind of clouds – those huge, fluffy clouds that look like cotton balls. Julien had to take out the notepad:

peeks from behind
cotton balls

As he was writing, someone walked up to him. It was a pretty girl who was clearly excited to see him. Assuming that this was the person he was to meet, he extended his hand to introduce himself. The girl laughed, pushed his hand aside, and hugged him tightly.

“I know who you are, you goof. How are you today Julien?” the girl asked.

“I’m alright,” he replied. “So how do you know me, anyways?”

“Well, we’ve been hanging out together ever since you came to Orangeville. My name is Liz, and I’m your girlfriend,” she said. She laughed and pulled him in for a kiss, and he decided that he didn’t really care if he didn’t know her; she clearly knew him:

beautiful stranger
takes my hand
my heart


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Another morning came, and the boy got up and stretched. He looked around the room curiously, clearly not recognizing anything in the room. Slowly he got up and surveyed the room more closely. He noticed the sign on the wall and read everything on it very carefully. It was clearly a Jekyll day, judging by the sparkle of fascination that appeared in his eye. He began rummaging through the room for more clues and more proof that he truly was what the board told him. He found some photographs of himself and was shocked to find that he didn’t recognize anyone in them. He continued to look under the bed, in the closet, and everywhere in between. Then Jekyll noticed the notepad. It absolutely fascinated him and he spent a good ten minutes reading through it. It seemed to be very interesting, so he decided to write try to write one of these poems:

a mosaic
my identity

Jekyll had a bit of a different style than Julien. Julien was content to write about whatever was happening to him. He wrote about events and his surroundings. Jekyll’s haiku were carefully thought out and often had hidden meanings. Most of all, Jekyll seemed to write a lot of haiku about love. You see, Julien owned a bookshelf full of different literature. Among the contents of his bookshelf were many romance novels, poetry books, and other similar things. Jekyll loved reading about love. In his morning search for identity, he would always happen across these books. He’d read them and want to read more and more. He quickly decided, day after day, that he wanted nothing more than to fall in love. Today was the same as any other day and he noticed some of the books. He spent the majority of this morning looking through a romance novel that was particularly interesting. Inspired by the bits of the book he read, he decided to try another haiku:

rose petals
the doves

He of course was writing about a wedding, similar to the one in the book. He was satisfied and decided he should get himself cleaned up for the day. (He was fortunate enough that he didn’t forget to brush his teeth, shower, and stay at least decently clean.) On the bathroom mirror he saw a note: “Meet me at the coffee shop on Vine Street at one o’clock.” At the end was a smiley face. Some people may have been nervous about such a note, but he was simply intrigued. He decided to write another haiku:

a smiley face
offers a chance
mystery suitor

He got dressed and ready to go to the coffee shop. Just before he walked out the door, he thought of another haiku:

behind the door
life may reveal
the Queen of Hearts

He opened the door and peered to the city on the other side. He was a bit nervous to leave his apartment, but his curiosity drove him forward. He surveyed the surroundings and when he didn’t see Vine Street he stopped a woman who was passing by and asked for directions to the coffee shop. She told him to go down two blocks and turn left. He followed her instructions and walked towards Vine Street. He passed by Orchard Avenue and then reached Vine. Before he turned and continued towards the coffee shop he stopped to write:

Orchard leads
to the Vine
with buds that may bloom

He turned down the road and began searching for the coffee shop. He quickly found it and went inside. Not knowing who he was looking for, he went to the counter and began reading the menu. He continued to read the menu until he had read nearly everything on it. While he was still reading he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around to find a beautiful young woman. Judging by the smile on her face, he decided that this must be the writer of the note.

“Hello ma’am,” he said to her. “It appears that you know me, but I have never seen you before. You look lovely, by the way, and it would appear that you’re trying to impress me. I’d like you to know that it is working. Might I have the pleasure of hearing your name?”

“Liz,” she giggled, knowing immediately that he was in Jekyll mode, “and you’re right. I am trying to impress you, Julien. I’ve impressed you a time or two before.” (Now remember that he was always Julien, Jekyll is just the name his friends used to distinguish between his personalities.)

He grinned, impressed by her flirtatious charm. “So I take it that we’re dating. You have a sparkle in your eye that is both mischievous and full of fondness. It would appear, by your last statement, that I may have already fallen for you.”

“Oh, trust me. You have fallen hard,” she replied.

Then, the most wonderful thing happened: she kissed him. Jekyll was ecstatic; he truly had been given a chance at love:

searching for love
finds me


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Morning arrived again, all too soon for the boy. He began to get up very slowly, stretching and moaning for a bit. After another minute or two of stretches he finally got up and looked around the room. The sunshine was too bright so he quickly drew the curtains. He went to the bathroom and then decided that he should figure out where he was. Noticing the sign on the door he walked over and read it. He turned a bright shade of red, wheeled around, and began using the pillow as a punching bag. It was a Hyde day. He continued to pound on the pillow for several minutes to relieve his anger. It wasn’t fair! How could something like this have happened to him? He couldn’t understand why or how he had no recollection of the past few days. He was furious.

