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Terry Collett Mar 2015
The coach is parked outside the gospel church along Rockingham Street. Brown with a yellow line along the side with the name of the coach company's name: RICKARD'S.

Janice stands next to her grandmother waiting to get on the coach; she's wearing  a flowery dress and a white cardigan and brown sandals. Next to Janice's grandmother is Benedict and his mother and Benedict's younger sister Naomi.  Members of the gospel church who have organized the day out to the seaside are ticking off names from a list.

Weather looks good- the grandmother says, eyeing the sky which is blue as a blackbird's egg.

Benedict's mother looks skyward. - It does, hope it stays that way. Benedict looks at Janice; she smiles shyly. She's wearing the red beret. Her hair looks nice and clean brushed. Sit next to her on the coach.

Wouldn't surprise me if it isn't a little cold by the coast- the grandmother says, looking at Benedict's mother, seeing how tired she looks, the little girl beside her sour faced.

Maybe, hopefully it won't be for their sakes- the mother says, looking at the coach and the tall gospeller with the one eye. - mind you behave, Benny, no mischief.

That goes for you, Janice, no mischief or you'll feel my hand- the grandmother says, her voice menacing, and don't forget to make sure to know where the loo is don't want you wetting yourself.

Janice blushes looks at the pavement-  I always behave, Gran, and yes, I'll find the lavatory once we get there, she says.

One Eye ticks off Janice and Benedict's names; his one eye watching them as they board the coach,and sit by the window, and look out at the grandmother and Benedict's mother and sister. Kids voices; smell of an old coach stink; the window smeary. Janice waves; her grandmother waves back. Benedict waves; his mother waves and smiles, but his sister looks down at the pavement.

One Eye and two other gospellers stand at the front of the coach calling off names and the kids respond in return in a cacophony of voices, then they sit down at the front and the coach starts up. A last minute of hand waving and calling out of goodbyes and the coach  pulls off and away along Rockingham Street.

Well, that's it, just us now- Benedict says, looking out of the window, looking past Janice.

No more bomb sites after this for a few hours- Janice says, no more being made embarrassed by Gran. I know she worries, but I am eight and a half years old, not a baby.

That's the elderly for you- Benedict says, always thinking us babies when we're almost in double figures.

Janice smiles. She looks at Benedict. He's wearing a white shirt and sleeveless jumper with zigzag pattern and blue jeans. He's left his cowboy hat at home; his six-shooter toy gun has been left behind, also. Glad he came; like it when he's near; I feel safe when he's about.

Have you any money?- Benedict asks.

I've  two shillings- she says, Gran said I might need it.

I've got two and six pence- Benedict says, my old man gave me a shilling and my mother gave me one and sixpence.

The coach moves through areas of London Benedict doesn't know. He looks at the passing streets and traffic.

Billie, my canary, has learned new words- Janice says.

What words has he learned? - Benedict asks, looking at Janice's profile; at her well shaped ear, the hair fair and smooth.

Super, pretty and boy- Janice says.

Talking about me, is he?- Benedict says.

No, about himself- Janice says, but who taught him the words neither Gran or I know. Was it you? She asks.

Me? why would I teach him to say those words?- Benedict says. If I was going to teach him words they'd be naughty words.

You haven't have you?- Janice says, or I'll get the blame; Gran thinks I taught Billie those words when I didn't.

Well, I may have said certain words in his presence when I came round the other week- Benedict says.

Was it you who taught him to say Billie without a *****?- Janice says.

Benedict looks down at his hands in his lap. Did he actually say it?- Benedict says.

Janice nods. I got in trouble over that- she says, gran thought I taught him; came close to getting a good smacking, but she thought it over and said she didn't think I would.

So, who does she think taught him?- Benedict asks.

Janice raises her eyebrows. Who do you think?- she says.

So, please don't teach Billie words- Janice says, or I could be for it.

Sorry- he says, looking at her, thought it'd be a laugh.

Gran doesn't share your sense of humour- Janice says. Now she wonders if she ought to let you come around anymore, and I like you coming around. So please don't teach Billie words.

I won't- he says, not a word, not a single word.

She smiles and kisses his cheek. He blushes. What if the other boys on the coach saw that? How would he live it down? Girls and kisses. He's seen it in films at the cinema. Just when a cowboy gets down to the big gun fight some woman comes along and spoils it with that kissing stuff. He's seen Teddy Boys who seem quite tough, spoil that impression when a girl gets all gooey and kisses them.

Janice looks out the window, watches the passing scene. She like it when Benny's there. She doesn't like most boys; they seem rough and tough; seem loud and spotty and smell sweaty, but Benny is different, he's tough in a gentle way, has good manners and that brown quiff of hair and his hazel eyes that seem to look right through her, right into her very heart.

Benedict doesn't think other boys saw the kiss; he sits feeling the slight dampness on his cheek; he doesn't think having a kiss, makes him look weak.
A BOY AND ******* A TRIP TO THE SEASIDE IN 1957.
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.
Steve D'Beard Jul 2013
What is about some people
insisting I want to engage
with whatever they are watching
singing along to
listening to

Example:

recently, on a long haul train
travelling from A to Z
in the rudimentary rammy
to find the unreserved seats
enter the 20-something
alluring guitar laden
leather and tattoo clad female
tumbling onto the next table to me
unpacking as if she was moving in

munchable fruit laptop
gleaming white
in clear conflict with
the dreads and the beads
pumped in patchouli oil
drenched in love and peace
armed with a dvd
that would shortly crush the spirits
of every soul in Coach D:
the Quiet Coach

enter screaming chipmunks
hysteric children
and songs to sing along to
which she did with obsessive precision

insisting that Coach D
should in some way be
enlightened
entertained
entranced
and ultimately impressed

such was her overbearing desire
to love thyself above all things
give the peace sign when appropriate
and otherwise don't give 2 F's
for anyone else, regardless of situation.

consumer behaviours were erratic at best
if the Jedi senses
were anything to go by

if i'd had a handheld vibe particle device
I could have created a pathological combustion
and an accelerated Coach D A-Bomb

heads turned
feet shuffled
zips unzipped and re-zipped
open hands holding Kindles
immersed in philanthropic discourse
turned to clenching fists
the sound of bent drink cans
rusted cogs in motion
deep breathing

even level 1 Tetris
became too much
for the bald fellow to my left
who accepted failure
and opted to purchase
a large brown bag of beer
from the bar

GOOD CALL

libation and the pagan ideals;
imbibe thyself to dull the senses

I concur
and,
in exchange for our classic colonial restraint
on behalf of Coach D
I wish upon you the following:

1. You will never again
drink a decent coffee from any vendor anywhere in the world, ever.

2. Your laptop will
turn off during any movie you sing along to, silent or otherwise.

3. Your guitar
strings snap during a performance in front of people you don't know who paid to get in.

4. Your Tattoo artist
has an epic fail and tattoo's a defamatory remark rather then your lovers name.

5. Your leather trousers
shrink wrap and make the sound of bursting bubble wrap every time you move.

6. Your comfortable shoes
attract bits of grit like a magnet, regardless what you are wearing.

7. Your waft of perfume
is likened to compressed 7 year old blue cheese that has sat in the sun for weeks.

8. Your location
at any time has a global no shoot-and-miss policy for all birds without exception.
(even the ones that don't fly)

9. Your singing
is so electric that every time you sing in public your hair stands on end
and cutlery sticks to your nose.

10. Your beer is always warm.
11. Your wine corked.
12. Your water salty.

13. That this poem goes viral on the internet
expressing one man's words which mirror the every day person
working their socks off to make a living
and in the hectic hustle and bustle
one of the sanctuaries is Coach D
on the way home from the City
and the frustration and restraint
of anti-social conduct
and basic respect.

14. That I will be on David Letterman
or the Late Late Show
or USA tonight
or the BBC prime time news
or some such over-hyped
TV show talking about you.

15. That you will thank me for making you a celebrity by default -
15.1 and subsequently appear on late night Z-list celebrity game shows involving boxes of spiders.

You are the worst Muse ever
in the history of Muses

16. and this is how you will be remembered
Mould from nothing
Baby steps beginning
Patience a Vitue
Rookie years
Figuring the prescription
Knowledge of the game
Future Hall of Fame
Every Aspirant the Same
Hopeful at the Start
Imparts the Art
Selfless in Approach
A Coach

Player taking shape
Coach and his grace
Nevers accepts mediocrity
Intense practice a necessity

Excellence pursued
Day in Day out
Foundation laid
Brick by Brick
Game built

Best you can  be
What the Coach tries to be
Urges you to copy
Final results vary

Sheds light in the dark
If it merges with the dark
Holds hands guiding
Other end of the tunnel
Darkness left behind
Light at the end
Signals start
To display the Skill
And the power of Will

Placed ahead of God
By the will of God
Did someone Coach God
Not a far off thought

Technical expertise first
Mental conditioning after
Physical fitness above the two
Complete responsibility on the Coach to do

Participation in Competition
Coach the Companion
Friend Philosopher Guide
Multiple roles
Plays them all

Barriers become Milestones
Preasure becomes Privilege
Aim becomes Trophy
Glory becomes basking in

Date with Centrestage
Made at an early age
Ability to gauge
Even Sport needs a Sage

Forefront his backyard
Rallying behind his front porch
Sidelines his garden of Eden
Peanut Gallery his Gate

Motivation the key
Inspiring by being
Champion in Game
Human in Life
A Coach does all
But does not tell

Career Graph
Various points
Thick and thin
Rain or Shine
Hope still high
Reaches for the sky
Out of the black hole
Continues his role

Coach reviews from pupil
Coach  Relates to pupil
Give and take relationship
Long term partnership

Perseverance and Endurance
Taught and Profiecient
Feet on the podium
Medal garlanding the neck
His job well done
Return expects none

Winner or loser
Opportunity to tutor
Builds character
Boy into a Man
Permanent change
Code to live by
All the money
In the world cant buy

Mentor for the player
Built layer by layer
Strives on reflected results
On his life deeply affects

Teacher and Protege
No longer separate
Thought and action
Relate and duplicate
Alter Ego for the other
There is no another
Trainer Trainee Merger
The world to conquer
Finality for both Student
one with the Coach

His sweat creates skill
His tears creare talent
His blood creates  Victory
His sacrifice creates Legends

Walks into Sunset
Players after they retire
Coach ready
For the next Understudy
jeffrey conyers Aug 2012
You're the counselor.
When certain players can't accept defeat.
You're a minister.
Teaching them about humility.
You're the coach.
A title that takes on many roles.

You're a defense attorney.
When parents gets enraged.
Thinking their child's better.
Then they really is.
You're the coach.

It takes a dedicated soul to give of themselves.
When many parents loves to criticize.
And refuse to assist.
It takes a calm manner person to accept this job.
Because many parents are releasing to you their child.
To motivate them to be better.
Not just at the game.
But, as a person with kindness.
Long after the game.
When many will forever think winning is everything.
Until , they lose to see the sportsmanship.
Is how you handle things.

You're the coach.
In the mist of many fools wearing that title.
Because some treats their players like they entitled.

You're not afraid to bench the star of the team.
Even, if many think you're being mean.
You're the coach.
Who's respect for your dignity?

