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Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

There is a glacier.
Its blue tongue’s tip just tastes a frozen gorge.
There is a gorge, its walls shattered by cold; a once-green thing that, in dying, birthed a thousand aching fissures. It works its jagged way downhill, round ragged rifts and drifts until it comes upon a little frosted wood.
There is a wood, an island locked in ice.
Within this wood the gorge descends. It wanders and it wends; it brakes and all but ends outside a clearing wet with sun. And there, forking, its bent and broken arms embrace a strange, enchanted glade.

There is a glade.
And in this glade the black bears sleep, though salmon leap fat between falls. Here the field mouse draws no shadow, the eagle seeks no prey; they spend their while caressed by rays, and halcyon days are they. Here rabbit and fawn may linger, no longer need they flee. For in this timeless, taintless space, the Wild has ceased to be. (Outside the glade are shadow and prey, are ice and naked death. There blood may run freely. There the eagle, that thief, is a righteous savage, a noble fiend. But once in the glade he is dove, and has no taste for blood, running freely or otherwise).
And in this glade there nests a pool:  a dazzling, blue-and-silver jewel; profoundly deep, pristinely clear. All who sip find solace here, for this is the Eye of Being. They lap in peace, assuming blear, not knowing it is seeing. And ever thus this pool shall peer:  a silent seer, reflecting on—all that Is, and all Beyond.
(Outside the glade there lies a world where rivers ever run, where ghastly calves in random file revile a bitter sun. East, the day is born in mist. West she dies:  her rest, the deep. And North…North the Earth lies mute. Wind gnaws her hide, wind wracks her dreams. Wind screams like a flute in her white, white sleep).
But in the glade are tall, stately grasses, sunning raptly, spinning lore. Roots render the rhythms, blades bend without breeze, as signals ascend from the glade’s tender floor. (In this wise the glade weaves its word, airs its views. All the glade’s flora are bearers of news). They do not wither with fall, for in the glade there is no fall. They do not bind or wilt or brown—they gesture, spreading the mood, the mind; conveying, indeed, the very soul of the glade. As ever they have, as they shall evermore.
Bees do not hum here; they sing. They fatten the dream. Mellow and round are the timbres they sound, sweet is the music they bring. Birds do not sing here—they play. They carry the theme. Dulcet and warm are the strains they perform. Gifted musicians are they. (All in the glade are virtuosi. They were born to create. Melody, harmony, meter…are innate). Now the performance is lively and bright, now full, now almost still. For, though all in the glade may lean to the light, they must bend to the maestro’s feel.
And yet…there was a day, long ago in a dream, when this ongoing opus was torn. And on that day (so the lullaby goes) the wind brought a scream, and Dissonance was born.
There was a noise.
Moose tensed, their coffee eyes narrowed, their patient brows creased. Bees mauled the tempo, birds lost their place. The grass stood *****, all blades pointing east. There was a crash, and a shriek, and a naked, bleeding beast burst stinking through the fern, fell stumbling on its face.
Moose scattered:  unheard of. Sheep brawled, geese burst out of rhyme. The symphony, forever endeavored to soar sublime, fluttered, plunged, and, for all of a measure, ceased.
The pool was appalled…what manner brute—what kind of monster was this? Furless flank to forelimb, hide obscured by blood. As for its face…it had no face; only a look:  of shock frozen in time, of horror in amber. A deep welling rift ran temple to chin, halving the mask, caving it in. Such a grievous wound…the pool watched it stagger, on two legs and four, thrashing about till it came to a rise. There it labored for air, wiped the blood from its eyes, lashed at illusion, looked wildly round. Beholding the pool, the beast tumbled down.
And there this wretch plunged his thirst, drank his fill, fell back on his haunches.
The pool became still.
The two traded stares.
The glass read his features:  that durable eye pondered the wreckage and probed the debris. Revolted, the pool sought the succor of sky. But that thing remained—that face…in all creation…surely there could be…no other creature so ugly as he.
And he gazed in the glass.
Beneath the surface were…images…swimming in currents of shadow and light. He saw half-shapes and fragments…hideous men, exotic beasts…saw blue worlds of water, saw white worlds of ice…it was all so vague and unreal—yet somehow strangely familiar. Deeper he peered, but, as his mangled face neared, the sun smote the pool and the shapes disappeared. The brute pawed the ground and, dreaming he’d drowned, shook his head sharply and slowly looked round:
There were starlings at arm’s-length, transfixed with suspense, their tail feathers trembling, their dark eyes intense. Fantails and timber wolves, stepping in sync, paused for a sniff, stooped for a drink. Bees, pirouetting, threw light in his eyes. Seizing the moment, the pool pressed its hold.
And the glade revolved.
The freak watched it spin—saw the ferns’ greedy fingers reach round and close in, saw the tall grass rise high in an emerald sheen, swaying to rhythms from somewhere obscene. This place was madness; he struggled to stand, but, weak as he was, keeled over cold.
And the glade heaved a sigh, and the tall grass reclined, in curious patterns once rendered in whim. Far off in thunder the hard world replied, as iced pines exploded and screamed on the breeze. Down bore the sun, a chill just behind. The pool, grown blood-red, fended frost from its rim. Details dissolved in the oncoming tide. The pool dimmed to black. Night seeped through the trees.
Now flora found slumber while, pulsing below, the pool was infused with a soft ruby glow.
Soon birds bearing beech leaves, and needles of pine, laid down a spread and returned to the limb. But breath from the North blew their blanket aside. The wind grew in earnest, the air seemed to freeze.
And the wolf and the she-bear, of contrary mind, abhorring their task approached, looking grim. They sniffed him for measure, then, loathing his hide, growled their displeasure and dropped to their knees.
All night these glum attendants flanked his naked quaking form. The rising moon drew dreams in gray.
In time the man grew warm.

Morning swept through the glade in one broad stroke of the master’s brush, dappling the foliage with amber and rose. The pool was roused by the sweet pass of light. He opened his eye and the glade came alive:  into the whirlpool of life a thousand colors swam, chasing the scattering eddies of night. The magic of morning began.
Bluebird and goldfinch descended in rings, primaries clashing with robin and jay. Dollops of sun, repelled by their wings, spattered anew on the palette of day. Banking as one, the hues struck away.
There was a crowd.
And in this crowd that oddity sat, its chin on its chest, its rear pointing west. Its forepaws lay leaning, upturned and at rest. ***** and blood messed its muzzle and breast. Passed overnight. Or perhaps only dozed…tendril by tendril, claw by claw, the crowd decompressed:  the ring slowly closed.
And the stranger cried out and shifted his seat. His eyes sought his feet—rounding the arches, and topping the toes, the tall grass was questing. The little brute froze.
And the fauna took pause, and the flora went slack. Leaves followed talons, stems followed claws. Hooves tromped on paws as the crowd drifted back.
Not a breath taken. Not a move made. Stillness, like fog, enveloped the glade.
Now the grass tugged his feet, now the sea of jade splayed—left hand and right, the slender shafts reared. Gaining momentum, blade followed blade. The green field was torn till a deep swath appeared. The swath hurtled west, reflecting the sun. A hundred yards distant it died. Once more the grass stood, its tips spreading wide. The swath, born again, repeated its run.
Plain was the message, and clearly conveyed. The newcomer gawked. Confusion ensued.
The tall blades were swayed by the pulse of the glade.
But the swath was not renewed.
Something tiny bounced by. He ventured a peek, barely rolling an eye.
A chocolate sparrow, with pinfeathers black, popped past an ankle and paused to look back. The bird cocked its head, rocked in place, hopped ahead. It fluttered. It freaked. It glared and stopped dead. Vexed to its limit, it burst into flight.
The sitting thing watched till it passed out of sight.
Now a breeze bent his back, picked him half off his stern. The wind, done its best, grew flustered at last. It trailed to the west, thrilling lilies it passed. It wound round the willows and didn’t return.
So the fauna repaired to the live oak’s shade.
A strange kind of stupor fell over the glade.
From deep in the wood came a shape through the trees—a pronghorn, perhaps, or an elk swift and sure. But up limped a moose, a flyport with fur, low in the belly and wide at the knees. Wizened he was, scarcely able to see. Neither vision, nor vigor, nor velvet had he. He hobbled abreast, then groveled or died, his nose facing west, his tail flung aside.
The brute merely glazed.
But the glade was unfazed.
Those long shafts reshuffled. A tense moment passed.
The ominous shadows of badgers were cast. Three left their holes, as if to attack. They pedaled like moles and the stranger jumped back. He stumbled, fell flailing, and, kicking his guide, threw out his arms and tumbled astride. First he stepped on his tail, then he stepped on his pride. The moose bellowed twice and shook side to side while the little pest clung to his high, homely hide.
And the old moose unbent to his knees by degrees. He reeled like a drunk down the path of the breeze. Together they lurched through a break in the trees. And all morning long, and on through the day, both beggar and bearer would buckle and sway. The moose lost his temper, but never his way.
And the wind blew the sun to its deep ruby rest; the scrub, in obeisance, inclined to the west. Their slow taffy shadow in slinking would seem to slip round the rocks like a snake in a dream.
And the sun became a beacon, and the underbrush a stream. The wide Earth took their weight in stride, and the wind named him Hero.

                                               WORLD

When the sun was low the old moose began to stumble, at last limping to a halt beside a swift river lined with stunted pines. He’d half-expected a somewhat graceful dismount, but Hero, dug in like a tick, wasn’t about to let go. The moose knelt until his joints objected, shimmied, bucked, and with a sudden whirl sent the little bother flying.
Hero scraped himself out of the dirt and looked up forlornly. The ancient moose, his good eye gone bad, glared a long minute before hobbling away, his bony **** rocking with dignity, his scraggly tail fighting off imaginary flies.
Hero managed a few steps and dropped, staring in disbelief as the moose disappeared between half-frozen pines. He remained on his knees for the longest time, his jaw hanging, waiting for the moose—waiting for anything to show. At last a ruckus to his left snapped him out of it. His head ratcheted around.
Fifteen feet off the bank, three screaming gulls were dancing on an immense stone outcropping, fighting over a rapids-tossed sockeye. Hero was instantly famished. He wobbled to his feet and stumbled twice wading out, only regaining his balance by leaning against the current while rapidly wheeling his arms. The shrieking gulls reluctantly backed off as he stepped in slow-motion through the rushing water. Hero lunged at the slapping fish, cracked an ankle on the rock, and hopped around howling with both hands holding his shin. One foot was as good as none in the surging water. He went right under. Before he knew it he was being swept downriver.
This was glacial meltwater, so cold he quickly lost all sensation. Hero swallowed a mouthful and surfaced fighting for life; too disoriented to combat the current, too numb to realize his waving arm was striking something solid. That solid something turned out to be a swirling clump of rotted birches tangled up in scrub. He embraced one of these trunks as the mass slammed against isolated rocks, kicked his feet wildly, and somehow hauled himself aboard. The raft ricocheted rock to rock until repeated impacts sent it spinning. Giddy from the whirling and soaking, he clung freezing to the trees, retching continuously while the river roared in his ears. Through spray and tears he made out only cartwheeling fragments of the world.
But then the river was widening, its fury dissipating. The raft was approaching the sea. Hero gasped as the seemingly boundless Pacific swallowed the broad red belly of the sun. And as he spun he was treated to a panoramic, breathtaking spectacle:  the great indigo ocean with its slow traffic of driftwood and ice—voiced-over by the dismal calls of foraging gulls, and broken rhythmically by intermittent glimpses of the river’s rocky banks growing farther and farther apart. Whirling as it went, the dying man’s soul was taken by the sea.

At the 59th Parallel in winter, the Pacific coast plays host to numberless floes and minor bergs orphaned from Alaskan coastal glaciers. Hero cruised into a watery gridlock on a boat of ice-glazed birches, one bit of flotsam among the rest.
The cold wouldn’t let him move, wouldn’t let him breathe, wouldn’t let him think. He lay supine, feet crossed and hands clasped, terrified that to budge was to roll. An ice patina grew over the tangled trees like a white fungus—this growth soon webbed his fingers and toes, speckled his chest and thighs, glazed his hair and face, danced and disintegrated with his breath’s tapering plumes.
Floes and frozen-over debris tended to group with passing collisions; Hero’s married birches bit by bit accrued a mostly-submerged tangle of trunks and branches, all becoming fast in a creeping ice cement. Night came on just as resolutely, until land was only a flat black memory. The raft moved silently over the deep, still accepting the occasional gentle impact. And the floes became thicker and wider in a freezing doldrums; soon the proximate sea was all a broken field of packed ice, bobbing infinitesimally with the planet’s pulse.
Long ghostly strands of fog came striding over the torn ice field. They leaned this way and that, their mourners’ skirts tearing and patching and leaning anew. The ghosts were there to seal it:  their locked fingers and gray diaphanous wings were quickly becoming a wholly opaque descending shroud, its boundaries lost in the soughing wind.
Collisions came less and less. Darkness and silence, breaching some previously impenetrable barrier, began to take up residence in Hero’s chilling marrow. From his very center broke a weak little cry of refusal, of denial, as mind mustered frame in one desperate bid for freedom. His skin, frozen to the raft, peeled right off, and at that his inner brave succumbed. Hero’s smashed head arched back. His face contorted frightfully while the little lamp fluttered and paled within.
A raucous chorus slowly worked its way through the mist. It emerged a few hundred yards off—a tiny, terrified barking, growing in clarity as it grew in volume and urgency. It was a sound beacon. Hero strained eagerly, and when for one excruciating minute the beacon was cut off by a large passing body, was certain death had claimed him. Then it was back, and his heartbeat was quickening. He caught a heaving sound…something was moving his way down a wide tributary between floes. Hero could hear a gasping and snorting, accompanied by a hard slapping and splashing. The sounds vanished. In a moment the raft was rocked from below.
A sputtering muzzle blew salt in his eyes. A cold slimy flipper flapped across his chest and slapped about his face. The fur seal barked directly in his ear. Whiskers raked his dead cheek. The seal barked again.
Back below the surface it slipped. Hero listened anxiously as the splashing sound retreated whence it came.
The seal swam off perhaps a hundred feet and began barking hysterically.
From much farther off came a profusion of answering barks.
The seal swam back to Hero’s raft, circling and calling, circling and calling, while the responders approached en masse.
Now a sallow beam could be seen cutting through the fog. Several more showed vaguely along a plane yawing with some huge, barely discernible object.
A herd of northern fur seals burst into sight, barking madly, beating through the ice. They converged on Hero’s raft, really bellowing now.
Those odd yellow beams came in pursuit, and soon were close enough to eerily illuminate a gigantic wooden vessel parting the ice. The seals barked ferociously. Whenever the vessel leaned away, those nearest Hero’s raft would absolutely howl.
The fog deepened, condensed, crystallized, and then the collective light of a dozen lanterns was playing over a low, listing nightmare. Hero could hear the shouts of many aggressive men, but the waterborne seals, rather than scatter, boarded the ice and redoubled their din, fighting their way onto his quickly mobbed raft.
The sealers hurled serrated spears even as they clambered down rope ladders. When these men reached the ice the seals snapped and gnashed madly, refusing to be dislodged. The sealers lost all composure with the thrill of the hunt:  wielding clubs, spears, and hatchets—sometimes using iron bludgeons or any old utensil handed down—they crushed skulls, dragged carcasses, hooked animals still spurting and bleating. Clinging though he was, Hero was flabbergasted by the way the slipping and scampering men went about their butchery, hacking and smashing more with passion than with precision. But not a single seal attempted to flee—throughout the carnage they barked all the louder, egging on their slayers, carcass by carcass drawing the impassioned sealers to Hero’s ice-locked raft.
It was all so hazy and macabre. Hero’s eyes rolled back, and the next thing he knew he was sitting hunched on the vessel’s sopping deck. Two men were rubbing his limbs while another poured warm water down his back. He looked around in shock. The very notion of a boat containing more than one or two individuals—a sort of floating tribe—was way beyond his ken; so to see it, to have it come looming out of nothingness, was an experience almost supernatural.
He remembered some of those fur-covered men force-feeding him mouthfuls of halibut and seal fat, and he recalled a small group standing around him, shouting words that made no sense at all. After that he had a very vivid memory of their angry little chief repeatedly punching him while hollering one angry little word over and over and over. Hero couldn’t make out his inquisitor’s face, for the large feather-lined hood quite engulfed the man’s head, yet he could see those quick eyes flash as they caught the oil lamps’ light. Finally this man stopped boxing Hero’s ear. He stared hard. In these remaining decades of the tenth century it was fully within his power to administer as he saw fit—he could have ordered Hero’s immediate execution and not a man of his crew would have objected. He hesitated only because there wasn’t a hint of resistance in his prisoner’s pinched and frightened eyes. He leaned forward, studying the wound that all but split Hero’s face in two before grunting, raising his right arm, and yanking down its seal hide sleeve. Attached to the stump of his forearm was a primitive prosthesis consisting of a thick oak cap strapped to the arm with lengths of gut, and, hammered squarely into the center of that cap, a broad, cruelly hooked blade chiseled from a narwhal’s tusk. He held this obscenity in front of Hero’s eyes, traced the face’s deep diagonal rift, and once more demanded his captive’s identity. Hero then vaguely remembered being dragged along a tilting deck and thrown into the ship’s tiny hold. He retained a strong mental image of landing in a place of musty odors and dank projections.
There came a soft scuffling in the darkness, and presently a blind and exceedingly old woman felt her way to his side, mumbling as she approached. Her speech was comprised not of words; it was rather a running gibberish of cooing vowels and clucking consonants. The old woman was as mad as her circumstances; sick with sea and solitude, bedeviled by age and confinement. She sat cross-legged, patting her withered palms up his arm until she came to his face. Her strange mumbling soliloquy rose and fell as her bony fingers daintily explored the newly opened wound. Hero let his head fall back in her lap. A pair of hands like emaciated tarantulas scurried through the filth and tiny bodies until they came upon an old otter’s pelt bag that held her secrets. The woman loosened the bag’s cord and extracted an assortment of herbs, sniffing each in succession. She then scooped a handful of blubber from a bowl made of a previous occupant’s skull, kneaded the selected herbs into the blubber, and commenced gently massaging the wound, clucking and cooing while the black rats watched and waited.
For nine interminable days Hero remained in that cold, stinking compartment, rocking back and forth between life and death. The old woman never gave up on him. She clung to him during his seizures, rubbed his limbs vigorously when his blood pressure fell. She gathered various accumulated skins and, using woven strands of her own long hair, sewed him a multilayered, body-length wraparound with arm sleeves and very deep pockets, working by touch with a needle formed of a cod’s rib. By this same method she was able to fashion a pair of heavily lined snug-fitting moccasins. The old woman made him eat; she masticated the cod and halibut their keepers pitched into the hold, then shoved the results down his throat with a long gnarly forefinger. She called into his screaming nightmares, talking him out of sleep and back into their foul little reality. Together they lowed in the dark, while the keel groaned along and the waves beat time.
At the end of those dark nine days his strength was restored, but not his mind. Once again he was taken on deck.
The vessel had reached a chain of remote wind-swept islands, rocky and treeless, naked except for patchy carpets of hardy grass. These islands stretched far to the west, shrouded in mist. The ship was making for the smallest; just a chip on the sea. When they reached depth for anchorage Hero was hustled into a rowboat and lowered over the side. He looked up, saw two men climbing down by rope. These men positioned themselves at the oars and slowly rowed toward the islet. Seated between them, Hero felt like a man being led to his execution. He snuck a peek. The rowers’ heads were lowered, their features completely obscured by the heavy feathered hoods; they had all the somberness of pallbearers. Not a word passed between them as they rigidly worked their oars:  the only sound was the dip-and-purl of wood in water. Hero looked away. Against his will, he found his eyes drawn to that rocky islet waiting in the fog.
Not a bird, not a sea lion, not a shrub. It was lonesome beyond imagination.
Upon landfall one of the men used a spear’s point to **** Hero ashore. While his companion steadied the boat, he removed a skin sack full of half-frozen halibut, followed by a few armloads of precious tinder. These articles he tossed at Hero’s feet. He resumed his place at the oars and, without looking back, used the blunt end of his spear to shove off.
Hero watched the boat moving away, watched the men climbing their ropes, watched the boat being hauled aboard. As the mysterious vessel receded he saw a number of those silent men standing at the stern, stolidly returning his stare. Their hooded forms grew smaller and smaller, finally becoming indistinct. The vessel was swallowed up in fog.
Hero looked around, at a desolate world of rock and drifting ice. In the sunless pools at his feet a few purplish, flaccid sea anemones were waving in a sickly phosphorescence; along the rocks ran a tattered quilt of wild grass and lichen. It was the end of the world. He began to pace in his anxiety, only to crumple bit by bit inside his furs. At last he just sat with his face in his arms and wept. When he could weep no more he raised his head and opened his red, swollen eyes.
There were gulls all around him, staring like statuary in a madman’s garden. Standing in their midst were auks and puffins and murres, absolutely spellbound, unable to lean away. The silence was broken only by a wild, fitfully pursing wind—a wind that seemed, eerily, on the verge of producing syllables. And on that wind a flock of terns was rising slowly, their beady eyes fixed on the lone sitting man. The terns watched as he trembled, and banked as he swooned.
Then, beating as one, they threw back their wings and blew into the sun.

There was a blaze.
Behind that blaze a pair of black, bug-like eyes met his and immediately withdrew. A man wrapped in caribou hides stood abruptly, drawing angry swarms of sparks.
The Aleut peered queerly into the icy Pacific, his craggy profile merging seamlessly with a jumble of rocks showing just beyond his shoulder. The man was very tall, closer to seven feet than to six, and thin almost to emaciation.
He was also a mute. Soon enough he would display a talent for communication through gutturals, but now his body language spoke louder than words. It told the shivering stranger that he was not only disliked—he was feared.
The islander removed the hides he’d piled on the sleeping man. He produced a bone awl and strategically pierced a caribou hide, draped the hide over the old woman’s handiwork, and ran a cord of tightly woven tendons crosswise through his made holes, knotting it at the bottom to create a kind of cloak. He then killed the fire, heaped wood, fish, and remaining hides into Hero’s arms, and led him to a tiny cove where his long skin canoe lay in the grass. This was not the one-man kayak used by his people for centuries, but an actual canoe modeled on the graceful vessels he’d observed under the control of northern coastal tribesmen. After dragging it into the water he perched Hero in the fore, placed the cargo in the middle, and stepped into the rear like a gaunt furry spider. The Aleut dug out a paddle and began pulling with smooth strokes of surprising muscularity, his black eyes trained on his quiet companion’s back.
So began their long island-hopping journey. They stepped the chain one stone at a time, living off the sea. But much as the islander disliked Hero’s vapid company, it was not in his nature to proceed expeditiously; his people, remote as they were, had learned to count not in days but in generations. Given this, the Aleut took his time. He showed Hero how to build shelters of skin and gut; during bad weather the two would sit on an island in utter silence while rain hammered on their stretched seal-intestine window. And one very clear night he pointed out constellations while attempting to demonstrate, using broad gestures, just how the brighter heavenly bodies were in perfect alignment with the Aleutians. Hero followed his guide’s gestures as a pet follows its master’s movements and, like a pet, soon became bored. The Aleut did not grow flustered. He grew ever more wary:  behind that granite, weather-beaten exterior squirmed a very primitive imagination. Superstitious as he was, the Aleut was almost certain Hero could read his mind. So one time, and one time only, he threw a searing look at the back of Hero’s bowed and listing head. After a long minute of vigorous thought-projection he shifted his gaze aside. The brute appeared to feel this shift, and gently turned his head. And both saw the ocean break rhythm, and watched as otters and sea lions surfaced, noted their progress, and slipped without tremor beneath the waves.
In spring the fogs lifted. The grimness gave way to serenity, a generous sun buttered the dappled sea. On the islands grass grew lushly. Wildflowers leapt on the color-starved eye.
And one day the islander’s nape itched. He turned to see a flock of arctic terns casually tracking them under a gorgeous, white-plumed sky. As the day progressed the terns came drifting high overhead, slowly but surely taking the lead.
The Aleut squinted against the sun. He’d never known these birds to pursue a westerly migratory pattern—the terns were distributing themselves into a rough wedge shape, much like geese on the wing.
For a while he let the flock be his guide. Then, to test his stars, he cunningly steered his canoe north. At once the wedge disintegrated. Not until he’d lowered his eyes and pulled purposefully to the west did the disrupted pattern reassert itself. He peered up timidly. The wedge was now in the shape of a perfect arrowhead.
Just so were the fates of mariners and aviators inextricably entwined. At night, once the Aleut had landed his canoe on the nearest pearl, the terns would light in a quiet circle and remain until sunrise. As the Aleut and Hero took to sea, the flock would quickly form that same authoritative pattern.
In time the Aleut paddled his companion clear to the westernmost islands of the Aleutian chain. His people had dwelt, even here, a thousand years and more, but no contemporary islander knew for certain what lay beyond. Legend told of an enormous land mass forever gripped by cold, where a cruel people waylaid innocent seafarers for barbaric sacrificial rites.
So here the islander paused. But even as he vacillated he noticed the terns were veering south.
If the Aleut had been able to curse aloud he would have been vociferous. He was being compelled to follow an even less desirable course—that of the unknown open ocean. Now he looked upon his passenger’s hunched back not with fear but with loathing. He took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders, and defiantly continued west. The wedge broke up immediately. The terns dive-bombed the canoe, whirled around the windmilling Aleut, tore skyward and hovered determinedly. Something huge broke surface behind them, but the Aleut was way too frayed to turn. He dropped his head, a beaten man, and began paddling south. Little by little the birds returned to formation.
The tiny canoe had no business going up against the mighty Pacific. It would soon have been swallowed and smashed, had not the terns veered in close formation whenever the distant sea appeared too rough. Once he’d lost his bearings the Aleut religiously followed their serpentine course.
The days began to warm.
Now the sea’s bounty all but leapt in the canoe.
It seemed the Aleut was forever catching the finest currents, practically sliding down a corridor entirely free of peril. In this manner he was able to safely navigate waters no such craft had mastered before.
They were proceeding south by southwest, awed children of a plenteous, generous sea. The going became easier by the day, the ocean heavier with cod.
Nights the Aleut drifted comfortably, but a lifetime of wariness made him wake off and on. He’d slowly rise to find Hero sitting quietly under the stars, and soon he’d see, pallid in moonlight, a large body neatly pleating the ocean’s surface. The shape would precede them a while, only to vanish without a ripple.
All this strangeness kept the Aleut’s heart in a whirl, though he took pains to maintain his poise.
To allay his fear he kept a flat black stone planted squarely between them. It was his oldest treasure; an oddity he’d taken off the body of a mauled Tlingit woman when he was a child. Who she was, and how she’d come by the stone, were mysteries far beyond him, for no such piece had ever been known to Aleut or Inuk.
The stone was smooth and had been worked perfectly round. Bright yellow specks were scattered about its dull black face.
Long ago someone had etched a quaint and clumsy rune on that flat black surface—it was the crude, universal symbol for sun:  a broad circle surrounded by several rays. When the stone was rubbed against a pelt it possessed the curious property of growing quite warm and bright in the rune’s grooves, while the surface remained cool and dull.
This stone, both friend and overlord, had always “spoken to him”. It caused him to become restless when it was time to move on, and allowed him to relax when a destination had been reached. In this way he’d come to the familiar islet and discovered the unconscious little man. Just so:  the stone, he was sure, was responsible for making him “feel bad” as he watched the stranger shiver, and “feel better” once he’d built him a life-saving fire from the small pile of tinder he’d found nearby.
By now, however, the Aleut was wholly disenchanted with his stone, and deeply regretted having done its mysterious bidding. Never before had he been so long from sight of land, and never before had he felt so very, very small. The unimagined immensity of the Pacific was really starting to get to him when, after all their while at sea, a gray, seductive haze broke the horizon. They had reached another chain of islands, an Asian chain, the dark and smoky Kurils. Here a cold current kept the climate cool and foggy, and the chill, along with the prevalence of otter and seal, made him feel almost at home.
But this place gave him the creeps; he was a stranger, a trespasser somewhere sacred. There was a looming quality to the island mountains that made him extraordinarily aware of his transience, his pettiness, his puniness. He grew more and more cautious, sure their progress was being monitored—he could have sworn he saw wraiths in the trees, and wolves padding warily in the brush. The big islands looked on breathlessly. All along the rocky cliffs, thousands of auks and puffins followed the canoe in dead silence, their heads turning simultaneously, their countless tiny eyes peering redly through the fog. As the weeks passed, the Aleut’s anxiety was manifested in tics and sighs, and he’d cringe each time the crimson sun sank behind those black volcanic summits. In his imagination the mountains would rise right out of the sea, as though to pluck him. But the islands, in all their dignity, would always refuse to acknowledge so meek a stranger, and return their eyes to sea. The Aleut would hang his head, and timidly paddle by.
Then for days and days he pulled his weary canoe west—through a strait parting two mighty islands not part of the chain, and thence across a sea that was a warm, enticing bath. Spring had come to the East Asian coastal waters, and the Ainu, alone and in groups, were venturing deeper in search of increasing bounty. The Aleut, absorbed in his thoughts of sweet climate and bitter fate, was unaware they’d been spotted.
This first meeting between strangers of different worlds was a brief and awkward one. A lone Ainu fisherman, seeing the Aleut come paddling out of the unknown, dropped his net and turned to stone. The Aleut, for his part, instinctively froze with his body turned half-away to make the leanest target possible. Their stares locked. Never had the Aleut seen a face so heavily bearded, and never hair so fair. The Ainu began banging on his bronze catch pail. Other fishers soon appeared from the north and south, effectively cutting off the canoe. The Aleut caressed his stone and looked to the sky. The wedge had vanished. He put down his head and paddled for all he was worth.
With the word out, uncountable fishing craft appeared out of the blue and broke into hot pursuit, their pilots determined to force the canoe ashore.
Suddenly they were in sight of land, and the sea was absolutely riddled with watercraft. A train of small boats cast off from the mainland, even as a posse of two-man coracle-like tubs began to surround the battered skin canoe, their inhabitants calling back and forth in astonishment at the sight of these dark, savage newcomers. But the pursuing little coastal men, banging excitedly on the sides of their boats, were not Ainu. They had very straight black hair, prominent cheekbones, and strangely slanted eyes. And their speech, oddly marvelous as it was, was a rapid series of coos, chirps, and barks. Their boats formed a tight semi-circle around the canoe, forcing the Aleut to approach the mainland. The little men banged their boats maniacally, with more joining in as the canoe neared shore.
A bit farther south was a natural harbor swarming with fishing vessels of every description. As the canoe was forced into this harbor, people along the rocky coast began banging whatever they could get their hands on, until the air was filled with their lunatic percussion.
Tiny brown men came running along a soft yellow cliff overlooking the harbor, gesturing wildly. The canoe was squeezed between a chain of tubs and the shore, and, as it slowed, the tempo and ferocity of the banging decreased accordingly. When the canoe came to a halt the banging and shouting stopped. Hero creaked to his feet. The first North American to set foot on Asian soil stepped out shakily.
There followed the profoundest silence imaginable.
A second later it was as if a dam had burst.
Hundreds of hysterical, yammering voices erupted from hundreds of hysterical, clinging men and women. Hero was spun around, jostled about, handed along. He stared into their astounded, pinched little faces, and the sun, pulsing between their heads as he was turned, repeatedly stabbed his eyes. There came an excited outburst and frantic splashing which could only have been the Aleut’s violent demise, and then Hero was somehow limping alongside a primitive fishing village, blindly following a narrow dirt path that hugged the yellow cliff’s base. The warm spring sun caught the dust as he shambled. He rounded a bend and stopped.
Half a dozen children stood in his way, too fascinated to run. A chatter and scuffle rose behind him. He looked back to see that he was now in the midst of a small crowd of these children, and that more were running up with cries of amazement.
A stone struck his shoulder. As Hero turned another glanced off his chest.
A moment later he was being pelted from all sides, and the giggles and gasps had become something wildly unreal. He dropped to his knees in a hail of hurled rocks, covered his head with his arms, and slithered up the path on his belly.
A new voice broke in; an older, authoritative voice.
The children scampered off squealing.
Hero, shaken to his feet, found himself face to face with a diminutive, shouting, incomprehensible old man. The old man threw his arm around Hero’s waist and, jabbering all the while, led him to a secondary path cut into the cliff’s face. This path sloped gently upward over the waves. Together they picked their way to a place maybe halfway up, where the cliff’s face was honeycombed with natural alcoves and dug-out caves. Most of these spaces were used as one-man shelters; a few, cut deeper in the earth, as family hives. Strange gabbing people slid out of these holes like worms, reaching, but the little old man, who was evidently a little old man of some stature, embraced his find possessively and shouted them back inside.
The path narrowed as they climbed.
At its summit spread the upscale end of the neighborhood. Hero was led to a hovel nestled amid dozens of similar hovels, all scattered around a dainty stream wending between patches of stunted vegetation.
The old man’s place was basically a one-room hut fashioned of earth and salvaged boat hulls, with a slender side-yard surrounded by dry, dusty hedges. But inside it was clean and tidy, with rice paper partitioning and, built into the far earthen wall, a miniature stone fireplace. The old man sat his guest in the exact center of the room. There he fed him scraps from his bowl, using long sticks to pluck out bits of fish and clumps of tiny, starchy white pellets.
He studied the brute closely, watched him chew, walked round and round him. He poked here. He pinched there.
And that night he lit a fire on his crushed-shell hearth.
Hero curled up on a mat where the gossip of flames could reach him. Nearby, at his delicate wicker table, the old man sat in semi-darkness, illuminated only from the waist down.
But his eyes were alive. They spat and darted as they reflected the fire’s light, and, when at last they’d begun to sputter, his scratchy little voice came pattering out of the dark, muttering something vile and oddly modulated, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes in a gathering snarl.
Hero feigned slumber, unable to ignore those paired ominous flashes. Still, the room was cozy, and the fire warm, and the play of light and shadow kicked sleep in his eyes.

