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Alex Nov 2013
you were settled in a comfy flawed life
then someone came along
messed you up
kept messin you up
and you got real messed up
when you lost him

ya grow up
messed up
in a messed up world
and it seems like all the messed up stuff
happens to you

then they say you were messed up from the beginning
messed up in your head
unbalanced
disorder-ed

cut up body
puking up the few too many
puking up what will make you fat
parents money up your nose
and in your veins

but then youre not messed up
you dont feel messed up
you feel fine
in that
i’m only surviving because i’ll be dead soon
kindaway

then youre locked away
youre crazy
youre messed up and
they make sure you know it

meet someone new
she’s messed up, too
fall in love,
get more messed up.
let’s not do that again.

twice was enough.

then you go back
forgive those who should not be forgiven
walk backwards on a road
you should have left behind
feel the comfort of abuse
because at least it is comfort
it is familiar

and you’re running
running from yourself
from everything bad
from all the feelings you don’t like.
you’re running away from the past
but you don’t want the future.
you’re lost and messed up
confused
hurt
angry.

then you stop.
youre still messed up
but hey, so is everyone else.
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

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

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

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

2002

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

2003

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

2004

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

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

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

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

2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

2006

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

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

2007

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

2008

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

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

2009

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

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

2010

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

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

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

2011

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

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

2012

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

2013

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

2014

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

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

2015

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

2016

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

2017

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

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

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

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

2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
Porter Olsson Mar 2015
This messed up world
full of cheats and liars
say they're truthful
well their pants are on fire.

This messed up world
everythings out of whack
They say just to sprint
they just ran off the track.

This messed up world
some go, some stay
all thinking its for the best
each going their own wrong way.

This messed up world
war is threatened and stabbed
while walls go down, more walls go up
each having their own shade of bad.

This messed up world
it spins round and round, tick tock
we try to try, we hope it’s fine
oops, we just smashed the clock.
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.
conversation between god and the devil

GOD i’m not perfect

DEVIL how refreshing to hear

GOD i learn from man’s mistakes the more daring their errors the more valuable to my wisdom

DEVIL yes and i the same

GOD but you reward man’s faults encourage transgression endorse corruption heinous crime cannibalism

DEVIL i merely imagine scenarios then pass them along (pause) mankind dutifully complies

GOD you’re such a sick *******

DEVIL your language is appalling

GOD i remember now why i kicked you out of heaven

DEVIL i was your best angel

GOD you were good but too ambitious hungry to take what i created turn it into perverse menagerie

DEVIL i would have made a great god just not as tight-*** as you

GOD my child you’re a very sick angel

DEVIL you made me

GOD i gave you every opportunity spared no expense camp clothes psychiatrists tutors sent you to the finest private schools

DEVIL you were so busy creating your own image you never had time for me

GOD what are you saying

DEVIL you neglected loving nurturing me strengthening my vulnerabilities i have no self-respect esteem you insisted i was to blame weak bad you were always right correct never questioning your methods tearing down my dreams insisting on your own plans always judging accusing me punishing me unnecessarily severely you were cruel

GOD you’re pointing a finger at me

DEVIL no i built my own world based on your lack of concern respect sympathy

GOD i’m supposed to feel guilt

DEVIL i’m simply suggesting if you hadn’t been so critical expectant demanding if you’d spent a little more time caring for your creations instead of constantly occupying yourself with your latest ascension

GOD how dare you question me

DEVIL there you go god supreme pompous conceited full of yourself

GOD that’s hitting below the belt what’s with the red black leather motorcycle jacket (pause) Michael Jackson?

DEVIL i look good in red and black (pause) who gave you the right to sit on high throne you’re fallible just like me yet everybody bows to you shuns me i deserve more appreciation

GOD oh god

DEVIL listen to you calling upon your own self majesty

GOD this is going nowhere

DEVIL fine you go back to your fluffy gated community and i’ll go back to my scorching miserable cave dungeon

GOD you ungrateful child

DEVIL i’ll always be a thorn in your side

GOD i’m exhausted i’m calling in Jesus he can deal with you

DEVIL i realize you did what you thought was best but you’re old god and such a profound disappointment

GOD you ******* kid you’re getting on my nerves i’m done with parenting done with you done done done i’m sending in Jesus

DEVIL good maybe he’ll be more compassionate

GOD go to hell (presses button) security!

DEVIL you so ineffective



conversation (monologue) between god and me

ME i apologize for praying to you so seldom i need your blessings strength wisdom can you hear me

GOD (no answer)

ME i know you may not exist yet i need you (pause) my life is too crazy i need to pray

GOD (no answer)

ME i want love happiness harmony peace resolve

GOD (no answer)

ME please god i need your help i admit i’m troubled tangled with knotty history

GOD (no answer)

ME i suffer anxiety attacks nightmares disturbing thoughts ******* memories

GOD (no answer)

ME in a dream last night a pretty girl said don’t put your hand in your pants mommy wants to be there for you let mommy do it

GOD (no answer)

ME why did she say that i already have a mother i don’t need another what did she mean what is my mind telling me

GOD (no answer)

ME i apologize for talking to you this way

GOD (no answer)

ME it’s a beautiful dawn thank you god

GOD (no answer)



conversation between death and me

ME i’ve thought about you since i was a kid i think about you everyday

DEATH what are you a stalker

ME i’ve been waiting for you

DEATH everybody is waiting for me

ME i wish things were different

DEATH everybody wishes things were different

ME you’re cold

DEATH vichyssoise is served cold i’m merely lifeless

ME vichyssoise? i’m weary exhausted you could have taken me years ago what took you so long

DEATH i’m simply visiting not ready to receive you

ME why do you haunt me

DEATH shush up you still have lots to learn

ME is this god’s doing?

DEATH (no answer)

ME hello

DEATH i’m here to warn you your life is slipping away i’ll be back sooner than you realize (pause) later dude

ME wait i have questions

DEATH (no answer)

ME is there peace in death or is it continual respawning tell me please

DEATH (no answer)



conversation between myself and i

I why am i the way i am

MYSELF you’re asking me?

I yes

MYSELF maybe because you’re messed up deep inside

I messed up how?

MYSELF messed up since you were a little boy

I why or how did i get so messed up can i change

MYSELF i suspect it may be too late

I you mean there’s no hope

MYSELF i didn’t say that perhaps if you found a loving relationship and worked your problems out through it

I my problems?

MYSELF yes (pause) you know your self deceptions lies selfishness stubbornness the list goes on

I i beg your pardon what list

MYSELF don’t use that tone of voice with me you’re getting argumentative

I who else is culpable but you

MYSELF there you go placing blame

I i’m confused

MYSELF yes obviously

I i need your help not some clever repartee

MYSELF how can i help you

I maybe if we stuck together instead of always questioning arguing i feel so conflicted

MYSELF you want me to be a yes man

I i didn’t say that i mean if we could simply agree and be more loving devoted to each other

MYSELF (no answer)

I do you understand what i’m saying

MYSELF yes i understand i just don’t know what to say

I you could start by saying you’re with me behind me and we’ll tackle this together ok

MYSELF i’m with you behind you and we’ll tackle this together ok

I are you making fun of me

MYSELF no i’m serious i think we’re due for a reckoning or sacred pact the question is are you capable strong enough seriously intent on working together and not crumbling into a mess

I me! you’re accusing me

MYSELF oh shut up i mean us can we please just get along

I i promise i will do my best

MYSELF thank you



conversation between the devil and me

a bar somewhere evening

DEVIL notice the 2 women sitting at table both quite lovely the older brunette is stunning yet the blond has youth check out her lengthy legs broad shoulders sweet smile

ME yes i see them

DEVIL if you had your pick which would you choose

ME i don’t know i need to meet them flirt talk sense chemistry discern which one is more interested in me

DEVIL stop thinking about them as people just look at them as commodities now tell me which would you pick

ME oh god i can’t look at them that way it’s wrong

DEVIL don’t be naïve observe their delectableness now choose

ME i don’t know

DEVIL the brunette has a higher aesthetic value the blond will never be as attractive but the brunette is more fixed in her ways the blond more vulnerable to persuasions think about the blonde’s eager tender body imagine her sweet young odors then consider the brunette’s experienced skills her seasoned fragrance

ME this is ill you’re ill

DEVIL humor me which do you pick

ME uhhm how can you know the brunette is more fixed in her ways or the blond more vulnerable

DEVIL shut up and pick one

ME i can’t participate in this twisted rendering

DEVIL step up to the plate girlie ******

ME ***** you

DEVIL is that an invitation

ME you sorry *******

DEVIL quit this sweet altar boy **** be a man pick one

ME ok fine i choose both i want to kiss pet go down on the blond while the brunette ***** and ***** me and the whole time you lick my ***

DEVIL impressive i underestimated you

ME more like you overvalue yourself what is the usefulness of seeing people the way you do it’s sad base disgusting

DEVIL forgive me my rudiments entrapping i merely wanted to see what you were capable of

ME i’m capable of saying no to you

DEVIL that’s too bad you were more fun flexible when you were younger more vulnerable to persuasions

ME people change but not you you’re still the same groveling wicked pervert

DEVIL you would know
redruMAndTea Feb 2018
Before-
“Run! Come on their gonna catch us!”
We really messed up this time.
Whose idea was it to smash
the mailboxes? Deface the school
parking lot? Jesus Ch-
“Is that mom’s car?”
JESUS CHR-
“Nevermind.”

After-
“Three for seventy or five for seventy-five. Best deal in town.”
We really messed up this time.
Who forgot the lighter and
and cash? Where’s the hell
are the papers? What the f-
“Are these sugar?”
WHAT THE FU-
“Nevermind.”

Before-
“Shut up! He’s gonna see us!”
We really messed up this time.
Who thought throwing popcorn
at the cute movie theater boy
was a good idea” Oh sh-
“He’s looking over here!”
OH ****-
“Nevermind.”

After-
“***** tastes better straight.”
We really messed up this time.
Who bought Smirnoff? We
wanted UV. Where are the
shot glasses? Son of a-
“I think this stuff is expired…”
SON OF A B-
“Nevermind.”

