60

I lay flat on my back in some old pasture splotched with brown grass, a cows head is hung nearby, nibbling, and I’m watching a single, insignificant puff of a cloud wander about a lazy blue sky. Like smoke, the clouds journey is buffeted by the wind. East, West, North or South, the destination is the same, dissipation. A return to oblivion to begin anew.

Even the cow has similarities.

I smile with the thought, the irony. Of a cloud, a cow and a human, the path remains the same.

My hands are folded across my chest, a mosquito lights on a forearm, and begins to feast. I let it. Not because I don’t care, not because I’m not irritated, but because for this moment in time, I think it’s the right thing to do. To give sustenance to some lesser being derived from my personal suffering.

Gorged, full, filled, fat, the insect whines and buzzes off, probably toward the cow, I think. A bloodsucker is never satisfied.

I do not know how I came to be here. There was no direction, no manual, so signage along any path I ever traveled, so I stumbled, missed a turn here and there, wandered from time to time, to end up here. I have regrets, unlike the cow, although the cow may disagree. I wouldn’t know. Regrets only because nothing is preordained, no path laid out in stone. If life was concise, an arrow bent against this blue sky, I would have no regrets. I would not know the meaning of the word.

My thought is interrupted by the cow. A loud, lingering single word sound of base, tone, and reverberation. Perhaps the cow is talking to me, and I smile as I wonder what that damn animal would say. There would be no commonality, no foundation for words to speak with each other. Then I ponder, the cow might be the smart one.

I have never been the smart one. I think back to the desert, the jungle, the firepit, and ask if they were, indeed signs along my path, but settle upon acknowledgement they were nothing more than the mosquito, an intrusion. Intrusions, I perhaps, allowed. And if they were by chance, guideposts, they were as human signage often is, vague, offbeat and of little value. The map I’ve been looking for was bigger, laid out in the heavens, written by the hand of God. Intelligence is the ability to quiet the confusion, to discern the word of God from the voice of man. Perhaps it is the breath of the almighty that drives the cloud, than the cloud has no choice. The cloud has no choice, regardless.

My life has always been the world. That is what has meaning. What lies beyond the boundaries of my sphere is of little consequence, and lesser meaning. I have always explored my world. Turned every rock, listened to every bird song, sought answers to unknowable questions, and now I find myself wondering if those answers are to be found beyond the borders of my own private universe. As vast as my existence is, here in a field with a cloud, a cow and a bellicose bloodsucker, might there be more?

I do not want to grow old. I’m not afraid to grow old.

I’m afraid of not being able to take another walk down some ill-defined path, of passing through the door without the right answers, without the knowledge that allows that entrance to call out to me asking for my tome, to verify my life.

Is that what life is? To find meaning? To have meaning? To be able to claim when the far world reaches out, I have answers. I have knowledge. But what knowledge could I possess on my death, that old friends would care to hear? None, I suspect.

There is, I think, a larger question. I do not follow it, I don’t like the thread, the texture of the thought. For one who lies in a field with questionable associates, the question is sour. If I am that guide, that marker along your way, I have failed miserably. The cow wanders off without discourse, the cloud dissipates without direction, and the bloodsucker is justly swatted.

The 31st Step

31st-step

I have suspicions!

Emily has said often I’m the suspicious type. Funny, I never thought I was but since I’m stuck here, I’m kinda suspicious of how I got here, better, why I’m here. Lord knows I’ve had plenty o’ time to figure it out, and of course, I ain’t figured much of anything, but like I said, I’m suspicious.

For instance, why 31? Why not two or two hundred? Could be that 31 puts me about half way to that stop sign, least it looks to be. But what’s the reason for that, I mean, everything stopping and starting again cuz I’m half ways to a stop sign. That doesn’t make any sense.

OK Lord, here I am at 30 steps. I can turn my head around and see my front door, my house and lawn, and out front of me are all the houses lined up along the thin gray gravel snake of a road under a nice, warm sky. That damn stop signs so close I can just ‘bout reach out and touch it, but you ain’t gonna let me near it, are ya? One more step…

And I’m back at the beginning, just right outside my door, standing on the stoop, briefcase in hand, heading for the bus stop that I now figure I’m never gonna see. I don’t have to look at my watch anymore. Done that too many times now. I know it says 7.17 and twenty one seconds, AM, but what it is really doing, is saying nothing, in fact, it’s laughing. Laughing at me for being stupid or something cuz I can’t figure out the mess I’m in. No matter what I do or how I do it, I end up doing the same thing over and over again. Start with my left foot, that don’t work, turn around and try to go back in, that don’t work.

So, I’m thinking, this might not be all about me. Mebbe it’s something bigger, after all, every time I end up back here, that there Robins in the same place peckin in my lawn, the sun hasn’t moved near anywhere across the sky. Then again, if it ain’t ‘bout me, why is it the 31st step always sends me back here, so it has to do something with me, but for the life of me, I can’t figure it out.

What I have figured out, is I’ve done this thirteen times now an’ nothing has changed so I’m gonna stand here for a bit and think about this. Now after thinkin’ ‘bout if for who knows how long, all I can think of is to yell out for Emily, hoping that she hears me.

So, I let her name rip here in the early morning air and I’m thinking it’s loud enough to raise the devil and break all the glass because my lungs are achin’ and my throat’s as coarse can be, an’ I can’t scream nothing any longer. I stop and I wait, and I tilt my head just a bit to the right and crane around the corner in that direction as best I can to the large picture window and there stands Emily, staring out like she was a marble statue or some thing.

I sez her name under my breath, and it comes out a hoarse whisper and then I notice her right eye is all healed up and that strikes me as odd. Odd, cuz that shouldn’t be because when I walked out that front door, that eye was as big and as purple as a beautiful dark night sunset. I know that, cuz I gave her that eye an’ before you go off thinking bad about me, thinking I hit and beat Emily, well, that there just ain’t the case.

See, she tried to say she wasn’t but I heard she was out soakin’ up some drinks with some of her friends last week while I was off on the lakes fishing. I know that because Jim Kendall let it slip that his wife said something to that matter. We was setting getting our haircut, when ol’ Jim mentioned he thought the ladies had a good ol’ time down at the Roadway. When I pressed ‘em on it, he didn’t say nothing more, wouldn’t say nothing more and he just outright clammed up like he knew he already said too much.

I jus’ nodded my head, sayin’ “That’s alright Jim, I unnerstand you don’ wanna make no beans about it. That’s all right if an’ you don’t mind you wife goes about ‘hoaring, but mine ain’t gonna…”

So, like I said, I ain’t in the habit of beating Emily but I ain’t no fool for liars and dammit, she had my fist coming, the way she was lying an all. Don’t care what y’ll think, but no wife of mine gonna be out soakin’ and get a reputation for ‘hoaring.

Looking at her standing in the window here, there’s no trace her eye was ever swollen and purple just before I walked out the front door. Now that, I just don’t get. No doubt, it’s figured in with all the general foolishness of this morning, and it is foolishness, of course. Only question I got, is whose foolishness is this, the Good Lords or  the red man down below, cuz it ain’t mine and it ain’t no other man cuz I know no other man can create this here kind of senseless foolishness, making a man walk 31 steps and then go start all over from the beginning. Course, I got my suspicions and my suspicions usually turn out to be right.

OK, I’m gonna try this one more time…

Where our Children go

ben-waardenburgThe monster watched, silently, perched on a thick oak branch in the middle of a cloud filled night. A night as dark, as dank and heavy as the beings own soul, weighed down by acts as grievous as committed by any evil and wayward man. Watched as the light extinguished itself, thinking a singular thought, soon.

**

Mom, Dad, please find me, help me, I don’t know where I’m at. I’m tired, I’m cold, it’s like I’m in a really small cold bathtub with the lights out. I can scream but no one hears, no one comes and now I can’t scream anymore. I’m scared. Whatever happened is bad, I know it’s bad but I don’t know what it is.