In the morning he woke in the old man’s side-yard, his head pounding, a rusty iron clamp securely fastened around his neck. This clamp was attached to the outermost link of a crude three-foot chain, and the link at the other end to a long stake driven into eight inches of solid rock. The chain and stake, like the clamp, were hammered of local iron. The clamp was too tight for comfortable swallowing, the chain too short to make standing possible. Hero could, however, spread out on his chest and stretch an arm to a low row of hedges. By parting the tangled undergrowth he had a limited view of the fishing village below, and of the harbor beyond. As the days passed he was able to tweak himself a view-space discernible only from his peculiar vantage. He accomplished this by gently breaking small branches strategically, then guiding their interrupted growth with the utmost tenderness. It was his secret garden.
He had no memory—none whatsoever—of being staked here. Obviously the old man hadn’t set this up overnight. Hero’s mind prodded timidly…how many others had been chained to this spot, and why?
But over the subsequent weeks and months he went beyond caring. Each day was the same:  just after dawn the old man would storm into the tiny side-yard swinging his reed whip wildly. The lashings were savage and unremitting. The old man, except for his eyes, would be mute. Only his whip need speak. And the snap of his reed had but one message:  when you see this whip you go down, and you go down immediately.
The naked savage, scarred head to foot, learned to go prostrate on the moment. Even so, the old man couldn’t resist the temptation to indulge in the occasional good old, all-out thrashing. And after each session he would toss the prisoner a vile mess of dead fish and rotting leftovers.
Hero lived like this for many months, lost in a confused world of pain and anticipation. Perversely, he came to look forward to the bite of that whip, for, whether he flogged him in passion or just for sport, the old man was always sure to make it personal. It seemed their relationship might go on forever.
But one day there was a great commotion in the sleepy little fishing village. Hero parted the leaves and beheld a small train of oblong coaches at rest near the harbor. Large oxen yoked in pairs lolled between the carriages, immune to the clamor around them. There were dark shaggy horses and colorfully dressed Bactrian camels. The horses and camels were tethered in the rear, but were occasionally paraded around the carriages by little men wielding long painted bamboo poles. The whole affair was exotic and mesmerizing, eccentric and profane. Hero watched all day in amazement, infected by the hubbub, though he was totally mystified by the crowd’s fascination on the carriages’ far side.
And late that afternoon he saw the old man come walking out of that crowd, talking heatedly with another man. The stranger was shorter and broader than the old man, with long stringy hair and long stringy mustaches. He saw them climbing the path, saw them crawl inside a hole lashing furiously. They were lost from view for a minute, then popped up big as life. Hero glowed and curled up eagerly as they approached.
The old man and stranger came into the narrow side-yard still arguing. The old man grabbed Hero by the hair and twisted until he was facing the newcomer.
The stranger had oily, porous skin, and a round but grave countenance. His highly slanted eyes were bright and restless. He studied Hero’s mutilated face with keen interest before borrowing the old man’s reed. When Hero scraped at his feet he grunted and returned the reed.
The stranger pulled out something shiny and hefted it in his hand. He then raised his other hand while considering Hero, as though weighing him too. The old man’s eyes glinted, and for an instant his expression became grotesquely servile. The stranger and old man, facing, nodded curtly in unison. The stranger dropped the shiny thing onto the old man’s itching palm. The old man whipped Hero frantically before taking a small ax to the chain. A few hard blows split a link, the broken link was bent back by the tool’s shaft, and the prisoner was at last released.
The old man handed the stranger a short hempen rope. The stranger bowed deeply. He then tied an end of the rope through one of the remaining links and began dragging Hero along. Hero’s hands sought the old man, who kicked and cursed him all the way to the path. The three stumbled single-file to the bottom. The old man waved his arms and shouted hysterically, trotting behind until he ran out of breath. But he got in a final kick and, before he came to a gasping halt, managed to lash Hero once for old time’s sake, and to spit on him twice for luck.

There were five carriages; a long one in the center hitched to four oxen, and two smaller coaches in the front and rear with a pair of oxen on each. The carriages were old and battered, built of splitting wood slats and rusted iron braces. Various hides, spare wheels, and a hundred odds and ends were tied to the sides and roofs. Hero’s new master, using him as a ram, shoved him through the crowd to the long carriage. He hauled him up the single wood step and watched the crowd’s reaction. Children hid behind mothers, mothers hissed and jeered, men spat in that smashed, disgusting face.
Satisfied, Hero’s master twisted the rope tighter and dragged him through the hide flap that served as the carriage’s rear wall.
A strange ruckus began at their entrance.
Inside the carriage were bulky shapes and quirky movements, yet the immediate and overwhelming impression was one of unbelievable stench. Hero, instantly covered with flies, was kicked and shoved down a foot-wide aisle. The carriage’s walls were riddled with black flecks of old dried blood, the floor coated with standing *****, a variety of small carcasses, and some clinging, indefinable slime. But the living contents of this hell were so horrifying, and so unexpected, that Hero at once dropped to his knees. Observing this, master grabbed a whip off the wall and lashed him along the floor.
A number of bamboo cages lined either side of the carriage, each four feet high, four feet wide, and three feet deep. In the first cage to their left, a quadruple amputee dangled in a leather harness in a cloud of flies, jealously gnawing a chicken carcass balanced on his belly. The second cage held a man who had been burned over ninety per cent of his body, and the third a middle-aged woman with no eyes or tongue, her head shaved. The next cage housed a fully grown black leopard, its bright eyes fixed on the horrified newcomer. Then an empty cage, and finally a cage containing a demented man whose long yellow nails were busily raking a face deeply scarred and bleeding.
The first cage against the opposite wall held two girls rolling in their own excrement. Siamese twins unable to part, they had developed a unique method of locomotion, and now executed a three-quarters cartwheel in Hero’s direction, their mangled, severely bitten hands attempting to reach him through the bars. In the cage next to theirs a naked dwarf glowered menacingly, his eyes following coldly as Hero’s master shoved him down the narrow aisle, occasionally pausing to lash a cage. The hissing and howling increased as each prisoner beheld the new neighbor.
The third cage held an intensely sick adult Bornean sun bear, so confined it was entirely unable to move. Its hide was a patchwork of scraggly fur and grayish skin, glistening with odd eruptions. It rolled its sunken eyes in Hero’s direction, its muzzle twitching feebly.
The next cage contained a man who was frightfully diseased. Broad fungal patches covered his face and limbs, terminating in waxy folds that dangled like a rooster’s wattles. Welling sores spotted his chest and back. His eyes were bugged and sallow; his lower lip drooped below his chin. He barked wetly at Hero’s passing legs.
The second-to-last cage housed a rare, completely hairless Chinese albino, and the last cage a very tall, skeletal woman. The albino snapped at Hero while repeatedly banging his head against the cage. The woman hissed and coiled like a snake, her spine arching amazingly.
Master hauled Hero to the empty cage on his left, swung its door open with his foot, and forced him to his knees by pushing down with all his weight. He kicked and punched until Hero had been squeezed inside, then shut and secured the wide bamboo door.
Master inched his way back down the carriage, hammering the **** of his whip on each cage as he passed. There was a glimpse of daylight as he lifted the flap.
Once he’d departed, the carriage grew eerily silent.
Hero cautiously turned his head. Less than a foot away, the black leopard was frozen in place, one paw waving hypnotically in his face. The beast’s fangs were bared, its ears straight back, its eyes glistening. Hero turned ever so slowly, until he was looking into the eyes of the demented man in the final cage. The man cocked his head quizzically. A second later he was screaming his lungs out in a bizarre downward spiral.
At once the carriage erupted. The freaks shrieked and scrabbled, the leopard spun in place. Directly across the aisle, the albino hurled himself against the bars of his cage. He batted his face with his fists, threw back his head, and just howled and howled and howled. The snake woman curled even tighter, her long scrawny legs entwined behind her head.
Hero sat with breath held, absolutely silent, absolutely motionless. He very, very slowly closed his eyes.

Later that night the flap was flung high. The menagerie came alive as master, weirdly illuminated by moonlight, slowly made his way down the aisle carrying a skin sack oozing blood. He stopped at each cage to toss in a dying chicken and a handful of smelt.
When he reached Hero’s cage he looked down thoughtfully.
He extracted a quivering chicken and held it above the cage so that blood dripped on the brute’s deeply pleated forehead. Hero lowered his eyes. Master’s face darkened. He smashed the bird against the cage, over and over, a vein throbbing in his temple. Finally he hissed and displayed the limp chicken high over the albino’s head. The albino yelped and kicked, thrusting his hand up between the bars and jerking it back to lick away the blood rolling down his forearm.
Master eyed Hero coldly before pointedly dropping the chicken into the albino’s searching hands.
Master hissed again. He slowly made his way out.
Soon there was a commotion outside. The carriage rocked a bit before settling. Hero, turning in his cage to peek through a rift in the wood, saw horses being urged forward. He could hear men shouting. The carriage rocked again. He looked up and saw the gibbous moon suspended in mist. For just a second something wedge-shaped cut across its soft white face.
But then the oxen were grunting, the wheels had been freed, and the horses drawn abreast. Master’s lash spat left and right, and the show proceeded…west.

                                              MA­STER

She was very round and very small, with very short, very shaggy black hair. Her arms bore the scars of numerous bites from beast and man, and around her neck ran long wheals from a particularly savage owner. Hero, having spent the better part of the morning watching master storm in and out of a strange screaming house, now watched him drag the little round woman through the dirt. For a while he listened to the song of his master’s lash, waiting for the woman to break. But there was never a whimper.
It had been a difficult transaction for master, and an altogether difficult morning. For hours he’d paced up and down the main carriage, alternately murmuring affectionately into, and lashing at, each cage he visited. The sun bear, long dead and stuffed, had been taken outside for barter. It had soon been returned.
Master had lingered over Hero’s cage for a good while, staring critically. He’d begun shouting, and three of his men had burst in through the flap, unlatched the demented man’s cage, and dragged him out by the feet for trade, master personally stomping on his torn and groping hands.
And now master was kicking and shoving the little woman down the aisle as his men restrained her by the hair and throat. Upon master’s command these men stripped her naked and commenced pinching and slapping while making threatening faces and mocking noises. The freaks sat right up in their cages.
The woman looked as though she’d fainted:  her arms were lax, her eyes rolled up. Her whole face seemed to purse, and her body, head to toe, began to run blue. Her fingers quivered, arched, and clawed—the woman was self-asphyxiating. Master fairly leaped with delight while the cages rocked around him. He had the men slap her awake. Once she was fully conscious they stuffed her into the demented man’s old cage next to Hero’s.
Master then looked in eagerly, one to the other, his hands balled into fists. The woman buried her odd round face in her forearms as she squeezed herself into her cage’s deepest corner. Hero gazed indifferently and went back to his peephole.
Master exploded. He smacked and kicked the cages over and over, swore up and down, ran the shaft of his whip back and forth against the heavy bamboo bars. Eventually he calmed somewhat. He stared coldly at Hero, made a ***** smile, and spat right in his eyes. A tense minute passed. Master slowly made his way outside.
Hero automatically relaxed. Across the aisle the albino ****** his face between his cage’s bars to sniff the newcomer. The leopard, bobbing rhythmically, emitted a high-pitched squeal that gradually descended to a steadily throbbing growl.
Hero looked the stranger over. Once she’d lowered her hands he saw that her eyes were crossed, her jaw slack, her face as round as the full moon. He looked closer. There were scars all over her throat and arms:  plainly, the small round woman had been treated very badly. Hero instinctively slid a foot between the bars; the woman cried out and scrunched even deeper. Across the aisle the albino quickly extended an arm. Without knowing why, Hero turned on him. The albino flinched, his eyes tearing into Hero’s. A second later he was stamping his feet and grinning wildly. Hero went back to his peephole.
Next morning master and two of his men dismantled the bamboo walls separating Hero’s and the woman’s cages. They bound the frames with broad leather bands, making a single cage of the two.
A common door was fashioned and secured. Master used his broad blade to shear away Hero’s rags. The men hunched around the long cage expectantly.
The naked couple backed away. Master was instantly exasperated—he shouted, lashed furiously, stamped and screamed, jabbed a broken shaft between the bars with malevolent intent, whirled and hurled the shaft at nothing. The carriage’s inmates went out of their minds. At master’s bellowed command a man scurried outside, returning with a long rope of woven leather strands. Master opened the cage and, applying all his weight, pinned Hero and his new mate in an awkward embrace while his men tied them together.
Again master and his men bent over the long cage to watch.
When Hero realized his predicament he made a desperate attempt to reach his peephole.
The men, misreading his struggles, babbled and cheered, but master threw up his hands. He then, through gesture, ordered his men to drape a number of hides over the long cage. Once these hides were in place he very quietly bent to one knee and placed an ear against the cage. After a while he cursed and rose to his feet. He shook the cage and stormed out, whipping and kicking the howling inmates.
In the semi-darkness the man and woman quit fighting their bonds.
A muffled patter began on the hide-covered roof.
Rain, as always, had a calming effect on the carriage’s occupants, causing the freaks and beasts to slip, one by one, into lethargy or slumber. Under such a spell, the attainment of master’s goal was inevitable.
It was a coupling both innocent and vile, without passion or celebration. Occasionally the freaks would surface, register their excitement by shrieking, shaking their cages, or otherwise clamoring…but very quickly the air would stifle them, weighing their heads and confusing their impulses. The atmosphere grew heavier by the minute. And, when night rolled over the carriages, the rain came down in sheets.

Leaning ******* the woman’s cage, master slipped his gnarly hand between the bars and slowly rubbed her belly in a counter-clockwise motion, his sinister features soft in the candle’s light. And he told, in nonsensical cooing whispers, of a lovingly secure and impossibly prosperous future.
How large and promising that belly had become! And how wise was he, the cunning and aggressive master, in his far-reaching business decisions. He turned his affection to the motionless gaping brute; stroked the battlefield of its face, tossed in another lizard. Master rubbed his palms together. From now on it was extra lizards daily, for both the woman and her mate. He remarked, with only passing interest, his star player’s continuing indifference. They didn’t know each other, didn’t need each other.
There’d been months of shows on the road now, broken only recently by this sensible rejoining of the mates at conception.
Hero’s horrible disfigurement was unquestionably top draw; he was a guaranteed crowd pleaser at every stop. So now master looked him straight in the eyes and smiled. He held the reeking candle high. The carriage was absolutely silent. Master smiled again, rose to his feet, tiptoed away.
Hero watched him retreat until the flap had fallen. He returned to his peephole, saw master round the rear of the carriage and slowly crunch by. For a time he could see nothing but the half-shapes of junipers bathed in starlight. There was a tentative movement to his right and a large shape came to obstruct his view.
The horse stood for a minute in profile. It slowly brought its head to rest against the carriage, applying its eye to the peephole. Hero froze. The two remained fixed, eyeball to eyeball, while a breeze played odd tunes on the outer wall’s hanging paraphernalia. The horse’s big dark eye rolled nervously. A long moment passed. Slowly the horse backed off. It stood uncertainly for a while, staring at the peephole. Then it quietly moved away.

Master kicked the cages one by one, left hand and right, as he slowly made his way down the aisle. Into each cage he delivered a personalized warning in passing—a growl, a hiss, a bark—but he was quickly losing control. Animal electricity hopscotched the carriage, cage to cage, ceiling to floor, front to rear and back again. Master froze. Much more of this excitement, he feared, could seriously agitate the woman—with grave consequences for master.
She was splayed on her back, in labor’s throes, her ankles and wrists bound to the long cage. Hero had been removed to give her room, and now sat hunched atop the snake woman’s cage, two men holding him by the throat and legs.
Master gnashed and snarled, listening to the woman scream, watching her stupid round head bounce up and down and back and forth. He knew it! He’d been suckered, hoodwinked, scammed—ripped off like a common rube. The woman was too ******* to handle even something as natural as childbirth. Still…it was too late to second-guess himself—all these months he’d been patient—he’d been supportive and vigilant and now he would not be denied. He flogged one of the men to alleviate his tension.
The blue lady was very slowly, very dramatically arching her spine. Master wiped the sweat from his eyes. When the bars were pleating her big round belly, her shoulders began drumming on the straw-strewn floor.
Master screamed one very colorful expletive.
A razor silence came over the carriage. Not a body moved or breathed.
At last two men tiptoed around their purpling master and leaned into the cage. One obediently ****** a foot between the bars. He pushed ******* her right knee while using a hand to grip the left knee, spreading her legs wide. The other man drew a broad leather strap between her teeth. After lifting the woman’s head he pulled the strap behind her neck, knotted it to make a gag, and yanked a skin sack over her face. He looked up anxiously. Master licked his lips and nodded. The man made a fist and frantically punched the woman’s face until her muffled screams ceased. She moaned gently throughout her contractions.
Master genuflected, brought a spitting candle in tight, and took a deep breath. As he raised his hand the candle’s light bounced off his knife’s chipped and scored eleven-inch blade. Master swore and reached down carefully. He flicked his wrist twice and the menagerie went mad.

The child was a tremendous disappointment.
Master had eagerly anticipated an infant ******* and deformed; something embracing the best qualities of its parents. He had even designed a special cage that could be expanded by degrees as the spawn developed. There also remained the tantalizing option of a family display, though such an undertaking would require the eventual construction of a structure even larger than the cage its parents now shared. Master anguished over the logistics, knowing it would break his heart to have to cut one of his jewels’ throats just to make room for a growing child. Nights he would slowly pace the carriage with all the possessiveness of a jealous suitor, one hand maneuvering a sputtering candle, the other tenderly rapping his whip’s **** against each visited cage.
But the boy was a flawless specimen; a beautiful, undemanding baby. From the moment master angrily tossed the placenta he felt cheated, even betrayed. He grimaced as it peaceably took to its mother’s breast, despite the surrounding horrors. Master hated it, immediately and entirely. The ****** thing was so docile it was almost charming. He drew his knife and was just reaching down, when an overwhelming sense of dread shook him like a rat in the jaws of a mastiff. Sweat poured down his squat, pig-tailed nape. He knew he would live to regret it, but decided to not cut the child’s throat right away. It was the oddest feeling. His knife hand had trembled for the first time in his life, and he had found himself momentarily contemplating right and wrong at the outset of a perfectly simple and commonplace procedure. That was it, then. His business instincts were letting him know there was a good, albeit unknowable, reason to let the sweet baby live. Master left the carriage anxiously, muttering in his ambivalence.
The boy grew to embody his worst expectations. Not only was it a poorly oriented child, clinging to its father rather than its master almost from the moment of weaning, but it soon proved a lousy draw with the patrons. Those who paid to view the child dangling in its special cage inevitably departed unsatisfied, some vocalizing, strangely, an acute sense of shame. So once again master entered the carriage with his knife hand steady, and once again he exited trembling, his heart in his throat and his soul in a whirl. He whipped the dwarf savagely before leaving. What place conscience in the mind of a businessman?
Soon as the boy could walk, master put him to work fetching and feeding. But the brat was slothful in his chores, preferring to hang around his family’s cage while staring wistfully at his father. For their part, the parents were wholly disinterested. Master would fume while Hero gazed for hours out his peephole—even as the mother lolled, perpetually ill. Sometimes that accursed woman’s condition riled poor master to no end. She could teeter at death’s door for months at a time, her body changing hues to the fascination of customers, only to bounce back with a hardiness that was of interest to no one. But at the peak of her performances the blue lady could really hold a crowd. Master produced an entire outdoors extravaganza around her:  within concentric rings of raging torches his men would slowly strip her naked before wild audiences, then allow the dwarf and albino to take her while the leopard strained against a gaily festooned chain. Master circulated his crew through the crowds to encourage his patrons’ cult-like behavior of breath-holding and fainting. No getting around it:  the customers were crazy about her—village to village, master’s Bactrian vanguard’s colorful robes shouted her approaching fame. And Hero’s popularity continued to soar. Many were the nights when master, pacing the perimeter, wondered just what devilry could have produced the lovely boy.
Overall, Hero remained his master’s favorite conceit and hottest property. Part of the little brute’s appeal was, of course, his exoticness. And certainly the ugliness arising from his deformity was compelling…but there was a detachedness about him that fascinated every soul with a fistful of copper cash coins. Whether they ****** him, cudgeled him, or spat in his face, he remained unflappable, staring only at the aching sky. Though many would leave uneasy, master noted with deep satisfaction that they almost invariably returned.
The boy soon evinced an amazing affinity for animals. No matter how agitated an ox or horse became, the child could pacify it with one hand on a lowered brow. This was a source of endless fascination for the crew. Wagers were made. The boy was pitted against oxen whipped to a frenzy. But they would not harm him; they would rather go prostrate and take the lash. Master tried to work this knack into a viable act, but his patrons just weren’t buying. They wanted freaks.
When the lad was a mere five years old, master had him trained in the peripheral art of the pickpocket. The boy worked well alone, and had all the makings of a fine little flimflam artist. Master sighed, his chronic nightmares a thing of the past. As ever, his business instincts were guiding him well.
Then late one afternoon he found the boy squatting outside his parents’ cage. The boy had done the unthinkable:  he had deposited his day’s pickings at the feet of his father instead of bringing the ***** to master. Master flew into a rage and raised his whip to give the little traitor the lashing he deserved. But before he could deliver a single stroke his other hand shot to his chest and he staggered back against the albino’s cage. He blinked down at the boy, who regarded him steadily while scooping the plunder into a little pile.
From that day on the boy placed whatever he could get his hands on at his father’s feet. As time passed he became ever more adroit at thievery, growing into a youngster both admired and despised by master and his crew; admired because theft was a cinch for him, despised because they were all that much lighter in their possessions.
Now, for eleven long years the strange little train had bounced along, sometimes camping outside villages for months, occasionally pausing on connecting roads. The show traversed the heart of Manchuria, skirted the Gobi in the north, and so eventually crossed almost the entire width of Mongolia before proceeding north to the confluence of the rivers Yenisey and Ob’. Much silver and copper had come to master’s coffer, much fame to his name, but he now sat looking over a vast, unmapped Siberian wilderness. The mostly nomadic characters they’d been encountering spoke in tongues unfamiliar even to his personal valet-translator-accountant, and the tone of these nomads had been unmistakably hostile.
Master huddled surlily under a canopy of sopping hides. Night was falling hard during a merciless rain, the wind was picking up, and his supplies coach was bogged in a growing sea of mud. At that moment he accepted the whole end-of-the-line concept, and knew he wasn’t going anywhere but back. And when he got back he was going to shine! He jumped from the coach.
The earth took his weight for a heartbeat—and he was up to his chin in muck, splashing about on his hands and knees, sliding forward on his palms and toes. He did a belly flop into a rain-filled depression and churned to his feet with the devil in his eyes. Wallowing in mud and bile, master stomped to the supplies coach and kicked wildly at the stuck rear wheels.
Somewhere between kicks he lost it completely.
Master broke for his whip. One minute he was blindly lashing his men, the next he’d succumbed to a mindless ferocity. He thrashed about like a berserker; whipping the beasts, the coach, the very night. His men were scarcely able to move in all that mud, but their dread of his savagery kept them hopping. They gathered as one and shoved the coach recklessly; slipping, splashing, shouting. A minute later, three lay splayed underfoot, but the mired wheel had been freed.
Throughout all this the oxen had swayed nervously, while the horses softly tramped their hooves in place. Master had his men turn the oxen about until the rickety train was pointing dead east. He checked the hitches and personally applied the lash. The oxen didn’t budge. Master swore and wiped the rain from his eyes. He had the horses hitched ahead of the oxen, but they were even less obliging. Master flew into a spectacular rage. His men, fearing for their lives, ran liberally with the lash.
The swaying of oxen picked up until the entire train of carriages was rocking. Yet the oxen could not, would not be compelled, under any amount of prodding, to take an eastward step. Master looked around in exasperation.
The night had gone insane.
Horses were fighting hitches, oxen walking on fire.
Master cursed the rain and mud and lashed all the harder. His men, seeking to please, whipped maniacally until the horses and both lead oxen broke their hitches and bolted west. The men immediately embraced the rear oxen, but the hitches shattered and the beasts stormed off. The remaining horses blew it, kicking at everything and nothing.
Inside the long carriage all was chaos. The albino was neighing and screaming, the aged leopard spinning in its cage. Hero stared out his peephole, amazed at the blur of figures stumbling by in the rain.
A pair of clopping blows rattled the opposite wall. Three slats cracked. A tremendous impact, and a huge section collapsed. A thrashing, hysterical mare burst through the breach in a veil of rain.
The horse went mad, killing the albino and snake woman in a flurry of hooves. She fell ******* the near wall, crushing the cages. The leopard shot into the air like a rocket, slashed at the mare’s throat and vanished in the rain. The horse reared above the family cage. She was just coming down in a wheeling storm of hooves when something made her freeze. Her stare locked with Hero’s, and a second later her eyes were rolling in their sockets. The mare kicked crazily and came down ******* her left flank, smashing the long cage’s side. She whirled upright and leaped outside.
For a tense minute the family sat in the rubble, rain bombarding their eyes. Nothing in their years of captivity had prepared them for such a situation. But by the end of that minute the son had taken full command. He rolled onto his back, braced himself, and kicked his parents across the aisle, through the remnants of the opposing cage, and out of the carriage. They all fell about in the mud and rain. To the west, the mare stared back strangely as she splashed into the night. The boy wedged himself between his parents, threw his arms around them, and pushed with all his might. Their bodies found a common center of gravity. Fumbling drunkenly, the family staggered through the rain in the wake of the mare.