If anything states about you.
That you would like.
You wants them to state you were fair.
Even amongst the dislikes.
Infamous one Sep 2013
Being a coach has is responsiblity
When the team wins they celebrate
But you keep them focused for the next game
You push them to be better prepared
The coach takes on all the weaknesses making them a strength
When the team fails the coach know the job wasn't done right
A loss means the coach needs to push and not fail again
If the coach hates losing the team should feel the same way
One common goal and work out the kinks everything will fall into place
No hard work goes unnoticed so earn it and it will get a positive outcome
Terry Collett May 2015
The RICKARD'S coach arrived at the seafront the sight of the sea and waves and seagulls in flight and sounds of sea and gulls and waves on shore and Janice waited in the coach seat beside Benedict both gazing out at the view listening to the gospellers talking about the day and the plans ahead and one of them with one eye said not to wander off but to stay with the group and before we get off the coach make sure you are with someone it's easy to get lost on your own so stay with some one all day or a group of others he said his voice a drone to Benedict who looked at the sea and the gulls and also there is a fairground to visit One Eye said but stay with a person and do not wander off with anyone you do not know and the rides are paid for so no need to pay any money out he said the children on the coach buzzed like bees with excitement but Benedict sat and watched the beach the families the ice cream van the fish and chip shop the shop selling buckets and spades and whirly things that go around and around in the wind and so on but before we leave the coach we need to say a prayer and thank God for this day and for the weather and the sunshine and for the gospel church members who paid towards this day out for you One Eye said there was a silence and lowering of heads and closing of eyes and One Eye said a prayer and was ended with a loud AMEN which echoed the coach and maybe along the beach Benedict  waited until the the kids got off the coach one by one then he and Janice moved down the aisle as One Eye and another gospeller counted them off Janice straightened her red beret and Benedict followed her out onto the seafront pavement and sniffed the air and listened to the sounds of sea and gulls stay together a gospeller said to them we will Janice said excitedly taking hold of Benedict’s hand and squeezing it where can we go? she asked the fairground rides are over there the gospeller said pointing over to the side and we will meet for lunch at one pm meet here I’ve told the others and we will keep an eye out for you ok Janice said Benedict and she walked towards the fairground where there was a loud sound of machines going around and voices and screams and laughter and shouts they went in and walked around the various rides and stalls and Benedict said where shall we start? I don't know Janice said there is so much to go on and do but Benedict had his eye on the motorbike rides where small motorbikes could be ridden around a circular track I’m going on that he said looks a bit scary Janice said releasing his hand wait here for me then or ride on something else less scary he told her no I’ll stay with you she said and followed him onto the side of the track where a man was organizing the rides and kids want to ride on the back or on your own? the man said to Janice who looked uncertain I’ll ride behind him she told the man and climbed on the back of the motorbike Benedict was sitting on she put her arms around Benedict’s waist and held on tight then they were off around the track and at a given speed and around and around they went Benedict over taking other kids on motorbikes and now and then being overtaken by others then it was over and the time set finished and they got off and went on a number of other rides and stalls and kept together until it was nearly one pm and a gospeller said got to meet for lunch now and they followed the other kids back to the coach and waited until all had arrived and then they set off for a restaurant where a meal had been organised by the gospel church in advance and they all sat down and Benedict and Janice sat in two seats together and Janice said that was good I haven't enjoyed myself so much in years  and that motorbike ride was scary but I did enjoyed it after all and Benedict let her talk because she was good at it and he watched her how her red beret moved as she turned or shook her head in her excitement and her eyes bright as stars and her hands clapped and her fingers moved and he just listened smiling and nodding and he said maybe we can sit on the beach after lunch or go in the sea and paddle and see if there are any ***** or dead fish left by the tide O she said will there be? and will the ***** bite? and I best go to the loo as I think I’ll wee myself with excitement other wise and she walked across to one of the gospellers and asked and they pointed to a door at the back and Benedict watched her go and listened to the other kids and people around talking and laughing and thought of home in London and wondered what his mother was doing and should he take her back a gift out of the money she gave him if there was a shop that sold things he could buy he would if he could find something he thought she might like just as Janice returned a waitress brought the meals around and laid them on the table in front of them fish and chips O good Janice  said I like them I wonder if they caught the fish around here in this sea do you think they did Benny? do you? I expect so Benedict said although he didn't know and hadn't thought of where the fish had come from apart from the sea some place he liked it when she asked him questions as if he knew everything when he knew he didn't but it made him feel good and he looked at her and felt happy her being there with her red beret and fair hair and she like him was eight years old or more and she living with her gran and he not knowing what happened to her mum and dad and never asked thinking it best not to ask and he living with his parents and sister and brother in London and so different from the seaside with the sounds and smells so different and fresh and she talked of the beach and maybe paddling if they went in the sea he with her in case she slipped in and drowned and she didn't want to do that and of course he would he said and they ate the fish and chips and he looked out at the sea over the way and sensed her near him and was enjoying the seaside day.
A BOY AND GIRL AND A TRIP TO THE SEASIDE IN 1956.
Terry Collett Apr 2015
Miriam sat on the coach next to the boy Benedict shed met him at Dover Priory Station as they both got in the double decker bus to the ferry port can I sit next to you? shed asked him sure hed said and moved over in the seat to allow her to sit on the already crowded bus and the bus took off to the ferry port with its packed bus of passengers Miriam didnt want to spend the next two weeks of her holiday abroad alone and even though there would be about thirty in the holiday package she knew no one and some were in couples married or otherwise or lone girls like her or the single boys whom she felt were not her kind except this boy seemed a bit different although she couldnt quite put her finger on what it was and when they got off the bus and onto the ferry she stayed near him as much as possible talking when she could or stood next to him as they looked out at the sea once the ferry had left the port and once they had arrived at Calais and disembarked from the ferry she followed him onto the coach where she said can I sit next to you? if you like he said  did you want to sit by the window? if I could she said and he allowed her to go in first and once she was settled in her seat he moved in beside her and lay his head on the back of the seat and closed his eyes she looked out the window waiting for the coach to take off are you sure you dont mind me sitting here? she asked no of course not he said not opening his eyes good to have company and pretty company she smiled and turned and gazed at her reflection in the glass of the window as best she could she never considered herself pretty what with her tight red  curly hair and her freckled face and bright blue eyes and a mouth she thought too wide she pulled a face at herself and looked away she settled back in the seat and lay her head on the rest at the back of the seat and tried to sleep for a while but she was too restless and opened her eyes and sat gazing at the passengers still boarding the coach her hands were restless she wanted to do something with them so she tucked them between her thighs out of the way and stared out the window a few stragglers were still waiting to board the coach she ought to have got the book out of her case to read on the journey now she had nothing to do but look out the window or at her fellow passengers or close her eyes and sleep she gazed at the boy Benedict beside her his eyes still closed soon be off she said to him hope its soon he replied me too she said hoping he would open his eyes and look at her but he didnt he just lay there with his eyes closed then after a few minutes the coach started up and the coach began to move from the Calais port and onto a road were off she said he opened his eyes and looked past her head about time he said and looked at the passing view she studied him sitting there with his hazel eyes and quiff of hair brown and wavy isnt it exciting she said to be actually taking off he gazed at her and smiled taking off what? from the port she said catching his smile what did you think I meant? nothing its my imagination goes riot at times she looked at him what did you think Id take off something? she said well could take off that jumper its too hot for it at the moment she raised an eyebrow is it? she said aren't you hot? he asked she supposed she was rather when she thought about and so she took of her jumper and tucked it behind her and sat back on it is that better? she asked I like the tee shirt he said she looked down at the tee shirt it had two rabbits where her ******* were what are their names? he asked what? she said the rabbits what are their names? he said I dont know she said I havent given them names he smiled how can you not name rabbits with names? she shrugged theyre not real rabbits theyre only printed rabbits on cloth she said still rabbits though he said printed or otherwise she smiled ok what shall I call them then?she asked thats up to you he said what names do rabbits have? all sorts of names she said did you have rabbits as a child? he asked yes I did she said reflecting back two white ones Fluffy and Snowy she said smiling so which one will be Fluffy and which Snowy he asked pointing to the two printed rabbits on her tee shirt you choose she said which one looks most like Fluffy? he studied the two rabbits closely mmm think the one of the right looks more fluffy than the one of the left so that one is Snowy? she asked yes I guess so he said the driver switched on the radio and classic music filled the coach thats Chopin Benedict said what is? she said I thought we decided on Snowy no the music he said its a Chopin piece is it? she said yes a sonata I think she gazed at him and he looked at her so how often will you feed the rabbits? feed them? she said sure you got to feed rabbits or theyll die of hunger he said smiling theyre not real rabbits she said smiling at him they look real he said sitting there all kind of innocent and hungry but theyre not real except maybe I will feed them later just to please you she said o good he said and dont forget to give them plenty of strokes rabbits like to be stroked maybe later I will she said looking at him taking in his bright hazel eyes gazing at her eyes of bright blue maybe later she said you can stroke them too.
A BOY AND GIRL SET OUT FROM DOVER FOR A HOLIDAY WITH THIRTY OTHER PASSENGERS ABROAD IN 1970.
Robin Carretti Jun 2018
Cat-like lotto being scratched off
Shades dressed to the nines
Cat Women whites and Gray's
Pulling out her men's hairballs

Chatty Patty pancakes hearts
online more calcium her
bone Inn limit
Thank God! its' Friday
However, did it come to
the number 13 Orange
Pumpkin heads
Minus the 4 days she
needed her nine lives
back in bed

So finicky to test our time
Pulling all strings her nose cute
as a  black spot button,
Beguiled black baby cat on
her futon Miss pretty Kitty

He's the Navy Seal
The coach sealing the deal
Having *** appeal from
Heaven to earth 4 For 4
Wendy Tuna smells
Fortune tells the Luna
Cat on hot tin roof tiger print tabby,
The Egyptian Robbie dancer
starry eye glancer in the long
narrow alley Maggie May
The heating cooking up his
finicky paw the last
religious supper huge day
The black cat she's got 
 hot legs I love you honey

Rod Stewart forever young
On the ladder kitten gloves of money

Lady in cat print what
Cat's meow man handlers
Not one flaw over her dresser
Becoming the cat calculator

Fiddler on Roof Lechaim
to Life maybe it's not what
it seems
Hollywood Stray Cats big
bang theory what priority
Black Coach  secrets Victoria
Women like cats in her diary
Windmills of the Gods

The Hail Mary mastery
Tell me your dreams
Don't spill the milk
How love drops sewed me
in silk thread the test of time
We shouldn't test ourselves
like an unfortunate crime
About time knowing oneself
Well the cat got your tongue
Chosen one shelf

Like a book  going stale
We need them
Cat Coach matchmaker
You're the miracle worker
The book speaks without
being told
But how quickly our hearts
could be sold now taking
the bar exam
And your "Miss Kitty"
making her best-baked yams
So illegally you stoled all the pink
His smile is playing on me
His tiger eyes  Cat Coach so tempted
And like hot shepherds pie flicked
It's not bad luck to see a cat
when you had lied
You get what you give
Something gives how fate pulls

Meaning/mission/alleyway/
Dreaming/Cat fusion/Cat Valley-pay
Just love the way he makes you feel
Not in harm's way home cooked meal
Like Independence day cool

Kissing your money goodbye
Two glasses of wine Athens
Greece
Bigger than life Black cat
Demonstrator making her
own world of peace
German tour bus
Sparkling beer and good
cheer black cat like a
good soldier
under the chair
Dark blue sailor
He was in the alley
With cans and faded glory
You would never realize
he had a cat story
The ancient days of Gladiators
All imitators full moon black cat

Came way too soon
Bodies of the women
were sold
Roman EmpireTrump
got hired play trumpets
But darkness prevails
Like the treachery
The California dreaming
but the truth primary
Love wilderness or blind love
wildfire but brings tenderness
She said, my husband,
died happily and the other lady
told her___?
But he was happy to die
From the old world or new
We get cat licked
New world marries right away
An old world  it takes 1 to 2 years
But cats life will be even better
Nine lives you could wait
Are defeat you fall into
his bait
Fairy
__tails Cat dynasty
Spartacus like bonafide
Princesses in the Coach
Teaching at the college
Taking a long tree ride
Get roared out Big Tigers
coach Please Papa Preach
About Cats, I wanted to jazz this up I hope you love milk and even silk we need new threads lets dream on or go the alley make an undescribable supper maybe a little Dr. Seuss in my poem
preservationman Sep 2014
It’s a race between a Greyhound bus and Coach USA bus
Everything is prepared on the Race Track
The fans are cheering in the back
The Greyhound bus and Coach USA bus are put through their paces before the race
There will be plenty of dust in the trace
It has been announced buses please take your place
The checkered flag is raised up
Then the flag is raised down to begin
The Greyhound bus pulls out first
But the Coach USA bus pulls out like it’s a hearse
Suddenly Coach USA picks up speed
But the Greyhound bus still has a good lead
Cheers from the crowd
The clock is ticking with time allowed
Out of nowhere the Coach USA bus catches up
The Greyhound bus is no longer in the lead
The Coach USA bus is focusing on proceed
The points are certainly stacking up
Keeping score a Judge’s view
Well the buses are down to the finished line stretch
What bus has made their match?
Greyhound and Coach USA are neck and neck
The fans are thinking in what the heck
Coach USA bus crosses the finished line first
As for the Greyhound bus being like a page from a verse
“At last you tried, but you scored behind, and you wheeled everything you got, but it was second place of thine, but until next year, keep that mine".
Hoping2bhelpfull May 2014
He sits on the bench
Cheering his team on
All the time wondering
When will the coach put him in?

