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Sydney Victoria Sep 2012
I Bounced Back,
From Being Attacked,
I've Gotten Letters In My Mailbox,
Evolopes Onyx Black,
I've Cried Myself To Sleep,
I've Lost Sanity,
But I Bounced Back

I Bounced Back,
From Being Hated,
From Being Degraded,
So Close To Being Disintegrated,
It Was ******,
Premeditated,
But I Bouced Back

I Bounced Back,
From Falling On My Face,
From Being Called A Disgrace,
From Being An Outcast Of The Human Race,
Inside My Veins Swims Emence Strength,
Because I Bounced Back

I Bounced Back,
From Blood Which Dripped,
Secrets Which Slipped,
My Heartbeat Tripped,
My Throat Was Being Gripped,
I Jumped Into The Ocean Just For A Dip,
That's When The Sharks Came And I Got Bit,
But Yet, I Bounced Back

I'm Sure If People Knew,
They'd See How Much We Grew,
And As If On Cue,
They'd Have Respect For Me And You,
And If They Had A Clue,
They'd Realize Our Strength 2 Preserver Through,
It's Hard To Paint A Master Peice,
With Our Colorless Hue,
Our Hearts Are Held Together With Super Glue,
Thoughts Askew,
But Me And You,
We're The Strongest Ones They'll Try To Cut Into,
*Because We Bounced Back
I Wrote This For Anyone Who Felt Like Their World Was Crumbling Around Them, And Who Bounced Back. That's How I Feel, There Are So Many Strong People Who Have Been Through Crap But People Still Treat Them As So. Let's Look To The Future And Forget The Past Because We Bounced Back
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(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.
Oma
Bounced

a mother figure
to two, a name
on a Christmas card
to four

when I realised
I was still a
child

and bitterness
wasn't an
option

I grew up
like a broken
nose

out of joint

Bounced

at the service
there are tears
beside me

I imagine a
body burning
and feel
warm

the lick of flames
on gray skin

my indifference
grows like I
imagine the
fire roaring

behind the curtain

heating up

Bounced

the house is
empty and
smells

unusual

like something has
been left in there
too long

they are not
there now but
it lingers

I tried to take
her dresses but
she was thinner
as a girl than
I am now

jealously

is a feeling
I'm familiar with

and it's easier
to understand

Bounced

we are waiting
for a buyer

and I imagine
how it feels
to have a piece
of your heart
trapped in bricks
and mortar

Bounced

one time,
I wanted to ask her
how it felt to
take notes of
the war

if she'd ever thought
of waving a white
flag and crumbling

drowning in the
rubble rain of
The Blitz

I wanted to hear
her say something
human

so I could
visualise and
see a bit of
her in myself

Bounced

I'm still caught up
on the autopsy
like a piece of
fatty tissue on
a scalapal

and my thoughts
are metal and
cold

the number of
zeroes on a
cheque

Bounced
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

I'm an only child born in Montana in 1983, from a divided home. Parents divorced at seven, Mom was unstable and unfaithful. Dad obtained custody of me and we moved to Oregon Coast to live with my Grandma. I had unhealthy visits and relationship with Mom thereafter. My Grandma died at 12 and at 13 my Dad remarried an alcoholic woman, I had a strained relationship with them until adulthood when she stopped drinking. I had exposure to trauma; alcoholism, mental illness, verbal abuse and juvenile troubles. I rebelled by using drugs in my late teens and early twenties, I lived on my own for a few years after high school but had little direction.

My bride is the eldest with two little brothers, parents stayed in same area of Portland during childhood with lots of family support and her parents stayed married. They had Christian values but some anger and anxiety issues at home. She was sexually assaulted at 17 and never had good closure with this. She told me her parents didn't provide her enough help with things like this growing up. Status quo was the backbone of the family dynamic, challenging emotions were discouraged. She rebelled by being reckless with herself, financially and sexually. She decided to join the Navy at 19. She lived alone briefly, but mostly with Grandparents & Parents before our marriage.

I loved how we both grew up reading Archie comics. No other girl I had ever met had that in common with me. I think we wanted a surreal life like the one in Riverdale.

2002

She and I were 19 when we first met in my home town on the coast at an arcade. We became friends and secretly liked each other. I was too nervous to ever make a move on her. We traveled together, she stayed with me, we used drugs together and drank at times. One night she drank too much and had *** with a guy I knew at a party. I was devastated by this. She was Navy bound and I didn't see a real future for us. The next morning she left and I didn't talk to her again for two years. I figured she would be gone with the Navy soon and that she must not have been interested in a relationship with me despite the time we spent together.

2003

I was depressed about this rejection. I dated an older woman who was interested in me but was no substitute. I eventually moved to the Portland area to work and live. I still had few plans and was lonely, in or out of the few brief relationships I attempted. I never found someone that I felt safe with or had a true connection, let alone true love. She ended up not following through with the Navy and continued working her way up in her job at the call center. She attended community college and dated a few guys. She dated one guy for a couple of years who was not a good match for her but stayed with him off and on despite issues. His family was wealthy and treated her well. He slept around on her as did she. At one point he gave her an STD. She also had an ongoing affair with a married man in the military that she went to high school with. He had a child and a wife with mental health issues. She was still hurting a lot at times and not always doing well.

2004

She reached out to me via email after two years of no contact. We emailed back and forth a couple times over the next few months. We talked about meeting up. We spoke on the phone and eventually met up in Portland. We had an amazing night getting to know each other again and work past the confusion of our earlier days of friendship. I realized that she did in fact like me before but since I was timid and trying to be proper and take things slowly she didn't understand my motives. She apologized for her actions at the party as well. She claimed she was in a really messed up place and was making bad choices at that time. Getting our feelings out in the open was good and she appreciated my attitude towards being slow to make moves on her when we first met. I was worried about falling for her based on our history but eventually I was determined to give it a shot. We soon after starting dating and being intimate. Our love was extremely powerful and beyond all others we had both experienced. She broke ties with other suitors and shortly after we talked about marriage and started planning a wedding for the next year.

I remember when we first held hands. We were so shakey and she was quivering on my couch as I had my arm around her. We felt so safe with each other. We could finally be ourselves and do what our hearts desired. We knew we were on to something new and so amazing. We were so patient with each other as we navigated our new love and emotional thresholds.

I remember when we saw Matisyahu in concert together. That was a once in a lifetime experience and a life-changing moment for us. I feel it set the tone for things to come in our future.

I remember how creative my proposal to her was, in the Arcade where we first met. I hid the ring in a prize container from one of those claw machines. Pretending I got the ring from inside by reaching into the machine on one knee I was so nervous and wasn't sure if I could pull it off before she caught on. She looked so shocked and surprised. I was so excited she said yes! We took pictures in the photo machine and had burgers afterwards, I'd do all of it all over again just to see her face in that moment.

2005

We found an apartment for us in Portland. I moved in while she was still living back with her parents until the wedding. She had to change her number because the married man she was previously involved with kept calling her about changing her mind about marriage and continuing their relationship. She was offered a job in Denver and we decided to move away together after our sandy wedding in Cannon Beach. I still had a very hard time and was embarrassed with my past history with her. Many of my friends knew what had happened at 19 and how much it hurt me but I was so crazy about her I think I tried to pretend it didn't happen or that it was not a big deal because we were younger. We got married and moved to Colorado soon after. We made friends at a church, I became more active as a Christian and really loved being married. We were very involved in keeping spirituality in our marriage. I began to notice her poor financial decisions and practices more. This caused conflict but we always tried to communicate and work on things.

I remember when we went down to my folks for New Year's in 2005. We sipped tea in my Datsun as we drove to the coast over the snowy mountain pass. We told them of our engagement. We were all so blissful and excited. We never knew what was to come. We didn't even know about the opportunity in Denver yet. Our story is amazing!

I remember when I wanted to go see her in Portland and the roads were iced over. I left my car at a park and ride before I caused a wreck. I took the light rail across town then rode a bus to the Eastside shopping mall. The bus to her house was not running because it wasn't safe so I walked the rest of the 4 Miles sometimes having to crawl on my hands and knees to make it up hills in the ice and then I finally made it only to just spend a couple hours with her and fall asleep on her parents couch. Her Dad drove us back the next morning to my car so I could get to work. It was all worth it just to see her for that little extra time. I would have done anything for her.

I remember when she was interviewing for the new position in Denver? I drove all over Portland trying to find little toy cars to help with her illustration about how a team is like a car having all four wheels and how they work together to accomplish a goal. I was so proud of her for giving it her all and succeeding at earning that position. Now that I think of it, that car analogy applies to our family and us. We all need each other to be better and keep on track and be a team. I am so motivated by that and our boys. I lose my way without that and I want to be her reflection and motivation as she has been that for me. I truly thought we brought out the best in each other when we were together.

I remember when we were given tickets to see Fiona Apple. That was so spontaneous and a great way to kick off our time in Denver together. We always used to watch our same movies over and over again. Like the Friends DVDs and White Christmas every winter break and The Wedding Singer. We walked everywhere and lived simply. "I wanna be the guy, who grows old with you"

I remember in our first Denver apartment when we took baths together in our claw foot tub in the big bathroom. We put a board over the top and played cards. I liked playing Uno with her in bed too. She was so funny being slightly color blind and in the dark, mixing up the greens and blues. We played Uno in Breckenridge too at that cool bed and breakfast in the fall.

2006

We had continued fun and adventure in our new home of Denver. She was doing well as a trainer for the bank and I started working in health foods. We went camping in New Mexico a couple times with friends and we both took individual trips to Oregon as well as one together for her uncle's wedding. We had marital spats on occasion but always bounced back. The issues we had seemed like part of a normal marriage and were far better than what I had grown up around. I realized that marriage was a lot of work but I was up for the task. She occasionally became aggressive throwing things at me or breaking things during conflict.  I believed I was the problem and tried to change for her in many ways. With two incomes we still had trouble making our bills at times. She had debts that I never knew about that started to catch up with us but I took care of getting them settled and we paid off her car and traded it for an older Volvo Wagon that we both loved, I even had it repainted her favorite color for a birthday gift. Overall things seemed like they were progressing in a positive way.

I remember when we saw Midnight in concert in Boulder. That was the peak of our hippy days. We were alive with pleasure in our healthy vegetarian diets and practices living in a time and place like no other. I want to be like that again. Reggae was our music. We had much in common.

2007

We really fell into our roles in our marriage and the community; church and culture, friends etc. Things seemed very balanced and appropriate for us at that time and that age (24-25). We had separate bank accounts and jobs. I had money in savings. We started the process of buying a house so we could invest in something. She became pregnant shortly after. I embraced the challenge with positive energy but we were both in for a big change. We started having more fights. I didn't have many friends and would write to old friends via social media just so I could to catch up and tell them things were going great with being married to make myself feel better than I actually did. She hated the dawn of social media and also felt isolated I'm sure. She felt I should be doing more for her and I didn't know how to do what she needed but I failed to ask a lot of the time. After one argument, she left the house. My instinct told me to look at ******* and ******* as a retaliation. I had not done this much once we were married because she always met my needs but when things were difficult between us I felt more emotionally isolated. She walked in and realized what I had been doing. She was very upset, and because she was pregnant, thought I was not attracted to her. The truth is I found her even more beautiful and in fact when I looked at ******* I tried to look at women I found less attractive than her so that I feel good about what I have. I mostly fantasized about how these women were more submissive and loving than her. That is the part I needed to feel good about and feel better about myself with because I felt very dominated and controlled. She has never forgiven me for this and I will never stop feeling sorry to her for my brokenness. During one particular argument that year she was getting close to being violent towards me again and I pushed her away on the chest with my fingertips. She got very mad and said I hurt her. I immediately felt terrible and apologized. I never let something like that happen again. I have always avoided violence towards others especially women and of course her. I was defenseless against physical and emotional abuse.

2008

Our eldest son was born at the beginning of the year, it was a traumatic birth for everyone. We wanted a natural birth with a midwife but we were transferred to a hospital and she ended up having an emergency C-section, nothing went as planned. We had a really hard time coping with the emotions of this experience. A lot of buried feelings and trauma from both of us started coming out. We moved a month later into our new home outside of town. No more walking or biking to places, we had to drive everywhere. This house was next to our friends from church. We thought this would make us feel less isolated but we didn’t really have the community with them that we had hoped for. They were upset that they didn't have a child of their own yet and being around us might have been hard for them. My wife stopped working and stayed home with our son. All these changes made for a very difficult time. I did my best to support them but this was the first time we shared a bank account and needed to follow a budget more than ever before. We had no debt at the beginning of the year with money in savings but then the hospital bills put us down about $7,000 and rising with new home and moving expenses and baby needs. My job could barely keep up. She and I had a hard time adjusting. We could not afford to travel home to Oregon and visit family as much and we felt more and more isolated. She started showing me more signs of instability, locking herself in the bathroom with kitchen knives and scraping her legs which continued off and on for years to come. Talks of divorce and suicide threats seemed to happen more than before. I felt responsible and tried to fix her ever changing issues with me.

I remember when herr ******* were full and swollen with milk. It is so beautiful the way she could feed our babies. I wanted her in every way, our bodies belonged to each other. I was there for her and our shared pleasure. I loved it when she told me that she was mine in the heat of passion. This spark could only be a bandage for so long but I didn't know that yet.

2009

I tried to promote within my company but was not selected, they were cutting budgets and employment all around me. I felt worried about our future. I had always thought the military might be a good opportunity and could move us closer to family back home. My father-in-law encouraged me to look into the Coast Guard. I felt this would be a good way to get moved closer to Oregon.  I ended up joining the Navy because we found out we were pregnant again with our second son and that was the only way I could join a military branch. She worked off and on as a nanny and later in the year at a coffee house working nights. We barely spent time together and when we did it was a lot of hard conversations or arguments about finances with making up intimately in the middle of the night between times of caring for the baby. She once scratched my neck with her fingernails during an argument. People I worked with noticed. It was a hard time and we knew change was on the horizon with jobs and moving. We did visit Oregon that summer though and had a great vacation at the beach with a borrowed 4x4 and staying at a hotel and picnicking out of a cooler as well as going to her brothers wedding. I was 26 and about to join the Navy to provide better for my family at all costs sacrificing myself for their benefit because I would have rather died than look like I didn't try my best for them.

I remember when our babies would kick and move around inside her belly. I loved laying by her and feeling her tummy. I would hum to the baby and hear them move and squirm. I loved giving our boys baths when they were babies too. We had our little bundles of our love, wrapped in a towel in our hands, so tiny and vulnerable. I miss those days and want to remember them with her, aside from this state of melancholy.

2010

The Navy recruiters would only take me if we rented out our home and had her stay with family during boot camp and training. We moved to a furnished apartment in Denver and put our things in storage. She was 5 months pregnant and our eldest was two. I shortly after was let go from my job. Our second son was born in April. I got a contract with the Navy at the last minute but didn't leave until August. We sold our beloved vehicles and lived off retirement funds for six months and moved down to Florida where her parents had just moved out of the blue for work, to stay with them until I left for boot camp. I applied for temporary work in Florida at a dozen places but had no luck in my three months there. I took care of our eldest a lot while she took care of the new baby. Being in Florida was a culture shock for us but we had our moments of romance and made the best of it. Eventually I left for boot camp in August. It was really hard and sad to be gone. She stayed in Florida and came to visit me with the baby at boot camp graduation in October. I then went to Connecticut for five months of training. It was also hard but at least I could call home every day and be in the same time zone. I visited Florida during the winter break and saw my boys and her. We went to Disney world and had a great time on her parents. We also made a romantic home movie I could enjoy while away from her. I flew back to Connecticut and tried to make the best of things. My roommate was very abusive of substances and I resisted the temptation for a long time but the threat of being submarine service bound and missing my family pushed me to drinking every weekend and getting messed up to escape before I left.

I remember when we drove to Key Largo, Florida and stopped at a crazy bird wildlife center. I remember our oldest was so amazed hearing a bird say hello back to us. It was so foreign and fun there. I am glad we all shared that experience together.

I remember our trip to the citrus grove in Florida. That was such a great day for our family. I always look back on that with really fond sentiment. I felt like I was in a beautiful family music video with them.

2011

I finished Submarine Training and got orders back to the Northwest. The plan was all coming together. I arrived first and bought a car and got our items moved from storage in Denver to our townhouse rental in Washington. She and the boys joined me a month later. I didn't report to my Sub for another month as they were at sea. She became pregnant again with our third son right after arriving. We had just bought a small car and were not planning on another child. Towards the end of the year I was working a lot and having a really hard time, being bullied and treated poorly at work plus our financial situation was still very difficult. Adjusting to the military was hard among younger men being 28. I dreaded each day in that environment but I tried to endure it for my family. I went to sea for a couple months at the end of the year stopping in Hawaii and California. During this time She reached out to her ex married affair partner after six years of no contact. She didn't tell me until later. She said she needed closure with him, we were not in counseling yet but she decided this was appropriate. I flew home early from sea and wanted to surprise her. The stress and trauma of this quick transition home after being to sea for the first time (which was also traumatic) made me want to drink and get messed up before flying. I arrived home and surprised her but I seemed off to her which I was but didn’t explain why, I have never done that since. I got to be home for two months almost work free while we celebrated the holidays and prepared for the new baby to be born. She started getting more involved with a church and building a community for us which was great. Our financial struggles almost led us to foreclosure of our home back in Colorado but by the grace of God we got it sold with a short sale just in time.

I remember when I came back from Hawaii and brought her a beaded necklace and she wore it naked with her big beautiful pregnant goddess belly and we made passionate hippy love together. I want to grow out my beard again and spend my life making hippy love and feeling free again.

2012

Our third son was born in January. It was a very positive birth experience and much less stressful than the other two. Shortly after I flew out to finish the other half of the deployment I had missed. I really focused on being positive and spiritually connected by reading my Bible at sea which was helpful. I called her when I arrived in Japan halfway through being gone. She was upset because she tested positive for an STD while trying to get on birth control. I became suspicious of her yet she was suspicious of me. We both got tested again and I was clean, she told me she had a false positive after all. This put a big strain on our trust, especially being so far away. This forced us to be honest with each other about some things such as her contact with her ex lover and my drinking to cope. We were both very upset until I returned home and we could start some counseling to work through things. Forgiveness seemed to be difficult for us. It brought up hurts of the past when we were 19. She also had severe postpartum depression that became worse after each birth. I was still having a hard time with work and the submarine environment. Our church friends tried to counsel us but it was not the most helpful. My submarine was scheduled for extended repairs and not going to sea for three years, I would be transferred before the end of that period. I used this time to bond with her and my boys. I wanted to get better involved in our community and do volunteer work and side jobs to earn extra money. Our boys were all given diagnosis's for autism which begun to fill our lives with appointments and challenges for years to come but we were a good team in dealing with all of it. It gave us something to work together on but took our focus away from working on our own personal issues and relationship with each other as much as we should have.

2013

We had new years with both sides of our family in a snowy mountain setting in Oregon. It looked like it was going to be a great year until her Grandpa passed away suddenly. It ripped our entire family apart but especially her. He kept the family grounded and she was very close to him, he really loved all of us. She and I started going on dates again because we had Navy sponsored child care. It was the beginning of a really good thing for us. Tragically one night after a date we were dancing with the boys on the patio and I tried to pick her up and I lost my balance and fell on her, breaking her collar bone severely. She needed surgery and was very mad at me for years to come. She has a scar, a metal plate and numbness in her chest. We worked through it with our community from church but she still is very mad at me. I feel more terrible about this incident than she could ever know. I would lose a finger in place of that incident if I could. I continued having a really hard time in the Navy and I didn't want to stay in but She insisted our boys needed care only the Navy could offer. She also said she would divorce me if I ever left the Navy. I took this threat seriously even though she assured me later that she would never actually do that. Against my own convictions I reenlisted because I wanted to do the best thing for my family. We moved into base housing at the end of summer and didn’t go out to do things as much anymore. The house was nice but it ****** us in, we also had less community with people around our home. I started volunteering at church more and doing work with special needs people. I felt like I was doing good things and that I had purpose all around. I think she appreciated this about me.

2014

We started seeing a professional counselor together and individually. It became a regular event. I worked on myself and she worked on herself. I had a lot of issues with my Mom and eventually broke off communication with her for my own well-being and the betterment of my family. I got past a lot of the bad feelings I had. She worked on her traumatic experiences and our relationship dynamics. Just when things were going well I got a new boss who made things hard for me and others at work and I started messing up more. I got in trouble for messing up a job at work and was given strike one on my record. She lost respect for me as a provider but I tried to stay strong showing her that I would continue to do my best.

I remember when we had an appointment in Tacoma and we had a brunch date together afterwards. She looked so beautiful that day, I took her picture and was so proud to enjoy  huevos rancheros and momosas with her. I remember going to the Tacoma Art Museum seeing the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit, we have a great time together doing new things and feeding each other's interests. I loved laughing with her too, sometimes we just bust up like nobody's around. I loved the sound of her laughter. I loved watching Portlandia with her, it is so funny to remember the funny place where we became close and be able to relate together.

2015

I kept working hard and being involved with family and appointments for my boys and her. I still maintained my volunteer work and part time side jobs. I got strike two with the Navy for messing up again... I had just gained orders to leave the sub for local shore duty. I could not get out of the extended repair situation soon enough. She was very disappointed in me and not so understanding. I worked through this situation with our counselor as did she. He always told her I am a good man and that I do a lot for her and the boys. It's true, I care more than anything about them, I made mistakes and I feel bad especially when I cause my family stress. I left for shore duty in April. It was a hard time adjusting to the new routine but eventually we seemed to make it work. That summer we took a trip to visit Texas where her parents had just moved from Florida. We spent a great night together for our 10th anniversary in a hotel in Texas and went dancing. We had a lot more time together as my work schedule was less. The more people we had in our home working with our kids on issues the less useful my input seemed. I was not included as much in making family decisions because they all seemed to happen while I was at work, despite my objections. We tried to get our budget under control but she still had anxiety discussing spending. She continued to struggle with depression and was put on medication because she had still been harming herself. She was put on Prozac daily and anti anxiety medication as needed. He family members were not very supportive of medication which upset her but I always tried to be supportive in seeking help and continued care for both of us.

2016

We had a busy routine of kids in school now and home school and preschool and appointments for all of us. She wanted to go to church less and less. I started drinking a couple beers at night almost every day. I tried to mask my stress from her mood swings. She decided not to go to church at all anymore and focused teaching the boys about Jewish traditions exclusively which was hard for me to adjust to and confusing for the boys. I loved her and wanted to be supportive. As usual I was submissive and removed myself from the Christian church and some friendships. I feel like we lost our community at that point. We searched for a good place to have a new community with Jewish people but it was like starting over. I felt like I converted to Christianity for her when we got together and now I had to convert again, either way I would have done it for her because I loved her that much. The kids were confused by this change. After trying and failing at many synagogues we finally found one that seemed right for us.