The boy was the natural leader.
Master’s innocent-looking little ex-student could quickly assess and exploit almost any situation. He did the foraging and the figuring, slept with one eye open and one fist ready. He got what he wanted by charm or by stealth, slipping off at nightfall, returning at daybreak with small slaughtered animals and chunks of dark peasant bread. He also pilfered any bauble or oddity he could get his paws on, to be placed reverently at his father’s mangled feet. Breadwinner and watchdog, he faithfully held the family together; a nuclear son. He sewed hardy feather-lined cloaks of reindeer hide, and turned a cache of marmot pelts into a kind of side-slung backpack. He was doting nurse during his mother’s episodes, and unbending apportioner of calories in lean times. Dauntless when it meant crossing mighty rivers, relentless when it came to finding mountain passes. But the endless marching, the unreliable diet, and the countless predators made the three wanderers lean, haggard moving targets. There were times when the little lamp of family was all but extinguished, and long stands in places that seemed absolutely impassable. Still, the boy would work things out. He would stoop to any level to feed Hero, and for a stranger to threaten his father was to summon a psychotic, unyielding monster. He was both spear and shield.
The toughest job of all was maintaining a tight unit, meaning he was forced to become a hard-nosed ******* whenever his father was ready to wander off, which always seemed to be whenever the mother was hurting most. She’d become a tremendous impediment to Hero’s compulsion, and therefore her son’s chief nemesis. It wasn’t a big-picture concern anyway; the writing was on the wall. The blue lady’s attacks were increasing spectacularly on the steppe; her world had always been an enclosure of some kind, and the great horizon was proving just too much. Perhaps these intense affairs served as links to Hero’s suppressed memories, for at the onset of each attack he’d turn and hike, and then only exhaustion could curb him. The boy would press his mother on, dragging, shoving, and smacking—he could be mean when necessary, and though circumstances had made him the nucleus, their worlds unquestionably revolved around Hero. Where he sat, they sat. When he rose, they did the same. In this manner they marched for years across the vast steppes, single-file—father, mother, and son, respectively—unmolested, lacking possessions, always following the sun. Long before they could be measured they had drifted into obscurity.
The woman’s end came quickly and dramatically, in a rocky little depression on a half-frozen field. One moment she was responsive to her son’s prompts, the next she was flat on her back, her eyelids fluttering. That night she leapt from fever to chill, from alertness to stupor. The boy, squatting beside their campfire, watched her face and hands run cadaver-blue to fish belly-pale and back again. While he was staring her eyes popped open and her hands came scrabbling. He sweated through the clawing embrace until he could bear it no longer. He oozed out and ran down to fetch his father.
When they got back Hero watched incuriously for a while. His mate’s face was scrunched up and her skin the color of sapphires. She wasn’t breathing.
His gaze became glassy, his eyes returned to the night. As he rose the boy immediately grabbed an arm. Neither moved for minutes. When the boy at last relinquished, his father casually stumbled off.
Strange things were going on in Hero’s world. Some days he would notice how animals regarded him oddly, in a manner that seemed almost personal. He found, for instance, that particular creatures were recognizable even over great distances. A number of times he would sit with one in a stare-down, waiting patiently, until the animal’s natural disposition caused it to bolt. Though the meaning of these encounters was way over his head, he would watch, and he would listen.
In time he noticed an increasing skittishness in some of these familiar creatures. Something had them spooked. He then observed a number of lean gray wolves moving in and out of the picture with an air of complete indifference:  these wolves weren’t hunting; they were loitering—lounging in the grass, lackadaisically padding to the rear, filing by slowly in the distance. Once in a while a lounger would raise its head, yawn cavernously, and drop back out of sight. So unobtrusive was their behavior that even Hero’s ever-vigilant son began to take them for granted. They paused where the family paused, and halted whenever the woman broke down. Perfectly camouflaged by the gray boulders and dire sky, they were completely forgotten in the drama of her passing.
There were other, far subtler events existing for Hero’s senses alone. He could perceive patterns in everything around him; in the manner vegetation gave way wherever his heart was leading, in the way so many animals appeared to be not merely mirroring, but making his course. And wind, rain, running water:  these phenomena had voices. Yet not for everybody. No one—not his mate, not his son, not another soul on the planet could hear this call, for they were all of a sort. They were static, they were temporal. Hero couldn’t have cared less about the lives of his family, or about the mundane goings-on in the encampments and small tribes they skirted. Such beings lived in a world that was defined by the moment. They shouted, they banged, they clamored.
But west—west was music.
For his boy, once again watching Hero shamble off, the moment of truth had arrived. He looked back down, at his mother’s death mask being remade by the dying light of their campfire. As the flames dwindled he could have sworn he saw shadows creep into the wells of her eyes, while others, crawling up around her jawline, drew her bluing lips like purse strings. He hopped to his feet and ran for another handful of tinder. When their little fire provided enough light he dropped to his knees and looked again.
She was sinking right before his eyes, every aspect of her expression in collapse. The boy watched clinically, fascinated. As the flames began to sputter he thought he could see large purple bruises spreading across her cheeks like the seeping limbs of overflowing pools. He bent closer.
From deep in the night came the longest, the leanest, the saddest wail he’d ever heard. He turned to see the starlit ghost of his father, facing away, staring at a low barren hill. Uncountable stars embroidered the spot. The boy made out a low shape moving along the hilltop, cutting off patches of stars as it passed.
The wolf howled again; a mournful, spiraling cry to nowhere and nothing. Hero’s head notched upward. He began to hike.
Halfway to his feet the boy stopped dead.
It took a minute to sense why he’d frozen in place, and a good while longer for his heart to quit pounding. He was aware of a nervous padding, and, once his vision had adjusted, of a lazy stream of eyes gleaming in the dying campfire’s light. The eyes bobbed around him, glared momentarily, returned to the ground.
A massive gasp, and his mother was tearing at his wrist. He watched her hyperventilating, saw her bulbous yellow eyes sinking in a wide violet pool. With a sizzle and pop the last tongue of flame was taken by the night.
Then her clammy hands were all over him, pulling and demanding, caressing and beseeching. He had to pry them off like leeches, had to place them clasped on her shuddering arched belly.
A silky snarl rose almost in his ear.
With a little squeal he sprang to his feet, even as something nearby jumped back in response.
The boy stood absolutely still while the panting thing padded nearer. They stood very close, smelling each other. He instinctively extended a hand, palm forward. But it was no good; his arm was shaking out of control. The snarl rose again, not so tentatively this time. His mother’s nails tore at his ankle.
The boy gently stepped away, only to find himself surrounded by the shifting silhouettes of half a dozen gray wolves. They approached in a calculated manner:  two from the left, one from the right, another from behind. He was being goaded away from his mother; he could hear her fists beating the ground, and a few seconds later the sounds of a nauseating assault and ravaging.
He shakily raised his other hand. Now both arms were extended, and their message was clearly one of defense rather than control. Two snapping wolves stepped aside, leaving him a gateway into the night. A cold wet nose bumped his wrist.
Screaming like a woman, he took off after his father just as fast as his feet would carry him.

                                                  BOY

Alon­g the great Kazakh Steppe a man could wander a lifetime and never meet another of his kind—especially if his kind happened to be Alaskan Inuk, and if he happened to be the teenaged patriarch of a two-man family going nowhere.
Here history is mostly mute.
Upon this continent-spanning steppe, unnamed communities were scattered and rebuilt, lives blown about by the wind. The only centers of humanity a traveler might encounter, far removed from the Silk Road at the very crack of the new millennium, were temporary encampments of civilization at its rudest—shifting holes of cutthroat commerce existing solely for the barter of silk and spices and hapless souls. Life here was revered far less than merchandise, and the longest-lived men were those who kept their distance.
Hero and his boy hiked over permafrost and tundra for years; their meandering course a drunken mapmaker’s scrawl. Chronological entries along this imaginary line would reveal that they’d stopped, sometimes for months at a time, when the father had grown too weak and disoriented to continue. Hero’s internal compass was long-sprung, and his weight had fallen considerably. He’d sit on his lonesome, scarecrow-scrawny, wistfully scrolling a 360-horizon while his boy scouted and scavenged. Then, for no apparent reason, he’d just up-and hike—sometimes northwest, sometimes along a tangential plane that always threatened to spiral. It was brutal:  winters were frigid, summers, by odd contrast, running steamy to baking. Season by season these marches lost their tenaciousness, and eventually their heart. Hero’s obsession was becoming his demise.
Now, to a hypothetical observer, the ratty pair of woolly camels materializing out of the rising August heat might have been mirages.
These beasts were novelties here, and pioneers, for they were way beyond their normal stomping grounds. They’d tramped for months with a mind-numbing monotonousness, a thousand miles and more; round the Urals to the south, and through the hard territory braced by the Volga and Voronezh, avoiding anything that even smelled of men. They’d been wild camels; ugly, ill-tempered, and unpredictable, until the boy tamed them by touch…but this new pattern was a literal change of pace…for weeks the frail little man and his dark teenaged son rose and fell with the animals’ rhythm, lulled by it, sick of it, dreaming of lands far removed from hoarfrost and peat moss. In this manner they were borne clear to present-day Belarus, whereupon the camels’ stupefying march began to quicken. Mile by mile they put on steam, until one day they reached a broad area distinguishable from its bracing terrain only by its many deep surface cracks. Here the camels’ behavior became erratic; they crouched at an angle while tramping, their long necks oscillating, their noses bobbing along the ground. Eventually they came upon a dingy pool nestled in a pebbly depression. The local brush surrounding this pool was situated like iron filings about a lodestone. The boy hauled back his camel’s neck and laid a hand on its brow. The brute slowed to a halt. The other camel imitated its partner, move for move. Simultaneously the animals dropped to their knees.
The boy jumped off, catching Hero as he fell. The camels stood watching stupidly as son maneuvered father, but after a while grew nervous and began tramping their hooves in time. They slowly stepped to the pool’s rim and knelt woozily, their noses poised just above the surface. Their whiskers danced on the pool’s face, their lids became heavy, their hindquarters quivered as they drank. Their nostrils, having fluttered in unison, remained agape. They appeared to be asleep.
The boy began filling skins.
The water was quite warm; he slurped a palmful and almost immediately felt intoxicated.
He flicked it off his fingers; the water was bad.
Three heads were now mirrored in the pool; the camels’ at ten o’clock and two o’clock, the boy’s at six. He watched their reflections continue to ripple, long after the pool had become still. His face, melting and firming, rapidly fluctuated between extremes of age, and between his own recognizable features and those of some…monstrosity. The effect was hypnotic. He felt his joints stiffen; his eyes became weak, his thoughts muddled…his face was irresistibly drawn to the pool’s surface, and for a moment he was in real peril of drowning. He ****** his head aside and creaked to his feet.
Where the camels had knelt were only the prints of their bellies and knees. In the distance they could be seen galloping all-out for the horizon, right back the way they’d come. The boy watched until they were swallowed by their dust, and when he turned around his father was long gone.
Now he knew it was all just a matter of time.
And sure enough, after eleven more days of feebly staggering along, Hero completely ran out of gas. The boy bundled him up in a shawl, like an old woman.
Sitting there, cradling an unresponsive man weighing less than eighty pounds, he couldn’t help but let his morbid fantasies run wild. He was now old enough to realize his father had at some time suffered severe head trauma, and honest enough to accept that the man was rapidly approaching a vegetative state. This understanding accompanied him like a shadow, and that night he questioned, for the very first time, his own convoluted rationale.
He was just beginning to sense that his will was not his own.
He built a semi-permanent camp west of the Desna and foraged in a tight spiral, always returning in a straight line. Some days he came back feeling uneasy, sensing another presence. Then it was every other day. It bugged him to no end. At last, when it became every day, he hauled his father to his feet and began a resolute march to the west.
Again he became anxious, and after only a dozen yards.
He turned slowly while hunching, certain something bulky had just dropped out of sight. Nothing looked suspicious, everything looked suspicious. He walked Hero some more, occasionally peering back over his shoulder. There was…something.
He whirled:  only masses of rock and high brush. Yet, when he really strained his eyes, he was sure, pretty sure, that he could make out a large crouching body continuous with the rocks. Heart in his throat, he began a slow steady creep, only to pause, positive the bulge, whatever it was, had shifted in response. The boy very gradually raised his arm until it was level with his eyes, faced the palm outward, and extended the arm parallel with the ground. He could almost feel some kind of current passing between his itching palm and…nothing. He walked over to Hero, stopped again. There’d been the subtlest sense of traction. The boy propped up his father in a cloud of flies and waited.
In a minute the bulge drew *****.
Out of the brush strolled a furry gray wild ***, her back inclined from countless weary miles; stretching her neck, pausing to nibble, taking her sweet time. Grungy as she was, she fit right in.
At the boy’s first casual step she immediately hit the dirt and remained flat on her belly, one big dark eye staring between her hooves. Another step, and her **** bunched up. The closer he got, the higher her rear end rose. When he was almost at arm’s length she sprang back and danced away, seeming to bound with delight. But not to the east, as she’d come.
To the northwest.
She backpedaled while the boy came on whistling and cooing, matching him step for step. But the moment he threw up his arms in resignation she spun round as though cued, dropped on her belly, and peered over her shoulder.
The boy was first to blink. This time he approached fractionally, keeping movements to a minimum. She rose just as carefully, sauntering northwest in reverse, and at the first sign of hesitation turned, dropped, and cautiously gazed back. The boy glared at that huge mocking **** and broke into a sprint. She easily danced out of reach, plopped down, and continued to stare.
He began hurling stones, with venom and with accuracy, until she’d scurried into the brush.
But on the way back to his father he could feel her tagging along.
Twenty feet behind she halted, looking bemused.
The boy nodded ironically. He walked Hero over, murmuring baby talk all the way, and firmly placed a palm on the animal’s muzzle once her breath grazed his fingers. She stroked his hand up and down with her whiskers, gave a kind of curtsy, and waited on her knees while he helped his father mount.
At Hero’s touch a shudder ran down her body. She stood up straight. Her eyes became set, her back absolutely stiff. She put down her head and began the long trek northwest, never once breaking stride.
It was an amazing march, an impossible feat. For a little over three days and almost four hundred miles she progressed like an automaton, driving herself without rest, without food or water.
After trotting alongside for an hour the boy climbed on and force-fed his father berries and smoked meat, his dark eyes constantly searching the countryside. Occasionally he’d see a run of red foxes to their left, watching intently, padding cautiously. Sooner or later they’d vanish, only to be replaced by a train of feline or equine pursuers. Packs approached and receded while, high overhead, flocks formed triangular patterns that continually broke up and reformed. There was a peculiar rhythmic quality to this ebb and flow that lulled his senses further. The boy shook his head to clear it, but his exhaustion was deeper than he’d supposed—even the brush appeared to be leaning northwest.
That first day he grew numb with the pace, and that night the relentless pounding of her hooves drew him into a miserable slumber. He wrapped his arms around his sleeping father and lay half atop. When he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer he tore strips from his skins, then looped his tied wrists round her neck, his ankles round her belly.
On the second day she was breathing hard, but her back was still high and she showed no signs of faltering. Her eyes remained focused on the ground dead ahead. She always sensed the best routes; finding mountain passes, fording wetlands.
But by the third day they could feel her ribs quaking against their legs. Her breath exploded as she marched, blood frothed and caked about her nostrils. Still she pushed herself on, her pace so steady it was almost metronomic.
On the fourth day her legs were gone. She veered and stumbled, shuddering every few paces. The boy hopped off for the umpteenth time and tried to bring her to graze, but she wouldn’t be turned. He ran behind her as she staggered along, unwilling, or unable, to rest.
At last a foreleg gave and she went down hard. Sobbing and snorting, she plowed her muzzle back and forth in the soil, the useless leg repeatedly pounding the ground. After a minute she raised her head and brayed at the sky, her neck muscles taut, her head slowly swinging side to side. Her cry went on and on.
With a tremendous effort she pushed herself upright and butted the boy aside. Every part of her body was shaking. From her depths a low moan grew to a steady bray, and finally to a wild, pulsing howl. She came to a rise, but was too weak to climb without sliding. Stamping in frustration, she managed a few feet, reared feebly, slid some more. The boy got behind her and applied his back; it took all he had to assist her almost to the top. With a desperate lunge she crashed on her belly.
Amazingly, she dragged herself on, her howl now a scream, her head whipping left and right. When she could pull herself no farther she ****** forth her neck to its very limit and, with a shudder that ran from the tip of her nose to the tuft on her tail, shoved her muzzle straight into the dirt and died.
The boy hauled off his father and fell back. The animal’s eyes were fixed upwards, seeming, even in death, to be straining for a glimpse of what lay just beyond the rise. The boy half-dragged Hero the last few yards. They collapsed at the top, and together looked over the cold Baltic Sea.

At water’s edge a haggard fisherman sat on his boat’s ravaged deck, blindly staring out to sea. His was a queer vessel; a family structure built more like an aft-cabined barge than like seacraft typical of that period. The fisherman’s boat, like his mind, had been abused beyond repair.
He’d lost much in his life. Time had taken his dreams, pox his face, hardship his back and shoulders. And, more recently, a brawling band of drunken Baltic pirates had ***** his wife and daughter before butchering them along with his two fine sons, while he sat helplessly bound to the mast. Finally, to further their delight, they’d set the boat aflame and sent it crackling against the sun; knowing he could hear their hoots and howls, knowing he would drift undead, accompanied only by this last unspeakable memory.
But a squall, without prelude, had doused the flames and blown his home ashore.
There he’d remained for a full long day, staring at nothing, his shattered life caught on the rocks. On the second day he’d worked himself free and commenced staggering about in his memories, gathering shards. It was a pathetic claim. He made a pile of all the old bedding and linen and usable cords, and set about sewing a sort of mementos sail. All that third day he had sewn, and on the fourth he had hoisted this sail and been moved to see it billowing in a northwest-blowing breeze. Again he just sat and gaped. And later that day he’d become aware of a commotion taking place on the long grade leading down to the water, where a writhing mass of seagulls was proceeding like a tremendous slow-motion snowball. He’d never seen anything like it. It wasn’t uncommon to find gulls in a group of many dozens or more, but there must have been two, maybe three thousand of the birds now swarming toward his boat. They were making an incredible racket. In the midst of this cloud could be seen a couple of slowly walking figures; as they neared he made out a small man accompanying a boy in his late teens, both dressed in odd skins. When they reached the rocks his eyes were drawn to the small man’s face. It was a foreign face, brutish and dark, with a deep cleft running from above the right temple to the jaw’s left side. Whatever instrument had felled this man had been devastating—everything in its path was smashed, and with permanence. The forehead was caved in. There was no bridge to the nose, the left cheek was completely collapsed, one side of the mouth was a mangled mess. The jaw itself had set improperly, so that it jutted to the side. The general impression, especially from a distance, was of some unforgettable circus freak’s countenance puckering at an angle. It was a face right out of a nightmare. But there was nothing frightening about the eyes. They were the eyes of a child.
Maybe half the gulls hopped screaming on the rocks. The rest circled overhead.
The boy considered the fisherman curiously before placing a foot on the charred deck. His gaze went around the boat, lingered on the makeshift sail, returned to the slumped figure. He passed a hand before the eyes. No response. He then leaned in close and placed his fingers on the man’s forehead. Immediately that bleak expression became fluid, brimming over with horror and heartbreak. Tears rolled down the fisherman’s cheeks as he gasped, shuddered, and backed up the scorched mast to his feet. Thus propped, he squinted at his visitors and was overcome by a wave of homesickness so strong he had to turn away. The feeling bewildered him, for this vessel, and this sea, were all the home he’d ever known. He clung to the mast while the boy helped his father board. Once he’d collected himself, the fisherman tore a heavy crossbeam from the toasted cabin. He and the boy used this as a lever, and together they shoved the boat off the rocks. The wind picked up nicely, and the little craft was swept across the water.
Exploding off the rocks, the gulls shot after the boat as if it were brimming with fish, the loudest and orneriest vying for favored positions directly overhead. The melee attracted additional gulls—they came shrieking in their hundreds from all sides, banking and calling in the oddest manner, until the mass grew so thick as to cast a permanent shadow on the boat. All day long the clamor continued, and all that night. The fisherman rolled with the rudder, listlessly, allowing the sea to control him. Eventually he let go, that the wind might bear them where it would. His sail ballooned but held firm, and the boat fairly zipped across a sea somehow smooth as glass, broken only by the vacillating ripples of bottleneck dolphins and migrating humpback whales. The three tiny sailors sat hunched together, motionless, all throughout the next day, until the black coast of Sweden loomed in the twilight.
As the boat neared land the cloud of gulls broke up, shot to shore, and landed in groups of a thousand and more; a dizzying, wildly uproarious reception committee.
The dung-covered boat slammed into the rocks, shattering the fisherman’s trance. He intuitively walked his **** up the mast and, swaying there, watched the boy draw his father over the side and lead him to a clearing at wood’s edge. There in the dusk he made out what appeared to be a hefty spotted runaway heifer hitched to a rickety wood wagon. He saw the cow gallop up to meet them, saw the boy look around warily, saw him help the little man into the wagon and climb in beside him. The animal immediately began picking through the woods, the large brass bell round her neck clanging forlornly.
The clarity of that bell made him realize just how quiet it had become. He craned his neck:  there wasn’t a gull in sight. He fell back against the shot mast and slid onto his tailbone with a clacking of teeth. His eyes were misting up. In the gathering dark a few sail fragments flew past and were ****** into the woods. The boat rocked and relaxed. After that there was only the sound of the receding bell’s sad, monotonous song being batted about by the wind.

The little cow strode through moonlit woods until she came to a path formed by the rutting of wheels over many years. She followed this broken, serpentine track throughout the night, and by morning was passing farms and, occasionally, crossing broader paths that might realistically be defined as roads. All day long she bore down that ragged track, until she came in late afternoon to a clearing near a village. Here many such tracks converged. And here the boy slipped away while she grazed.
Sometime after dark he returned with a load of straw, a couple of pilfered blankets, and a fat iron kettle. Crammed in this kettle were salt, tubers, cheese, a few loaves of rye, legumes, and a plump foot of lamb sausage. Most of this ***** he’d brought in tied to the bowed back of a huge, puffing, highly amenable black pig which, thus laden, now followed the boy’s every step like a fresh convert tracing the heels of the messiah. The boy built a fire under the stars, filled the kettle with creek water, and commenced simmering their dinner. While waiting, he couldn’t help but note an odd feature of the local flora:  plants, especially trees, all seemed inclined to a northwesterly disposition, though no amount of wind could account for it. He shooed the pig. But rather than run along, it backpedaled in a nervous circle, round and round in reverse, until it lost its balance and fell on its ****. There it remained, a yard behind the wagon. The boy fed his father and lined the wagon with straw. They settled in for the night. The boy must have nodded, might have dreamt, but while he was drifting he became aware of a stirring in the woods. He sat up, saw the pig’s eyes gleaming inches from his nose. And there were a number of animals, some wild, some strayed from farmsteads, arranged in a broad circle around the wagon, their eyes glinting with moonlight. Not a rustle, not a peep, was lifted from the woods.
In the morning he woke to find the pig still staring. The fidgeting heifer, impatient to roll, began her long day’s march while Hero and his boy were yet stretching and scratching, and the ******* pig, galloping heavily, fell in close behind. Each new day this routine was repeated. They banged past farms and small communities until the ruts intersected a broad rocky road wending halfway across the kingdom. The cow addressed this road with vigor. They picked up followers—a goat here, a couple of sheep there—which hurried after the wagon as best they could. The cow stomped on with resolve, mile after mile, day after day, her bell keeping steady time. That bell’s peal attracted foals, lambs, and kids into the wagon’s narrowing wake. Hares hopped between hooves and wheels, boars and blue foxes fell in and withdrew. White falcons, normally solo fliers, whirled into wedge shapes high overhead.
At night the entire train would camp on the road while the boy raided proximate farmsteads, always returning fully laden. And as soon as the fire died the colony grew, creature by creature, and the moment the sun broke the horizon the heifer came to life and moved on, but each day a bit more resolutely, as though straining to meet a deadline. The march took on a sense of real urgency. The cow pressed on with attitude, the clang of her bell more strident with each passing mile. Soon her followers numbered in the hundreds, as animals deserted their farms or crept out of the woods to tag along. Tillers and traders stood dumbfounded, amazed by the bizarre flow.
Once they’d crossed into Norway the frothing cow veered hard to the west. The pace really picked up; no longer were Hero and his boy afforded the luxury of a night’s sleep in one spot. Days blurred into a single variegated flow as the bashed and lopsided wagon continued building its entourage; the riders were surrounded dawn to dusk by a confused and confusing scurry. Word of the flow’s weirdness preceded it clear to the Norwegian coast, so that now plowmen and merchants, wearily gathering their goggling families, found themselves lined in anticipation along the king’s highway. Horsemen went pounding to and fro with news of the procession’s progress and particulars, children ran through the streets banging pots in imitation of the cow’s approaching bell. Livestock wheeled and stamped, fowl leaped and crashed.
The slobbering cow broke into a run.
Bystanders trotted behind, calling back and forth excitedly, while the wagon’s permanent following squealed and squawked between their heels. The cow made a hard turn onto a widening swath in the brush. This swath, seeming to strain against the soil, ran straight down to the crest of a low hill overlooking the Atlantic. On either side a crowd had been studying the phenomenon for some time, but now all eyes swung to the dark and disfigured man and his son, clinging to the disintegrating wagon behind the careening spotted cow.
The trailing people traded views as they ran. Most—at the very outset of the new millennium, with Christianity burgeoning throughout Europe—leaned to the miraculous. Others, just as superstitious but prone to a darker point of view, threw looks of horror at the deformed little man. Yet they ran no less eagerly.
The galloping crowd made for the seaside, where only one local event of any moment was brewing:  on the coast a Greenlander Viking was preparing his longship for the rough voyage home. Impetuous son of the great island’s first permanent European settler, he’d just been baptized in Olaf’s court, and was now eager to sail—but not as a warrior—as a missionary. While his spirit remained in a tug-o’-war between his father Erik’s will and that of gods old and new, his duty was clearly to his king. And Olaf had charged him with the Christianization of pagan Greenland.
Something on the wind now made this destined man turn his head. From behind the gentle hill to his rear came a kind of thunder. Heads popped up, followed by a confused explosion of voices, and seconds later a frantic bug-eyed heifer burst into view, dragging the wheel-less skeleton of a shattered wooden wagon. On the wagon’s splayed frame a man and teenaged boy clung for their lives as the spewing animal made a beeline for his ship.
The new missionary, still egocentric enough to assume his Maker might actually toss him a personal, surreptitiously rolled up his eyes. The sky yawned at his arrogance. At his side a smallish cowled man rose irritably, but the missionary sat him right back down. He then snorted, squared his shoulders, and signaled his men to halt their preparations.
Knowing it was expected, he gathered his hard Nordic pride and coolly made his way into the crowd.

The priest clung to port, gagging above the waves.
After a completely uneventful minute he leaned back and stared through tearing eyes at the distant backdrop of gathering mists. Weeks now…a man of his constitution had no business at sea.
Along, too, were a quirky little man and his fiercely devoted son.
Through his pantomime, the boy had been so persistent in begging their passage that refusal, under the circumstances, would have been unbecoming not only a man of God but a man of the world.
So there it was:  a priest who couldn’t hold his lunch, a witless eyesore who couldn’t sit still, and a surly teenaged protector who snarled at the first hard look. This crossing just had to be some kind of divine test—of mortal patience as well as moral values. Norsemen weren’t made for babysitting.
The mists condensed.
And the shifting shape became a hard familiar coast.
And the longship was mooring, and the crew were jostling and clambering, and the big missionary had booted off the haunted little freak and his hypersensitive son, and was condescendingly half-escorting, half-carrying, the green priest ashore.
And they were home.

Priest in tow, Leif quickly took up the Christianization of Greenland’s Western Settlement, as per Olaf’s command. The mangled little man and his son followed him around like dogs, slept outside his door and annoyed his visitors, ultimately proving far easier to adopt than to shake. Barely tolerable shadows…still, the lad was simply amazing with livestock…and though the youth’s useless father seemed time and again to be just begging for a whooping, his son’s presence bore some ineffable quality that always curbed the missionary’s hand. Several times he’d witnessed the father approached by settlers bent on abuse. Each time the boy had stepped in, and each time the troublemakers were mysteriously repelled. The missionary of course didn’t attribute any kind of celestial intervention to these episodes, and certainly the popular notion of devilry was a natural reaction to the pair’s outrageous exoticness, but…in the son’s company, and even under the sharp eyes of his fellow Norsemen, Leif more than once found himself oddly moved to protect the father. And so the deformed man and his boy day by day blent in—as village idiot and mystic guide. And when in time a ****** brought tales of an unvisited land to the west, it was only natural for the restless Greenlander to buy that ******’s boat and, before stalwart comrades, weary family, and whimsical God Almighty, reluctantly accept the eccentric father and son as sort of seagoing mascots.
Hero was from then on irrepressible. During preparations he would pipe and stammer in his half-mute way, brimming with a confounding anxiety that kept him underfoot and at odds with all. On frigid nights he perched on the westernmost rocks, moaning to the horizon in the strangest fashion while his son stood guard. He positively spooked the locals; they’d gossip, nervously and with bile, of an answering wind that came wailing off the sea like a banshee in labor. The whole island wanted rid of him. And when his champing beneficiary, still clinging to the notion of Christian charity, bundled him aboard with his son and a crew of thirty-five, not a single settler was sorry to see him go.
Almost from the moment they cast off everything went wrong, as all attempts to control the longship were met with some kind of unknowable countermanding force. Vikings were not renowned for passive resistance—they fought, squaresail and steering oar, leaning oarsman to oarsman, until the ship rocked on the waves like a bucking bronco. An erratic weather system pursued them, worsening dramatically at each minute variation in heading. The Norsemen doubled down, and when the clouds finally burst wide, the cowling sea went mad. Dervishes whirled about the hull, crisscrossing winds bedeviled the sail. Patches of kelp belonging to much warmer waters came heaving alongside, fouling the work of the oars, while far to the west a humongous fog bank formed, eradicating the navigable field. The lightning-streaked horizon was a throbbing gray slit.
The longship became locked in a slow westerly current.
Fatigued crewmen complained of headaches and hallucinations, and of a nasty, slightly metallic tang to the air. There were numerous walrus sightings; bobbing flippers and snouts amid drifting ice chunks that came prowling the North Sea like a circling pack of famished white wolves.
Worst of all was the boy’s father—instantly agitated by everything and nothing, prey to some primitive impulse that caused him to periodically incline his head, shudder to his feet, and loop his arms as though embracing the sky. Leif would watch him scrabbling at the prow like a cat at a tree, furs snapping in the wind. He’d watch the boy re-seat him for the hundredth time, and for the hundredth time be filled with an immense contempt. By now he’d acknowledged that it takes a special kind of strength to shoulder charity and tolerance. That brown little freak struck him as an enormous malformed barnacle, slowly working its way back up the prow. Trying so hard to go unnoticed, looking and listening so intently, though there was nothing to see other than the growing shelves of fog, and nothing to hear save the rising, almost hysterical voice of the wind.
Leif sniffed the air, his ******’s instincts nagging him. This was a foul current, and a fool's errand; he took a deep breath and tentatively ordered the longship brought about.
The ship kicked twice, as though an enormous submarine hand had seized and released the hull.
A whirl formed in the water, causing the keeling ship to sweep around like a clock’s second hand. All about them, those drift-ice ghosts cruised dangerously near.
But they’d been liberated from that accursed current. Leif fiercely urged on his rowers, and at last the ship broke free. They made a bead due north.
Night came and the temperature plummeted.
Small sheets of ice converged, drifting between the hunks. The Norsemen, instinctively huddling amidships, passed out one by one in a massive pile of fur and flesh. In the freezing silence the floes bumped and recoiled, bumped and gathered, bumped and bonded. The tiny ship, swallowed whole, was dragged along in a labyrinth of black sea and interlocking slabs of ice.