He quickly realized that he was also hungry and began looking around the room for food. In the corner of the room he noticed a brown paper bag. Hoping it might contain groceries, he ran over and peered inside. All he found was a stack of note cards. On the note cards were poems. He didn’t care about reading them until he noticed one that said:

birds in the sky
return to the ground
echoing gunshot

What an interesting poem! He laughed at it and read a few more. Liking what he saw, he decided to write about his current dilemma:

a scowl
interrupted by my
growling stomach

He smirked after reading it back. You see, Hyde preferred to write haiku to channel his emotions. He only wrote about what he was feeling. Unfortunately, that nearly always meant that the haiku would end up very crude and unpleasant.
Satisfied with his first attempt, he decided that he needed to get some food. He put on some clothes and headed for the door. (Hyde did not inherit Julien and Jekyll’s good hygiene habits.) Just as he was about to leave he noticed a note on the door reading: “Meet me at three o’clock at the gas station by the corner of Regent Road and Main Street.” His thoughts immediately led him to think that maybe someone had knocked him out, causing him to forget what had happened the day before. He was enraged by the person’s audacity to contact him again after doing that to him:

even after the fight
he comes back
offering chances for revenge

He stormed out the door and headed down the road in search of Main Street. He pushed past people until they started parting away from him. Hyde was able to look extremely intimidating. He found the gas station and went up to the door. He didn’t go inside but instead began pacing outside, waiting for the person to arrive:

the bull paces

He saw a girl walking up with a big smile on her face. “Hey Julien! I was going to go on a picnic with some friends! Would you like to come?”

He couldn’t believe the audacity of some stranger to walk up and act like he didn’t know what they had done to him!

“What’s your problem, huh? You think that you can just walk up to me, invite me to a picnic and everything will be fine?! You’re lucky I don’t just knock you out now!”

To his surprise, she didn’t yell back. She just began to cry. Another girl came over to her and gave her a hug. “I hate these days,” she mumbled.

“Liz, you know they’re gonna happen, we can try again tomorrow,” the other girl said.

The girl named Liz turned away and ran back to the car, still crying. “I hope you’re happy, you idiot,” the other girl said bitterly.

“What are you talking about?” Hyde shouted back. “I’ve never seen her before!”

“Just go home Julien,” she hissed. “I don’t want you to hurt her more than you already have.”

Hyde did just that. He turned around and stormed away furiously. He hadn’t figured out who had done this to him, but he didn’t even care. For some reason that girl actually got to him a bit. He tried to forget about it and went back to his apartment to get away from all the people on the streets. People were a nuisance:

a challenge
brings her to tears
I smile


Thursday, April 1, 2010

I was reading through my journal this morning and heard knocking at the door. I answered it and Liz was standing there. She looked nervous to see me. I asked her what was wrong and she told me that I had been mean to her yesterday. I have no idea what she was talking about; I haven’t seen her for a few days. She doesn’t believe me and says that she was offering to take me along for a picnic when I blew up on her for no reason.

That makes no sense to me, but whatever. I read the last few days in my journal before she got here this morning, and I think Liz might just be teasing me. I just wrote about Hyde doing something very similar. She probably doesn’t like the story or something and is just making fun of me. She brought some friends with her, including Kate. I haven’t seen Kate for a while, but Liz tells me she was with her yesterday when she saw me. I think she’s pretending the other girl in yesterday’s story is Kate. I don’t know how she would have known what I wrote though, since I’m not sure when she could have read it… Maybe I mentioned something about the storyline to her yesterday.

Whatever the case may be, she says she wants to go on the picnic today, so I’d better go get ready to go:

impatient girlfriend
stirs me
from my reverie


“Bob! Get going!” Liz shouted at Bob in the bathroom. She got so sick of him taking so long in the shower. “Can you believe that he didn’t even get out of bed until noon, Kate?”

“Liz, think about it,” Kate replied. “You know he doesn’t get to sleep on time on days like yesterday.”

Liz rolled her eyes and plopped onto the bed. She noticed Bob’s notebook on the pillow and decided to look at it. She read his latest entry that he had just finished writing. She could never understand why he wrote so often. Even though they were in a hurry he just had to write about what had happened. She was a bit irritated that she was apparently being a bother to him.

She then read the paragraph about his last few journal entries. It confused her, but she kept going on. She had never looked at his notebook before today, but she decided there couldn’t be anything too serious in it.

She flipped back to the previous day’s entry. It was talking about Hyde. The one before that was about Jekyll, and the one before that about Julien.

“Kate!” Liz gasped. “These stories in here are exactly what happened the last three days! Remember how I told you about meeting him in his “Julien” mode on Monday in the park? Then I saw him at the coffee shop on Tuesday in

“Jekyll” mode. Then he wrote about yesterday and “Hyde” yelling at me at the gas station.”

As she finished speaking, Bob came out of the bathroom.

“Bob!” Liz said. “Where did you come up with the idea of these stories?”

“I don’t know. I don’t always remember writing things down,” he said nonchalantly as he continued to get ready.

Kate grabbed the notebook and read some of the entries. She flipped back another day to Sunday’s entry. She dropped her jaw, but Liz spoke up before she could say anything, “Bob, I’m serious, this stuff actually happened to you!”

“That’s crazy,” Bob muttered.

“No, it’s not. I think you should read this,” Kate said as she handed him the notebook.

He read the last lines aloud:

“I think I’ve finally figured it out… After all of this time, it finally makes sense to me. The answer was so easy to find! I remember every day when I’m writing as a journal entry, but I never can remember the days when I wrote about Julien and his other personalities. Whenever I read back, I only read the poems. I remember haiku. I love haiku. All I had to do was go back and read the entries in their entirety. I have memory loss… I am Bob. I am also Julien.”

the forgetful poet
reminds himself daily
of his own existence

         Nathan Bettenhausen


© 2010, Randy Brooks • Millikin University
All rights returned to authors upon publication.