2017

We finally had some money in savings because I kept it a secret and ended up planning a trip to visit her parents in Texas but it fell through due to lack of military flights. Instead we spent three nights away in a nice hotel resort as a family in February. We had three days of pure family time. Playing Battleship and other games in our room as a family, watching movies and eating at all the different restaurants and getting room service. Going swimming everyday in the foggy pool. I love our family and how we can have a great time together doing nothing but at the same time so much. That was so peaceful and relaxing. I wanted to keep doing things like that together as a family before our boys got too old. Shortly after this vacation she wanted to go back to school, then we bought a third vehicle so she could. Shortly after this she changed her mind about school and wanted to buy another house instead. I went along with it to please her and we practically killed ourselves trying to get the move accomplished with not much help or money. We had a good year over all. We got away for a romantic anniversary together in the summer. Just before the boys were going to start public school in the fall, her parents moved back to the area. She had anxiety with this and cut off contact with her parents and brothers for a while. Her Dad called me very upset and I tried to keep the peace until they reconciled. I was doing better with work and made up for lost progress as well as making arrangements to change jobs in the Navy to something more fitting. Since the boys started public school, I planned on leaving for Navy training in my new position after the beginning of the new year when they would be at a more settled place in their routine.

I remember when we went to the Olympic Club for our anniversary and we stayed there for a night away. We drove the long way through the countryside talking about new music that she wanted to share with me and she made notes of it on my phone notepad. We brought our own cooler and picnic that included Session Lagers and chocolate. We checked in to our room and made noisy bohemian love on the edge of the creaky bed in our small European room inches from the door. Then we went to the theater downstairs and watched the late showing of a really interesting Sci-fi movie "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets". We took showers and slept sweetly together. We made love again in the morning before we had a delicious brunch outside on the patio. We took the long way home and drove around on new roads and found our way out of cell phone reception. We figured out the road less traveled to get back to our home. We loved being alone and away together, just one night can make such a difference and mean so much.

I remember going to the Forest Theater to see Tarzan with our boys. That was such a great time. I would love to get our boys into theater and go see them someday. I wanted to keep our dreams and goals together alive and not lose opportunity and fall short by losing our partnership.

I loved going camping in Seabeck. Loading the truck with all our gear and getting away. Archer got sick from the cowboy caviar and I had to clean him and the tent up in the night. I was glad we had each other to be a team in our marriage in that situation as with all the other times. These sorts of things are what escape a person's mind when they are determined to get a divorce.

2018

We had a lot less money than the year before, again buying a house took its toll on finances as did the boys school and after school activities. I stayed very involved taking the boys to appointments and sporting practices. We stopped going to synagogue but tried to practice Judaism at home as much as possible, which I was very supportive of and involved with. She was still depressed and talking about suicide at times. I encouraged her to get help as I always had. Eventually she was diagnosed as Bipolar 2 and manic depressive by a new provider. She started taking new medicine for this and was worried I would want to leave her. I assured her I would never leave her and that I always wanted to work on things with her and help her. I left for training in Mississippi February 8th. It was going to be hard but I thought it might be good to have some time apart from each other to miss one another and reflect on things as well as prepare for times when I would be away at sea. I got in trouble in Mississippi for giving junior personnel a ride and being negligent of people who might be underage and possibly drinking, this became strike three. I never thought this could happen. I became recommend for separation from the Navy shortly after and was stuck in Mississippi for six months instead of six weeks. She was supportive through most of it but seemed to fall into hopelessness. Money was spent by her that we didn't have without discussion. She quietly leased appliances and tires and purchased a vehicle as well as having a secret bank account and email address. I discovered through our insurance company that she wanted to leave our policy for divorce. I didn't know this and she had even told the boys she wanted a divorce before I even knew. I was caught off guard and confused. I kept trying to communicate and reason with her but she didn't want to talk. I refused to give up and wrote emails and a letter but it only seemed to push her away further. By the time I left Mississippi she had filed for divorce and a restraining order against me saying I was unstable and a threat. I couldn't return to my home. My whole life fell apart in just a couple months. I found out she had been talking to other men in the Navy and keeping more secrets. I assumed this was her way of taking control during a difficult situation. I really needed her support during this hard time of transition out of the military. I became homeless, jobless and without my family in a month. I prayed to God that given time things might change between us but it was of no use. Bipolar had consumed whatever was left of my bride and there was no turning back.

I felt that our love was not one to be cast away. Other people might not understand or agree but what we had was truly special. We may have surely needed some time and space to get counseling as well as reconfigure and repair our marriage but I didn't feel like our relationship was irretrievably broken. She was so important to me and I thought she was the love of my life and would always have my heart. I wanted to be her partner in love and life, watching our boys grow up and being there to support each other. Being that she is Bipolar I knew she will need a lot of help and I was more than willing to assist her in making sure she was taking care of herself and not throwing herself into harm's way, ensuring she sticks with a plan we agree to for consistency. I cared about her deeply and had much compassion for her. I didn't believe she was thinking this through or thinking about the future. I really wanted to look at the long and short game with her, neither seemed appealing to me if we progressed but here we are. Things are not going to be easier. She will still have to face her problems and deal with me on a regular basis for the rest of our lives no matter what happens. She can believe her lawyer when they promise she'll get the moon and stars out of this in the end but they only see half of the story. Above all they want our money. It would have been good for her to face me in person and tell me she wanted to divorce and we could have started talking about it with a counselor to figure out how that could even work. Instead she chose to avoid as much responsibility for her actions as possible by doing everything in my absence as if I am not a real person. I had to find out about it from our insurance company and was last to know.

Immediately after I hear the word divorce I looked into her cell usage history and find she has a new military boyfriend that she talks to 20-30 times a day. She felt she owed me no explanation for this and it was none of my business. A mature person would have let me know about this months before and I would have seen it coming but there was no sign until it was seemingly too late. She strayed down a dark path and never turned back.

Her proposed parenting plan was cruel and had no thought put into it. Two hours a week with supervision, no holidays but father's day? She said she’s not trying to keep me from the kids but this is the exact opposite of what she’s saying with the paperwork she filed. She seems very mixed up and still you continues to make rash and sudden choices. Like a completely bogus restraining order against me that contradicts so many facts she has stated herself on record during my Navy retention process. She was so bold as to want to change her identity and even put it in ink on the divorce paperwork as well to a whole new name. That is not the actions of a stable person. She has since changed her mind again on that just as quickly as everything else in her recent life choices. I can't trust that any decisions she is making right now are for the right reasons or that she is of sound mind. I have never seen her so conflicted and confused, grasping at straws and running scared from herself.

Using the legal system so carelessly and going back and forth makes me feel like she is not ready to be making big choices and changes for her and our family. It is very unfair that she can’t consider my feelings on things and what I wish for the boys as well. Very reckless behavior. She can’t anticipate that the day would come where she has to face me and talk to me like an adult. She wants to hide behind the legal system which only leaves much to be unresolved. Ghosting me is not really an option in a marriage of 13 years with children.

Having relationship conversations is too difficult for her at this time and she would rather avoid it and skip to divorce because she thinks that will somehow be easier. I suspect she knows she is making poor choices, possibly out of fear and lust for something new and less painful than the reality of things right now. Our marriage was nowhere close to divorce when I left. She was sad to see me leave and woke with me at 3:30 am to say goodbye, making me coffee and cookies for me to take with.

Our community and accountability seems to be gone due to the continued trend of isolation that she is drawn to. The God fearing loving committed wife I thought I had is gone or trapped inside a terrified shell of herself. She cut me off from her family members and I can't discuss my concerns about her with them either. She only seems to have community with those who are not going to discourage her from these destructive choices.

I understand we have had issues and struggles but we are no worse off than other couples during challenging times. I think that because we loved each other so much it just hurt more when things got hard. I can't accept or believe this is justified or the right choice based on the positive trend we were on before I left. This was the longest break we have ever had from each other and I think she just needed someone to be there more for her, no matter who it was. Time can heal all wounds and I hope that is true for our relationship as co-parents.

She still refuses to tell me about why she wanted a divorce or talk about anything beyond caring for the kids. I have fought the restraining and I can see my boys again but I am still not allowed to my home without her permission.

I have risen from the ashes in just a couple months. I rent a room from a nice couple from our old church and obtained a good paying job while I continue paying the household bills.

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
Pauline Morris Feb 2016
I'm looking for something, I'm afraid don't exist
I'm looking for something, I hope I've just missed
I'm looking for something, in the foggy mist

It's a forgotten hue, of a color so bright
It's a forgotten feeling, of being so light
It's a forgotten treasure, I should've held tight

It bounced off the rainbow
It bounced and it flowed
It bounced right into the great unknown

I'm still here calling
I'm still here falling
I'm still here bawling

I'm afraid I'll never find it again
I'm afraid I'll never win
I'm afraid I'll never taste it on the wind

I will seek it out, till my dying day
I will seek it out, I'll hunt every which way
I will seek it out, if I find it I'll make it stay
Dorothy A Oct 2013
Everything faded to black. He had a hard time remembering just what the hell happened. He wasn't sure of downing some random pills from of the medicine cabinet-- his first attempt to end it all. Making sure he would not recover-- if the pills didn't do the job-- he had already devised the set up of the noose in his bedroom. Definitely, he didn't recall anyone cutting the rope, forcing him down to the floor.

Lacie joked with him. "Dude, you've got nine lives! You must really be a ****, fricking cat in disguise! That's why you'll eat those nasty tuna fish sandwiches they serve in the nuthouse! "

Chris grinned at her.  He had to agree. To refer to it as the psych ward at the hospital made it seem like more of a jail term, but calling it "the nuthouse" lightened up the severity of the situation. As grave and nearly tragic as everything  had become, it was kind of laughable to him.  He supposed he had more chances than a cat's fabled life. It all seemed so crazy that it must be funny.

Well, what could he say? He had flirted with death, but unwillingly managed to escape its grip. "Pathetic..."--he commented. "I don't not even know how to die well..."

Chris  eventually realized that he had been rushed to the hospital, but wished it wasn't true. Since then, everything was either a total blur or a bizarre state of mind . Even waking up in his room was like a remotely vague memory, almost like a long ago dream that might not really have happened.

Maybe, he was somewhat aware that his sister was screaming in shock and horror at the sight of him, shouting out downstairs to her boyfriend to help her. But the walls were turning red, a glowing scarlet- red, with an added fiery orange and yellowish-gold-- all joined together in pulsating embers. He was quickly losing consciousness. It was like some, bad acid trip. Not that Chris knew this firsthand, but it sure was like something he saw on TV or at the movies.

And now he was the star of the horror show.

Did he die?  Death was what he planned on, so waking up was not a relief, or a reality back into motion--just the opposite. It was as if being awake was the real nightmare, a delusional time when everything was not true, and was only an scary, offbeat version of the life of Chris Cartier.

The bad acid trip continued. He recalled hospital staff rushing about him, seeming like real people-- sort of. Then they morphed into fish in scrubs. From overhead, an IV was dripping into his arm. Tubes were shoved down his throat. His vital signs were displayed on a screen that made beeps and sounds, increasing the chaos and adding to the mayhem to his mind. Soon, the vital signs machine started talking to him that he was a "very bad boy" and other such scoldings.

He was thoroughly freaked out. If he was still alive, he'd rather be dead.

He wanted to run. One of the fish pushed him back down and muttered out undecipherable utterances-- like underwater gibberish . Then that fish used its slimy fins to inject him with a needle in his arm. The other fish circled around him like fish out of water--with opening and closing mouths-- as if gasping for air.

As they surrounded him as rubber monkeys shot out from the walls and bounced all over the room. On top of all this madness, the florescent lights above were flickering on and off, in sync to the wild music, like the drum beats of a distant jungle. It was one bizarre tangle of events, a freaky, crazy, out-of-control ride in which reality could not be distinguished from the animation and mass confusion. It was one overpowering ride that he would much rather forget.

When Chris got out of critical condition, he found out that he could still not go home. That would take a few weeks more. Dr. What-The-Hell's-His-Name assured him that he needed to start on the path to his psychological healing--just as grave as the physical--right here in a safe place.

It didn't seem so safe to him.

The enemy wasn't what was out there in the world, but the big, bad wolf was actually him. He had to be protected from the true culprit--himself-- and that was a mind-blowing concept. Just what did he get himself into?   

He never had been a patient in a hospital before. In all his twenty-six years, he didn't so much as even have his tonsils out. Feeling now like a prisoner,, he was still scared out of his mind-- as if it was day one all over again. When was he going to get out of here? Chris began to fear that they would never let him out. No professional had a definitive answer, as only time would tell of his improvement.

Man, why couldn't he just be dead?

His parents visited almost everyday, but it was of no reassurance to him. His mother always left in tears, and his father was lost for words. This was nothing new. When it concerned their troubled son, they felt inadequate to help him. The best his dad could say was, "Hey, Chris, we're pullin' for ya". That was of no comfort, whatsoever, like he was some fighter in a boxing ring that his old man had a bet placed on . His mom always clung to him as she said goodbye, like she needed the hug more than he did, saying to Chris through her sobs , "Miss you....love you". Her emotional state just unsettled him to the core, and he was worried for her more than for himself.    

At best, his outlook was grim. But then he met Lacie Weiss, and things started looking up.

Lacie was one of the quietest psych patients in the ward, always sticking to herself. But then he found himself sitting right next to her in group therapy, and they hit it off. He had no idea that she had a fun side. She usually looked apathetic and quietly defiant to society, a nonconformist in the form of a Goth, with edgy, dyed black hair, dark eye make-up and some ****** piercings of the eyebrow, tongue and nose. Her look was quite in contrast to his light blue eyes and sandy-brown hair. Chris never was into Gothic, viewing those who were as spooky creeps.  

It was obvious that Chris was scared and confused. Now although trying to seem tough and stoic, Lacie seemed so little, almost fragile, yet obviously trying to hide her broken self together. Petite and somewhat girlish in appearance, she was barely 5 feet tall. Chris was 5 feet 11 and a half inches, close enough to the six foot stature that he wanted to be. Only a half inch less really didn't cut it for him, though, even though his slim build gave the impression of a lankier guy. He would have loved to be as tall as the basketball players he so emulated. But such was life. He was never used to having the advantages.  

At first, Lacie never opened up, not to a single soul. Like Chris, she certainly acted like she didn't need this place, and nobody was going to help her--or be allowed to help her. As stony and impenetrable as she tried to be, group therapy it was hard to disappear in. Everyone was held accountable for opening up, and the leader was going to see to it.  No way, though, did Lacie want to crack or look weak in her turtle shell composure, in her self-preservation mode. So it was agony for her.

She first spoke to him, whispering loudly to him, onc,e in the group circle "This is all *******!"

Hanging with Chris was the one salvation that she had in this miserable experience. They both could relate more than he ever realized. They both really liked motorcycles and basketball. He had his own Harley, and it was something he loved to work on and go on long rides with it, his own brand of therapy.  In spite of how she looked, Lacie was also actually close to his age. He was twenty-six. and she was twenty-two.

They first broke the ice with casual introductions. "No, the name is not pronounced like Carter", he corrected her about his last name. "It is like Cart-EE-AY...... It's French".

"Yep", she replied. "Like mine is the same way, but as German as brats and sauerkraut,  Ja dummkopf?"

Chris gave her a weird look. She continued, "My mom's dad was from Germany, and I got my mom's name. Ya don't say it how it looks. You would say Weiss like Vice, but I couldn't give a **** how anybody says it. Nobody gets it right and original, anyhow." Her dark brown eyes flashed at him as she said, " But I think I like Chris Cutie, myself, better than Cartier.....cutie it is for me. Huh, cutie pie? "

Chris laughed hard. She was pretty coy for a die-hard Goth. She batted her eyes playfully at him and winked."You're worth being in here for, ya know", he told her, blushing, still laughing at her silly remarks.

She studied his face in response, all laughing aside. Suddenly, her mood turned solemn.  "I'll bet".

They began hanging out in the commons, walking down the halls for exercise, and swapping stories of their plights. Chris quickly found that she Lacie wasn't so steely and unapproachable as the day he first saw her.  And she discovered that he was more than a pretty boy.

"My parents weren't home when I tried", he told her one time after lunch was done. They were sitting in a corner, trying to be as private as possible. "Twenty-six years old...and I still live with them. Yeah, that's my life. I got a twin brother, and he's moved out and doing alright for himself. My sister's younger, is going to college. Wants to be a doctor".

Lacy didn't have any siblings to compare herself to. "Must be cool to have a twin", Lacie said. "I always wondered how that would be to have two of me running around! Scary, huh, dude?"

Chris shook his head. "No, it's nothing like that. Jake and I aren't identical. We are just a two-for-one deal...I mean  is that my parents got two babies in one, huge-*** pregnancy. Jake and me don't even act like twins. Half the time, I don't want to be around him."

No, it wasn't like his cousins, Adam and Alan, who were identical friends, mirror images, and best of friends. Chris never identified with that kind of brotherly relationship. He and Jake never dressed alike, or knew what the other one was thinking. And Chris felt that his brother always felt superior to him. He was the popular one. He was the ambitious one who landed a great job in computers, as a system analyst.  To add to Chris's feelings of inferiority, his little sister, Kate, had surpassed him, too. She was acing most of her classes, and boarding away at college. She was well on her way to becoming a doctor.    

"So if your mom and dad weren't around...who saved you?" Lacie asked. She stared into his eyes with such a probing stare that Chris almost clammed up. Just thinking about that day was overpowering.

"Uh...my sister and her boyfriend were hanging out in the basement. She was home from college, and I didn't know it. My parents were out-of-town. Our dog, Buster, was acting funny. He knew something was up..."

Chris stopped abruptly, but went on. "Kate, my sister, explained to me that she saw me in my room, getting up on a step ladder. She says she yelled at me to stop. I don't remember...but I guess..I guess I was going to do it anyway, and she wouldn't be able to stop me....stop me from...so I hurried up and jumped off before she could stop me."  

Lacie could almost picture it, as if she was there with him. She said, "But she did stop it. She saved you."

"Yeah", he agreed. "Buster started it all...barking, alerting my sister to come upstairs from the basement, and upstairs by my room...." All of a sudden, he felt so weird, like he was having an out-of-body experience.

"Hey, it's OK", Lacie reassured him. "It's over now. You aren't there anymore".

Chris started to cry, but tried not to. "If it weren't for Brian, Kate's boyfriend....she would not of had the strength to hold me up by herself, and cut the rope, too. I must have been like dead weight, and Brian grabbed a kitchen knife and told her to stay cool about it. Yeah, sure, like that could have been possible ! She was trying to keep the rope slack, while trying to save my sorry ****...and she was scared, shitless! "

Lacie opened up, too, relating her tragic past. She had an unbelievable tale, one hell of a ride herself.  It was amazing how detached she was when relating it, though. "Well" actually I got to fess up" "I'm not really an only child....I mean I am...but not really. I know that sounds weird---hey--but I am weird. Oddly unusual is the story of my life-- even before day one. "

Chris had no idea what she was talking about. "What are ya' trying to say?"

She added another surprising bombshell. "Also,  I have a two-year-old boy. His name is Danny. He don't see his dad--ever. The guy's a waste of space. Anyway, my mom has him. She can afford him more, and can do a better job raising him than me. Well, she does OK money-wise. Anyhow, my mom deserves him because she lost everything. And I mean EVERYTHING! Her whole fricking family practically wiped out!"

The shock that Chris had on his face-- his widened, blue eyes and open mouth were expected.   Most people had a hard time believing her.

She explained, calmly, "I mean she nearly died--way before I was born--in a car accident. And her two, little boys were with her in the backseat...and they died that day. "

Chris looked pale. "That is so awful!" he said, hoarsely, barely able to say it.

"Yeah", she continued. "Not a **** thing she could do about it, too. She was like in a million pieces. I know a part of her died right there and then, too. I just know it.  You know, dude, my mom was once really, really coasting along, just doing fine. A typical wife and mother-- a bit older than me now-- life was good. Her little boys were just cute, little toddlers--like Danny. I found out from my grandma that she was  pregnant, too, just a month or two. Nobody could have imagined it coming. She was just driving--doing nothing wrong-- when some idiot broadsided her.  I don't know if it was a guy or a lady, if they were jacked up on ***** or drugs, but they were speeding like a demon out of Hell. Her husband was at work and wasn't around."  

The boys were Benjamin and Gerard, but Lacie couldn't remember their names, for her mom could barely mention them without breaking down. It was an unbearable loss.

Chris was so horrified, amazed that Lacie related this like it was someone else's story. She was almost too cavalier about it.

"And they died ?!" he asked.

"Yeah....*****, don't it? Pure, pure agony. Downright Hell on earth. My mom had to learn to walk again. It took about year, I think."

"Oh, no! What about the baby she was supposed to have?"

"Miscarriage. Worse yet, the **** doctor told her she'd never be able to have kids again. She lost everything, man! Her husband couldn't handle it and left her. **** on top of ****, on top of more ****, on top of more. If it wasn't for her parents, and her sister's help, she would never have made it.

"But she had given birth to you, right? Or were you adopted?"

"Yeah, she gave birth to me. I was her miracle baby, and she didn't give a rat's rear end if my dad wanted me or not. He'd send her money, once in a while, but he wasn't really into either of us. Who cares though? She didn't give a **** what he thought. I was her baby. Truth is, before I came, she ended up slitting her wrists--just like me. What was the use? At first, there was nothing to live for. But now she has Danny.

"And you!" Chris quickly pointed out.

"Dude, are you kidding me? I have been NOTHING but grief for her, a real pain in her ***!"

Unlike her deceased, half-brothers, Lacie grew up before her mother's eyes, from a shy girl to a ******* rebel. Since the age of twelve, she would sneak drinks from her mom's liqueur cabinet. Eventually, she smoked *** and tried ******* and ******. Dropping out of the eleventh grade, she soon away from home, living with friends or boyfriends ever since.  Thankfully, she wasn't doing drugs when she conceived Danny. And her drinking wasn't as prevalent as it was in her teen years of partying and binge drinking. That didn't mean that her drinking problems magically disappeared, or that she was cured. Immediately, though, when she knew she was pregnant, she refused to touch a bottle, but it was just a white knuckle process that was effective momentarily--a band aid on a more serious wound. And going months without a drop of alcohol didn't deaden her urges--quite the opposite--as it only made her crave what she could not have. Often, her fears caught up with her--of especially becoming
Obadiah Grey Sep 2010
Remember when bullets bounced off our chests;
when a goose steppin hoard o' mad men held no sway,
thick eyebrowed men plotted plans hunkered in bunkers,
But we could lick the likes of Adolf
-- any day


Remember when bullets bounced off our chests;
when the Ayatollah lobbed fatwas at our ****,
we could raise a middle digit - to the Eejit.
coz Rushdie was quite cusdie
-- what a farce.

Remember when bullets bounced off our chests;
Al Qaeda n the cowards planted bombs.
bin laden poked the eye of big bald eagle
was it legal; when he brought it home
-- to moms.

Remember when bullets bounced off our chests???
Troublesome love . . .

will not let you sleep . . .

Sort of like a basketball game . . .

Questions are bounced mad and furiously
against the hard wood floor with only
more questions bouncing back .

Meanwhile someone is trying to steal
your dreams causing you to twist and turn distorting your image .