The Norsemen came to in a surly, foul-smelling heap, lost at sea. While they were still groggy a voice cried out that a darker patch was developing in the fog. The men all fell to port. Under the confusion of their voices could be heard a distant rumble.
At this Hero hauled himself up the high curved prow. A half-light began to penetrate the fog, barely illuminating the irregular faces of drifting ice. The missionary stormed forward and indicated by gestures that if the boy didn’t restrain his father he would have the man tied down.
The longship stopped dead in the water.
The men found themselves regarding a perpetually frozen coastline swathed in bluish veils of mist. Directly before them loomed an immense ice cliff hundreds of feet high. Rising beyond this cliff were endless snow fields, where lean violet shadows seemed to drag about of their own volition. And upon those bleak fields a thin howling wind prowled, kicking up brief white dervishes, leaving a strange zigzagging signature.
Even as they stared, a darker shadow high on the ice cliff’s glistening face began to widen, accompanied by a cracking sound that could be felt before it was heard. With the illusion of slow-motion, a stupendous chunk broke out of the cliff and came screaming toward the sea. It hit the water like a bomb. The thunder of its separation and the explosion of its impact took a moment to reach them. Then, out of a spewing crater of crests and spume, the new calf came lunging, tromping the sea so hard the longship, fully a mile to sea, was swept out and ****** back in like a cork. The floundering mountain of ice bobbed and lilted, generating huge waves which continued to rock the ship long after the monster had settled. In a while the roaring in their ears subsided and there remained only the swirling, nerve-wracking howl of the wind.
The missionary’s eyes swept left and right. Whatever this place was, it sure wasn’t the fair shoreline he’d been promised. Hero again scrambled up the prow, and Leif again yanked him down. This time he made good his threat; he had the little nuisance bound, though he was half-tempted to let him take his chances overboard.
From somewhere deep in the haze grew a soulful, otherworldly call. It went on and on, electrifying the air, bottoming out once the ship had merged with that previously fought westerly flow.
By now Leif’s nerves were shot. He ordered the oars raised.
The longship began to drift. Ship and ice were pulled due west.
The clouds fell far behind as the ship embarked upon an amazingly calm sea—so calm its entire visible surface was featureless except for the faint wakes provided by the ship and its hulking ice companions. To the east a huge fog bank appeared on the horizon, and a while later a smaller bank to the north. Then a very dense one to the south. In time these banks converged, imperceptibly becoming a single mass that closed about the ship, bit by bit creating a slowly heaving dome. Tiny beads of water appeared on beards and eyebrows; in a minute everything was soaked. The only sound was that of the dragging steering oar. The men were now sopping ghosts, speaking only with their eyes.
Directly ahead the fog began to dimple. The dimple became a hollow, the hollow a cave, and then ship and ice were being towed through a low, ever-extending tunnel in fog. The current increased its pull. Ship and drifting ice accelerated through the tunnel.
After a while the missionary quietly stepped forward. He stood with one hand on the prow’s neck, listening to the mist, so motionless he might have been a carved extension of the longship’s aggressive design. Not a man breathed. The tunnel’s dilating and contracting bore was producing an all but seamless series of oscillating, near-phonetic sounds. Leif almost tiptoed back. No god, pagan or Christian, could account for the strangeness of this situation.
They were borne on a course that grew more southerly, and the following day beheld an inhospitable shoreline glazed by dazzling white beaches. Their course held. Two days later they came upon a far pleasanter, thickly wooded coast. Here the current released its hold, and here the missionary untied Hero and personally placed him and his son in a tiny oak faering. He was just as sick of them as he was excited by this promising new land. Once the rowboat had been heaved over the side, he and another man stepped aboard and took up the oars. They began rowing with easy, powerful strokes.
When the boat kissed sand the missionary stood unsteadily.
The first European to set foot on North American soil now placed one hand on his crucifix, the other on his sword’s hilt, and awkwardly plunged his leg into the thigh-deep, ice-cold surf. Before he could take another step the boat lurched as Hero leapt headfirst into the water, followed an instant later by his son. The Greenlanders watched sourly as the two splashed their way into a mad dash for the waiting pines. Leif wished them both good riddance and turned to grin wryly at his fellow Norseman. He must have blacked out for a second, must have been blinded by a shaft of sun, for he found he was staring stupidly at a point midway between his companion and the longship. It felt like he’d been kicked between the eyes.
Everything was dissolving.
He studied the beach and pines closely, but saw nothing of the man or his boy. He turned back, disoriented. With what seemed a superhuman effort he took up his oars. He rowed out sluggishly, in a dream, and the fog rolled in to meet him.

The boy broke into the trees and embraced a trunk, fighting for breath. What happened next happened so fast and so unexpectedly he didn’t have a chance to react.
Three savages stepped from behind the pines and beat him to his knees. They twisted his arms behind his back and hauled him to his feet. He’d barely processed the impression of a wild painted face when something sharp struck him ******* the temple and tore down his cheek to the jaw. Two of the assailants manhandled him into an upright position and held him in place while the third brought his weapon down again and again and again.
All but dead, he watched a nightmare countenance shouting through a shot veil of blood, and behind that image a reeling crimson sun. He lay there gushing while the savages went through his rags. They propped him against a pine and shrieked with triumph, tore the hair and gory scalp from his skull, threw back their heads and screamed at the screaming sky. Tooth and nail, they ripped apart his face and throat and, certain he would die, split what bits of fur were left and let his carcass lie.

                                                HERO

The weeks stretched into months while he fought his way back into the light.
He progressed in stages; only half-conscious, stumbling along in a blood-red stupor punctuated by a slow strobe of frequent blackouts. Days loomed and decayed, nights pounced and were gone; the backlit, swirling gray cosmos collapsed and expanded on every missed beat of his pulse. A thousand times he broke down to die, and a thousand times he clawed to his feet, driven to pursue a tiny, ghost-like figure fluttering in his memory.
Everything conspired to check him.
A bay like an immense landlocked sea was skirted over months or years—it was all the same. Cold locked him in, Hunger drove him afield, that rude ***** Wind lashed him blind, wore him like a shoe, screamed for his skin while he worked his way west.
Somehow he ate, somehow he avoided being eaten; the instincts that had served him halfway around the planet were still vital beneath the abused exterior. His simple burrows became sturdy temporary shelters. He relearned the art of fire, and began to cook what he killed. He manufactured crude snares and weapons and, when his recuperation was complete, paid closer attention to the on-again, off-again trail he’d been following…forever.
Sometimes this trail would call to him like a lover. Other times he stood peering uncertainly, trying to recapture meanings and aims. Then the ground would turn spongy and the sky revolve, and once again he’d be lying all but dead in the woods, while from the face of the sun emerged a vile winged horror, its ugly pale head lashing side to side, its cruelly hooked beak dangling something that glistened in the wild pulsing light…then the fat moon, rising like gas against the icy black night…the feel of the wind:  the slashing of her nails, the chafing of her hem…the sound of things crunching and pausing and sniffing…then the sun, blazing anew. And again that thing, descending, its wide black wings beating slowly, metronomically—but none of that mattered any more. For his mind had quit him, had flown howling into ice and pine to roost with things surreal. In the day his madness might muddle and run, or spend the light stalking, cat-like, watching and waiting. But at night it came creeping from all sides. Sometimes it came in waves. It could gnaw like the devil, or wrap around him like a warm second skin. But none of that mattered either.
The only thing that mattered was the trail—whether it was lost for good, or for only a while. He’d been following it through his episodes, always north, wondering just who and where in the world he was, and trying to shake a ridiculous notion of being led on a wild goose chase.
The cold was unbelievable.
The deeper north he delved, the more confused he became. He grew starved for colors and scents, finding nonexistent patterns in the stark contrast of shadow and snow. He thought he could detect a kind of otherworldly design in the overwhelming number of dead ends he encountered, and, too, in the diabolically frustrating locations of natural obstacles. He seemed to be forever fighting the wind—a hulking, despondent snowman, he hiked face down and focused, while another aspect of his attention floated just behind, disembodied, watching his silent pursuers…leaving no tracks, blending perfectly with the environment in their clever winter coats…not predators, but creatures that normally should have been hightailing it away from him. By the time he could turn, they’d become nothing more menacing than snowdrifts. But they pursued him nevertheless.
And so his paranoia increased…had there ever really been a trail…and when did this miserably cold, miserably anemic crusade begin…his long-term memory was falling apart a chunk at a time. It just got colder and colder and colder until at last, one snippet of a day during one blur of a year, he found himself utterly lost, and clueless as to his history or objective. His mind was a blank, as colorless and featureless as the endless world of ice around him. He’d come this far solely to learn that the only trail he’d been following was his own—and now even that trail was succumbing to ice. On all sides there was nothing to see but an infinite field of glaring whiteness, and nothing to hear but the ululating wail of the tubular polar wind. It was the loneliest, the unholiest, the creepiest sound imaginable. But it wasn’t insanity that made him wheel. It was his self-preservation instinct.
And then he was somehow on his knees in the woods, facing a furious setting sun.
Whole seasons had passed from his memory like chalk from a board. His only recollections were those of a broken, haunted animal:  of being perilously sick, of fearing the unseen, of blindly struggling across a solid-white wilderness. That he’d survived such an ordeal meant nothing to him. And that he had in some indecipherable manner stumbled across the cold-as-stone trail did not fill him with amazement or with thankfulness—there simply wasn’t anything visual or emotional left to draw on. A significant part of his life had been whited out.
But now he could focus entirely on the trail. And before he knew it, the fuzzy area between fantasy and reality found a seam. He began to analyze and plan. He paid attention to hygiene, and kept a kind of running mental journal. Things were sorting out. Yet there were nights when the old sickness would resurface, reestablish its hold, and leave him sweating and uncertain under the stars. Then, paradoxically, his perception would become razor-keen. And so he would see, on a distant hilltop, a pair of scrawny silhouettes, one on four legs and one on two, slowly crossing the faintly pocked face of the setting moon. He would become strangely excited, and thereafter retain crystal-clear images of himself, as if seen from above, hurrying with adroitness through the silent, graveyard-like setting of black and blue night and white-frosted trees. Then the fuzzy area would broaden, and it would be the next morning, and he would be staring at the prints of man and elk in snow. And he would see how the elk’s prints doubled back, and how the man’s prints terminated where he had obviously mounted his guide. An unfathomable glow would bring tears to his eyes. But, even as he gathered himself, a fresh snowfall would wipe out the prints. And once again the world would plummet into white. And the wind would howl as the snow hammered his eyes. And he would ***** on.

A haggard animal sat shivering in a small grove of frozen pines, watching his campfire die. His eyes were fixed. Like the fire, he was running out of warmth, running out of fuel. There wasn’t a whole lot of tinder round his bones, and not much feeling left in his limbs. The slowly heaping downfall was burying him alive, but he was too numb to care.
It had taken him six long years to cross an entire continent, and during that time he’d known only cold and excruciating pain. The pain was leaving him now. The cold was making it right. His eyes glazed over.
Along a narrow plain to the west a herd of caribou filed dreamily through the snow, cutting across a panoramic backdrop of dazzling white mountains. The slow-motion parade was hypnotic. After a while it occurred to the drifting man, in a roundabout way, that he was dying, that he was nonchalantly freezing to death. Concurrent with this notion there rose in his chest a wonderful liquid warmth. His eyes slowly closed and, once shut, began to set fast.
He was jolted from within. It was as if he’d been kicked in the heart.
He ****** to his feet, pounded his fists on his thighs, felt nothing. The breath spurted from his mouth in small white clouds as he stumbled downhill after the slow caribou train. He swam through the snow, hallucinating, imagining that certain individuals in the herd were mocking him by slowing and accelerating, while others glanced back with expressions of contempt.
As he burst into their midst the animals stepped aside indifferently. A few galloped ahead to keep up the herd, but most simply sidestepped while he danced there, stamping his feet and smacking his hands. The herd grew thinner, until only the old and infirm were filing by. The man desperately embraced a hobbling female for warmth, but she cried out and kicked, triggering a panic reaction in the herd. Clinging for his life, the man was dragged along beside her as the herd stormed into a maze of flying ice and snow. His weight caused her to stagger sideways until they slammed against the flank of a sick male. The man instinctively threw an arm over the male and, thus draped between them, was borne across the drifted plain for upwards of a mile, his freezing feet alternately dangling above and dragging through the snow. The herd broke into a hard run, forcing him to assume a broken trot. Soon his legs were stinging. Sensation rushed through his body.
Now the herd, still picking up speed, began to contract, jamming him between his bearers. There was a quick jolt to his right and he was lifted clean off his feet, nearly straddling the bucking female. It had become an all-out stampede. Through hard-flung snow he saw the cause:  just ahead, the caribou had run head-on into a solid wall of galloping wood bison, and both frantic herds had blindly veered to the east; were in fact running side by side down a deep, ragged canyon—were pouring over the canyon’s lip like a cataract. He was approaching, at breakneck pace, that very place where the converged herds so abruptly swerved. The hanging man snarled as he was borne inevitably to the point of deflection.
There came a concussion at his left shoulder, followed by a blast of snow. In an instant the ailing male was tumbling head over heels to the east, ****** into the stampede’s plummeting mass by the fury of its descent. The man and female, rebounding from this impact, were shot to the west in a crazy jumble of flailing legs. The caribou lost her footing, flew nose-first into a snowbank, and came up running. Kicking off, the man used the last of his strength to heave himself astride. At first she fought to shake him, but the spell of the run was too strong. She and half a dozen others went pounding in the opposite direction of the stampede, quickly joined by a number of bison that had likewise splintered from their herd. The riding man could make out their huge hulking shapes thundering by in a blizzard of flying ice, could hear their heavy gasps and explosive grunts. One passed so close he felt its massive flank brush his leg. He peered to his right and saw a black, pig-like eye regarding him excitedly, moving up and down like a piston as the beast ran alongside.
The eye shifted, focusing on the gasping, completely obsessed female. The bull dropped its head and slammed into the caribou’s side, sending her and the man careening down a ***** to the west. The caribou brayed hysterically and her backside went down, but she managed, despite the weight of her rider, to return to all fours and frantically continue along the *****. Again the bull charged, crashing into her shoulder. The man and caribou were launched sideways into the white searing air.
He sat up carefully. The huffing bison was straddling him like a bully laying down the ground rules. Its big wiry beard came right up to brush his chin. The stench of its breath was stupefying.
The bull stamped and snorted, thrusting its stubby horns left and right as the man used his elbows and heels to back away. The bull followed, move for move. When the man collapsed under his own impetus the bull shoved him along with its snout, bellowing furiously. Clear down the ***** they lunged, shoving and lurching, until the man lay sprawled on his back; up to his chin in snow, completely helpless. The ton of a bull butted and kicked, but only glancingly:  those hooves could **** with a blow. At last the man, in one clean sequence, spun on his rear, dropped to his side, and went rolling down the ***** using his elbows for ******.
At the bottom ran a narrow fence of frosted saplings marking an ice cliff’s precipice. He lay face down in the snow, too done in to do anything but **** at an air pocket.
And there came a high-pitched crackling, a sound like the protracted gasp of embers in a dead fire. He turned just as those saplings began leaning to the west, their frozen skins cracking with the strain.
The bison bellowed menacingly.
The sprawled man looked back and saw it still standing with legs spread wide, silhouetted against the sky. In a moment it began huffing downhill, lurching side to side, surfing the snow between lunges.
It chased him through the genuflecting saplings straight into a frozen gully where, protected by a few feet of insurmountable verticality, he was able to slide on the ice between its stomping hooves, downhill out of reach, then downhill out of control—spinning just in time to glimpse a breathtaking vista:
Partly framed by the gully-straddling saplings was a vast crescent of jagged white mountains seemingly huddled round a small stretch of snow-draped pines. The little wood these mountains surrounded was isolated in a broad lake of solid ice. Hundreds of fissures radiated crazily throughout this packed ice field, appearing to issue from somewhere near the frozen wood’s center, which was completely obscured by a ring of rising mist. Above this thumbnail panorama the sun showered gold.
Then the gully dipped radically, and he was skidding headfirst, slamming back and forth against its slick white walls. This uncontrollable plunge had the positive effect of getting his blood flowing. Yet it tore him up. Had the gully concluded in a cul-de-sac, or had further progress required a single calorie of uphill effort, his struggle would certainly have ended here. He would have been too weak to move, and death would have been swift.
But there was a glacier—a great river of ice pouring slowly out of the clouds. The gully, terminating in a little scoop formation near the glacier’s base, spat him flailing onto its gnarly glass hide. He went head over heels, bits of skin and fur flying like chips from a band saw. Somehow he gained his footing, and then he was running against his will, tumbling and recovering and tumbling again.
He didn’t catch much of that crazy run. He half-glimpsed whirling walls of ice, felt a fickle surface underfoot, and broke through an assaultive mist that clung to his ankles and arms. He remembered having the ragged hides torn right off his body, and then being skinned alive. And he remembered reaching the glacier’s base and crawling like an animal; round its sweeping drifts, past its peaked moraines, all the way to a twisting frozen gorge.
And he followed this gorge down; ricocheting wall to wall, delirious, small plumes of thrashed snow marking his descent.
Through a freezing wood he fumbled. In a veil of mist he tumbled down a steep and verdant grade. As cold consumed his closing breath, he fell upon, near-blind, near death, a strange, enchanted glade.

There is a pool.
And in this pool a man lay purged, his broken body half-submerged.
The stumbling man stopped. He knelt to weep, but lost his thread. One hand took a bicep, the other, the head. With a twist and pull the corpse emerged.
That visage…that face—misshapen mask, contorted, bleached; of life’s deposits fully leached. Essence dispatched—a void, sodden wretch.
He let it fall and the glass was breached. All a freak, all a stretch:  upon this act his grip detached.
And the bridge collapsed…one vagabond grasp…what were these feelings; recaptured and trashed…a span elapsed…who was this puckered mass…he hauled it by the waist and thighs…slid it in, watched the pool react:  purse and recover, expand, contract. The glass reformed, now silver-backed…a sudden mirror…the man leaned nearer…saw his reflection, just smashed, remade intact.
The pool grew still.
Within its depth a shadow stirred—visions gathered, some distinct, some obscure. What they meant, and who they were, was much too much to fathom. The glass became blurred.
He closed his eyes, let his heavy head fall, fell back on his haunches, felt the sweat seep and crawl. The air was a pall—as he struggled to rise, a nib crossed his wrist.
He opened his eyes.
Between his fingers the blades poked and crept. Round his knuckles they ventured, up his forearm they stepped:  they seemed to be triggered by prompts from the ground. He shook his head slowly and dully looked round.
There were jays grouped about him, their black eyes aglow. Red hens came running, their fat chicks in tow. Gophers engaged in a weird hide-and-seek. Bluebells and buttercups craned for a peek. Sparrows hopped past and, paying no heed, burst into flight. He watched them recede.
Westward they flew.
Bewildered, he slumped.
Bumped from behind, he jumped to his feet, flabbergasted to find an ancient gray moose near-eclipsing the sky, with grit in his snarl and fire in his eye.
The old moose took aim.
The man turned to flee and stumbled, then tumbled and fell on a palm and a knee.

But there lies a world (so the lullaby goes) where rivers ever run.
Poked from behind, pushed out of his mind, he staggered into sun.







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
howard brace Sep 2012
He'd been conceived in Flamborough, so his little sister assured him some eleven summers ago, which was a tad hard for Rocky to swallow, she was a whole eighteen months his junior and then some... and at that age, well... what did she know, she was only a kid, "on this very rock" River insisted, kicking her heels in delight, "next to this very rock pool" they were both sitting beside, "one sunny afternoon eleven years ago..." and that was how he came by the name of Rocky... she taunted as the rest of the colourful story unfolded... and that she had it all on the best possible authority... although the more she thought about it, had she meant concealed... she wasn't quite sure now, it was all so very confusing at her tender age but thought it sounded close enough not to matter too much and that she would just wait and see which way the wind blew.
        
     It was conceivably an ill wind that blew no one any good that day, especially if you were a boy and just happened to be sat by a rock pool next to your little sister...  Having just taken a well earned drink from a neighbouring rock pool, Sockeye the floppiest Springer Spaniel this side of the Pecos decided that he was going to dig a hole and that he would be digging it deep, then changed his mind mid-dig and decided to have a more down to earth back scratching wriggle instead... then promptly flopped over and slid into the hole... life was sweet.  Now covered from nose to tail with every species of deceased shore life usually found frequenting the high water mark Sockeye, in a blinding flash of canine inspiration judged it would be in everyone's best interest were he to have a really good shakedown which always appeared to go down well on these occasions... and give everyone a good peppering, just so they could see exactly what they'd been missing all their lives.  

     "A rock of all places, for goodness sakes..." and what's more, it was this rock, "Yuk..." he jumped up and wiped his palms on the back of his jeans in disgust, then onto his tee-shirt, then sat back down again and began exploring his left nostril in quiet contemplation before finally jambing his hands back into his pockets... what in Heaven's name had his parents been thinking of..? what on earth was his little sister talking about..? and more to the point, what in fact did conceived mean..?  these were the questions that were uppermost in Rocky's mind as he poked an exploratory stick into the rock pool...  a baby crab marooned by the tide scampered sideways beneath a large pebble and stuck one beady eye out at him... Rocky's sister, seemingly in a world of her own, much like the baby crab sat on the edge of the noteworthy rock kicking her heels, an innocent smile curled the corners of her mouth as she quietly hummed a little song of tuneful bliss to herself and considered what further mischief she could possibly pass her brother's way.

     Rocky tossed a piece of driftwood over his sisters shoulder at a nearby flock of seagulls, squabbling over what appeared to be a discarded bag of fish and chips... Sockeye, simply knowing that his little master wanted to play a game of fetch gambolled after the stick, his ears flying courageously in the still Summer air and burst, amid a melee of feathers into their midst, only to romp back moments later, the stick all but forgotten in the excitement but now proudly sporting the derelict bag of leftovers and the odd splash of guano, his tail lolloping magnificently from side to side... and for the moment at least, leaving the fratching seagulls wheeling noisily overhead and to go about their daily business without further interruption... as for Sockeye, it had been a no contest situation.

     After fourteen years of valiant endeavour his father... Red, so named for his vivid shock of wiry hair, was still engaged in man's eternal struggle to win his significant other half's approbation with the manful art of deck-chair assembly, beach barbeque and other significant gentlemanly pursuits, all while strutting his manly stuff, sporting top of the range beach wear in accordance with the social etiquette of the previous decade... his masculine paunch slumping gallantly atop his waistband...  

     After the same fourteen terms of domestic servitude and the same thirteen identically overlooked anniversary cards a certain someone had no intention of allowing another certain someone to forget so much as one of them... his better half, so she insisted would ride rough shod, administering her own brand of justice at every given opportunity, in much the same way you'd brandish a royal-flush on poker night... or better still, a loaded revolver... and that she personally carried the burden of every ill-fated card that Lady Luck had dealt strung about her neck like Adam's original sin on Judgement Day.  

     Red much preferred the shorter, more condensed name of Rock for his son, rather than the longer more protracted Rocky, as he struggled with the wood and canvas lounger badly trapping the mound of his thumb in the process, "Aaargh...!!!" plunging his throbbing hand deep into the cold, soothing rock-pool "aaah...!!!"   Still marooned by the tide, the baby crab stood poised and ready for action as it considered giving this latest intrusion a good offensive nip, then hang on spitefully as it gave Red the final withering once over with the same baleful eye it had successfully used earlier.

     Acknowledging her husbands misfortune with a perfunctory grunt as she rummaged in her beach-bag for the thermos, she refused to be drawn in where thumbs were concerned right now, after all with his DNA sequencing she was convinced he could probably grow a new one within the month... whilst Tina, well... she was just plain worn-out... but still rejoiced in telling anyone who cared to lend a sympathetic ear in her direction... and who in turn was more than happy to listen to the woes of others and went somewhere along the lines of... 'and had she heard any more of poor Mrs Dorey's lingering martyrdom recently..? you know, the downtrodden lady who lives in the next street but one... and how they would all miss her when she was gone... and how she couldn't wait...' and as rumour had it, neither could her husband...

      Feigning to be otherwise engaged, Tina... as her husband, now blowing frantically on his mangled thumb, stumbled backwards over the half erected lounger and with a spine jarring "Ooomph...!!!" landed squarely in Sockeye's subsiding earthworks... professed total disassociation with the entire fiasco as she plunged her nose even deeper into the overdue library book she'd purposely brought on holiday for just such an occasion, making it perfectly clear that she was a tourist and furthermore, planned to stick with the same itinerary once they returned home... and that while she was here, she did not under any circumstances wish to be disturbed, the notice was clearly displayed hanging from the door handle... but if anyone should, then whoever it was did so at their own peril... and she was keeping score... although a mangled thumb she luxuriated, with the same roguish smile curling the corners of her mouth as the one normally found playing around her daughter's... was equally as heart warming.

      All Tina wanted was one week of uninterrupted peace and quiet in Flamborough, preferably with a certain someone out from under her feet then spend what might pass for several undisturbed hours sitting quietly by the rock pool comparing notes on eye makeup and the feminine merits of pedicure with the little crab who, still marooned by the tide was now sat busily knitting four pairs of matching leg warmers in the cool, still water but that was only if that certain someone... a shrill  "AAaargh...!!!" somewhat more desperate than the first, ****** itself upon the as yet unaggressive afternoon as it gyrated across the warm Jurrasic rock and recoiled out to sea... "now where was I", twisting her book uppermost "oh yes..! someone was going to pay..." only now it was going to be sooner rather than later, but only if that certain someone didn't finish the seating arrangements before the Sun disappeared and drift into some backstreet tea-room before all the lemon cheesecake sold out, or was that she reflected, simply too much to ask.

     It was his Surname that Rock found so objectionable, or it had been right up until his little sister's enlightening disclosure, now it was both names Rocky disliked, it would have been far kinder had Rock Salmon been sandwiched between sliced bread and given to Sockeye... who's solemn duty, from the first mouthful to the very last, was to gaze up beseechingly from beneath the kitchen table  and devour anything that passed his way, even the postman had to be quick about his business or have his arm follow the mail through the letter box... then Sockeye would just smack his lips and help himself to seconds.  

     All Rocky's mum had thought about for the last fourteen years was seconds... every last solitary one of them since she'd suffered with an infection of matrimonial neurosis which had deprived her of common sense and her maiden name, from Chovey to that of Salmon and how with hindsight she should have taken an Aspirin instead, wedlock she asserted was everything the name claimed to be and was without doubt the worst move she'd ever made... and what's more was seen as a bad move in whoever's wedding album you just happened to be paying your condolences to.

     Rocky would never be so fortunate on that score, unlike his sister he was stuck with Salmon for good, his grandma-Ann by all accounts had been dead set against the union from word Go and saw his father as someone who would always be out of his depth in whatever rock pool he found himself in, swimming against the tide as it were, rather than going with the flow... and it appeared that Rocky, almost eleven years into a life sentence, was about to flounder in the same murky undertow as the rest of the Salmon family... only he couldn't swim.

     "There"! her husband exclaimed "all finished... better late than never eh', who fancies trying it"? his wife luxuriated over the words 'better late' and wondered whether her new earrings, her latest acquisition would complement formal mourning attire.  Red dusted off the palms of his hands with the certain knowledge of a job well done and cautiously took one step back, looking with justifiable pride at the outcome of his manly exertions of the last two hours, this was what holidays were all about he declared, one man pitted against insurmountable odds...  His wife meanwhile was getting to grips with more odds of her own than you could safely expect to shake a stick at... her husband being one of them.  

     Having gathered her offspring with the promise of verbal earache if they didn't... and finished packing the beach-bag, Tina finally located Sockeye peering out from the shade of an adjacent rock, wisps of feathers poked tellingly from the corners of his mouth, his tail beating mischievously on the shingle decided in one further blaze of canine brainstorming, as Tina attempted to slip his collar on that a game of tag would just about round the day off nicely... Tina then devoted the next ten minutes chasing him amid unrestrained salvo's of cheering from the rest of the family... then bid goodbye to the little crab who, still marooned by the tide waved a friendly pincer in return... and trusted that she wouldn't have too long to wait for the next rising tide back home, then she slid off the rock with a corrosive... "the deck-chair attendant would have shown you" she snapped "and don't forget the deposit when you take them back" then double checking that she landed squarely on his foot she marched past, her floral sun hat jammed resolutely on her head at what she considered a jaunty angle with her equally jaunty, angular children scrambling in hot pursuit, back in the direction of their lodgings.  

     "Woof "..? said a bewildered Sockeye, bringing everyone to an abrupt halt... and with paws the size of place-mats, he wasn't going anywhere he didn't want to... he hunkered down with a look of hurtful accusation on his face, "oh yes you are my lad"! said his mistress "I've met your sort before" and knew exactly where to place the toe of her dainty size-5 as Sockeye, digging his heals in even further created swathes of canine furrows up the beach, leaving her husband the unwitting holder and in sole possession of the overlooked guest-house keys... and somewhat resigned to clean up his own masculinity and dismantle the recently assembled, now redundant deck-chairs by himself... as for Tina, well... she'd had quite enough excitement for one day thank you very much.

     Morning register was always the worst he thought, as they trooped back along the shingle beach, Rocky making surprisingly good furrows of his own... but the rest of the class loved it and saw it as the highlight of each day... Rocky's form teacher, despite showing a brave face was always hard pressed to avoid bursting into hysterics every time she worked her way down the register to the letter 'S' and would attempt to bypass it altogether, jumping from 'R' to 'T' and just prayed that no one else had noticed, but it hadn't taken the class very long to point out her oversight and... "please Miss" they'd all chant "we haven't had Salmon all week" and while the rest of the class were having convulsive fits, Rocky would elbow the lad sat at the next desk in the ribs... and promptly get one hundred lines for his trouble... thank goodness it was school holidays.  Why couldn't they have been given respectable names like Seymour Legge, Rock wondered, who sat over by the window or perhaps the teachers pet, Anna Prentice or even, Robyn Banks at a pinch, but definitely not what they'd been given and certainly not Salmon, they were the most hilarious names he could imagine and if someone was looking down on them right now he thought... then they had a very unique sense of humour indeed and Rock said so... "why" his little sister asked sweetly, "what's wrong with River Salmon".

                                                      ­                         ...   ...   ...*

a work in progress*                                                        ­                                                              240­6
Marie-Chantal Dec 2014
Observing Raven feather-full,
A gleam of blue on black.
The beady eye could look at me
And widen every crack.

Mocking with
Hollow call.
Watch! Don’t let that feather fall.
Promises it’s not hole.

The Raven whispers thoughts of doubt,
Insides sobbing “let me out!"
A thought indeed bizarre
But one can only think that...
“Maybe these birds are?"

A glooming sense of winged wisdom,
Although black and beady eyed,
It would not come as a shock
That their little birds, they never cried!

One cannot help but wonder
If they can see indoors?
Of course it may not seem so
but they always come in fours!

Look out the window frame,
Take a peek!
Observe the Raven’s coarse black beak.

*Just mind he doesn’t watch you back,
Or he will widen every crack.
I have always had a fascination with ravens, and I just found this and edited it. It's been a long time coming, I think.
howard brace Jan 2013
Despite repeatedly shaking her pincer... much as a sprightly pensioner might brandish a furled umbrella at a grappling contestant, currently being boo'd at in the red corner... the baby crab stamped her foot in annoyance as she glowered at every passing wave that rolled along the shoreline.  In absolving herself of any guilt she may have felt over her prolonged excursion, she had become, even further marooned by a failure to catch a succession of tides back home, an oversight she later confessed, to observe local tide-tables in 'Old More's Almanac...' on sale in all discerning book shops and selected High Street newsagents, priced 10/6d... for unless fluent in the Russian vernacular, it was just about as articulate to the little crab as a map of the Moscow Metro during a blackout, only to have the Rouble finally drop with a throat gagging 'Gaaargh...' clunk, that you were currently standing on the down-line platform, when you should've been stood on the up... as the last train lurched unsteadily out of the station whistling a jubilant entente cordiale... 'wish me luck as you wave me dasvidaniya'.

     Still stamping her foot, only now in strict rotation with the other seven, the baby crustacean peered out from beneath the shade of the large pebble, rearing its bulk out of the rockpool like a lollypop-lady's 'STOP'!!! sign, her beady eyes twitching independently, first this way, then the other, cut withering swathes through every cardinal point of the compass that didn't duck quite fast enough, was rapidly coming to the conclusion that the rock-pool in which she found herself tapping her foot in today, would be no less aquatic as any other rockpool that she may find herself still tapping a foot in tomorrow and that the best course of action was simply to stay-put and take the matter up with the local town council, then petition for additional fare-stages to be implemented... and with the cost of shoe leather at current prices... well, with eight legs to consider it would make savings that weren't to be sneezed at.  

