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Age is fundamental. Rocks become mountains, seeds plant their identity in their roots, the universe expands, then snaps back, and memories become entangled. What was once thought to be, never was; or is birthed anew? Once, I was in love with a woman I did not know, yet I believe she knew me, yet love was probably never part of her equation, if memory serves truth to be. From fields of sand, to a lush world of Pygmies and greens, she has sent me afar, and kept me close, tantalizing secrets and tidbits of clues along the way. Not one of which I comprehend.

Here I recline, in a tattered, worn lawn chair, on an airless moon, small and grey, rock and dust, end over end, everything in motion, and I’m contemplating the small circular structure laid out before me that rises up, out above the near horizon. A coin standing on edge, lacking support, marked with unknown symbols that match those that I wear around my neck. Markings that have no meaning in reference to known things, except I have seen them before, on a scrap of parchment as well the medallion.

There is a thought that nature encompasses living things, a blade of grass in a field of brown and green, the song of a bird calling the rising sun, a mosquito alighting on an inviting arm. This too is nature, a cold dark void where there is no breath, and yet I breath. Here too, I am part of the natural world even in the denial of what is natural. What should not be possible, often is. Once, a day long gone, an old man voiced to a young man’s ear, ‘that what can not be, can always be, and ask instead, how it can be?’.

I ask, there are no answers, and I question the realities of the universe spread out before me, a universe of darkness sprinkled with specks of past and future worlds. My mind plays, I hear a cowbell, and I take note of a glow off behind the erect circular coin. I watch, and wonder what I am about to witness.

Love is not a mysterious thing. There are a thousand different flavors of such, but love is often denied to those who need it most. A closed heart, an errant mindset closes the valves of a beating heart, leading to a desolate world. Love too, is appreciation, a delight in experience, and often opens a heart to new possibilities. The world changes, everything changes. The glow becomes a bit more colorful, and just above the close off horizon, a faint hint of a new world rotates into view, and my heart settles in a vapid pulse of wonder.

I am in a timeless place, where silence is replaced with a dance of ascending world peeking out slow and dutiful to music she alone is playing, and she alone can hear, but I believe the sounds to be a majestic rhythm in beat with my heart. A blue green world of land mass and oceans arises while I watch from my weathered lawn chair planted firmly in the moon dust of my desolated little rock of a moon.

I am small. Beaten and assaulted, tired, the breath of life taken by the journey. I am old. I am, in this misery, content. Beauty does nothing to wash away the truth of ugliness, yet I come to understand the ugliness is rooted in the foundation of the age. There is a grayness to it, a coming shadow, that the light of the new world casts upon the coin, payments that I have made, and been made, or perhaps now come due as the symbols before me come to light, casting their own shadows of light and blend, as they disappear from the surface of the coin, and I am awash from the light that penetrates through the voids of space and time. My little piece of rock is alighted, as I am, awash in symbology of a new world. I do not become one with the universe, that is another’s path, one denied this old fool, but I become one with my heart, and I now know, my journey is just continues.


The Mall Watchers

‘People, too damn many of ‘em’ he was thinking, turning the corner and at the same time straining to see through and over the hundreds who coagulated the wide concourse. Hesitating in his walk, he kept to the edges of the crowd, and dwelled on a small group of kids who were gathered around a bench. The muffled giggles and  high pitched squeals enhanced their strutting, preening and prancing, evidence that the young still held their youth in high regard.

One stood out. A slight young man topped with dark long hair over soft, angelic features. His right knee shredded with tendrils of string in disarray, and just above a red bandana was wrapped and knotted tight. A mark of who he was. The man winced, knowing they would meet again, sooner than both would like.

But not now. Now there was another and he turned his attention back to navigating the crowd and noted his own reflection in a store window. Turning away, he let his eyes wander, positioning his gaze to float amid the crowd and the countless vendors that populated the center of the mall concourse. Still moving slowly, he knew they were here. In fact, in all his years, he had only been mistaken once, and that was long ago and another story.