Before-
“We had a test?!”
I really messed up this time.
When did we even take notes?
I don't remember the what
we even went over. God da-
“Yeah, he said its worth 20% of our grade.”
GOD DAM-
“Nevermind.”

After-
“What is going on?!”
We really messed up this time.
The room smells like substance.
Curtains closed- eyes closed.
Broken orange bottles- Bu-
“He took too many!”
Burn-
“He’s not waking up!”
Burno-
“Call someone!”
BURNOUT.



“Nevermind?”





Before-
“This is the best day of my life.”
We are okay this time.
Erin Nicole Nov 2016
I'm sorry mom and dad I know I've messed up bad, I should've, should've done, should've done better.
I'm sorry mom and dad for all the time I had to get my life, to get my life together, but I didn't

1993 you gave birth to me, sweet little baby girl had the world at my feet, before I could even stand.
Cradled me in your right and your left hand a precious bundle of un-made plans.
Hopes and dreams of bigger things, a bright future so it seemed
But that light grew a little less bright as I grew up we began to fight.
When I was 13 I was so **** mean, running away had nothing more to say then I hate you.
But that's not true now
I just don't, I just don't, I just don't know how to say;

I'm sorry mom and dad I know I've messed up bad, I should've, should've done, should've done better.
I'm sorry mom and dad for all the time I had to get my life, to get my life together, but I didn't

You never talk about me to your friends
Because you must be so embarrassed
I dropped out of college without any plans; I moved back home I couldn't even pay rent.
I was living on your couch trying to figure it out, cutting myself up, tearing myself down.

I'm sorry mom and dad I know I've messed up bad, I should've, should've done, should've done better
I'm sorry mom and dad for all the time I had to get my life, to get my life together, but I didn't

I'm sorry that I couldn't buy you that house upon that hill
Or take care of all your medical bills
I know I didn't make you proud; I should've been someone by now but I never figured out how
I'm sorry that I couldn't buy you that house upon that hill
Or take care of all your medical bills
I know I didn't make you proud; I should've been someone by now but I never figured out how

I'm sorry mom and dad I know I've messed up bad, I should've, should've done, should've done better.
I'm sorry mom and dad for all the time I had to get my life, to get my life together...

I'm sorry mom and dad I know I've messed up bad, I should've, should've done, should've done better.
I'm sorry mom and dad for all the time I had to get my life, to get my life together, but I didn't

Sincerely, Your Daughter
love this song.
By Anna Clendening
Rahama May 2018
I'm scared to write;
Cause I know the words;
"I messed up really bad"
Will come out of nowhere.

Oops!
It just did.

I feel like I'm in limbo;
I'm a mess.
I messed up something good,
Something great.
I think about it and my eyes water;
I think of what's going to happen next;
And I involuntarily shudder.

I put myself first for once.
It doesn't feel like I put myself first.
I feel like I just convinced myself.
I convinced myself to destroy;
My source of happiness;
Laughter;
Inner peace.

I messed up really bad.
The deed is done.
This time there's no turning back;
But *******,
I messed up really bad.
So sad right now.
Nadia Nov 2013
I didn't want to go to band camp!
You didn't listen did you mother?
Where's dad? Where is my dad?
He's living with a ***** who isn't my mother.
Wake up! He cheated on you stupid mother.
Such a dumb mom to believe dad.
Who's condoms were on the car floor?
Did you and dad have *** and you didn't know it?
He lied mother!
I'm on his facebook and yours.
I see dad's long list of women with **** pics.
***** to be his 18 year old daughter.
My dad the ******* with a string of net lovers.
Dear old dad if I had a string of guys what would you do?
Dad wants to play with women's ***** who are not my mom.
I'm 18 and messed up in the head.
I've got dad posting he wants to touch parts of women.
I've got a mom to dumb to know he's touching parts of women.
Dad stop posting you want to kiss *****.
I'm 18 and I'm feeling messed up in the head.
Dad and you shipped me off to band camp.
Didn't want to go mom and cheating dad.
I know you are sad mom and dad hurt you.
Mom you to be young again and date your friends.
Facebook is messed up place to be for me.
I am thinking of unfriending both of you.
I feel messed up in the head.
I didn't want to go to band camp.
Dad said go he wants to play with lady ***** not my moms.
Mom said go she wants to be young now that she knows dad cheats.
I am never getting married.
Met a boy and we did what was natural.
I was 18 and camp ended and I was going to be a mother.
I never want to be a dumb mother like you.
Thanks for nothing mother!  
You were upset for one day then wanted to adopt my baby.
You were namma not mother to my baby.
Hope you happy I made you a namma before you were ready.
I did not want a baby and did not want you raising mine.
I don't want a baby I grew in my stomach calling me sibling.
Baby got adopted and you wont be the mother.
My child will never have a mother like you.
This ain't no I got a friend story or a fairy tale.
Dad took off and he had another kid with a lover.
Thanks for not telling me dad!
Thanks for my scars seeing your kids birth announcement on the internet.
I feel messed up in the head thanks to you dad and mom.
I saw a news story about open marriages and that's what I want.
Marriages don't work so we wont get married.
Marriage is a fairy tale told wrote by preachers
to make people not want to have premarital ***.
If marriage was so great dads would not cheat.
If marriage was great mom and dad would be happy.
Marriage is a prison me and nobody else wants.
Lunar Apr 2014
from rain,
should i turn into a storm?
howling like the wind,
making noise,
to get you to hear me?
more raindrops; more tears,
to make you feel
drenched in remorse?
harsher and faster,
much like a hurricane,
to get you to see
how messed up i am?
when i'm stronger
like the storm,
would you love me more?
The second part of 'love the rain—love me'.

(j.m.)
poetry helps Jul 2015
it's awful to pass a mirror and want to look away
it seems my love for myself has gone astray

I blame myself for everything I do
even the rights don't hear a "woo!"

"it's okay" you say
but I know I messed up in some way

my mind is twisted, I can't think straight
my most dominant feeling is self-hate
Nicole Normile Jan 2011
when I look at you
I see a shallow kid
who was once so sweet
before all you did
once had a dream
once caring, or so you did seem

now, you stupid kid
you're so messed up
you stupid kid
you messed me up
you lied to me
and you did see
me fall so hard

I was a girl
a young girl crazy about you
believed you cared
and for a minute, it was love we shared

you left me a year or so later
made it with some girl
I did hate her
I remember crying in your arms
as you pretended to care
when you left
turns out your mind had been there
not here
not right here with me

and time went on
after it all went away, I still had hopes for someday
and some nights I would still cry
then it was a year after you left me
when to the other girl, you said goodbye
and now you're alone
but I just got over you
for a while, I gave you all I had
and now just the sight of you makes me mad

you come on by from time to time
"get out!", I say
I no longer want you mine
now you don't see me as more than a piece of meat
your hands on my body
sort of like you own me
but you don't
you don't

I tell you to get away
because you messed me up
so I don't want to hear what you have to say
you're so different
so unlike the boy I knew
now I truly don't like you
you don't respect me
you think I'll give you myself
because at one point I did
way back when you were someone else

so leave me alone
please don't stay
leave me alone
you've already gotten your way
and now we're done
don't you see
after the hurt, you don't get me physically

I won't put out
I won't give in
I won't listen to your words
as you try to prove your greatness
you know, I truly hate this
so I don't want to hear it
I don't want to hear
looking back, how did I  handle you that year?
onlylovepoetry Mar 2018
Friday night immodesty

theater on East 4th street @ 8:00pm,
so the girlie stuff commences on schedule
90 minuets a-priori and the medley music
(adele+amy+alicia+ pink bach for some zing)
a harbinger, a pioneer Greek heralding of
Friday night immodesty

the clothes laid out upon the bed, the shoes,
pumps selected and already on,
(always a puzzler to me,)
the subdued lower east side jewelry possibilities,
on the dresser drawer,
indifferently hoping for selection, but
casually beaming quietly,
like those kids waiting for interviews in the waiting room
of the college Admissions Dean’s office,
all with serious smiles
and tiny tearing eyes

aside:
helloooooo, I am in a poetry polo with my best jeans ready to go
2 hours before the curtain calls out,
hellooooooo

she sits at the makeup mirrored desk,
clad in only her underneath garments of varying utility,
when I sweep in imperially
and with one hand twist gentle her hair upwards,
betraying
her neck nape which is again
the sujet of a poem aborning

lips,
like a Greek lyre strings, pluck, the tiny hid hairs never seen,
her instant moans at the never fully expected motion poem,
beg more mercy but no quarter given despite repeated cries
of you’ll mess my makeup,
the best defense known to a lady!

god gave men two thumbs to lift up,
simultaneously stimulating,
slide down each of the thin black brasserie strap invitations,
upon each, a writ,
upon her flesh colored shoulders,
stating
“what was she thinking!”

my lips,
now polar explorers, those power (filled) poles side by side,
(east/west for the designer was a smart
bipolar guy-person);
the lips play silent night progressive jazz,
tinkling with higher noted keys,
nape to shoulders moving down to the back’s prefrontal lobe,
the small of her back, the body’s quivering,
a con-federate flag of surrender

her last defense swept aside, we drink honey and milk,
celebrate the week’s mellifluous finish with immodest touching,
the lower east side will belong tonite
to only the hipsters, the millennials,
as our hips are milling and  otherwise
pre-theater and post, occupado

some hours later, watching TV and eating delivered Chinese,
she laterally and literally arm punches my arm
intensely to mark her discontent,
still annoyed,
for I

1) messed up her makeup,
2) best blouse to the dry cleaner and
3) the tickets wasted, and worse,
hits me again!

after I laugh and giggle upon proffering
most modestly, most assuredly,
seconds of
onlylovepoetry

9.21am Saturday
thank you all who liked this tale of
the poetry in the details
of our lives.
olp
Johnny Overseas May 2014
Everyday I wake up,
thinking sleeping seconds take up all the space up
in a mind that wont shut up!
So don't get up, don't stand up,
for sure don't put your hands up.
I got so many heavy feelings I wont ever touch the ceiling.
But I throw the blanket of me,
all the shaking and the tossing
lost me seconds and it threatens that by end of the sentence,
with the dot a tock will deaden all the world here of this presence.