And you fight your way down
the court of life and toss your hopes and
dreams into the air and pray to God . . .
go in.
Hal Loyd Denton Apr 2013
Not funny but this was written on 4-15-12 exactly a year to the day


I re-post this for our last battel field Boston these words are nothing but as you read you will find the one who lives in them and He is everything all the comfort and hope we can ever want


Sorry if this seems at first confusing all my friends on facebook and Redbubble will get it right away as
I asked them to use their love and caring to pray for my hurting distraught friend at her time of great
Loss if you are hurting it will help to at least a degree or it will help at times of future loss

Well dear sweet precious Addy this brutal day is at an end I hope you sleep well I prayed for you and
Kathleen’s son way into the night at first I was terrified you weren’t going to get my post and you would
Enter as I told my wife you would enter the lion’s den the lions all have familiar names pain sorrow
Grief and many others and they maul with cruelty without pity I didn’t want either of you to take those
Fatal steps without your armor not to be to descriptive but reality waited with a blast I tried to diffuse the
Coffin the grave and headstone never could I do it immeasurably my fight for you could only be in the
Smallest victories comfort mined at times like these is like uranium white silver metallic with almost
A power that can’t be harnessed the same as loss of a love one what blow back again the same as a
Nuclear test one problem you don’t get the protection of a bunker no just suffer the blast in your
Body mind and heart you are stepping into the shoes the same as young woman who lost her father
That as she described him he was the light of her life our paths crossed on line when I thought she
Was a classmate’s wife her story of her dad touched me deeply I’m going to add that piece here plus
The comfort I tried to write for my friend that was more like my brother when his mother died I will
Include a small background so it wail make more sense let me add those here the first was Fathers story
What you read here is her hearts knowing and the undying love that it created and that continues.
His precious hands were removed from earthly things. A great and gentle man his greatest possessions his family. I only knew him from his business and the fact that one of his beautiful daughters married a classmate of mine. Then much later by error I made acquaintance with another of his daughters you can tell a lot about a person from the actions of his children. She told me that he passed away and that he was the light of her life. With God’s help I would like to pay tribute to him.
A light did shine it was magnified by the eyes of a daughters love. He took his journey he went above his ship was the care they shared he the captain made the course straight and true he didn’t slow her run until heaven was in plain view they would have cheered but it hard to see through eyes filled with tears. All the wonderful years seemed to be eclipsed by the sickness that came it seemed an angry wind from their lives this stalwart precious soul it did rend. It left the greatest empty hole it took the longest time to fill and then with the sweetest cooing the grand babies made the hole enlivened not the terrible twisted knot that had the family bound but without being able to speak a word grampaw was found. If you looked in their faces his smile is bound to bundles only heaven can design. I’m not saying they asked him how to work these miracles yet this is true he watched with intense interest and was happiest since his departure he knew that back through time and space healing was for all time secured. Their stoic acceptance could now be laid aside the family could run in softer climes know the sweetest of times that were thought to be forever gone.
Love spills down from heights distance is only on a map in peoples heart its no farther than the end of your finger tips. Images are so strong not because we have great minds it’s easy to make these rich finds when your love and its power shake the foundation of the universe is it not said that love is the greatest power. Oh how so many in dark shadows cower when they possess the power to ignite the world on fire. From heart to heart it does dart the wildness of the spirit is told blotting out all of the cold. Yes there is winter but also the spring. The light spoken of is no longer beholden to earth and so the family is free by love he joins his light to the Christ the all glowing light
Life force by haldenton
To all who have lost heroes
This was written to Eva’s son Bill to help him at her passing. With this writing I took him back thirty years when he was in the truck wreck that killed his dad his recovery saved his mother I hoped by him being reminded of that now it would help him the same way.
Tribute to Eva Wafford Life force
For all who lost heroes
In your soul freshly the wind of death did blow.
Cold eerie shadows marched against your tender broken heart.
What defense could this onslaught repel agony’s volcanic flow.
Ominous well filled with grief from this weight no relief.
The child the grim reaper did spare.
Only after leaving the body bruised and in despair.
From this broken body drops of mercy started to make the mother well.
I held your trembling frame today this memory rings sweet as a bell.
Streets and houses without number fill the land.
I can’t help when I look to recall memories grand.
Now they are but dreams that ache in the night.
Images that over ride the present in their glory I take flight.
Brush aside caution raise your voice as a trumpet.
They live only in yesterdays even so indelibly they wrote their stories.
We hold our children we cling only a moment as mist on the summit.
Your life Eva continues to build the next generation.
Your voice is heard in the breath of your grandchildren.
Wonders they spin from golden thread, now that you have gone ahead.
Your spirit glows in the fire that warms the house against winter.
Summer’s cool breeze not sent by chance she doe’s tenderly incite.
Death silently said what I already knew.
To me you were always immortal you were bigger than life
Many were the days when the wind of storms blew
those who know us feel the calm; this is only your life on review

One more
Simply Jim
Old Abe said it right ‘It is right and fitting that we speak these words here to honor these lives so honorably lived. I can say that about Jim and this also he was a prince among men if I do this right the words will convince you.
He had a gentle way and nature he spoke softly but a softness that flowed to you like ribbons that bounced in a little girl’s hair how delightful. He should have been a doctor his hands his mannerism was ideal for that job. I guess thats what made him stand out so strongly like a gentle calm breeze if you came in a panic his soul would float down around you like a parachute first it safely brings you from great anxiety and exaltation to a graceful landing then gently envelops you in its silken embrace. I had this privilege of watching him inter act with his wife as I said and truly he was a prince and I was the beggar that benefitted richly from the sidelines God knew my needs.
He was called from this life but all the days he filled before his home going are the sustaining force noticeably seen felt with keen awareness you know that a gentleman passed this way. In the lives left behind there is a blend of sadness and astonishment you realize you are looking at the work of a master workman who left behind a tightly and perfectly fitted family this unfortunately is sadly rare in this society that boast of its accomplishments.
As a friend his breadth and depth was sufficient you weren’t a burden he had a way of dispelling trouble making you understand with wisdom and unerring judgment then with ease you could extricate yourself from the problem. His heavenly father filled him with tenderness it stood him and others well in a somewhat crabby world. If you’re pressed and anxious about life take from this life expressed. A portion of the good will you need use it as a defense Jim couldn’t be everywhere but God saw fit to make an original that you can duplicate benefit from and be a part of his ongoing legacy. Thanks friend for a life lived well

Well hurting one in the earlier part of a writing I said I am God’s battle field reporter and medic
These writings are my bandages and gauze God gave me great big hands and I fill them with
Salve with all the love I know I gently apply it to your broken hurting wounds mingle it with
Tears that are not always mine alone but His mixes with mine one day He will abolish all tears
Until then this is our duty your heart we hear and we can do no other God bless you Addy and
Your nephew and all others who find this helpful

Mirrored Pool


Wonder for all the hurts

First I knelt just to see my reflection then the depths started to reveal first the flowing thoughts were
Restrained and then a bubbling seemed to dislodge from greater depths hard truths churned with
Violent twisting but the motion made it impossible to turn away there were great large white clouds
From depths then even above the pool they rose fourteen stories high the sensation was you were
Standing outside clear air intoxicating views the pulse of many were throbbing in your ears their
Thoughts and dreams were known and their sorrows were weights that pulled you from the heights
It was a colossal game of tag and you were it first reaction fear then the appearance of bundled gifts
Broke down the fear it was promise in different sizes that met the required needs it was like a divine
Warehouse had just made a delivery there were cards with names and writing gave clarification tears
And smiles intermingled then the outer knowing postulated the difficulty the puzzle an enormous
Streaming that was now congested and it was beginning a vortex all was understood now human thought
With doubts was pulling the answer into this destructive hole where was one to find the lever to stop
This action that would disallow was the answer to touch the water bring the finger to my lips possibly
A blazing thought would occur that would strike the mind no all that brought was words that had the
Letters jumbled they made no sense unless there is a special book that is alive in it the letters and words
Are already set but they cover every act in the human condition the broken can pour over the pages
You won’t find thorns to repel your efforts there are thorns but they will speak and assuage your hurts
At the most basic and needed levels the points of your hurts will begin to dissolve from your eyes to
Your mind this inward rush and power will dislodge even spears driven deep by enemies carried for
Years you searched in vain over sad and lonely paths and days now you journey is at an end thorns of
Suffering for another produces profound power and mercy go in peace beloved one another bears your
Burden now maybe words cut you at depths you can’t even identify what if there is an antidote in a
Book you pick it up with trembling hands your body tingles from the knowledge that this is ancient texts
It will have a revival of appreciation in this world of texting but with gentle fingers and eyes that glow
With respect as you see the wisdom and the love cannot be denied you leave the world you know and
With total abandonment you swim in this sea of words until the your tears spill on this rich world of
Words those cruel barbed words that pierced tender skin and have bled internally all of these years
Begin to dissolve with stories and accounts of betrayals then the swells love and mercy you read about
Restoration not always found after apologies are given but the teaching of forgiveness strikes a cord
You have been made free from your prison the tangles of life are great as a great black cloud it hangs
Over head many are its troubles this isn’t mild but the disruptive made to strike and pierce deep the
Hidden that steals the morning blessing while other feast your hunger and unrest only enlarges a
Tormenting unquenchable fire a slow burn this is a forest being burned at the thermal level the hidden
Roots a slow process destructive but not so visible agony torture I have seen men crawl in war or fire
Fighting that where all else is lost you will know greater thrills than any other living soul with the
Desperate and those heavy burdened unable to stand a word will flow it puts out fires and gives
The luxurious buoyancy heaviness changed to joy the bouncy laughter every outward blast attack
The enemy launches is within its pages they are repelled overwhelmed by love you suffer unduly
If you don’t hold this fortress this informative book of stratagems that have made everyone a victor
Who has ever found themselves at their wits end no place on earth has a contingency plan though it
Will make the greatest claims all is just empty air when life as it too often does ***** the very air of life
Out we practically are unconscious but this help this rescue is activated by one name it’s not just a book
But the word is a person what a pool you will find what a reflection will engage you beyond your hope
To imagine just say Jesus all will be total peace your heart will know no more sorrow peace will surpass
Sorrow love will disallow the specter that was once a constant it will disappear it will return to the
Darkness from which it came stand in this newness totally free abide by still waters as the good
Sheppard stands by bless you



Disgrace

This land void of devotion gone is the church steeples.
Replaced by voices and shadows of drug dealers on each corner.
Now they are the keepers, lost cities, death stalks its peoples.
Nothing is sacred in this polluted and diffused land.

No longer hallowed be thy name, it’s as if he never came.
Forgotten is any standard of moral excellence.
The once high ideals only represent a fool’s parlance.
Man declares I throw off these restraints only to find darker chains.

The book that once guided this great land.
We now betray with each waking day.
Our hearts and mind it did ignite, now it’s word we can’t stand.
Powerless and feeble we stumble, anxious ever moment.

Just to remember is not enough, best confess our pride.
Make sacrifice with our lips, to burn on altars on high.
There is a short season for all to make amends to regain our stride.
March on to glory with it burning on the inside.

You don’t have to be astute in business to see the sound investment.
Bring your poverty of spirit leave with the riches of his last testament.
It offers the greatest rate of exchange.
Light for darkness, life for death, selfless love for selfishness.


Streaks of Jefferson


In freedom’s blessed glorified sky through streaks of immortal gold his visage we behold
He looks upon the fields of liberty that he and the founding fathers sowed he sees the

Richness America has become he also beheld her struggles catastrophic wars abroad
And the most painful the one that divided the nation marred it with southern and northern

Blood saw the affable the sad giant Lincoln take the reins of discontent hold them by
Shear will and with uncommon sagacity guided it back in line to fulfill its destiny as the

Powerful fount that would always pour forth waters of freedom for all of earths peoples
Total unconditional acceptance of liberty and all the fruit it bears to establish a

Government like no other this golden grain has waved under bluest skies and brightest
Sun light its rich harvest has gone to darkest prison cells Mandela was sustained by it

For twenty nine years and by its moral purity it fed the lives of those that over threw
Apartied and Mandela finally freed by principals it avows rose from prison clothes

To wear the mantle of president of his country and the honor of the man instilled
Quality that transcended political office Jefferson not to be disrespectful to his progeny

Whispers today’s politicians could do well to look on this African model of good
Stewardship of public trust with that Jefferson faded back into the mist pray that’s
Not the fate of this country






--------------------------------------------------------------­------------------
Pauline Morris Feb 2016
I'm looking for something, I'm afraid don't exist
I'm looking for something, I hope I've just missed
I'm looking for something, in the foggy mist

It's a forgotten hue, of a color so bright
It's a forgotten feeling, of being so light
It's a forgotten treasure, I should've held tight

It bounced off the rainbow
It bounced and it flowed
It bounced right into the great unknown

I'm still here calling
I'm still here falling
I'm still here bawling

I'm afraid I'll never find it again
I'm afraid I'll never win
I'm afraid I'll never taste it on the wind

I will seek it out, till my dying day
I will seek it out, I'll hunt every which way
I will seek it out, if I find it I'll make it stay
Poetic T Sep 2014
The Frog was doing his thing
Hopping,
Croaking,
Splashing,
In to any water that he could see,
He happened upon
This Jigsaw of black and white
Morning sir, he croaked
The Cow looked down,
"MOOOOO"
Pardon I didn't quite get that,
"MOOOOVE"
Your on the tastiest grass
Below your webbed feet,
"Sorry sir,"
Didn't wish to stomp on your
Lunch with my feet,
So he hoped along, as Frogs do
Then turned around,
Hopped his best, speed built up
Leaping with all his might,
Over the Cow,
Then gracefully on to his feet,
"Cow turned"
Whhhat are you doing little thing,
As the Frog
Replied, I was seeing if I could
Jump over you
Why?
Would you do such a thing,
Well mum told me
A Cow jumped over the moon,
Yes we do
Replied Cow
Famously Are we for doing this,
Feat never seen.
"Frog replied"
Riibit, well I just jumped over you
So now I an the best jumper it seems,
Confused,
Thinking,
Laughing,*
Out loud with a MMOOooo
You aren't a better jumper than me,
We will see little Frog said
With that he did a
Bounce,
Hop,
Jumped,
Over the Cow once again it seemed,
Now it is your turn
As Cow looked on nervously
So he hooved his feet
1,
2,
3,
With that he tried
"FAILED"
Lost his balance,
And in to another's Cow pat
His face did meet.
Now the cow was not only
Black
&
White
But now he was
Covered,
&
Smelled,
Like poo, embarrassed
Was he
The Frog did laugh
Ribit, Ribit, Ribit,
Loud and clear,
Cow looked at frog,
Now Cow do you see,
Never believe what you hear,
Until you see it with your own eyes,
This is what my mother read to me,
And with that, Frog bounced off happily.
howard brace Aug 2013
"A leisurely breakfast" their mother would admonish, "aids digestion and builds strong bones..." so what with the imposed inactivity every morning, boredom broken only by Sockeye the family Spaniel, whose want of table manners coincided very conveniently with mealtimes... as he paced restlessly under the table, slobbering indiscriminately in his daily scramble to devour every dangling morsel before supply and demand shut up shop for the night and went home, far tastier... he gobbled down the latest offering of egg white, than the remnants of his own dietary allowance, they just had to get the timing right that was all, or risk loosing a finger, or gaining one depending upon who was doing the dangling, or who was doing the gobbling... he gave an indignant sneeze, not so much a hint but more of a... 'what's with the pepper malarky...'  So that it was only with a good deal of snappy hand coordination, lengthy digestion and sturdy bone building that Rocky was finally able to extricate himself from the table and make the most of what little time remained until lunchtime, meagre time indeed for the Rocky's of this world to hang around with their dogs, leaving their little sisters to help mums do, whatever it was that girls usually did when they should have scooted out of the kitchen faster, when it would have been all so much simpler just to grab a handful of biscuits instead...  Meanwhile, laying in wait in the room above, flat out upon the bedroom counterpane, having recently had their insides stuffed to bursting with a full English breakfast's worth of beach and holiday apparal... and that was just the luggage.    

     The contents of which, up until a week last washday had been snoozing fitfully behind 'Do Not Disturb' signs, cautiously peeping out from the gloomier, more remote recesses of the bedroom dresser, or carefully concealed in cupboards and closets... and being in every other respect by no means readily accessible to public scrutiny of any kind... had been left to their own devices some twelve months earlier with a clear understanding to skip bath nights from that moment on and henceforth immerse themselves in the heady, camphorated pungency of mothball, vowing once and for all never to darken portmanteau lids again... but now, after many hours of arduous laundering and de-fumigation... were now being squeezed and unceremoniously shoe-horned into what had recently become nothing short of an overcrowded sanctuary for the dispossessed.  
              
     Meanwhile, all the luggage asked from life other than be detained under section four of the Mental Health Act, 1983 and be found cosy padded accommodation elsewhere... was to have their interiors vacated, their tranquility reinstated... and with a questionable wink from a dodgy Customs official, have their travel permits invalidated... irrevocably, for despite throwing a double six for a spot of well earned convalescence back on top of the wardrobe some twelve months ago, basking in the shade of a warm Summer Sun, striking up the occasional conversation with the floral decor, third bloom from the left currently answering to the name of Petunia, the still over extended luggage, seemingly with little hope of R & R this side of the letter Q, faced the perennial disquiet of vacational therapy, of being knelt on, sat and bounced upon and be specifically manhandled in ways that matching sets of co-ordinated luggage should not...
                                        
     Tina could be heard quite distinctly in the next street concerning her husbands lack of competence, whilst Red it appeared had become just as outspoken as his wife in that particular direction... as the local self appointed busybody, who lived well within earshot of the address in question would bear witness to as she put feverish pen to paper, writing to what had become a regular... and some would say hot bed of intrigue in the local tabloid concerning how vociferous the once tranquil neighbourhood had become of recent and how certain undesirable elements within the community were to be heard carrying on alarmingly at all hours, day and night... and as she diligently weighed her civic duty against simple household economics as to whether to send this latest block busting eye opener by first or second class post, their parents could now be heard broadcasting, if anything to a wider listening audience than the previous newsflash, some of the more sensational episodes of the previous twenty-four hours as to who was pulling whose suitcase zipper now... although in which direction it should be pulled, they both agreed, wasn't for public disclosure at that time... vowing to draw blood well before the day was out, as three lacerated fingers would later testify and that it was only because of the children that they were going at all... but God willing, they would be setting off very shortly with rosy smiles on their faces for the sole benefit of the neighbours, even if it killed them. 

     Spurred to fever pitch  by this latest 'stop-the-press' newsflash, the same public spirited busybody now threw herself wholeheartedly into further award winning journalism and for the second time that morning took to pen and paper, only now directed to the gossip column in the local Parish Gazette, followed by grievous lamentations of impending bloodshed to the incumbent Chief Constable as to how they'd all be murdered in their beds ere long before nightfall.

     By devouring his water bowl, thereby dispensing with the need for it to be washed and by its abrupt and mysterious absence, disposing of all further incriminating evidence as to where the abundant supply of liquid, now surging copiously across the kitchen floor had sprung from... the flash-flood was hastily making its own getaway beneath the kitchen units, leaving Sockeye to his own devices to carry the can on his own, ankle deep in what up until earlier that morning had been sloshing around quite contentedly in Eccup reservoir.

      Having inadvertently released the handbrake in a boyish gesture of bravado, thereby placing himself in sole charge of a runaway vehicle, Sockeye it appeared was not the only member of the Salmon family to have dropped himself right in it that day as Rocky, having unwittingly placed the following ten years pocket money well out of reach and back into the pockets of his parents dwindling resources, had to a far greater extent nominated himself for the same Earth moving experience as the one his mum would shortly be giving Sockeye...

      Having just been granted licence to do whatsoever it pleased, the vehicle began its leisurely rearwards perambulation down the long garden driveway and by way of small thanks for its new found independence took Rocky along for the ride where due to a certain lack of stature on Rocky's part, at no point had he ever been in the slightest position to influence the Holiday threatening train of events which now engulfed him, never thinking to reapply the handbrake... that would be too easy, he perched on the edge of the seat clutching the steering wheel and stretched out his sturdy little legs in an heroic, but futile attempt to reach the pedals as the family car, which up until any second now had been his fathers pride and joy, pitched backwards at what seemed to Rocky, breakneck speed and directly into a very severe and unforgiving brick wall.

     Almost missing this latest round of entertainment above that of her parents most recent exchange, River accompanied by Sockeye scampered outdoors and slap into what could only be described as the most fun she'd had all year as an unsuspecting "what was that noise" muscled its way through the open bedroom window and fell flat on its face in the garden below and which, if that morning to date was anything to go by, then the neighbourhood would soon be tuning in to the latest Salmon family's 'hot-off-the-press' breaking news bulletin.

     Opening her mouth River hesitated as she fine-tuned the speech centres of her young and delicate synapse into full vocal alignment, then adjusting shutter speed from f8 to automatic she closed her mouth... then opened it once again and informed her brother that if the tip of dads size 9 was an Olympic gold, then Rocky would be sure to take first in the 110 metre hurdling event with 'team GB...' and could she have his autograph... with those words of solid encouragement rattling around his ears like the last biscuit in an otherwise empty tin box, River went skipping back into the house to announce the latest newsflash of her parents next financial happening... which she felt certain would prompt further rounds of thought provoking front page journalism.

     A steady two hours drive away, over on the east coast, the inhabitants of a sleepy fishing community were gainfully employed, pretty much as any other, going about their daily business, one such denizen... a baby crustacean, currently marooned by the tide had taken up temporary accommodation in a beachfront rock-pool property of certain distinction, was as yet unaware of a completely different and obscure set of circumstances that would shortly be rearing his slobbering jowls and bring all four paws, the size of dinner plates, crashing down upon the unsuspecting seashore fauna... was determined while she waited to catch the next high tide home, that until such time that the right wave rolled along, would potter about in the little rock-pool, perhaps indulge herself in a leisurely bathe... and catch up on a spot of therapeutic knitting.

     So, placing the days events since breakfast into perspective...  [i]  the vehicle indemnity provider, henceforth to be named 'the party of the first part', who currently weren't cognisant of an impending claim to date, would shortly be laying eggs attempting to squirm out of all liability, due to  [ii]  the automobile, driven by a minor, fortunately for Salmon senior on private land and henceforth, the aforementioned to be called 'the third party, to the party of the second part...' which urgently needed rigorous cosmetic attention to the rear tail light cluster and surrounding bodywork so as to maintain a favourable resale mark-up price.  [iii]  Having been dragged kicking and screaming from the top of the wardrobe, the luggage had rapidly developed cold feet and cried sudden illness in the family, but were being taken to the Wake anyway.  [iv]  Wrapped around the hot water cylinder since the previous Summer, the various sundry items of holiday apparel stood united, resolute as a Union Picket line not be seen dead looking as though they'd never so much as seen the bottom of a flat-iron.  [v]  Both Red and his wife, Tina, despite wearing the same anaemic smile as the one show to the neighbours as they departed, travelling counter clockwise along the crescent so as not to unduly advertise their recent misadventure with the garage wall, were only going for the sake of the children, whilst  [vi]  River and her errant brother didn't want to go anyway dismayed at leaving the television set behind, were already missing their favourite programs, which only really left  [vii]  'mans-best-friend' who, when he wasn't actually hanging over the front seat giving dad big sloppy licks as though... 'are we nearly there yet' or perhaps... 'I need to stop and spend a penny... or you'll all know about it if you don't,' was more than content to be taking up the majority of the rear seating arrangements and with a delinquent wag of his tail, was deliriously happy to be wherever his family were.**

                                                        ­                             ...   ...   ...

a work in progress.                                                        ­                                                                 ­  1862
RAJ NANDY Jul 2015
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR
            BY RAJ NANDY: PART ONE

                   INTRODUCTION
  “What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?
         Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
        Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
    Can patter out their hasty orisons.”
      -by Wilfred Owen, British Army Lt. killed in
        action in France on 04th Nov 1918.