His mom and dad look on smiling at him
He knows they will ask why he didn’t play more?
He doesn’t know himself
He will hear the, “you need to work harder” speech

There is a small chance he will do something great
But not really
He only gets to play
When the team has a comfortable lead
Or a starter needs a rest

Sometimes he gets lucky
A starter will upset the coach
And the coach will punish the starter
By letting him, a sub, play longer than normal

Thoughts confront him
What’s worst?
Not playing?
Fine with not playing?
Not fine with not playing?
Playing a little but playing well?
Playing more but playing bad?

He must break free
He must not let the coach, the team, the parents define him
He can’t be pushed aside
He has to be a fighter

The coach is not his friend
He is the enemy
He must convince himself of this
The coach stands in his way
He must stand out and play the game his way
Not the coach’s way
Or else he will be a sub the rest of his life
And all he will have to show for it
Is a pat on the back and job well done comment
And memories of others getting basking in their own glory
While he sits on the bench
Frank Ruland Aug 2014
With the widest grin
little Timmy did begin
to scurry across the field
to Coach, his eyes peeled
for the same happy smile--
Coach just waited for awhile.

"Coach! Did I make the cut?"
Timmy asked, his heart in a knot
Coach, however, sighed
he just couldn't lie.
"No, Timmy, I'm afraid not
in fact, I need to tell you a lot."

"Frankly, your game *****
I've seen faster moving ducks
You just can't seem to hit the ball
your swings don't come close at all
My ex-wife has more game than you
I just don't think you could improve
My opinion is you don't have a knack
for any sport, as a matter of fact
You wouldn't be good at anything
Hellen Keller wouldn't have you sing
And I am sorry, but I have to say
I was just told by authorities
that your parents gave you up
said they were done with that chump
I don't think you'd ever be adopted
any hopes of that should be stopped
The only place that might take you
is a sweatshop making ninety-two
cents an hour, but that's good news
I mean, what else could you do?
And, someone ran over your dog
He's in a coma, but for how long?"

And with this, Timmy's heart broke
His world shattered; no more hope
With a tremor in his words,
he opened his mouth and he slurred,
"Coach, that just can't be true!
You're just kidding, aren't you?"

Coach smiled, and then he said,
"Yes I am. The dog's already dead."
Anto MacRuairidh Aug 2015
"Stop playing with your nuts son. You'll get them full of hairs",
Said SNL netball's most famous coach to his one and only heir.
"Pa... tell me another story...how the Scampers won the cup"
"Another one - there is only one", he said, lifting Junior up.

"But you tell it so well", Sean Jr said with a twinkle in his eye.
He has my wiley charm thought Coach, of that I cannot lie.
Coach Sean Shortt (Shortty) was full of pride - he gave his tail a twirl,
i'm really glad we had a boy though I'd have been happy with a girl.

He cleared his throat, "we'd reached the Finals in the year of ' 78,
Folks said it was 'cause I was chief but the team that year was great!
With Sammy Strain and Sereena Skylar; best Goal Attacks I ever saw
And Skittles Sloan - Wing Defence - what she couldn't do with a ball...!"

"Oh Dad! Fast forward to quarter 4 - the most exciting part !!"
Sean Jr was tired from school that day - Bless his little squirrel heart.
"Well it was even Stevens" Coach continued "only seconds on the clock.
I thought I'd never see the end my heart ticked with every tock."

"ShingleWood Sneakers were in terrific form - they hadn't yet been beat
But we played them at their own game and we really brought the heat.
Man marking and super fitness was the key to my strategy
Fair play as well but I fought for every single foul and penalty."

"Their main man was super tall - long tail - wore a medical mask,
For fear of seeming obtuse, I thought it prudent not to ask.
He never missed, this big GA - kept scoring goal after goal after goal.
I never seen the likes of him or his skills, son - Upon my soul!"

"His crowning moment a penalty - he surely couldn't miss, I'd bet.
He didn't!! And our hearts all sank like the ball, clean through the net.
Then they Gatoraded their coach but most of the liquid went the hero's way
Revealing a painted tail - a scandal!! - whispered about still, to this day."

"A raccoon ringer! - flown from the States, with a stripey lengthy tail -
To deceive the whole of our sainted league but their wicked plan had failed.
They were disqualified - to us, the cup -  I got Freedom of the Wood.
And though we ne'er won again - those memories still feel good."

Shortty gave the lad a loving look - bed time was fast approaching
- Stories have to end some time; so with Life and so with coaching -
"And what did we learn, my only son, on that fateful glorious day -
Apart from the obvious that squirrel tails arent monochrome, they're gray."

Junior huffed a pretend sigh because he really loved this tradition
And with a proper unpretend yawn he said without sedition,
"The moral of the story is to strive through thick and thin,
No Sir, winners never cheat - and cheaters never win !!"

...and so to bed...
Previously posted on another site by me.
preservationman Aug 2017
A good night’s sleep before the road trip drive
The mission is to arrive at the final destination alive
Then check into the terminal and find out their departure destination assignment
Later inspect the bus for any defects
Safety being the call of duty with having no troubles in the passenger’s trip having an effect
It’s Boarding Time
The Motor Coach Engineer brings the coach bus to the terminal departure gate
Announcement is made for destination with intermediate stops in between
The Driver than takes the passengers ticket
The passenger’s then board
Once the driver gets the ok to proceed from the Operations Center to departs, the driver backs out the bus and heads for the highway
The driver then picks up the bus microphone and welcomes the passenger’s aboard
He or she also announces the destination with stops along with rest stops and meal stops including transfer points
This is a Daily Routine
Later when the bus arrives at the designated final schedule, once the bus is pulled into appropriate gate, the passengers then disembark
Then it’s thanks for travelling with us
Safety with no fuss
Zero tolerance and you didn’t cuss
It’s all about the Motor coach Engineer and the bus.
CK Baker Mar 2017
fischers rap
on a hot tin roof
bristol creek pools
over rock and seed
english wolfhound (and the barkbuster)
stroll pine lane
vibrant colors
of a cool spring
in cob yellow and
forest green

field mice squander
in cotton wind
goats and ferret
hold seven hour trim
raven and ****
meddle and forage (on a splendid fiaker goulash!)
crickets and frogs
hidden
in swollen grey logs

creepers fill the
cut stone walls
coy wolf high
on a frayed white rope
eagles perched
at trudy’s bend
catamounts laze
on a snow base cedar
(pared arbutus bent  
through a failed ground rock)

brush spider spins
a timely web
brown bears fumble
at the spirit jamboree
quizzical squirrels
crack their nuts
as pillow clouds float
over telegraph trail

12 point dances
on talus and scree
hen hawks float
in a big hard sun
clydesdale and coach
trot copper smith road
(glancing down
on finch and the warbler
whistling through
colander row)

lavender fills
the peat soil box
mountain cats
guard the heavenly gates
black eyed ridge
is wide and open
the country squire hails
this fruitful land
DJ Thomas May 2010
We each have a voice and life, it is how we use them not how we might!  

Stop glaciers melting
Huge population movements
Death of progeny


The small reductions in carbon emissions being targeted for 2020 or 2050 - are thought to little to late to slow global warming.  The melting polar ice and glaciers together with our changing weather patterns are now fact. The resulting loss of river systems and rising sea levels will mean the desertification or flooding of agricultural lands and famine, then the migration of populations - starting with the skilled and rich seeking safety, to escalate into the terror of armed bands
warring over water, food, women and land.

By 20 20
Lets hope for twenty twenty
A 20 20


There is now the thought that the huge physical change wrought by global warming can be charted by the escalation in earthquake and volcanic activity.  And that this may eventually trigger huge eruptions in the American and Asian continents,
destroying civilisations to create a planetary volcanic winter.

Again fire and cold
The cycle repeats itself
Destroying nature


Was there a civilisation in deep history before the flood, prior to and during the last ice-age?
This has been researched and written about in great detail during the last twenty years
and many now believe it already proven by scientific review of documents and
thousands of archaeological finds, also by scientists having used the exactness
in the astronomical alignments of ancient monuments
to recalculate there greater age.  

Dead sold souls herd us
Lost mindless finger puppets
Vapid witless words


Sadly, the majority put their reliance and faith in
the actions of lawyer-ed politicians, most of whom evidence
a fixation on their own welfare,  selfish self-glorification needs
and an unwillingness to rock-the-boat once in power*

Politicians thwart
Party politics deafen
Propaganda’s herd


Putting off all radical action required until after the next election.  
Many have gifted away the necessary legal control and power to take national radical action
to a political or trade grouping of nations - in effect retaining only national rights
to go to war, put up taxes, borrow and spend monies.

Please no rhetoric
Complete local transition
Forget politics


We each have a voice and life, it is how we use them not how we might!

Living we give voice
So one voice might yet be heard
All being, believe!


We are left holding our eco-inheritance and children’s future in the palm of our hand.
Please let our love and imagination drive us each forward to make change.


Biosphere a greenhouse 
Target the impossible
Please gift some life soon?


So, we each of us have hard personal choices to make, which will encompass both positive and negative
benefits in terms of our time, lifestyle, health and wealth.  I chose to base my choices solely on how it
might benefit the eco-system and the lives of our children.

My choices are grouped under five headings: transport, food, home, lifestyle and further action. They are:
-  

Transport: Rail; Bus; Coach; Bike;
(I pass woods in bud - a Red Kite hunting twisting, unhurried moments).  
To give up ownership of electric / motor vehicles
and to avoid air travel where possible.


Highly vaporous.
Emissions farting -
barrelling vipers
.

Food: To eat meat/fish only once a week at most;
(Slaughteramas greed - industrial carcase-ed meals. Sheep full of cancer)
To study fast methods of vegetarian cooking; buy local organic foodstuffs;
visit local farmers markets and farm shops; grow my own when possible
and help friends establish vegetable/herb gardens.
To not ever feed, cleave and eat!


Fat shopaholics,
a deadly consumerism.
Cancers meat to eat


Home:   A cottage sized for me, friends and neighbours,
overlooking a wooded valley and trout stream.
Like me a little untidy and basic
.

Crossing the shallows
trout fingerling feed at dawn
White dots steep hill path

Dusk - eight painted queue
river paired mare and foal
Foliage lined dark black


Well positioned to capture the morning sun, airy and light.  
Yet insulated to stay cool or warm. With easy access to mountain bike trails
and long distance bus routes, plus several end-of-line train stations
in energetic cycling distance over the mountains


A differing beat
Quickly fading doubled steps -
pulling separate


Life Style:* A thinking poet mountain biker, living organic
not part of the great noisious noxious ribbons of hurtling tired.

Pressured paced life -
impossible  commitments.
Organic living


Further Action: *I intend to give up meat not because of the terrible cruelty involved in ten billion or more animals
being slaughtered every year to feed the human race, but due to
: 1)  animal farming being a major factor in the burning of 50 million year old rainforests at a rate of one and half acres per second to generate huge volumes of greenhouse gases, destroying the richest habitats on Earth and a principal source of oxygen; and 2)  that these billions of farmed animals
are themselves a major source of greenhouse gases
.

Burning rainforests
Feeding to cleave open and eat
Subsistence farming


With ongoing intensive fishing, the world's fisheries already in crisis and climate change,
it could be that we will run out of wild-caught seafood much earlier than 2030!


Conserve energy -
and natural resources
Don’t waste foolishly


Each of us might have a different view of what globalisation is,
for some this word encapsulates the dangers of our global fast food culture, omnipresent brands,
popular culture, changing diets and the growing use of packaged processed foods
.

Freedom to act sought
Globalisation's curses
Octopus suckers!


For many it is the illegal international trade in endangered species of flora and fauna,  
second only in value to the $350 billion a year global drug trafficking trade that now services
perhaps more than 50 million regular users of ******, ******* and synthetic drugs
.

The label 'globalization' can cover the: spread and integration of different cultures;  
industry moving to low per capita income countries; sweatshops supplying this seasons branded goods
to retail outlets worldwide;  complex international interleaved financial trading instruments being developed
by banks and financial institutions to trade worldwide, create profits and pay huge bonuses, without risk to themselves
.