     It wasn't everyday of the week that a young and upwardly mobile baby crustacean had occasion to move both up-market and down the beach, all in the same mouthful... and into what could only be regarded as a desirable, detached beachfront property, a rock-pool of distinction with all available mod-cons.  She felt relieved that apart from the occasional day-tripper, who invariably dropped litter wherever they went, that a baby crab of distinction such as herself, was certain to be accepted socially and hob-*** with a new and discerning circle of acquaintances... you only had to take that nice lady earlier in the week, they both seemed to have so much in common... then she would roll up her sleeves and really show the neighbourhood what knitting was all about...  

     With as much enthusiasm as that of a three year old screaming for an ice-cream in the middle of an heat-wave, Red marched up the beach and as far from his wife's waspish tongue as a lame excuse would carry him, heading back towards the growing crush of holidaymaking fathers who were only there presumably, for the sake of their own children, laying siege to the mobile vendor... only this time, having already stood in the same queue ten minutes earlier, now had a sufficiency of funds to purchase that which he'd unsuccessfully queued for the first time.

      After an unspecified time which by his wife's reckoning was grounds for divorce... Red, now laden down with the iced confectionary picked his way through the same throng of fathers who moments earlier had been happily chatting in the queue together, were now enjoying the same berating as the one Red was looking forward to as he made his way back towards the rock pool, juggling more ice-cream than two manly hands could intelligently control... while in a bid for freedom, the rapidly thawing confectionary were hatching plans of their own, ones quite independent from those intended as they embarked upon their meandering exodus, known only to iced creamy desserts on hot sunny days... and into the unknown, roaming across Red's hands and trusting their fate to a far higher authority.

     "Did I mention that I was on a diet" snapped his significant other, as she sat licking pistachios from the melting cornet... "don't you ever listen," secretly smiling to herself... "and you did remember to bring Sockeye's water this morning.. didn't you..!" she continued "someone with half as much sense would've stood it in the rockpool to keep cool, I'm sure the little crab wouldn't have objected..!"   At the mention of his name, Sockeye with ears far too free-lance to ever consider gainful employment of their own, needed no further persuasion and charged straight through the rock-pool to his mistress's side, walloping the thermos flask for a tail whopping six... bringing his personal batting average so far this holiday to a self congratulatory forty not out... and found the baby crab spluttering flat on her back and having second thoughts on any immediate savings in shoe leather were she to stay. 

     Generous to a fault, Sockeye now thought to shower everyone's ice cream with liberal helpings of the seashore as several parasitic irritations had Sockeye hard at work serving eviction notices on some of the more exotic zoology that only a patent Bob Martin's would dare to muscle up to... the local wildlife, by the look on his face were having the time of their lives bivouacked behind his left ear, throwing wild parties and disturbing the peace.  Cross-eyed, it was only while launching a double pronged assault on the latest settlement of interlopers that Sockeye finally succumbed to his injuries and surrendered to a neighbouring sandcastle... it really didn't do to mention a certain name too loudly at times like these, especially when you just happened to be on the receiving end.

     For some strange reason he was undoubtedly in the dog house... they'd shouted at him, which made him sad, all except his little master who had pushed him away... which left him bereft.  Sockeye sat down on dads beach-towel and had a long, thoughtful scratch... where had all the fuss gone? he searched for appreciation their faces... his tail gave one disheartened thump before it stopped... and all those little pieces of ice-cream dipped wafer, which up until now had always appeared as if by magic.  

     Catching sight of one such treat, undoubtedly forgotten by the rock pool, a marauding seagull pulled out of a rolling dive and swooped, at the same instant as two gaping jaws launched themselves skywards... canine jowls quivering bravely in the light sea airs... and not too dissimilar to a heat seeking missile, rose gracefully from the ground to meet it... 'well intercepted..!' as both ears applauded in mid-air... no aerial freeloader was about to skip town with Sockeye's ice cream wafer without paying... leaving one solitary wing flapping its willingness to pay up.

     At least it kept her husband in useful employment Tina decided... and mercifully out from under her feet, as she brushed a fragment of affectionate pistachio from her bikini top... she'd have to  make sure he went for the ices in future... and without the means to pay for them... a mischievous smile turned the corners of her mouth as she leant towards the beach-bag and invested herself with several more juicy grapes... that everyone who fell within her sphere of influence had been warned well away from... under threat of dire consequence... and it would take a brave man indeed, or a very foolish one... she gave her husband who was sitting well within arms reach a caustic glance... and Tina's particular variety of justice had a very long arm indeed.

                                                        ­           ...   ...   ...**

a work in progress.                                                        ­                                                                 ­  1297
Yanamari Sep 2018
Artificial, superficial
Smiles, laughs and riddles.
All riddles.
Anything out of your mouth,
Through your eyes,
Through those hands
Filling me with doubt.

Can I have something good?
Am I allowed to?
This race course that I've jumped into
I've sped up way too fast.
Slow down crash.
Speed up crash.

Artificial, superficial,
Why did I ask you to let down your hair?
I look up and I see someone foreign
Claiming that if I climb
I'd get closer to her?
Right...
Your smile foreboding
Your eyes beady
Open your mouth
Flickering fork so needy
Right..
Artificial,
Insincerity in that 'interested' gaze
Superficial,
Those lips stretched wide
Plastered on your face
It only makes sense that when you laugh
I don't give a sh
Right.

Artificial...
Superficial...
That's all you'll ever seem,
In my eyes.
The Aura Series: I
Kenna May 2015
She was ugly.
A snake of a girl- beady
blue eyes and
blood-red toenails.

The small snigger creeping
up through her perfectly
kept teeth as she spat
at the garbage
of the street: the creatures
she couldn’t see
through her beady
blue eyes.

Her mama would dress her
up in yellow ribbons and green bows.
“Why honey,
you make a sweet little
dandelion,”.

She liked to be
a dandelion, but secretly
she dreamed of being
a marigold:
                                                                ­                       Lips parted to the sun,
                                                                ­                                       seeds planted
                                                         ­                        in the rich soil of her own
                                                                ­                                             blackness.
She wanted to be a marigold.
But she was just
a dandelion,
stepping on petals and
weeding out whatever
she longed to be.
Inspired by Toni Morrison's eye-opening novel (pun not intended)
Sam Hawkins Apr 2013
What we have named Fire Escape
(an ordered, angular tangle of ladders and rail)
had made picture geometries in my west window
well-framed and flat--set foreground and background
in two dimensions, as the sun hid,
and my round eye opened.

What we have named Fire Escape
was flaked-paint brown orange, as if
first it had been born of a flame
and then had taken up living as metal--
tempered itself into usefulness,
which I should trust now, in case of the yelling
and the engines.

What we have named Fire Escape
was happy Jungle Jim or Jungle for Jane
for the sparrows I saw this morning
which flitted and wildly played
within, rising up
arched and back again.

Made of the square pairs of ladder rungs--
a tunnel entrance or ducking posts,
or highway bridges to clear;
the birds like small plane, daredevil pilots
each following each, going under.
No sparrow would ever crash.

And what is this I remember now?
How one bird eased its engine and perched there to stay?
As if to offer me, with a little turn of head gesture--
a thank you, for the bread I'd left on the sill? Or to say  
I'd better shut the curtain and make my exit?

Either prideful guess gets me nowhere fast.
Failed even is speaking in any sparrow languages
from my recline stuffed chair; again, but now imagined,
to draw beady eyes to fix on me, telling me much less.

That morning, with the very last sparrow gone,
I remember that nothing in my sight moved,
save an American flag at a distance in the wind,
with its one red-white striped wing
waving toward the cold north,
as the white church spire,
framed in open quadrilaterals,
held its position.
written and posted a few hours before the Boston Marathon Bombing, Monday April 15th, 2013
May
Come queen of months in company
Wi all thy merry minstrelsy
The restless cuckoo absent long
And twittering swallows chimney song
And hedge row crickets notes that run
From every bank that fronts the sun
And swathy bees about the grass
That stops wi every bloom they pass
And every minute every hour
Keep teazing weeds that wear a flower
And toil and childhoods humming joys
For there is music in the noise
The village childern mad for sport
In school times leisure ever short
That crick and catch the bouncing ball
And run along the church yard wall
Capt wi rude figured slabs whose claims
In times bad memory hath no names
Oft racing round the nookey church
Or calling ecchos in the porch
And jilting oer the weather ****
Viewing wi jealous eyes the clock
Oft leaping grave stones leaning hights
Uncheckt wi mellancholy sights
The green grass swelld in many a heap
Where kin and friends and parents sleep
Unthinking in their jovial cry
That time shall come when they shall lye
As lowly and as still as they
While other boys above them play
Heedless as they do now to know
The unconcious dust that lies below
The shepherd goes wi happy stride
Wi moms long shadow by his side
Down the dryd lanes neath blooming may
That once was over shoes in clay
While martins twitter neath his eves
Which he at early morning leaves
The driving boy beside his team
Will oer the may month beauty dream
And **** his hat and turn his eye
On flower and tree and deepning skye
And oft bursts loud in fits of song
And whistles as he reels along
Cracking his whip in starts of joy
A happy ***** driving boy
The youth who leaves his corner stool
Betimes for neighbouring village school
While as a mark to urge him right
The church spires all the way in sight
Wi cheerings from his parents given
Starts neath the joyous smiles of heaven
And sawns wi many an idle stand
Wi bookbag swinging in his hand
And gazes as he passes bye
On every thing that meets his eye
Young lambs seem tempting him to play
Dancing and bleating in his way
Wi trembling tails and pointed ears
They follow him and loose their fears
He smiles upon their sunny faces
And feign woud join their happy races
The birds that sing on bush and tree
Seem chirping for his company
And all in fancys idle whim
Seem keeping holiday but him
He lolls upon each resting stile
To see the fields so sweetly smile
To see the wheat grow green and long
And list the weeders toiling song
Or short note of the changing thrush
Above him in the white thorn bush
That oer the leaning stile bends low
Loaded wi mockery of snow
Mozzld wi many a lushing thread
Of crab tree blossoms delicate red
He often bends wi many a wish
Oer the brig rail to view the fish
Go sturting by in sunny gleams
And chucks in the eye dazzld streams
Crumbs from his pocket oft to watch
The swarming struttle come to catch
Them where they to the bottom sile
Sighing in fancys joy the while
Hes cautiond not to stand so nigh
By rosey milkmaid tripping bye
Where he admires wi fond delight
And longs to be there mute till night
He often ventures thro the day
At truant now and then to play
Rambling about the field and plain
Seeking larks nests in the grain
And picking flowers and boughs of may
To hurd awhile and throw away
Lurking neath bushes from the sight
Of tell tale eyes till schools noon night
Listing each hour for church clocks hum
To know the hour to wander home
That parents may not think him long
Nor dream of his rude doing wrong
Dreading thro the night wi dreaming pain
To meet his masters wand again
Each hedge is loaded thick wi green
And where the hedger late hath been
Tender shoots begin to grow
From the mossy stumps below
While sheep and cow that teaze the grain
will nip them to the root again
They lay their bill and mittens bye
And on to other labours hie
While wood men still on spring intrudes
And thins the shadow solitudes
Wi sharpend axes felling down
The oak trees budding into brown
Where as they crash upon the ground
A crowd of labourers gather round
And mix among the shadows dark
To rip the crackling staining bark
From off the tree and lay when done
The rolls in lares to meet the sun
Depriving yearly where they come
The green wood pecker of its home
That early in the spring began
Far from the sight of troubling man
And bord their round holes in each tree
In fancys sweet security
Till startld wi the woodmans noise
It wakes from all its dreaming joys
The blue bells too that thickly bloom
Where man was never feared to come
And smell smocks that from view retires
**** rustling leaves and bowing briars
And stooping lilys of the valley
That comes wi shades and dews to dally
White beady drops on slender threads
Wi broad hood leaves above their heads
Like white robd maids in summer hours
Neath umberellas shunning showers
These neath the barkmens crushing treads
Oft perish in their blooming beds
Thus stript of boughs and bark in white
Their trunks shine in the mellow light
Beneath the green surviving trees
That wave above them in the breeze
And waking whispers slowly bends
As if they mournd their fallen friends
Each morning now the weeders meet
To cut the thistle from the wheat
And ruin in the sunny hours
Full many wild weeds of their flowers
Corn poppys that in crimson dwell
Calld ‘head achs’ from their sickly smell
And carlock yellow as the sun
That oer the may fields thickly run
And ‘iron ****’ content to share
The meanest spot that spring can spare
Een roads where danger hourly comes
Is not wi out its purple blooms
And leaves wi points like thistles round
Thickset that have no strength to wound
That shrink to childhoods eager hold
Like hair—and with its eye of gold
And scarlet starry points of flowers
Pimpernel dreading nights and showers
Oft calld ‘the shepherds weather glass’
That sleep till suns have dyd the grass
Then wakes and spreads its creeping bloom
Till clouds or threatning shadows come
Then close it shuts to sleep again
Which weeders see and talk of rain
And boys that mark them shut so soon
will call them ‘John go bed at noon
And fumitory too a name
That superstition holds to fame
Whose red and purple mottled flowers
Are cropt by maids in weeding hours
To boil in water milk and way1
For washes on an holiday
To make their beauty fair and sleak
And scour the tan from summers cheek
And simple small forget me not
Eyd wi a pinshead yellow spot
I’th’ middle of its tender blue
That gains from poets notice due
These flowers the toil by crowds destroys
And robs them of their lowly joys
That met the may wi hopes as sweet
As those her suns in gardens meet
And oft the dame will feel inclind
As childhoods memory comes to mind
To turn her hook away and spare
The blooms it lovd to gather there
My wild field catalogue of flowers
Grows in my ryhmes as thick as showers
Tedious and long as they may be
To some, they never weary me
The wood and mead and field of grain
I coud hunt oer and oer again
And talk to every blossom wild
Fond as a parent to a child
And cull them in my childish joy
By swarms and swarms and never cloy
When their lank shades oer morning pearls
Shrink from their lengths to little girls
And like the clock hand pointing one
Is turnd and tells the morning gone
They leave their toils for dinners hour
Beneath some hedges bramble bower
And season sweet their savory meals
Wi joke and tale and merry peals
Of ancient tunes from happy tongues
While linnets join their fitful songs
Perchd oer their heads in frolic play
Among the tufts of motling may
The young girls whisper things of love
And from the old dames hearing move
Oft making ‘love knotts’ in the shade
Of blue green oat or wheaten blade
And trying simple charms and spells
That rural superstition tells
They pull the little blossom threads
From out the knapweeds button heads
And put the husk wi many a smile
In their white bosoms for awhile
Who if they guess aright the swain
That loves sweet fancys trys to gain
Tis said that ere its lain an hour
Twill blossom wi a second flower
And from her white ******* hankerchief
Bloom as they ne’er had lost a leaf
When signs appear that token wet
As they are neath the bushes met
The girls are glad wi hopes of play
And harping of the holiday
A hugh blue bird will often swim
Along the wheat when skys grow dim
Wi clouds—slow as the gales of spring
In motion wi dark shadowd wing
Beneath the coming storm it sails
And lonly chirps the wheat hid quails
That came to live wi spring again
And start when summer browns the grain
They start the young girls joys afloat
Wi ‘wet my foot’ its yearly note
So fancy doth the sound explain
And proves it oft a sign of rain
About the moor ‘**** sheep and cow
The boy or old man wanders now
Hunting all day wi hopful pace
Each thick sown rushy thistly place
For plover eggs while oer them flye
The fearful birds wi teazing cry
Trying to lead their steps astray
And coying him another way
And be the weather chill or warm
Wi brown hats truckd beneath his arm
Holding each prize their search has won
They plod bare headed to the sun
Now dames oft bustle from their wheels
Wi childern scampering at their heels
To watch the bees that hang and swive
In clumps about each thronging hive
And flit and thicken in the light
While the old dame enjoys the sight
And raps the while their warming pans
A spell that superstition plans
To coax them in the garden bounds
As if they lovd the tinkling sounds
And oft one hears the dinning noise
Which dames believe each swarm decoys
Around each village day by day
Mingling in the warmth of may
Sweet scented herbs her skill contrives
To rub the bramble platted hives
Fennels thread leaves and crimpld balm
To scent the new house of the swarm
The thresher dull as winter days
And lost to all that spring displays
Still mid his barn dust forcd to stand
Swings his frail round wi weary hand
While oer his head shades thickly creep
And hides the blinking owl asleep
And bats in cobweb corners bred
Sharing till night their murky bed
The sunshine trickles on the floor
Thro every crevice of the door
And makes his barn where shadows dwell
As irksome as a prisoners cell
And as he seeks his daily meal
As schoolboys from their tasks will steal
ile often stands in fond delay
To see the daisy in his way
And wild weeds flowering on the wall
That will his childish sports recall
Of all the joys that came wi spring
The twirling top the marble ring
The gingling halfpence hussld up
At pitch and toss the eager stoop
To pick up heads, the smuggeld plays
Neath hovels upon sabbath days
When parson he is safe from view
And clerk sings amen in his pew
The sitting down when school was oer
Upon the threshold by his door
Picking from mallows sport to please
Each crumpld seed he calld a cheese
And hunting from the stackyard sod
The stinking hen banes belted pod
By youths vain fancys sweetly fed
Christning them his loaves of bread
He sees while rocking down the street
Wi weary hands and crimpling feet
Young childern at the self same games
And hears the self same simple names
Still floating on each happy tongue
Touchd wi the simple scene so strong
Tears almost start and many a sigh
Regrets the happiness gone bye
And in sweet natures holiday
His heart is sad while all is gay
How lovly now are lanes and balks
For toils and lovers sunday walks
The daisey and the buttercup
For which the laughing childern stoop
A hundred times throughout the day
In their rude ramping summer play
So thickly now the pasture crowds
In gold and silver sheeted clouds
As if the drops in april showers
Had woo’d the sun and swoond to flowers
The brook resumes its summer dresses
Purling neath grass and water cresses
And mint and flag leaf swording high
Their blooms to the unheeding eye
And taper bowbent hanging rushes
And horse tail childerns bottle brushes
And summer tracks about its brink
Is fresh again where cattle drink
And on its sunny bank the swain
Stretches his idle length again
Soon as the sun forgets the day
The moon looks down on the lovly may
And the little star his friend and guide
Travelling together side by side
And the seven stars and charleses wain
Hangs smiling oer green woods agen
The heaven rekindles all alive
Wi light the may bees round the hive
Swarm not so thick in mornings eye
As stars do in the evening skye
All all are nestling in their joys
The flowers and birds and pasture boys
The firetail, long a stranger, comes
To his last summer haunts and homes
To hollow tree and crevisd wall
And in the grass the rails odd call
That featherd spirit stops the swain
To listen to his note again
And school boy still in vain retraces
The secrets of his hiding places
In the black thorns crowded copse
Thro its varied turns and stops
The nightingale its ditty weaves
Hid in a multitude of leaves
The boy stops short to hear the strain
And ’sweet jug jug’ he mocks again
The yellow hammer builds its nest
By banks where sun beams earliest rest
That drys the dews from off the grass
Shading it from all that pass
Save the rude boy wi ferret gaze
That hunts thro evry secret maze
He finds its pencild eggs agen
All streakd wi lines as if a pen
By natures freakish hand was took
To scrawl them over like a book
And from these many mozzling marks
The school boy names them ‘writing larks’
*** barrels twit on bush and tree
Scarse bigger then a bumble bee
And in a white thorns leafy rest
It builds its curious pudding-nest
Wi hole beside as if a mouse
Had built the little barrel house
Toiling full many a lining feather
And bits of grey tree moss together
Amid the noisey rooky park
Beneath the firdales branches dark
The little golden crested wren
Hangs up his glowing nest agen
And sticks it to the furry leaves
As martins theirs beneath the eaves
The old hens leave the roost betimes
And oer the garden pailing climbs
To scrat the gardens fresh turnd soil
And if unwatchd his crops to spoil
Oft cackling from the prison yard
To peck about the houseclose sward
Catching at butterflys and things
Ere they have time to try their wings
The cattle feels the breath of may
And kick and toss their heads in play
The *** beneath his bags of sand
Oft jerks the string from leaders hand
And on the road will eager stoop
To pick the sprouting thistle up
Oft answering on his weary way
Some distant neighbours sobbing bray
Dining the ears of driving boy
As if he felt a fit of joy
Wi in its pinfold circle left
Of all its company bereft
Starvd stock no longer noising round
Lone in the nooks of foddering ground
Each skeleton of lingering stack
By winters tempests beaten black
Nodds upon props or bolt upright
Stands swarthy in the summer light
And oer the green grass seems to lower
Like stump of old time wasted tower
All that in winter lookd for hay
Spread from their batterd haunts away
To pick the grass or lye at lare
Beneath the mild hedge shadows there
Sweet month that gives a welcome call
To toil and nature and to all
Yet one day mid thy many joys
Is dead to all its sport and noise
Old may day where’s thy glorys gone
All fled and left thee every one
Thou comst to thy old haunts and homes
Unnoticd as a stranger comes
No flowers are pluckt to hail the now
Nor cotter seeks a single bough
The maids no more on thy sweet morn
Awake their thresholds to adorn
Wi dewey flowers—May locks new come
And princifeathers cluttering bloom
And blue bells from the woodland moss
And cowslip cucking ***** to toss
Above the garlands swinging hight
Hang in the soft eves sober light
These maid and child did yearly pull
By many a folded apron full
But all is past the merry song
Of maidens hurrying along
To crown at eve the earliest cow
Is gone and dead and silent now
The laugh raisd at the mocking thorn
Tyd to the cows tail last that morn
The kerchief at arms length displayd
Held up by pairs of swain and maid
While others bolted underneath
Bawling loud wi panting breath
‘Duck under water’ as they ran
Alls ended as they ne’er began
While the new thing that took thy place
Wears faded smiles upon its face
And where enclosure has its birth
It spreads a mildew oer her mirth
The herd no longer one by one
Goes plodding on her morning way
And garlands lost and sports nigh gone
Leaves her like thee a common day
Yet summer smiles upon thee still
Wi natures sweet unalterd will
And at thy births unworshipd hours
Fills her green lap wi swarms of flowers
To crown thee still as thou hast been
Of spring and summer months the queen
John Ryles Dec 2012
Hedgehog

Something in my garden,
Small dark stout.
Is it coming in?
Or maybe going out?

Hidden in the long grass,
Almost out of sight.
Edging in slowly ,
In case it gets a fright.

Little beady eyes,
Long thin nose.
Sharp bent clause,
On little hairy toes.


As it scurries off quickly,
To winter hibernate.
I see the snow is coming,
Hope he's not too late.
Red-Writing-Hood Oct 2012
There are lessons that school doesn't teach you
Some things can't be learned by sitting in an uncomfortable chair for several hours a day, tapping your pencil against a desk with your head in your hand staring blankly into space...and if you're like me you have headphones in your ears, thoughts in the clouds, feet off the ground with the touch screen of my phone at my finger tips.
One of those things you can't learn trapped in the four walls of a classroom is that life hits you, hard, in the face, like that first heartbreak...causing an unbearable ache in your chest that feels like you may be entering cardiac arrest.
Your body goes into shock and it's almost like you're in la la land for a moment with a hangover infecting your heart that no type of Advil can fix, until you realize that the person you've thought you were in love with for the past while is no longer that person...they reveal themselves by ripping off their mask of a handsome face to expose a terrifying appearance of sharp teeth and beady eyes, a monster, a liar, a cheater...a heart breaker...
Life waits for you to stand back up only to kick you back down and although you've already fallen seven times and your hearts a little bruised and tattered you stand up eight with a stubborn refusal like the ocean waves always coming back to kiss the shore line no matter how many times it's sent away.
When I was thirteen years old, my older brother taught me something that no teacher could ever have written down in their lesson plan, he said that the number one rule to being cool is to remain unphased, never admitting anything can hurt you, excite you or impress you.
I figure it's like walking through life with your arms as a shield, to protect yourself from all the unexpected miseries or hurt like heartbreak or getting fired or not getting hired. I try to walk through life with my arms and hands wide open...and yes that means catching every heartbreak and each last drop of pain life can squeeze out for me but it also means that when beautiful...amazing things just fall out of the sky...like love...I'm ready to catch them.
I may get an F on one of life's tests but that doesn't mean I can't study for the exam, the bigger picture, because failure is success when you allow yourself to learn from it and that's what I'll do, I will be as open as a book and make sure to write down all of my journeys with no details left out, highlighting the good parts but never forgetting the bad
But I'll be sure to tread carefully because life is as fragile as a bubble but I have to remember that I can't be afraid to stick my finger out and pop it if I don't like the direction it's going in and if popping that bubble means a down pour of miseries, bring it on because my hands are as strong as the suns love for the moon, so stack up my problems like books in a library and I'll read them again and again
And for each new lesson I'll show up with a backpack full of everywhere else I've been, eager to collect another souvenir like the laugh lines framing my mouth or the worry wrinkle etched into my forehead and my heart will come along for the ride, strapped in tight, prepared for all the potholes and sharp turns but there's no air bags aloud so every time we crash there's nothing coming between me and the beginning of a new lesson
Brandon Webb Nov 2012
1
she taps he hand, twice.
across the room,
he stares, thinking
into empty air.
others, scattered
tap pencils or fingers
on desktops, booktops
and phone keyboards

the balding man
with black hair:
combed backward
and to differing angles
so that his head is split
vertically-
stands, above the room
his back turned

his words,
meant for the crowd
reverberate only
along classes fringe
but still take precedence
over nothing
even to them-
academics, outcasts


2
back of the room
reveals everything
to the observer
trying to see

blue-eyed brunette
glares vengefully
at no one,
just to glare

he looks up once
to watch
as another
pulls up
drooping jeans.
she laughs
at conversation
unmeant for,
and inaudible
to her


3
today, she smiles
and lets her lip fall
begging, like a puppy
But when they
lose eye contact,
she glares, again

he leaves footprints
on parallel desk
from lounging
then fires himself
to his feet
using stored energy,
and sugar from gum

words bounce along
the walls in the back,
and isolated eyes peer
towards the screen
but hide the fact
that they care


4
two week vacation
has left their minds
full of everything
except math,
so they listen
to him, while he speaks

but travel backward
in time, with
those closest them
while he creeps,
silent, around the room

she concentrates hard,
on her work
glaring at the page.
he sits a desk forward
feet on floor
neighboring desk full
today, but only physically

blue hat rests
on sketchbook,
its border
barely covering
closed eyes

blond head
implants itself
jokingly, into
smooth shining
white wall
with enough force
to collapse
accidental target

a hand raises
attracting gazes,
awestruck,
at her interest
in forgotten
material
of future tests


5
only a few eyes wander
from blue lined notebooks
though the left flank
still chatters, embodying
either a secretive chipmunk
or the breeze which starts the storm

storm clouds appear slowly
in sketchbook, blue hat bobbing
rhythmically in response to active pen

perched above the flock
reminiscent, split headed
papa bird scans the masks
of his shockingly silent chicks

random lecture breaks the silence.
Her eyes aren’t the only ones
Fixed into a steel laden glare
But the chipmunk wind ceases


6
his questioning glance lands
on uninhabited space,
exhibiting a yawn
which traverses through,
and twists, the faces of
those otherwise engaged

lecture ends with a question,
the scent of nuts blows through
mentally empty classroom
turning desks to predetermined
positions and swiftly inhabiting
three-quarters of the physical class

his steel glare has replaced hers
the latter’s eyes now soft as an infants

within five minutes, his voice
undergoes  a brutal, complete cycle
pleading, congratulating, yelling
and as always, lecturing


7
pre-test:

preparations for misery-
mundane chipmunk chattering,
jokes and laughs from random
oddities appearing everywhere

blue hat rests in intervals.
Blue coat rearranges
essay for another class

The girl in the sunny plaid
Rolls an orange along her hand

He points at nothing and asks
Nobody something without answer

The left flank, as always
Is turned away, conversing

A sigh rings outward loudly
Everyone glares, nervously,
Everywhere, reward of concentration


After my test:

First paper in, he scans lightly
Sets it down with a scowl
and yawns, twice, breaking the
silent shroud of heavy fog
which is hanging overhead

wandering free eyes witness
down-turned heads concentrating
as much on tests  as on moving
their hands wildly, excitedly
trying to communicate non-vocally

others have yet to detach themselves
from their seats and stride upward,
hopefully more triumphantly
than their sole predecessor

one shuffles now, slowly toward him
his hand shaking as he releases
that  paper, he turns away as it flutters
onto the desk- he replants himself in his

twelve others walk forward
smiling, shrinking, sometimes speaking
and always he glares, triumphant
knowing his success at our failure


later:

his near-sleeping form            
finds distraction, in waking
dreams, jumping back suddenly
breaking from his plank-like state
without speaking. excitement
for approaching weekend is
communicated in the left flank

two girls break the silence
running in from outside            
he glares at them, but laughs

everyone breaks into groups
after the conversation about
mysteriously nutty discarded sock

he runs to the forefront
forehead folded, finger on mouth
no-one notices, but still he glares

8
he smiles and glares at the floor
his legs swinging back and forth            
tan slacks rustling softly

exaggerated scores bubble in ears            
as they search for their destroyer

in front of forgotten faces falls
the page of a forgotten tome

several yawn, hoping, understandably
that their stretched lips
will pull themselves far enough
to barricade ears from his droning

he kills himself, twice, bumbling
into half-thought chastisements
of the  flittingly flirtatious students
intermingling hoping behind him
causing waves of whispers, laughter
and slightly strengthened chatter

he re-aligns his thoughts quickly
and rambles on again, always

9
he speaks to her softly
from across a sea of desks
she looks up, panicking calmly
distracted from distraction

in silence, blank eyes turn
surprised at the non-withering
state of her barely living corpse

he asks a question, looking up
a single answer is given
unemotional and short, buy ending
heavy hanging awkward silence

how talented the teacher
who gives his lecture while
still addressing unrelated
student self lectures

the still silence given
in his questioning lull
hangs so loudly the whispers
traversing the classroom appear
silent as finger wiggle
and pencils trace zeros

his extrication, caused by
distractingly thunderous voice
is met with a comment
causing a wave of laughter
starting at his mouth
and extending to inhabit everything

10
half the time gives
twice the attention
as they concentrate
on keeping him on
the undying topic
of the work we
have already done

they admit defeat
as dusty tome opens
spreading a nutty cloud
causing heads to turn
and words to leap.

from opens lips,
mischievous gremlins
sprout, dancing on
tables and chuckling
away from the sigh
of his down-turned, split
shining, globular mind

he scratches pink ear
with bone pale finger
reading unrelated words

in the center of the room
both mentally and physically
he sits, momentarily quiet
as dark eyes glare past
rumpled pink nose,
concentrating

blue hat rests on open palms
above dust covered open page
he slips into sleeping state
but picks himself up
and stares though thin borderline
toward shiny rambling forehead

a shutter cord flies forward
the hand at the end pulling hard
but with no affect to the shutters
neither lowering the physical
or raising the mental

the color of non-color pencils
interrupts the class momentarily
as she strides forward to compare
and then criticizes his care

he just sits, smiles and stares

11
eleven desks lie empty
of one form more than usual
amplifying the arm movements
of the ever ticking seconds

his obscured mouth flings seeds
which sprout into words
before even meeting the worn
blood-colored carpet below

in the main room, sixteen
sit silent, sketching, sleeping
or siphoning the last minute

12
those left awake, and alive
have come to understand
the numbers on the screen
this being their specialty
in a nutty shell, of course
splitting, as we are, large
crowds of numbers, and us
being teenagers, isn’t that
how we think, in numbers
and ratings of everything
and, sitting in the central
crowd are the talented
crowd-splitters
flattery-spitters

13
the silence of half absence
is pierced, as always by vocal
anomaly, centered around
rows of shining wood
bookrests, but only one
set of hollow, dark-rimmed
vacant eyeballs watches
well-welcomed interruption

he lets us work, standing.
Someone somewhere opens
A large container of nuts
Entire class starts stuffing
Handfuls into puffy cheeks
Absorbing sensations into
Eternally ravenous minds

The apocalyptic mix of noises
Is split again by central
Nutcracker, and those in corners
Glare, smiling, rubbing shadowed
Acne scarred faces
with raw-bitten nails

14
balding papa bird speaks loudly
transforming his voice, becoming
vocally legendary cartoon duck

the wave of resulting laughter
ends in un-given nut-break
spreading, without speech
the understanding that his
comedic digression will not
meet a quick extinction

we greet the weekend
by rising early
our excuse: competition
to devour the worm

15
three heads are downturned
peering into textbooks
as the tsunami breaks

the days end starts
and beady eyes peer
in the direction of his
moving head, colored
gothic gargoyle in the
dim cloudlight streaming
through dust coated
slit windows

the room transforms
becoming triumphantly,
grumpily, repeatedly
conversational

artificial silence
spreads like a wave
from right back corner
to left front corner
leaving behind
the half of the room
hidden behind the wall
of troublemakers
who will eventually
cause the wall to topple
with the sheer force
of assorted nuts

16
blue hat is scrunched
under the of a fist
pounding on his head,
result of the decibels
consumed, and produced
by the embodiment
of the thoughts around him
which fall from stuffed
cheeks. Bounce off tables
and spread a sickening aroma
as their shells split
exposing, revealing
nothing

17
red face glances upward
as harsh words split
the widening sea of snickers
his words stop, first time today
as whispers spread wildly
of his speed in delivering answers
seconds later, room is silent
as statement ends and lecturer
turns back to him, offering
as always, another wave
of deep felt, anger hardened
quietly whispered, criticisms

thunderous-rush-voice leads
out of habit and necessity
the minutes following
his behavioral digression
each word stabbing split-headed
pointy-nosed papa bird, their
form a walnut-wood spear
crafted from drifted thoughts
of those sitting nearest him

18
on his back lies a pile of nuts
professor’s earthquake
shoulder shaking causes
eyes to open, back to rise
and with a tremendous roar
both physical and meta-physical,
it topples to worn carpet
and the laugh-track plays on

19
silence- pierced into being
by shrill, violent, mountainous
rise, and fall, of thunderous decibels-
hangs, heavier, louder than
the quick gone loudness replaced
or, in all actuality, displaced
mere seconds before being scrawled
into eternal memory
of those whose noses
sniff, daily, nutty clusters
of letters, which exclude
always, the ever-present x
the destructive π
and that y, which of course
flies as high as forgetful
nut-bearers




©Brandon Webb
2012
This is a series of observations, and. collectively, is the longest thing i've ever written, at 8847 words
Out of darkness, crept the little white mouse,
whose beady eyes did squint in the sunlight.
Across the blood red savannah did it crawl,
only to stop in the presence of a giant shadow.
With fear flowing through its little red heart,
it gazed up at the frame of the mighty elephant.