**

Oh, it’s cold but the water seems to be thicker and it’s harder to move around, it’s like the bathtub just keeps getting smaller and smaller, and there’s a smell, a bad, god awful smell. My head hurts, not my head, my mind, it hurts to think. Every time I think of you mom, dad, it hurts me in my head. Why is that?

**

I’m not afraid anymore.

The cold clammy crap that I woke up in is a lot warmer now and I just feel a lot better. The thing is, I don’t remember a lot of what was before I came here. I know I had a mom, a dad and a kid sister. I remember their faces but I can’t remember their names. Maybe cuz their names was Mom, was Dad and Sis.

Why can’t I remember that?

I remember Moms’ stew though, don’t know why. Fact is, the crap I’m in keeps reminding me of it, thick and chunky, warm, soothing, stinky just like Moms stew. Stunk of a smell that I could never figure out, but it was a damn awful smell. Me and sis used to joke about it, sly looks, funny faces when Mom served it up, all behind her back of course.

At least I think we did.

See, the thing is, I know nobody’s coming to help me, that I’m stuck in this little place filled with stinky, chunky crap and I’m okay with that. Okay because I’m not scared anymore because I don’t know what I’m supposed to be scared of. I think I did a little bit ago, I think that’s why my throat is sore, because I was yelling, screamin’ for help but like I said, that was a long time ago and no one is coming and I don’t know why they would, ain’t nothing to be scared of, can’t ‘member why I woulda been screaming.

I’m missing Mom’s stew though, not because I’m hungry. I’m not hungry, not hungry because I have all this crap I’m in that just kinda comes into my skin and finds a a way to keep my stomach full. I’m just missing the stew.

I liked stew.

Something else about the stew but can’t remember right now. I think it’s because I’m sleepy. Maybe if I close my eyes for just a little bit, I’ll wake up and think of stuff that I shouldn’t be forgetting.

**

Like a flipboard, images came and went, appearing, lingering than dissolving into the another. A small thin boy standing over home plate with a Christmas bat. Pizza, Birthday cakes, back yards, faces, bicycles. Pictures without a foundation but all with a lingering sense of unknown importance.

**

I’m changing!

I’m larger or the space is smaller, but I think I’ve grown, and grown a lot. I can’t really feel my legs anymore and something is protruding out of my back, right where my shoulder blades are. The thick chunky stuff is thicker than before I fell asleep, it’s harder to mover around in so between the thickness of whatever I’m in and my growing spurt, there’s not a lot of room for movement. That doesn’t bother me, I’m not in pain, my muscles aren’t sore and there’s a sweet smell, a nice, comforting smell that I think makes all the discomfort of being in a small space, disappear.

I really quite like it here.

The only disturbing thoughts are when sleep comes and strange faces and places come and go. I find them bothersome because I feel like I should know something about them, but they are nothing more than dreams. Those dreams do leave a strange, lingering feeling of unease, but I have managed to toss those aside.

I much rather think about what I am, what I am becoming. I’m not sure, but I bet it’s going to be something wonderful.

**

I can barely move, most of whatever water or whatever it was that I have spent my life in, is gone, solidified into a hard shell, like a cocoon. For the first time, I’m able to hear other sounds, outside the shell, sharp, cracking sounds like something priceless being shattered into a thousand pieces. And the light, there’s just a glimmer of light and even though I don’t know where it’s coming from, it’s calling me, as faint as it is, that glimmer is welcoming me.

And I have a strange feeling, a yearning.

No, it’s a hunger.

**

I have to get out of here. My hunger is going to kill me if I don’t. Maybe if I press my body hard enough against the shell, use my head to push on the cocoon, maybe, just maybe.

It hurts to push against the shell but the pain is nothing compared to the agony calling, begging for fulfillment.

Oh, a crack, there in front of me. I’ll work my head against it. It’s getting bigger, a dim, shallow light is pouring in through the hole, I can see out. It’s almost big enough to get my head out, I can get my head out. It’s a struggle, but I can work my whole being out of this place, I can get free, I can feed.

But what is this dim, dark place where I am one of many. Where have my brothers gone, to what distant places have they traveled and left me here alone with those who still sleep in their shells.

Now I see, far above, a small bright light and I spread my wings and realize I am free to feed my hunger as I leave the remnants of those broken shells behind and care for nothing of  those who remain.

**

The monster watched, silently, perched on a thick oak branch in the middle of a cloud filled night. A night as dark, as dank and heavy as the beings own soul, weighed down by acts as grievous as committed by any evil and wayward man. Watched as the light extinguished itself, thinking a singular thought, soon to spread his wings and feed.

59

I’m late. It’s in my genes, to be late. Some things never change. Some things always change, even when they stay the same.

I was laid back in my gravity chair, the milky way a comfortable blanket with the snap, pop and crackle of my fire at my feet. I searched the heavens, looking for nothing. Looking for everything. Searching for something I knew I would never find.

Bullfrogs throated deep luscious croaks from the water’s edge, a mosquito feasted, and the heat of the fire licked at my bare feet.

Lazily grasped in the cusp of my hand, a medallion tethered around my neck. Strange, hardened and full of symbols, the gold harkened to an old scrap of paper that sat in my lap. Both full of mysterious origins and unknown meanings.

Together, the aged paper and the old medallion meant something, perhaps pointing to answers I have been looking for, perhaps they were meant to lead me astray. Perhaps they were meaningless. Perhaps, God himself was having fun.

A breeze swept across my parcel of land, setting the sumac and birches to sway, the fire licked a bit closer to bare skin. Across the way, I watched a large dark, foreboding mass exit from the tree line.

I watched. The bear hesitated. A deer, full velvet rack emerged, and silently came my way. The bear, huffed behind.Image1

I took in the power of nature without the realization that I was, always had been part of that power. If there’s a lesson civilized, and intelligent souls need to learn, is that our civilized ways, and learned beliefs don’t separate our lives from the power of nature. Those things might diminish our natural relationships, but they do not cleave us from who we are, who we were.

So ingrained with the fascination of new company, I didn’t bother to bring my old tattered gravity chair to a setting position until both deer and bear had made their way to my fire. The deer, wet and rank, sought me out as I lie under the great blanket, his moist nostrils taking in the smell of my feet, up my flannels, to my waist. He turned his head momentarily when he caught a breath of cheap tequila and golden beer, and then nudged his warm face against mine, lying with mine, becoming a part of my existence for a moment, and then in the second of time, bounded off into the woods behind.

The bear made no such gestures of introduction. Awkwardly watching its companion, that animal remained behind the fire, and now that the four-legged creature was gone, the bear raised up, thrusting i20140928_003201ts large dark body to the sky, obliterating the milky way.

And with a large, deep throated grumble that turned to a rumbling growl, the animal tore the beautiful night asunder. Releasing the night sky back to my fire smoked eyes, I heard the bear behind me, chasing it’s strange friend into the night with low huffs and grunts matching the sound of huge paws sinking into the hard soft grass.

I wondered. A thread, less, a wisp, of cloud threaded the stars.  A shooting star from the south, overhead to the north, dissolved. A plane traversing the boundaries.

A crack of thunder! I reeled, realizing the night was fading. Not into day, but into a starless night, a cloud fueled rage of water and wind. The transition was abrupt, as if I had nodded off. My fire raged larger as if I had fed the flames to protect me form the cold wet reality. I know longer bothered to question the sense of reality as I lie back, my face pelted by rain, my body rocked with the wind, where overhead the sumac, birches and maples rocked.

I barely saw her wave from across the way, but she was there. Tall, slender, naked and blond with her large almond eyes. A dream I could have easily thought as I moved from one world to the next.

The first morning sun took me in amazement as I struggled out of the chair amidst the embers of a fire that had seen better days. Cool and crisp, the air had a moist feel, a wet smell, yet dryness permeated everywhere. I managed to stand up, over the dead fire, and noticed the prints in the fireburnt sand around the fire pit.

I smiled. Some dreams are more than others. I turned to my old, weather beaten camper, and became transfixed.