Ya I guess that you could say I'm afraid of death,
and that by the time I get to hell there wont be anything scary left,
so I take aim and shoot at life like it's the wild wild west,
I count on chaos, okay, I don't live for the blessed.

Get me out of this feeling, my head is messed.
Get me out of this feeling, my head is messed.

Oh, get yourself into some sunshine,
relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.
Put your dukes down, love. There's no fight.
Relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.

I gotta say I'm feelin' pretty dark here tonight,
but she's dark and she's pretty,
so I guess it could be alright!
Maybe she can replace this feeling that always makes me wanna fight.
I bite lightning, spight right wings with shocking mockings
that got me walking away from any kind of kinder light
Tell me to bare some arms I might!
But then I take a second and remember all the reasons it is that I come back again and fight.

Ya I guess that you could say I'm afraid of death,
I take aim and shoot at life like it's the wild wild west,
so by the time I get to hell there wont be anything scary left,
I count on chaos, okay, I don't live for the blessed.

Get me out of this feeling, my head is messed.
Get me out of this feeling, my head is messed.

Oh, get yourself into some sunshine,
relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.
Put your dukes down, love. There's no fight.
Relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.

Imagine what it is you could do,
if everybody in your life was in support of you,
and were the wind up on which you flew
wouldn't you do all the things that you imagined you could do?

Imagine what it is you could do,
if everybody in your life was in support of you,
and were the wind up on which you flew.
Wouldn't you do all of the things that life inspired you to do?

Imagine what it is you could do,
if everybody in your life was in support of you,
and were the wind up on which you flew.
Wouldn't you do all the things that you imagined you could do?

Oh, imagine what it is they could do
If all your friends and family were supported by you,
and you were the wind upon which they flew.
You'd be a little scared to imagine them without you. Wouldn't you?

Oh, get yourself into some sunshine,
relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.
Put your dukes down, love. There's no fight.
Relax in the feeling unwind,
let the warmth settle inside.
It's alright, it's alright.

Oh, imagine what it is they could do
If all your friends and family were supported by you,
and you were the wind upon which they flew.
You'd be a little scared to imagine them without you. Wouldn't you?
Always fight, don't be too much of a fighter. Living feels wrong, but dead you cannot be much writer.

A pen isn't mightier than those double edged swords. Luckily the type I'm thinking about still only appear in words.
Crystal June Dec 2015
Party. Party. Party.

All they want to know
Is it worth it to go?
Dressed up, messed up
Party. Party. Party.

All they'll ever do
Forget me and you
We'll go party too
Party. Party. Party.

Not a thought in your empty head
As I'm crawling in your bed
I'll never let you in mine
Party. Party. Party.

Keep my heart and mind apart
When's the party gonna start?
6-inch heels and blurry eyes
Party. Party. Party.

Party in the day time
Party in the night time
Party all the ******* time
Party. Party. Party.

All they ever ask
Where you keep your hidden flask
Dressed up, messed up
Party. Party. Party.
This is based on high school students asking me about college parties.
Wyatt Jun 2016
Am I the fool
who's charging on this chariot all alone?
Killing time and
putting on a show nobody will ever know?
Why did I lead myself here? Was it written in the stars?
Was I wound up by fear? Was there any meaning in my scars?
That might be the best thing I've heard all day.
That just might be the best thing I've heard all day.

Too bad you don't believe in God,
because we're pretty messed up.
It's nice to believe that
there's something much higher than us.
Because we always turn the page on the wars we wage
even though we just create more.
Too bad you don't believe in God,
because I think we're all pretty messed up.

The clock is turning and the time I spent
to write this all down
is lost in forever,
and I don't think that I'm
ever gonna live that down.
Was the mission or the journey
much more simple than I am thinking?
Maybe the time I spent stuttering between belief and nothing
was what made me who I am.
Can I make up for this?

Too bad you don't believe in God,
because we're pretty messed up.
It's nice to believe that
there's something much higher than us.
Because we always turn the page on the wars we wage
even though we just create more.
Too bad you don't believe in God,
because I think we're all pretty messed up.

When we mistake a smile for a
cunning little game,
it gives off the false pretense
that maybe we're our own gods,
but nothing as stupid as humankind
could possibly be the end of the line...
or maybe I'm just a pessimist.

Too bad you don't believe in God,
because we're pretty messed up.
It's so nice to believe that
there's something much higher than us.
Because we always turn the page on all the wars we wage
even though we just create more.
Too bad you don't believe in God,
because I think we're all pretty messed up.
I'll leave.
Maybe the time I spent stuttering between belief and nothing was what made me who I am.
Arlo Disarray Apr 2015
A lot of folks see me and think I'm gay
Because of my short hair and foul tongue
But that is an offensive thing to say
That you can just spot out a ***-be-un

I've been friends with many two girl couples
And none of them were ever quite the same
Some were very sweet, some had troubles
And others were rowdy and insane

I've known lesbians who spent hours getting dressed up
And some who throw on sweatpants and a hat
You can't just judge by looks, that's so messed up
You can't always tell which girls like "the cat"

Thinking about ***** doesn't make me sick
I'm not gay, no, it isn't just a bluff
I prefer the *****, the **** or the ****
But I'd let a girl touch my *****
                
          if I was ***** enough
jasmin allen Oct 2011
You’re dumber than a person that dose “smack”
Every day you just chill and choke yourself out
You say you’re happy with your life
Truth is you’re more messed up than then the dude on the fifth floor
Yeah “cloud nine” is nice and “high”
When you crash and burn don’t expect me not to say “I told u so ha-ha”
Just the other day I told u “you don’t have a heart” you give it away to, to many people
I’ve changed my life like a new book
Opened a new chapter
You’re not in it (let’s read)
I can be a real witch! At times I don’t take boosh anymore
Got a new life in front of me
Focused on me this time
I have many chapters in my life; you just were one of them
I’m finding the main point in this new book and guess what it isn’t you
So when you find out what you lost I’ll just throw up my ******* and let the index finger follow “deuces”
PEACE ***** have fun with your messed up life HA-HA-HA!
Amy Nov 2014
To get a job, you need experience.
To get experience, you need a job.
To be wealthy, you need a four year degree.
To afford a four year degree, you need to be wealthy.
It's a never ending cycle.

Society tells us that if we work hard, it will pay off.
Yet, if that's the case
Why did my parents work hard their whole life
Yet could still barely afford to put food on the table 1/2 the time?

Hard work doesn't pay off.
Privilege does.
Not the most poetic thing I've ever written, but society is really ******* me off these days.
Liz Carlson Oct 2017
we messed this up.
years of knowing you
and we've never really talked.
we're practically strangers
that see each other so often.

we messed this up.
we could have been something
more than this.
but I'm leaving soon
and this game will end.

we really messed this up.
Corey Oct 2017
.1. Life is going to throw the most unexpected curveballs at you and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. You can accept that you’ll never overcome them, or you can learn how to take them and run. You won’t start out hitting home runs off of them, but maybe just bunt a couple and go from there.
2. Life is far too short for what if’s. It’s too short to care about how others think of you. Too short to worry about making everybody happy and way too short to give the wrong people your precious time. And for Gods sake, if you love somebody, tell them! If they already know, tell them often.
3. You have no idea when you might lose somebody you care about. Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t realize how much you cared until they’re gone. Death comes at unexpected times and in unforgiving ways. However, it opens your eyes to so many things about life that you may know, but you don’t live by. Don’t let it go by the first time. Take those lessons and embrace them and live differently.
4. Alcohol is a beautiful poison. Don’t abuse it, enjoy it. If you need six, seven, eight drinks to feel something then you aren’t drinking correctly. Drink less often, have stronger drinks, and don’t drink to blackout.
5. You can do anything for ten seconds. You can do anything for a minute. You can do anything for an hour. You can do anything for a day. You can do anything for a month. You can do anything for a year. You might have to take it a month, a day, an hour, or a minute at a time; but you can do it. Sometimes you need to prove to yourself that you can do something small for a month so that you can do the big thing you need to do for three months.
6. Nothing comes easily forever. You can do something your entire life; something that you don’t need to practice, train, or work too hard for not matter what. Eventually, there will be something harder than you’ve ever done before, and it will not come easily. Don’t be discouraged. What others worked for years to do, you could do in days with little effort. Even like this you will have weaknesses. Work them, even if you don’t need to. That way the day that something is too difficult, it won’t take as much work to get. If you wait, the work will be too much.
7. Nobody cares if you’re sad or having a bad day. They will always expect 100% from you in every regard. You should always be happy. Always be social. Always perform correctly. As impossible as it sounds, the people expecting 100% are satisfied with you faking it.
8. If somebody doesn’t like you; hold your head up high, be polite, engage them in meaningful conversation, and treat them with the utmost respect. Either their minds will change or they’ll be so confused they won’t know what to do. Accept that it will be awkward.
9. Love is funny. Love is sad. Love is perfect. Love is so many things. But it should not be abusive. Abuse comes in way more forms than one. Be on the look out for it. Even the smallest abusive actions have their consequences. Typically they simply build and build.
10. Supportive friends are the friends you want to keep around. The ones that come to your events and cheer you on. The ones that make sure you’re doing okay periodically. The ones that ask you what’s wrong before you even know yourself that something is. Low maintenance friends aren’t bad friends.
11. To do anything other than your passion is absurd. Find it, study it, dive deep into it as best you can. Live for it. And do it for the rest of your life. Hobbies are important. Do those as well, but even those should be filled with passion. It is the one true ineffable feeling.
12. Say yes to opportunities small and large. Anything that puts you outside of your comfort zone, that gives you anxiety just thinking about, is well worth doing. If you don’t do it, you may just regret it for a very long time. Say no only to distractions that prevent you from doing what needs to be done.
13. You cannot re-write the past. No matter how many times you remember something you’ve messed up, you cannot fix it. You also cannot take back spoken words. Be careful what you say at all times. It is far better to wait and think about a response rather than saying what comes to mind first. And do not speak poorly of others behind their backs. It only ends in pain.
14. Make friends wherever you go. Especially if you are uncomfortable with doing so. Talk to strangers on vacations, in the grocery store, and especially at you school or work. One day they might be looking for somebody specific to fill a role that you are perfect for. A simple hello today could be your dream job in the future.
15. Be explorative. How can you have opinions on things you like and dislike if you don’t try everything out in front of you. How can you be cultured if you don’t take the time to learn all cultures. How can you be artistic if you haven’t seen anything worth making into art.
16. The world is changing and you need to change with it. Gender doesn’t mean what it used to mean, and people’s names are changing left and right. Please keep up. It’s offensive to call someone by an old name they had or by the wrong pronoun.
17. It is okay to be deeply sentimental. To hold onto objects that remind you of someone or something. But don’t get wrapped up in these things. Not all of them are important to keep; like messages from four years ago to a person you no longer talk to, or a broken bracelet you used to wear that will never get fixed. Only keep the important things. But do know that what is important to you may not be important to others and visa versa.
18. There is no singular word for all emotions. Though you can find them in other languages; like the French term L’Apple du vide, translated, “the call of the void,” which described the split second phenomenon of wanting to jump off a cliff or pull the steering wheel and crash. You can find these examples, but it’s worth it to sit with a blank page and try and write about what you are feeling in your own words. You learn a lot about yourself and the world.
19. Nature is your best friend. When you’re in a bad mood, go for a walk in the woods. When you’re in the car, roll down the windows and feel the air on your skin. Grow plants that help either yourself, or other animals. Help the bees and the butterflies.
20. Time is scarce when you need it the most. Do not procrastinate anything. Manage your time wisely. Something could be completed in hours; other things need months. This is the idea of hourly time vs. calendar time. But both need to be done spread out, and not all at once.
21. You learn a lot as you grow. When I was eight, I learned that Santa wasn’t real. When I was twelve, I learned how easy it is to break hearts. When I was fifteen, I learned what loss is. When I was eighteen, I learned the difference between love and lust. When I was twenty, I learned what fear is, and since then I have learned how fragile life is. Everything I’ve learned has been preparing me for my future. Eight prepared me for fifteen which prepared me for twenty. Twelve prepared me for eighteen which has prepared me for the present. Every event is a lesson worth learning whether you want it or not. It prepares you for an unknown future. It may take years for the lesson to reveal itself, but it is worth the struggle. Everybody learns something everyday but it is imperative that you remember these things, or at least remember the lesson learned so that in the future you won’t make the same mistake, won’t be in the same type of pain for as long, and won’t have to be taught a second time.
Unedited
A PLAY