A corner of his lip turned up softly when he found them setting on a wood slatted bench. A passing surge of the crowd obliterated his view for a moment and then subsided. ‘Only need one today,’ and he made a conscience decision to take his time. He had the time.

“Wanna go get a coffee?” one asked

“No, had too much already, feeling like I’m gonna be peeing all damn day with my balder the way it is an’ all.”

“What, you’re going to end up like ol’ Voss and piss your pants all the time?”

“That ain’t what I said.”

The first man chuckled, letting his eyes dance in the reflection of a private joke.

The friend noted the look and with a finger splotched with age, nudged his black rimmed glasses up his nose where they would fail to stay. He was irritated this morning. Not at anything in particular, then again, maybe at everything.  He  thought it was somewhat funny, in an absurd sense, his agitation. Absurd because he knew there was nothing at the moment to be ticked about, but he was, and because of that, he actually was making an effort to control it. Controlling his agitation seemed to get harder as the morning along.

“Look at that, Alf,” was partnered with a gentle elbow jabbed against his, “Good God almighty,”

“Aw, wipe that spittle of a smile of your face Pete, she’s just a little girl.” And Alf’s disgust was evident in the tone, aimed more at his aches and pains than Pete’s.

“Little girl my ass, she’s at least 45, maybe even near 50.”

“No damn difference cuz you couldn’t get it up if ya wanted to, could ya? When’s the last time Pete?  With Aggie?”

Pete’s breath fell away. Letting the woman fade away into the moving crowd of color and chaos. Pausing for just the briefest of moments, he then reached into his back pocket and pulled a hanky to wipe his brow.

“What the hell you have to say that for?”

Alf didn’t have an answer and shifted his body uncomfortably,  just a bit away. Unsure why he had mentioned Aggie, her name bought memories abounding in his mind. Memories of a life lived, his life, her life, together, the good and the bad. Seventy years of too much heartbreak and he tossed those aside thinking of the good. “Dunno Pete,  Guess I’m sorry.”  And it seemed to both men, the sentiment was more of an exasperated sigh than an actual apology.

“Look at all these people, Pete,” Alf found he needed to pause, to gather thoughts, “how many of ‘em are going to end up like us, two old friggin’ codgers with nothing to do but set on a bench and watch everybody else. Kinda seems stupid, don’t it? I mean don’t it bother you that we got nothing better to do, like we lived all our lives to end up here.” And he found himself staring at Pete, knowing there’d be no answer. Pulling his own hanky, he coughed and covered his mouth, expelling a fair amount  of phlegm into the material which he then folded over onto itself and placed back into his own pocket.

“Got too damn much of this crap in my chest that just won’t go away.” Alf was saying, clearing his throat as he noticed that Pete had slide closer to him on the bench. “What the fu..” Alf intentionally halted his curse as he noticed a man had sat on the opposite end of his bench, making for a crowded threesome. Wrapping his hand around his cane which had been immobile between his legs, Alf tapped it’s rubber tip  on the glossy Terrazzo floor, leaned over to Pete, and whispered in his ear, “Why don’t you tell our friend to go away.”

Pete answered with a stare he understood as ‘shut up and don’t embarrass us’. He understood the stare as he had seen it countless times over the years, and in fact had used it often himself. Alf floated out a ‘wimp’ under his breath.

“Excuse me, am I bothering the two of you?”  the man asked, leaning just ever so slightly forward, and tilting his head told the two men.

Alf too leaned forward, balancing his weight on his old cane, and rolled his tongue, through a fair amount of phlegm, against the inside of his cheek, held it there for a minute, contemplating, than spat out, “Well, matter of fact, you are!”. Glancing at Pete, Alf’s aggravation ticked up a bit when he saw his friends sigh and roll his eyes, and then added, “We were discussing sumthing, sumthing private.”