Some daring thief arrived in the black night and with a wide brush, laid waste to my little home in brightly hued colors of glyphs, symbols and maps. I smiled, walked once around the perimeter taking it all in, then walked inside and made a pot of coffee.

57      58

Mirabella

I am old and the story I have to tell is older. Old as humans themselves perhaps, being one of love found, lost, than found again in such a way all true love is. By the ways, by the means, by the yearnings of an all too human heart.

The year is inconsequential, as is a date or even a time. Suffice it to say only that it is in the future and that humans are, well, still human. And of humans, there is one central to this story, so let us look in on his present life.

A man alone, a sailor of rocket ships across great voids. Searcher, seeker, explorer, all these things he is and more to be. Yet he remains a man alone for there are no others among the great sanitized decks and galleys as this gleaming sphere transcends stars and worlds without the slightest drop in momentum. She is headed home and there will be no further foolishness to hinder her run to earth and fresh oxygen, green trees and other people.

Before a grand portal, a viewport to the stars, stands this man, watching out over a hundred million points of light, not one really his.

Why he is here on this ship, on this journey, alone, is of no concern to us, other than to note, once it was not this way. That years ago this ship teamed with life, with families; mothers, fathers and their children. Working, playing, and being all too human.

No longer, now there was only loneliness. An eternal silence that suffocated this man into acts of desperation and irresponsibility. Emotions that possessed this human to send propulsion units into a cycle they were not designed to operate within. He did not mind, knowing full well the danger. The only thought was to reach earth long before his sanity gave way or he would die trying.

These are his thoughts then, his concerns as he stands, head hung with chin resting on chest, standing before the portal as days turn artificial day back to artificial night. All that he had needed to do, had been done. Left now was time, to stand, hope and watch stars pass by.

With interior lights dimming, the stars seem to grow brighter, illuminating a hundred thousand, thousand, brothers, and sisters, so let us look outside this speeding globe.

There, just behind, can you see a faint prick of light? No, not there. This one, the bluish speck. See how effortlessly it moves to catch up? Indeed, no match in speed is evident here, for look the light has caught its prey. Circling, searching, perhaps wondering what this strange world is.

I know that this is no mere speck of light, no simple illumination, it indeed is not! Know that as fish inherit the waters of earth, birds the skies and humans the earth, this is a creature of the cold voids. One which needs not air to breath or fire for warmth. She is as home in the voids as we are not. It is where she lives, where she belongs. Here, between worlds is where she evolved and where she must forever live.

Gods do not dictate otherwise.

She sees the man from the other side of the viewport. He cannot see her. Curiosity, she is curious as she watches what she does not comprehend. In all her travels, she has seen nothing such as this. Great worlds she has seen rise and fall, but always from cold, great distances, never participating.

Now, inches away, there is nothing separating the two but metallizied glass. How she wants to reach out to touch, to feel, to say that she is here.

Knowledge of death forbids such insanity, curbing such foolish actions, for she knows she will die in the warmth of the strange world. She has heard stories of those who attempted such a thing, and are never seen forevermore.

Could it be she is foolish or insane, as her thoughts are set? She will do what she needs to do. Perhaps, she too is simply lonely.

Loosely planted feet are uprooted by a gust of cold that pushes itself into the warmth of his environment. Quickly catching him off guard, freezing molecules do not surround him, they penetrate him, rushing through him with such great speed his body is tossed back. Falling, he cannot breath and for an instant, as hands reach to clutch his heart, a thought of a past day. When as a child he ventured out in the midst of a cold winter day and the hardness of breath sent him scurrying back to the warmth of a crisp fire. As winter cold was a thousand memories old, so too was it as warmth and security returned. Flat on his back, regaining a semblance of former self, he heard a groan from behind and he broke his stare on the bulkhead

Fear is a result of disbelief, of some one thing being where it is not supposed to be. Yet there remains a sense that if it is there, it may well be it is intended to be there all the while.  What remains, is a question of what one expects, and often what one expects, seldom gives birth to a desired reality.

Disbelief of the impossible. It could not be and the man lost his fear as he understood that the loss of his mind was at hand. There was, could not be any other explanation for the presence of a naked woman. Lying in a fetal position, whimpering like a newborn pup, she was drenched in sweat on the cold, hard floor of his ship, of his world, of his home.

It could not be!

But it was.

Time in the form of fleeting seconds and eternal minutes, healed the wound of disbelief. Because there was no other thing to do, the man found a blanket, an old tattered one, from some odd place and wrapped the women in a cocoon, then gently picked her up to lay her across the room in the confines of a large, plush couch.

Her eyes fluttered, mind stirred and did not recognize what she had become. Long, thin appendages, a narrow vision field and touch, smells, and sound all at once, all too much, almost. But again with time she grew accustomed to her human form, yet she did not understand what had happened. This was unexpected, not supposed to be. Of all what she thought would be, this was not one.

What was this strange substance this life form gave her, this man who hovered over her, sat by her, and made her feel strange. Strange in the belly; warm, full and strong. And as strength came, so too did an understanding of what had happened, not fully, barely enough to guess.

The man would talk of things she had no knowledge, even so, she listened. Much of the time not understanding. Words she knew, for she was a quick, but the words drew no picture, illustrated no certain point and this bothered her.

He had rambled. Knowing he had done so, he struggled to return to the point he desired to make andwas caught off guard when she quietly asked a question. Her first words, so quietly spoken, almost went unnoticed.

How strange the look on his face. How lost for answers to a question he had asked so many times over the period of his life. There were no words to form, no simple answer to who he was, and all he could do, was to repeat the question back to her.

Such as strange things are, a smile crossed her lips. A smile whose sincerity was reflected deep within cool blue eyes that birthed satisfaction. Satisfaction that for all she had been through, this smile made it all worth her while.

Stranger yet, he responded with a smile of his own and it surprised him. And there was satisfaction with him as well in that he was still capable of that simple human emotion. One which he had not felt for what seemed and probably had been, several years.

From those smiles grew friendship. With days passing into weeks and turning to months, they came to know each other. To know and not to fear, but to appreciate, to trust and to depend on the other. In this time which was theirs, they talked. Her of her life, of her race. She spoke howthey once roamed the galaxies in a multitude of numbers, yet now few remained. In human words, she explained why she had made her decision, from a sense she now knew as desperation, to move into the ship, to be a part of his life. Hers had been one of isolation, of watching worlds rise and fall, of watching lives she could never be a part of. She could only view from the depths of the ocean, always alone, never participating.

From all this, a great desire to be a part of something, of someone had forced her decision to move into the ship. Apparently her actions were too swift, she had pressed too hard against the viewport, entering with too much momentum and energy. She was unable to stop and instead had passed through the man in the space of his thought. It had been long enough for the unexpected to happen, to gather enough genetic information to become what she truly wanted to become, but did not believe she could.

When she was finished, exhausted, her turn was to rest and to listen as he began with his childhood, his dreams, his aspirations. The reasons he had chosen this life. How hundreds had begun this mission, how they all had chosen to stay behind to colonize their new found world, and he could not bear to do so. All others had families. Those who had been single, found mates, married and bore children and he had thought of himself as an outsider, alone, and bereft of companionship. ‘That was no one’s fault, just the way it had worked out’, he explained.

So he choose the rigors of a prolonged journey back to earth, even though home offered nothing more than what he had left behind. He harbored hope though, in a possibility of finding a wife. Perhaps even someday there could be children.

Words flowed into forming attachments between both, continuing weeks passed into months and even years. From their words grew actions. Cuddling, touching, holding hands and eventually gentle kisses. They each had come to care for the other and without expectation, fell in love.

But their love was too simple, uncontested and therefore could not be pure. True, each had suffered at their own hands, yet not at the hand of the other and for their love to survive, it must transcend individual actions. And being in love, they had no knowledge of what must be. This blindness, this ignorance of what love requires allowed both a chance that of innocence allowed. Few, including you and I have had such luck

All things, good and bad, end. Men die, women grow old, worlds collide, societies crumble, childre
n are born, and it all begins again.