BY



ALEXANDER   K   OPICHO









THE CASTE
1. Chenje – Old man, father of Namugugu
2. Namugugu – Son of Chenje
3. Nanyuli – daughter of Lusaaka
4. Lusaaka – Old man, father of Nanyuli
5. Kulecho – wife of Lusaaka
6. Kuloba – wife of Chenje
7. Paulina – Old woman, neighbour to Chenje.
8. Child I, II and III – Nanyuli’s children
9. Policeman I, II and III
10. Mourners
11. Wangwe – a widowed village pastor

















ACTING HISTORY
This play was acted two times, on 25th and 26th December 2004 at Bokoli Roman Catholic Church, in Bokoli sub- location of Bungoma County in the western province of Kenya. The persons who acted and their respective roles are as below;

Wenani Kilong –stage director
Alexander k Opicho – Namugugu
Judith Sipapali Mutivoko- Nanyuli
Saul Sampaza Mazika Khayongo- Wangwe
Paul Lenin Maondo- Lusaaka
Peter Wajilontelela-  Chenje
Agnes Injila -  Kulecho
Beverline Kilobi- Paulina
Milka Molola Kitayi- Kuloba
Then mourners, children and police men changed roles often. This play was successfully stage performed and stunned the community audience to the helm.













PLOT
Language use in this play is not based on Standard English grammar, but is flexed to mirror social behaviour and actual life as well as assumptions of the people of Bokoli village in Bungoma district now Bungoma County in Western province of Kenya.

























ACT ONE
Scene One

This scene is set in Bokoli village of Western Kenya. In Chenje’s peasant hut, the mood is sombre. Chenje is busy thrashing lice from his old long trouser Kuloba, sitting on a short stool looking on.

Chenje: (thrashing a louse) these things are stubborn! The lice. You **** all of them today, and then tomorrow they are all-over. I hate them.
Kuloba: (sending out a cloud of smoke through her tobacco laden pipe). Nowadays I am tired. I have left them to do to me whatever they want (coughs) I killed them they were all over in my skirt.
Chenje: (looking straight at Kuloba) Do you know that they are significant?
Kuloba: What do they signify?
Chenje: Death
Kuloba: Now, who will die in this home? I have only one son. Let them stop their menace.
Chenje: I remember in 1968, two months that preceded my father’s death, they were all over. The lice were in every of my piece of clothes. Even the hat, handkerchief. I tell you what not!
Kuloba: (nodding), Yaa! I remember it very well my mzee, I had been married for about two years by then.
Chenje: Was it two years?
Kuloba: (assuringly) yes, (spots a cockroach on the floor goes at it and crushes it with her finger, then coughs with heavy sound) we had stayed together in a marriage for two years. That was when people had began back-biting me that I was barren. We did not have a child. We even also had the jiggers. I can still remember.
Chenje: Exactly (crashes a louse with his finger) we also had jiggers on our feet.
Kuloba: The jiggers are very troublesome. Even more than the lice and weevils.  
Chenje: But, the lice and jiggers, whenever they infest one’s home, they usually signify impending death of a family member.
Kuloba: Let them fail in Christ’s name. Because no one is ripe for death in this home. I have lost my five children. I only have one child. My son Namugugu – death let it fail. My son has to grow and have a family also like children of other people in this village. Let whoever that is practicing evil machinations against my family, my only child fail.
Chenje: (putting on the long-trouser from which he had been crushing lice) let others remain; I will **** them another time.
Kuloba: You will never finish them (giggles)
Chenje: You have reminded me, where is Namugugu today? I have not seen him.
Kuloba: He was here some while ago.
Chenje: (spitting out through an open window) He has become of an age. He is supposed to get married so that he can bear grand children for me. Had I the grand children they could even assist me to **** lice from my clothes. (Enters Namugugu) Come in boy, I want to talk to you.
Kuloba: (jokingly) you better give someone food, or anything to fill the stomach before you engages him in a talk.
Namugugu: (looks, at both Chenje and Kuloba, searchingly then goes for a chair next to him)
Mama! I am very hungry if you talk of feeding me, I really get thrilled (sits at a fold-chair, it breaks sending him down in a sprawl).
Kuloba: (exclaims) wooo! Sorry my son. This chair wants to **** (helps him up)
Namugugu: (waving his bleeding hand as he gets up) it has injured my hand. Too bad!
Chenje: (looking on) Sorry! Dress your finger with a piece of old clothes, to stop that blood oozing out.
Namugugu: (writhing in pain) No it was not a deep cut. It will soon stop bleeding even without a piece of rag.
Kuloba: (to Namugugu) let it be so. (Stands) let me go to my sweet potato field. There are some vivies, I have not harvested, I can get there some roots for our lunch (exits)
Chenje: (to Namugugu) my son even if you have injured your finger, but that will not prevent me from telling you what I am supposed to.
Namugugu: (with attention) yes.
Chenje: (pointing) sit to this other chair, it is safer than that one of yours.
Namugugu: (changing the chair) Thank you.
Chenje: You are now a big person. You are no longer an infant. I want you to come up with your own home. Look for a girl to marry. Don’t wait to grow more than here. The two years you have been in Nairobi, were really wasted. You could have been married, may you would now be having my two grand sons as per today.
Namugugu: Father I don’t refuse. But how can I marry and start up a family in a situation of extreme poverty? Do you want me to start a family with even nothing to eat?
Chenje: My son, you will be safer when you are a married beggar than a wife- less rich-man. No one is more exposed as a man without a wife.
Namugugu: (looking down) father it is true but not realistic.
Chenje: How?
Namugugu: All women tend to flock after a rich man.
Chenje: (laughs) my son, may be you don’t know. Let me tell you. One time you will remember, maybe I will be already dead by then. Look here, all riches flock after married men, all powers of darkness flock after married men and even all poverty flock after married. So, it is just a matter of living your life.
(Curtains)
SCENE TWO

Around Chenje’s hut, Kuloba and Namugugu are inside the hut; Chenje is out under the eaves. He is dropping at them.
Namugugu: Mama! Papa wants to drive wind of sadness permanently into my sail of life. He is always pressurizing me to get married at such a time when I totally have nothing. No food, no house no everything. Mama let me actually ask you; is it possible to get married in such a situation?
Kuloba: (Looking out if there is any one, but did not spot the eaves-dropping Chenje).
Forget. Marriage is not a Whiff of aroma. My son, try marriage in poverty and you will see.
Namugugu: (Emotionally) Now, if Papa knows that I will not have a happy married life, in such a situation, where I don’t have anything to support myself; then why is he singing for my marriage?
Kuloba: (gesticulating) He wants to mess you up the way he messed me up. He married me into his poverty. I have wasted away a whole of my life in his poverty. I regret. You! (Pointing) my son, never make a mistake of neither repeating nor replicating poverty of this home into your future through blind marriage.
Namugugu: (Approvingly) yes Mama, I get you.