Globalisation -
orchestrated profiteers,
betting our losses


Many see globalisation as being the beneficial spread of free trade, liberty, democracy and capitalism,
involving the efficient allocation of resources and capital through the spread of technology.
Unelected international bodies and institutions such the World Bank actively promulgate globalisation,
a '‘world government’ promoting close economic ties between nations
.

Enculturation
Our sad indoctrination
Globalization
  

The anti-globalisation movements dislike the corporate and political nature of globalisation,
protesting the resultant harm done to the biosphere, a more rapid and extensive deterioration of the environment
and the unintended but very real consequences of globalisation: the erosion of traditional culture
resulting in social disintegration; a breakdown of democracy; the spread of new diseases;
changes in diet; increasing poverty.
.

I view globalisation and it's propagation as leading to the final destruction
of the world's cultures and civilisations by locked us into a
dogmatic world political doctrine secured through
trade and political alliances of states, institutions
and corporations that remain hell bent on
imposing this world governance. Such
that individual countries governments
cannot consider making substantive
radical change to avert the planet
being pushed into a natural cycle
that will end the human race
.

Caged in Fools World
The people hear heroic call  
Each one a hero
!

The peoples and cultures of the world need perhaps just one western country to
break the legal chains of globalisation and adopt a radical economic regeneration program
designed to make the total transition to a dynamic culture of localised
clean communities centred on the individual not competition*  

Only one tool
National taxation for -
economic change.


Here I begin discussing how global, regional and national economies might
be based on the growth of small organic local economies.
not the repeated foolishness involved in chasing lower cost base manufacture -
each time at great cost to the economy it has migrated from!
Then a further culture becoming totally reliant
on the transport of foodstuffs and goods -
I can here you saying
:

"Oh **** this guy is -
talking about change, changing -
the world we live in!"


Yes, I am and do we have a choice?  But such change will be organic and involve business
in the restructuring and regeneration of economies till we share green economies.  
In small part his is already happening slowly!


Unlock taxation,  
survivals powerful tool.  
Needed now for change!


This is why we need to consider doing something that many of today's
plutocrats, economists, bureaucrats and politicians, would dismiss out of hand or
discuss endlessly in terms of perfectly competitive markets, perverse economic incentives etc


Major solution
National taxation change
Human extinction



WORK in HAND

This haiku sequenced eco-haibun is an ongoing project being penned day-by-day by many that care and take action. Your reactions are all welcome, thank you


**Take back control now.  
Cease all squabbling, achieve act - decisively!

Globalisation's, global control cut away.
Diversity sought

Promote well being.  Act with imagination -
for ecology!

Creating employment -
with local utilities, local food and transport

Incentivise tax,  to create local benefits.
Gain prosperity

Income taxation -  value added tax, aged -
dangerous mistake

Local licensing.  Lead don't follow excuses.
Saviour taxation

Imaginative - energy, food and transport -
local licensing

An alternative - energetic strategy,
greening business

Organic foodstuffs - out compete processed food.
Life promoting health

Healthy government - a healthy population. 
Zero income tax!

Locally taxed - by distance it travelled -
and category

Products bar coded.  Point of agreed production -
and category

Local added tax, by distance it travelled -
and category

Local energy, initiatives supplant.  
Replacing at risk

User energy, capture and storage.  
Eco-dwelling plan

Local water works,  supplanting initiative.
Replace the at risk

User water need.  Capturing and storing half.
Securing supply

Communications, local initiatives.
Protecting our needs

Local healthy food, life saving initiative.
Planting guaranteed

Sort unemployment, local work available.
Agriculture base

Radical transport - initiatives needed.
Change made possible

Season’s colours blur - in ageing contemplation
chilling warm breezes

Ganges dried mud - dust
Armed hungry thirsty tide
Generations despair,  lost

Our politicians -
squabble condemn progeny.
Flee panic and die

HAIKU SEQUENCE FINISHED

HAIBUN PROSE BEING ADDED
Day by Day
This haiku sequenced eco-haibun needs prose and additional haiku added day by day.  Contributing comment and reactions considered for inclusion...

copyright©DJThomas@inbox.com 2010
Matt McDaniels Apr 2014
When I think of you
I see royal blue
The color of your logo
Screeching at the top of your lungs
At eight o'clock in the morning

When I think of you
I hear keep the faith
And I got up at four in the morning to be here
As you storm off across the field

When I think of you
I used to think fat old man
Crazy and delusional
Why did you always pick me out

Now, I still think of you
As crazy and delusional
But also the greatest coach I've ever had
And quirky
And my friend

He is
Coach Dishman
Sophia Fagone Dec 2013
When I was a little girl I used to sit in the audience and watch, as all the dancers on stage lit up my tiny world. They were fabulous, sparkly and their technique was flawless. I wanted to be up there, and I wanted to be as amazing as them. The pounding of the music, and the atmosphere surrounding me was unbelievable. I was a little girl lost in a big world. I couldn’t wait until that was me, I wanted to be perfect, I wanted to be amazing. Now I am one of the oldest in my class, and I know the girls look up to me. I am trying to be the best role model I can be. I want little girls to be inspired like I was. For generations to come, girls who push themselves to become better, that’s the reason why I dance. I love seeing the progress in people, and myself.
About six years ago I joined my very first hip hop class. I had never taken anything like it before. I was a ballerina, and I wasn’t very graceful. So I thought I’d try something new. I walked into a strange room with strange people. I was so nervous, what if I wasn’t good enough? What if people made fun of me? I still remember the look my teacher DeeDee gave me, it was a welcoming, sort of frightening look. She was a fiery red head, and she was full of energy. She was bouncing around, her curls flying everywhere. Those curls, I had some of my own, but I was determined to hide them, so I straightened them everyday. Her hair was flying and whipping and I couldn’t help but just stare. She was a goddess sent down from heaven to teach me how to be a better dancer. Today my dream job is a dance teacher. I strive to be like DeeDee, and I want to live a life full of dance and kids like she does.  
After  that first year of classes, I still wasn’t the best, but I had come so far. I remember wanting to quit, but DeeDee wouldn’t let me. She said I had potential. This meant so much to me, and it felt so good to have someone believe in me. I kept going at it, and finally I had accomplished moving to the older class. To dance with girls older than me was intimidating but it was also a great learning experience. I was pushed by DeeDee to get better, and I wasn’t allowed to quit. No matter how tough things got, I trusted DeeDee when she told me “Hit it hard” I had good days and I had many bad days, but those bad days were a learning experience and I am better today because of it.
The success and the progress I have made in my past years of dancing have all been thanks to DeeDee St. Peter. Without her I probably would not of had the strength to keep dancing and keep trying. To this day I still have DeeDee as a coach, and we are closer than ever. I can count on her for anything and everything. If I ever need someone to talk to, then I can always go to her. She is a great listener and a wonderful friend. I am not a senior yet, but I know, when the day comes that I dance in her class for my final year, I will cry. I will always keep the lessons I have learned, and the memories we have will be forever with me. DeeDee will forever be my hero, and I couldn’t ask for a better coach, teacher, and friend.
Even the longest journey Begins with a single step
Tendulkar has waited patiently to be a part of winning the world cup
The master has some incredible records to his credit
No cricketer in the modern era can compare with him for merit

Yesterday nearly 120o million Indian glued to the television sets
Irrespective Of caste, colour, creed, religion or sects
Dhoni and Co rewrote history after twenty eight years
From the  faces of Indian cricketers rolled joyous tears

Cricket brought  All the cricketing countries Unbelievably together
The western Coach Gary Kirsten and Co were responsible For the Eastern thriller
The great sport became  the emotional healer and the gap filler
And the greatest ever crowd puller

Tendulkar has carried the Nation’s burden for nearly twenty four years
So His team mates carried him on their broad shoulders
Even Tendulkar could not help shedding his emotional tears
It was really a great Moment for the entire nation to  celebratewith cheers
Infamous one Feb 2013
Being a coach is hard
Winning isn't everything
It all stats during practice
Arrive early to prep for the team
The ones who want it show up on time want it
The best players show up late
Running bases conditioning for the game
Batting cages to help with the swing
Playing catch helping the team work as a unit
Till the day of the big game
Slide to the base with technique practiced
Cutoff play to make an out
Team functions without doubt
Play hard play right win or loss giving it your all
Coach does right by the team no need to fight
Lets win and take the season play and do
What the team does best play softball
Terry Collett Oct 2014
We were allowed out
of the coach
to stretch our legs
and have a quick look
around Poitiers
in France

Miriam stretched
her arms out
and kicked out
her legs
almost got cramp
she said

I could have massaged
them for you
I said
I’m an expert
at massaging
away cramps

sure you are
she said smiling
but not
on the coach
it's too impersonal

we walked around
Place de Gaulle
looking in shop windows
and cafés and restaurants

how about some coffee?
I asked

if you're paying
she said

anything for a lady
I said

and what did you want
in exchange?
she said
putting her hands
on her hips

who said anything
in exchange
I just want to buy
you a coffee

she smiled
OK if you say so
she said

so we sat outside
a small café
and ordered
two coffees and cake
and the waiter went off

I lit up a cigarette

what's the book
you're reading
on the coach?
she asked

it's called The Apostle
I said

what's it about?

St Paul

isn't he the guy
who fell from his horse
or donkey
when a voice
called to him
at Damascus?

yes something like that
I said

why are you
reading about him?

he interests me
I said

why?

well he went
from being a persecutor
of what we call
Christians now
to actually joining them
and becoming one
of their leaders

enough already
she said
I heard he
was against ***
and all that

I guess
he was not keen
on the idea

and you want to read
about him?
*** is a brilliant thing
without it
no one would
be here
not even that Paul guy
she said

the waiter brought
our coffees and cake
and went off

beside
she said
you weren't practising
what this Paul guy
was preaching
on the coach last night

never said I was
practising anything
but it was dim
on the coach
and most others
were asleep

she ate her cake
and I recalled
the coach radio
playing some Mozart piece
the night before
while she and I
tried to explore.
A BOY AND ******* A TOUR OF FRANCE IN 1970
First Love is funny
Like a burning ring
We all fell into it once
Memories Memories

Time ago
Young in age
Tender in heart
Just like in the garden
I wanted to touch the apple

Just the next street
Yet my bath must be long
Had no real beard
Wonder what I was shaving
Armpit cleaned like a desert
Nails cut to shape
Memories Memories

Shirt ironed repeatedly
Trousers checked for unseen tears
Day before
Only shoe shined to new.
Hair line brought to shape  
By my mum used  tiger razor
Memories Memories

Vasselin on my face
Power on my neck
Perfumed ear
To make complete
Memories Memories

Mirror Mirror
How do I look
Turning Turning
Looking Looking
The boy must be perfect
To met his presumed perfect girl

With a novel in hand
A nappe in the other
The boy  good to go
Certified by my coach
Unseen shadow accomplices

Bold and calm
Queens and polished
coach gave order
Tell her she is not beautiful
But pretty
Tell her she is not a girl
But an angel
Tell her she is not now
But the future

Whistle blown
I marched forward
Be calm be calm
My shadow kept saying
Target in sight
Worrior on the March
Memories Memories

At the junction of battle
Without rain
Was covered in sweat
Had a quick look backward
My shadow had disappeared
queens refused to be fluent
words of love had flew away

Smiling was i
Cleaning my sweat
Opening my novel
able to ask for her note
Last assignment of Saturday
We don't school on Saturday
Memories Memories

Prayed for rapture
Even though I new
will end in hell
Any other thing
My hunted  asked
No! no!! no!!!
The hunter said
Hunted standing
Hunter running
Memories Memories

Now in a corner
Waiting for my scar to heal
****** up my coach said
Thanking God I came alive
Even when the battle was lost
Memories Memories

Love is like a burning ring
We all fell into it once
Memories Memories
    And
Memories
Every day the people do it
We can always see straight through it
Every day they ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’
‘Where are we going’ and ‘how far?’
Walking right through our arcade
Playing out the same charade
Are they coming in to buy?
Or look at every price and sigh?
‘Candlestick sir, antique broach?’
‘Sorry must get to the coach’

Occasionally while one man browses
They will look at the price of houses
But we know that they’ll never buy
Because the prices are too high
‘Salami, cheeses, tongue in jelly?’
But they just walk past the deli
From their course they never budge
Unless of course they want some fudge
‘Perhaps a painting or knick knack
A china tea ***, letter rack?’