As the sphere approached earth, there were thoughts to be said, things to be done and decisions to be made.

She could not survive on earth. She knew this in the manner that a man knows that without food, he will wither and die. That without air to fill their lungs, man will perish in agony. She suspected life in this form had been possible due to the small amounts of radiation that continually seeped into the spheres hull. Enough that she had been able to feed upon it. Upon earth, there was not sufficient energy to survive.

He too realized this when she spoke of her concern.

Agony and desire are twofold. Choices are never simple and are many times motivated by unrealized desires. His desire was not strong, not burning to return to his homeland.  For what reason he choose to do, escaped logic.

So it was made! A choice to return home even though his soul knew it was wrong. And he likened his choice to a moth attracted by a light that served no purpose to the moth but to end its life. There was not much difference.

A quiet, all too human and somber mood permeated the shuttle bay. He
, ready to begin his life anew. She, ready to return to surfing the particle waves of the void, and a life of loneliness.

But she would remember.

They embraced, kissed, and said good-bye with tears in their eyes and the heaviest of hearts. As he pulled away, turning to the craft for his decent toward green grass trampled by a billion lives, she called out his name, telling him, that if he ever needed her, all he need do was call her name from the cold blackness of space and she would hear. No matter in what galaxy, what system she was in, she would hear and she would come.

Speaking such, she walked from the room to return to what was her world.

He too, returned to his, to lives which were not his, to those who he could not understand as his life was now elsewhere. He had found that which was a part of him and let it go. Understand, he knew this from the moment she had left, but had not admitted it, and if he had, paid no attention.

Thus it was on a chilled, starry, spring-filled night he stood upon a hilltop in the lush countryside, looking to a night sky and back to a past he found hard to believe.

Where was she?

Would she really come?

And his decision was made, out of faith and a realization of what the truth was.

Because of this, this human found himself, again alone in a shuttle headed into the depths of spac
e. This time in a ship woefully inadequate for such a journey but that concern was not a consideration.

From the moment he had breached the planets atmosphere, he had called her name. She had not came, but he knew she would, only time was a question.

Now he stood in the pressure lock, the shuttles oxygen supply depleted, wearing a heavy, bulky suit. Opening the air lock, the man pushed himself out into the weightlessness of space. Around him, our sun and distant stars, with their planets and pockmarked little moons danced and played out their lives. He was not alone.

With his last breath fast approaching, he held no fear. He still knew she would come.

Out of air, the man gasped and unlocked his helmet to send it spiraling away. His last breath was of cold, deep space and with that last breath, he called out her name.

And she was there, as he had been there for her.

The First Angel

first angel
Only God Forgives, sometimes.

 

Deep in thought, involved in his defense, the angel was shackled to an outcrop of cliff overlooking a deep blue ocean covered by a pale azure sky whose only blemish was a small punctuation of the sun that hovered just above the distant horizon. He raised his right hand and pondered  the iron anchor wrapped around his wrist and wondered how far the chain was buried in the earth, then turned back to his defense.

He had spoken the truth to no avail. His words had fell on deaf ears throughout the long ordeal and he knew truth was not a defense that would save his status. But if not the truth, then what remained?  Whatever words were left to speak, would not be enough to sway the coming judgment for his behavior.

I cannot accept this, that I have came to be thus. Chained and denied, rendered impotent. 

His majestic white feathered wings shuddered in the thought and a swell of rage surged like an ocean tide. He lifted his head toward the pale sky and uttered a muted curse, an insurance to keep it hidden. He had cursed openly in the past, and in fact, that had been how the ordeal had begun, with his curses directed at those who wore the Grace of God in such undeserving fashion. Those small minded human creatures that knew nothing of the God they followed, who violated every commandment given, and expected to sit next to God in this life. Next to God, in his place.

He could not formulate a  defense other than a series of inglorious excuses because he did not understand.

What am I missing? It cannot be that God values these creatures more than I.

 No defense, not even a shard of a broken coin to bargain with. All that was left was to rebuke God for his behavior, to remind his father that it was He, who held blame for the long ordeal which split Heaven asunder. The angel knew to rebuke and accuse would do no good, it had never done any good, even when all he had demanded was a simple answer.

Off on the horizon, the same Sun that came and went throughout the lives of all humans, remained constant here in his world, never venturing more than just above the endless water. Ever present, but dim and shallow, a far cry from earth and Heaven alike.

Forever dim, never ascending, as the sun, so too, am I

 His thought was interrupted  by a sensed presence behind. It’s time, and the first angel turned to face God, not ready, not willing to accept what was to come, but understanding there was no choice.

A strong, warm breeze swept over his features and swept his long, brown hair back over his broad shoulders just as he turned. As quickly as it came, the gust disappeared leaving a disquiet stillness that was amplified a thousand fold by the human standing before him.

What foolishness this way comes.

 Naked, with fat stomach, ruddy, ugly face and short cropped, dirty blond hair, the human stood on thin, spindly legs and stared at him with the same vigor and intent he himself viewed the human.

“What manner of insult in this?” the first angel asked, not of the human, but of God, in a loud voice reinforced with severe disgust.

“Why am I an insult?” the human asked, quietly.

He fought his rage and demanded of himself the one thing he must forever possess, a sense of patience and control over all his sensibilities. The long ordeal could not have produced this, his behavior over the past eons could not lead here, where his father would forsake his being and send a human to voice judgment. And yet he continued to reel in rage but somehow managing to subdue that which was clearly evident. To even acknowledge the presence of the human was an unforgiving insult and his thought was to turn away. Again, there was no choice.

“To even ask marks your question as answered.” the angel answered and lifted his bound arm as evidence, “Your ignorance bears evidence of deserved insult.”

The ugly fat man remained unmoved, his facial expression unchanged, and said, again quietly, “A question asked, a question remains. Just as you condemn your father because you lack clarity in your understanding of his ways, you condemn me for my ignorance in comprehending why you are insulted by my presence.”

There existed a thought, quick and fluent, to draw the human near, to lure him close and then throttle him with the chain. That would quell the rage, and why not, his fate had been sealed. He settled his wings in a non aggressive posture and turned his angry, pouting expression into a hint of a welcoming smile.

“Perhaps it is time, to talk. Assuredly, to do so speaks of my only defense on behalf of my actions.” Satan answered with a twist to his smile as the human came close to set and converse. “Tell me human, where is it you desire to rest here in this world?” and beckoned the ugly man to set on a boulder next to where his chain disappeared deep into the earth.

Suspecting nothing, the human sat on the flat topped stone next to the first angel and looked out over the water. “My desire has always been to be one with God.” the human answered, pride evident in his tone. “My life has been one of tired agony,” he offered, “and I wish for nothing except what Heaven will bring, an eternal peace in the presence of my Lord”.

Satan smiled down at the man who held a steady gaze over the ocean. In one rapid gesture, he wrapped the chain once around the mans neck and yanked with enough force to end his life. Satan untangled his bond from the human and scooped him up with both arms, and then lifted the heavy human high above his head and quickly discarded the human over the cliff and into the ocean.

A great calmness overcame the angel. He had been right, the death of the human had quieted his rage yet something was different. The small dull sun was gone and darkness was sweeping toward him from the horizon. Carried in the darkness were flames that carried no light and below, the ocean churned and boiled. Indeed, the very ground upon which he stood, chained and bound, was scorched and started to belch forth a foul, ungodly smell.

There was to be no defense, no redemption for who he was or what he had done.

 

57

moonhiway
On a hot July night, the moon was full and I found myself stranded aside a two lane blacktop in the middle of some Texan sand. A lot of Texan sand. A lonely, desolate place where the eerie silence of the night was evidenced by the discreet howl of some old coyote sharing their loneliness. I had quit walking, thought about wandering off a few feet into the sands of the the Texan desert with the thought of catching some sleep till the sun rose blistering hot. I remember the old man’s warning though and didn’t. Didn’t wanna be caught sleeping by some large sand predator and drug away for their children’s morning morsel. I still had too much to do, but at the moment wasn’t doing much of anything except hoping a ride would come along. Preferably, some pretty lil lady in a 66 Mustang that was tired of driving. That woulda been cool, cruising that horse under the moon on that hot damn and straight asphalt. Course, you know that didn’t happen.