Kuloba: (Assertively) moreover, you are the only offspring of my womb             (touching her stomach) I have never eaten anything from you. You have never bought me anything even a headscarf alone. Now, if you start with a wife will I ever benefit anything from you?
Namugugu: (looking agog) indeed Mama.
Kuloba: (commandingly) don’t marry! Women are very many. You can marry at any age, any time or even any place. But it is very good to remember child-price paid by your mother in bringing you up. As a man my son, you have to put it before all other things in your life.
Namugugu: (in an affirmative feat) yes Mama.
Kuloba: It is not easy to bring up a child up to an age when in poverty. As a mother you really suffer. I’ve suffered indeed to bring you up. Your father has never been able to put food on the table. It has been my burden through out. So my son, pleased before you go for women remember that!
Namugugu: Yes Mama, I will.
(Enters Chenje)
Chenje: (to Kuloba) you old wizard headed woman! Why do you want to put    my home to a full stop?
Kuloba: (shy) why? You mean you were not away? (Goes out behaving shyly)

Chenje: (in anger to Namugugu) you must become a man! Why do you give your ears to such toxic conversations? Your mother is wrong. Whatever she has told you today is pure lies. It is her laziness that made her poor. She is very wrong to festoon me in any blame…. I want you to think excellently as a man now. Avoid her tricky influence and get married. I have told you finally and I will never repeat telling you again.

Namugugu: (in a feat of shyness) But Papa, you are just exploding for no good reason, Mama has told me nothing bad……………………
Chenje: (Awfully) shut up! You old ox. Remove your ears from poisonous mouths of old women!
(Enters Nanyuli with an old green paper bag in her hand. Its contents were bulging).
Nanyuli: (knocking) Hodii! Hodii!
Chenje: (calmly) come in my daughter! Come in.
Nanyuli: (entering) thank you.
Chenje: (to Namugugu) give the chair to our visitor.
Namugugu: (shyly, paving Nanyuli to sit) Karibu, have a sit please.
Nanyuli: (swinging girlishly) I will not sit me I am in a hurry.
Chenje: (to Nanyuli) just sit for a little moment my daughter. Kindly sit.
Nanyuli: (sitting, putting a paper-bag on her laps) where is the grandmother who is usually in this house?
Chenje: Who?
Nanyuli: Kuloba, the old grandmother.
Namugugu: She has just briefly gone out.
Chenje: (to Nanyuli) she has gone to the potato field and Cassava field to look for some roots for our lunch.
Nanyuli: Hmm. She will get.
Chenje: Yes, it is also our prayer. Because we’re very hungry.
Nanyuli: I am sure she will get.
Chenje: (to Nanyuli) excuse me my daughter; tell me who your father is?
Nanyuli: (shyly) you mean you don’t know me? And me I know you.
Chenje: Yes I don’t know you. Also my eyes have grown old, unless you remind
me, I may not easily know you.
Nanyuli: I am Lusaaka’s daughter
Chenje: Eh! Which Lusaka? The one with a brown wife? I don’t know… her name is Kulecho?
Nanyuli: Yes
Chenje: That brown old-mother is your mother?
Nanyuli: Yes, she is my mother. I am her first – born.
Chenje: Ooh! This is good (goes forward to greet her) shake my fore-limb my
daughter.

Nanyuli: (shaking Chenje’s hand) Thank you.
Chenje: I don’t know if your father has ever told you. I was circumcised the same year with your grand-gather. In fact we were cut by the same knife. I mean we shared the same circumciser.
Nanyuli: No, he has not yet. You know he is always at school. He never stays at home.
Chenje: That is true. I know him, he teaches at our mission primary school at Bokoli market.
Nanyuli: Yes.
Chenje: What is your name my daughter?
Nanyuli: My name is Loisy Nanyuli Lusaaka.
Chenje: Very good. They are pretty names. Loisy is a Catholic baptismal name, Nanyuli is our Bukusu tribal name meaning wife of an iron-smith and Lusaaka is your father’s name.
Nanyuli: (laughs) But I am not a Catholic. We used to go to Catholic Church upto last year December. But we are now born again, saved children of God. Fellowshipping with the Church of Holy Mountain of Jesus christ. It is at Bokoli market.
Chenje: Good, my daughter, in fact when I will happen to meet with your father, or even your mother the brown lady, I will comment them for having brought you up under the arm of God.
Nanyuli: Thank you; or even you can as well come to our home one day.
Chenje: (laughs) actually, I will come.
Nanyuli: Now, I want to go
Chenje: But you have not stayed for long. Let us talk a little more my daughter.
Nanyuli: No, I will not. I had just brought some tea leaves for Kuloba the old grandmother.
Chenje: Ooh! Who gave you the tea leaves?
Nanyuli: I do hawk tea leaves door to door. I met her last time and she requested me to bring her some. So I want to give them to you (pointing at Namugugu) so that you can give them to her when she comes.
Namugugu: No problem. I will.
Nanyuli: (takes out a tumbler from the paper bag, fills the tumbler twice, pours the tea leaves  into an old piece of  newspaper, folds and gives  it to Namugugu) you will give them to grandmother, Kuloba.
Namugugu: (taking) thank you.
Chenje: My daughter, how much is a tumbler full of tea leaves, I mean when it is full?
Nanyuli: Ten shillings of Kenya
Chenje: My daughter, your price is good. Not like others.
Nanyuli: Thank you.
Namugugu: (To Nanyuli) What about money, she gave you already?
Nanyuli: No, but tell her that any day I may come for it.
Namugugu: Ok, I will not forget to tell her
Nanyuli: I am thankful. Let me go, we shall meet another day.
Chenje: Yes my daughter, pass my regards to your father.
Nanyuli: Yes I will (goes out)
Chenje: (Biting his finger) I wish I was a boy. Such a good woman would never slip through my fingers.
Chenje: But father she is already a tea leaves vendor!
(CURTAINS)


SCENE THREE
Nanyuli and Kulecho in a common room Nanyuli and Kulecho are standing at the table, Nanyuli is often suspecting a blow from Kulecho, counting coins from sale of tea leaves; Lusaaka is sited at couch taking a coffee from a ceramic red kettle.


Kulecho: (to Nanyuli) these monies are not balancing with your stock. It is like you have sold more tea leaves but you have less money. This is only seventy five shillings. When it is supposed to be one hundred and fifty. Because you sold fifteen tumblers you are only left with five tumblers.
Nanyuli: (Fidgeting) this is the whole money I have, everything I collected from sales is here.
Kulecho: (heatedly) be serious, you stupid woman! How can you sell everything and am not seeing any money?
Nanyuli: Mama, this is the whole money I have, I have not taken your money anywhere.
Kulecho: You have not taken the money anywhere! Then where is it? Do you know that I am going to slap you!
Nanyuli: (shaking) forgive me Mama
Kulecho: Then speak the truth before you are forgiven. Where is the money you collected from tea leaves sales?
Nanyuli: (in a feat of shyness) some I bought a short trouser for my child.
Kulecho: (very violent) after whose permission? You old cow, after whose permission (slaps Nanyuli with her whole mighty) Talk out!
Nanyuli: (Sobbingly) forgive me mother, I thought you would understand. That is why I bought a trouser for my son with your money!
Lusaaka: (shouting a cup of coffee in his hand, standing charged) teach her a lesson, slap her again!
Kulecho (slaps, Nanyuli continuously, some times ******* her cheeks, as Nanyuli wails) Give me my money! Give me my money! Give me my money! Give me my money! You lousy, irresponsible Con-woman (clicks)
Lusaaka: Are you tired, kick the *** out of that woman (inveighs a slap towards Nanyuli) I can slap you!
Nanyuli: (kneeling, bowedly, carrying up her hands) forgive me father, I will never repeat that mistake again (sobs)
Lusaaka: An in-corrigible, ****!
Kulecho: (to Nanyuli) You! Useless heap of human flesh. I very much regret to have sired a sell-out of your type. It is very painful for you to be a first offspring of my womb.
I curse my womb because of you. You have ever betrayed me. I took you to school you were never thankful, instead you became pregnant. You were fertilized in the bush by peasant boys.
You have given birth to three childlings, from three different fathers! You do it in my home. What a shame! Your father is a teacher, how have you made him a laughing stock among his colleagues, teachers? I have become sympathetic to you by putting you into business. I have given you tea leaves to sell. A very noble occupation for a wretch like you. You only go out sell tea leaves and put the money in your wolfish stomach. Nanyuli! Why do you always act like this?
Nanyuli: (sobbing) Forgive me mother. Some tea leaves I sold on credit. I will come with the money today?
Kulecho: You sold on credit?
Nanyuli: Yes
Kul
this is a manuscript of a play, please guys help me get any publisher who can do publishing of this play
i  will appreciate. thanks
Mr Zeal Mar 2014
I messed up
I get it I'm so stupid oh I messed up.
So foolish loving vapors that's not real love.

I try to make my self good
My good is Like a filthy rag

I'm guilty all this thinking got me caught up.
Wait a minute let me get it now I'm *******
I'm dripping from my sinnin forgive me love.
I need you more then what I say to clean this mess up
I'm the mess up.