None was more feared than the mighty elephant,
none feared it more than the little white mouse,
who was smaller than the elephant’s own heart.
It stood tall and proud under the blistering sunlight,
casting across the savannah its menacing shadow,
the sun’s eternal gaze forcing the dark to crawl.

Petrified, it could no longer find the will to crawl,
peering up in fear at the large grey elephant,
who was content to simply cast its large shadow,
the dense dark swallowing the little white mouse,
darkness so dense it could withstand the sunlight.
Nothing pounded faster than the mouse’s heart.

Loud and heavy was the elephant’s heart,
its design meant that it had no need to crawl,
just as it soaked in all of the leftover sunlight.
There was nothing to fear, not for the elephant.
That was when its grey eyes looked at the mouse,
a little white mouse that was standing in its shadow.

It was so small, like it was swimming in its shadow,
yet for some strange reason it sent fear through its heart,
nothing else filled it with more dread that the mouse,
it suddenly wanted to fall to the savannah floor and crawl
away from such a beast that would terrify an elephant,
a beast that cannot be touched even by the sunlight.

The elephant stood frozen, cold as ice, even in the sunlight.
Beady eyes stared up as it floated amongst its shadow,
every twitch of its nose sent fear through the elephant,
every blink caused absolute terror to enter its heart.
How could this be? It was so small and reduced to a crawl,
yet the mighty elephant was terrified of the little mouse.

The elephant shrieks, and flees into the sunlight.
The mouse scuttles forward, listening to its beating heart.
No need to crawl, just to cast a shadow.
Cana Aug 2018
Ripples riddle the mirror,
Below, faint shapes shift
Elegant forms float here and there,
Little legs thunder, leaving a gentle wake
in lieu of turmoil.

The air is thick, the sun falling,
Already lost behind billowing storm clouds
Etched chaotically on the horizon.
Invisible but for the ubiquitous light.

It is the dragonflies time,
A darting zip and an effortless flutter.
From surfacing **** to towering Reed,
Searching for something we can only pretend to know.

Determined housewives, faces set,
Arms pumping and hips swaying
Their Anatidean waddle so fitting
Their quacks, a wall of stereo.

A lone rusted sign warns of gators,
but of signs, there is that one alone.
No rogue bubbles or beady eyes,
no ticking of swallowed clocks,
no suspicious splashes.
nothing.

My battery is now as low as the sun,
and my pen is as empty.
A not so subtle poke in the ribs
from a universe in protest of the
bad poetry being inked.

c'est la vie
or as we say in English
**** it
Tuesday evening park sit. Waiting, watching, and stuff.
I wrote his sober, so I cannot be held accountable.
Harriet Cleve Jan 2019

A Skeleton gunslinger, takes on the Unholy of Hell and wages war against his nemesis Hatchet, as a portal to Hell threatens to unleash the putrid, rancid, Unholy hordes onto a desolate planet. "


The bringer of Death arrived in Dakota. Custer's Seventh lay dying on the Powder river. The Ancients had sent him to walk the Earth and help the Ghost-walkers to hold their land. In his mortal days, he carried a torch for Serela, an outcast from the Mind seekers.That's what got him killed in the first place. The saloon was full that night, and he was called out.
He pulled his gun first and knew he would die. His death was foretold in the ancient scriptures of truth. 'The bone that liveth shall slay the flesh and the flesh will become liveth bone'.
Justice will walk the plains and avenge the truth'.
Serela had looked on as a bullet pierced the gunslinger's skull.The spirit of the ancients swept through her soul then, as she watch his head explode, filtering its entrance into the new receptacle of justice.

No one saw the killer shadow draw or witnessed it's departure but John Bitumen's body lay dead, the blood flowing from a hole in his forehead. Even as he died, he was reborn.
The Skull of Death in search of a gunfight, Deathbringer, Cleanser of Evil.


Hatchet looked at his mangy horse, a wasted beast worn out and at the end of it's road.Two years it carried his weight and the saddle dug deep.Whippings were constant and the calloused cruel fists of Hatchet rained down on it's neck if it slowed any.The nearest town was a mile down the road and it was late in the day.
That was all it took to set the anger in motion.Hatchet took five paces away from his horse and hurled his razor sharp hatchet with violence. The horse's head was split in two.
He hauled his saddle, and wrestled his ****** weapon from the dead horse, then walked into the dusk. All the time, Serela had observed from the Spirit's eye, an artefact of the Ancients, entrusted to the Mind Seekers. Hatchet would pay for his offence against Nature's pure beast, for it was written' All Creatures will walk the Earth and all will be held Holy.Swift will be Divine retribution against those who slay the pure beast'.
Hatchet wasn't one to read the ancient scriptures and could not know that the Skull of Death would search him out in the next town.The Ancients had called forth their Gunslinger and a skeletal hand rested on the sacred Gun of Abe. Hatchet would be called out and a Gunfight would settle scores. A chill in the air unnerved him and he took comfort in carresing his ivory handled pistols.


Darkness fell on the land and the half moon shone on the dead horse.The night crawlers made to cut it's remains and scavenge it's carcass. Two hands were raised to the sky, pleading for forgiveness. Horsemeat was forbidden and a desecration of sacred laws.
A knife was produced and held to the beast's throat. In that moment, all became aware of the onlooker.A tall figure in a drab grey longcoat, black spurred boots, an old black stetson. The Sacred Gun of Abe was in his hands. The Skull of Death, the Ancients Gunslinger, walked the Plains once more.
All seven night crawlers stared in disbelief. Their last minutes of life ebbing from them as the eyes of the Ancients warrior scanned their souls and cremated their bodies.Seven figures suddenly engulfed in flames under the incessant stare of the Skull's empty sockets. Amongst the embers, the Gunslinger knelt beside the horse. In his mortal days, this beast was his closest companion.Hatchet had stolen his possession and the sight of it's remains stirred an anguished scream for the horrific end which befell his steed.

Gently the Gun of Abe was placed on the horse's neck. A small bottle of holy oil was rubbed in it's wounds.' Though death may stalk the pure, truly I say to you that righteousness will prevail and the dead will rise'. Even as the words were uttered, a ball of blue flame enveloped the horse. The light illuminated the darkness and from the light the skeleton of a horse emerged, raising itself up on its hind legs, in defiance of death. Approaching the Gunslinger, it nuzzled it's head to his skull, the brilliance of it's chalk white bones radiating a supernatural hue. Mounting his steed, he galloped into the night.Vengeance was coming.Death on a horse was looking for Hatchet!


Raihna woke suddenly and locked eyes withHatchet. She had been ordered to sleep with him, against her wishes. 'Something wrong with me, *****? Hatchet snarled when he'd paid his ten dollars to the House Madam.
'You better be worth it *****! He had roughed her up before falling into a drunken slumber. Now he was standing in his ragged long johns, at the end of the four poster bed.
A manic look was in his beady eyes, as he swigged his liquor jar. Unkempt rank hair covered his weasel like features. Reeking of horse and trail sweat, an ugly belly adorning his uglier frame, he leered for the longest time.Raihna took it all in, especially the hatchet in his right hand. 'Think you're mighty purdy, don't ya! he sneered. ' Let's see what you look like with a hair cut'!
Raihna noticed then that he had pinned her pigtails to the wooden headboard. Realising a scream would be the end of her, she stared back and waited. Hatchet hurled his weapon and it sliced into the headboard, shorning her hair.From the table, he grabbed his bowie knife and aimed for the other pigtail, slicing it off and nicking her neck. 'Well lookee now' he laughed as a trace of blood ran down her neck. 'Ain't you gonna scream, *****?


An eerie blue glow filtered into the room just then and the whinny and snortin' of a horse filled the air. 'What in Hell's name? muttered Hatchet. Looking out of the curtains, he saw the chalk white Skeleton of a horse and a skeleton rider brandishing a pistol. A fiery blue-red low glow radiated from their eyes and it seemed both rider and steed were on fire. Hatchet shouted out ' You one of them Resurrectionists?!' suddenly remembering the old shaman he had killed back in Piebald.
Hatchet had stolen his runes and kept them for trading with the Mindseekers. He thought now that maybe this was him come looking for him from the afterworld. Hot ***** trickled down his leg and he felt scared and sick to his stomach.

The gallows await !' It was almost a whisper as the ancients gunslinger raised his head towards the window. Hatchet grabbed Raihna and tried to shield himself from the spectre below. His mind raced as he hesitated, panic flooding his brain. 'Take them! We be even! he gambled as he threw the runes at the gunslinger. Even as he did so, they were grabbed instantaneously by a skeletal hand and placed around the gunslinger's neck. For these were the runes of time and in the coming trials would decide the balance of power between the Unholy and the Just.


Hatchet had thrown away his trump card and even as he loaded his gun, he was destined to die. 'Pearls before swine' whispered into the room and Hatchet descended the stairs, with Raihna in front. His pistol was cocked and he would shoot it out. If Hell was waiting, he wasn't going on his own. His hatchet lay in his side belt and he made his way onto the street.
The hallway was pitch black and Hatchet cautiously approached the parlour door hoping to get out the back street. He held a vice-like grip on Raihna's arm as he pushed her along. 'You keep your mouth shut ***** and open that door easy' he whispered, his voice betraying his inner terror. Suddenly and unexpectedly, he felt the cold muzzle of a revolver pressed hard to the back of his head. 'You take your claws offa my girl, Hatchet 'less you wants your **** brains spilled where you stand!
Hatchet knew Charlotte, the House madam, wasn't bluffing. He'd seen her do it too, back in Abilene, when China Jack beat up one of her girls. She'd shot him straight through his throat and followed up with a clean shot to his manhood. It hurt Hatchet even now just thinking about it'. Jesus! he thought as he cursed his situation. Things were moving too fast and nothing was going his way.
Hatchet loosened his grip, carefully holstering his gun.As she moved away, Raihna spat on his face and kneed him in the groin. ****! he bellowed and went to strike Raihna. His hearing saved her, as Charlotte cocked the gun and stopped him where he stood. 'Think I'd sleep easy with you on the premises, Hatchet? Take me for a fool? I don't know what the Hell is out on that street but it wants you!' By Christ, you're going out the front door to face it too!. 'Always were a cowardly *******, now move you lousy **** head!
Raihna had gotten hold of a shotgun and had it trained on Hatchet. 'Drop that hatchet right now, she said. ' You're facing that creature with your gun and nothing else! God knows you don't deserve even that much. Hatchet dropped his hatchet. 'Now kick it over here!' He did so and as Raihna picked it up, she hurled it back immediately into his right thigh, gashing him like a pig for the slaughter. Hatchet screamed in agony and Charlotte pulled it out of his thigh as the room sprayed with the red bloom of imminent death. Now move you *******!


Charlotte and Raihna ushered him towards the front door and kicked him into the dark dusty side street. 'You got it coming, Hatchet!, they shouted and there waiting for him was the Ancients Gunslinger. He had dismounted from his steed and now faced Hatchet.The look of death was in the Skull's eerie sockets and it was all Hatchet could do to stop his hands shaking. He threw up and finally faced the spectre before him.

'For those who have suffered, shall be avenged. The Righteous Light will shine on the Unholy and all dark souls shall be driven from the Plains. Fear will walk amongst them and even the shadows shall despise their ways.'
Thus it had been written and now was coming to pass.


Hatchet went for his gun, and time slowed down as his eyes scanned the scene. A chalk, pure white, skeletal hand reached for a gun and the fluid movement captured his attention. Hatchet knew he had been outdrawn and could see the gunslinger's bullet leave the smoking barrell, pristine, crafted by a master gunsmith. He noticed the leather holster, worn and faded, almost an antiquity, strapped to a dark trousered leg.
The long coat, ghastly grey, adorning the bones of the undead. Empty eyes stared him down, as he heard his own gun's sharp report and watched his bullet sail towards the spectre. Just before the gunslingers bullet blew his brains out, he finally noticed the spectre of the horse and instinctively knew this was the brutalised beast he had so callously slain. Blood and bone exploded violently and the mortal remains of Hatchet dropped to the ground.
Hatchet didn't know it then but he too was about to be reborn; for the Unholy were about to unleash the Scourge of Hossana and the Ancients Gunslinger stood in their way. Hatchet would be forged in the cauldron of Hell and in the coming trials would once again face the Sacred Gun of Abe.


Hatchet became conscious, and felt as ill as a cow in a slaughter house. The smell of death was rancid and his vision seemed out of focus. A nauseating, sickly stench permeated his nostrils and he winced as the pungent odour inflated his lungs. He was aware his whole body was bitter cold and he shivered uncontrollably. If this was a hangover, then it was the worst he'd ever been. Terrifyingly, he noticed that he was manacled, face down, to a massive ice block.
Encased within the block was a dead horse, it's head split in two, exposing brain matter, decayed pulped flesh, and grizzled bone. It's mouth was fixed in a ghastly grimace with it's eyes looking back into Hatchet's, it's gory mane matted in dirt.
His screams were hideous to hear and were lost in the din of the thousands of screams echoing within the air.The sound was deafening and burst his ears as the terror built up within him. Hatchet knew then he was in Hell, amongst the thousands of fallen souls now in the possesion of the Unholy.
His whole being was perished with unbearable, intense cold yet he could see flames, blazing blue and orange, feet away from him taunting him with intense glow.
Still the shrieks and squeals of thousands around him assailed his ears! The amplified volume resonated in his brain as his own screams built to a crescendo!
Yet, no light radiated from the flames and the pitch black illuminated only the horse within the ice block and the grimace which would be eternal. Still Hatchet screamed till he felt his throat would explode and his mind begged for deliverance! It was then that his shoulders and back ignited with agonising pain as he felt the sting of a whip.
Again and again the whip found it's mark and his flesh was pulverised. He cried out for forgiveness and begged to be spared and still he was lashed.He prayed to pass out and knew he never would ! For he was in Hell and the blackest deeds were now held to account.
A voice bellowed at him'Welcome Brother Hatchet! We will have a purpose for you soon! Enjoy the interim! Many more punishments await you yet until you are ready'. The eerie voice trailed off as Hatchet continued to be whipped. His agonising screams drowned the air and was unheard amongst the thousand others. Still the horse fixed it's empty eyes and stared at Hatchet and its grimace took pleasure in his suffering.

Seven days passed since Hatchet was despatched to Hell, and darkness fell on the Plains like a widows veil. No light illuminated the Earth and the Lakota knew this was the sign of the coming trials. The Ghost-walkers had appealed to the Great Spirit and no one who witnessed their victory at the Powder River could deny their courage.Truly this was evidence of the Spirit's intervention in their way of life. Reports had come in to Chief Red Cloud of a figure of flame riding amongst the Buffalo. A Skeleton on fire, riding the Skeleton of a horse at full charge. It seemed the very ground they rode upon was a torch of lightning, and the figure was at one with the Buffalo. Red Cloud rode out to witness it himself and noticed the blue-orange glow, like an aura of defiance, surrounding the figure. In it's hand was a gun, and Red Cloud recognised it as the Sacred Gun of Abe.
Many tales had been passed down from his ancestors, and Red Cloud knew this figure was sacred to his tribe.The Ancients Gunslinger would play a role in the destiny of his People.The Whiteman would pay a heavy price for the desecration of the traditions and way of life of those under the protection of the Great Spirit. He knew too that an enemy would arise which would destroy the Whiteman, and all the Earth's inhabitants. Only the Native American would take the battle to the Enemy, aided by the Ancients and the Mind Seekers.
Red Cloud knew his people looked to him for leadership, and he would provide it.They would hear how Red Cloud rode with the Ghost Rider and take pride in his courage. His fate was tied to the Ancients Gunslinger, and this had been preordained in the ancient Scriptures. Red Cloud looked down at the flaming figure and dug his knees into his horse. Charging down the hill, he shouted out a proud battle cry, and rode like the wind to the side of the Ghost Rider.In their trail the Buffalo followed.The trials ahead would be met and the Unholy would do battle with their most dangerous enemy.



**** it Charlotte! 'It don't make sense!
Hatchet weren't killed by no ghost, for Christ sake! Marshall John Lancaster was tired and couldn't believe the events which occurred in his absence. He had just brought in Ned Marlow.Got two of his men killed doing it, and suffered a leg wound himself in the shoot out. Marlow had been holed up in Tinkers Creek and came out unexpectedly with his guns blazing as the posse approached the log cabin. It had suddenly turned pitch dark, and all the horses got spooked, causing confusion amongst the lawman's officers.
Ned Marlow knew Hatchet; had lost an eye in a bar brawl to him once.It was said Hatchet carried the eye around with him ever since.
Ned was closing in on Hatchet, bent on revenge, and swore he'd see him dead. Suddenly a shot rang out, and startled Lancaster.
Ned had headbutted the Marshall's deputy as he was being placed in the holding cell.He had grabbed the deputy's gun then and blown a hole clean through him. Carelessness, or tiredness, maybe both, had cost him his life. Ned didn't give no quarter when his own life was on the line. He weren't going to no hangman's noose neither. He burst into the Marshall's office then and fired off two shots catching Lancaster in the left arm wounding him badly. The Marshall got off one reactive shot catching Ned's left ear.The sound deafened him and he put a slug through the Marshall's head.The fragrance of gunpowder filled the room and Charlotte could only look on.'You're coming with me, Honey!'bellowed Marlow as he grabbed her hair, pulling her close, and made his way onto the streets. A gun was held to Charlotte's head and Ned was figuring his next move.


He was too busy watching the streets but if he'd looked up, he would have seen a hatchet hurtling towards him with violent intent. The hatchet caught his gun hand and severed it clean off his wrist. Ned now had the indignity of losing his right hand.He screamed in agony as blood squirted from his severed wrist, spraying Charlotte in a plume of lifes red wine. Ned looked to the ground and his own hand lay there, holding his pistol, it's finger still on the trigger. Legend would record the severed hand fired off a shot moments after it's horrific amputation. Ned Marlow didn't know it then, but he too would play a role in the coming trials. The Unholy knew it only too well for it had been written 'The Deaf shall hear, the Blind shall see, and the hand of the sinner will turn on the Unholy'.


There the severed hand lay. A ghastly, grotesque, weather worn obscenity.
The gun had been removed from it's grasp since it's horrific amputatation from Ned Marlow. Three days had passed since the incident and no one dared to remove it from the street.cOminously, no decay had festered to spoil that monstrosity;for life still lingered within it's ghoulish flesh. Mangy street dogs looked at it with curiosity, yet kept a tentative distance. The little finger still wore a silver ring, set with a black stone. Once it had belonged to an ancient Pagan High King, who had been slaughtered in battle. An artefact from a distant time, carried across Europe into the America's. Evil had tainted it's properties and the Sons of the Unholy had sought it since. The ring now sought a new owner as the severed hand, an abomination of creation, crawled, like a filthy worm in the dirt. Slowly, laboriously, with uncanny certainty, the wretched hand made it's way towards the room of the one who had hurled the hatchet.


Raihna sat alone in her bedroom.The hatchet lay across her lap and it was emitting a low hum, almost inaudible, but she had heard it. At first she thought madness was setting in, but she realised that the voices communicating with her were real; the Mind Seekers had chosen her.
Her mind and body became a telepathic conduit and she was absorbed in receiving the messages. The Ancients were channelling through her and a deep trance held her almost comatose.
Slowly, sickening slow, the hand crawled it's way towards her., Grubby, thick, fingers inching themselves stealthily, dangerously close, while Raihna was immersed in the communication.
Her eyes were closed in the deep state between the conscious and the unconscious, so she could not witness the fingers wrap themselves around the handle of the Hatchet. Both hand and clasped hatchet lifted silently from her lap. As the hand moved to distance the weapon from her, the ring glowed a greenish hue, emanating the presence of the Unholy. Suddenly the hand lunged at Raihna's throat!
Raihna's life was ebbing into eternity.The possessed, filthy, unholy amputation squeezed her windpipe with the vengence of perpetual hostility. The ring on the severed hand's finger glowed brighter, as her life force lay on the threshold of destruction. It seemed as though the light of a thousand burning suns illuminated that room. A portal to Hell had been created and Raihna was pulled into that abyss. She was neither dead nor alive, for the Unholy had need of a pawn.The hatchet too was ****** into that void as it was destined to be reunited with Hatchet.The light was blinding and it seemed the very Earth could have been swallowed; as though the Gods had abandoned all of Creation!
Yet there he stood! A blazing figure astride a blazing horse.The chalk white bones of a skeleton horse carrying the Ancients Gunslinger towards the entrance to Hell! The ancient scriptures had written ' The Liveth Bone shall ride into Hell, and the Unholy shall cower'.
The Sacred Gun of Abe shall wield the vengeance of the Ages and the Earth and Heavens shall shake'. Thus it had been written and was now coming to pass.
A portal to Hell had opened and the Gunslinger charged into that cesspool of abomination. No Horse ever galloped with such energy and the Unholy prepared for the skirmish.The Gunslinger was possessed with a relentless rage for Justice. Hell quaked as both rider and horse fearlessly charged into the bowels of Evil's pestilent abode.
Furious at this brazen affront, the Unholy now made to close that portal. Even as they did so, Hatchet was resurrected from his tormented existence. His hatchet was reunited with him as he prepared to once again face the Gunslinger.Raihna must be rescued; for her destiny was tied to the Earth's salvation. For now, she lay in a corner of Hell watched over by a severed hand. The screams and anguished cries of all the lost souls in Hell echoed in the stagnant air. Still the Rider charged furiously as he sought to gather Raihna to his arms. A ****** hatchet sailed towards him and Hell looked on.


Hatchet charged from the cage of demons, his face etched with the pain of perpetual torment. His emaciated form like a malignant Phoenix rising from the ashes of Hell. The pitiful creature carrying his burden reared from his weight. A wretched carcass of a decayed horse which had been ressurected for battle. That same horse which had been encased within the ice block;whose ****** head Hatchet had split open when both were mortals on the Earth. Man and beast now tools for the Unholy; possessed by the collective evil of all who now suffered in Hell.cTheir dark energy would now be harnessed for the coming trials. A gruesome grimace was fixed on the horse's face and it's empty eyes stared ahead as Hatchet charged towards the Gunslinger. His violent countenace expressed the deadly intentions which would be borne down upon his enemy.
He had hurled his weapon and watched as it made it's deadly trajectory towards the Gunslinger. As the hatchet spun and revolved through the air, Hatchet emmitted the scream of the demented. The Gunslinger had lowered in his saddle and the hatchet narrowly missed it's target. Continuing on it's course, it landed in the back of one of the screaming forgotten whose souls were doomed to eternal agony.
Both riders now crashed headlong into one another and Hatchet fell from his horse. The Sacred Gun of Abe was now in the Gunslinger's hand and a skeletal finger pulled the trigger.
Once again, Hatchet would witness a bullet discharge from it's revolving chamber. His head exploded as the bullet entered his brain, exiting in one piece and landing in the dank soil of Hell.The blessed relic purified the soil and the Unholy recoiled with revulsion.
The dead cannot die and Hatchet struggled back to his feet. Grabbing the Gunslinger's reins, he attempted to pull him down. It was then that the runes around the Gunslinger's neck pierced the air with a deafening incantation.
The Unholy screamed as the Holy words of the Ancient Scriptures filtered into the bowels of iniquity and shook the foundations of Hell.
Hatchet reeled back and grabbed his hatchet from the spine of the forgotten sinner. He looked up then and witnessed a warrior's lance sail through the air.It violently struck and impaled the severed hand guarding Raihna.
Red Cloud had accompanied the Gunslinger in his charge into Hell!
RJP Aug 2018
Trampling through their city paths,
Hunting ground, mean street.
They perch aloft towers of oak;
Dripping with prestige vine, wrapped
With silk leaves, soft to touch
And hard to climb.

The Sun sets over the seven lakes
Of spring kissed, freshly mown
Fields of scorn blessed by
Solitudal and beady eyes.
Gates keeping out the world that
Wishes them harm.

They sit so high peering down,
At our destitution, our self-prohetised Might!
And think:
“Pfft you all wish you could fly
Nathan Klein Sep 2011
I come from the green winters,
the beady drops of sweat
running like lawnmowers
down the side of a face.

The bugs, bugs, bugs
and freakish hailstorms
of the way-down-south.

I come from the trash-can lid
that I made a sled and took flight on
soaring over the inch-thick ice.

I am from howdy-land and yeehaw-city,
but the thing is,
they really weren't.

I come from a fascination with rocks,
the round ones with the white stripes
and the white ones with the round stripes.

I am from bee-stings and wasp-nests,
and the kind ointments that were
whispered into my battle wounds.

Down the side of a cliff,
running like lawmowers,
the beady drops of sweat
come from green winters.
For Poetry class. We were to write about where we were from.
Ira Dawson May 2014
You’re the bee’s knees between my knees.
Sweet as nectar,
**** like blood.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing
Shopping for sheep,
Shopping for mercy,
Shopping for me.

To the naked eye
You’re just fine
But to the naked touch
Your skins too rough.
Your eyes too beady.
You’ve lost your touch.
The lone wolf in sheep’s clothing,
Doing his bidding.
Don Moore Feb 2016
Part one – The Hedgerow watcher.

He is almost obscured by the Elder branch, which laden with fragrant summer flower heads, casts a shadow on his cloudy features. Nearby, small birds chatter in a hawthorn bush, completely unaware of the figure sitting in quiet deliberation; only his eyes move beneath his darken brows, as he ponders the small animal traffic in the verdant river valley below.

And were you to be hurried, or impatient, and not look too carefully, you would never perceive him at all, so well hidden is he. You would have more chance, if you caught a glimpse of him sideways through the corner of your eye, and even then there is the possibility, you would not believe what you had seen...

His eyes light with golden flecks, as the late evening summer sun, ensnares sparkles off the languid river surface and directs them upwards into the unhurriedly darkening duck egg blue sky. He watches intently as a young female Fern bear snouts her way through and across the lush emerald green grasses just inches away from the river bank, where water voles play, creating tiny V shaped furrows across the shallow stream surface as they cruise the nearly mirror like silver face.

He notices’ that he can see the smoothly pebbled bottom and the rainbow spotted  coloured sides of the almost motionless trout as they hang fins fluttering awaiting the last daytime midges to perhaps drop down and furnish them with one last gulp of dinner.

Native birds flit from branch to branch on the overhanging trees o’er softly trickling water, their tiny songs much muted by the distance, and up above a Buzzard floats on browned wing his eyes trained downwards to impale a darting field vole, which seeks his own dinner of scurrying iridescent Beetle.

A flurry, as a black and red Moorhen jumps onto a small sandy beach at the corner of a turn, long wide toes and even longer legs, carry it up under the curve of bank, as it returns to its night time roost in haste.
A flash of instant Kingfisher cobalt blue and a small fisherwoman arrives upon a twig, her anxious beady eyes blackly spearing the dashing minnows, which with silver sides, play amongst the reeds and gently waving flags.

Part Two - Reynard the sly.

A ripple runs across his hairy back, as upon the delicious breeze, he catches hint of reddish skulking, sulking trickster near, and then from edge of pupil gold, catches merest glimpse of tail held low, as Reynard makes his courtly bow. Neither twitch nor tremor, the watcher makes as deviously this prince appears, his fetid stench announcing him to creatures far and near.