Do you know what did?

Now, ya all know me, and know that I’ve told a fib or two in my long and tendered life, but no one knows me as a straight up liar. Do you? So there’s no reason to doubt what I’m going to say next, simply because it’s so strange and alluring, it can only be, always will be, the gods honest truth of the matter.

The wind came up. Not cruel and strong like some storm, but like a womens breath on the nape of your neck. Like when your women cuddles up to your backside as you’re drifting off to sleep. Sweetness, and security. And just like when your womans sleeping, cuddled, and she mumbles something and you think you hear your name, least you think it was, I heard a womens voice come riding in on that breath. A mumbled voice that I strained to hear, believing the quietness of the night was playing thoughtful tricks on the rough edges of my gray matter.helfer

Riding the breaking waves of sand across the asphalt, I heard my name come clear. Clear enough that it rode the length of my spine, leaving my hair standing straight and hard. Now I’m an intelligent man, strong and steady, fast and sure of foot and not given to flights of fear. Smart enough to also know there were dangers walking about in the dark, in that desert night, under the fool moon. The kind of danger that didn’t necessary leave any footprints in the Texas sand, no more than if they were walking across the ocean. Smart enough to raise an eyebrow, look around and pay attention.

A desert owl hooted in flight, defined by bright mother moon and some desert creature scurried across the grains of sand, not knowing time had ran out. In the light of the moon, I saw the owl dive to it’s catch and than saw the women off in the distance, murkey and dark, walking my way, calling my name. Funny thing is, when I saw that demon women coming my way with my name written on her lips, all I could think about is the time my daddy took me camping up in the green jungles of Minnesota. The time we came across a bear, better, the time a black bear, a big un, came across us. Just like then, I was tempted to do as my daddy had said, fall to the ground and play like you’re dead. Be still, be quiet. Worked for me then, not so much for daddy, mostly because he had a loud and obnoxious smokers cough.

So I stood there, quelling my fear forcing it back down my spine and that was a mean feat of accomplishment all on it’s own as that woman came my way. Wasn’t more than a honest couple of dozen steps before I could make out she was tall, lithe, had long dark hair and great big almond shaped eyes and nekkid to boot. Now my wife will tell you I’m a real man, but on this night, on this night, I was the scaredest little cow puppy in all the state of Texas and Louisiana combined.

Thing is, looking back, I wasn’t scared of the women. All she was, was a women I ‘member thinking, but she was nekkid, and it was dark, and the moon was full, and the damn coyote howled, and it was hot, and she was nekkid as she came to stand just a few feet away, sultry, with full breasts and nice shapely hips calling to a full hot blooded man. I was wanting to do nothing but turn and run, than thought of the small desert rat who just recently found his end, as dinner on a table set for one.

I would be no such dinner.

She took a step closer, another and then placed her palm across my cheek. Her voice was like a shot of tequilla in that it caught your attention abruptly,  and her breath carried the spice of desert dunes. One word, was all she said, my name,  and than she pressed her lips against mine and love was made in the hot desert night and lost before it had ever found it’s way home. A thousand Arabian nights don’t come close to one night in a Texas desert under a fool moon with a nekkid women with large almond eyes.

I awoke just before the sun broke over the horizon, as the fool and wholesome moon was setting, to a dazzling display of colored lights hovering mid air, above my prone and sore, and wholly nude self. Knowing that what had happened, had happened, but not knowing what had happened I watched the lights dance and move in utter regard, when they quickly coalesced into a singly bright object and shot off toward the setting desert moon, leaving me nekkid in the breaking morning sun.Image1

When I sat up, a tattered scrap of paper fell from my chest and as I stared at it, I understood it was meaningless. Meaningless just as the night had been. I had no idea, not a clue to all the strange gibberish and uncontemplated symbols that were scrawled across the old piece of paper, withered like the desert itself.

Least-ways not till today, forty years later, and it’s why, by the time you read this, I’ll be back, standing at that same spot, under a fool moon, with coyotes and owls, waiting for my wife and son to return, as promised in her note, to give me a grand tour of the universe.

…and I just heard my name on whispered breath.

 

Anna Provoda

IMG_4471With infinite heart and boundless soul, I love the spring and I shall never be accorded such to love so full again. If there in truth exists a God, he has given no mercy, answered no prayer nor soothed this tortured angel. In all his countenance, I alone am lost. But it is not God I blame, for how could God understand the depth of my heart when I allowed my love to blossom beyond immortal comprehension. Here lies then, the truth, I am alone to blame.

Only in the throes of Juliet’s passion have others known what I have known. That to find along one’s path a fallen star, brings only tragedy multiplied by a thousand courses of a thousand each, to those who stop to dally with that which does not belong aside the road.

Yet I gladly suffer the obscene. A thousand, thousand lesser loves I would again sacrifice for the greater love and coming loss. No love in all of human nature equals the forbidden sensitivity of my breast, the lightness of my thoughts nor enables flight of my soul.

In regards, I have but two sentiments. The first is of little consequence yet like a wasp, the danger flirts. Will it be that I shall be obliged to Hell for my love and all that is yet to arrive. Will it be that which I suffer through now, shall pale when set aside the dutiful agony of Satan’s domain. No matter the involved danger, grant me but one thought, a fleeting second among that demons rule every now and then, and I shall bear the pain. Perhaps with little ease, but I shall bear it. And if there is to be not that single thought, if that even is denied my soul, than it matters not for I truly have died. In this, I have no say, so the consequence is small and I care less, for their punishment is of no avail other than for amusement. My very soul will have ceased.


Yet I entertain the devil in a fashion that all this was his doing. That he, knowing the finality, gave us each other. If true, what could I ask of God? What guidance would he have advised, for surely any consul would be far to late.

In this matter, the truth I know is this, my concern is small. These are things beyond my life. In them, you will find no handiwork of my own design.

Of a higher regard, one which questions my every thought, I only ask that those who have carried the weight of traveling this far, judge me with compassion. It is you who will give my life worth, you who must judge and supply innocent or guilt. Indeed, you must do so! This is my foundation for worth. To what corners of clouded thought I go, is of little value. In your condemnations or your applause, will I live. If only you were able to sample a portion of how I loved, your conscription of my life into history would be gentle. I think not so. Rather, I believe your verdicts will be swift and cold, like a stone over which cold water flows. Would I myself, do less?IMG_4483

In all these musings, do you find a voice of regret? I wish you interpret not one solitaire word as such. I say it now clearly, I regret only my loss. My heart carries no misgivings to my actions yesterday or those to arrive with the morning sun. Nor am laden with sorrow in how I am to be judged.

With each fleeting second, my strength follows behind, wagging it’s tail. Time is no longer of essence. I have said what must be done. That which remains is nothing more than a canvass to diddle, to scrawl as a child when bored. Surely, the night remains even in the complexities of this morning light.

I fight for words, thoughts are slow, wandering in bits and pieces. One simple thought no longer part of the whole.

I returned to the beginning and my thoughts on that cool winter day bring pleasure. Not because of what my words say, much more so as to what they do not talk of. How could I have known then of the happiness which would follow?

Pleasure flies in the window and lites like a butterfly. The joy exists not only in the event, perhaps more in the memory.

The Honesty of Death

wp hod

The old man lay on his bed. Blindly, his eyes were cast upward as if reading the dimples of the low hanging ceiling tiles. Curtains had earlier been pulled shut in order to inhibit the wanton
penetration of afternoon sun. Next to the bed, to the old mans right, was placed a nightstand which was the foundation for nothing more than an unused blue, plastic pitcher.