The Socialists called it the ‘Imperialist’s War’,
and it was the ‘Trench War’ for the soldiers;
But Europe hailed it as ‘The War to End All Wars’,                
Expecting it to end prior to 1914’s Christmas!
But alas, it soon became a mighty global war
fueled by national and ethnic aspirations and
territorial lust!
The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, heir
to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, -
On the 28thof June 1914 at Sarajevo, was the
spark which triggered off this great catastrophe!
During 1876 when German Chancellor Bismarck
was asked about chances of an European War at
a future date;
He felt that Europe was like a big store house of
gunpowder keg!
While pointing to the volatile BALKANS he had said,
That European leaders were smoking in an arsenal,
where a small spark could cause a mighty explosion!
And 38 years later the world had witnessed,
Bismarck’s unfortunate prediction!
This war ended on 11th of November 1918, after a
four and half year’s long duration;
With 16.5 million military and civilian deaths, and
many more wounded and missing in action!
For the War had spread beyond the traditional
killing fields,
Killing many innocent civilians following the
bombing raids by German Zeppelins!
Now, before proceeding further some background
information here becomes necessary,
To understand the socio-political events leading
to the unfolding of this Great War Story!

         PRELUDE TO THE GREAT WAR
The Nationalistic fervor aroused by Napoleon,
And the February Revolution of 1848 in France,
Inspired Europe’s inhabitants to preserve their
ethnic and racial identities, without leaving
things to chance!
The Italian and German unification, and the
Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian polarization,
Aroused the expectations of the Slavic people,
Who remained spread all over Central and
Eastern Europe!
The various ethnic groups forming the Slavic race,
Always dreamt of an independent Balkan State!

         CAUSES FOR ‘THE GREAT WAR’
Imperialism, Nationalism, Militarization, Alliances,
and finally the assassination of the Archduke
Ferdinand,
Are the five main causes for this war, which is
generally mentioned by our Historians!
However, I shall now try to acquaint you briefly,  
With some relevant events from our recorded
History.

BRITISH IMPERIALISM:
Towards the turn of the 20th century Britain was
the dominant global imperial power;
And since the mid-19th Century it was seen that
the sun never set over the British Empire!
The British had a vast mercantile and a naval fleet,
To trade with, and administer their far flung colonies.
At the turn of the 20th Century the British Navy was
changing over from steam to oil power like other
big nations;
So the oil fields of the Middle East was important
for British militarization.
Also passage through the Suez Canal was vital for
maintaining their colonial possessions!
These facts will get linked up in Part Two of my
later composition!

GERMAN NATIONALISM:
The nationalistic fervor aroused in Germany
since Chancellor Bismarck’s days,
Made the Germans try to outstrip the British
in many ways!
This fervor was reflected in Goethe’s poetry and
through Richard Wagner’s musical notes;
Between 1898 and 1912 five Naval Laws were
passed in the German Reichstag, by majority
votes,
For building battleships, cruisers, and 96 torpedo
boats;
Which later became a scourge for Allied and
British shipping, known as the U-Boats!
The German nationalism and militarization went
hand in hand during those days,
While her industrialization also progressed at a
rapid pace.
Kaiser Wilhelm II had sought “a place in the sun”
by trying to outstrip the British in the arms race!
Statistic show more number of German scientists
had received the Noble Prize for their inventions,
Between this period and World War- II, when
compared with the combined winners of other
Western nations!

AUSTRIA-HUNGARIAN MONARCHY:
In 1867 by a comprising agreement between
Vienna and Budapest the capital cities,
The Austro-Hungarian kingdom became a Dual
Monarchy!
Many ethnic groups had composed this Monarchy
in those early days as we see;
With Germans, Hungarians, Romanians, and Slavic
people like the Czechs, Poles, Croats, Slovaks,
Serbs, and the Slovenes!
While the Austrian Officers of this Monarchy spoke
German, the majority of the soldiers were Hungarians,
Czechs, Slovaks, who never spoke German!
So the soldiers were taught 68 single-words of
German commands,
For the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army to function
collectively as one!
While Francis Joseph their sovereign and emperor,
aspired to become a strong centralized European
power.
But out of the 50 million people of this Monarchy
around 23 million were Slavs,
Who always dreamed of an independent Slavic
Kingdom in the Balkans!

THE BALKANS & THE KINGDOM OF SERBIA
After the Iberian and the Italian peninsulas of
Europe, the BALKAN peninsular is seen to be
lying in Europe’s extreme south east, -
South of the Danube and Sava River, bounded
in the west by the Adriatic and Ionian Sea.
In the east is the Aegean and Black Sea,
With the Mediterranean Sea in the south, -
washing the tip formed by Greece with its many
islands around!
Now much of the Balkan areas were under the
Ottoman Empire since early 14th Century;
And here I cut across many centuries of past
European History!
Following a series of revolutions since 1804
against the Turks,
The Principality of Serbia was carved out in the
area of the Balkans!
A new constitution in 1869 defined it as an
independent State of Serbia;
Was internationally recognized at the Treaty
of Berlin in 1878, to later become the Kingdom
of Serbia!
This kingdom was located south adjoining the
Monarchy of Austro-Hungarians, much to their
annoyance those days,
Since the Kingdom of Serbia was looked upon
as a ‘beacon of liberty’ by the Southern Slavic
race!

THE BOSNIAN CRISIS (1908-1909)  
This dual provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina
in the Balkans,
Were formally under the control of the
Ottoman Sultan.
With permission of the Congress of Berlin in
1878, it was administered by Austria-Hungary;
Though the legal rights remained with Turkey!
But the Slavic population present there had
Nationalistic ambitions,
Aspired to join the Slavs in nearby Kingdom of
Serbia, to form a pan-Slavic nation!
The Slavic population in Austria-Hungary, also
entertained such dreams wistfully!
Now in 1908 a ‘Young Turk Movement’ based
at Macedonia,
Had planned to replace the absolute Turkish
rule in Bosnia!
And by modernizing the Constitution hoped
to rejuvenate the sick Ottoman Empire.
These developments set alarm bells ringing
in Austrian capital Vienna!
So on the 6th of October 1908 they quickly
annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina!
After having lost a war with Japan, and following
an internal Revolution of 1905 the Russians,
Prevented an escalation by staying out of the
Bosnian Crisis!
But the annexation of Bosnia had angered the
Serbs greatly,
So they started to train secret terrorist groups to
liberate Bosnia from Austria-Hungary!
These terrorist groups operated in small cells,
Under the leadership of Col. Dimitrijevic, also
known as the ‘Apis’ those days.
Now, a secret cell called the ‘Black Hand’ operated
in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo with Gavrilo
Princep as one of its members;
Who was trained and equipped in Serbia along
with other ‘Black Hand’ members.
The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had remained
distressed about these subversive activities by
the Slavic race!
So in Jan 1909 they obtained the unconditional
support from Germany, in the event of a war
with Serbia even if Austria was the aggressor!
And also secretly hoped in a war to annex
Serbian territory!
For in the two Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913,
Serbia had greatly extended its territory to
become a powerful adversary!
Serbia had also obtained an assurance from
its protector Russia, should a war break out with
Austria!
Now, as tension mounted upsetting the delicate
balance of power in the Balkans gradually,
Archduke Franz Ferdinand with his wife Sophie,
planned to visit Sarajevo from Austria-Hungary!
It was a God sent moment for the secret
organization the ‘Black Hand’,
To plan the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand!

THE ASSASSINATION: SARAJEVO 28TH JUNE 1914
Now when I look back in time I pause to wonder,
How such an amateurish assassination plot could
have ever succeeded,
Without the cruel hands of destiny and fate!
The 28th of June was a bright summer’s St. Vitus
Day and a holiday in Serbia;
And also the 14th marriage anniversary of Franz
Fernandez and his wife Sophia!
Several assassins were positioned along the route,
Which was to be taken by the Archduke!
While the motorcade proceeded to the Town Hall
a bomb was thrown,
Which bounced off the rear of Archduke’s car,
Injuring few bystanders and a passenger in the
rear car!
The Archduke however refused to cancel his trip,
Saying that it was the act of some lunatic!
After completion of the Town Hall ceremony, the
Archduke wanted a change of plan deviating from
the laid down route;
By wanting to visit the patients in the hospital,
Injured by the bomb which had struck his cars
rear hood!
But the Czech driver was not briefed and took
a wrong turn by mistake;
Reversed trying to correct himself, stalled the car
stoppling next to Gavrilo Princep!
Presenting Princep with a stationary target, a
cruel work of destiny and fate!
Prince pulled out his pistol and fired two shots  
at a point blank range, killing both Ferdinand
and  wife Sophie;
When Ferdinand cried out ‘’Sophie, Sophie,
don’t die, live for the children’’, - words which
now remain enshrined in History!

TRIAL OF PRINCEP & THE CONSPIRATORS
The trial began in a military court on 12th of
October at Sarajevo,
With three judges and no jury, when Princep
pleaded 'Not Guilty'!
Killing of Duchess Sophie was an unplanned
accident,
Since he wanted to **** the Governor instead!
He claimed to be a Serbian nationalist working
for the unification of the Slavic race,
and detested the annexation of Bosnia by the
Austo-Hungarians!
Along with 15 other accused, Princep was found
guilty of high treason;
But being underage, was sentenced to 20 years
labour in prison.
But died three year's later from tuberculosis!

           CONCLUDING PART ONE
  ''Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
   There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
   But dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold."
      -Rupert Brook, part of the British Naval Expeditionary
       Force, buried in Skyros, Greece 1914.
Now, looking back over a hundred years in
hindsight I do realize,
That this assassination was not the immediate
cause or the spark which triggered this War,
But only an excuse and a pretext for the
Austro-Hungarians to carve up Serbia,
And distribute those territories between
Allies and friends of Austria;
Also enhance the prestige of their Empire!
Since the war had commenced almost two
months after the Archduke’s assassination,
Austria had lost the high moral ground for
vengeance with righteous indignation!
It was a cynical and a predetermined plan
of Austria in connivance with Germany,
To destroy Serbia and squash the hopes of
Slavic people for a pan-Slavic State, - as we
now get to see!
This war ended with the dissolution of four old
Empires of the Austro-Hungarians, Ottomans,
Tsarist Russians, and the Germans!
While new nations of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia,
Austria, and Hungary, got created from the
dissolved Empire of Austria-Hungary.
Russia gave up lands creating Finland, Estonia,
Latvia, and Lithuania.
The Ottomans gave up lands in SW Asia and the
Middle East, and in Europe retained only Turkey!
Thus this Great War had creating new nation states,
And gave Europe its new revamped face!
Composed by Raj Nandy of New Delhi,
Thanks for reading patiently!
   TO BE CONTINUED LATER AS PART TWO
**ALL COPY RIGHTS ARE WITH THE AUTHOR
Dear Readers, this is a product of three weeks of my research work, put across in simplified verse! Hope to compose Part Two at a later date, and tell you about trench warfare & the poems composed about this War! On the 28th of June 2015, 101 years of this First World War was completed! Kindly give Comments only after reading in your spare time, for this Great War  took place during our grandfather's time! Thanks! -Raj
Nigel Morgan Nov 2012
There’s a film by John Schlesinger called the Go-Between in which the main character, a boy on the cusp of adolescence staying with a school friend on his family’s Norfolk estate, discovers how passion and *** become intertwined with love and desire. As an elderly man he revisits the location of this discovery and the woman, who we learn changed his emotional world forever. At the start of the film we see him on a day of grey cloud and wild wind walking towards the estate cottage where this woman now lives. He glimpses her face at a window – and the film flashes back fifty years to a summer before the First War.
 
It’s a little like that for me. Only, I’m sitting at a desk early on a spring morning about to step back nearly forty years.*
 
It was a two-hour trip from Boston to Booth Bay. We’d flown from New York on the shuttle and met Larry’s dad at St Vincent’s. We waited in his office as he put away the week with his secretary. He’d been in theatre all afternoon. He kept up a two-sided conversation.
 
‘You boys have a good week? Did you get to hear Barenboim at the Tully? I heard him as 14-year old play in Paris. He played the Tempest -  Mary, let’s fit Mrs K in for Tuesday at 5.0 - I was learning that very Beethoven sonata right then. I couldn’t believe it - that one so young could sound –there’s that myocardial infarction to review early Wednesday. I want Jim and Susan there please -  and look so  . . . old, not just mature, but old. And now – Gloria and I went to his last Carnegie – he just looks so **** young.’
 
Down in the basement garage Larry took his dad’s keys and we roared out on to Storow drive heading for the Massachusetts Turnpike. I slept. Too many early mornings copying my teacher’s latest – a concerto for two pianos – all those notes to be placed under the fingers. There was even a third piano in the orchestra. Larry and his Dad talked incessantly. I woke as Dr Benson said ‘The sea at last’. And there we were, the sea a glazed blue shimmering in the July distance. It might be lobster on the beach tonight, Gloria’s clam chowder, the coldest apple juice I’d ever tasted (never tasted apple juice until I came to Maine), settling down to a pile of art books in my bedroom, listening to the bell buoy rocking too and fro in the bay, the beach just below the house, a house over 150 years old, very old they said, in the family all that time.
 
It was a house full that weekend,  4th of July weekend and there would be fireworks over Booth Bay and lots of what Gloria called necessary visiting. I was in love with Gloria from the moment she shook my hand after that first concert when my little cummings setting got a mention in the NYT. It was called forever is now and God knows where it is – scored for tenor and small ensemble (there was certainly a vibraphone and a double bass – I was in love from afar with a bassist at J.). Oh, this being in love at seventeen. It was so difficult not to be. No English reserve here. People talked to you, were interested in you and what you thought, had heard, had read. You only had to say you’d been looking at a book of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings and you’d be whisked off to some uptown gallery to see his early watercolours. And on the way you’d hear a life story or some intimate details of friend’s affair, or a great slice of family history. Lots of eye contact. Just keep the talk going. But Gloria, well, we would meet in the hallway and she’d grasp my hand and say – ‘You know, Larry says that you work too hard. I want you to do nothing this weekend except get some sun and swim. We can go to Johnson’s for tennis you know. I haven’t forgotten you beat me last time we played!’ I suppose she was mid-thirties, a shirt, shorts and sandals woman, not Larry’s mother but Dr Benson’s third. This was all very new to me.
 
Tim was Larry’s elder brother, an intern at Felix-Med in NYC. He had a new girl with him that weekend. Anne-Marie was tall, bespectacled, and supposed to be ferociously clever. Gloria said ‘She models herself on Susan Sontag’. I remember asking who Sontag was and was told she was a feminist writer into politics. I wondered if Anne-Marie was a feminist into politics. She certainly did not dress like anyone else I’d seen as part of the Benson circle. It was July yet she wore a long-sleeved shift buttoned up to the collar and a long linen skirt down to her ankles. She was pretty but shapeless, a long straight person with long straight hair, a clip on one side she fiddled with endlessly, purposefully sometimes. She ignored me but for an introductory ‘Good evening’, when everyone else said ‘Hi’.
 
The next day it was hot. I was about the house very early. The apple juice in the refrigerator came into its own at 6.0 am. The bay was in mist. It was so still the bell buoy stirred only occasionally. I sat on the step with this icy glass of fragrant apple watching the pearls of condensation form and dissolve. I walked the shore, discovering years later that Rachel Carson had walked these paths, combed these beaches. I remember being shocked then at the concern about the environment surfacing in the late sixties. This was a huge country: so much space. The Maine woods – when I first drove up to Quebec – seemed to go on forever.
 
It was later in the day, after tennis, after trying to lie on the beach, I sought my room and took out my latest score, or what little of it there currently was. It was a piano piece, a still piece, the kind of piece I haven’t written in years, but possibly should. Now it’s all movement and complication. Then, I used to write exactly what I heard, and I’d heard Feldman’s ‘still pieces’ in his Greenwich loft with the white Rauschenbergs on the wall. I had admired his writing desk and thought one day I’ll have a desk like that in an apartment like this with very large empty paintings on the wall. But, I went elsewhere . . .
 
I lay on the bed and listened to the buoy out in the bay. I thought of a book of my childhood, We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome. There’s a drawing of a Beach End Buoy in that book, and as the buoy I was listening to was too far out to see (sea?) I imagined it as the one Ransome drew from Lowestoft harbour. I dozed I suppose, to be woken suddenly by voices in the room next door. It was Tim and Anne-Marie. I had thought the house empty but for me. They were in Tim’s room next door. There was movement, whispering, almost speech, more movement.
 
I was curious suddenly. Anne-Marie was an enigma. Tim was a nice guy. Quiet, dedicated (Larry had said), worked hard, read a lot, came to Larry’s concerts, played the cello when he could, Bach was always on his record player. He and Anne-Marie seemed so close, just a wooden wall away. I stood by this wall to listen.
 
‘Why are we whispering’, said Anne-Marie firmly, ‘For goodness sake no one’s here. Look, you’re a doctor, you know what to do surely.’
 
‘Not yet.’
 
‘But people call you Doctor, I’ve heard them.’
 
‘Oh sure. But I’m not, I’m just a lousy intern.’
 
‘A lousy intern who doesn’t want to make love to me.’
 
Then, there was rustling, some heavy movement and Tim saying ‘Oh Anne, you mustn’t. You don’t need to do this.’
 
‘Yes I do. You’re hard and I’m wet between my legs. I want you all over me and inside me.  I wanted you last night so badly I lay on my bed quite naked and masturbated hoping you come to me. But you didn’t. I looked in on you and you were just fast asleep.’
 
‘You forget I did a 22-hour call on Thursday’.
 
“And the rest. Don’t you want me? Maybe your brother or that nice English boy next door?’
 
‘Is he next door? ‘
 
‘If he is, I don’t care. He looks at me you know. He can’t work me out. I’ve been ignoring him. But maybe I shouldn’t. He’s got beautiful eyes and lovely hands’.
 
There was almost silence for what seemed a long time. I could hear my own breathing and became very aware of my own body. I was shaking and suddenly cold. I could hear more breathing next door. There was a shaft of intense white sunlight burning across my bed. I imagined Anne-Marie sitting cross-legged on the floor next door, her hand cupping her right breast fingers touching the ******, waiting. There was a rustle of movement. And the door next door slammed.
 
Thirty seconds later Tim was striding across the garden and on to the beach and into the sea . . .
 
There was probably a naked young woman sitting on the floor next door I thought. Reading perhaps. I stayed quite still imagining she would get up, open her door and peek into my room. So I moved away from the wall and sat on the bed trying hard to look like a composer working on a score. And she did . . . but she had clothes on, though not her glasses or her hair clip, and she wore a bright smile – lovely teeth I recall.
 
‘Good afternoon’, she said. ‘You heard all that I suppose.’
 
I smiled my nicest English smile and said nothing.
 
‘Tell me about your girlfriend in England.’
 
She sat on the bed, cross-legged. I was suddenly overcome by her scent, something complex and earthy.
 
‘My girlfriend in England is called Anne’.
 
‘Really! Is she pretty? ‘
 
I didn’t answer, but looked at my hands, and her feet, her uncovered calves and knees. I could see the shape of her slight ******* beneath her shirt, now partly unbuttoned. I felt very uncomfortable.
 
‘Tell me. Have you been with this Anne in England?’
 
‘No.’ I said, ‘I ‘d like to, but she’s very shy.’
 
‘OK. I’m an Anne who’s not shy.’
 
‘I’ve yet to meet a shy American.’
 
‘They exist. I could find you a nice shy girl you could get to know.’
 
‘I’d quite like to know you, but you’re a good bit older than me.’
 
‘Oh that doesn’t matter. You’re quite a mature guy I think. I’d go out with you.’
 
‘Oh I doubt that.’
 
‘Would you go out with me?’
 
‘You’re interesting.  Gloria says you’re a bit like Susan Sontag. Yes, I would.’
 
‘Wow! did she really? Ok then, that’s a deal. You better read some Simone de Beauvoir pretty quick,’  and she bounced off the bed.
 
After supper  - lobster on the beach - Gloria cornered me and said. ‘I gather you heard all this afternoon.’
 
I remembered mumbling a ‘yes’.
 
‘It’s OK,’ she said, ‘Anne-Marie told me all. Girls do this you know – talk about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. What could you do? I would have done the same. Tim’s not ready for an Anne-Marie just yet, and I’m not sure you are either. Not my business of course, but gentle advice from one who’s been there. ‘
 
‘Been where?’
 
‘Been with someone older and supposedly wiser. And remembering that wondering-what-to-do-about-those-feelings-around-*** and all that. There’s a right time and you’ll know it when it comes. ‘
 
She kissed me very lightly on my right ear, then got up and walked across the beach back to the house.
NeroameeAlucard Nov 2014
We've been texting and calling for six months
and now it's reached its culmination
when you surprised me one day
you're coming here for vacation

I ran out to the store immediately
bought condoms, **** n toys
I also warned the neighbors
because we were gonna Make lots of noise,

I met you at the airport
you're even more beautiful in person
we talked on the way to my apartment
you wouldn't forget this I'd be certain

when we finally arrived you saw I lit some candles and laid some flowers on my bed
we kissed caught up with the moment
and lust flowing through our heads

I laid down below you because you wanted to be in charge
we kissed again while between your legs
I got ever so hard

You slid my shaft out of its pocket
and bounced on me without hesitation
As we got caught up in all the passion
you screamed MY GOD WHAT A VACATION!
Oma
Bounced

a mother figure
to two, a name
on a Christmas card
to four

when I realised
I was still a
child

and bitterness
wasn't an
option

I grew up
like a broken
nose

out of joint

Bounced

at the service
there are tears
beside me

I imagine a
body burning
and feel
warm

the lick of flames
on gray skin

my indifference
grows like I
imagine the
fire roaring

behind the curtain

heating up

Bounced

the house is
empty and
smells

unusual

like something has
been left in there
too long

they are not
there now but
it lingers

I tried to take
her dresses but
she was thinner
as a girl than
I am now

jealously

is a feeling
I'm familiar with

and it's easier
to understand

Bounced

we are waiting
for a buyer

and I imagine
how it feels
to have a piece
of your heart
trapped in bricks
and mortar

Bounced

one time,
I wanted to ask her
how it felt to
take notes of
the war

if she'd ever thought
of waving a white
flag and crumbling

drowning in the
rubble rain of
The Blitz

I wanted to hear
her say something
human

so I could
visualise and
see a bit of
her in myself

Bounced

I'm still caught up
on the autopsy
like a piece of
fatty tissue on
a scalpel

and my thoughts
are metal and
cold

the number of
zeroes on a
cheque

Bounced
Shashank Virkud Dec 2010
You were a different version of the religion,
you were a ****** of the region when we met.
I had the brownest eyes. You had the greenest eyes.
chin sits perfectly in shoulder,
hand fits in hand, molded.
I had hair like a little girl's. You had hair like a little boy's.
Both half ******, my arms were as thin as yours, and toned.
You didn't own a single curve, just edges and bone.
Only your lips were soft. Only my lips were soft.
The fading light bounced off the angles of my abdomen and visible ribcage,
made your mouth water. With a shy,
curling finger,
you called me over to you.
It drove me wilder.