Pete glanced sideways toward Alf, who relished in his embarrassment, and started to utter, “We weren’t talking ’bout nothing”, when the man interrupted.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” and then leaned back against the open slats of the bench.

Alf watched, thinking he had made his point when the man rested his back instead of moving, and noticed a smile, a smart alec ass smile cross his face.

“Shi…” Alf hissed, not caring who heard when Pete interrupted his curse with a “lets go get some coffee.” as Alf shook his head from side to side in disgust at the mans intrusion.

“Don’t want no damn coffee.” came full on the back of irritability.

“Too much coffees not good for you.” the stranger said as he loosened his smart ass smile yet stared straight ahead watching a hundred pairs of legs carrying their masters to and fro, back and forth, all going someplace. “Did you know that, Pete?

Seeing an opening for a portion of cordiality, Pete hoped for a parcel of an apology for Alf’s abrasiveness. He had formed the first word on his lips when it hit him, struck him broadside that the stranger used his name and it showed on the quizzical look which formed on his features.

The man looked ahead, still watching, when he abruptly and silently swung  his head over his left shoulder, to stare directly at Pete.

“Don’t be so taken aback, Peter. I know most every ones name.” His breath was soft and cool as it fell against the Peters cragged and dry face, “In fact, I’d be hard pressed to remember a name I’ve ever forgotten.”was heard with a chuckle as Pete turned to look towards Alf, who had remained silent while twirling the crook of his cane between forefinger and thumb of one hand.

Now he squinted in new found curiosity and stared at the intruder, studying him and then with his cup filled filled of question ans attack, asked simply, “You going to a funeral, Mister?”

The sounds of a thousand footsteps slapped against hard polished floor and voices drifted in murmurs towards the high ceiling where the sun outlined the grids of a large skylight which those thousand pairs of feet walked over and through with never a thought to disturb their form.

“No funeral, not today Alfred.” His dark pupils dancing in a bright ocean of white served to bait Alf’s growing attention, holding it briefly, before Alf asked his next question, “How’s Aggie doing?”

Pete winced in the stupidity of his friends question, wondering what in the world possessed him to ask such a question such as that.

“Alfred…” was a sigh of expression on the mans part, “I don’t have the time to concern myself with how every one is doing. Too much work to do, you know.”

Pete arced an eyebrow as he turned to Alf who remained concentrating on the stranger.

 “Somebody tell me what the two of you are are talking about, please?”

Alf was reluctant to turn his thoughts from the man, not daring, not trusting to take his eyes away, but he did so, haltingly, slowly glancing over toward Pete as he spoke. “He’s here for one of us Pete, or maybe both of us…”

“What the hell are you mumbling…” Pete stuttered  but couldn’t finish as Alf cut him short. “Don’t be so god damn assisine, Pete. Look cross the walk to our reflections in the glass. You see him setting on the bench with us in that friggin’ glass? See ya self, dont’cha, see me dont’cha, but ya don’t see him, do ya?”

“Oh for the love of mercy Alf, your minds finally gone, twisted ’round and fell out your big ears. You stop to think the mans dressed in black and might not reflect in the glass like we are?”

Pete had spoke with an air of his own irritability and yet even as he had done so, stole a cursory glance at the window.

“Let me tell ya something else then, you idiot. Last thing Aggie saw was a man dressed in black calling her name. I heard her say it, said he was standing just side her bed, holding her hand. You Gonna hold my hand Mister?”

“Alfred, I wouldn’t hold your hand if I had to pull you along with me, even if you were kicking and screaming.”

Pete stared at the man, unsure of what to say much less of what to believe. “Is what Alf’s saying, true?” was all that came cross his mind, and as he spoke, his words were soft, gentle.

The man started ahead, through the world which walked past him him and answered Pete’s question with a nod that was nothing more than a bounce of his head.


“Because it’ the ways things work. Not my idea Peter.”

“So who ya here for, me?” Alfs words were sharp, “Cuz if ya are, I ain’t ready to go just yet.”