At the foot of this bed rested a metal framed dining room chair with padding applied over the seat and across its back. And to the old mans left, there was another bed, this one dressed in a sterile fashion with not a crease to be found. That bed, had given up its occupant some days earlier and now waited for a new arrival. Across from this sterile space, tucked away neatly into a very small closet, sat a wheelchair, folded as if it were an accordion which was never used. Its velcro straps hung down over huge, rear wheels appearing well out-of-place in the order of things.

A dark, small, bare room with a dying old man.

He knew he was dying!

In a brief moment of conscience, he had once heard a nurses retort that “it was just a matter of time” as she walked in on daily rounds, checking pulse and respirations.

Actually, taking note of those who were still alive and those who were not.

“Indeed, a matter of time.” he had thought.

And even if he had not heard, he knew.

But none of this mattered, for as the old man lay dying, perhaps with a dribble of spittle working its way out and down one side of his mouth, or lying in urine stenched sheets that would not be changed until a nurse came by on her rounds, he, himself, was lost in the transit of time. During a twenty-four hour period, there would be at best,only a few minutes of true cognizant thought in which he not only knew, but understood as well, that his life would soon be over. Yet, in the time frame of a single thought, this old man would slip back into his past.

His life had been …

**

The tall skinny kid wearing baggy jeans which were half hidden by an over sized, white tee-shirt, was in the thick of the fight.

Along with a dozen other kids of various size and ages, he was covered from head to foot in mud. No big deal here tho’, he had thrown more than his own fair share. Their fun was evidenced plainly by the shrieking sounds of laughter along with fits of giggles bordering on lines of hysteria, punctuated only by a scream to “plaster that kid there or get this one here”.

From behind the skinny one, a mud ball zipped through the air, unseen by its victim. Changing its shape as it moved along a straight line course, losing much of its mud which had been loosely packed, revealing a core of solid rock that struck the skinny boy squarely in the back of his head, knocking him to his knees while also opening an inch long gash that flooded his white tee-shirt in blood.

Silence.

Except for the receding footsteps of the other children, there were only whimpers of a skinny, mud-caked, bloodstained little boy who finally found, if not the strength, then the courage to pick himself up and start out for a home, which he also knew would be empty as his heart.

As he walked, the boy removed his tee-shirt, applying it to his wound with as much pressure such a slender frame could afford.

Again, the boy began to sob, but not from a physical pain but with a pain of being alone to suffer alone. A pain, such as that a child is unable to understand, in turn, causing this pain to intensify even more so.

By the time this skinny boys’ mother arrived home, she found her son, still bloodstained and encased in mud, sitting in front of their television set with a wet towel wrapped around his head.

Only the physical pain still existed, for either by a conscience or subconscience act, he had eliminated all traces of emotional pain.

It simply had been easier to eliminate the emotion then to suffer through it.

**

The young man who held his wife’s’ hand as she lie in the hospitals’ birthing room was considered a man in a biological sense alone. In truth, after twenty-seven years, he still remained a boy. Arings simple boy who had taken on a complex facade of manhood. There was a home, a well-paying job, his wife and soon there would be a child to round out the picture. All, as far as he was really concerned, superficial responsibilities. They were things he needed for acceptance and following that, there was no loyalty to such values or concepts behind such a thing as a home.

Being such as it was, it was often that a house payment, car payment or grocery’s were skipped to fulfill some desire in him. Sometimes it was only a bag of pot, other times it might be a new television or stereo.

It went beyond irresponsibility.

Note also that they were his things, not hers, his wife’s Further note, that when she did receive some “thing”, it was an item he had bought. Now, as this boy sat holding his wifes1 hand, he wond­ered if he might have been ignorant to the fact that his world was about to change. No, he had thought about it and he knew their lives would change with the birth of their first child. “Well”, he thought, “at least it would change hers.” As he looked over towards her face, he knew it was near time and he began to have second thoughts about remaining in the birthing room when a nurse backed into the room carrying a tray of instruments.

The boy watched from his wife’s own vantage point, still holding her hand and wiping her brow when he thought she needed it. In a very abrupt manner, the nurse commented in a tone that sent a nervous glance between husband and wife. She had broken her water and dilated to just under seven centimeters.

Active labor was well under way and so was the doctor.

A crescendo of rising and ebbing screams, voices telling when to push mingled with sounds telling her to breathe in or out pervaded through-out the room. Amidst all this, the boy looked down, himself in pain as his wife now held his hand as if she were some creation of an ancient goddess sent to earth to punish her males by affixing a forged vice to their hands, therefore keeping them out of places they did not belong.

The boy found he was growing uncomfortable and suddenly he needed to turn his head away from the birth. In doing so, he heard the doctor encourage his wife on and with this, a small grin appeared for the instant reminded him of a troop of cheerleaders encouraging their team on to victory.

In the very next second, a virgin cry broke into his thought, revitalizing an atmosphere that had gone stale from the sweat of humans in labor When the boy turned to look upon his new child, he breathed in this air, he noticed their doctor was handing him a set of surgical scissors. Moving up and over, he took the instrument, cutting the boys lifeline to his mother between to yellow, plastic clamps.

Doing so, a deep sense of curiosity arose in him. A curiosity not of what their future might hold, but a curiosity of life in general. And in a small way, for the first time in this boys life, he felt like a man.

**

The natural air had been sweetened with the smell of marijuana. A twenty-one inch television flickered in the darkness of the small room, its changing images in turn cast changing shadows. A figure of a man could be made out, lying on a couch as if he were watching.

But he was not.

He lay lost in his own personal, dark fantasies.

Clarity is for those who exist in a clarified world.

Reeling off images, he watched as an outsider as a man who clearly was not identifiable, hung his head over a kitchen sink which was recognized. Watching, he saw the images weight was supported by his arms, one of each placed on opposite sides of the sink. Slowly, the figure raised his head to stare at the blank wallpaper as if here consigned to a destiny he wanted no part of. Taking his right hand off the sinks edge, he moved it down to open a drawer. Reaching in, he immediately found what was needed without even the benefit of a glance.

Picking up the long, silver butcher knife, he studied it as he ran a flat edge over his left fore and middle finger. Hesitantly, his image moved past the opened drawer, the knife in hand, hanging below his waist, just slightly behind his buttocks. Stopping, he peered around the corner of the kitchen, out into a living room where a women sat in a recliner. Knowing that with her backs to him, it would be easy. Abruptly, his field of vision focused on a small child lying asleep on the floor, his hands tucked behind his head with both feet propped up on the bottom ledge of the TV tray.

Just as abruptly, the image faded as the man who lay on his couch sat up, wiping the thick sweat from his face. Knowingly, he had once again transgressed boundaries he himself had set. This transgression bothered him. These fantasies, flourished in their evil which he thought impossible to other normal human beings. He began to question his own normalcy, to fight with his sanity. It had taken a major effort to realize that he had become lost in his fantasy and then return to a sense of reality.

Again, he questioned his own sanity, wondering how much longer he could control his own private demons. With all honesty, he wanted, he needed, he had to. And as he laid back into the comfort of his couch, he knew he would,

no matter the cost.

**

The man sat behind a desk in a swivel chair, smoking a briar pipe while he waited for his clients response.

His client was a tall, slender man who stood looking out his counselors office window. Turning to face his psychologist, he asked just what he meant when he had asked if “I really wanted to save my marriage”.

Leaning back in his chair, he gave his left cheek a scratch through a short-cropped, dark beard. Removing his pipe, he then lean forward and tapped his pipe on a clear corner of his, otherwise, paper laden desk.

“David” cuddling his pipe in his hand as he spoke, “do you want to save your marriage because you love your wife and children or is it because you think your expected to try.”

Jumping up to sit on the ledge of the window behind him, David lit up a filtered cigarette and asked, no, told this doctor of psychology, psychiatry or whatever the hell he was that he was “full of shit”. That he made it sound as if there was a choice involved…”And in the long run, I’ve got two kids to think about, so it’s not a question of what I want or what others expect me to do, it’s a question of whats the best thing to do for everybody involved, regardless of how I feel about it”.

“And how do you feel about it”?