The gallery’s packed full of art
But from their cash they still won’t part
The café almost tempts them in
The smell of bacon tends to win
But then they look upon the clock
And wallets full still, off they flock
In short this daily stream of life
That travels through our little fief
Just amounts to so much teasing
Rather than shop keeper pleasing

There is a reason none the less
For their single-mindedness
Despite how varied our approach
We cannot hope to beat the coach
Terry Collett Oct 2016
John sits
on the school coach
by the window
next to Goldfinch
watching the trees
and fields
and cottages go past.

Goldfinch is talking
of football:
who do  
I put
in goal lunchtime
as Potts is way,
who do you think?
Goldfinch says.

Not me that's,
for sure,
John says,
his mind
isn't on Goldfinch
or the goal,
but on Elaine
sitting over
the other side
of the coach.

He looked at her
when she
and sister
got on the coach,
but she looked away,
and not at him.

He guesses she
was shy after all
the rumpus since
Elaine's mouthy sister
told everyone
on the coach
that he had
kissed Elaine.

But it soon
died down
and apart
from a few
How's the Frump Elaine?
When he got on
and later
when Elaine got on,
then it died out.

Now the kids
are talking amongst
themselves or listening
to the music
from the coach radio,
some pop song
about loving somebody.

Need someone
by lunchtime,
Goldfinch says,
whom do you suggest?

Green might,
he ain't bad,
John says.

Green? He couldn't
save a 1p
for Christmas;
someone else,
Goldfinch says.

John doesn't
care who,
he's thinking
of Elaine
and whether she'll
let him kiss
her again
after the rumpus;
he hopes so,
although he's
not sure
he'll be welcome
at Elaine's home now.

Why did her sister
tell like that?
He muses,
listening
half heartedly
to Goldfinch's talk,
it was just a quick
kiss not
too passionate
and it was only
while her mother
was out of the room
briefly that day.

He looks over
to where Elaine
is sitting quickly
to see if she's
looking his way,
but she isn't
she's staring out
the window.

Her sister
glares at him,
so he looks away,
and back out
of the window
and the passing view,
not sure
what to think
or what to do.
A BOY THINKS OF A ******* THE SCHOOL COACH IN 1962.
Terry Collett Dec 2015
I hear the gulls, said Janice, they cry above our heads, swoop over the beach and sea, dive off and up and away. We have eaten our fish and chips in the cafe near the beach, we are free to go on the sands and sit or play, but not to go in the sea or get wet, the gospeller One-Eye said, stay near to each other do not wander off. Benedict is with me, we walk the sands, the wind is calm, the sea rushes slow up and down the beach, the tide swishes and shushes. Benedict runs to the edge near the tide, he stares out to sea, hands behind his back, like some ancient ****** of old. I watch him with my staring eyes, my heart pounding lest he fall and drown, imagining his arms waving through high seas. One-Eye the gospeller calls him back, beckons him with a pointed finger. I watch and see, Benedict moves back from the edge, come to my side, his mischievous grin ablaze, his eyes like fires of excitement. He talks of pirates and Jolly Rogers, and tall sails and high seas and walking the plank, his excitement brings his hands to clap. I smile, my heart beats fast, I am near to his side, his hands clap loudly, he laughs at the gulls that cry above. I see a ******* the beach making a sand castle with a piece of wood, her hair moves in the slight wind, her skirt lifts in the wind's hold, she laughs and laughs. A boy chases the gulls that settle on the sands, they lift off making loud cries, he chase them off and away. One-Eye and other gospellers stand in a group watching the children play, one a woman, with dark hair and a blue dress sings some hymn in a loud voice. My grandmother said not to get wet or ruin my shoes or clothes, to do as I’m told, eat all my lunch and behave, or she'd tan my hide. Benedict brings me some shells, large and small, colourful and white or grey, he pours them into my palm, they are cold and damp, I sense them there.  I move them with a finger, sort them out like a jeweller does pearls. Benedict talks of ***** and dead fish on the sands, and seaweed and sea creatures hanging on for dear life. I put the shells in my bag, I brush off the sand and damp, watch Benedict searching the shore for more. I watch the sea come in, the sound of the tide and shush and swoosh, and the wind getting up, getting stronger, it blows at my face, at my red beret, my hair moves at the edges of my head. The woman in the blue holds down her dress against the wind's pull, the sea's call, the gulls' cry. Benedict comes to my side, his hands holding tight his coat about him, his hair moves in the wind. Rises and up and the quiff jumps in the pull and push of wind. I hold on to Benedict’s hand, feel his chilled hand in mine, his voice carried off by the wind's harsh blow. The sea is rough, the waves race and rise, the wind sings a chorus of sounds, gulls call in the wind's flow, swoop and sway and dive and fly away. I hold tight to Benedict’s hand, feel his grip hold mine, his fingers wrapped round my hand, his hair a rising mess of dying kings, his voice held by the wind, his legs holding firm on the sand, his feet dug deep in the sand's grit. One-Eye moves us back to the coach, too strong to stay much longer, too dangerous for children to stay behind. We climb on the coach, take our seats, sit down and huddle each in our way, looking out at the sea's swell, the wind's scream. One-Eye and the woman count and call our names, we are all in place, all as we were, hairs in a mess, faces flushed, hands cold. Benedict rubs my hands in his, gets them warm, blows breath on them as he rubs. The coach moves off along the front, we wave at the sea and gulls, at the people left behind, at the man who walks on stilts dressed like a clown, swaying, almost falling down. I watch as the seaside moves away, the sea gone from sight, the gulls swaying overhead, then away over the rough seas. I sense Benedict beside me, his hands rubbing mine to keep them warm, his warm breath warming my fingers' chill. I am eight and a half years old, my grandmother keeps me safe, she keeps me in the lines of right and wrong, tells me to be good or else. Benedict is nearly nine, he lives nearby in some London flats, we are friends of a feather he says, me maid Marian to his Robin Hood, me Annie Oakley to his Wyatt Earp or Billy the Kid. The coach moves homeward away from the seaside town and sea, far from the wild wind and the gulls' cry, the sea's sounds and smell of salt and fish and *****. Benedict talks of Long John Silver and bottles of *** and dead men's chests, and knives and swords and sea and ships. I listen to his words and dreams and tales, feel him beside me, elbow to elbow, arm to arm, his hands making gestures of swaying ships and pirates' gold and treasures on island far away over seas more wild and rough. I watch him my sailor boy, my pirate with hazel eyes, and brown wild windswept hair, hear his voice talk of tall ships and desert isles and buried treasures, feel his arm next to mine, strong in his boyhood way. He talks of me as a siren of the deep, one who sits on rocks and sings sailors to their doom and laughs, his hand holding mine as we sail our ship on oceans rough and wild, wind in our hair and eyes, we both the ****** and yet at the same time the child.
A BOY AND GIRL AND THEIR SEASIDE ADVENTURES IN 1957.
Joseph Valle Aug 2012
When I was thirteen, I had a running coach.
He was short, lean, and muscular.
An Italian man
with a whistle hanging around his neck,
farmer's tan, and below his black widow's peak
sat silver aviators, propped upon his shiny beak.
I ran miles and miles a day, but,
no matter how much I'd run
he never followed. He always trusted me to
stride my roads and lift my knees high
during the kick at the end of the races
against myself.

"If you want to run
you gotta drop that baggage," he'd laugh
between sips from his water bottle
as he towered over little me,
panting and red. We both stood
tall under the blazing sun.
I couldn't comprehend exactly what he meant,
I mean, I told him,
"I have ultra-light, top-of-the-line shoes,
compression shorts and athletic toes,
a hairless chest for maximum speed,
sweat running rivers down my spine,
legs that never exhaust, and,
above all, Coach,
a spirit that can move mountains." His response,
silence and a smirk.
Who was he to teach me about running?

"You're weighing yourself down boy,
you gotta drop that baggage."
It was his motto for me
every time my time would increase,
because, you see, when running,
increase is bad. Except for hills.
I can still hear his voice in my head,
"Uphill, increase exertion."
He never ran with me, he just told me to go.
He showed me the route and I did as expected,
six days a week, sometimes three miles, sometimes ten,
day after day, again and again,
shoulders hunched and me out of breath,
"runners high," they called it.

I hated running, I hated my coach,
I didn't understand why
anyone would want run to anywhere.
Not now. Now, I love it.
It has become my hobby, a specialty
for when one grows up,
your body is built for it, and your mind
has been ready to run since junior high.
It starts as a seedling, when you're barely able to walk,
and by the time your cardiovascular system
has been assaulted by packs of tobacco
and rolled marijuana, it blooms green.
That's when you realize:
Running is easy.

And coaching?
Don't even get me started on how easy that is.
Snakano Jan 2013
We may not have that good of a pitcher...

Don't worry we aren't supposed to win.

I'm embarrassed to be your coach.

There's nothing good to say.

We're just not doing good.

They're more aggressive.

You're just not as good.

There's no heart.

Another loss.
It must have been thirty five years ago now,
I remember the kid as clear as day
His name was Eddie, or Timmy or something
Remember him clear as day, I think it was Eddie
Well, this kid was sure something
A true believer in his ability to play the game
He really loved it, ****** at it, but the desire
You could see it in them brown eyes of his
Or were they blue?, no matter...they might have been brown
Anyways, kid had desire, no talent, but desire
Played third base for me, thought he was a pitcher
But, he played third...that I'm sure of
He didn't have speed enough to move anywhere else
And I think he was blind in his right eye,
So, he could only move left
Good kid, Timmy or Eddie
Had an arm like a rocket
the ball would just explode out of his hand
I never knew where it was going
And truthfully, I don't think he did either
But, wow....it went fast, wherever it ended up
Kid actually made it rain one day
Just because he threw the **** ball so high into the clouds
He was trying to throw to first, but hell, it went high
Always smiling this kid, always...
don't know if he was just happy
Or if his jaw hadn't grown right for his teeth,
But, he was always smiling
couldn't hit worth a ****, had a nice swing
But, that blind eye....couldn't see a pitch until it hit him
Cooled us down on the bench though
Made a hell of a breeze when he swung
He was good for that,
lots of wind from Eddie, or Timmy
He did get a hit once or twice, I remember that
Scared us, scared him too I imagine
But, he did hit it, and it did go a long way
Problem was it happened so infrequently
He always forgot to run
And when he did, he ran like a duck
*** wobbled all over, arms flailing, head still
Quack, Quack...run Eddie, I'd yell
He'd smile, and take off,
couldn't see where he was going
But he'd run....and he'd stop only when he felt like it
I remember he was Mexican looking, or Spanish
There, brown eyes...knew I'd remember
anyways, he got called out for swearing once
Knocked the **** cover off the ball
then he stood there and watched it go
By the time he started to run,
He'd Holy ******* at least three times
And got tossed by the umpire
I argued, but, the ump would draw the line at two
Three holy *****...that's a little much
But, he knocked that ball into the next county
He'd probably throw it there too if he tried
The kid had desire, no talent,
but a smile and desire
Got tossed after striking out once too
Struck out a lot, once he let loose with a barrage
And I mean a barrage of swear words ....In Italian no less
I always thought the kid was Mexican or Spanish or something
But, he swore in Italian in front of an Italian ump
Poor kid, three holy ***** in another language
And he got tossed,
If I could get him to stop at two....he'd be fine
Eddie was a good kid, I liked him
He tried, he smiled, and he was terrible
couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat
But he didn't care, and neither did I
But, Eddie, or Timmy, whoever he was
Was a good kid,
I hope he remembers me as fondly as I do him.
stéphane noir Jun 2014
say for example,
that you love to play baseball.
[it is your favorite thing in the world,
and you're quite good at it, too].
and before your game,
your coach says to the team,
"if we win, i'll take everybody to Pizza Hut!"
upon hearing this, the players' faces light up-
each one can taste the delicious stuffed crust that awaits them,
and visions of breadsticks dance through their heads.
the coach even brought a coupon book to allude to their possible futures...
just before the team takes the field,
the coach pulls you aside
and says,
"actually, i'm going to take the whole team to Pizza Hut
even if we lose."
well, you would know right then
that outcome of the game
is irrelevant,
but the true joy of playing
comes from competition regardless of winning or losing,
so you vow to play your best game ever.
however, everyone else on the team,
not knowing the ultimate truth,
will play very seriously,
but with great anxiety and nervousness.
they desperately want Pizza Hut,
but know that they might not getting it.
this game is the most important thing in the universe,
and it is the most serious test of all time.
every at-bat is tense for them,
each fly ball could result in ultimate damnation.
nothing is fun.
with tension and anxiety,
they strike out, play conservatively,
and don't take the risks that make the game enjoyable.
quickly, the team finds itself trailing by a few runs,
and sweating profusely because of it.

you, on the other hand,
would feel more relaxed during the game.
you would swing for the fences,
knocking a couple out of the park,
steal a base or two,
make a diving catch.
play your best game ever.
you can do this comfortably
because you realize that you're just playing for fun.
you're going to Pizza Hut after game, whatever the outcome!

soon, in your exuberance,
you'd let slip the secret to a couple other players.
you'd tell them, "guys, we were always going to Pizza Hut,
let's just have some fun while we play this game."
most of them rejoice!
[a couple real serious ones doubt you and resent you.
you'd surely smile, bend a knee, and applaud their solemnity.]
but in your state of joy you include the doubters,
and you let them believe what they will until the final innings over.
you think, they'll wake up soon enough.

with the last out made
and the last run scored,
maybe you look at the scoreboard and see yourself in the lead,
maybe you are a few runs behind,
but the smile on the coach's face says it all:
the peace and joy within you brought into your world happiness...