“I understand that Alf, but just for my own curiosity, if I were here for you, what would you do?”

In a single strong beat of his heart, Alf grasped his cane, bringing it up, off the floor and then laid it back down with a loud ‘thack’, which reverberated and caused the walkers to glance their way in a nervous fashions.

“That’s what I’d do first, rap ya ‘cross your head a good one and then mebbe do it ‘gin just for the hell of it.”

“I believe you would old man and I dread the day we meet again,” then switching his focus, “and how about you Peter.”

He had listened to the two of them as he stared at his own shoes. Bringing his eyes up to Alf, Pete ran an old hand thru sparse white tuffs of hair which still sprouted like over grown weeds.

“It’s me he wants, Alf.”

Alf heard the weakness in his friends voice, the surrender which was already there and answered it the best way he could.

“Don’t have to go with him, you know that, don’t you?”

“Peter does have to come with me, Alfred, it is his time.”

Peter’s left arm tweaked with what he thought to be a muscle cramp but knew better as he raised a palm to massage his shoulder.

“This isn’t going to hurt, is it?”

“Just a bit Peter, only at first.”

“Wait a minute here,” Alf was frustrated, “You can’t be going just like that and leave me here.”

Peters cramp worked its way up the length of his arm, spreading out over his chest, gripping his heart, and he winced out the next words in pain, and trying to ignore the pain.

“I’m sorry about everything Alf, I mean Aggie and all.”

Alfs eyes had grown red, puffy as he watched this man whom he had known since childhood place an open palm against is chest and close his eyes.

“Ain’t nuthin’ to worry about Pete. It was long ago an’ nothing but a part of livin…’, wasn’t it? He asked of a man that was no longer there.

“Pete” came as a low shrilled cry as his friend took his last breath while Alf wrapped his arm around his shoulders.

Pete hurried to catch up to the man who threatened to disappear into the crowd. Matching his step, he glanced over his shoulder where he caught Alf with his head hung low, his cane lying on the floor and he heard him crying as they turned the corner.


Cafe Conversations at the End of the Universe

I watched the dying embers of the universe, lost in a millennium of thoughts. Time had been lost, I reached for my coffee, felt the coldness of the ceramic, and left it.

“So you’re not happy with how it turned out?”

I turned to God, who shared the cheap Formica café booth, and just took his presence in. There was nothing left to say, it was all gone.

“It was meant, by design to end like this.” God was saying as I lifted my coffee cup to the thick, tank like woman who was our sole waitress among empty booths, “There was a thought, to let it continue, but there was no purpose in doing so.”

I met the woman’s eyes as she filed my cup, and gave a slight nod, then turned to God. “But what was the purpose to begin?”


I saw a shifting pattern of stars in the eyes of God, and noted the sorrow.

God tapped out a quick forefingered rap on the chipped Formica, and raised his white mug, didn’t drink, and then sat it down.

“Have you ever wondered why you’re setting here with me?” he asked.

I had, but never asked.

“Because you’re lonely?”

The corner of my eye caught a galaxy dwindle to dust, scattered by the remaining cosmic winds.

“Not in the sense, of being alone, of being without companion. More in the sense of purpose.” God replied turning his head toward the great window we were seated at. “Existence is futile without purpose.”

I furrowed my brow, wrapped my palms around my cup, not wanting to look God in the large void of now starless eyes.

“You created existence to give meaning to your own? You didn’t find it, and now it all ends?”

“Or perhaps I found purpose, and I no longer have the need I once had?”

God smiled.

I frowned.

God noticed.

“You had a good life, why the frown?” A star exploded, and died in his pupil.

“Because apparently I had no purpose of my own.” I answered as the last light of the star dwindled into darkness.

“Purpose is not given. Purpose must be found, my old friend.”

My sight crossed over to the waitress, who stood behind the counter wrapping silverware in pleated napkins, laying each bundle neatly in a row.

I wondered who she was expecting?