I try to make my self good
My good is Like a filthy rag.
It's stuck in my head,
Until it's gone,
When I can make endless complaints
Endless back stabs to match.
But till its gone, it is there.
After it's been there and gone,
It is there again.
Every night of everyday
And also in random hours of my days.
I see the old, then I see the new.
It seems my world has turned black and blue.
My heart beats faster
And my eyes: they cry.
I feel I am mourning a loss;
Of someone never born to be able to die.
It's the cases like this
That are always the worst.
You think you've found someone,
When they're not there at all.
So many good times
Have all gone down the drain,
Because everyone's a faker.
Don't you know I hate liars?
You liar, you deceitful and manipulative ****!
You *****!
I hate you,
I hate you,
And then I hate you even more.
What you have done made me fall to the floor.
I don't know how I can get through this,
Because last time I could just hate,
Which still I am doing.
You make that more difficult.
Because when all the memories
Come back again,
I don't want to believe that was you,
Surely it can't be true?
But I know too well
To be fooled more than once,
Not that there's a way you would make it twice,
Because you hate me too.
It's all because of you.
And her
And the other.
All "best friends" do
Is end up having to stab each other.
You see I am missing,
Someone nonexistent.
I knew it was too good to be true,
But that won't stop me bleeding.
I wish the 'you' I was friends with
Was actually real.
Instead I just feel messed over,
All over again.
I don't want to picture,
Not anymore,
Of what's flashing through my head.
The so many too good times.
They've been damaged again.
I trusted you
As I trusted them all,
Because you have to trust to do anything at all.
Again and again trusting proved to be devastating,
Because there is no one who actually
Has your back.
So no I don't want to picture,
I don't want another picture game.
When I'm talking about you in rants,
The devil is your name.
When I'm speaking I do not have to be sad,
It's only the times that I get to think on my own,
When I feel even more torn down.
When I see you walking around,
I wish you were not.
Do you know not what exactly you all have caused?
I can hear you all talking,
Just like we all used to do,
Then the thousands of memories
Come flooding in once again.
And until I convince myself to dry up my emotions,
I watch the dry river banks
Become diluted without letting the rain fall.
Because my tears;
You never deserved them at all.
I don't want to picture what you may think of me.
If you hate me then go on,
You can resent me as much as you can.
But maybe you'd like to know:
I stood up for you.
Even though it was proved to be true.
I didn't believe it at first,
Because it was you.
How dare you!
If you think I didn't know reasons to take sides,
Didn't you think I would defend you as I did her?
Well I ******* tried!
And if roles were reversed then I would've taken yours,
As it wasn't out of favouritism as it stood,
But because you were so unbelievable
That nothing could be done.
No friendship was saved.
Being civilised?
Well I just try to ignore your name.
emily grace Feb 2015
i know you messed me up
made me feel things forgotten
buried deep in me now excavated
covered in dirt and debris

you ******* me up in the best kind of way
made my heart beat fast and slow
at the same time
knocking me off my feet with a single look

those blue eyes can't be forgotten
locked somewhere deep in my head
where you reside
lying dormant until you pick yourself up
and take over the rest
leaving me breathless and intoxicated

i'd be lying if i said i didn't need you
like the breath in my lungs
and the blood in my veins

i'd be lying if i said you didn't mean a thing to me

you messed me up in the worst
and best
kind of way
Alyssa Underwood Jul 2016
O Lord Jesus,
I want to live and walk and bow
in constant awe of You,
but I am so easily distracted and waylaid.
Fasten my eyes and heart on You,
for You alone are worthy.
I am not worthy to even peek at Your beauty,
but by Your own worthiness You've invited
me to dwell forever in Your presence,
yet how often I refuse the privilege.
Why would I ever do that?
What is wrong with me?
How hard-headed and hard-hearted I must be!
Save me from my messed-up self
and from this messed-up world,
for I am sorely helpless and lost without You.
Draw me by the force of Your love
into the light of Your glory and goodness,
awaken me to the healing touch of Your Word.

Capture and change me to the core,
for only You can, my Savior.
Rid my soul of its blinding
filth, muck, rot and *******
that I may freely sing, dance,
swim and soar in the wonder of You.
Cause me to crave You with an insatiable,
desperate appetite that expels my fleshly hunger.
Teach me to ever feast on You!
I need You and long for You, Jesus,
but send the burning, ripping ache
deeper, deeper, deeper until nothing
remains but desire for You.
Come and satisfy me, O Delight of delights,
in that glorious and awestruck place
of endless fascination and total possession
where my will is finally drowned in Yours.
Technology.
Technology is one of those things that is good and bad.
It can save lives and ruin them.
They can make people feel happy, and sad.
It can delete and it can send.
Technology can destroy and create,
it can rebuild and make things complete.
It can make things crumble, devastate.
It can knock things down, delete.
Technology is a weapon that nobody can control.,
from cyber space and a nuclear weapon,
It makes some people poor and drowns some in gold.
You can ruin a life with a push of a button.
You can ridicule somebody using a picture, text, post
you can get so caught up in the moment
that you forget what matters the most.
That the people you antagonize are actually people, not just a receiver of a nasty comment.
No matter what you think, words hurt,
hiding behind a computer screen doesn't change that.
Mental scars you can insert,
if you know what to say, and how to act, .
Technology is a force not to be messed with,
it can turn a battle into a war,
and not just a myth.
And then you'll only hurt others even more.
Be responsible while using technology,
and maybe we can prevent the scars,
and the victims that feel the need to flee.
You can chose to let your malice go, let it drive away like a car,
and instead prevent further hurt, and hopefully make the others see.
FallenAngel93 Feb 2015
At the age of 2 I wanted to be a cop,
At the age of 4 I wanted to be a rock star,
At the age of 6 I wanted to be a doctor,
At the age of 8 I wanted to be a vet,
At the age of 10 I wanted to be a writer,
At the age of 12 I wanted to be a chief,
At the age of 14 I want to die.



The thing is,
At the age 2 I wanted to be a cop,
At the age 4 I was messed with,
At the age 5 I was still messed with so I cut,
At the age 6 I was still messed with so I cut,
At the age 7 I was still messed with so I tried to overdose,
At the age 8 he got what h wanted so I tried to **** myself and it almost worked I was in the hospital for 2 weeks.
At the age 9 I still want to be dead,
At the age 10 I get forced into it again, and end up having a miscarriage,
At the age 11 I am broken from loosing a baby I carried for 5 months,
At the age 12 I tried to **** myself again,
At the age 13 I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety,
At the age 14 I am here, giving up, now had two miscarriages, and I'm broken, still cutting, wanting to overdose everyday, but now has a girl that means the world to me, She and my Nephew and baby brother is the only reason I'm still on this place you call Earth.
the day when my uncle ray became sunday rose kidman urban




you see when my uncle ray pocock died in 2006, buddha was having a hard time trying to put him in

another family, and then uncle ray asked cronus to force keith urban to have *** with niciole kidman

to create a new life, and ray has been trying to search for a way to enter nicole’s body, it was like a

blessing for my uncle ray, you see my grandma who died in 2004, 2 years before ray, decided to

hold a sunday roast when her family went to bed, you see they had methane plants and chicken

and potatoes, and uncle ray decided to die and enjoy this sunday roast of the cosmos, ya know like help make it

and my grandma said, ray, how about when you reenter this world, your earth bodies name will be sunday rose

but you will force barry to hate the name, trying to explain that it sounds like sunday roast, which is cooked by me

and then my grandma invited cronus and buddha and athena to the sunday roast, so that uncle ray can be reincarnated

into nicole’s ******, with the help of keith and when they did the initial bit, it was a good wait, and then in 2008, sunday rose

was born, and it was ray pocock, and ray brought on the roast in her name, sure ray is a girl in his current life, but whether

he is a she or vice versa, it doesn’t matter, you see from the day that sunday was born and then named, this was going to

be a bumpy ride, seeing that ray pocock was a reverend, and died to be apart of the celebrity life, you see from that day ray and

my grandma has been hosting a big nightie conference with the whole family, to reform violence in the family unit, and ray brought

barry allan up there to get him to change the way he talks to brian, and also ray would invite nicole and keith in to meet his

previous life’s family, you see as nicole and keith are preparing to be good parents to their two kids sunday and faith, and ray

was given a job as our family’s joining, so he can make sure we are alright, and that is why sunday rose, is just walking around with keith and

nicole instead of being big youtube junkies, you see they were famous, but they wanted to be there for sunday and faith, for every turn

of their lives, ray was brought toward nicole in a party on jupiter and they bonded, just like mother and daughter, and ray went to buddha

and said, i want to be nicole kid man’s daughter, i want to learn how a famous person goes about living their lives, i like to bring barry allan

closer to liking the famous way of life, and i want to be named sunday roast, and force barry to get puzzled, so the name was not very long away

as the name was sunday rose and then ray was given the new life and buddha and cronus said i now pronounce nicole and keith’s new daughter

as sunday rose kidman urban and in the rose, r meaning ray and o as the second letter of pocock, but nicole and keith has a better meaning to the word

rose, and now sunday rose is 7 years of age, and ray pocock is considering himself the new GOD, flying around keeping all the families together, but the

problem is, families aren’t perfect as we are still having kids being kidnapped and people being stabbed or murdered, and ray has a lot to do

and another thing ray wants to do, is reform brian allan, by getting into his mind and telling people what is going on, even if it destroys other families

but if it destroys the family, ray explains to brian to write with a messed up brain, so you don’t reveal much about what cronus is doing, but if it makes

you as messed up as a hooligan, you must tell, and expect people not to like it, and then ray said, he is the NEW GOD, he is trying to keep domestic violence

and aggression out of his old family, now every time a picture of sunday rose goes on the internet, you can feel that ray pocock is at peace, you see sunday

is enjoying her life on earth, and i suggest to nicole and keith, that they have a little angel amongst them, and this was the sort of angel to lure brian away from

his old mate, because he was too negative, and from that moment  brian’s mate was getting panic attacks, and ray and ivy forced brian not to help him, as

he was a little negative ****, and he needed to stand on his own two feet, as ray got another mate to tease him and getting another mate to make ******* comments

driving him mad, and ray knew this was a hard job, so he made brian rave on about sunday rose and forced a conversation about when celebrities have babies

and then ray teased my mate, by making him think he controlled the world, to, i don’t know, lure him away from brian, because brian was trying to keep positiveness

with his mate, and then as it was hard to get his new mate out of his life, ray pocock forced an old friend to tease brian in his mind, treating brian like a little negative ****

to get rid of his negative friend, so that ray, can enjoy life as sunday rose and ivy can enjoy life as annie from brattayley and lucky can be baby **** and barry can enjoy life

as betty campbell, and not worry about, brian’s stupid mate unleashing his negativity onto brian, because what ray was thinking, brian would be positive without his mate

constantly around sprouting negativity in his head, and hopefully find out what brian really wants to do to keep positive, and one thing brian likes to do, is write out his hooligan

and cronus is a hooligan, because he is old, and brian needs to tell us all what is going on with cronus, to clear his mind, and one thing is, to never have brian and his mate dan

walk past and ray pocock is watching over his old family as well as watching over his new earth body sunday rose
nova hunt Aug 2014
sometimes i go off
about these worlds
that i make up
in my head.