With silence, David got up and walked over to the desk where he simply dropped his lit cigarette into a large glass ashtray, not bothering to snuff out the glowing tip of tobacco. Turning, he walked towards the only exit, stopping just short, he again turned to look at the man who remained seated.

“You know, I sometimes wonder about your fucking intelligence Charles, I mean, I’ve been coming down here and telling you how I feel for the last year and you have to fucking ask.”

With that, David walked out the door, past a Secretary and out into the cold winter afternoon. Instinctively, his slender body braced against the fortitude of the cold. Tossing the cold to the back of his mind, David thought just how much of a joke everything had seemed to become. Navigating patches of ice on his way to his car, he wondered aloud just how crazy it all was and then in a long deep sigh, if one had actually been close enough to hear, “if they only knew.” and again, this time moving his head from one side to another, “if they only knew”.

**

The man paced nervously across a purple carpet of a newly remodeled gate lounge. The smell of the newness was still in the air and the man first became aware of it as he glanced down at his wristwatch, followed by a glance to the large wall clock. Not sure of his own reliability, he quickly walked out of the area over to an attendant clerk to ask if his flight was on time.

Being assured it was, the man then moved on through the long gates, watching nothing in particular. Finding a spot, he watched planes as they landed or left, watching and trying to remember how long it had been since he had seen his oldest son. About seven years he thought, since Davie jrs. graduation. “Christ, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long.” Yet he did believe it and accept it. His oldest child was no longer a kid. Finishing college, David had gone on to get married and established himself in a well-paying career. Still, the man found it hard to believe, “Perhaps”, he thought,”because I really don’t feel any older”.

There was an inherent curiosity on this mans part, as a father he desperately wanted to see how his son had grown, how he carried himself, walked and talked. Further, the father needed to know what, how his son thought. Needed to have some insight into his sons ambitions, his ideologies. All this was as important to the father as they were to the man they belonged to.

Breaking his concentration, he again looked at his Timex. Once more he checked his time against the airports, this time pulling a Marlboro from his flannel shirt, flicking his lighter, his attention was caught by a central loudspeaker that barely rose above the volume soft murmurs which accompanied a dozen or so others, who also waited in the same lounge.

The father swallowed, then proceeded to light his cigarette as he moved over to a large window, allowing for a panoramic view of the runways. Watching as the plane landed, producing short squirts of smoke from its tires as it touched down, the man briefly felt sorrow that he had never flown. Slowing, the plane grew larger as it reached the gate, coming to a full stop near a ramp used for access.

The man, this father, watched as one by one, couple by couple, all the passengers disembarked. A slight smirk crossed his face as he was reminded of Noah’s ark. How it must feel to reach your destination, relieved of their confinement.

With the flood of passengers resolving itself into a trickle, the father had not yet found his son. Turning, he scanned through the crowd which had dispersed throughout the terminal.

“Perhaps” he thought, “I missed him”. It faded quickly as he knew better.

His son had not came.

Sorrow and loneliness seeped down, wrapping themselves around the core of the father. For the first time in a very long time, tears began to swell up, carrying the same weight as a battery of welts inflicted along the breadth and width of his back.

**

Looking into a mirror, he stroked his mustache and then ran his fingers through
his hair. Doing so, he liked the way his gray had grown in to mix with his sandy brown hair. Tilting his head, he went back to stroking his mustache, thinking back to the day when he had first began to grow it. What was he, fifteen, at best sixteen. Oh how he had nurtured it.

He had had it ever since.

Laughing, he picked up his Norelco and while popping up the beard trimmer, he wondered how he could actually do this. It was much the same as cutting ones right arm off. And as he wondered, he shaved.

Placing his razor on the sink, the eyes studied the face in the mirror and immediately decided the wrong thing had been done. Rubbing, pinching the
smooth skin between his thumb and forefinger, he knew without doubt he would never shave it off again. There seemed to be just too much of an identity loss. As if he would be incapable to communicate with the stranger in the mirror.

Besides, he felt he looked stupid.

After tossing a washcloth into the sink, he walked out into his bedroom where a woman lay asleep. Walking over, he sat next to her torso, shaking her shoulders until she exhibited some semblance of sobriety after a long night of whiskey waters. With no great amount of passion, he briefly let her know he was leaving for work.

Walking out of the room, he muttered under his breath, “…And thanks a lot for breakfast, hon”.

**

Exceptionally beautiful days are tended with passion in a land where long winters tear into a populace with little mercy.

“Not a cloud in the sky” the man was thinking. Standing on a well-kept beach, he wore jeans with holes in both knees and a tattered green tee-shirt, the kind with a pocket over its left breast. In his right hand, he held a plastic cup,full if not minus a sip or two.

From behind him, he heard a voice call his name. A voice he recognized even after all these years. Stunned, he continued to look out over the horizon, perhaps in a vain refusal to recognize the voice as real. Finally he turned to face a never forgotten past. As he stared at the small, trim woman, he became aware of his loss for words. Exhaling a breath of air, he found it hindered as he forced his first wife’s name out with it.

“Marie.”

“God it’s good to see you again, Marie, but what the hell are you doing here?”

“I…just had some time on my hands and decided, well, to come home for a couple of days.” Pausing, Marie then added, “It’s good to see you too David.”

Walking up to Marie, he stood silent and then in a whisper, “It really is good to see you.”

Around them, people were gathering in small groups, others were milling about. Some were seated at a couple of picnic tables. All, it seemed were engaged in some sort of conversation while nursing their beers along. Marie and the man had made their way over to a keg of Pabst, kept cold in an old garbage can full of ice.

Amid this summer tranquility, two old friends walked along a stretch of beach, talking, and then returning to the party to await their turn at the keg. Periodically, their privacy would be interrupted by another, but never for long enough to distract them from their memories.

And they talked of their lives, they laughed over their good times. Remembering, there was the birth of their children, their old Chevy that started on the coldest of winter mornings but had a heater that never seemed to work. There was this old friend, that old friend. They wondered what had ever happened to them.

Somehow, the pain of those days had been set aside.

So the day went on, ending when the man stood alone as Marie gave him a gentle kiss and then climbed into her car. Watching as she backed out the driveway, he felt mixed feelings. Joy, that she had found happiness in her second marriage, more children and above all, close ties to all that was around her. There was also a deep sense of jealousy that lie next to his joy. A jealousy he did not quite fathom. Perhaps her gain was through his loss.

Walking over to find no one around the keg, he flipped the black tap handle letting the beer run freely into his cup. He was still occupied with his earlier years, this time in solitude.

“What had happened,” he wondered. And he knew the futility of the thought. He had asked it before and the answer was always the same.

It was not so much what he had wanted as opposed as to

what had to be, no matter the cost.

**

A woman walked into the motel room dressed in tight fitting jeans and a beige halter top. He lay back on the bed as the woman sat down beside him. Briefly, they talked about money, about what he wanted and for how long. The business done, she rose and slipped her halter top off over her head as he watched.

It had been a full year since the man had bothered to drive the long two hours to the capital city. Before that, he had made the trip frequently. Usually once, maybe twice a month if he had the funds in his savings account. Driving down, he would visit with old friends, drink and then walk the seedier streets of the capital. Walking the streets, he would duck into this strip joint or that one, looking for prostitutes. As a last resort, he would walk into the trampy, dirty little massage parlors that dotted his way.

In essence, it was for the women he made the trip. No, not only for the women, but also for this different, dirtier way of life. There was something in the degradation that a city this size could offer that a smaller town could not. There was also the sense of obscurity, that he could do, say anything and never be out of place.

In gravitating with these people who only came out in the night, there was a semblance of sympathy for the whores, the drunks and all the have-nots. As if they too had been lost from the normalcy of life.

But he was not one of them, he was…, better.

And as the woman straddled him, he wondered if she knew this.

**

The room was small. Too small for too many people. As the people filed in to fill rows of metal folding chairs, their elbows could not help but overflow to invade their neighbors privacy. As a result of this, from the back row it appeared as if everybody were in a constant state of agitation, shifting their weights from one side of the chairs to the other.