Cafe Conversations one and two

Rob Paxton

The Bus

Like every other day in his entire life, Tom woke up three minutes before sunrise, made coffee, urinated, brushed his teeth, showered, ate breakfast and groomed. Forty-seven minutes after sunrise, Tom dressed in his blue mechanics overhauls with his name emblazoned in a white oval over his left breast, walked out his front door, down the hill to his local bus stop.

Today would be different kind of day.

Today, unlike every other day, the sun was just a bit late, the above was pregnant with threatening clouds and below, a dense fog carried a smell of dead and rotting fish.

Through this horrid start of a most distasteful morning, Tom managed to smile as he waited for his bus at the corner of Lake and River, for no other reason than he liked to smile.

Tom looked to the East and he saw the dim morning running lights approach from under the bridge.  Despite the fog, the bus was still running on the best of time. Watching his bus approach, Tom began to organize his day at the office. Mr. McCracken’s harmonic balancer, Goldie’s bushing on her shifting column and what he knew would be a long, agonizing search for an electrical short in an old one-ton flatbed.

The double doors folded like an accordion, Tom flashed Gerry the driver his pass with a quick morning nod and preceded down the aisle to the middle of the bus, sitting in an empty row, half way to the rear. Tom paid his usual quick interest in the few others who populated this morning bus. He knew them all. Old Mrs. Thinner who was the first stop and always sat in the first row, right behind the doors, her small and antiquated purse held securely in her lap. Behind her, a businessman, tall, dark but not handsome. Well-dressed but lost in his own thoughts as he stared nowhere, ever, but out his window. Large Mrs. Wells always sat on the outer seat for obvious reasons and every day, she wore a different hat, of a different sort, of a different color. Tom had heard stories about her youthful days and he believed, she was once very young, thin and beautiful. Mrs. Wells would often talk with Mary, who was walking up the aisle now, taking a seat across from Mrs. Wells. Tom heard Mary’s stuttered hello, and still felt sorry for her. Mary stuttered as she spoke because Mary was slow. Mary had a multitude of deficiencies, a hobble, a slow mind, stuttered speech but one deficiency she did not possess was one of a wrongful soul. Mary was, for all her deficiencies, a beautiful person. As she waved at him, Tom remembered her father. Long ago, in another time and place, Tom and Mary’s father had been friends.

In about 90 seconds, the bus would turn in a Cul-de-sac and head back toward the bridge. It would stop first just in front of a small, yellow cape cod with tended hedges and Alice would board. Beautiful, beautiful Alice. In all the days of his life he had never seen anyone as beautiful as Alice. Tom was enthralled, smitten and forever and a day, including this day, speechless.

Just before the stop, a small curl, a wisp really, of a thought crossed his mind. The fog was thicker.

Mary boarded, the thought went the way of spent smoke and his heart was warm as he watched Alice take her seat two rows before him. Close enough so that he could smell her sweet perfume and he often thought, it was not perfume, that Alice just smelled sweet. That would not have surprised him.

Gerry’s voice boomed over the intercom, waking everyone from their thoughts, they were running a minute late because of the fog and Tom couldn’t remember ever hearing Gerry use the intercom before. A whole minute late. That had never happened before but on a day that was soon to be unlike any other day ever before, being a minute late would be about the most normal thing you could ask for.

Tom took in a deep breath of sweetness and turned to watch the river along which the route ran. He was not worried but was somewhat mystified by the darkness of the day and the thickness of the fog. Perhaps they were working together, Tom thought, to ruin what would otherwise be a naturally fine day. Not that it was dark as night, but it was dark as gray and the fog was getting worse, so much worse, that the condensation on the bus windows was in rivulets.

For a moment, Tom imagined he heard the slapping of waves. Not the crashing of waves upon a beach but the slapping of water against the hull of a small boat. Tom did not like the water, rather, did not like the open water.

Tom knew that soon they would pass under the bridge, take the left ramp and then travel up the old sledding hill and merge with the traffic passing over the river. Tom had traveled this route all his life.