We undressed each other under the covers.
You giggled and I crumbled when you saw
I needed help with the clasp of your bra.
I chuckled, returned the favor when you gave up on my belt buckle.
I had the body of a little girl. You had the body of a little  boy.
The sheets wound around and pressed us together,
You had the hardest hips. I had the hardest hips.
You compromised what was inside your mind;
I felt those first few moans rattle your
visible ribcage and escape through lips pursed
like a porcelain doll.
Took it all in, held on to your fragile frame
and from the moment we were free,
two children in the wilderness.
This story is called death of a superhero.

We see the superhero flying at full speed after a getaway vehicle.  A group of armed men just robbed over one million dollars in cash from the bank and are now speeding through the city.  He darts back and forth to dodge the shower of bullets flying at him from the car, which was preventing him from getting any closer.

"I can't let these crooks get away," he grunted to himself as he curved back and forth through the air.

Suddenly he was blind sighted by a large black object coming from the car.  It was a high powered electric tazer.  It hit him in the side and his muscles locked up, he stopped mid air and went crashing down and smacked and bounced on the ground.  This bought the thieves time to escape from his view.  By the time he got out of it and regained control of his muscles enough to fly, the crooks had maneuvered the city like a maze, and he didn't know where to look, they had gotten away.  He looked over several city blocks and couldn't find him, and was forced to give up.

"****" he said to himself.

He flew off to the nearby park and found a secluded spot to meditate and heal.

That was the forth unsuccessful attempt to catch bank robbers this week!



On the news that night

"The Tomerarenai purotto corporation just received over $5 million dollars in donations from an anonymous donor this evening for their new project on Zenchō hill outside city limits.

The project to build a new factory there has been underway for three months now and they've really been moving along thanks to the help of all these private donors that must really believe in their cause, which of coarse is to develop new "greener" technology to help the environment and cut down on pollution.

We have a spokesperson for the organization here with us now how are you?"

"Good and thank you, I'm really honored to be part of this amazing organization and to see such a great turn out of donors for such a good cause.  It's been amazing with over 37 million dollars donated by private, anonymous donors over the last three months, it's amazing..."

About half the city watched that news broadcast stream into their homes on their television sets.



It was about 2am when the superhero came out of his meditative state in the park.  

He got up energized and flew around.

He saw some guy trying to steal some lady's purse, he zipped down and stood right behind the guy without him even noticing.

The guy got the purse turned around and ran right into him and knocked himself down.

"What do you think you're doing?" the superhero said authoritarily.  Then he lunged in grabbed the guy by the shirt at the scruff of the chest.  With his other hand he picked up the lady's purse, handed it to her, and told her to go home and get out of the dangerous night city streets.  Then he flew the criminal to the police station, told them what he had witnessed, and took off.

Suddenly he heard police sirens all over the city they seemed to be closing in on a specific area, the superhero flew to that area to see what was going on.

He found a police sergeant standing next to a cop car, and stopped to ask him what's going on.

"A masked lunatic just killed 19 people and is now trying to escape in a small silver car, we've got every available unit trying to hunt him down."

He wasted no time, taking up in the air leaving a wind in his wake, the superhero started quickly combing the city for a small silver car driving conspicuously.  He found one, and when he flew over it to check it out, all of a sudden he had gunshots being fired at him from inside the car.

"This must be it," he charged the car with full speed but the driver sped up to keep ahead of him.

This isn't going to work, he thought, I should make them think they lost me and follow them secretly and see where they go.

The next time a gunshot was fired the superhero grabbed his chest and purposefully fell down, to make them think he had been shot.  Once their guard was down he followed them in secret.

They drove outside of the city thinking they had lost all tails, down a couple winding roads, then climbed Zenchō hill toward the Tomerarenai purotto corporation's construction spot, then went inside.  

The superhero landed outside the building and contemplated his next plan.  He noticed an open window to an office on the second floor, he carefully peered through the window and saw no one in the office, he flew in and landed on the floor careful not to make a sound above a mouse squeak.  He quietly crept through the empty hallways until he reached the staircase, when he heard voices whispering downstairs, "He's gonna be here any minute/ get everything ready."  

The hero thought he had no time to lose, he took to the air, bolted down stairs and with a loud dramatic voice yelled "Halt!"

"He's here!" they yelled as one of them ran toward a giant device that looked like a satellite dish, and the other one ran and pulled a rope, dropping piles and piles of smoldering coal around the superhero that immediately made him so sick he could barely move.  industrial type smoke was his weakness.  

"We've been planning for you to come here," the guy in the mask said firing up the satellite dish looking weapon and pointing it at him.  

"W-What do you want?" the superhero asked weakened, frail, and short of breath on his hands and knees on the floor.

"To **** you so you won't stand in our way"

The superhero was growing weaker, and weaker, as the giant atomic laser pointed at him started glowing red, I told you this story was called "death of a superhero".

"Death, of a superhero?"  the superhero grunted, "DEATH, of a SUPERHERO!?!" he shouted again, "YOU'VE BEEN ORCHESTRATING MY DEATH!" The superhero yelled at the narrator.  

Yes I have, the narrator said all the people in the room could hear me, I've been planning your death since before you went after that getaway vehicle, I have such omnipotent like power over your world, I'm the reason the taser gave the one's working for these two time to escape, I'm the reason you never checked this place out until everything was ready, and now I get to watch these two **** you, and laugh, knowing that you'll never find me and there's nothing you can do to change events.

Now, the beam was fully charged

"No!" the superhero thought, "up till this point, I thought I had to go along with everything the narrator said, but no!"  He started to slowly manage to get up.

The masked killer hit the button, fired the laser, and killed the superhero instantly.

Wait what?

"You think you can just **** me by saying so," the superhero grunted out louder slowly rising to his feet.  Mentally forcing his body to work even in the presence of his weakness, in reality, contrary to what the narrator said, the beam was still charging.  

"No!" the superhero continued, getting stronger and healthier, "THERE WILL BE NO DEATH OF A SUPER HERO!!!" suddenly the superhero's personal energy was strong enough to clear a bubble around him of fresh air pushing the smoke around it.  He flew through the air at bullet speed and punched the masked killer across the room and out of consciousness.  Then he went for the assistant who was running to the door, in the heat of the moment, the superhero, hitting him up from behind, punched a hole straight through his skull and he fell to the ground head-gored-dead.  The superhero deactivated the laser. and stood and looked around to try and find that supervillian mastermind, the narrator.  

"You will never find me," the narrator said, "I exist in an inexcusable part of your reality."

Then another voice broke through, "I will open up a portal to the narrator for you" the author said, "be wary though, even in his own part of this dimension, he is very frippery and slick, you must not let him break free into you're general reality, lest he end your world."

Suddenly a glowing golden sword appeared in a light before the superhero, he took it and bowed, understanding what he was to do.

A shimmering white and grey portal swirled out of thin air.  He looked at it for a second as it grew outwards until it was big enough for him to walk through.  He slowly marched into it, guard heightened as he did not know what to expect, carrying the glowing golden sword behind his back.

Inside the portal was a large white room where the narrator lived.  there was a large white shelf, four walls and a ceiling, the portal remained open.  

He looked around but didn't see the narrator at first, when he realized the narrator had filled half the room with a thick white fog to mask himself.

"Show yourself you coward!" the hero yelled.  Sudddenly a large fist came out of the fog and punched the superhero right in the face, he stumbled back a few steps, but didn't let it knock him over.  Suddenly a humanoid figure stepped out of the fog, it had a body like a man but a head like a king cobra.

"S--sssss--o" it said, "you found a way to find me," "Hisssssssssssss..."

"I found you and I will destroy you to free my world from your evil," the superhero said.

"Is-s that sssssssssso" the beast said.  "And how do you plan to do that? Hisssssssss".

Then the narrator's eyes widened when he say the glowing gold sword behind his back.

"I will cover myself in armor that that sword can't pierce." He said.

"And an armor appeared around the narrator, except it only appeared to cover his head, and his face was still bare." The narrator said and it happened.

The superhero lunged at the narrator with the sword but the narrator slipped to the right and shot ***** of fire at the superhero, but the superhero dodged.

"And his hand got shaky and it greatly effected his aim," the narrator hissed out.

The superhero swung at the narrator, but missed everytime.

"I've got to steady my aim" the superhero thought to himself, putting most of his energy into his arm to hold it steady.  The narrator backed away from him, hissing and darting back and forth as if antagonizing him, perhaps trying to distract him and his focus.

Suddenly he felt a surge of energy push back from the sword, flow up his arm and flood his body, the sword glowed brighter and he was in control of himself again.

He went after the narrator full force, swinging and jabbing the sword, but the narrator dodged every attack.

"You'll never defeat me!" the narrator hissed.

But while he said that he lost focus, and the superhero swung the sword right into the side of the human part of the body, so deep it hit something metal and stopped.  

"Then he dropped the sword," the narrator said quickly and it happened.  The superhero's hand snapped wide open before his willpower could stop it, and the sword dropped to the ground with a "shink".

Acting super fast, the narrator dropped to the ground and picked up the sword with his teeth, and slithered out of his fake, damaged human body into his true form, a giant king cobra looking snake, covered in a heavy metal armor that was scaly and didn't restrict his movements.  Quickly, he slithered  over to the portal, but the superhero grabbed his lower armor before he got a chance to escape into the hero's world, and used his body to anchor the snake to that spot.

The narrator swung and slithered his body to try to free himself from the hero's hold but he was holding on to well, and the serpent could not escape.  

The hero did not know what to do, he needed to get the sword back and slay the serpent, but he had to keep both hands on him to keep him from getting free.

He had an idea, he used his legs to help anchor the serpent, and climbed him to get to his head to retrieve the sword.  Slowly he worked his way up the snake as he slithered and struggled to get free.  When it seemed inevitable that the hero was gonna get the sword back, the serpent spit it out and it landed next to the door.  Then he shot fireballs out of his mouth at point blank range at the superhero which distracted him enough for him to loose his grasp, and let the serpent break free.  The serpent quickly slithered over to the portal, hissed "goodbye sucker", mouthed the sword once again, and slithered out the portal.

The superhero jumped up and flew after the serpent, and crash landed onto of him on the other side of the now closing portal.  

"The masked murderer woke up and came over to help the narrator," the serpent hissed out.

Suddenly the masked murderer came over and the hero was trying to get him on his side to break the stalemate.

As the snake and the superhero wrestled, the superhero called out to the masked murderer, "Don't help him, if he escapes me now, he'll destroy the world!"

"Don't listen to your enemy," the narrator hissed out, "**** him!"

"Don't listen to him," the superhero tried to reason with him, "he's just manipulating you, everybody, he's the reason you wanted to **** me and do this whole project in the first place, YOU ultimately have free will! and we need to **** him."

The narrator strikes and bit the superhero's arm for telling the masked killer he had free will.  

"What do you need!" the masked ****** shouted when he got over there.  

"**** him" the serpent hissed out!

"The sword!" the hero shouted.

The masked murderer, not knowing what to do, picked up the sword and handed it to the hero.

The superhero used it to pry off a piece of the serpent's armor, poised it into position and struck down.  The narrator shifted his body however so the sword narrowly missed, and curved his tail so the open spot in the armor was underneath him, "Grab him!" the superhero said, hold him steady so I can get a good shot."

The Masked murderer did just that, and the hero drove the sword through the opening and impaled the narrator right there, and actually cut him in two.

"But then the narrator's body sealed at the womb and he slithered free" the serpent said and it happened, and he slithered at full speed toward the same door the masked murderer's assistant tried to escape through, and he was making distance.

"And then a layer of cement formed around the superhero's ankle so he couldn't chase the narrator." and a piece of cement attached to the floor formed around his ankle.

But the superhero made quick work of that, a **** of the leg and it reduced to crumbles and he got up and chased the serpent.

The serpent got outside the door and mumbled something, suddenly the door was a pure steel wall.  Three punches by the superhero weakened the steel and severely dented it, the forth punch and it went flying off and the superhero ran outside and saw the narrator escaping into the brush.  He knew what he had to do, he lunged at him and grabbed him just by the head, and ****** the sword through a hail of fireballs straight into it's mouth, the narrator couldn't speak to reverse that action and he died shortly after.
This is not a poem
Hal Loyd Denton Jun 2013
This time for Oklahoma



I re-post this for our last battel field Boston these words are nothing but as you read you will find the one who lives in them and He is everything all the comfort and hope we can ever want


Sorry if this seems at first confusing all my friends on facebook and Redbullble will get it right away as
I asked them to use their love and caring to pray for my hurting distraught friend at her time of great
Loss if you are hurting it will help to at least a degree or it will help at times of future loss

Well dear sweet precious Addy this brutal day is at an end I hope you sleep well I prayed for you and
Kathleen’s son way into the night at first I was terrified you weren’t going to get my post and you would
Enter as I told my wife you would enter the lion’s den the lions all have familiar names pain sorrow
Grief and many others and they maul with cruelty without pity I didn’t want ether of you to take those
Fatal steps without your armor not to be to descriptive but reality waited with a blast I tried to diffuse the
Coffin the grave and headstone never could I do it immeasurably my fight for you could only be in the
Smallest victories comfort mined at times like these is like uranium white silver metallic with almost
A power that can’t be harnessed the same as loss of a love one what blow back again the same as a
Nuclear test one problem you don’t get the protection of a bunker no just suffer the blast in your
Body mind and heart you are stepping in to the shoes the same as young woman who lost her father
That as she described him he was the light of her life our paths crossed on line when I thought she
Was a classmate’s wife her story of her dad touched me deeply I’m going to add that piece here plus
The comfort I tried to write for my friend that was more like my brother when his mother died I will
Include a small background so it wail make more since let me add those here the first was Fathers story
What you read here is her hearts knowing and the undying love that it created and that continues.
His precious hands were removed from earthly things. A great and gentle man his greatest possessions his family. I only knew him from his business and the fact that one of his beautiful daughters married a classmate of mine. Then much later by error I made acquaintance with another of his daughters you can tell a lot about a person from the actions of his children. She told me that he passed away and that he was the light of her life. With God’s help I would like to pay tribute to him.
A light did shine it was magnified by the eyes of a daughters love. He took his journey he went above his ship was the care they shared he the captain made the course straight and true he didn’t slow her run until heaven was in plain view they would have cheered but it hard to see through eyes filled with tears. All the wonderful years seemed to be eclipsed by the sickness that came it seemed an angry wind from their lives this stalwart precious soul it did rend. It left the greatest empty hole it took the longest time to fill and then with the sweetest cooing the grand babies made the hole enlivened not the terrible twisted knot that had the family bound but without being able to speak a word gram paw was found. If you looked in their faces his smile is bound to bundles only heaven can design. I’m not saying they asked him how to work these miracles yet this is true he watched with intense interest and was happiest since his departure he knew that back through time and space healing was for all time secured. Their stoic acceptance could now be laid aside the family could run in softer climes know the sweetest of times that were thought to be forever gone.
Love spills down from heights distance is only on a map in peoples heart its no farther than the end of your finger tips. Images are so strong not because we have great minds it’s easy to make these rich finds when your love and its power shake the foundation of the universe is it not said that love is the greatest power. Oh how so many in dark shadows cower when they possess the power to ignite the world on fire. From heart to heart it does dart the wildness of the spirit is told blotting out all of the cold. Yes there is winter but also the spring. The light spoken of is no longer beholden to earth and so the family is free by love he joins his light to the Christ the all glowing light
Life force by haldenton
To all who have lost heroes
This was written to Eva’s son Bill to help him at her passing. With this writing I took him back thirty years when he was in the truck wreck that killed his dad his recovery saved his mother I hoped by him being reminded of that now it would help him the same way.
Tribute to Eva Wafford Life force
For all who lost heroes
In your soul freshly the wind of death did blow.
Cold eerie shadows marched against your tender broken heart.
What defense could this onslaught repel agony’s volcanic flow.
Ominous well filled with grief from this weight no relief.
The child the grim reaper did spare.
Only after leaving the body bruised and in despair.
From this broken body drops of mercy started to make the mother well.
I held your trembling frame today this memory rings sweet as a bell.
Streets and houses without number fill the land.
I can’t help when I look to recall memories grand.
Now they are but dreams that ache in the night.
Images that over ride the present in their glory I take flight.
Brush aside caution raise your voice as a trumpet.
They live only in yesterdays even so indelibly they wrote their stories.
We hold our children we cling only a moment as mist on the summit.
Your life Eva continues to build the next generation.
Your voice is heard in the breath of your grandchildren.
Wonders they spin from golden thread, now that you have gone ahead.
Your spirit glows in the fire that warms the house against winter.
Summer’s cool breeze not sent by chance she doe’s tenderly incite.
Death silently said what I already knew.
To me you were always immortal you were bigger than life
Many were the days when the wind of storms blew
those who know us feel the calm; this is only your life on review

One more
Simply Jim
Old Abe said it right ‘It is right and fitting that we speak these words here to honor these lives so honorably lived. I can say that about Jim and this also he was a prince among men if I do this right the words will convince you.
He had a gentle way and nature he spoke softly but a softness that flowed to you like ribbons that bounced in a little girl’s hair how delightful. He should have been a doctor his hands his mannerism was ideal for that job. I guess thats what made him stand out so strongly like a gentle calm breeze if you came in a panic his soul would float down around you like a parachute first it safely brings you from great anxiety and exaltation to a graceful landing then gently envelops you in its silken embrace. I had this privilege of watching him inter act with his wife as I said and truly he was a prince and I was the beggar that benefitted richly from the sidelines God knew my needs.
He was called from this life but all the days he filled before his home going are the sustaining force noticeably seen felt with keen awareness you know that a gentleman passed this way. In the lives left behind there is a blend of sadness and astonishment you realize you are looking at the work of a master workman who left behind a tightly and perfectly fitted family this unfortunately is sadly rare in this society that boast of its accomplishments.
As a friend his breadth and depth was sufficient you weren’t a burden he had a way of dispelling trouble making you understand with wisdom and unerring judgment then with ease you could extricate yourself from the problem. His heavenly father filled him with tenderness it stood him and others well in a somewhat crabby world. If you’re pressed and anxious about life take from this life expressed. A portion of the good will you need use it as a defense Jim couldn’t be everywhere but God saw fit to make an original that you can duplicate benefit from and be a part of his ongoing legacy. Thanks friend for a life lived well

Well hurting one in the earlier part of a writing I said I am God’s battle field reporter and medic
These writings are my bandages and gauze God gave me great big hands and I fill them with
Salve with all the love I know I gently apply it to your broken hurting wounds mingle it with
Tears that are not always mine alone but His mixes with mine one day He will abolish all tears
Until then this is our duty your heart we hear and we can do no other God bless you Addy and
Your nephew and all others who find this helpful

Mirrored Pool


Wonder for all the hurts

First I knelt just to see my reflection then the depths started to reveal first the flowing thoughts were
Restrained and then a bubbling seemed to dislodge from greater depths hard truths churned with
Violent twisting but the motion made it impossible to turn away there were great large white clouds
From depths then even above the pool they rose fourteen stories high the sensation was you were
Standing outside clear air intoxicating views the pulse of many were throbbing in your ears their
Thoughts and dreams were known and their sorrows were weights that pulled you from the heights
It was a colossal game of tag and you were it first reaction fear then the appearance of bundled gifts
Broke down the fear it was promise in different sizes that met the required needs it was like a divine
Warehouse had just made a delivery there were cards with names and writing gave clarification tears
And smiles intermingled then the outer knowing postulated the difficulty the puzzle an enormous
Streaming that was now congested and it was beginning a vortex all was understood now human thought
With doubts was pulling the answer into this destructive hole where was one to find the lever to stop
This action that would disallow was the answer to touch the water bring the finger to my lips possibly
A blazing thought would occur that would strike the mind no all that brought was words that had the
Letters jumbled they made no sense unless there is a special book that is alive in it the letters and words
Are already set but they cover every act in the human condition the broken can pour over the pages
You won’t find thorns to repel your efforts there are thorns but they will speak and assuage your hurts
At the most basic and needed levels the points of your hurts will begin to dissolve from your eyes to
Your mind this inward rush and power will dislodge even spears driven deep by enemies carried for
Years you searched in vain over sad and lonely paths and days now you journey is at an end thorns of
Suffering for another produces profound power and mercy go in peace beloved one another bears your
Burden now maybe words cut you at depths you can’t even identify what if there is an antidote in a
Book you pick it up with trembling hands your body tingles from the knowledge that this is ancient texts
It will have a revival of appreciation in this world of texting but with gentle fingers and eyes that glow
With respect as you see the wisdom and the love cannot be denied you leave the world you know and
With total abandonment you swim in this sea of words until the your tears spill on this rich world of
Words those cruel barbed words that pierced tender skin and have bled internally all of these years
Begin to dissolve with stories and accounts of betrayals then the swells love and mercy you read about
Restoration not always found after apologies are given but the teaching of forgiveness strikes a cord
You have been made free from your prison the tangles of life are great as a great black cloud it hangs
Over head many are its troubles this isn’t mild but the disruptive made to strike and pierce deep the
Hidden that steals the morning blessing while other feast your hunger and unrest only enlarges a
Tormenting unquenchable fire a slow burn this is a forest being burned at the thermal level the hidden
Roots a slow process destructive but not so visible agony torture I have seen men crawl in war or fire
Fighting that where all else is lost you will know greater thrills than any other living soul with the
Desperate and those heavy burdened unable to stand a word will flow it puts out fires and gives
The luxurious buoyancy heaviness changed to joy the bouncy laughter every outward blast attack
The enemy launches is within its pages they are repelled overwhelmed by love you suffer unduly
If you don’t hold this fortress this informative book of stratagems that have made everyone a victor
Who has ever found themselves at their wits end no place on earth has a contingency plan though it
Will make the greatest claims all is just empty air when life as it too often does ***** the very air of life
Out we practically are unconscious but this help this rescue is activated by one name it’s not just a book
But the word is a person what a pool you will find what a reflection will engage you beyond your hope
To imagine just say Jesus all will be total peace your heart will know no more sorrow peace will surpass
Sorrow love will disallow the specter that was once a constant it will disappear it will return to the
Darkness from which it came stand in this newness totally free abide by still waters as the good
Sheppard stands by bless you



Disgrace

This land void of devotion gone is the church steeples.
Replaced by voices and shadows of drug dealers on each corner.
Now they are the keepers, lost cities, death stalks its peoples.
Nothing is sacred in this polluted and diffused land.

No longer hallowed be thy name, it’s as if he never came.
Forgotten is any standard of moral excellence.
The once high ideals only represent a fool’s parlance.
Man declares I throw off these restraints only to find darker chains.

The book that once guided this great land.
We now betray with each waking day.
Our hearts and mind it did ignite, now it’s word we can’t stand.
Powerless and feeble we stumble, anxious ever moment.

Just to remember is not enough, best confess our pride.
Make sacrifice with our lips, to burn on altars on high.
There is a short season for all to make amends to regain our stride.
March on to glory with it burning on the inside.