A gray-haired man in back was concentrating, not on what the minister was saying, but on two men who sat in the front row. Side by side, their heads bowed in silent respect and sorrow. Behind them, sat a young woman in tears that were hid by a handkerchief held in place by a black gloved hand.

Shifting his thoughts to his daughter, the gray haired man thought how beautiful his youngest child had grown. And married with small children of her own. A thought crossed his mind that her children were roughly the same age that their mother was when he had left. Further, he wondered if the opportunity would arise for an introduction of some sort to his grand-children. An out of place smile presented itself, he had not realized he had so many grand kids.

Abruptly, the minister’s voice broke off and the old man watched as the coffin was sealed.

Marie was really gone.

The thought weighed on his soul much heavier than he had expected.

Now there would be no more letters, no inside information to leak out details of what their children were doing in their lives. Periodically, since the reunion on the beach, she had written, once even, she had called.

That was all before. Now all contact would be lost. Yet he hoped to establish some contact, even if only a smile. Some source of acknowledgment from his children.
Later, the man sat at a card table sipping a Styrofoam cup of coffee, afraid to set it down on the white table cloth for fear of stains. From across the room, he watched his oldest son walk in his direction. As
the young man approached, apprehension took hold. The father rose and on a nervous impulse, extended his hand. The notion of a handshake was not reciprocated. The son pulled out a chair to the old mans opposite side, and sat. Slowly, the old man followed.

In a whispered voice and tone, the mans oldest son leaned forward and asked his father to leave.

Leaning forward himself, and he too in a whisper, asked, “I can do that David, but first, is that how you all feel or have you taken it on your own initiative to ask me to leave.” Clearly, the son was not enjoying this confrontation. “Dad….Dammit, I can’t call you that, I’m sorry, it doesn’t feel right” and in exasperation he added “Christ” and then shook his head.

The old father looked his son in his eyes and saw a void to wide to be bridged.

“My names David” he spoke softly. Rising from his chair, he stood across from his son who remained seated. “You know I waited for hours after your plane got in” and in a bare whisp­er, he added, “I couldn’t bring myself to go home alone but I understand you had your reasons. Your mother…, well, she pretty much explained everything to me.” Turning, he walked out the room, and as he did so he could have sworn he heard a sigh of relief from everyone in the room, including himself.

Where he had hoped to build, no, plant the beginnings of a bridge across the years, he had not done so.

**

An old man in wire rimmed glasses had just finished vigorously shoveling his front walk free of snow. He would not have bothered with doing so if it had not been for a postal regulation requiring a clear passage to all mailboxes

Looking over his handiwork, he then forcefully threw his snow shovel into the midst of a snow bank he had created. Watching the blade drive deep, he stared at it in silence as he thought of how it reminded him of a fantasy which he had many years before. Quickly, his demons were locked away.

Yes, this old man still had his demons, an evil part of his existence which he had fought with for the better part of his life. Now, they were kept in the abyss of his mind. And on the rare occasion when they broke free to the surface, they were quickly, easily overcome and driven back to the depths they inhabited.

Somehow, with Marie’s death some years back, the desire to delve deep into the evil he possessed, simply faded. His darkest fantasies had remained just that. He really felt he had won. Still watching his shovel, he noticed its wooden shaft slightly vibrating, pointing straight towards the heavens. A sly grin crossed his face as he thought about the last time he had, not an erection, but the opportunity to use it. Walking back up three steps to his front door, he felt a twinge of pain run up along his left arm. Not paying any attention to it, he reached out, opened his door and walked into his living room. Removing his heavy parka, he unbuttoned the front of a red flannel shirt to reveal a thermal undershirt. Fumbling with fingers that had never really grown used to carrying the burden of cold, he removed his glasses which were frosted over and wiped them clean, using a tail end of his flannel shirt. With his glasses off, he watched himself in a mirror, hung on the opposite wall. Stroking his thin silver hair back into place, he thought how ironic his mustache had remained full. Silver, but still full. He smiled about the time he had shaved it off.

Suddenly he felt tired, unable to catch a full supply of air. He realized he had to work to force his lungs to inflate. From behind, he became conscious of the mailman dropping his mail through the front slot of hmailis screen door.

Opening the door, still working at forcing his lungs to work, he bent over and picked up his mail. Sorting through the envelopes of assorted sizes, he rested his attention on one in particular. In the upper left hand corner there was an address with a simple heading which read “family”.

As he opened the letter, the pain in his arm came again.

This time not allowing him to pull the letter free, the pain arrived in a series of explosions deep in his chest. It was all the tired old man could do, to let go of the envelope and clutch at his heart. Collapsing, he fell against his screen door. Opening it with his weight, he then tumbled over the steps and onto his walkway. He lay there, in a semi conscious state. His heart fluttering and his vision fixed upon the envelope that had also fallen with him.

His letter had came to rest just out of his reach.

Rob Paxtons Website

Cafe Conversations at the End of the World

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I knew he had something in his thoughts, something he wanted to spit out. I stayed quiet, allowing him time. Funny, God needing time.

“Time is, always has been irrelevant, Rob.”

“How so?” I lifted my mug, let the coffee waft just under my nose, waiting.

“Time is nothing more than a tool. A tool to measure, and like any tool, when the job is done, the tool becomes irrelevant.”

I expressed my understanding with a simple “Ahhhhh” and took a long slug of my coffee.

“I’ve been thinking, Rob. Tell me, what are your thoughts on violence? Why was the species so violent?”

“Didn’t you give that to us as a basic survival trait?”

“I did, but I also gave you what I thought was the intelligence to spare the need for violent behavior when it wasn’t needed.”beard

God took a long slug of his own mug and looked out the café window. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was contemplating as the Universe sped by. He turned back to stare at me, “I can’t help but wonder if the violence stems from a rage and anger with me?”

I had been setting relaxed. Quickly, I furled my brow in a question, and sat my mug on the Formica, “Why would I be angry with you?” not quite understanding the question. The tank saw my cup resting and walked behind the counter for the decanter.

“Because most children foster an anger with their parents for one reason or another.”

“Most children outgrow that anger.”

God stroked his beard, nodded, “Perhaps you’re the child that never grew up.”

The battle ax poured my coffee, and interjected “For my two cents, I had a lot of fun mixing it all up.”

God smirked, “I suppose you did.” watching the waitress move on.

“Maybe it was something else, maybe it was just fear.” I said.

images“A scared little species, afraid and angry at everything. I could almost buy that.” God again looked away from the booth, out the window where a giant nebula was spouting light years of beautiful, colorful gases as if she were a lighted water fountain in the dark night. God started tapping his forefinger in rhythm to some music only he could hear, than stopped and returned to the conversation. “But I don’t. Being angry and scared isn’t good enough to account for an entire existence of war, corruption, and abuse directed toward not only yourselves, but the entire universe. There were others who were born angry and scared, but they grew up, they learned how to conquer their fear, how to address their anger, but you, you I don’t understand.”

“Interesting, I’m not necessarily angry or scared at the moment. I don’t remember living a life full of anger and fear, God.”

“Then why all the violence? Were you just too lazy to do the hard work and talk about solutions?”

“Lazy? We spanned our galaxy, we built something, accomplished something. We had our times of peace, we weren’t all lazy, angry and scared.”

God tilted his head in playful astonishment, “I’d say that what you built was a legacy of violence, made all the more disturbing by your inability to figure out why you were so violent.”

A little swell of that anger twisted my gut, and God smiled at that. I grimaced, and forced it away.images (1)

“That wasn’t all that hard, was it?” knowing a residual turn of the twist remained. “Perhaps it was my fault, perhaps there just wasn’t’ enough in the realm of consequences for your violence.”

I looked at God, tilted my head in astonishment, and ended the topic, “I’ll buy that.”

God smiled, and the heavy set women with hair knotted in buns stood up from the table she was wiping down, and gave another two cents, “At least I’m not being blamed for everything.”

Cafe Conversations Jan 2015   Sept 2014

Robpaxtons website