This would not happen this morning.

Just before reaching the bridge, Tom grimaced, noticing the fog had grown thicker, the grey darker, raindrops starting to splatter heavily against the bus window. Suddenly, nothing was to be seen outside except the water which pounded his window. Suddenly, one half second after it had become wet and totally dark, the back of the bus fishtailed. Tom, like everyone else reached out in instinct, to brace their bodies. Tom also closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

The bus continued to swerve as it started to pass under the bridge, doing a complete three sixty as its forward momentum carried the bus under and through the bridge.

Everything was wrong!

Tom darted his eyes wide open, wider than ever before. Everything was in disarray. The sun was out, high and hot and as far and as wide as Tom could see, water! In all directions, water!

Tom turned to gauge the reactions of his fellow passengers, and like he, were most engulfed in silence. Unable to articulate what had just happened. Sweet Alice simply had placed fingers over open mouth in disbelief. Mrs. Wells stared evenly out her window, the suited businessman’s head was hung, his suit coat removed. Mary was engaged in a stuttered conversation with Gerry, the driver and Mrs. Thinner sat still clutching her purse in her lap.

There were no screams. Tom thought this odd, the lack of hysterics, of confusion. Then Tom understood, he had not screamed because there was simply no reason to scream. The disbelief was so strong that the sense of fear had been overwhelmed. No one had time to scream.

Tom understood they were in a bus, floating in the middle of an ocean on what was a very hot and bright day.

And they were sinking!

Working the gentle swaying and bobbing of the bus, Tom managed to find his sea legs, a memory from years past. From his standing position, he figured the water was up past the wheel wells, and rising. The strong rhythmic sound of waves slapping the bus were reminiscent of old memories as well, but memory and ocean waves were interrupted by the businessman who was in the wretched throes of sea sickness, making a mess over his seat.

Making his way down the aisle, he paused by Alice, who turned to look up to him.

“Are you alright, ma’am?”

“Do you know where we are, sir?”

Mrs. Wells answered, her voice raspy, deep, “We’re all dead and if we’re not, we’re going to be, soon ‘nuff.”

The stench of vomit struck Tom full force. The business man had made his way to stand behind him.

“How much time do you think we have?” he asked Tom.

Tom was quiet in his answer, “A half hour, maybe a bit more.” And then thought to place a hand on Alice’s shoulder, and a bit louder, managed a “We’ll be Okay, we’ll figure this out.”

The business man murmured “half hour, what I figured, as well.”

Tom left Alice with a slight turned smile and made his way to Mrs. Wells. Behind him, he heard the agitated business man’s voice lift loud, asking if anyone had any ides, if anyone had seen anything.

There were, of course, no replies to the dark business man’s questions.

Tom made eye contact with Mary as he was inquiring to Mrs. Wells well-being. Tom saw the concern written in her eyes and moved forward toward the front of their bobbing little bus.

“lo.. look”

Tom saw that the water had begun to flood the short, narrow stair well, seeping in easily under the accordion door.

“Gerry, is there anything on this bus that floats, anything we can hold onto?” Tom was already scanning the interior. Metal poles, metal seat frames, hard plastic seats bolted to the floor. All said and done, the interior was barren.

“It’s a fine thing I’m old and skinny” Mrs. Thinner said out of the blue. “No meat for the sharks and what meat there is, I’m too tough.” Tom saw she was smiling. Tom liked that, that she was smiling.

“We don’t know that there are any sharks in the water, ma’am” Tom replied.

Behind him, Mrs. Wells quickly wailed something about being a feast for fish.

“We are sinking, and fast” said Alice, “Look, the water is up over the stairwell.”  Her voiced, as pitched and yawing as the bus was.

Tom noticed that Gerry, the driver had positioned himself standing on one of the back seats and then it dawned on him, there was an emergency roof hatch. The business man, who had now tossed his suit jacket aside and lost his tie had moved to help Gerry, and in a matter of seconds, a stream of sunlight flooded a small interior space, and Tom hoped it was Gods fishing line, but he did know better.