You don’t have to be astute in business to see the sound investment.
Bring your poverty of spirit leave with the riches of his last testament.
It offers the greatest rate of exchange.
Light for darkness, life for death, selfless love for selfishness.


Streaks of Jefferson


In freedom’s blessed glorified sky through streaks of immortal gold his visage we behold
He looks upon the fields of liberty that he and the founding fathers sowed he sees the

Richness America has become he also beheld her struggles catastrophic wars abroad
And the most painful the one that divided the nation marred it with southern and northern

Blood saw the affable the sad giant Lincoln take the reins of discontent hold them by
Shear will and with uncommon sagacity guided it back in line to fulfill its destiny as the

Powerful fount that would always pour forth waters of freedom for all of earths peoples
Total unconditional acceptance of liberty and all the fruit it bears to establish a

Government like no other this golden grain has waved under bluest skies and brightest
Sun light its rich harvest has gone to darkest prison cells Mandela was sustained by it

For twenty nine years and by its moral purity it fed the lives of those that over threw
Apartied and Mandela finally freed by principals it avows rose from prison clothes

To wear the mantle of president of his country and the honor of the man instilled
Quality that transcended political office Jefferson not to be disrespectful to his progeny

Whispers today’s politicians could do well to look on this African model of good
Stewardship of public trust with that Jefferson faded back into the mist pray that’s
Not the fate of this country
Mymai Yuan Sep 2010
Barely awake, it was only dawn
My sleepy feet stumbled out the front door
And onto the old swing on the grassy lawn

Awake in peaceful stillness, like death
No one else in the entire neighborhood
Not a sound, nor a breath

I yawned, my vision spinning side to side
The old fence creaked as I opened it
Trying to stand but swayed right outside

That’s when I saw a little girl who ran
In the distance; laughing happily and carefree
As only the innocent and young can

She had ruffled yellow hair
Shoved into two short bouncing sprouts
That bobbed merrily as she skipped, looking so fair

The sweet freckled face had the quality of a dream
The button nose wrinkled cutely
The white teeth flashed in an innocent beam

She had thick, warm honey eyes
That smiled as big as her red lips did
A smile that could warm the iciest heart full of lies

She wore the brightest of yellow overalls
And canary-yellow shoes
That bounced up and down like rubber *****

Out of her overall pockets floated out golden sparkles
Thick-looking and sweet-smelling, spraying heat
That left a glittering trail behind her dancing feet

A chubby brown hand clutched a swinging bucket
Filled to the brim with warm, sweet sunshine
The other scattering it behind her in an unordered line

She didn’t seem to be walking
She didn’t seem to run
Her feet pattered, like tap-dancing
She skipped to me with a happy beat
And as she did, she stopped and
Sprinkled some sunshine near my feet

The toddler looked up and saw my bewildered face
Her red dimpled cheeks blushing joyfully
Honey eyes sparkling with an unworldly grace

She did not say anything but came closer
Bringing a dizzy sweet fire
Erasing all cold cuts, leaving treasures to admire

She skipped around in a circle, tossing glitters on me
A sprinkle here… and… a little bit there…
And sat cross-legged right then
Wondering what my reaction would be

As I was about to ask her what she had done
Something with a slow melancholy beauty
Indescribable, yet true, and happening
Something vivacious and full of life’s fun

The golden sunshine diamonds sparkled on my skin
Wiping clean all scars on my heart
And with a golden, pulsing love beat
Seeped through, melting away all sins

I felt alive to the brim
My fingertips tingling
My mind filled with wild dreams
Pouring, gushing over the rim

A sudden, sweeping golden heat rushed from my heart
From the roots of my hair
A rush of great, great happiness
That reached my whole body, ever part

My cheeks flushed from the joyful heat
My lips redden from the welcoming warmth
Feeling the energy of a restless dance
Tapping in my normally dull feet

The three-year-old laughed as she saw my expression change
She handed me her bucket of sunshine
Her little warm hand in mine
We started to skip along the road

I reached into the yellow bucket
And felt the smooth and fine
Warm and sweet sunshine
In the palm of my fire-hot hands

Strange the heat did not hurt me
But made me crazy
Something one may only feel, never see
With all its powerful magic

I laughed like the toddler holding my hand did
From the bottom of our beings
I danced like the baby did
Never ceasing; without rhythm or rhyme
For an immeasurable time

We danced, and threw sunshine dust behind us
Watching the trail of sunray dust
Glitter and spread

Together, we brought dawn
The sandy, spicy glowing sunshine
Spreading out to blanket the land
Sunrise was brought by this child’s hand

When dawn had completely broken
She kissed me on the cheek
And hugged with her plump arms
Then bid goodbye forever with a
Twinkling voice full of innocence’s charm

Every year on that day, I wake up to watch
The dawn of hers and mine
She had not only two pocketfuls but a bucketful of sunshine
And a heart and soul
Full of pure, simple love
Sunshine Baby
Kewayne Wadley Nov 2016
Dead in the center of her heart I found a minotaur.
Of all things a frigging minotaur.
I stood puzzled as we locked eyes.
When I stumbled upon him he was sleep with today's newspaper drenched across his lap.
He bounced up in full guard.
Me being me I asked him for simple directions.
Telling him that I thought I was lost.
I planned on seeing heart shapes maybe a butterfly or two.
A big bunny shape thing or two but you, just wow.
He grinned slightly and said yeah that's the first time I've heard that one.
One step further, I added.
I take it from the amount of drool on the side of your lip you've been sleep for quite a while.
Now I don't mean to intrude on your guarding the labyrinth thing but,
How about you let me *** a smoke and we'll talk about it at the nearest dinner.
After all who can be mad over breakfast
Francis Duggan Apr 2010
It's Friday evening from life's cares we'll have a brief leave taking
And lets go to the Basy Pub for hour of merry making
In confines of the Settlers Bar the voice of mirth is ringing
And Pete Atkinson from Dublin Town an Irish song is singing.

The Mckelvey men father and son are talking of horse racing
They know the horses inside out from form and race card tracing
Has Vo rogue gone over the hill, can Horlicks race to glory
Can Almaarad come bouncing back and go down in history?

Phil Cronin go back down the years he flick back through life pages
To friends he knew in Millstreet Town he has not seen for ages
Big Jerry Shea and Mister O, James Manley hale and hearty
And Johnny Sing from Millview Lane the life of every party.

Brave Harry the brave English man the one as tough as leather
You'll only see that man in shorts no matter what the weather
A man of elephantine strength yet gentle and kind hearted
And he has taken life's hardest blow since his son this world departed.

Big **** Kissane the Kerry man he doesn't like Maggie Thatcher
And he feels that for Union bashing that few in history could match her
Still he won't go back to Kenmare to weather wet and hazy
He'd much prefer Mt Evelyn it's nearer to the Baysy.

**** Kelleher and Phil Schofield well into greyhound breeding
They talk of how greyhounds should be schooled and for them proper feeding
Two greyhound trainers and of late their reputations growing
And Millstreet Town keep racing on when others dogs are slowing.

Vin Schofield a Manchester Man he does love Man United
And every time United win he feel proud and delighted
But United not doing well of late of late they're not impressing
And this too much for him to take he find it all depressing.

Galway's Matt Duggan and Westmeath's Sean Fay the hurling game debating
On the first sunday of September who will be celebrating
Can Westmeath make the big break through or will Galway flags be waving
Or will Tipperary still be champs their reputation saving?

And Marty Kerins from Mayo a good and happy fellow
I've never met him in bad mood I've always found him mellow
He love the Bayswater Hotel he say there is none better
And to be kept from Settlers Bar he'd have to be in fetter.

And **** O Shea from Dublin his friends are in the many
And he doesn't have one enemy and he doesn't deserve any
He's given homes to Homeless souls and he's easily moved to pity
And good a man as ever came to live in this great City.

The amazing J D Ellis his name and fame keep spreading
And he has bounced back from the floor and for the top he's heading
Still he is easily stirred up and Garry Carter does the stirring
And el tigre he begins to growl the cat's no longer purring.

It's friday evening from life's cares we'll have a brief leave taking
And where better than the Basy Pub for hour of merry making
In Confines of the Settlers Bar the voice of mirth is ringing
And Pete Atkinson from Dublin Town an Irish song is singing.
Heirlooms

Jun 2017

One day, parkouring through my uncles two story apartment,

I was drawn naturally to his desktop computer

upon which I found his OkCupid Dating profile.

I don't remember his username, Or anything about the site really,

But I remember the head-shot of a beautiful woman

framed above the desk

the sterile grey Rubbermaid totes behind me like caskets, 

How they made even the hardwood floors

look like they were holding in the dead.

For my Grandmothers birthday

my family gathered at Captain Newicks

her favorite seafood restaurant.

My uncle flirted with the waitress.

I don't think I've ever gone to a restaurant with my uncle where he

didn't flirt with the waitress.

Captain Newicks went out of business shortly after that dinner

followed shortly by my grandmothers life.

the relationship between my uncle and that waitress expired well

before both my Grandmother or Captain Newicks.

I remember asking my grandmother about my Uncle.

Tarots Fool would have predicted

my grandmothers eyelids

a silent prayer before her words.

He had two children by his first wife,

keeps a portrait of her above his desk.

She was a blessing on the family

Selfless amd loved by every one.

She took her own life

Spread her wings to break free from the cage He kept her locked in.

He buried his heart in her casket,

motorcycles, empty bottles

had a third child by a second wife

who buried her heart in drugs and strangers.

Amanda was 6 years old when her mother died.

my uncles wife. Her brother josh was 3

when she died my uncle wanted to put them both up for adoption

he didn't.

Their mother died on the 20th of September

a week after her 25th birthday.

their mother once bought a bunch of carnations

with a dead rose in the middle

and said "it looks like I'm dead".

she took a bottle of pills before going to a chinese restaurant

went out as a family

and collapsed at the table.

she was rushed to the hospital

she didn't make it.

their mother wasn't happy

her and my uncle were getting divorced at the time

lived in the same house that I grew up in.

when my uncle told the kids mommy wasn't coming home

my mother was 17 

and there to see all of it.

When my mother was 17 

she had to watch her baby cousins be told their mother had died.

When my grandmother passed.

grief bounced off of my uncles callouses

ricocheted to my cousins, robbed 

twice now of a selfless mother.

The tragedies in my family

have always enthralled me.

like shakespeare sonnets

I breath them into my faithless nights

tap an extra dream-catcher on my bedpost

in space of a prayer.

When The hearth-fire of our family dimmed 

a tealight in my grandmothers eyes.

grayed, Glossed.

she could no longer crochet 

one big dysfunctional quilt, 

together from our families yarn.

without her needle, 

I was determined to watch how our life spun forward.

The next time I saw my uncle,

He offered me a job.

Thick mosquito blinded us as we carried our sweat 

with Rubbermaid totes into a blue two story home 

deep in the evergreen thickets of Maine.

a tall white fan rotated slowly back and fourth 

Cooling the wet patches on our T-shirts while my Uncle 

flirted with the landlord

I still remember when my uncle tossed me the truck keys

the look of terror I gave him

How easy it was for him to trust

I guess when your heart is buried in a casket 

you stop worrying who has your keys.

It makes me remember

when my daughter asked for my keys 

I would sit her in the drivers seat

watch her pretend to drive.

I loved imagining her free

living how she wanted.

I still wouldn't give her my keys.

she would turn my car into a casket.

It makes me remember

when that little girls mother asked me to drive

My words spun portcullises

prison bars forged in anxiety

scaffolding out of latex secrets

Glued with siren smiles, pacifier kisses

denying cigarette smoke on her breath

fueling infernos in my head.

when my uncle handed me his keys without hesitation.

my religion was insulted by his tough skin.

I felt his simple kindness 

like a splash of holy water. 

saw in me, the devil 

caging a woman like property

holding her hostage 

out of fear.

And yes 

when She could drive she left me

And yes 

when she left me she took her daughter.

every morning 

cereal bowl of pills, I **** myself

keep a poster of my mothers face 

covered in bruises 

behind the tiny orange bottles 

to remind me why I do it.

wake up twice, 

first as Phoenix, dying

second as a watcher, writer and admirer.

callouses are not to protect us from the outside at all.

Callouses harden our bodies into caskets.

Hold in all our dead.
Nihl Jun 2013
“And as for you, River, there will be a day when you will flow with blood more than water. And dead bodies will be stacked higher than the dams. And he who is dead will not be mourned as much as he who is alive. Asclepius, why are you weeping? ”

CHAPTER I

The lake house was always a place of good memories. I couldn’t help but remember the countless summers just like this one, where I had spent days down by the lake, beside my father, catching rainbow trout with nothing but a line and a little bread or bait worm. The sound of crickets chirping in chorus at dusk, while just a slither of gold managed to peek over the mountain range that hung like curtains, draped across the horizon on every side. It was our paradise on earth, the Coulter families’ personal heaven. A humble log house nestled in the heavy shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Standing peacefully beside our private little lake, cradled within a thick pine forest. It was our pine forest.
-
We had arrived at the house two days ago, on a particularly overcast Friday afternoon. But the grey sky had parted, and left us with clear blue skies almost as soon as we arrived. Now nothing but the occasional broad, pearl-white, sky conquering clouds would dare to appear. This made the weather perfect for a swim in the lake, as well as an afternoon frying the day’s catch of trout in the fire pit just outside the cabin. I was inside the cabin, stuffing the weekend’s filthy clothes into my pack, in preparation for the long journey home tomorrow morning. Dad was gathering a load of firewood from our great proud pile of logs outside. I always liked adding to the pile the same way I found a mundane joy in saving money, I watched as we built it up into a neat pyramid, then imagined how long it would last us and how many cold nights they would ward off.
After packing my last well-worn flannel shirt into my now plump olive duffle bag the sun had disappeared behind the mountain; leaving a quickly dying amber streaked across the western sky.
I could hear my father’s footsteps as he entered the house, dropping a collection of heavy wood at his feet in front of the fireplace. Then quickly transporting the two best-looking ones straight into the warm mess of crackling flames that kept our cabin warm. I climbed under the covers of my bed and sat with my back against the wall, with a clear view into the living room.
I am Curtis, and George Coulter was my father, a broad man with dark brown hair, a short cropped haircut, bright blue eyes and dark stubble with traces of silver sneaking through. He was a weathered man with a tough 37 years over my easy 16, and always seemed to dress like a cliché lumberjack. Apart from the weathered appearance, sprouting grey hair and working class fashion sense, we were practically a splitting image. My mother would always say that looking at me was like stepping back in time and that every day I looked more like him.
-
“That should keep it going for a while.” George said, obviously exhausted from the events of the weekend and He slowly moved just inside the doorway and leaned against the frame, rubbing his eyes with his right hand before bringing it down to form a soft v shape on his chin.
“I’ve already loaded the truck, so we’ll be able to leave bright and early tomorrow.” He turned his head quickly as if to listen carefully for something else in the room. I found this to be a perfect opportunity to shoot a question I’d been wondering recently.
“Do you think there really is life after death?” I asked him abruptly and he looked straight at me with a quizzical expression and replied “Why do you ask, did someone say something?” I sat up straight on my bed pulled my hands into my lap.
“No, no one said anything. It’s just that I rode my bike by the cemetery last week, and there was a statue of an angel in the middle of all the gravestones, it just made me wonder, you know. Does all that stuff really exist?” I had a lump in my throat and swallowed hard to keep in down. My father sat down beside me at the foot of the bed.
“I think…” He started, still searching for the right words to say. “I like to think that there’s a place somewhere up there for us.” He turned his gaze towards the window and observed the last light in the sky before turning quickly back to me.
“Do you think mom will be up there?” I asked, and his face dropped a little.
“Your mother is up there waiting for us and the first thing she’ll do is tell us to take our shoes off so as not to get the cloud *****.” He said with a slight smile, I laughed at the idea as he continued. “But you don’t have to worry about that for a long time Curt.” He grinned, roughed up my hair, and then forced me into bed playfully. “I’ll do my best to make sure of that.” He rose from the bed and advanced towards the door. “Now get some sleep. I don’t want to have a conversation with myself on the ride back.” He disappeared into the main room and slumped into a lazy boy chair to gaze at the fireplace in the warmth of our now quiet cabin, as my room was filled with the soft lullaby of crackling fire. I turned towards the window and stared out towards the stars, my mind wandering as I closed my eyes. Tomorrow we would begin the long journey home.
-
Without any warning I was startled awake by a terrifying ripping sound. A great rip echoed throughout the house like a plastic bag violently flailing about in heavy wind. I immediately sat up on my bed, and blindly stared out into an ocean of black. A strange loud thumping sound rang from the living room in regular intervals. It had seemed like no time at all had passed since I had closed my eyes, my heart was thundering like the gears on a full-speed freight train and my eyes fed off the darkness in the room, starving for even the slightest idea of a source for the noise. But all I could see was darkness beyond my doorway. I struggled to pull myself back together from my state of screaming fear and cautiously got to my feet.
As far as I could tell the thumping was coming from outside, as I moved towards the doorway and peered into the living room. For some reason the fireplace that should still have been flickering with hungry flames was now dark and dead, as though it had gone cold days ago and the house completely vacated. The warmth that the fire had supplied moments ago had now been replaced with a cruel cold midnight breeze sailing in through the wide open swinging cabin door. The cabin door was clashing against the cabin wall outside in the wind I now knew was the source of the horrifying thumping that my imagination had played so helplessly with. My breath became shallow as I contemplated my situation, how long had I been asleep, and where was my father? I turned to the lazy boy in the living room and noticed it upturned and vacant. My heart started firing again like a machine gun and cold sweat now dawned on my brow. There was no sign of dad, not in the cabin at least. With my heartbeat slowing to the manageable speed of a cruising passenger train, I wondered where he could have gone while struggling to tame the rising feeling of dread as I hurried towards the front door and looked out over the hill and down towards the lake. There was no jagged black figure or human form in sight. A great deal of me was hoping to catch him investigating the same noise that startled me. But he was nowhere near, which made my blood run cold.  
-
The unforgiving night’s ice cold wind stung my ears and pinched my face, my breath trailing off in vapour. “Dad!” I called out, towards the southern wharf down by the water, nothing. Again I called, towards the vegetable patch on the eastern side of the house, nothing. I tapped my fingers anxiously on the door frame before proceeding down the few steps leading into the cabin, closing the cabin door behind me to stop the jarring thump. With that I was engulfed in the darkness and violent wind. Disoriented I called out once more towards the pine forests to the west, “Dad!” my voice cracked from desperation and bounced through the gale, ringing in the distance as if it had been carried by the wind and exploded skyward, amplified by the mountains surrounding the lake.
-
A light! A light darted between the tree line and danced in the darkness before disappearing just as quickly as it came. I stared in awe as the wind found its way through my clothes and now chilled me completely. My bare feet screamed from the cold grass that I tortured them with and I could hear the abhorrent ripping sound bellowing back at me from the distant forest. I stood still, confused and staring hopefully. I heard him, faint at first, but I was certain that I heard my father’s voice on the wind.
“Curt.”
I followed the voice out into the darkness, past the fire pit and towards the western tree line. I waved my arms in front of me pathetically probing the air for something to guide me. My eyes squinted hard to try and make out detail from nothing. “Curt.” Again it whispered from the distance. I stumbled across the field until I reached the outskirts of the woods and I could feel the first cluster great pine looming overhead. The wind and chill was slowly cut off by the wall of trees, as I followed the origin of my father’s voice.
The forest bed was thick with undergrowth and as familiar as this place was during the day, at night it was like another world, a world in which sight had to be thrown to the wind and I was forced to rely on my other senses for navigation. I could smell the heavy musk of the leaf litter, and hear the wind from the field. But I could see nothing more than the glare of the full moon hanging behind the thick clouds and the faint outline of the countless pine trees that shot skyward.

It was strange, I could smell him now. I could smell my father laced upon the air, boot-polish and old sweat. The same smell hanging among the trees as the red plaid shirt that he'd use to polish his boots and labour all weekend around the lake house. It was as if he was right beside me, this idea urged me to quickly turn side to side hoping that this was in fact, true. But all I found was more vague lines in darkness, freezing fingers and whipping wind songs from the distant clearing. The smell slowly disappeared, replaced with an eerily familiar, metallic, pooling scent…
My heart thundered at the realization, Blood. I could smell blood swimming in the air, as if someone painted the trees with buckets of human blood. I could taste it on the tip of my tongue the air was so filthy with the scent.
-
My eyes opened wide, panicking at the lack of visual aid as I stopped dead in my tracks. Something felt awkward, space felt strange, warped and twisted. It was like the world was turned on its side. It felt as though someone somewhere had invaded the space I now stood in. And I could feel its presence, I felt its eyes burning a hole in the back of my head, and the hair on my neck stood upright. My heart began racing faster and faster, thumping now like the cabin door, slamming against the wall in the wind. I could feel something out there, watching and waiting. I could feel it getting nearer, getting ever closer and growing. It was as if it was feeding on the shadows and becoming larger, filling the darkness with its horrid presence. I couldn't bare it anymore; I felt it creeping up on me and my skin was crawling. My head screaming for me to turn around but I couldn't move. I felt an impossible grip encompass my entire body and swallow me in darkness. Cold sweat like ice running down my cheeks and my clothes were now saturated.
-
My breath was pounding rapidly in short, sharp bursts as I watched it fog and pillar upwards through the cutting wind. I couldn't hear anything past the roaring noise in my head, raw panic like nails on a chalkboard. My thoughts were like a game of Ping-Pong, bouncing back and forth and I couldn't focus on anything. I felt it slithering at my heels now, like a python slowly constricting its prey, playing with it before a sudden death. A twisted cold breath falling onto my shoulders as every muscle in my body tensed to point where it felt I could explode at any time. I it leaned in closely beside me, with its face hanging inches away from my ear. I could hear its lungs gathering the icewind for speech, and its tongue slithering in between razor teeth, preparing for the first terrifying bite.
-
“It’s so close.” Hisses from its jaws in several thunderous voices spawning from the darkness in every direction, the trees dissolve, the sky falls apart and my entire world collapsed away into pitch black.

N.H.

CHAPTER II
http://hellopoetry.com/poem/possession-two/
zebra Sep 2017
i'm sorry
but im going to devour you
like toast with butter and jam
let go to me
lose your self in the exaltation of suffering
albeit a difficult pleasure
feel me ruin you with every strike and stroke
blister tear and pierce
a quandary of liberation bleeding
take more then whats dished
ill turn you into a gushing river of squeals
and filthy verse

i'm in love with your ****
colored almost purple
like a wild mouthed poem
make it kiss me
let it eat my face
its more beautiful then an Hawaiian sunset
more tender then a baby lamb
your sweet lipped *****
a buttery sticky bun
its drools liquid diamonds

i'm sorry
i hit your **** so hard
but they bounced and bounced
and it drove me near mad
so gorgeous bruised and bleeding
casaba torrents
all hot stings and sweet

you stand glorious
between beauty and annihilation

your mouth swollen from being slapped so hard
nose bleed and mucous
your eyes enormous wombs
like fingers touching me

oh baby
im sorry
your tears imploring
pleading and drunk
on hair pulling frenzies

curse my brutish rampage
of *** gone mad
turning your body
into clouds and red splash ribbons

don't be sorry
she said
with pursed lips
your rabid hunger my own
i am an abyss of dark desires
a savage wraith
i want to kiss you like a lecher
all ******* and cherries
with legs squandered wide
a Halloween grotesque
with a ponytail

are you going to eat me
like a communion wafer
okay
if it will save you
am i not a saint of lust

"There is no greater love
than to lay down one's life for one's friends"
john15:13

so have your fun at my expense
make me your house of horrors
greased
for the scalding of your whip

ill be good
please do your worst
and ill show you my best
promise me
pretty please
kisses and cries
rainbows and ash
blistering ecstatic
sadomasochism
Tornado’s kicking up dust,
Leaving broken pieces of promises and futures shattered on the ground,
With no one left to pick them up but the people who are broken themselves.