Then slowly as he cowers, the Fox glides by and down the steepest sides, to hope of careless rodent or of bird on nest, that might bring him windfall of instant feast that he may carry for his cubs that play at home beneath the staunchest tree, a woodland Oak of stout and height. They chase their tails in this perfect evening light, but learn of fear and flight, as horn does play upon a Sunday Morn, and colours bright which chase and catch them with some baying dog, not far removed from their much scary plight.

And all along the bottom of the wall, as laid by hand, a hedge pig snuffles for a slug or snail, his attention close upon the leafy mould, and then a surprising squeak as rippling back with reddish fur and chest of white, a family of the weasel exit stone built home and hurry for their evening hunt of beetle, vole or mouse. They disappear amongst the tallest grasses as a damp mound of freshly risen earth ejects the black velvet mole, which sniffs the air before he enters home and tracks the juicy worm back to his lair.

Little by little, so slow in fact, that you would not suspect, the watcher turns his face and looks with wonder to wooded river far, where branches bent create a vault, for shining, winding river run, and there in this, the darkest greenest place he spies a glint of hope as Dragonfly darts its wings a blur, and Mayfly dances beneath its many cathedral branches.
And further still above the trees a line of deepest blue meets lighter blue as sea and sky become no more than one, and smell of salt in distant climes come hither across this idyllic vista...

Part Three – Watcher revealed.

Dog Rose crawls its way across the bushes of the hedge, mixed with twinning convolvulus of purple hue, light green stalked, white capped cow parsley, groups in fading sun, with ragged Robin and dark pink Campion standing proud along with other flowers. Behind the silent Watcher lies a different guise of manmade meadow topped with crop of corn, which yellow in the fading sun, has bread like smell, significant of fresh warm loaves, and Man the farmer, is carrying all his toil, for the harvest of his many labours.

And in amongst this very yield, wild life is binding shoot and ear, as weeds are flourishing with the golden head, but make a pretty sight instead, for walking couple, who do not fear to tread, where woman glides as though a cloud, and pulled along upon her path, a little man who wishes he, was all alone, but must follow in his mother’s stately wake.

Towards the hedge she makes her way, and life goes still and much less vivid, but Watcher never makes his move, whilst beyond the wall the light is dropping further still, he rests his hand on object dear, but still refrains from moving forth.

And just before the barrier itself, she turns her stride and looking north, then moves away along a path, which chosen now will pass all sight, of secret ancient valley. The little man he cannot see what lies beyond his ken, and worries if he misses this, which might be very grand and maybe just beyond this very land. He tugs and pulls his Mother’s calloused palm, and as she continues on her elected special way, for she is old and cannot see, this wonder all around.

The lady now cuts back towards the way she came, and like a ship with boat in tow, she cuts a swathe through sea of golden grasses, and when perchance the little man would look behind to see, if there were aught that he had missed, of life beyond the that wall.

And then, as if on cue, the watcher stands, for he is proud with legs astride upon that hedge, no longer still but raising up, as he does stretch towards the sky, and then with no delay but still with yearning, he lifts up to his lips his instrument of all his learning.

The boy’s eyes are all of shock, for he has seen the Watcher well, half man, half goat, with shortest curling horns upon his almost woolly head, and listens in near rapture as Pan the woodland God, plays a merry breathy tune upon his pipes of river ****. The song is fierce and strong and as the boy pulls hard to stop his mother's walk; he looks away, in hope that he may, in attracting her closer assessment of the apparition, which he has spied in gay abandon, will be more than just a fancy of his dream.
But when he turns his head to take a further glimpse of this sudden ghost, who would be dancing, playing away along a valleys edge, he catches nothing, but the song of bird but which whilst trilling strong, is nowhere near as long as tune in moment gone.

Then in the middle distance church bells as the practice for the Sunday first begins, with peeling clap and stinging ring, and then as if he fears, that he shall never ever see again this horned guise of natural thing. He peers more closely yet again, but all is gone, and though he will return on summer nights, when man not boy he seeks a God, he never ever meets again, the edge to freedom and a God glorious not but never ever vain.
Kaitlin Frost Oct 2012
Just another pretty face
Just another girl with big *****
Just another girl with the great curves
Just another girl,
Who could resist?
Just.
Another.
Girl.
I am more than this.
A pretty face doesn’t get you far in life.
Or so you think.
My face hides more than you would imagine.
Aching pain, horrors not meant to be seen.
In my head there is so much going back and forth.
I am so nervous I feel like I am going to be sick.
Emotions pile miles high inside of me.
Sometimes I feel like I could explode with anger.
Or cry myself to sleep.
Or maybe just fake everything with that stupid grin on my face.
What did she do?
She said that about you?
You won’t believe what she did.
Can you even believe her?
Lies lies lies lies lies lies.
Looking out into the crowd,
and everyone’s beady eyes looking back.
He’s not there, stop looking.
Oh yeah and him?
Forget it,
Because he already forgot you.
You’re nothing to them.
Just some piece of meat they can take
Swings at.
Life is so hard isn’t it.
You poor poor thing.
So go ahead,
Pretend to be something that you sure as hell
Aren’t.
Wow I am so sorry about that girl.
Yeah don’t even worry about it,
You’ll find someone.
Knowledge is painful, but
Beauty is a burden.
Open your mouth,
And tell somebody.
"Go and talk to your son!". It seemed lately that every arrival at home, in the old section of Glasgow, began with "Go and talk to your son!". "Why?...what has he done this time"...answered Angus' dad. "What trouble did he get into now?". "None...so far as I can figure" answered Mary, mother of the aforementioned Angus.

"Then why am I going to talk to him?". " He's not selling autographs again is he".
"No dear, he's not...you should just go and have a wee chat with him...that's all."

"Alright, I will"...."will I need some hobnobs as ammunition, or should I be okay on me own?".
"You should be okay without them, but, then again, a wee plate of hobnobs never hurt anyone...least of all our Angus"

Dad, poured two glasses of cold milk, set six hobnobs on a plate and ventured up to himself's room. He knocked twice, just above the "No gurls alowd" sign that Angus had put up after last nights arguement with his Mum, over carrots. Angus refused to accept the arguement that carrots gave you better eyesight...while his Mum said they did. A snicker from Dad at Angus' response almost got him banished to the sofa for the night himself, with his own "No gurls alowd" sign going up in the living room. He remembered Angus standing up from his chair, and stating "If carrots give ye such good eyesight, how come so many rabbits get hit by cars at night?". Then he stormed off.

He knocked again, and Angus opened up the door. Angus was still in his blue school shirt and grey pants. "Can I come in?" asked his father. "I've brought milk...and hobnobs".
Angus stepped back and let his father enter the room. The walls were covered with posters, of cars, footballers, horses, bikes, cartoon characters....so much so, there was barely any space left for anything else.

"Yer mum said I should talk to you...son...do you know why?" "Nope"...said Angus..."do you?" "That's why I'm asking you lad....she told me to come see you...do you know why I'm here?"
Angus tilted his head and answered "because Mum told you too?".
It was clear they weren't getting anywhere with this, so Dad asked "How was school today?"

Angus was now in full time kindergarten at St. Martin's in The Fields Primary School in Glasgow. The school was old, dank, smelled of age and was one of the finest in all of Glasgow...for it's age. It was famous for having had two members of The Bay City Rollers as students, one for about three months and the other a little less. They never graduated from St. Martin's, but, it was something to hang their hat on.

"I got all my Christmas Cards taken away today Da." said Angus. "I was giving them out to everyone, and the teacher, Mr. McDonall came and took them away.".
"Why would he do that boy?"...."Where were you doing it?'
"I was outside before school started giving them out...." , Angus sniffed, "and he came over and grabbed them from me".
Dad, remembered Angus working away for the past two nights, printing everyone's name on the cards, as perfect as he could. It only took 43 cards to get the necessary 21 Angus needed for all of his young classmates.
"Why would he do that?"..."did he tell you why?". "No Dad" said Angus through the rapidly increasing flow of sniffles and snot that normally accompany a crying child.

"I didn't find out until I went to the office to see the Principal afterwards".
"You went to the office for handing out Christmas Cards?" . "That doesn't make any sense son, are you sure you weren't doing anything else?"
"I was just handing out cards Da, that's all", said Angus as he grabbed another hobnob, which he quickly stuffed under his pillow for later. He would get in trouble for that one, but, it would be worth it.

"The Principal said something about Christmas Cards that say Christmas on them, can't be given out at school anymore. They can only say Happy Holidays. If it doesn't say Christmas on it, how can it be a Christmas Card Dad?".

"I don't know boy"...."but I am **** sure gonna find out"....and "you'd better eat that hobnob under your pillow before Mum sees it"...smiled Dad.

The pair ventured downstairs for dinner, neither discussing what went on in the room where "No gurls were allowed". Dinner passed in silence, with Mum looking from one to the other to get some sort of reaction. Once, Angus started to talk, but it had nothing to do with what went on between Father and Son, so she continued eating. She would find out later after Angus went to bed.

After dinner, Angus went to the park with his friends for an hour to play football, and tag, and swing on the swings for a while. Mum, took this chance to corner Dad...and corner him she did...."What went on up there? What did you two talk about?" "He won't say anything to me...what did he do?"
"Nothing....he did nothing wrong at all, so as I see it....Angus didn't do anything wrong".
He kind of smiled at that, because normally after being told "Go talk to your son...", Angus had always done something wrong...this time...it was The Principal.

"Tomorrow, I'm staying home in the morning and taking himself to school....I'm going to see The Principal". "What for?...if he didn't do anything wrong, why are you going to see the Principal?".
"Well, what time of the year is it?".....asked Dad. "It's Christmas silly, you know that...why?"
"Well, apparently it isn't Christmas at St. Martin's in The Fields...at least not as far as himself's teacher and new Principal are concerned. It's now Holiday time....not Christmas Time, Holiday Time. Our wee Angus got in trouble for handing out Christmas cards at Christmas. Does that make any sense?"...said Dad.

The next morning at breakfast, Angus looked up and asked "Dad, shouldn't you be going to work? you'll miss your train.". "I'm taking you to school and going to see your Principal, son". "Why?" asked Angus. "Let's just say I'm going to give him a Christmas Card....have you seen my bible?".
"It's on the sideboard...but, why do you need that Da?"...asked the boy.
"Let's just say...to make a point.".

Mum smiled as the two men, both wee and tall, walked together hand in hand down the drive towards the school. Upon arrival, Angus went off with his friends, while Dad, went into the old, intimidating looking institution. He could smell the old wood soap and mustiness as he waled down the hall, past the class pictures and the old trophies that get hauled out and cleaned every year for games day, only to be put back again after the awards presentations.

Upon arriving at the office, he announced "I'm here to see The Principal.....where is he?".
A pair of beady, spectacled eyes looked up from behind the front desk...and in a thin, reedy, voice asked..."And who might you be, sir...to come in without an appointment?".
"Ah'm flippin' Father Christmas, that's who I am....I am Angus' Mc Dougalls dad, and I am here to see the ****** Principal. Now where is he?"
"Without and appointment.." she started, quickly stopping when Dad, walked past the desk to the door marked M. Dingwall, Principal on it.

"You can't go in there"...screeched the reedy voice..."not without an.." "I know..." said Dad..."not without an appointment.....well, I've got mine right here, and right now..." he said, waving his bible in needle noses face. He continued in to M. Dingwall, Principal's office....and sat down.

M. Dingwall, Principal...looked up from the papers on his desk, which incidentally had 5, yes...5 Christmas Cards on it, and asked Dad..."and who are you to come into my office..."...."without and appointment"...finished Dad. " As I told your chihuahua out front, all bark and no bite by the way, I am frigging Father Christmas, who I see on 3 of the 5 cards you have on your desk. That's who I am, Father Christmas !!!"

"Well, Mr. Christmas, what can we do for you? " asked a clearly shaken M. Dingwall, Principal. "I'll tell you what you can do for me....you can apologize to my son, for a start. My wee lad Angus, came here yesterday morning and was sent to see you for handing out Christmas Cards, at Christmas. What am I missing here?".

"I remember that....yes, he was disciplined and told no more Christmas Cards, it's against the policy of the school board...it's a religious holiday, and we are not allowed, with all of the various religious groups represented within our walls to favour one over another. So, no more Christmas Cards in this school. That is the policy.", said M. Dingwall, Principal.

"That's nice...then what are those 5 cards on your desk....the ones that happen to have Christmas on them and Father Christmas and a nativity scene, which if I know the book I am holding here, is a religious representation, and the reason we have Christmas in the first place. "...asked Dad.

"Those are private, they were given to me by staff" said M. Dingwall, Principal. "I don't care if they came from Jesus Christ himself " yelled Dad, crossing himself in the process, "They don't fit in with the policy you gave my son a reprimand for yesterday."  He looked about the office, and saw a small, four foot tall tree in the corner as well. "Is that a Christmas tree or a holiday tree sir?, which is it?"

M. Dingwall looked up and said, "It's a Christmas Tree, of course, haven't you ever seen a..." and he stopped. He looked at the tree, and the cards, The eyeglasses out front went back to whatever it was she was doing before Father Christmas arrived. "I see....". "You see what sir,?" asked Angus' dad, looking at the tree, and the cards and ignoring the eyeglasses with the reedy voice out front.

"I see your point....It's Christmas, not holdaymas, or xmas....it's Christmas, and I followed policy that I myself am not following myself. I will change that right now....imagine, it took a visit from Father Christmas to get me to see the light..." laughed M. Dingwall, Principal.

"My boy Angus, will be in class, expecting to be told that he can give out his cards to the rest of his friends as he was yesterday...am I understood M. Dingwall, Princinpal?" asked Dad.

"Yes sir, the mark will be stricken from the record and his cards will be returned....I appreciate you coming in to clear up this little misunderstanding...even if you didn't ..." "I know...have an appointment.". M Dingwall stood to shake Dad's hand as he left, and as Dad reached the door, he said "Merry Christmas". Dad thought a bit, smiled at what he had just accomplished and said to M. Dingwall, Principal...."and yes...It is A MERRY CHRISTMAS".
Krusty Aranda Jun 2015
Twenty four hours a day.
Seven days a week.
I miss you when you're not in bed.
I miss you when we speak.

But when I get to see you
my frown turns upside down.
Your luscious lips. Your beady eyes.
Your naked back, and **** thighs.

I must admit my weakness.
For me you are too much.
You make me feel so warm inside
without even your touch.

I love the way you look at me
when we're alone in my room.
It is the way you steal my breath
that will lead to my doom.

You watch me. You tease me.
You encourage lustful behaviour.
You're quiet, yet screaming;
the cards turn in your favour.

You got me. I'm yours.
Even if you don't know it.
This secret I will keep,
for I'm starting to love it.
Alan S Bailey Mar 2015
Every weekend at summer camp the
Memories of the midnight walks we made,
The rushing of the silvery creeks
As well as the daily art and games,
Entertainment as well as molding clay,
The mountainside at night gave good
Presence, the moon offering her halo,
With the memory of endless essence so,
During this time of adventurous fun,
A story telling we campers would all go.

Her raspy voice, I can remember well,
Those cute sparkly playful brown eyes,
We walked side by side, she told me that
The truth was being denied, she was a
Girl in disguise, how I dream of her
In Garnet, Alexandrite. That feeling of total trust,
Now I will probably never be close to
Anyone I love again, already grown old,
To old to ever dream, but what a dream,
A lovely bliss to know that she was my friend.

One day, when the time is right, we'll find it,
This feeling again, of wild spirited joy, campfires,
Of following the forest path, now innocence lost,
A time that is long-gone and past, and if it
Never happens again, the darkness of night
With quiet whispering, story time moon light,
I will never forget her, never will I forget that
Beautiful freckled face, those beady eyes,

*No, never forget you, not for all time.
I am Blackjack Apr 2016
Little golden haired girl that skips down wooden stairs,
Her pigtails swing in the air as she lands on the sidewalk
Where I used to bury acrid smolders of my cigarette sticks
And laugh with the rabbit toothed woman who coughed too much.
I breathed smoke from her yellow teeth but now the girl,
With rosy cheeks and beady eyes jumps over puddles in yellow boots
She glances with red cheeks and falls face first into brown muck,
To be held up by a man who walks, talks and looks
Nothing like me.

In the cold nights of winter the girl, the woman and the man
Melt themselves in each other’s warmth, I stand alone
Behind their window rubbing my red chest,
Flirt with myself to knock, to go inside
and slice the apple pie and slurp the eggnog.
My fingers immobile, short fragile icicles
But the black beady eyes pierce through pane,
A wide smile with missing teeth calls out
To hold a gaze through  watering eyes.
They see her as an old photograph
Of the woman who would run her  fingers
through knots of hair as I cried on her lap.
I press frozen hands against the glass,
Peer into flickers of those dark gleamy eyes  
And see the mother and daughter walk on sand
with naked feet
and me,
hand in hand.
#ex-girlfriend #daughter
Rhianna Powell Oct 2017
College in the sun is a lot like middle school. Everyone is walking around screaming at each other drenching their skin in perfumes that they think smell good but they mix with their sweat and it forms a sort of nauseating scent that lingers in the halls longer after their group has gone. Together everyone walks, college is lonely. Passing by faces you see around lecture, everyone running in a million different directions. The athletes wear short shorts and keep hard looks on their faces. The frat guys play obnoxious beats as they rap their own songs marching with their gang of pledges in their entirely too-hot-for-the-90-degree-weather suit jackets. Their beady eyes devour you, or they won’t even glance in your direction- it usually depends on how many items of clothing you have on, or lack thereof. College is weird. For some reason I thought maybe everyone would magically be more mature. Maybe they would all turn into good people because we are all adults now right? Guess who was wrong! Nice good ok. So they might have more ****** hair and maybe their muscles are bigger than before, but most of them haven’t grown up. Every phase change of my life, I have expected to see a difference in the behavior of the people around me… not yet has it happened. I am starting to think maybe I am asking too much of the world. Maybe my idea of good is distorted, maybe I am the crazy one. But what is so hard about being kind and what is wrong with telling someone you are in love with them? Why are we living in the dark places of our minds and why can we not escape? Why are we hiding in the liquor, why is near death not enough? Why can you not sleep without your drugs? Why have we become so dependent? I have dreams nightly when I am not in your arms. They haunt me in the sunlight on a clear blue sky day. The terrors seize me and I am forced to stop in the middle. I see their eyes on me. Is she okay?? I wish I didn’t feel so alien. I wish I could just fit in. But you told me I wasn’t like them, and you said that was good for you. But here I am and you need your space and here I am drowning in your space and there you are drinking your beer and here I am wishing that can was my neck there you are crumpling it as you finish yet another and here I am begging to be destroyed there you are: calm, content, emotionless. Here I am, begging for sleep to take me, praying to God that your arms find their way back around my waist. There you are with everything you need: an ending to assure you that all you need is to be alone. A final goodbye so you can keep yourself safe. But here I am saying **** safety, can you kiss me? I need you to stay. Please don’t take me home, i won’t be able to sleep without you. Please don’t do this. I am sorry I am crying. Please don’t do this. Honey… please.. I nee

And when you find me again I will be okay, and you will tell me it was all just a big mistake. I was never a mistake.

I’m sorry I’m not talking to you. I am giving you space.

I am drowning in your space.

I don’t want to feel like this.

Maybe you should just take me home.

I’m sorry...

I’m sor


But maybe it’s not even that deep and I'm just freaking out for no reason but I don’t know how to feel inside of me You’ve gotten all in there and everything's mixed up and i’m uncomfortable but you’re the one who asked for space and you said i wouldn’t understand and you’re right i don’t but every one before you I said this one is gonna hurt like hell when I’m done but it’s never been this and maybe it isn’t even over but maybe it should be because I cannot keep the tears from rolling down my red ******* cheeks and all I can think about is kissing your neck and i don’t wanna go home i want to be wrapped up in your sheets and I want to feel the rise and fall of your chest on my back and i want your hands to grip mine as you fall asleep in spurts and I don’t want to go home please do not take me home I want to live in the moment by the pool with the sun streaming through the trees a sky so blue you confuse it for my eyes please don’t take me home you said it’s more passionate how can you throw that away i am not convincing you i swear but i think you love me and you hate to admit it and maybe I’m wrong and maybe I’m crazy but i want you to stay please don’t take me home maybe it isn’t that deep I am giving you your space i miss you i am drowning in your space please don't take me home i don't know what i did wrong im sorry im sad maybe i should take medication i don't know how to live in that place i am so sorry i am trying maybe the conversation was bad please don't take me home i cannot sleep in the cold without you but maybe it isn't that deep i am sorry please don't take me home i cannot sleep without you please don't take me home please but i will give you your space but i wish your space could have me i am drowning out here baby please don't take me home i want to go home but i need you to come with me because if i leave i will not come back and i can't hurt you like that but i know this is what you want and i am so very sad honey please don't take your space please don't i need to be there with you i am so sorry baby I never meant to act like this please don't take me home i swear i’ll behave please i need you i can't stand the cold you know how the dreams are you know i shake in the dark please don't take me home i can't go home i don't want to go home please they are going to get me they will get me they know when I’m like this they want to ruin me please don't leave me in the dark i cannot sleep without you please do not go I have faith i don't want to hurt you please let me hold you i need you come back please don't leave please please it hurts i cannot breathe please come back i want to call you please i don't love you it's not that deep please come back i need you

I am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you what you want i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you the space i will give you the space this is me giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you the space you want it i am giving it to you to you to you to you to you i am giving you space i am sorry i am giving you space i wish i could talk to you i am giving you space don't worry i am fine i am giving you space i am giving you space i am sorry i am giving you space i am giving you what you want i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am so sorry i am giving you space i am sorry i am sorry i am giving you space i miss you i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space and i am giving you space i am giving you space and if i give enough maybe i can get far enough away i am giving you space maybe if i keep giving you more space you'll forget me i am giving you space and you'll never have to be confused again i am giving you space is this enough i am giving you space i'll keep giving you space i'll give you whatever you want baby you deserve it all i am giving you space and space and space and space and space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving space you space you the space you need i am giving you what you want i am giving you space take me home i will let you have all of this space i'll be in ohio soon and all of the space between us will be yours and i hope it's enough because i am giving you all of my spaces and now there is no room for me to breathe i am giving you space honey i am giving it to you giving it to you honey i am giving you the space i am giving it to you i am handing it to you i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving it to you i am giving you space i don't know where to go i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i won't sleep but you will in this space and i hope it feels good i am sorry that i got so close to you that you couldn't breathe i am giving you space now and i hope it feels good i am giving you space you wanted this i am giving it to you i am giving you space i am sorry i hope this feels good i am giving you space my words are coming i miss you i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am not selfish i am giving you space i will drown before you i am giving you space i am giving you space here please take it honey i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space you want i am giving i will keep giving i am giving you space i am so sorry i wasn't enough i am giving you space i want you to be okay i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i hope you're okay i am giving you space are you okay? I am giving you space i am cold in this space leave me here i am giving you space it is freezing i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i might choke we are very far i am giving you space i wish you would tell me to stop but i know you need your space please come back i am giving you your space i am sorry stay there i am giving you your space i am giving it to you i am sorry what day did you leave? I am sorry i am giving you space i don't think i will come back i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you to space i am tired baby i am tired of giving you space i am tired of this please just come back tell me i can stop i don't want to give you space i want to be right next to you please will you hold my hand? Wait i am giving you space i am sorry i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving it to you i am giving it to you i am giving you space i am giving it to you i am giving it to you i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am uncomfortable i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving you space i am giving yo
nichole r Jun 2014
one day my teacher asked me
why I always wrote in lowercase letters
her glasses perched on the top of her beak
she squawked,
"you were not taught that in school, young lady.
it is not proper, young lady."

and I gripped my pen tighter
or maybe a little looser
it's hard to tell lately.

but I looked in to her black beady eyes
and disapproving frowny face
and whispered "see how I am whispering
do you see how you are leaning closer
like I have a secret
more intimate, correct?
that is my writing:
an intimate secret.
for you"
Meg Howell Feb 2015
With beady,
lurking eyes
they pass judgement
looking for just one
"fatal flaw" to mock
Regurgitating false statements
giving them absolutely
no hope
for a future
ah, they say they have
but a single care
in the world
to provoke
to harass
those with substance
which they so evidently lack
what a world to live in
It's rather childish,
don't you think?
There are people in the world who pointlessly mock others. If that is all life is worth to someone, to make fun, to hurt, then what a worthless life to live. In all honesty, people like that are hurting themselves more than any other person.
Sam Kinsella Oct 2009
your limbs are like trees
enclosed in your vines
a small pink heart
with two beady eyes.

it sees what you do
but you've wrapped it up tight
suffocating its thoughts
bound by your might.

it's empathy trickles,
like a tiny blue stream
drops hit your toes,
a carebears dream.

your dark insides squirm,
and your empty eyes plead
and that little pink heart
pulses with need

i climbed inside,
to sit in its' glow
your abyss growing tighter
the blue beings to slow

I cradled your heart,
in the crook of my arm,
i carried it out
escaping your harm.

your little heart looked at me,
with those beady eyes,
it welled up with tears
and let out a sigh.

the pink heart exploded,
and covered me in blue.
your sad eyes closed
the last of you.
David Moss Dec 2014
A quaint little shifter

From purple to green

He can hide and appear

So funny when seen

With beady weird eyes

And a look of apathy

Don't be fooled by it's demeanor

It's as cute as can be

I'm talking of a lizard

Can be small as your thumb

They can make me go silly

And shout '*** LOOK AT IT'S TONGUE!!'

But really, truly

I do love you


Mr. Chameleon
Sometimes, very very rarely, I write silliness.
Reece Nov 2013
The bed is cold when you turn in at night
   because the frigid winter winds have settled in too
   and like a fool you left the window open all day
You take a dab of speed as the lamp goes dim
   its the only thing to keep tumescence
   when you make love to a lover you no longer love
******* is no longer sport, only a chore
   and the night birds at the window sing a song of sadness
   beady eyes keeping tabs on the city boy's blues
When the day is done the television screeches, unreality television
   you're so depressed and you have nothing, not even sleep
   and the cold body beside you snores through the night
Even on rare occasions of sleep, you only dream of dying
   fiery bus brought with peasant's tokens is burning
   as it flies over some cliff face and you remain stoic
Waking only in afternoon sunsets with a sore head and dry mouth
   stumble down the stairs to an empty kitchen and the cat has **** again
   you clean the mess and make a sandwich, no topping just butter
How many days can pass before you crawl to the shop to buy food
   and you contemplate suicide as you scrape the tub of butter again
   falling upstairs in a somber stupor, vomiting after eating
She comes home from work and calls it off, packing her bags
   you roll another joint without words being spoken
   she closes the door and the already broken window breaks more
Smoking on your herbal solitude and preparing the last hit
   that sweet tender brown in a spoon you found
   it hits the vein and you feel happiness, first and final time
Sitting in some trash-found chair and reading Camus
   these are the final moments, surely you cannot hold on
   Abner Jay is playing and you fall asleep forever
Batya Mar 2013
I.                I am a lizard
    I tread the earth like lightning
           Grass sways above me
      
II.             I belong to Earth
       My beady eyes are small seeds
                My tail is a blade

III.       My cousins shed skin
           I am content in the grass
                   I am the lizard
JJ Hutton Jul 2011
A bad mix of Shorty's Irish Whisky
and a whimper riding the wind,
has got me lying about my past.
A roomful of men in nooseties surround,
crowbar stares prying at my mindsafe of secrets--
I drink until the grimace gives way to birthday cake grin
and my watering eyes burst in confetti.

Martha emerges from the black suits
in her spiderweb burgundy dress.
Jack and Nathan drool in the corner.
Martha whispers, "Hey Harvey," and then a terribly long
something-or-other in my ear,
but I'm too far gone to comprehend
or to care about comprehending.
The crafted playlist for this party
hiccups and dies, creating a suffocating silence.
The beady eyes turn shifty, erratic strayfire gazes
fill the room.

I begin to laugh.

I notice Jack talking to a grey-haired man and pointing at me.
Martha looks at me and nods with a sense of urgency.
New music coughs across the room,
I slide into a small, desperate clan of dreamy-talkers,
hungry for a new pair of ears to beesting with *******.
I listen, while my aging wolf scours the room.
I make a swift break for the door,
the night lies naked in front of me--
light pollution pours fake beams on the contours of the evening.
A middle-aged woman snags my arm before I can reach my car.
I pull until my arm frees, but she delays me enough
for the grey-haired man to catch up.

He introduces himself with a lightning one-two punch.
One being a sharp left hook.
Two being a dusting right uppercut.

"You stay the hell away from my daughter!"

I begin to ***** a river of orange, red, dotted with black chunks.
More than a few drops land on his shiny black leather shoes,
so he proceeds to break my nose with a vicious kick.

Amidst my moans, I am able to ask, "Who is your daughter?"

"Karen, Karen Newman."

"I have no idea who that is!" I cry.

"Don't lie to me, Jack! She told us all about you."

"My name is Harvey."

I look out into the road.
A blue sedan stops momentarily.

"I owe you one, buddy!" Jack shouts.

The Newman parents disappear without
so much as an apology.
I lay listening to the low hum of the city's traffic.
A few minutes pass, sending me into a haze.
Delicate fingers lift my head from the concrete,
I look up.
Martha begins to clean the blood and ***** from
my face with a wash cloth.
I feel soft and pure in her hands.
Asphyxiophilia Aug 2013
Leave the light on for me.
I know it's late,
And I'm out wandering the streets
But when I promised I'd come home tonight
Whether I was belligerently drunk
Or mind-numbingly high,
I meant it.
And now I'm wandering the streets
And the streetlights are all blending together
As though they are strung out
On the christmas trees
Of the apartment buildings
On our street,
Except I'm not sure if it's our street
Because I have stood on every step
Of every porch with the light on
But no one seems to be home
And I can't help but wonder,
Did you forget to leave the light on?
Or do you not feel like coming to the door?
I'm trying not to over-think this
But the police officer across the street
Is beginning to stare at me
With beady eyes
That remind me of the rats
That I passed in the subway
Just twenty minutes ago,
Or was it thirty?
I can't read the numbers
Engraved on the buildings
Aligned like tombstones
As though even they know
Our love is going to die here.
Or is it already dead?
I guess I'll know
In the next thirty seconds
Because I have one more porch to go
And I can't help but wonder,
Did you leave the light on?
Glenn McCrary May 2014
"I wish they'd stop going on about it, the things that are unseen but for brief glimpses and shadows, and fully heard. The beings in their closets and under their beds, their voices carried in a wind that isn't there. They stand, stiff, breathing shallow and deep in the lack of light, dripping wet from the storm that didn't happen in this world, muddying up the carpet, mounting with stench. They're not there, you idiots, they're over here, in my eyes, in my head, buried between my lungs and pushing the limits of my bones, my weaknesses. Stop your complaining. If only I could muffle you." ~ Jade Day


DO: Ah, yes. Ms. Day is also a favorite author of mine.