because when the world
is so messed up,
don't you
want another?

i spend
so much time
just living
in these worlds,
     just thinking.

about
trivial things

     like:
how come clouds
get to be so high
that it's like they're flying,
when all they do is bring rain?

     or:
why do we spend
so much time
obsessing over the fact
that we don't have much time at all?

but i think
that maybe
in these worlds i make up,
it's not so bad.

sure,
there are bad guys
but when are there not?

the thing is,
in my world,
i'm not one of those
bad guys.

i'm the one
with the cape
and the mask
and i am the one
     who saves the day.
1shye Mar 2014
My life seemed so messed up
I’m messy in everything
Messy in love
Messy in thought
Messy in debt
All in all
I’m just all messed up
Will there be a day
where these mess
would all be straightened out?
Robin Carretti Aug 2018
A special lace-like card
  *
        *        *        *
Three Star points
       *  *  *
Sword-like smile-Bored-Hike pile-
Western Union Man
Money flies like Superman

Spinning wheel fan too guard
Special words have no regard
He's the Adonis-like the
Lazarus lovely-like Venus
Those effects in motion
That special tip above her lips
Steady as they go but motionless
The stars walk across her
sky lifted dress

Heavenly Pillsbury flour
Her hair flower no water
Smile Lift even in debt
Messed her heart so red
White light disaster
Nothing on this earth
we got to lose no control
Here's the *Special Rose

Winter/Sunglow hair
The Flatiron

A spaceship cowardly lion
Your the "Wildcat"
Crazy Oats
Space waves of the neutron
The dream on
Your eyes are blind
A clear day special motif
setting inside your
Word heading leaf
He lifts up your
blinds all
righteous minds

Those special love hands
Nothing was ever
staged starlight and bright
  Never yellow

Winter?Sun
It blocked out
my *Godly
pages
On the good earth leaf
Helen Keller had the
good remedy family
When you are deaf
A green touch of
brown leafs
What you smell and feel
What's truly there
special beliefs

Or at the most
Famous Cemetery,
You got blinded  so
gilded star
you don't
see them

One of a kind that's him
Or the encounters of the
third kind Winter/Sun
The darkness slim-man-run

The cactus desert of my heartlands

Jack of all Trader Joes investments
My E-book and I Phone
best T-bone steak
Spices of theVegetarian Kingdom
Curry in a hurry for Indian Food,
E-T Extra
Terrestrial Space high bill total

ABC Chemical love reaction
A special motif so personnel
"Divine District Attorney"

Taking spiritual love
what lies beneath us
Lotus Tea Panda Bears
Of Journeys
Pyramid or the myriad

A-Special Motif
comes to me
Two Gods surrender me
message
Something you feel but
it's unknown
Never left in the dark
like a treasure
Teeth chatter Gold caps
Chatterbox
Almost happy coffee
almost dark

Too many famous labels
A special romance new leaf
Time change challenging
Winter sun/Wonder fun
Amarous open chorus
Special maid devious
A special Motif delicious
The honest lawyer
Special talent space
of braces
Subsequently or coincidentally

What was special
The board meetings like *Erasers
?
To erase all the special places
in my heart

Dark despair trail parted
Ending up with a trail
of mixed nuts
Cars such a pain with
Synthetic Oil ****** -like Oil

The conjuring or searing
Holding the leaf in spirit
special times remembering
Sapphire September October
Comfort foods November
Thanksgiving
The heartburn living
The Winter/Sun
Special motif holding onto
his one brilliant leaf in
Ancient Egyptian King of Tut
book

*
Yearning the solemn vows
The full moon is
turning a
new leaf
The painted picture leaf
special Motif

Love so committed
The time was omitted
Family poor or rich
Invitation *Winter Sun


Those who are in need
The beacon like a
poem of goodies mend

Heaven that feeling
called my own
Even things that
are special
became unknown
Not always about
being famous

Things that are simple
that's what remains
precious eat sleep Jeep
The fairy came sweet nectar deep
Was so kind humanly rare find
A special note with a motif
I will never forget what was our belief
A special God or Motif a spiritual beauty her leaf but even when you are deaf you can smell the beauty lingering everyone is  work of beauty just living
Madisen Kuhn Oct 2014
i’ve never had feelings for anyone who could be good for me. i’ve never been interested in someone where a good, healthy relationship could’ve resulted, and maybe that’s why i’m so jaded, because everyone i’ve ever liked has just been a distraction or a house on fire— someone i know i shouldn’t be involved with, but i’ll give myself just a few more days to run around frantically with my hands over my eyes, peaking through the cracks between my fingers, searching for things i know i don’t really need, and then i’ll dash out and run down the driveway and the smog will linger for a little while, and the neighbors will complain, and i’ll sit on the curb with my forehead on my knees, holding nothing but intangible regret. next, i’ll either get over it, or obsessively think about him and the ashes smudged on the inside of my eyelids for longer than my sanity. i’ve never really liked someone and been able to daydream about the real possibility of us turning into something greater; of tire swings and painted mailboxes and overgrown, green lawns. it’s always been pretending and fake hope and melodramatic doom. i think it’s messed up my perception of having feelings for someone, because i can never take it seriously— either i know he’s not right for me, or i know the circumstances prohibit the possibility of us. it makes me never want to give anyone a chance (i can’t even see anyone worth chance-giving) because i know how it ends. i don’t like having this closed off heart so early on; i’m too young to be this bitter.
21:56 journal entry
Mike Bergeron Sep 2012
There was a house fire on my street last night …well… not exactly my street, but on a little, sketchy, dead-end strip of asphalt, sidewalks, weeds, and garbage that juts into my block two houses down. It was on that street. Rosewood Court, population: 12, adjusted population: 11, characterized by anonymity and boarded windows, peppered with the swift movements of fat street rats. I’ve never been that close to a real, high-energy, make-sure-to-spray-down-your-roof-with-a-hose-so-it-doesn’t-catch­ fire before. It was the least of my expectations for the evening, though I didn’t expect a crate of Peruvian bananas to fall off a cargo plane either, punching through the ceiling, littering the parking lot with damaged fruit and shingles, tearing paintings and shelves and studs from the third floor walls, and crashing into our kitchen, shattering dishes and cabinets and appliances. Since that never happened, and since neither the former nor the latter situation even crossed my mind, I’ll stick with “least of my expectations,” and bundle up with it inside that inadequate phrase whatever else may have happened that I wouldn’t have expected.



I had been reading in my living room, absently petting the long calico fur of my roommate’s cat Dory. She’s in heat, and does her best to make sure everyone knows it, parading around, *** in the air, an opera of low trilling and loud meows and deep purring. As a consequence of a steady tide of feline hormones, she’s been excessively good humored, showering me with affection, instead of her usual indifference, punctuated by occasional, self-serving shin rubs when she’s hungry. I saw the lights before I heard the trucks or the shouts of firemen or the panicked wail of sirens, spitting their warning into the night in A or A minor, but probably neither, I’m no musician. Besides, Congratulations was playing loud, flowing through the speakers in the corners of the room, connected to the record player via the receiver with the broken volume control, travelling as excited electrons down stretches of wire that are, realistically, too short, and always pull out. The song was filling the space between the speakers and the space between my ears with musings on Brian Eno, so the auditory signal that should have informed me of the trouble that was afoot was blocked out. I saw the lights, the alternating reds and whites that filled my living room, drawing shifting patterns on my walls, ceiling, floor, furniture, and shelves of books, dragging me towards the door leading outside, through the cluttered bike room, past the sleeping, black lump of oblivious fur that is usually my boisterous male kitten, and out into the bedlam I  had previously been ignorant to. I could see the smoke, it was white then gray then white, all the while lending an acrid taste to the air, but I couldn’t see where it was issuing from. The wind was blowing the smoke toward my apartment, away from Empire Mills. I tried to count the firetrucks, but there were so many. I counted six on Wilmarth Ave, one of which was the awkward-looking, heavy-duty special hazards truck. In my part of the city, the post-industrial third-wave ***** river valley, you never know if the grease fire that started with homefries in a frying pan in an old woman’s kitchen will escalate into a full-blown mill fire, the century-old wood floors so saturated with oil and kerosene and ****** and manufacturing chemicals and ghosts and god knows what other flammable **** that it lights up like a fifth of July leftover sparkler, burning and melting the hand of the community that fed it for so many decades, leaving scars that are displayed on the local news for a week and are forgotten in a few years’ time.



The night was windy, and the day had been dry, so precautions were abundant, and I counted two more trucks on Fones Ave. One had the biggest ladder I’ve ever seen. It was parked on the corner of Fones and Wilmarth, directly across from the entrance into the forgotten dead-end where the forgotten house was burning, and the ladder was lifting into the air. By now my two roommates had come outside too, to stand on our rickety, wooden staircase, and Jeff said he could see flames in the windows of one of the three abandoned houses on Rosewood, through the third floor holes where windows once were, where boards of plywood were deemed unnecessary.



“Ay! Daddy!”



My neighbor John called up to us. He serves as the eyes and ears and certainly the mouth of our block, always in everyone’s business, without being too intrusive, always aware of what’s going down and who’s involved. He proceeded to tell us the lowdown on the blaze as far as he knew it, that there were two more firetrucks and an ambulance down Rosewood, that the front and back doors to the house were blocked by something from inside, that those somethings were very heavy, that someone was screaming inside, that the fire was growing.