Just when I thought there was no reason to keep on moving forward you came around,
Showing me that maybe I’m not so broken, that maybe the cracks in my exterior are just the challenges I’ve overcome. That the scars on my heart like gaping trenches are only battle wounds that will heal again.

You make me feel beautiful, like maybe my smile is the reason for the sun to shine in the morning, like maybe for once someone sees  in me something that I’ve yet to because I’m too stubborn to see the beauty that’s in the mirror. Look harder you told me once.

They say that to love another person you need to love yourself, but I loved you first. And although I see the dreams that could have been ours in your eyes
I pushed away because the moment I let the walls around my heart crumble like the first hit on demolition day, the moment I let you tear down all of the years I spent hating myself for never being what they wanted me to be, the moment I let you in I shied away.

You can’t love someone who’s uncomfortable in their own skin,
Who wishes everyday that they could start again and although my head is blowing up with the what ifs from yesterday and the possibilities of tomorrow, and although all I could see was grey you were there.

Were you always there?
Waiting on your steed to rescue you from the disaster that I’ve allowed myself to become, an entanglement of empty promises and sadness known all too well.
Tell me, were you hiding there among the stars I counted every night before I slept wishing that one day I’d meet you because
I think you were.

So when you turned to me and said “Who’s going to take care of you when I’m gone”
It felt like bullets ripping their way into the cavity of where my heart used to be and I realize.

I REALIZE that for the first time in my life I’m going to have to fight off the monsters under my bed by myself. That the painful words that get shot my way like arrows from an archers bow will have to be bounced away by the invisible force field I’ve built around my heart, impenetrable with no point of entry to let anyone else  because too much damage has already been caused by the people who I HAD let in.  

This heart is protected
Protected from the tornado’s kicking up dust leaving broken dreams and promises shattered on the ground with no one left to pick them up but the ones who are broken themselves
So when she looks at me and asks “Who’s going to take care of you when I’m gone?”
I look into the eyes that have become my answers in all of the confusion and I respond “I Will”.

I knew then that goodbye wasn’t far away but for one day I wanted to pretend that it wasn’t on its way. That instead of counting down the days until you left, I was counting the moments that you stayed.

I looked at the stars tonight and I counted them twice, once while looking in the sky once while looking into your eyes. And as the tears build up behind my eyes like storm clouds building for days I smile and tell you” I support you’ . I never thought I’d be the one to shoot the arrow.

The storm clouds should have been enough to make you stay but they weren’t and by the time I worked up the nerve to whisper “don’t go” you’ve gone.

**Tornado is my middle name.
I got inspiration for this because of Shane Koyczan who is an amazing Slam Poet.
I used to think in numbers.
1: There’s one of me. Alone. Plus
4: my family. Still 1, but 5, or
4 plus 1; that’s me, alone.
I used to think in numbers.
36: That’s weeks of school;
That’s weeks of math class,
math class, calculator;
Father, Son, and Calculator.
Trinity: the holy three, the three, the
3 times 36: that’s 108.
I used to think in numbers.
Math class, algebra, room 108.
I hate, I hate, I love, I hate,
I hate the way they look at me.
They look at me like man at dog,
like planet hogs,
throw books at me like cannons cogged
at ninety-minute intervals at cinder walls
until I fault and cringe and fall, and fall
like London Bridge and crash, and fall like
Blown-out glass gone back to class. I pass the
tests and cash regrets like rent checks
bounced across the bridge that they knocked down.
Because I used to think in numbers, yeah,
but now?

        Well, sure. Abrasions hurt.
And yeah, we all want friends.
But at least equations work
and keep their balance on both ends.
So I will rock this scatter-plot of
social contract to its peak until
my hands are red meat.
I am no dead beat;
I hold the world record for blood lost
to a summer camp spread sheet.

But then,
but then somewhere along that number line,
a 6 stared down its stage fright when just
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 days before the show,
I met a girl who barred my better judgment
like a cage fight,
and thank God she did,
because for once, I put away the calculator,
and I listened to her voice,
and it sounded like…
well, it sounded like it sounded.
And for once, I sat and wrote about the things
that can’t be counted.
I surrendered to the cage fight,
and I fell into a deep hole.
And to be honest,

I don’t miss spreadsheet summers,
‘cause it’s easier to keep cool.
I used to think in numbers,
yeah,
but now I think in people.
Hal Loyd Denton Jan 2012
Hits ^ Misses
In this telling will recount close calls of different ones and some guilt and though most have raised your
Children now the children’s children your admiration doubled the worries real. Our class just had the
class reunion well we did it seems a test run three of us one we hadn’t seen in thirty years met up at
Decatur ******* Barrel close to six hours later we stumbled out we had a lot to talk about. Now for the
Next session like an old mountain men Rendezvous were adding a lot more Monroe, Jefferson, St. and
One pine street rep in fact where the first story happened in lees orchard the emblem between the titles
Is significant now any one can play paint ball but let me show how Jefferson played two Lakers and a
Denton one almost didn’t come out alive we wore the standard neighborhood issue rebel outfits heavy
Coats extra rags for padding and a head band pulled down as low as possible for our only eye protection
And the rule no head shots BB guns fully loaded let the game commence it was a bit terrifying sight
Three scarecrows slowly advancing looking for a target that’s when the real terror when one was marked
The problem I was carrying a toy bow but the arrow was mounted with a hunting tip it was blue and
Looked like a razor blade but thicker but I’m sure you could shave with it sharp gleaming silver along the
Edge for a weak it had been shot into sheds soft trees but over in the orchard it just bounced off of the
Hard apple trees and it looked like the road sign showing a straight but curvy road ahead so with those
Facts and the only fact that made it even try to be a real bow it had a hand grip that thickened it right in
The middle in all the under growth Jerry walked out in the open walking away from me so mathematics
Distance speed his steps mine halted just like the race with the train at a dead run you still was doing a
Whole lot of figuring you don’t learn that in class so I raised the bow when I let it go it was a move in
Archery where you’re just laying it down to get to the target with his dads leather bomber jacket on with
That thick padding and those rags and the arrow just bouncing off the trees by now no problem well he
Took the last step he didn’t know it but that step was across death’s threshold and he made it to
Continued life because I hit him right where I aimed in the back a lot of padding but no body fat instead
Of the arrow innocently hitting his jacket and bouncing off and dropping to the ground there was a
Thunk and a scream of pain and terror it wasn’t cupid in the woods Geri it was stupid I ran up he was getting
The coat off arrow still attached just the tip pierced his skin it didn’t feel like a bug bite believe me as I
Said ever thing factored in and the greatest divine protection it wasn’t a heart shot but if I hadn’t given
Him the last step it would have passed more than half way through destroying vital organs. He was ok but
Retribution was swift and instant I beat it out of there like a rabbit but the no head shot rule was out
Both of them bounced multiple B Bees off the side and back of my head I remember the sounds and
Feelings they gave and my thoughts were blood is thicker than water I told you I know how to run.

Now my turn we were down in Bill’s yard this time we were upgraded we had a thirty pound pull fiber
Glass bow from archery class headed by Mrs. Summers the old country girl teacher remember her
Paddle and she loved to let it sing its favorite song sting ***** sting so any way the pain of those years
Have faded we didn’t know it but we were about to make our own song I’m stuck in you. The stage set
Everyone in place when you shoot a bow in the yard you’re going to come across this problem the arrows
Will slide into the ground right at dirt level and then sew themselves up completely with grass as you
Look down something like looking for night crawlers except its day no flashlight and it doesn’t involve
Worm *** education so the fishing just involves finding the arrow this means is preferably done without
One of the shooters down field with his head down looking for said arrow but what a thrill and your
Friend Bill has done just that shot another one to help find the first one well you look up and he is out in
The street doing a mime act flailing his hands jumping up and down his mouth is moving but nothing is
Coming out I might be a little slow on the up take as they say but I got it death was on the wing I was its
intended victim what could I do if I ran right I could run right into it left was the same possibility dive
On the ground get an arrow right below your head in the neck doing what it does with the ground I
Already heard the devil way those guys **** gators in the Everglade’s by ramming a wire down there
Spine While still alive I didn’t want that experience or the other show where the guy said the worst way
To **** is with a bow not only the arrow head but the shaft creates trauma to the nerves and I couldn’t
jump straight up in the air no one wants to have their legs spread apart at a time like this so I did the
Only thing left I followed Bill’s bird dance routine turned sideways to make less of a target and then
Started bobbing my head up and down as I held it sideways looking for the biggest shaft I would get in
Life the more I looked nothing except bill became more agitated then twenty feet straight out in front of
Me there it was how curious and weird where was the beautiful yellow shaft and the two orange
Feathers with the green guide feather yes I remember everything just like the shoot out in the orchard
When people become intense everything is different those Laker boys normally weren’t that good of
Shots and I was mighty interested in this particular arrow and it didn’t glide the way it looks from the
Shooter it was wobbling and only the front was visible and it was black you don’t have to worry an
Animal will never see anything this wasn’t chicken this time Still life was being played for and I won so
When the arrow got close enough believe me I never took my eye off of it I gave it the disdain of the
matador I just bent from the waist back out of the way and let it stick harmlessly behind me in the
Ground well there is more hits and misses but they are more about guns and cars and I’m at twelve
Hundred and forty one words already so keep an eye on the children it’s a dangerous world.
Time for an adventure,
3 a.m. and raining
Sitting in my FUBU hoodie
My brain was really straining
To keep awake until the bus
Pulled into Detroit Station
So I could start my trip across
This once great and mighty nation
I wasn't there alone this night
Others dozed and slept
Some just sat there silently
While some just sat and wept
I looked at those around me
Who had assembled for this ride
I hoped we would get along
When in walked a young bride
She was dressed in white from head to feet
Her veil was ripped and torn
Behind the ruined makeup
You could see her face was worn
No groom came in, she was alone
She changed, sat, made no fuss
It was almost one more hour
Before we finally saw our bus
A Greyhound, drab and dreary
Pulled up at our loading door
They announced "210 to Vegas"
And they didn't say no more
Most people fly when heading there
They want to get there and get home
Our band of silent travellers
Wanted to just get out and roam
They loaded up our cases
I just had a backpack, that
I was gonna take on board and
Just load it where I sat
They said fifteen more minutes
They would have to fill with fuel
At this point I made contact
With a man....to have a duel
He was sitting right across from me
He had a ball out, on his knees
He was tossing it into the air
So...I brought out my keys
He tossed it up and caught it
So, with my keys I did the same
He smiled and flipped it to his left
and with my keys I played his game
He moved it round from hand to hand
Made it hover in mid air
He did it all so gracefully
I did the same with out a care
His ball, my keys...time slipping by
Just then he gave a smile
He bounced the ball upon the floor
He had beat my by a mile
I nodded, slipped my keys away
I'd been outdone through and through
By a man with a red rubber ball
What else was there to do?
We lodaded up and took our seats
The crowd was pretty thin
With the lights low on inside the bus
It was looking rather dim
The married folks and partners
paired up in seats as pairs
The singles spread out randomly
As they collected up our fares
Vegas, was our hallowed ground
The final destination for us all
Then on the station P.A
they made the final loading call
Thirty three hours was the time
We'd take to drive
Give or take some time for food stops
We'd all get there safe, alive
We hit the road directly
My adventure had begun
It was still dark in the distance
We were driving towards the sun
Across the aisle all alone
An old lady sat and wrote
She was trying to get comfortable
She was wrapped up in her coat
The seat behind me, vacant
I was grateful for this fact
It afforded me the space so I
Could put my seat right back
With the blind pulled down,
I tried to sleep, at last I drifted off
There was the sound of the bus motor
And of the occasional, dry, hoarse cough
I heard music in my head at first
So I thought it was a dream
It turned out to be a radio
Owned by our runaway, bridal queen
she sat two rows down and to my left
She had changed into some jeans, and shirt
She had one ear plug in, one out
You could see how she did hurt
I got up, stretched, went to the back
I'd freshen up and have a ***
As I walked I felt so ill at ease
As all eyes followed me
The back two seats were occupied
by  two nuns, one old, one not
The smiled as I came near them
I smiled back, and then I thought
This cast of wayward characters
Was not at all like those
That were portrayed in "Homeward Bound"
The song most folkies all shoud know
On my way back I noticed a man
Reading, or at least that's how it looked
I saw no print upon his page
No letters in his book
I stood and watched, his fingers flew
Like they were moving on a rail
Then I realized that he was blind
And his book was all in braile
I stood there in amazement
At this sight that I'd just seen
Then I chuckled at the cover
From an old ******* Magazine
We pulled into a diner
We'd been out for nine hours now
We had an hour to ourselves
Time to change and get some chow
Most folks sat as they had come
In pairs or all alone
Some went out for a ciggy
One old man went to the phone
We all made sure to void ourselves
Before we got  on board
For the smell from eighteen greasy meals
would test the nuns faith in our lord
The background noise was louder
Than it had been at the start
We were eighteen lonely travellers
Travelling together, but apart
A father and his daughter
Played "eye spy" and sang some songs
They played "license plate bingo"
Most lyrics they got wrong
The old lady across the aisle
was watching, intently like a hawk
She was scratching things inside her book
You'd expect her just to squak
The man who had the ball sat
Alone, said not a word
I walked by and said "good morning"
But I don't think he heard
He sat there, still not moving
staring out the window at the world
He was taking in the movie
Of our trip as it unfurled
The trip was uneventful
It went on mostly the same
People reading, people watching
Father, daughter and their games
The driver pointed out some stuff
As we passed by on the way
"To the left you'll find the largest
ball of string made to this day"
He pointed out old houses,
Fields of battle, lost and won
Just a couple took real notice
Most wished the trip was done
A repeat after five more hours
A new driver came on board
She was blond, blue eyed and beautiful
Inside, my heart just soared
In my imagination
She would pick me from the crowd
When we made it to Las Vegas
I would go with her, I'd be proud
But, she sat there pointing out the sights
Like her predecessor had
My fantasy went up in smoke
It was really kind of sad
We ventured on till Vegas
getting off to eat and then
We would all repeat our actions
And get back and sleep again
It was quiet for the most part
Most folks waiting for the end
When we came out of the mountains
We could see the strip around the bend
"Ten minutes till Las Vegas"
our blond driver told us all
Make sure you've your belongings
I looked at the man who had the ball
He smiled tossed it in the air
I tossed my keys just one more time
In a way, we had a friendship
In a way , it was a crime
We had one thing in common
It would stick with me for good
It would always make me smile
And a smile's always good
We pulled up into the station
We were all tired from the ride
Most grabbed their extra luggage
I grabbed mine and went inside
There, I went up to the window
Bought another ticket, heading east
Turned and bumped into a fellow
He was a slight, buy friendly priest
"I'm heading to Detroit, my son"
"Where is it you're off to"
"I'm just off on an adventure"
"I think I'll go back there with you"
He smiled, opened his bible
We had three hours still to wait
Before our bus was ready to go back
Across the United States
You might ask yourself, why do this?
Why go back and not take time
To see the city that I'd come to
It just seems so sublime
to me the whole adventure
Isn't in the place I go
The adventure is the people
Each trips a brand new show
The cities that I visit
Really never, ever change
But the people....oh the people
Man, some are really strange
If you now would please excuse me
I must go and change my clothes
For I'm off on adventure
How it turns out...no one knows.
this one is a long one, so sit down, grab a beer....and come away on a bus trip from Detroit to Las Vegas.
NF Aug 2015
Soon the sky will be painted in long strokes of sunlight that fade to night,
And the Sun will retreat below the horizon,
Slipping under in its predictable submersion,
And we used to be afraid of the dark that follows,
But now we are not.
And now we have grown strong enough to ward off darkness with thoughts of
Sunlight.
Sunlight and sunshine,
And the rays that bounced off my eyes into yours,
Binding us.
Together we have learnt how to see through to the next dawn,
Through each other we have learnt how to find our light in another's eyes.
And now, Sunset is coming,
And we know that darkness will follow,
But I am no longer afraid.
A goodbye poem for my friends
Joel A Doetsch Jan 2012
He was definitely dead.  That much could be gathered.  He was standing over his own body, sixty feet away from the car.  fifty-nine feet away from  the telephone pole.  The pool of blood on the blacktop was rippling from the sheets of rain that were piercing it.  The rain bounced off of his lifeless eyes, staring on into the cloudy sky.   His shocked expression was forever frozen on his face.  He walked around the corpse, both fearful and excited.  He was dead....He was DEAD!  He was on the other side!  He looked around, searching for the 'white light',  but all he found  was a man dressed in a ratty  trench coat staring directly at him.  Rotting teeth smiled at him under a grungy  Fedora in a way that reminded him of a jack-o-lantern carved into the likeness of Indiana Jones that had been left out past Thanksgiving.  A withered hand beckoned him.

He was not hesitant.  He was not fearful.  

Those were emotions controlled by a brain that was currently about as useful as a bag full of gelatin.  He strode forward and took the man's hand.  It was neither hot nor cold.  They were no longer in the rain.  They were in a room with a large monitor
sitting in front of a station of various knobs, buttons, and switches.  A large leather chair apathetically awaited use .  He was aware that none of these objects  actually existed, because they were in the place where things don't exist.  Still, he sat down
and turned on the monitor.  He looked at the labels.  Some were obvious, such as P L A Y,  P A U S E, and S T O P.  Others were strange, like the ones labeled F I R S T S and L A S T S.  He pressed the former.  A list appeared with items as simple as "Kiss" to ones as specific as "Sprained Left Ankle in November".

He chose the former.

The screen went blank, then a video appeared.  It was a boy and a girl lying on a hill on a blanket at the onset of dusk.  The boy he instantly recognized as himself. The boy brushed his hand against hers.  She let him.  Fingers now entwined as they stared at each other.  At the time it had felt like hours, but it was less than a
minute before lips pushed apart to make way for tongues.  His first kiss.  It didn't take him long to figure out how the machine worked from that point on.  

He spent years going through every second of his life and reliving it from a new perspective. It didn't matter, he had all the time that never was and never would be.  He saw his mistakes and his triumphs, his loves and his heartbreaks.  Finally, he decided he was
finished.  It was time to go.  The man in the Fedora smiled.  Smiled that Cheshire smile

They were in a hallway.  It seemed to stretch for miles.  Every twenty paces or so, there was a person, standing on a platform, obscured in darkness.  He walked to the first one.
A light flickered on.  It was his mother.  She looked like she did when he was a boy, vibrant and full of life.  She never lost that, even as her body aged and her health declined, she always had something to smile about.  He talked to this apparition of his mother.   They talked for hours about his life, of random topics.  Things they had never had time to talk about when they were both alive.  After some time, she gave him one of her wry
smiles.  He nodded and made his way to the next person.  His father.  

He continued this for quite some time.  He talked to everyone from his brother to a guy he used to get high with in college.  Years passed as he said his final goodbyes to all the people in his life
that he had ever known.  All of them were happy for him.  All of them had something to tell him that he had never known about them in life.  None of them were real.  When he was done, he turned to the man in the fedora.  A smile.  A smile that had a personality all its own, a smile that simultaneously showed compassion and seething hatred.

The last room.  No one said it was the last room, but it had that feeling of finality to it. It was spartan, nothing in it except a marble floor that seemed to stretch for eternity in every direction.  It probably did.  In front of him were two pedestals.  On each of those
pedestals was himself.  The one on the left was wearing a fine tailored suit, had radiating skin and a smile that cameras feasted on.  The one on the right was a stark contrast.  The teeth he had left were hanging lazily from the roots.  His hair that he had left was thin, oily, and ridden with lice.  His mouth turned upwards in an insane grin that was only
matched by his thirsty, bloodshot eyes that seemed to bulge from his pockmarked skin

                                          They both spoke at once.

You were born on                                           You were born on
July 3, 1985.  Your                                           July 3, 1985.  Your
parents fed your                                         mother died when you
curiosity at a young                                     were 4.  Your father
age.  Your passion                                   turned to alcohol.  He
was art.  You painted                                 took his pain out on you.
your first work when                                     You dropped out of    
you were nine.  By the                                high school and moved
time you were 16, you                             as far away from this
were renowned as a                             life as you could.  You
artistic prodigy.  You                      quickly discovered a bad crowd.
attended the Art                                     You met a girl, Cindy.
Institute of Chicago                                       You got her pregnant.
on a full scholarship.                                   You started selling drugs
It was there that you                                     to make ends meet
would meet Claire,                                       for your accidental family
your future wife. By                                       It wasn't long before
the time you completed                                     You made a mistake
your school, every                                             and ended up in jail.
museum wanted a                                        years later, when you
piece of your work                                       were released
hanging in their gallery                               you found that Cindy      
Your work would be                                       had killed herself
remembered for                                                   and your son.
hundreds of years after                                       You had no job          
your death.  You had                                                 no skills
a wonderful family,                                        You spent your days
fame, fortune, and                                          doing odd jobs for
everything that came                                   money.  Money that
with it.  You lived                                           You spent on drugs
until 89, where you                                        Until the age of 45
died peacefully in                                       Where you froze on a
your bed, surrounded                           street corner, surrounded
by loved ones.  This                        by human excrement.  This
is your life's best                                           is your life's worst
possible outcome                                         possible outcome



He nodded, then looked at the man in the fedora.  That smile crept up.  A smile like a hyena. He snapped his fingers.  Two doors appeared.  One was Oaken and battered.  The grains of wood barely visible over years of neglect.  The other door was new and had just been  painted with a fresh coat of sky blue paint.  

The man spoke for the first time.

This is the last decision you shall ever make.  The door on your left will lead you to the  afterlife, and the judgement that awaits you.  Whatever is decided, that is where you will spend eternity.  The door on the right will allow you to be reborn as a new soul.  This one will no longer exist.

He gave it a good long ponder.  Had he been good enough in life to pass the judgement?  What if he ended up in a hellish nightmare for the rest of eternity?  Could he do better
if he started fresh?  The thoughts swirled about him like a whirlwind until finally.

Years later

He chose.

The man in the fedora smiled.
I'm aware this isn't a poem.  It started off as one, but then I kept writing.
Gaye Sep 2015
We stood in front of my grandmother’s
Old almirah, facing each other
The peacock feather and empty bags  
Of the square room fell silent all over again,
Like strangers we stood facing each other.

Then they all came, marched in, reflections,
Paraded in like martyrs of Brute’s History.
I knew them all, she knew them too
They came, touched us one by one,
Like strangers we stood facing each other.

She looked confused just like me
Watching life pass by, centuries reuniting
After a very long season break, nations-
Travelled, explorers stood upstairs watching,
Like strangers we stood facing each other.