[Anaïs smiles at Do.]

NURSE YUCKI: Really? I actually think that is interesting that we have similar tastes in literature.

DO: I know right!

NURSE YUCKI: I mean she could hook you with just one word.

DO: That she can.

[Do turns his head in another direction; Anaïs looks down as she clears her throat.]

NURSE YUCKI: So how are you feeling Do? Are your emotions gradually beginning to retract back into a more manageable state?

DO: Yeah somewhat, but they are still fluctuating a bit. I think I will be fine.

NURSE YUCKI: Would you like me to monitor you just in case?

DO: No, thank you, Anaïs. I think I can handle my emotions for now, but I will let you know if something comes up.

NURSE YUCKI: Promise?

[Do smiles at Anaïs.]

DO: Promise.

[Do’s stomach began to growl loudly.]

NURSE YUCKI: Ooh. Someone is hungry I am assuming.

DO: Ha ha well your assumption wouldn’t be wrong Anaïs. I am a tad bit hungry actually.

NURSE YUCKI: Well, considering that it is now lunch time, I suggest that you go to the cafeteria and enjoy yourself a lovely, hot afternoon meal. The cafeteria is down the hall to your left and is the third room on your right. In the meantime I think I will take a little detour and purchase some premium foods to consume.

DO: You know that actually wouldn’t be a bad idea.

[Do and Anaïs both laugh in equal synchronization.]

NURSE YUCKI: I’ll see you tomorrow morning, Do.

DO: Yes, you will. Have a great day Anaïs and thanks again

NURSE YUCKI: You’re welcome.

[Anaïs smiles and winks at Do on her way out. Do smiles back. Do then leaves the black room and exits through the entrance. Above Do’s head were signs that helped to direct him to take the proper route, but there was no need for him to read it as Anaïs had already instructed him on how to get there. Do continues walking down the hall until he reaches the third room on his right. There was a big sign above the entrance that said “CAFETERIA”. Do then entered the cafeteria to handfuls of laughter and patients talking amongst themselves while eating the meal of their choice. There was a moderately long line of which Do joined as he waited along with the rest of the patients to receive his lunch. Do noticed that a girl with *****, blonde shoulder length hair was standing in front of him. She was wearing glasses with square black frames much like the glasses that Dr. Nightmare often wore. She had beady eyes of an exceptionally moderate size and her skin was pearly white with a smile that was naturally inviting. She then spotted Do and appropriately began speaking to him.]

SPORE: Hello there. How are you?

DO: I’m doing okay. Yourself?

SPORE: Yeah, I’m alright but I wish this line would move just a little bit faster. This is driving me bonkers. So what’s your name if you don’t mind me asking?

DO: My name is Do.

[Spore reaches out to shake Do’s hand.]

SPORE: Spore. You have a pretty cool name you know?

[Do lightly laughs.]

DO: Well, thank you.

SPORE: You are certainly welcome, Do.

[Spore smiles at Do.]

SPORE: So where are you from?

DO: Like what country am I from or like what city?

[Spore chuckles.]

SPORE: I meant in general silly ha ha.

DO: Well, I’m from North America. I was born in a small town called Springfield, Illinois but I was raised in Memphis, Tennessee.

SPORE: Interesting.

DO: How about you? Where are you from?

SPORE: I am from British Columbia, Canada although I was raised in a small city named Abbotsford.

DO: What was it like there?

SPORE: At times it was weird and some days were worse than others, but I somehow managed to pull through.

DO: So how did you end up in here?

SPORE: Long story short I nearly decapitated my former friend’s head off with a chainsaw then attempted to slit my wrists with it.

[Do looked shocked as he was laughing at Spore’s statement.]

DO: Oooh brutal are we?

SPORE: Hey, ******* be trippin’!

[Both Do and Spore began laughing in equal succession. The line had continued to move forward. It was finally Spore’s turn to select the portions of her meal.]

LUNCH LADY: Good afternoon and welcome to Black Wick Cafeteria. Today’s specials are pizza and fish and shrimp. Today’s sides are coleslaw, biscuits and baked beans with your choice of cocktail or tartar sauce. What would you like?

SPORE: Um… I guess I will take the fish and shrimp with a side of baked beans and cocktail sauce and tartar sauce.

LUNCH LADY: That will be six dollars.

SPORE: That’s fine. You want anything Do? Lunch is on me today.

DO: Yes, I think I’ll have the same thing you are having.

SPORE: Alright then. Excuse me miss but could you add a duplicate order for my buddy Do here.

[The lunch lady nodded and began preparing Do’s order.]

DO: Thank you so much, Spore. I appreciate this more than you know.

SPORE: No problem.

[Spore smiled at Do. As Spore and Do were departing from the lunch line they heard a string of insults follow them as they were searching for a table.]




TABLE #1: Continuez à marcher baiseur. Vous n'êtes pas le bienvenu ici!

TABLE #2: C'est le tableau est réservé pour la belle et que l'intellectuel. Vous êtes trop stupide pour être considéré comme l'un de nous!

TABLE #3: Ahem! Excusez-moi, mais je n'arrive pas à reconnaître le potentiel de développement de la beauté ou de la popularité en vous. S'il vous plaît revenir quand ce jour est arrivé. Merci.


SPORE: Pay them no mind, Do. Just keep walking.


[Spore softly grabs Do’s hand as they are walking.]

WIFI: Hey look guys! Spore’s got a boyfriend.

WIFI’S TABLE: Oooooohhhhhh!!!!!!!

[All of the patients at that were sitting with Wifi began to mock Spore with several fake smooches and hugs. Spore blushed.]

SPORE: You see this is exactly why we never worked out WiFi. You were always so self-centered, narcissistic and desperate. No matter what we said, did or where we went it was always about you.

[Wifi got up and stood in front of the table behind him as he spread his arms out. WiFi had long, wavy, red hair with hazel eyes, and pearly white skin. He wore a black leather jacket with denim blue jeans and leather black boots.]

WIFI: Do you even realize how stupid you sound right now? If it was truly all about me we would have never dated. Think about what you are saying before you speak.

[Spore blushed again.]

SPORE: Yeah well…. Even then still it was about you.

[Spore gently wiped the tears that were streaming from her face. Her nose had turned bright red in response.]

WIFI: Eh what does it matter now? We’re not together anymore so we are wasting our time talking to each other. I’m trying to eat lunch and chill with my peeps. Beat it.

SPORE: *******, Wifi! I am leaving on my own terms not yours!

[WiFi balled his fists as he got up and began running at a speed believed to be faster than Superman. He was about to hit Spore but Do stepped in his way and blocked his punch.]

DO: You will not hit her or you will suffer the consequences.

WIFI: And what if I do? What are you gonna do? Punch me in the face? Are you gonna kick me in the *****? Ha ha I am used to that. Learn some new tricks and then we’ll talk okay. Now move out of my way.

[Spore screamed very loudly as WiFi tried to take another swing at her. Do blocked WiFi’s punch yet again only this time taking his arm and lowering his head as he slid under it. He then stood in the same position as WiFi while still holding his arm and began ramming his right elbow deep into his his nose breaking it upon immediate contact. Do then took WiFi’s wrist and arm and twisted them until they snapped breaking both areas of his arm instantly. He then picked WiFi up and slammed his rib cage directly on his knee and let him drop to the hard, marble floor.]

SPORE: Do stop! That’s enough!

[Spore was crying again as she stood there in shock. Everyone was watching. WiFi was laying across the floor in a fetal position with a small puddle of blood leaking from his broken nose. His eyes were barely open.]

WIFI: Ugh… Ugghh...

SPORE: Come on, Do. We’ll eat lunch outside.

DO: I think that would be a good idea.

SPORE: You and me both.

[Do and Spore grabbed their lunch trays and walked outside. It was sunny and the trees were still without leaves as it was still winter. The breeze was very cold. A musically digital sound began playing in the background. It was Spore’s cell phone.]

SPORE: Oh, and I just got a text from my friends of whom I’d love for you to meet. They want us to come and sit with them.

DO: Alright, I’m down. Where are they sitting?

[A girl with bubblegum pink hair was waving at Spore with a smile on her face.]

SPORE: They are sitting right over there against the brick wall.

DO: Ok then let’s go.

[Do and Spore walk over to the table where Spore’s friends were sitting. They arrive at the table and set their trays down as they took a seat.]

SPORE: Hey guys I have someone that I would like you to meet. Gum and Sweat meet Do. Do meet Gum and Sweat.

GUM: Hello, Do. It is a pleasure to meet you.

SWEAT: Sup Do? Glad to have you.

[Do shook both Gum and Sweat’s hands.]

DO: Hey. It is very nice to meet the two of you. Thank you for introducing me, Spore.

SPORE: No problem.

[Spore smiled once again.]

DO: So how did the three of you meet?

SPORE: Well, first of all I arrived at Black Wick on November 2, 2013. I met Gum later that evening as we were assigned as roommates. It wasn’t until about a week later that I met Sweat. He was fencing when we met and he finished then took off his fencing mask to greet me.

SWEAT: Ha ha yeah, I remember that. Those were some pretty memorable days eh?

GUM: Indeed they were.

DO: Where are you from Gum?

GUM: Oh, I’m from Oklahoma but I was living in Las Vegas, Nevada before I got here. Let me tell you I got into lots of mischief during that time. The parties were crazy and the night clubs were always packed. I hooked up with numerous guys and girls. I even did coke and **** do I regret that. I am never doing that ever again, but drinking is acceptable.

DO: How about you Sweat? Where are you from?

SWEAT: Oh, I’m from Memphis, TN but I was living in Cordova before being dumped in this hellhole.

DO: Dude no way! I live in Cordova too.

SWEAT: Really bro? That’s dope.

DO: I know right! So Spore who was that guy who was harassing you in the cafeteria?

SPORE: Oh yeah I almost forgot about that. The guy’s name is Willard Fike but everyone calls him WiFi due to his extensive computer programming and networking skills. He even knows how to build and send viruses to computers. Me and WiFi used to date which was long before the two of us ever ended up in here. One day we got into a very heated argument.

[The scene flashes to a black and white filtered memory. Spore and WiFi are standing in the middle of a living room arguing really loudly.]

SPORE: So you think it is ok to mug someone late at night as they are walking home?! What if somebody had saw you?! Do you have any idea what happened?!

WIFI: Look I don’t give a **** alright! I don’t have a job! I needed money! What the **** did you expect me to do?! Huh???!!! Answer me!!!!!!!

SPORE: You could try checking the job ads in the paper. You could try job searching within the city. There is no valid enough excuse as to why you mugged that innocent pedestrian.

WIFI: Well I don’t like being broke you can ride with me or you can go and **** yourself. Pick one!

SPORE: If money is important enough to sacrifice your dignity then perhaps you are better off broke because you deserve a dime and you sure as hell won’t be receiving a cent from me.

[WiFi one-two punched Spore deeply in her stomach and then punched her squarely in the eye before delivering an uppercut. Spore was laying on the floor crying as WiFi began searching the room for cash.]

SPORE: WE ARE OVER! DO YOU HEAR ME????!!!!! OVER!!!!!!!

WIFI: I DON’T GIVE A ****!!!!!

[WiFi begins searching around the room for cash. He searches for about 5 minutes before settling on a sum of $500 of which he found in Spore’s mother’s purse. Spore picked up her cell phone and attempted to the call the kkkkkpolice when  WiFi suddenly placed  a pistol to her temple and pulled back the trigger.]

WIFI: I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Put the **** phone down now before I **** you.

[Spore did as she was told and dropped the phone. WiFi took the phone and threw it into the fish tank behind him.]

WIFI: Now you won’t ever be able to make calls to anyone.

SPORE: You know you are never going to get away with this.

WIFI: Technically, I already have. The question is who is going to stop me?

[WiFi left right after he asked that question slamming the door hard as he walked out.]

[The scene flashes back to the present.]

SPORE: I never was the same after that night.

DO: And he got away just like that?

SPORE: Well word got around fast and the cops caught up with him two days later following a string of police reports. I filed the day following the event so I guess you could say that I set it off.

SWEAT: Still, that’s sad though.

SPORE: I know and as Do and I were looking for a place to sit, a bunch of patients started hurling random insults at us in French and that was when I came across WiFi. Him and his buddies were mocking us and saying that we were a couple when that couldn’t be further than the truth.

DO: You say that almost as if you are ashamed of me, ha ha.

SPORE: I’m sorry, Do. You know that’s not what I meant.

DO: Yeah, I know.

[Spore gives Do a hug.]

SPORE: How do you feel now?

DO: Better.

SPORE: Anyway me and WiFi got into another argument while in the cafeteria and he tried to run up and attack me. Luckily Do was there to protect me. He basically ****** WiFi up. I seriously wanted to laugh at how much of a ***** Do made him look. The guy was lying across the floor in a fetal position whining. I couldn’t have asked for a better picture.

[The four them laughed together in equal succession. Another loud noise overlapped their laughter from behind the wall. It was the sound of two voices moaning. Both of the voices were female.

GUM: What was that?

SPORE: I have no idea.

SWEAT: Don’t know. Don’t care bro.

DO: I think I’ll go and have a look just to see what’s going on.

[The moaning continued and became increasingly louder as Do walked around the edge of the wall and behind it. He found two Caucasian girls completely half naked. Both girls were laying across the grass in the sixty-nine position eating each other out.]

DO: This is going to be fun.

[Do chuckled and smiled as his ******* grew.]
gracie Oct 2018
two shimmering goldfish on display
in a run-down pub, swimming lazily
in milky water, suspending translucent fins
like angel wings. one stares numbly at the glass
with beady eyes, entranced by his own reflection;
the other darts between the rocks, twitching
itching
to escape his murky prison.
L B Jun 2018
Drifting off in mid-day
She is there in my parent's house
Where she should not be
She's never met them
been inside their home

...and besides
She's dead...

Don't know where I drop my brains off
or my heart
when sleeping
I so clearly know this
but I dismiss it
for the moment--
go along with joy
to have her with me once again

She looks so well!
Her pale skin flushed
below her ragged, reddish hair
Wearing peacock blue sateen
as always
dressed to ****
to go somewhere
anywhere
away
from loneliness
from cancer

...and she had included me
on her glorious outing
without title
without honor
I had been her teacher-friend
like an elder wedding guest
she had grown
beyond ...

She helps me dump my canvas bag of poems
on my parent's bed
Where I conceived them
or they conceived me

“What about this one?
Or this is a good one too!
I know you can do this!
You read so well!”
she says
I'm thinking, “This is not like Jenn,
so reversed
for her to give a thought...
and besides, it is not even my event!"

Now she's in my mother's place
in her 1950's closet
pushing hangers across the rail
She would find it--
something
I could wear

I am so transported by the smell
of memories
that I don't care
mothballs, lavender, perfume
I get distracted deep within
almost losing track in the euphoria
to have found my friend again
I lose a moment in the soft fur of mom's mink
clipped together mouth to tail
to form the stole
an ouroboros
With its beady eyes
on me
like death
would drape across my shoulders
given half a chance

When from its mouth of glamorous lies....
Jenn shoves me through life's opened door
She has found that dress!
I wore...

the one with hope, and future's
purple flowers
dropped waist and scalloped neck
Yes, It would do, “Yes!"

But now,
she makes excuse to leave
...of meeting Joe
...of going on ahead...

I know
she must

as this is all some clabbered past
a gift of dreams
Still, I want to hug her
just one last....

but she feels empty...

In embrace
she turns to ash
Jennifer was my friend of fifteen years and a fellow poet.  Dreamt of her yesterday-- like she was actually here.
TheTeacher Oct 2012
My dad sleeps with A teddybear and i wonder why.  He's a construction worker and a pretty tough guy. He's a real man because I've never seen him cry.

He takes me to my games and when the cheers go up... he's always the loudest one. I was taught that winning is cool...but it's more important to have some fun.

Just me and my dad....I really love that guy. He's my hero and my star.....he said to be successful in life....You must be true to who you are.  I'm a poet/writer....but enough about me.....let's go back to my dad and his teddy.

My friend came over afterschool .....we were playing the game ....doing the things that kids do.  He said I'll be right back I'm going to the bathroom.

Upon his return his face had this worried look.  At first he tried to pass it off as a joke....but he failed the test.  It was obvious that he had something he needed to get off his chest.

On the way back downstairs I passed your father's room and I saw a disturbing sight.  I swore he was clutching a teddybear and holding it tight.....I hope he didn't let the bedbugs bite.  He began to laugh out loud....but i didn't find it funny.  I felt violated like pooh stealing the bees honey.

I tip toed up the stairs because this mission required stealth.....if my dad is awakened this may be harmful to my health.  I peeked into the room and what did i see?  Two beady black eyes with A yellow hat staring right at me.

I let out a gasp due to my surprise.....why the stuffed animal?  An answer was hard to surmise.  I retreated to the stairs and descended the steps.....it was like the walk of shame.....I'm thinking about relocating and changing my whole name.

My friend was smiling and asked "Did you see?" steady stuffing popcorn in his face while I'm dealing with a catastrophe.  A few minutes later my dad magically appears and I can only utter "Dad why?" He's looking confused as he wipes the sleep from his eyes.

The bear that you were holding in your sleep.....What's the reason for that?  You are an adult and way too old for that.  He paused for a few minutes to gather his thoughts.  The response I recieved wasn't what i thought.

Son...although its my business what i do.....I'll explain my situation to you.   Do you know what its like to sleep in your bed alone?  Your mother ....(my wife) is no longer home.  We used to be happy or so I thought .....

The woman I loved for so many years has broken my heart and reduced me to tears.  My greatest gift from her is you.  You are my inspiration and the reason I work the way I do.  I loved her ....but she never loved me.

If something doesn't want to stay.....you have to set it free.  Son...the bear became my form of relief .....it game me comfort and allowed me to sleep.  The perfume that your mother used to wear.....she sprayed the bear with it.  The fragrance reminds me of the love we used to share and......how I would tell her ....."I love you"...and gently stroked her hair.

The bear was given to me by your mother the first time we met.....as i become stronger and the hurt begins to decrease.....me and the bear will be at peace.  Son....I hope you understand that I'm still a strong man....I'm just hurting and allowing God to work his plan.

I got a clear view of my father's heart and i really no longer cared.....He had all the right in the world to sleep with a teddybear.
Madison Aug 2018
Our story's beginnings are rather plain
Set in a town built on the mundane.
In this town, there lived a boy
Devoid of ambition, love, or joy.

He sleepwalked through his days
Aimless and alone.
Drowning in a melancholy haze
He longed for something lovely to call his own.

Now, I shan't tell you the young man's name
For fear he'd hang his head in shame
But his story you should know.
For it's not the name that marked this boy
But the places he would go.  

One day, an idea dawned
To take a day trip out of town.
The boy made a map
And a line was drawn
To the path he would walk down.

He followed the map with surprising ease
Over the hills and through the trees.
Though the boy was thrilled
He couldn't wrap his mind
Around the treasure
He would soon find.

The path came to an end
Without the map's warning
Causing the boy's plans to upend
Before it was even midmorning.
But the boy was in awe
Despite the offset.
He knew what he saw
He would not soon forget.
In the middle of the golden field
Stood a tall ivory castle.
His chronic disenchantment healed
The boy vowed to see inside
Whatever the hassle.

So he searched for a door
Until he could search no more.
He attempted to climb
With no regard for time.
He searched for a ****
Or a lock
Or a key.
Only when he was about to give up
Did the answer break free.

Against all reason
The castle began to glow.
When the transformation came to completion
A strange voice let him know.

"Come in," coaxed the disembodied voice
Honeyed and assured.
Feeling as if he had no choice
Inside, the boy was lured.

"My, you are a rude one," the voice began to chide.
"A lady invites you into her home, and without a word, you come inside?
I'm not expecting you to write me a sonnet, but at least have a bit of tact!
If we're being honest, boy, I believe your manners lack."

Sure this was some sort of stunt
The boy calmly shook his head.
"Forgive me, Miss, for being so blunt
But I believe the fault is yours instead.
You expect me to believe I was propositioned
By a castle that spoke?
I am certain one of my peers commissioned
Some sort of pricey joke.
I'm sorry, Castle Lady Dear
But I must be on my way.
I'm afraid I can't stay here
Perhaps we'll finish another day.
It's truly nothing personal
I simply have a hunch
That if I stick around for now
I'll miss my mother's lunch."

The boy turned on his heel
Not saying any more.
He soon let out a pitiful squeal
When he found there was no longer a door.

The Castle Lady countered his squeal
With a sinister cackle.
"Did you really believe you could leave me here
Without it becoming a debacle?
I'm sorry, dear
But for now
To this place, you are shackled."

Heart suddenly stricken with fear
The boy's eyes filled with tears
And he began to cry.
"Please let me go!" he cried out.
"I am far too young to die!"

Much to the boy's chagrin
The Castle Lady only laughed again.
"Goodness me, my dear!
You must be some sort of fool!
I do not plan to **** you here.
How could I ever be so cruel?"

Angered by the castle woman's taunts
The boy's eye began to twitch.
"If you won't **** me, what do you want?
Let me go, you witch!"

Unphased by his outburst
The Castle Lady simply tsked.
"Are you sure the witch is me
When you're the one being so mean?
I know what a statement this might be
But I believe you're the meanest boy I've seen.
But you can relax
For I've had my fun.
I simply have a favor to ask
Before you turn and run."

Against all logic
And stranger-danger talks
The notion of adventure
Overpowered his urge to balk.
"What is it?" he asked the Castle Lady
As curiosity struck.
When the Castle Lady responded
He could not believe his luck.

"Resting in one of my rooms
Is an awe-inspiring prize.
It holds power and beauty few men ever get to witness
With their own two eyes.
In fact, it holds too much power
So much that it's making me sick.
Only the brightest of young men can bear it
And you're the one I've picked."

The boy's heart raced.
For that prize, he yearned.
Still, he said:
"There must be some mistake.
Are you sure this is a prize I've earned?"

Overtaken by laughter
The Castle Lady began to roar.
"I am not that sick, dear boy!
Of course I am sure!
I can not make any mistake
No matter how small.
Didn't your mother teach you
That divine beings know all?
Now, you are an imaginative lad
With the charisma to match.
I'd dare say you are the best equipped child
Out of the local batch."

The boy couldn't help but crack a grin
Flattered by the Castle Lady's assessment.
"I suppose you must be right, then.
Now where do I get my present?"

"It is not a difficult journey at all," the Castle Lady replied.
"Just walk a bit down this here hall
And look to your left side."

Suddenly, the room filled with bright light
To help him find his way around.
In saying the journey was not difficult, the Castle Lady was right
As another glowing doorway
Was soon found.

"Very good, you clever boy!" the Castle Lady cried.
"Just give your fingers a quick snap
And take a step inside."

Proudly, the boy followed her advice.
The snap of his fingers reverberated
Sounding quite nice.
Secretly, the simple action
Gave him a small thrill
For he was the only child in his town
Who had such a skill.

Just as the lady promised
The door opened right away.
Thus, he took that fateful step inside
As she said he may.

Alas, it seemed the boy had been cheated by his wanderlust.
The only thing inside the room
Was a wooden box
Coated in dust.

All sense of wonder gone
The boy was certain it was a trick.
"You horrid con!
What in here is making you sick?"

Unamused, the Castle Lady sighed.
This was not the first time a child had thought she lied.
"You're jumping to conclusions, boy.
I'm not that sly a fox.
If you want to find the treasure
Look inside the box."

Begrudgingly, the boy obliged
Lifting up the top.
In the moment he saw what was inside
The whole world seemed to stop.

The boy's jaw dropped
As the box glowed
As if it contained all of heaven's rumored light.
It was true that he was unlikely
To ever again see such a wonderful sight.

"Well?" the Castle Lady inquired.
"Would you like to keep it?
You have all the qualities required
It's only fair that you reap it."

"Of course I'd like to keep it," said the boy.
"But what should I do?
What power do I have
To take care of this box
Any better than you?"

"The box can do anything," said the Castle Lady.
"Perhaps that's why I can not have it.
Still, you need not engage in special care and keeping
Or develop any new habits.

The box can do whatever you wish
Cure disease and famine
Or make your family rich.
I can not tell you what to do
Just use your own discretion.
Besides, it wouldn't truly be yours to use
If you did so under my direction.
So simply take it home
And do with it what you will
But before you choose to roam
I have one more message for you still."

Holding the box to him
The boy lifted an ear
Regarding her as a friend.
"What is it, Castle Lady?
Please say what needs to be said!"

When she spoke again
The boy could swear her voice contained a smile.
"When you leave me, the castle will come to an end
And this part of me will be dead.
Though I'd love for you to stay a while
So we could become better acquainted
I'm afraid that would be against the rules
And the prophecy would be tainted.
So, clever boy
For now, I'll bid you adieu.
You deserve to be given joy
And I hope that is what the box will do."

No sooner than she spoke
Did the castle vanish
In a puff of smoke.
Once again, the boy stood in the field.
In his hands rested the box
The closed lid keeping its powers concealed.
Somewhere between satisfied and sad.

He gave her a eulogy
However unorthodox.
"Goodbye, Castle Lady Dear, I enjoyed our little talks.
Maybe we'll meet in another world...
Oh, and thank you for the box!"
Having said all he needed to say
The boy knew he should be leaving soon.
He turned to walk the other way.
Walking home, his fingers snapped a tune.

It wasn't long before the whole town
Knew about his treasured box.
The boy made sure all his friend knew.
In school, he stopped all of the clocks.

He provided his class with great delight.
As a school day
Melted away
Into a Friday night.
The grown-ups none the wiser
He pulled off the perfect crime.
Forever the improvisor
He also did away with bedtime.

He gave his family money
As the Castle Lady said he could.
Though his old bullies looked at him funny
His clothes had never looked so good.

He gave himself popularity
A Labrador puppy
A brand new bike.
The ones who teased him
Spoke apologetically
And there wasn't a single girl
By whom he wasn't liked.

It wasn't long, however
Before the fun began to fade.
As much power as he had, he never intended
To share his gift with his whole grade.

"Can you tell me
If my pet goldfish is really watching from above?"
"Can you please help me
Make my parents fall back in love?"
"Can you make it so that
My grandpa isn't sick anymore?"
"Can you invent a robot
To help me do my chores?"
"Can you make sure
That my family keeps our home?"
"Oh-- and while you're at it
Help me write my girlfriend a nice poem?"

Alas, the boy paid no mind
To their wants and needs.
He had left his charitable days behind
In favor of his newfound greed.
Though his box could do anything
It really wasn't his job.
No matter what happiness to others it might bring
Of his power, he'd feel robbed.

He didn't know that at night
His friends went home to cry
Asking their nonexistent treasured boxes
"If he can have something special
Why can't I?"

Life went on like this
Until one day, he was greeted by a bird.
It landed on his shoulder
And hissed,
"You'll never guess what I heard."

The boy was quite frightened
Both by the bird's familiar voice
And what it said.
Still, his eyes brightened
When he shouted
"Castle Lady?
I thought that you were dead!"

"Too bad," the bird crowed.
"For I'm very much alive.
And I figure you should know
I won't allow you to continue to connive."

At her choice of words
The boy sputtered.
"What do you mean, bird?"
He nervously stuttered.

The Bird Lady stared at him
With beady black eyes.
"I mean, I saw what you've done with your gift
And I was unpleasantly surprised.
You didn't disrupt any tradition.
I told you to do what you would.
It was just that I had the premonition
That you'd use your power for good.
You're no better than any of your classmates
You silly sap!
Did it ever occur to you
That you were only picked
Because you can snap?
When my last life came to an end
You thanked me for the box
And ran home to your mother.
My spirit would have been able to rest
If you had used the box to help others.
I am older than most earthly things
And some sights I've seen are hellish.
This in mind
It's beyond me
Why you'd choose to be so selfish.
See, this box was once mine
Changing owners as it does
And when it fell into my hands I wished
To be anything but the girl I was.
From then on, I've been trapped
In the form of many objects
And, whenever I try to go from this world to the next
Fate always interjects.
I'm the keeper of this box
Until it falls into the hands of someone good enough
And I'm here to say, dear boy
I'm afraid you must give it up."

Without warning
The boy broke down
Dropping to his knees.
For the first time since that fateful day
His sense of superiority ceased
And truth began to reign.
Head in his hands, he grieved
For those he had caused pain.

The Bird Lady remained by his side
Trying her hardest to soothe.
"Now, clever boy, you need not cry
But the box does need to move.
Now, I need you to calm down and listen to me
And let me make myself clear.
I need you to go to the sea
And that's the last wish you will make here."

Suddenly, the boy understood.
When it was far too late, he used his powers for good.
So he wished for the ocean, heeding the Bird Lady's advice.
The two of them were at the beach
Before he could think twice.

"Very good," the Bird Lady praised.
"All you have to do now is let go.
Don't worry, my dear boy
When the box finds its forever home
I'll be sure to let you know."

The boy nodded.
With shaking hands, he looked down.
Taking a deep breath, he dropped the box
And all his wrongdoings drowned.

"Thank you very much," the Bird Lady chirped.
"Now, relax, and let your conscience be cleared.
You can go home
And I'll take it from here.
One last thing
I should tell you, my friend.
All this can be fixed
If you just have an ear to lend.
No matter how heartfelt
Apologies only take you so far.
What you should do now
Is fix your regrets with actions
To show them what a lovely boy you are."

With that
The Bird Lady dove
Picking up the box with her magnificent beak.
The boy returned home
With redemption to seek.

All these years later
Our nameless boy is now a man.
He's ordinary, yes
But ordinary is good enough.
He doesn't look down on others
Or even try to act tough.
Though he's no longer a heartthrob
One girl remained by his side.
When she is there
He never has to hide.
When a friend has a problem
He is there to listen.
And, though he holds no glowing box
His eyes still glisten.


Meanwhile, our Lady's soul
Now rests within a spaniel dog.
Though the box still has no permanant owner
She doesn't think it will be long.
Though that might seem unlikely
Divine beings do know all
Though everyone makes mistakes
Both big and small.
She may chastise others
For poor choices and self-control
But in the end, she knows the box only needs one thing:
To be cared for by a beautiful soul.
Kate Little Sep 2012
‘Tis the eyes of the Lobster: all beady and black
Little black pearls; but luster they lack
They stare and stare with nary a blink.
And heavens to Betsy if you know what they think!
With pinchers and crushers and blood of blue
I’m not so sure I’d want one in my stew!
The new year dawns and here am I
Writing of lobsters and I’m not sure why!
Oh, but I jest and of course I do!
‘Twas a bet! I lost! And now pay my due.
Sincere apologies to those who read.
I know it’s rough. I must complete this deed.
          I hope this ditty; whatever it be
          Fits the bill and you’re more than pleased, --!
With my sincerest apologies to Lewis Carroll who wrote 'Tis the Voice of the Lobster'.

**-- [in the vane of Lewis Carroll I have omitted the last words here ie name of my friend to whom I lost the bet!]


© Kate Little
January 2012
All Rights Reserved

— The End —