... and a large pepperoni pizza.
knowing what you know now, will you enjoy the game?
ern kingham Jan 2015
Dear me (age 13),
     Congrats, you're a teenager! Get ready for some of the best times of your life and also some of the worst. When you hear that old saying "You never know what you had until its gone," don't just shrug it off. Never take anyone or anything for granted. Soon you will loose someone important. Don't be afraid to mourn. It's okay to cry. Let it out.
With Love,
An older you

Dear me (age 14),
     Middle School is rough, but you're almost done. Keep going. Gymnastics is rough this year competing two seasons in a row, but I promise you its worth it. You'll be so much better because of it. Don't give up!
With Love,
An older you

Dear me (age 15),
      Hello again. Welcome to High School. You're first midterms are coming up. Study a little harder than you think you need to. It's worth it. This year gymnastics will make you the happiest person in the world. Just a warning though, at the top of the highest mountain, there is no where left to go but down. Also thank mom for making you work in the guidance office during study hall. These people will become some of your biggest advocates.
With Love,
An older you

Dear me (age 16),
      When the beam coach says you need to stop gymnastics for a bit to rest your back, listen. Do not keep going when her back is turned. When the bars coach says to stop arching your back, listen. Please listen. But when the head coach tells you to loose 10 lbs, don't. Don't listen. Instead curse her out, tell her how that makes you feel, tell her that she is a horrible human being, and how much you can't stand her, but whatever you do, do not ever let her words control you. You are perfectly beautiful. At regionals, don't go for the double back dismount off bars. End with the full twist instead. But don't be ashamed if you don't make it to nationals. Instead, rest, heal, get better. Skip all the other doctors you think you should see. Instead schedule an appointment with  Dr. Greenberg like the head coach keeps insisting you do. I know its scary and painful right now. But the physical pain will go away.
With Love,
An older you

Dear me (age 17),
     Life is harder than ever right now. The physical pain is awful, but the emotional pain is worse. I'm so sorry this had to happen to you. But please whatever you do, do not pick up that razor. The urges to hurt yourself will only get stronger the more you give in. Its a trap so hard to get out of, you will wonder if you ever can. Instead pick up your camera, swim farther, call a friend. Anything!
With Love,
An older you

Dear me (age 18),
     When you spend the afternoons of your senior year at a mental health facility, embrace the help your getting. Remember the lessons you learn, they will only help you in the long run. Have fun on senior trip, and don't let anyone bring you down! When you start college, don't be so quick to trust your roommate. The girl you met in the bathroom while moving in though, trust her with your life. She will be your best friend. And I honestly don't know where you would be without her.
With Love,
An older you

Dear me (age 19),
     Stop blaming yourself for falling asleep everywhere, and ask the doctor to change your medication. Accept the fact that you have a mental illness and its okay to not be okay. Keep eating lunch and dinners with your friends. Don't forget to thank dad every day when you both live out of a hotel room, so you can finish freshman year. Embrace DBT, and learn to live by it. Sophomore year will start out okay, but will head downhill pretty quickly. When your roommate talks about her sorority, listen. These girls will become you're best friends and biggest supporters (besides blood related family of course). Don't worry too much though, you'll make it through, with the love and support of your family and amazing sisters at school.
With Love,
An older you

Dear me (age 20),
     I've only known you for a couple of days, barely even two weeks really. but please keep going. Keep fighting. It has to get better at some point. right?
With love and hope,
Yourself
Sorry this is so long
Terry Collett Sep 2014
Lovely Tours
Miriam
says to me
maybe we
can look round
you and me

sure
I say

and so when
the coach stops
we get out
and wander
keeping close
to others
from our coach

the hippie
couple there
out in front
he bearded
with a band
round his head
and his girl
with long hair
hanging loose
both smoking

Miriam
takes my hand
her own hand
small and warm
pulse going
her red hair
all tight curls
her bright eyes
over me

isn't it
exciting?

I don't do
exciting
I just look
and take in
and enjoy
I tell her

we walk on
through the streets
look in shops
look at stuff

she holds things
in her hands
handles them
values them

like last night
in the coach
in Paris

lying down
in our seats
us kissing
her fingers
exploring
my hot crotch

my fingers
spidering
up her thigh
as music
on the coach
radio
eases out
Beethoven’s
piano piece
concerto
number 5
or such like

and she's there
holding me

my fingers
spidering
to her nest

lights dim low
music flows
down the rows
of coach seats

some sleeping
some talking
some of us
making out
best we can
in dim light
in Paris
over night.
A BOY AND GIRL IN TOURS IN FRANCE IN 1970
Terry Collett Oct 2016
We stopped
for a short while
at Orleans,
after passing through Paris
in the early hours
by coach.

Miriam lifted her head
from my lap
and looked out
of the window:
where are we?
She said.

Orleans,
I said.

I feel a drag,
I must have
gone off
into a deep sleep,
she said.

You did,
I said,
I dozed off,
but you
were well away.

O Benny
you should
have woken me,
it must have been
uncomfortable for you
with me
sleeping on you.

The music on the coach
was some Mozart piece;
others moved about
around us.

Just for an hour,
then we must
move on,
the driver said.

Let's go find a cafe
and have a coffee
and croissants,
she said.

So we did
(after she had
brushed her red
haired head).

We found a cafe
and ordered
and sat down
by a window;
others were
there already.

What do you think
of it so far?
I said.

It's good,
but I am so tired,
she said,
I could sleep
for a week.

Well it would
save you
on food money,
but a bit
boring for me,
I said.

She smiled;
I guess so,
she said.

We drank
our coffees
and ate
our croissants,
and went out
to look around
and have a smoke.

We sat on a bench
for a few minutes
before returning
to the coach.

She kissed me
and I kissed her.

Best get back,
she said,
taking my hand;
I felt a tingle
go through me
stirring my fellow.

So we went back
to the coach,
and sat in our seat,
and the coach
started up,
and moved away.

It was good start
of a new day.
A BOY AND GIRL ARRIVE AT ORLEANS IN FRANCE IN 1970
Steve Page Feb 2019
A TEAM SPORT

[In the voice of your favourite over-excited rugby commentator.]

We're inside the final quarter. We've seen a bone-cruncher of a contest today and there's no sign of a let up, the prayers gather for the next engagement, positioning themselves with practiced confidence, skillfully supporting each other, ready for the push.  You can see every knee and each hand bears the marks from this long muddied pray, red and brown staining every inch of their entwined limbs; - arms and hands holding fast.

Front row.
Second row.
Back row.
Digging in for the big push.

The opposition has played an intelligent game, taking advantage of any lapse in concentration, any sign of tiredness, looking for any weakness to exploit.  The prayers know they can't afford any slips now, they need to keep up the pressure, maintain their advance deep in the opposition's half.  Every yard of gained ground needs to be defended.

The prayers' Coach looks on - look at his smile! You can see the pride he has for his team, he's schooled them on every tactic of the opposition and now that training, that practice has paid dividends. This is a team of prayers that so clearly know each other well, supporting each other every step of the way. You can see their co-ordinated pray, their sustained effort and the sheer pleasure they feel when they are praying together.

The prayers drive on.  The sound of their groans and deep breaths merge into one. There's a rhythm to it, a cadence as together they push and PUSH. 

The opposition's footing is slipping, the prayers' momentum gains pace and, YES! the resistance collapses.  Oh, that must have hurt!

But there's no time for complacency, the prayers re-form their line looking for the next opening, the next opportunity to push forward.

This is a joy to see.  The Coach shouts his encouragement - this was never going to be an easy struggle; you can't dismiss the opposition - they are a seasoned though sometimes disorganised team and they can take you by surprise.  But as we've seen here today, the Coach knows that if his team of prayers keep to the plan and pray to their strengths, the opposition are surely in for a hiding. The prayers will triumph and they will take the winners' crown.
- Back to you in the studio.
Inspired by the Six Nations tournament
JJ Hutton Aug 2012
In the stands, down 35-3 with two minutes left in the fourth,
Fred Carson picks at the sticky, white remnants of a Coke bottle's label.
He leans over to me,
"Do you mind if I talk to you again?"
I don't, and haven't since kickoff.

"You know, I played running back on this same field."

"Oh yeah?" I say, allowing the story to commence.

"Started all four years. Rushed 1,000 yards as a freshman."

"Wow."

"It took five guys to bring me down by my senior year."

"That's insane."

"I probably still hold the record for most rush yards,
but I doubt they keep up with things like that."

He takes a sip from his drink. It's half empty.
His hair -- greasy, most likely on its third unwashed day --
parts to the left and clings to his skull.
He's wearing a long sleeve, plaid dress shirt.
The shirt is buttoned to the top.

"Hell, that was back in 1968," slows, "I graduated in 19-68. Jesus."

Fred retired from the post office six years back.
He claims he's never missed a game of Blue Jay football since 1970.
The high school band starts playing in the section next to us --
a misshapen cover of "Louie, Louie".
Fred raises his voice,

"You know, I've been to every football game since 1970."

"Yeah, you mentioned that last week."

"I apologize. Yeah, if it wasn't for that first year of college.
I got a scholarship to play ball at Florida State.
Couldn't be there and here at the same time, you know? Kinda hard."

He runs his big-knuckled right hand along his khaki'd thigh, checking his pocket.
He checks the left thigh -- nothing.
Reaches into his shirt pocket and reveals a lighter.
Then a soft pack of Marlboro Lights emerge.

"You know, I ran the fifty in less than five seconds."

To the dismay of cheerleader moms sitting behind us,
he lights the cigarette.
He stares at the Bic lighter with some NASCAR driver -- number 88 --
I don't recognize.
The cutout of the NASCAR driver's scraggly face
sits atop a navy blue and spiraling purple backdrop.
He starts to scratch at the label on the lighter.
A screech from a clarinet rises above the rest of the band,
Fred grimaces, takes a drag, continues,

"The coach at Florida State said I was the fastest boy he'd ever seen.
He said I was going to go pro. Sure thing, he said. I rushed for nearly
300 yards in the first game my freshman year. After the game,
the coach was like, see boy, I told you. You are going to tear it up
this season."

The NASCAR decal comes completely off. Under that purple and blue label,
Fred uncovers a white lighter.

"Would you look at that. I wouldn't have bought the **** thing if
I knew it was a white lighter. That's bad luck, you know. Hendrix and
that--uh--Janis Joplin lady both died with a white lighter in their hand.
Bad luck. A white lighter is bad luck."

"What happened at Florida State?" I ask.

"Well, we were playing Notre Dame during the second game that season.
Down by five with three seconds left on the clock.
We were on our own thirty, and the coach of Florida State was like,
run the hail mary play. But in the huddle, I look the quarterback
square in the eyes, and I say to him, captain -- he was team captain --
I say, captain, I'm hungry for that ball. He knew I could do it.
He took the snap, the receivers rushed down field, and I bolted toward
that line of scrimmage, took the handoff and I was gone, baby."