Tom watched as the businessman worked his slim, masculine frame up into the hatch, his legs dangling momentarily, then disappearing up into the sunlight. Tom turned, quietly surprised to find Mary at his side, poised, she asked, “Uncle Tom, Mrs. Wells isn…, isn’t going to, to fit through that, that door, is.., is she?”

“She’ll fit Mary, she’ll fit.”

Mrs. Wells and Mrs. Thinner brushed patiently but brutishly past Tom and Mary in the aisle making their way to the back of the bus where Gerry waited to give a helping hand. Mrs. Thinner clutching her purse. Tom noticed Alice, was lost in a defiant stare, watching the water rise, up into the aisle, toward where she remained seated.

A hand shot back through the hatch, and then the man’s head, who simply with a raised voice, said, “next.”

Tom stepped in the opposite direction as Mary moved to the shaft of light.

“Are you Okay, Alice?”

“I’m… fine Tom. It is Tom, right?”

He nodded the answer, “We’re going to be okay, all of us.”

Alice turned to Tom and stared. Directly into his eyes, into his deep brown eyes and brushed his soul, “Tom, we are on a bus in the middle of an ocean and buses are not boats. Buses are heavy things and heavy things drown in the ocean.”

Tom smiled with the fact that her words were as direct as her stare, and he felt comfortable clasping a hand over one of hers as he kneeled next to her where she sat. “Alice, how is it one moment we are on a bus going about our lives and in an instant, a proverbial blink of an eye, we are adrift in a vast abyss of water. “ Reaching down, Tom dipped two fingers into the water rising in the aisle, then placed his fingers in his mouth, tasting the water, “Alice, it’s not an ocean, there’s no salt to the water.”

She stared at him for an eternity.

“Are you saying that we are, all of us, are dead and this is…”

“No… No Alice, I don’t know. Just don’t be so quick to give up, that’s all I’m saying.”

Beautiful Alice smiled, Tom’s heart warmed a degree, “Thank You Tom, I needed to hear that. Now let’s go tan on the roof.”

He helped her up and walked her toward the back of the bus, noticing Mrs. Thinner was gone and Mary’s legs disappearing up into the light. He wondered what that passage would bring him, but first, there was heavy and rotund Mrs. Wells.

Tom pretended not to notice the concern in Gerry’s look or the worry written over Mrs. Wells face as they helped Alice up through the hatch. All three of them knew it was going to be an impossible struggle.

Gerry was the first, “C’mon Mom.”

Tom’s soul dropped a million miles into the abyss of despair.

Mrs. Wells looked at her son and whispered, “I can’t… but you can and you will, do you understand me?”

Mary’s voice interrupted, “C… Come on, T… Tiffany.” her head hanging upside down in the bus, her arm extended and beckoning. Tom motioned up toward the hatch, “We’ll get you through”.

“Just watch where you boys put your hands, then again, it’s been awhile since I’ve had a man’s hand on me.” As she raised one wet leg to place a foot on a seat, to climb toward the hatch. Tom worked his way to one side, her son to the other. Mary, from above, reached out for her. Together they worked, struggled, rearranging Mrs. Wells in painful configurations.

She was bruised, scraped, and sore and perhaps even had been violated, but her legs finally disappeared up through the hatch, into the bright clean sky and open sun.

Gerry whispered a thank you, then breached the hatch. Tom took one last look, the bus was filled with clear, warm water just below his knees, and there was a straightforward awareness that it wouldn’t be much longer that they would all be floating in the ocean.

Crawling out, Tom felt the heat of the sun reflected on the roof and saw that everyone was setting centered, quietly.