Streets strapped the coffee cans and middle-
Aged hospitals swallowed wars. Married women
Bend over like animals and in months, unable
To breathe they gave birth to few number plates;
Like strangers we stood facing each other.

The city vomited battles, human heads
And dreams of muted foul slaves. Men and-
Their violent tradition screeched for blue number-
Plates, lean number plates, handsome number plates;
Like strangers we stood facing each other.

Unexploded bombs bounced happy homes,
My brothers, my kids, my mothers
Blew their windows and ran, ran away,
Ran afar without destination;
Like strangers we stood facing each other.

They were all dark, their land was darkness
Or were we all blind?
Like a watchman we preserved darkness,
The vapours that filled their glasses did not speak;
Like strangers we stood facing each other.

We are all reflections, ripples and mirrors
Of men-dead and living.
They all stood outside my almirah, million faces
Inside a mirror. She did recognize them;
Like strangers we stood facing each other.

She did nothing, an unusable empathy rolled in,
The hypocrite did not even cry.
In quiet hours she smelt pain, blood and
History flowing from confronting corners;
Like strangers we stood facing each other.

An insignificant obligation drowned her nerve,
They needed a home, candle flame, cotton and wool.
The land, their land has become unfamiliar
And they stood outside locked gates and laws;
Like strangers we stood facing each other.

They all smelt the same blood, the abused blood,
I tried to kiss them and they kissed me back with-
Their cold lips. I tried to touch them, they touched-
Me back with water in their eyes;
Like strangers we stood facing each other.
Flash. Dash. Blank. Tank.
I'm So Scared. I've Frightened Myself.
I Died. I'm Blinded.
All My Hopes, Sanity.
I've Drowned. My Heart Was A Loud Pound.
It Was A Disgrace...I Was Misplaced..
I Got Lost. My Screams Would Burst.
I Fell And Bowed. My Knees Hit The Cold Hard Ground.
My Arm Bleed And Ran So Wildly..Cuts,Scratches,Scars, All That Was Just A Simple Song...A Melody..My Blade Was Like A Same Old Tired Repeated Beat Against My Wrist...

My Skin The Thing That Makes Us Humans Have Beauty...Was Slit Open. I Bounced Nearly Pounced.....
Tried To Smile.
Tried To Laugh.
All I Did Was Cry. Because I Failed At All My Tries.
My Head Buried In My Arm...My Face Turned Red As The Apples That Lied On The Counter....
Tears Streamed Fast As A River.
They Fell Like The Rain Just Like August 17, 2014  The Thunder...The Lightening...The Pouring Rain...It Scared Me More....The Pain...Only If It Drained......Stop..........My Heart Skips Many Beats.....I Wish My Blankets Would Heat Me Up...I'm Cold...Scared...Love..I'm Really Scared..
Something I Went Through....Have You Ever Felt The Same?
Of all the places
I have been
This is the strangest
That I've seen

It is called
The mixed up zoo
where the animals
Just will not do
Exactly what they're supposed to do
That's why it's called the mixed up zoo

Imagine lions in a tree
Not where they're supposed to be
A giraffe who is afraid of heigts
And bats who will not fly at night

I saw a goat who did not bleat
And then I saw a wool less sheep
A zebra who was blue and green
The strangest place I've ever been

I saw a duck who did not quack
I even met a talking yak
A turkey who could really fly
A hyena who would  only cry

Geese that croaked like giant frogs
And chickens who would bark like dogs
Elephants with ears so small
You would think they couldn't hear at all

I saw a horse who would not run
In all the day was really fun
Monkeys who could really sing
A snake who bounced just like a spring

It really was a crazy place
I laughed so much I hurt my face
If there is one thing you must do
Come and see the mixed up zoo
life nomadic Jul 2013
A tomboy, naturally barefoot, gingerly walks the white painted line because the asphalt is just too burning hot.  Scrubby tufts of weedy grass are welcome respites on the way, briefly cooling her steps even if they are stickery.  The ***** soles of her now calloused feet were intentionally toughened just before school got out, with mincing steps across the roughest gravel she could find.  Her mother accommodates her preference, leaving a pan of water outside for her to scrub her feet before going in.  Even then, a black path has gradually appeared leading from the front door in the old orangish carpet.  Two months of summer barefoot every day when she had the choice. Keyed roller skates clamped onto last year’s school shoes were the exception.  She can flat out run anywhere.
  
This particular expedition began like every other thing they did, which was anything to fend off boredom.  She had been sitting on a cement step shaded by an open carport, just three oil-stained parking stalls for three small apartments on the tired poor side of town.  There is a little more dirt on the street here, and grass is a little neglected.  Just like the children, but these kids prefer that anyway.  Two scruffy friends stomp on aluminum cans, brothers sporting matching buzz cuts and cut-off shorts.  They are flattening them for the recycling money by the pound, so the carport smells vaguely of stale beer.  Another boy attempts to shoot a wandering fly with a home-made rubber band gun; rings cut from a bicycle tube made the best ammo.  “What do you want to do?” …”I don’t know, what do you want to do?”  Thwack…  The only requisite for friendship here is vicinity, yet it is still true.  The idea of choosing friends is about as odd as the concept that one could chose where one lives... Strengths and shortcomings are completely accepted because it is just what it is.  

Their amazing three-story tree fort with a side look-out had been heartlessly taken down by the disgruntled property owner last week.  Two months of accumulating pilfered and scrap two-by-fours, nails, and even a stack of plywood (gasp!) from area construction sites had yielded supplies for a growing fort.  A gang-plank style entry had crossed the ditch to the first level.  Nailed ladder steps to the second offered a little more vertigo and a prime spot to hurl acorns.  Another ladder up led up to the third floor retreat, with a couch-like seating area and shoulder high walls.  A breeze reached the leaves up there.   The next tree over was the look-out, with nothing but ladder steps all the way up to where the view opened up out of the ravine.  When the wind blew, it gave merciless lessons in facing any fear of heights.  But now that was all over, discovered gone overnight.

Someone says again, “What do you want to do?” …”I don’t know, what do you want to do?”  “ 7-11? ”  Good enough, so they head out.   Distance measures time.  Ten minutes is the end of the street past the cracked basketball court in the church parking lot.  Fifteen minutes and the lawns end at the edge of the sub-division.  Half-built homes rising from bare dirt and scattered foundations could offer treasures of construction scraps, (where she suspects the stack of plywood came from.) but they keep walking.  Twenty minutes is where industry has scraped away nature, and railroad tracks form an elevated levee.  But time is meaningless if there’s a wealth of it, so there’s no going further until an informal ritual is completed.  Wordlessly they each dig around their pockets searching for equal amounts of pennies.  Each of them carefully arrange them lined up on the rounded-surface rail, and they settle in for the wait.  It could be five minutes or it could be thirty.  They all understand it’s a crap-shoot of patience waiting for the next train. It’s an unspoken test; quitting too early means losing your coins to the one who stays, so that’s not an option.

Heat presses down and the breezeless air smells like telephone-pole creosote.  She sits in a dusty patch of shade found next to an overgrown ****.  She knows it tastes like licorice and breaks off a stem to chew, but doesn’t know what it is.  The boys throw rocks randomly until she finally stands up to join in, tempted by the challenge of flight and distance.  Then she stands in the center of the tracks, looking one way then the other, searching for the first random distant glimmer of the engine’s light at the horizon.   A flash, so she places her ear to the metal Indian-style, and the imminent approach is confirmed.  She calls out, “its here!” and double checks her pennies’ alignment.  Heads up or tails, but always aligned so the building might be stretched tall or wide, or Lincoln’s face made broad or thin.  That happened only rarely, since it could only be rolled by one wheel then bounced off.  If it stuck longer, the next wheels would surely smash it into a thin, elliptical, smooth misshapen disc of shiny copper.  Its only value becomes validation of a hint of delinquency, Destroying-Government-Property.  Once she splurged with a quarter, which became smashed to just a gleaming silver, bent wafer discolored at the edge.  Curiosity wasn’t worth 25 cents again though, so she had only one of those in her collection.

The approaching engine silently builds impending size and power, so she dashes back down the rocky embankment to safety because after all, she is not a fool, tempting fate with stupid danger. She knows a couple of those fools, but she finds no thrill from that and is not impressed by them either.  Suddenly the train is here, generating astounding noise and wind, occasional wheels screaming protest on their axels.  She intently watches exactly where she placed her coins, hoping to see the moment they fly off the rails that are rhythmically bending under the weight rolling by.  It becomes another game of patience, with such a long line of cars, and she gives up counting them at 80-ish.  Then suddenly it is done and quickly the noise recedes back to heat and cicadas.  The rails are hot.  Diligently they search for the shiny wafers.  Slowly pacing each wood beam, they could have landed in the gravel, or pressed against the rail, or even lodged straight up against the square black wood yards down the tracks.  They find most of them, give up on the rest, then continue on.

She has thirty cents and at last they reach the afternoon’s destination.  7-11’s parking lot becomes a genuine game of “Lava”, burning blacktop encourages leaps from cooler white lines, to painted tire stops, to grass island oasis, then three hot steps across black lava to the sidewalk, and automatic doors swoosh open to air conditioning.  She rarely has enough money for a coke icey; she is here for the bottom shelf candy, a couple pennies or a nickel each.  Off flavors but sweet enough.  She remembered when her older brother was passing out lunchbags of candy to the neighborhood kids for free, practically littering the cul-de-sac.  She had wondered where he got enough money for all that popularity, or could he have saved that much from trick-or-treat? She wondered until he got busted shoplifting at the grocery store.  The security guard decreed that he was never allowed in there again, forever, and the disgrace of sitting on the curb waiting for the mortified ride home was enough to keep him from doing it again.

Today she picks out a few root beer barrels, some Tootsie-rolls (the smaller ones for two cents, not the large ones that divide into cubes) a candy necklace and tiny wax coke bottles, and of course a freeze-pop.   Sitting on the curb, she bites off small pieces of the freeze pop, careful not to get tooth-freeze or brain-freeze, until the last melty chunk is squeezed out the top of the thin plastic tube.

“What do you want to do now?” …”I don’t know, what do you want to do?”
Helen Feb 2012
Fall surrendered, snow fell, and Ruth’s mother bought a blanket for her daughter’s seventeenth Christmas. It wasn’t a very expensive or spectacular blanket; it was extraordinary only in the fact that it hadn’t been picked mindlessly from a Christmas list but had instead been chosen lovingly and thoughtfully. She knew her daughter was forever chilly and would love the blanket’s fleece side, and she laughed to see that it had snaps just like the blanket she herself had spent her evenings cocooned in when she was Ruth’s age. So she wrapped the blanket more beautifully than the other gifts and set it gently under the tree.

The sun stretched, adults yawned, and Ruth opened her mother’s gift on Christmas morning. At the sight of the blanket, her grandmother’s eyes welled with memories of Ruth’s mother, looking almost identical to how Ruth looked now, wrapped up in her own blanket with the snaps. Ruth admired the gentle color of the blanket’s slick side and stroked the fleece side against her check before setting it on top of the rest of her gifts. She thanked her mother enthusiastically (she’d always been acutely aware of her reaction to gifts in front of their givers) and laughed good-naturedly at her grandmother’s hovering tears before hugging them down her face.

Naked trees shivered, frost iced the landscape, and at her mother’s suggestion Ruth spent the winter with the blanket layered beneath her covers. She nestled beneath it every night, but felt guilty when she couldn’t love it any more than anything else she had in her room, and she never snapped it around herself as her mother had done. She’d tried to wear it like that the day she was given the blanket, but it had made her feel uncomfortable and constrained. So instead she slept with the blanket spread flat beneath her sheets through that winter and into the spring.

Spring sprung, flowers bloomed and Ruth bounced for a moment on her toes before diving headfirst into his eyes. The weeks passed for her not in hours and days but in giggles and kisses, and she was surprised when her usually analytical, suspicious mind released her heart and allowed it to love recklessly and entirely. Making her bed one giddy morning, Ruth stroked the soft, fleece side of her blanket and then the slick, smooth side, and she thought of sweet picnics and stargazing from quiet hilltops. She folded the blanket and kept it in her car in preparation for any such spontaneity.

The moon beamed loudly, prom streamers fluttered, and Ruth danced with him wildly. Her classmates all felt just as immortal, and everyone laughed and spun and anticipated together. When they finally left the dance, Ruth’s body was still coursing with the night’s excitement, intoxicated with young love and the bright eternity that stretched before her. He brought her to a small hilltop where she spread the slick side of the blanket against the grass, and the two lay trembling there beneath the stars. Finally, he wrapped his mouth and his heart and his body around hers, and her innocence leaked slowly onto the fleece.

The moon slid drunkenly behind the hills, birds began to wake, and Ruth flew home on her own audacity, leading the dawn behind her. In the dim light, she noticed the garbage can her father had brought to the curb the night before, and she decided to spare her mother the pain of discovering the once soft fleece now stained with rebellion. Quietly, she lifted the lid and dropped the blanket inside. Its snaps scraped loudly against the can for an instant, but then the morning quickly swallowed the noise. By the time the lid banged back down, Ruth was rushing back to the house, her blanket already forgotten.
B J Clement Jun 2014
We reached the island in the late afternoon, it was no bigger than a cricket pitch to my eyes.  The runway was a sick joke. There was none!  There was a strip of land that was clear of jungle, (the runway) started in the sea, and finished in the sea, and was full of big potholes. It had been a Japanese airfield in the second world war, now it was covered in cows, goats and children.
We flew very low over the island twice to warn them of our intention to land.
We were very low on fuel and needed to land as soon as possible. "Here we go," the pilot grinned *hit or bust! we  almost landed in the sea, and bounced down the runway, we were less than fifty yards from the surf when we turned and trundled over to the refuelling station. I watched in trepidation as the second aircraft attempted to land, bounced twenty feet in the air and took off again, skimming the sea. It managed to land at the second attempt, bounced several times, and turned with it's tail wheel almost in the sea.  I turned to say something to Gordon and saw the pilot and aircrew looking up at the starboard engine and wing of our aircraft, which appeared to have gone green. "Looks like the reduction gears have packed in."  That was the opinion of the air frame fitters. "Can you fix it?" That was the pilot.
"Yes, but not here." the fitter said shaking his head, "It's stuck in coarse pitch so you'll need to take it easy." The pilot laughed. "If it's stuck in coarse pitch we will have to be flat out to get her off the ground!"
A little old man dressed in a loincloth, ragged shirt, and sandals manned the fuel pump and began to pump fuel into the fuel tanks located in each wing.
When that was done, about three hours later, the pilot  had him douse the wing and engine cover that was covered in the green grease, and we did our best to clean it up. As soon as the other aircraft was refuelled, we took off again. "Next stop Darwin, fingers crossed." He laughed. I could only admire his happy go lucky attitude and determination, I think he would have got us safely to our destination, even if we lost a wing!
TigerEyes Dec 2015
The station wagon bounced down a dusty road toward the farm house, and Phoebe, who had just turned fifteen  felt the pit of her stomach coil, and tighten with dread. Gazing out the window she locked eyes on a bored looking cow slowly chewing a mangled knot of grass. Phoebe wondered in that moment if even the cows were more depressed in Bismarck.

Her step-father, “The Glenner”, had been too cheap to fly her back home to Oregon from a summer camp in Minnesota, and had arranged for their local minister, Cru Hayward, to pick her up along with his daughter, Lizzie. Phoebe’s sun burned skin ached as she pealed it off the sticky back seat. The air conditioner had broken down in Fargo, and the eight of them were all squeezed in like a pack of cranky sardines.  

Phoebe was going to be spending the rest of her hellish summer with complete strangers in Bismarck, North Dakota on a wheat farm complete with cows, chickens, and one grey mare along with Lizzie’s six cousins.

The car door swung open, and a large man wearing blood stained overalls with extremely bushy eye brows lunged toward them, “Why I wrecken’ it’s been goin’ on five years, Cru! Bout’ time you come home with the kids to work the farm.” He took an oily handkerchief out of his back pocket, and wiped the dripping sweat from his brows; appearing out of breath at the same time. Phoebe took note of how “Bushy Brows” had replaced the word “work” instead of “visit”, and suddenly felt as though a chicken feather was caught in the back of her throat. Cru Hayward looked stiff, and managed to put out his hand to shake Vern’s, but instead was pulled in tightly, and given a bear hug smudging the wet chicken blood on Vern’s overalls directly onto his brothers white Oxford shirt.

As Phoebe entered the farm-house a variety of scents wafted through the steamy air. Lizzie’s Aunt Doodie was nervously leaning over the kitchen sink peeling a large stack of potatoes so high they were beginning to topple off the counter one after another. An extremely obese cat  sat by her feet pushing them across the floor with as little energy possible.  Standing on a small foot stool in front of an old-fashioned *** belly stove stood, Trina, a small child around the age of five who was busy feeding a dog the size of a small pony. She appeared to be in her own unsupervised world; busily shoving strips of steaming barbecued  chicken from a platter into its wet slobbery mouth, and then licking her fingers.

Phoebe glanced into the nearby living room, and noticed the walls were decorated with handmade plaques quoting scriptures from the Bible along with various cheap prints of Jesus; like the kind you’d buy at a church fair. Small miniature figurines decorated the home throughout. An open bible lay on the arm chair of a tattered recliner.  Feeling self-conscious, and out of place, Phoebe tried to hide in one corner as she watched Lizzie hugging her Aunt Doodie’s belly wearing  a hand-made sweat shirt with “Elvis” on the front. Gospel music was playing loudly from the living room. Phoebe mumbled under her breath,  "Where's the donation jar?” Aunt Doodie’s eyes narrowed when she looked at Phoebe, “Did you say something, Dear? What’s your name?” Phoebe managed to croak out her name, and say she was just talking to herself.” Aunt Doodie gave her a wry smile, “Why you’ll have plenty of time to talk to yourself tomorrow in the wheat fields when we get you up to work at 4 a.m., Missy.” Her snarled lips faded, and she continued talking to Lizzie smiling big, “Now where were we, Lizzie darling?”

Phoebe already hated it there. It had been less than five minutes since she arrived. She began to think if she had a money left in her suit cases to take a bus home. She frantically dug in her front jeans pocket, and pulled out a piece of lint, and a dime.  

Lizzie’s cousin’s all stumbled into the kitchen wearing clothing that looked as though it had passed through several millenniums of “Goodwill Store’s” in the 1970’s. Their straw hats hung low over their  eyes, and  Lizzie could tell they were ******.  Lizzie’s cousins had all been stamped out by the same cookie cutter mold like twins. Their ages ranged from seventeen to thirteen, to age five. Trina the youngest being no doubt an accident.  Marty, the oldest at seventeen, wearing a ripped Metallica shirt was the first to speak, “Lizzie look at you! Why you all but growed up on us. I bet you’s the most popular girl in school with that pretty face of yours”. Marty was handsome in a Emelio Estevez actor kind of  way. Phoebe couldn’t help but lick his beautifully sculpted arms, and chest with her eyes; but when he caught her staring she quickly looked down at her shoes. She felt her face burning with embarrassment.

Aunt Doodie turned around swiftly on her bare heal with a large milk pail in her hands. "I'll be back girls. I'm out to the barn to milk the cow for supper. Don't break anything."
  
Twila was sixteen with black eye liner under her eyes, and red lipstick. She suddenly leapt onto Lizzie from behind, and covered her eyes while wrapping her large chicken fried steak fed legs around her. Her hair was curly, and extremely frizzy like it had not seen a comb in it for several years.  Twila whispered, “Hey Lizzie, who’s your dweebie friend? Don’t look like she can smile much. Maybe our cat got her tongue. She looks like one of those uptight city girls!” Lizzie couldn’t hold onto Twila any longer, and tried to drop her down gently. A loud “thud” bounced the floors as she fell. The inside of a nearby china closet rattled as she hit the floor forcing a glass plate to fall, and break. “Ahh  ****! That’s mama’s favorite platter.” Twila looked straight into Phoebe’s eyes, “We’ll just have to blame it on you, Phoebe. You just keep your mouth shut about it!” Ignoring that Twila had just accused her of breaking a platter Phoebe heard Lizzie mumble, “Oh, this here is my friend from home. We both went to summer camp in Minnesota together, and we’re her ride back home to Oregon.” Phoebe at this point was already imagining a large pig shaped nose on Twila's face; and not the kind that was cute. Twila glared, “Looks like you in lots of trouble now city girl”, and walked away with her cousins leaving her to stand alone in the decorated gospel room near the kitchen.

Phoebe wondered if she landed in some kind of Twilight Zone episode that had not been written yet. She decided to go for a walk all alone on the wheat farm until someone called after her for supper. Phoebe was lonely but she was lonely at home with her mom, and step-father too. They always left her to fend for herself, and her mother rarely spoke to her.  Phoebe felt as though it was like living with two ghosts you can hear; but can't see.  Besides, she had decided that this summer would be spent working on her writing. She had always wanted to be an author, after all, she had always noticed everything.
Her thought was broken when she heard someone say, “That sister Twila of mine is mean as a snake. Don’t pay no attention to her. To this day I feel like I must have been adopted. Hi, my name’s Shawna.” Shawna had a beautiful face, and was tall for her age. She stood about 5’8 with long blond hair making her look almost like a mermaid with her fair complexion. “My twin sister, Shaylynn, went into town to rent a movie for us all to watch tonight. We ain’t got internet. I think she said “Back To The Future” was finally available, or maybe it was “Jurassic Park”. Have you met Joel yet? He’s about your age. He’s always hanging around the bowling alley with them local boys. Don't know what they even have to say to one n' other. It's not like anything ever happens in this town.” Shawna seemed like the nicest out of all of Lizzie’s cousins as she reached out to give her a hug. Phoebe smiled politely saying, "If you don't mind I think I'm going to go for a walk. I think I need some air" while waving a quick goodbye.

When she returned from her walk she opened her journal to page one, and this is when it all began to get very interesting.

My Summer In Bismarck & Other Quirky Observations

by, Phoebe Snow

August 7th, 2015

The horizon seems to encircle this entire small farm as if someone drew with an orange crayon around it like a child would on paper, or perhaps with white chalk on the sidewalk. Everywhere I look it seems flat; and at night the moon hangs so low in the sky with the brightest stars next to it than I think I've ever seen in my fifteen years of life. Lizzie's Aunt, and Uncle, and all her cousins talk funny too. It's like they stretch out their "o's" when they speak. Kind of like hearing a bike tire that's going flat with a pin hole in it. It seems forever for it to finally run out of air; and sometimes you just want it over with as fast as possible. That's how they talk. I'm always finishing their sentences in my head ten minutes ago. These people seem so foreign, and yet I know them like a story.

Journal entry: August 16th, 2015

Marty has come into my room. He is standing in the doorway with  his chest pushed out. He is seventeen, and I am fifteen. I know what he wants by the gleam in his eyes. I won't give it to him.

I got up from my bed, and closed the door on his feet. Silently. I left the scent of coconut oil on my body drift toward him. An invitation; but not yet.
This story is copyrighted and stored in author base. All material subject to Copyright Infringement laws
Section 512(c)(3) of the U.S. Copyright
WGA - copyright 2015
Act, 17 U.S.C. S512(c)(3), Krisselle S. Cosgrove November 27th, 2015

This is the start of a novel. Thank goodness for starts.

— The End —