The crowd begins to cheer as the Blue Jay quarterback throws a long pass
to a wide open receiver. Fred freezes mid-story.
The cheer blurs into a silence, as each person in the bleachers
watches the ball ascend.

For the first time all night, the band lowers their instruments from their lips.
Just a ball floating.
The buzz from the stadium lights becomes audible.
One person gasps.
Then like dominoes the stadium follows suit.

The high arc of the ball betrays the distance,
and the pigskin plummets sharply.

"Interception!" the announcer cries through the speakers.

"That's a **** shame. I thought he was going to have it.
What were we talking about?" Fred asks as he drops his
finished cigarette into the nearly empty, naked Coke bottle.

"You were talking about Florida State. You were down five and--"

"That's right. So, I break up the middle. I dust that noseguard.
I stiff arm a linebacker. I looked like a Heisman trophy in motion.
I travel 69-yards down the field. I'm slowing down at the endzone,
thinking nobody is around, and sure enough -- plow -- the cornerback
dives right into my leg. I broke all kinds of bones and tore all kinds
of muscles. The doctor told me, he'd never seen anything like it."

The band plays the fight song as the clock winds down and the Blue Jays lose.
I try to disappear in the sea of blue and silver exiting t-shirts,
but Fred slows me down,

"It sure was good talking to you. I'll have to tell you more about Florida State
next week. Be sure to sit by me."

"I will," I say as the band director, Mr. Morton, steps in front of me.

"Hey, Fred," Mr. Morton says. He looks at me, then back to Fred.
He's trying to decide whether or not I'm of relation.
"Son, I went to Seminole State Junior College with Fred here
when we got out of high school."

"Really? Did you guys play football together?" I ask with innocent inquisitiveness.

"No, we weren't really into that. Though, we were at all the games.
We were in band together. Until Fred's wild streak got the best of him,"
Mr. Morton laughs, "am I right, Fred?"



The fight song came to a close.
With a lowered head, Fred walked into the silver, blue crowd
with a plaid dress shirt buttoned to the top.
Mateuš Conrad Nov 2016
.i. if Kant could have his von Kleist... well... who else to juggle juggernauts if not me? as a task of redeeming that poor soul who succumbed to the terminator of all poetic ambitions, with his systematisation off-the-page, as eccentric and punctual as a sunset on a sundial at 16:11... and in case either the spring of sunrise, or the autumn of sunset... but so many hours after exacting a sunset... that gluttony of the eyes to stare at it... 16:11 is the zenith of a sunset in november the 15th... much prolonged when warmer... supersized sun when setting in summer, and all that whiskey-copper wiring for the eyes to stare at it: oh for goodness sake, who really cares for Ikea likened assembling of words... we're not putting together a coffee table, we're looking for Darwinistic entrapment, we're scared of the aeons and yawns... we're trying to create a Darwinistic entrapment saying what segregates us from apes! that's how anti-Darwinism works - if they can easily call you a poet and a technophobe... then that hardly makes you a merchant with a Quran... to encapsulate the language of our modernity we're doing everything against writing the onomatopoeia of our beginning... monkey ooo! monkey ooo ah ah! or a gorilla grunting and then snorkeling... we're encapsulating our language more and more... because beginning with ape and then looking at history, and then looking at the consensus of the contemporary: Darwinism's greatest enemy is not theology... it's history... Darwinism and history are not compatible... oddly enough Darwinism and theology are compatible, simply because they are dynamically equal for the case of furthering both arguments in debate... but Darwinism is an odd starting point to argue, given that physicists argue from the perspective of prior to dinosaurs, prior to all things formed.

how can i begin this? it will leave me having to
write it for two days,
the anti-narrative sketch first, then filling in
the gaps sober... just to get second opinions...
i might have to cook a quasi-Hungarian borscht
and fry up a few potato flattenings to a crispy
yum... first the narrator comes in to describe what's
in store, a bit like a translator comes in and says
of Joyce: that's Irish... well, yeah.
               hence the italic preface...
as some would say, the person who wrote these
sketches worked quicker that an algorithm in asking
and also quicker to copy & paste the required
atomic encoding... e.g. ч and ch
                   э and euro and epsilon...
      once upon a time there was nothing prior
to Copernicus, then the somersaults came,
    h ч y        what coordinates where?
    well of course perfecting the encoding of something,
if things weren't stated awry there would be
no optometrists either...
                  it's not hard to read, it's hard to
remember how to read, given that being literate reached
the omnipresent velocity, the new powers had to
include some new power struggle...
mingling Latin and Runes, Greek and Cyrillic...
     and the proto-Latin of additional diacritical marks...
they exposed the entirety of humanity to literacy
within the framework of post-industrial society,
after hitchhiking a ride on the 19th century donkeys
they suddenly had to reveal their power-secret of
being literate, and by the account of women:
corset bound and bored in salons...
      but something else appeared that didn't really fascinate
them: that over-complication of Latin with
punctuation marks above letters: or diacritical
distinction, crowns over letters, subatomic particularisation
of once favoured: universal applicability...
as a narrator? i have to make a complicated
introduction, the sketch lends itself to do so,
it suggests that not all writing can be as simple as
a nursery rhyme, not all writing can actually
    **** memory, not all writing desires being remembered,
not all writing can be remembered,
                in the mediation of the two chiral opposites
there's fiction, which is suspended in an armchair of
pleasurability... but on the opposite side of a nursery rhyme
or a well versed poem? writing akin to arithmetic...
  something truly painful for those competent with
lettering, but not really competent with ten digits...
      as a narrator who has already read the sketch,
i'm trying to not write a "filling in the gaps" to the sketch
like an art-critic might do to a painting deviating from:
brushstrokes were employed. well... d'uh!
variation of italics as in transcending the pause that
implies a condescending variation of taking a pause,
also excluded are: dot, comma, hyphen, semicolon
and colon.                         dot-dot-dot is not joining up
the dots: it implies a variation of how to anticipate
a punchline: drummed: tu-dum wet snare!
     i am actually a narrator who is trying to find
that other part of me that might digest this sketch properly,
     and return fully competent to pick up another
sketch... if ever there was a narrator in this sketch,
it has to be me, after the sketch has been scripted,
and i am left to suggest a need for a dot-dot-dot connectivity
of the strokes of the pen...
i warned myself: do not overdo the introduction in italics,
you know how picky people are...
whether pickled pineapple of cucumber...
i swear Turks invented pickling chillies...
         oh look! an inflatable gazebo filled with helium!
no one's laughing: only because i didn't mention vegina.
narrative puritanism? you get distracted a lot...
but this sketch is really a thesis for narration,
all i have to do is find the antithesis of narration in it:
an actual narrative!          it stretches for ~30 pages...
   well that's me turned archaeologist with a Grecian urn
with a snap of the finger... because that's how this
sketch looks like: ancient -
                         but understandably modern.
              so .  ,  - and ;
        were racing... out came the world record
             9.58(0)         the full-stop is the bracket-bound
0... i.e. it actually happened: hence the pinpoint...
or in Formula 1 a timed nonsense of ave. m/ph
     noted to three decimal points: 130.703...
                                    or chicane cha chicane cha cha!
as said, this is an actual representation of a narrator
encountering this sketch: so before you lose your head...
i've lost mine!
  look at the correlation though!
we've gone way past atoms with the atomic bomb
and encountered subatomic particles...
    we're not going to get beyond subatomic particles
because we're going to encounter the already apparent
reality of obatomic particle: namely our bodies,
   the perceived ******* (ob- is the antonym
                                                  prefixation of sub-):
             that's were the microscope adventure ends,
    and this is parallel to cutting up a second with
three decimal points, as the safetynet suggests:
                                                              π / 3.14;
yep, the obstructive - hence we can't spontaneously
combust... but then again Goethe's Werther did:
  out of love... down the spiral: you sweet little *******.

~ii. i'm actually too lazy to write the sketch and fill
in the blanks... so i'm going to fill in the blanks as i go along,
  or that's what's called the rebellious stance of narrator: mmm,
work in progress, could you see that coming?


ii. a beer in between glugs of whiskey - runes
combined in the ******* / sigma, variant of agliz or
the rune-zeta extended toward a dark shadow of the rebirth
of Ishrael: zoological enclosure; sigma *******
sigma ******* sigma *******, sigma *******...
rune-zeta... we cannot say there are ******
mathematicians and poets akin,
not then one optic encoding states
     a b c d e
         another states f u þ a r
yet another а б (ρ) в г
  α β γ δ:
for worth of gamma into a trill only because of
   a wave, that's ~ approx. on the side of the letter
   e.g. г & r.
   or rho upside down? what the ****?
did Voltaire write this? reading Candide,
i hope he ****** did!
you the problem is pixelated paper? if you know
how you enter a deciphering mode...
                    but you require a personal library to boot,
all that dos formatting,
                       well there's formatting in the humanity
outstretch of this white medium too...
after it isn't all ******* white when all the psychiatric
pills are white too... i have really found something better
than the Bermuda Δ...
       Greek, Latin, Cyrillic and Runes...
i could say neo or proto otherwise,
but i still haven't unearthed the sketch, that
is probably puzzling the Danes, with Cnut on the forefront...
                    but the arrangement of numbers is universal,
but it's not universal, given the particularity of
how language is encoded and why some people are
richer than others...
            but it's still a beer between glugs of whiskey that
makes more sense...
i said, retype the sketch and go to bed...
and i figured: that's probably the wisest of all possible
events stemming from this...
    that's ~27 pages of notes to retype... and i'm already
in a disclosure mode as to expect what's to be jargoned...


p. 1        cкεтч       /      σкεтχ
   necessity of                        (acute
a-       -the           (ism)
is that of language structure,
          only from the use of one's language does
a deity present itself: from within the noumenon
ground work, not the reverse, as in from
(pp. 2, 3)
                 a phenomenological exercise in
the use of language: Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, (etc.)...
       e.g. Islam is a phenomenon,
  it's not a noumenon: or a thing-in-itself...
  for the Islamic god to emerge from Islam's-in-itself
Islam will have to prevent itself from being-outside-itself...
or overpowering other in-itself contentions
but still: to no apparent success narrative of true intention
as satisfactory appropriation and hence lending itself
to a widespread nod of approval.
  challenging space: word compounding, or the space
between conjunctional deficiencies: nod-of-approval (e.g.).

p. 2    concussion (great film, Alec and Will, 2015, NFL)
concussion... Blitzkrieg Alzheimer's....
brain is fat.... dementia = attacking proteins...
  steroids... the noumenological use of language:
e.g. that ****** is an enigma,
therefore his views will not go viral,
and he'll not become fashion trendy...
it's not individualistic idealism, it's reality.
as will die sonne satan - orbis reach more than 5K
views... so... clap clap... clap, clap.
           what i meant about the a-     and -the
and the ism is following a sentence that sort of
does away with conjunctional fluidity,
apart from the big words, i treat all minor words as
categorically conunctional... and, the, a, is, to, too...
given the sentence: brain fatty *****,
brian organic giraffe wall... ******* hieroglyphic...
           stood above the rest, rest assured.
  dementia: invading protein cells
   (bulging prune of the opportune: purely
digestion?) no thought to eat or eat itself like,
cannibalistically. the brain is fatty...
not fat in muscle for mmm, schmile and flex
for the selfie. how about a protein inhibitor?
(by now, rewriting the sketch, i've lost the page count,
it's actually p. 5 of note paged toward 27).
how about the explanation that we're living in
times of post-industrialisation and thanksgiving
feminism? to me post-industrialisation has created
a class of meaningless white-collar workers
and no blues... it's what the Chinese blues call
the Amazonian nomads: ******* happy...
no amount of crosswords or sudoku will exert
your body to do things for others...
   no amount of mind games will actually tell your
brain to be equipped with: a bunch of hyenas... run!
dementia is a result of creating too many
white-collar jobs (thanks to feminism)
and exporting the blues to China (thanks to feminism
and: oh i broke a nail, can i get a Ching plumber to
fix my heating while i get a ****** to **** me up my
****?!) - maybe i'm just dreaming...
it's great to censor dreaming, i mean: you stop dreaming,
you get to see reality, and you don't even need to
read Proust on a ricochet.
  - so we have brain as fat, and invader cells as protein...
protein digests fat... and creates cucumbers out
of people... where do the carbohydrates come into play?
it can't be at the point of a.d.h.d., can it?
     i'm blaming post-industrialisation, the complete
disappearance of the blues (formerly known as the reds,
in the east) for the whites...
or that old chestnut of: my god you're goon'ah luv it!
   to till for worth from the sweat of yer brow -
funny funny funny... to earn your loaf of bread
you will toil...
                   and toil until you are physically assured
that not ghostly / mental life can enter your world /
books... that went well... didn't it?
   i should be tilling a potato plateau rather than
be bound to be writing this epic (by modern standards)
poem...
             but that's the curse of exporting all the blue
collar jobs to China, then importing mindless
white collar jobs to the west, what the hell do you think
would happen, not the pandemic of dementia?
if you do not exert the body, and then you do not
exert / exhaust the mind... do you think
you can secure a narrative with a post-industrial
westerner on the premise of that person simply being
able to solve a crossword? well... i believe in santa
claus too... but i don't believe in him giving out
presents... because to me, in my oh-so-called maturity
that's called an anagram of satan's clause: which is a legal
term for: i can turn civilisation into shrapnel
of what's said and what's to be said: and what's not to be
said. people can't expect to turn honest labour
for the recreational run on the treadmill in a gym...
and they can't expect photocopying in an office space
to replace Newton's curiosity, and then compensate
all this distraction with mind-games...
          can they? well... they did!