“Now what?’ was on everyone’s mind. He saw it written in different ways, in varied expressions but it was the same question they all had as he joined them, sitting in the center of the bus, under a clear sky and bright sun, the bus tilted slightly toward the back, and rolling with the gentle waves. A strange, unique scene, of quietness and solitude, and Tom couldn’t help but wonder if they, including him, had already surrendered to what was their eventual fate. He knew the larger truth, there was nothing else simply to do except set there, and wait.

Mary’s question broke the deep thoughts, “Doe, does th, th, that look li, like a storm co, coming?

Tom followed the length of her pointed arm and looked behind him. He stood, carefully aware of the bobbing bus and uttered aloud, ‘Christ almighty’. Off on the horizon, the sky had turned to a deep purple and clouds had started forming and churning with streaks of lightning threading their way through the threatening skyscape.

“I don’t believe this crap.” the quiet businessman was now standing next to him and he wasn’t speaking to Tom as much as just making a statement. “Within the next thirty minutes we’re all going to be sleeping at the bottom of whatever this ocean is.” and he sat back down, let out a deep sigh, than laid out in a prone position, staring up at the darkening sky.

A raindrop fell against Tom’s forehead. And then another. A thunderclap followed and the sky overhead started to darken. The bus angled steeper, the front end was higher in the water, and everyone was starting to fight the pull of gravity that would lead them to their conclusions. The water around bus was noticeably more agitated, the wave crescents higher, more forceful, and the pitching, rolling and awing matched those of the waves in a strange foreboding symphony of nature.

Tom sat down and took off his shoes, his socks, and yelled to whoever would listen to take off anything that might weigh them down. Carefully he made his way back to Mary, and took her hand. Silently Alice joined them and the three noticed that mother and son were embraced. Tom looked over to the business man and couldn’t find him. The rain was driving harder, but it was clear, the man was gone.

The once bright sun was gone, replaced with strong winds, driving rain and streaks of horrific lightening threaded through the darkness backed by ear deafening thunder. The bus rolled to and from, and suddenly, violently, the front end was pitched near vertical and the remaining five passengers were tossed quietly, without human sound, without mercy into a dark and unforgiving place.

Tom had lost Alice’s hand before he hit the water, Mary’s soon afterward, and as he fought toward the surface, he wondered why he was doing so. Breaking the surface, he knew he was alone, knew he didn’t have, couldn’t waste the strength to call out to Mary, to Alice. Silently though, deep in his heart, he called out to God and in a strange turn of fate, God answered.

A loud, unforgiving bolt of lightning lit up the sky, and Tom saw the face of God written in the shadows of the clouds. For that split second, there lived an eternity, all held solid, honest and good, and Tom took his last breath and slipped into the comfort of the waves.

For that eternity, Tom floated free; of gravity, of all things human, of all things alive and then his mind grew heavy, his sight immersed in the few feet of water, his lungs filled with water, his thoughts were being pulled down…

An abrupt, sharp pain jolted his lungs and he hunched over on all fours and vomited in a coarse, hard and painful manner all the water that had filled his lungs. His eyes wide open in disbelief as he once more regurgitated the last of the ocean from his lungs and rolled over on the hard pavement, staring at the morning sky.

“You’re going to be alright, just try to stay calm.” Was a reassuring voice, and Tom wondered where the hell it was coming from. Glancing over, there was a person, a fireman, holding his hand, another checking his pulse. Managing to look around, the scene was organized chaos. The bus on its side, fire engines, ambulances and people carrying and cloaked in the bright yellows and oranges of medical and rescue gear. He worked to a half sit up, saw Mary with a blanket thrown about her, and she returned his look, with a broad smile.

A gentle hand on his shoulder turned his attention, and he looked into Alice’s deep, big eyes and wondered when she placed a slender forefinger to her lips, with a ‘shhhhhh…’

The Sun had come out to part the fog filled morning. Off in the near distant, Tom heard a man raise his voice in, asking some unseen other, “How the hell did the bus fill up with water?”

Alice smiled at him, not sure he understood, than he asked Alice if he knew where his shoes and socks were.



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


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.


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.



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.