poets are gagged by writers of prose,
no wonder they write so sparingly,
      they are gagged in the sense that they write
as if asphyxiated: they need breathing room.


well sure, if he can revive the Polish steel industry
and i can go back to steel plates and pillars,
then the rust belt will get a polishing also.

or what's called: shrapnel before the waterfall of
narration: darting eyes, and poncy **** all the way through...

     muse... muse...

        well, how about we take the fluidity out of language?
declassify certain words into one grammatical broth,
say words like i and they
                              a  and the    are all conjunctions?
how about that? let's strip it bare, after all: what categories
of words exist for us to primarily speak (let alone think)?
     nouns, verbs, adjectives... adverbs?
       but all those words in between are so jungly classified
into a tangle that i'm about to sprout a handshake
          of a Japanese vine grip: and never let go...

an actual extract from the sketch:

      https that doesn't recognise UCS
                   and insists on IPA cannot be deemed
       encyclopaedic


              i need runes for this! i need runes for this idea!
i don't need transliteration right now...
                but hey! that's an idea, etymological transliteration...
bugly term, sure, but the previous night i was thinking
  of transcendental etymology, as you do, likened to
carbohydrates... so it was transliteration after all...
but a dead end when it comes to geometry and Pythagoras...
      
    three words... and they are computerised (i guess you
have to buy a decent book to decode this), a bit like
buying paint in a d.i.y. shop...
       16DE (dagaz / d) 16DC (ingwaz / ŋ / grapheme of n & j)
                  16DF (ōþala / Valhalla / o / ō = oo),
in total d'njoo / d'nyoo - even i concede the fact that this
is a ******* mind-******... it's a ****** congregation of
four optic encodings of phonos... i moved away from
the ancient greek fetish for the logos... i'm looking at
the phonos... not the logos with Heraclitus et al.
               φº θ þ фª f

ªgreek
  ºcyrillic                ever see a prettier pentagram?
                      i haven't.

(false original title:
škic / cкэтч / φº θ þ фª f: thespian pandemic - pending)

looking at the phonos is painful, actually painful,
it's like reading a book with a myopic pair of glasses:
a ******* aquarium blurry right there, befor...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

'e'? were you: was i, looking for an 'e'?

i can say this much...
what do you get when you mix a shot
of whiskey with a shot of bourbon:
i'm moving between bottles...
it's nearing christmas eve and i'm a ripe
taoist... i.e. i better this world:
by not having the world mind me...
on the odd occasion: oh... you're still here?!

yeah... i'm still here... i have glued-to-fascination
with my shadow... i'm just waiting
for the atom bomb to relieve me of a body
but ensuring my shadow is kept intact...
as if it were a Monet signature on a wall...

but i lament... the momentum has vanished...
i don't even know why i'm so idiotic as
to presume that: from the hour 22:00GMT
to the hours 00:00 circa 00:30GMT...
something will land into my lap,
my lisp... my cranium the oyster shell
my tongue the oyster...

it will not... i can't simply **** anything into
an existence that doesn't want to exist...
perhaps lurking in a canvas of:
"lost luggage" in an airport...
perhaps "there"...
i could be excused my... lethargy...

when was this written? back in 2018?
so i was thinking about teasing cyrillic even then?
wasn't i?
sketch cкэтч or?

what do you get when you mix a shot of whiskey
with some bourbon?
a Burguandian whisker...
i am not going to sound witty...
Ron's key...

that's still a cyrillic "or"... isn't it?
шкиц: škic...

i'm... deflated... nothing "new" has come my way...
i would have thought that...
reading some Knausgård would have /
could have... invigorated me:
reading him was supposed to be my:
dialysis my transfusion!
my zombie-go-to-literature...
it has proven an exhaustive enterprise
to begin writing again:
i became too comfortable
in reading - i almost forgot
the agony of writing...

alas... a contemporary of mine...
and someone well adjusted to prose...

notably: who would have thought
that death in june - the calling (MK II)
was something to be recorded in 1985...
for one: i wouldn't...

but i did begin: back in november 2016...
begin what? to tickle the cyrillic alphabet...
which is way before i discovered my reply
to the runes... to the ancient greek...
and this... "ancient", ahem... still in use...
latin script...

that script that went into the molloch couldron
of being invested in to code...
pristine as the hebrews cited:
how many holes in it?
to write onto a canvas of 0?
q Q R O o p P A a D d g b B...
which leaves...
W E T Y U I S F H J K L
Z X C V N and M "out of the equation"...

škic / cкэтч / φº θ þ фª f: thespian pandemic (pending):
i better rename it as... circa 2016...
that's way before i even acknowledged
the cyrillic text applying diacritical markers...
i thought them too crude at the time...

beside borrowing outright from greek...
the already at hand oddities of glagolitic,
notably: Ⱎ...Ⱋ...

it's only a single word i'm using...
i have abandoned all notions of metaphysics
in favor for orthography...
i'm not going to burden myself
with: what's after the physics...
i'm after: what's now...
in the respective tongues...
2 tongue deviations from
the original latin and greek...

what came with the runes and what
came with the glagolitic scripts...
what was ****** and had to succumb
to inter-breeding...

come 2020... i will have one clarification
to base my existence on...
pronouncing the growth of my ****** hair...
i will hope to aim at a length of beard
that will forever hide the neck...
i will aim at... somewhere to the level
of my heart... when i will then manage
to turn my beard into an orchestra's
nieche of violins when i procrastinate with it...

since 2016...
i have identified russian in ******...
i've seen it... finally!
зъaрт... i.e. żart
and the "hard sign" becoming a "soft sign"
in źrenica: зьрeницa...

i still think the russian orthography
is... as... primitive as the western slavic...

after all... зъ = ż...
зь = ź...
the balkan slavs have a caron...
which is neither a hard or a soft sign / acute...

their caron is... ч (č) or cz...
CHeaper in english...
and their caron is ш (š) or sz...
SHeep...
or the two together...
and always шч (šč): szczekam...
i'm barking...

pu-shch-air... a rare example in english
of the puщair...
but then lookie lookie 'ere:

CZACHA... skull...
ЧAХA...

perhaps this is my "revenge ****" on russia?
hey! boris the kremlin mascoot...
come and 'ave a look...
with how i disect your orthography
on the / with the language that asks
too many metaphysical questions and no
orthographic curiosities!

i'll meet you in Warsaw... given that you're
probably moving from Novosibirsk...
and i'm either in Stockholm...
Edinburgh or the outskirts of London:
Warsaw will be halfway for both of us...
you don't have to like Warsaw...
i only like it when the Ukrainian smugglers
and the Mongols appear
in the West Warsaw coach station...

smart as who? i am discovering this for
the first time myself...
i was only teasing it back in 2016...
way before i found the right sort of accents
in mother russian...

i do know that that crescent oddity:
above the ja: йa... is what it is...
if you only cut off the head in english... ȷ...
again: it's я given that most russians
are pulled toward an anglophile world-view...
they all see the window to europe...
the baltic and st. petersburg is somehow...
London... and the atlantic...
like hell it is...

i guess i feel it was a waste of time to
have re(a)d Kant, simply because:
i'm not here for the schematics...
i want to know how my thought my labyrinth
building architecture is coming along...
but with no one to talk to about it?

i found the categorical imperative most
dissatisfying... i didn't want to abide by universal laws...
poetry is already shoved out of waiting room
of the republic...
if my "poetry" is not a categorical imperative...
and it's not quiet a a hypothetical imperative...
it needs to be sharpened on a thesaurus
and some grammar...

categorical (adjective)... imperative (adjective)...
well two adjectives never imply much
if there's no noun involved...
and i'm pretty sure that... if i sharpen
the next word i'll compound with categorical-
in that hyphen construct that's only
allowed in oxford dictionary english:
since it's not: propergermannonhyphenfaustian:
i.e. carboxylic (carbo-xylic) acidity...

poetry doesn't belong in either
the categorical imperative focus...
nor the hypothetical imperative focus...

i.e. i must write a poem... to feel better...
i must write a poem... to organise my thoughts...
no! a poem is not a maxim is not a categorical
imperative! a language of poetry is not
a language of morality: it's a language
of experience - or a lack / a lackey's "sentiment"...

i need a... categorical: impetus!
it's not enough to have read kant's critique of pure
reason... it must also involved
having re(a)d the: groundwork of
the metaphysics of morals...
but i'm a democratic reader...
i need to hear the other voices...
i can't be a kantian scholar...
a snippet 'ere, a snippet v'ere (funny how
THETA disappears when making the posit:
THERE - ver!)

who needs metaphysical absolutes...
when orthography (or a lack of it)
in english... spreads open its legs...
and the tongue remembers its tongue-brain-phallus
stage of co-existence in the oyster?!

i'm pretty sure that a categorical imperative
is by no means a categorical impetus...
this had to be written,
but it had to be written in order to disregard
anything a priori... prior to it...
a poem is a shady concern for action or inaction...
it's a deviation from the cartesian crux:
res cogitans (thinking thing)...
into the cartesian levy (res extensa)...
it's an action of inactivity...
as much as it's an inactive activity...
"the rest"...

impetus is not an imperative...
an impetus sources its meaning in a per se
investement... of itself - in itself - for itself...
an imperative?
in pronouns... impetus: i want... i will...
imperative? you want... you will...

an impetus is self-dictative...
an imperative is: indicative...
someone would rightly claim...
those that mourn indicatively...
will don the right garments for the process
of mourning...
which is indicative and devoid of
the per se manifestation of mourning...
it is an imperative when compared to
the impetus to mourn -
which is self-dictative...
which does now shallow itself in
grief by making a socially agreed to fiasco
of a very specific choice of wardrobe...

basically: however you like it...
an IMPERATIVE ≠ IMPETUS...
the year is almost over and i want to break-off
the dust from the thoughts that fudge-packed themselves
as worthy of occupying the minor instance
of having to count a depth of:
not dead within the year of being written.
Matt Jul 2015
Creamy dreamy
Coach's Oats

I can eat them at home
In a car
Or on a boat

Good for the heart
With soluble fiber
A good way
To start each day

Make sure to eat some
And you will be
More than okay
This steelcut oatmeal is not cut quite as thinly as other brands, and can be cooked a bit faster.  I love steelcut oatmeal.  Many thanks to Costco!
Olga Valerevna Jun 2017
Reflection can be simple but so easy to ignore
when darkness casts a shadow over every single pore
in moments such as this let not your fingers reach to find
the wounds that have congealed themselves so perfectly in time
Instead of making circles round a past's familiar pain
retreat into your senses and embrace the hands of change
The difference made today might feel like nothingness at first
but follow through in boldness and again you'll find your worth
Tomorrow's moving forward while a yesterday holds back
and now's the only moment you may have to choose a track
yesterday, today, tomorrow.
Coach,
I am not perfect.
I make silly, stupid errors but
chastising me for it will
make me dig an
even deeper hole for myself.
Improvement comes with encouragement.

Sincerely,
Wistful Wanderer

— The End —