Val had gone inside to get his jacket, because despite the floodlights from the trucks imitating sunlight, the wind and the low temperature and the thought of a person burning alive made the night chilly. Val thought we should go around the block, to see if we could get a better view, to satisfy our congenital need to witness disaster, to see the passenger car flip over the Jersey barrier, to watch the videos of Jihadist beheadings, to stand in line to look at painted corpses in velvet, underlit parlors, and sit in silence while their family members cry. We walked down the stairs, into full floodlight, and there were first responders and police and fully equipped firefighters moving in all directions. We watched two firemen attempting to open an old, rusty fire hydrant, and it could’ve been inexperience, the stress of the situation, the condition of the hydrant, or just poor luck, but rather than opening as it was supposed to the hydrant burst open, sending the cap flying into the side of a firetruck, the water crashing into the younger of the two men’s face and torso, knocking him back on his ***. While he coughed out surprised air and water and a flood of expletives, his partner got the situation under control and got the hose attached. We turned and walked away from the fire, and as we approached the turn we’d take to cut through the rundown parking lot that would bring us to the other side of the block, two firemen hurried past, one leading the other, carrying between them a stretcher full of machines for monitoring and a shitload of wires and tubing. It was the stiff board-like kind, with handles on each end, the kind of stretcher you might expect to see circus clowns carry out, when it’s time to save their fallen, pie-faced cohort. I wondered why they were using this archaic form of patient transportation, and not one of the padded, electrical ones on wheels. We pushed past the crowd that had begun forming, walked past the Laundromat, the 7Eleven, the carwash, and took a left onto the street on the other side of the parking lot, parallel to Wilmarth. There were several older men standing on the sidewalk, facing the fire, hands either in pockets or bringing a cigarette to and from a frowning mouth. They were standing in the ideal place to witness the action, with an unobstructed view of the top two floors of the burning house, its upper windows glowing orange with internal light and vomiting putrid smoke.  We could taste the burning wires, the rugs, the insulation, the asbestos, the black mold, the trash, and the smell was so strong I had to cover my mouth with my shirt, though it provided little relief. We said hello, they grunted the same, and we all stood, watching, thinking about what we were seeing, not wanting to see what we were thinking.

Two firefighters were on the roof by this point, they were yelling to each other and to the others on the ground, but we couldn’t hear what they were saying because of the sirens from all the emergency vehicles that were arriving.  It seemed to me they sent every firetruck in the city, as well as more than a dozen police cars and a slew of ambulances, all of them arriving from every direction. I guess they expected the fire to get really out of hand, but we could already see the orange glow withdrawing into the dark of the house, steam and smoke rippling out of the stretched, wooden mouths of the rotted window frames. In a gruff, habitual smoker’s voice, we heard

                                      “Chopper called the fire depahtment

We was over at the vet’s home

                He says he saw flames in the windas

                                                                                                                                                We all thought he was shittin’ us

We couldn’t see nothin’.”

A man between fifty-five to sixty-five years old was speaking, no hair on his shiny, tanned head, old tattoos etched in bluish gray on his hands, arms, and neck, menthol smoke rising from between timeworn fingers. He brought the cigarette to his lips, drew a hearty chest full of smoke, and as he let it out he repeated

                                                “Yea, chopper called em’

Says he saw flames.”

The men on the roof were just silhouettes, backlit by the dazzling brightness of the lights on the other side.  The figure to the left of the roof pulled something large up into view, and we knew instantly by the cord pull and the sound that it was a chainsaw. He began cutting directly into the roof. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, wondered if he was scared of falling into the fire, assumed he probably was, but had at least done this before, tried to figure out if he was doing it to gain entry or release pressure or whatever. The man to the right was hacking away at the roof with an axe. It was surreal to watch, to see two men transformed from public servants into fingers of destruction, the pinkie and ring finger fighting the powerful thumb of the controlled chemical reaction eating the air below them, to watch the dark figures shrouded in ethereal light and smoke and sawdust and what must’ve been unbearable heat from below, to be viewing everything with my own home, my belongings, still visible, to know it could easily have gone up in flames as well.

I should’ve brought my jacket. I remember complaining about it, about how the wind was passing through my skin like a window screen, chilling my blood, in sharp contrast to the heat that was morphing and rippling the air above the house as it disappeared as smoke and gas up into the atmosphere from the inside out.

Ten minutes later, or maybe five, or maybe one, the men on the roof were still working diligently cutting and chopping, but we could no longer see any signs of flames, and there were figures moving around in the house, visible in the windows of the upper floors, despite the smoke. Figuring the action must be reaching its end, we decided to walk back to our apartment. We saw Ken’s brown pickup truck parked next to the Laundromat, unable to reach our parking lot due to all the emergency vehicles and people clogging our street. We came around the corner and saw the other two members of the Infamous Summers standing next to our building with the rest of the crowd that had gathered. Dosin told us the fire was out, and that they had pulled someone from inside the gutted house, but no ambulance had left yet, and his normally smiling face was flat and somber, and the beaten guitar case slung over his shoulder, and his messed up hair, and the red in his cheeks from the cold air, and the way he was moving rocks around with the toe of his shoe made him look like a lost child, chasing a dream far from home but finding a nightmare in its place, instead of the professional who never loses his cool or his direction.

The crowd all began talking at once, so I turned around, towards the dead end and the group of firefighters and EMTs that were emerging. Their faces were stoic, not a single expression on all but one of those faces, a young EMT, probably a Basic, or a Cardiac, or neither, but no older than twenty, who was silently weeping, the tears cutting tracks through the soot on his cheeks, his eyes empty of emotion, his lips drawn tight and still. Four of them were each holding a corner of the maroon stretcher that took two to carry when I first saw it, full of equipment. They did not rush, they did not appear to be tending to a person barely holding onto life, they were just carrying the weight. As they got close gasps and cries of horror or disgust or both issued from the crowd, some turned away, some expressions didn’t change, some eyes closed and others stayed fixed on what they came to see. One woman vomited, right there on the sidewalk, splashing the shoes of those near her with the partially digested remains of her EBT dinner. I felt my own stomach start to turn, but I didn’t look away. I couldn’t.

                                                                                It was like I was seven again,

                                in the alleyway running along the side of the junior high school I lived near and would eventually attend,

looking in silent horror at what three eighth graders from my neighborhood were doing.

It was about eight in the evening of a rainy,

late summer day,

and I was walking home with my older brother,

cutting through the alley like we always did.

The three older boys were standing over a small dog,

a terrier of some sort.

They had duct taped its mouth shut and its legs together,

but we could still hear its terrified whines through its clenched teeth.

One of the boys had cut off the dog’s tail.

He had it in one hand,

and was still holding the pocket knife in the other.

None of them were smiling,

or talking,

nor did they take notice of Andrew and I.

There was a garden bag standing up next to them that looked pretty full,

and there was a small pile of leaves on the ground next to it.

In slow motion I watched,

horrified,

as one of the boys,

Brian Jones-Hartlett,

picked up the shaking animal,

put it in the bag,

covered it with the leaves from the ground,

and with wide,

shining eyes,

set the bag

on fire

with a long-necked

candle

lighter.

It was too much for me then. I couldn’t control my nausea. I threw up and sat down while my head swam.

I couldn’t understand. I forgot my brother and the fact that he was older, that he should stop this,

Stop them,

There’s a dog in there,

You’re older, I’m sick,

Why can’t I stop them?

It was like
Not once but twice, have I broken your heart,
With each time, a little more I regret playing a part.
I messed up last night, but fixed it today,
Now I've messed up again with nothing to say.

You can't forgive me, but I dont want your leave,
Perhaps it's true we wear our hearts on our sleeve.
Man I'm a ***** up, I hate myself now,
I'd do anything to fix this, but I can't think of how.

We're not better off gone, that is a fact,
Having messed up twice, leaves me sick to my tract.
I am this monster that I see in me,
Perhaps It's better if I leave you to be....
Not once but twice in the course of 24hrs have I broken the heart of the girl I love most.
Be gone with me now as I feel so subhuman, I am a monster a **** and an ******* of a boyfriend.
I'll never deserve her, shes so perfect for me, perhaps a monster isnt meant to love at all...
fray narte Jul 2019
Let's cut the crap and all that sweet **** — we weren't those kind of people. We weren't made for romance and sappy poetries, weren't made for love songs, and cringey sweet nothings and gazing at the sunrise after camping out for the night on a hill. We were made to hold hands and a few almost-kisses during drinking sessions and forget about it the next day, to smoke and lie down a little bit too close to each other on rooftops and talk about depression and anxiety attacks, and deny everything in the morning. We were made for my unsaid "I miss you too's", that want to escape my lips the moment you say your drunken "I miss you's". We were made to see each other break down in between a pack of cigarettes and two bottles of local ***. We were more like two ****** up souls recognizing each other; more like two faultlines causing an earthquake and taking everything down with them, more like the first raindrops to fall apart before a thunderstorm, like two planets out of orbit crashing on each other in a brief but destructive way.

You see, maybe we're just drawn to people similar to us, and maybe, we're just drawn to each other because we're equally messed up. Maybe it was just the strong urge to save the other that borderlined to romance. But I guess being messed up wears people out, and sometimes I find myself wondering who got exhausted first. Where did the talks about "wanting to die together" go? When did the conversations about our saddest secrets cease? What stopped "Man, loving you is a disaster I won't mind being struck by," from coming? Was I too depressive and sad for you? Were my breakdowns suffocating? Did my fuckedupness stop feeling like home and started looking just plain ****** up? When did you start fading away? Why would you do that? Stupid questions.

You should know, it beats the **** out of me to say it, but I was perhaps a little bit desperate for you to stay. Perhaps I got too comfortable with your demons, I almost adopted them as mine. Perhaps the fact that you were willing to give me your ******-up all was comforting. Perhaps I was selfish, and I kinda wanted my darkness to be the only darkness you'll wanna light. Perhaps I miss you and it feels like I'm a chainsmoker on withdrawal from her cigarettes, and what ***** more is that I don't even know if I still cross your mind as that same sad girl you were happy being sad with, as that same sad girl who had always been your destination, and the very same one you apparently stopped coming to. And perhaps, thinking about all of these is *******. We weren't some modern-day knight and damsel. You weren't the guy with the beautiful blue eyes, and I'm not the girl with the blue washed denim they sing about. We were just misfits who made a mess out of the messed ups we already are, as if that isn't already enough. We were just planes thrown in the air, hoping to land, but ending up crashed and burnt. And that's how it always worked for people like us.

I was never worn out by your sadness as much as I was worn out by mine. And clearly, you were my favorite messed up, but, you're just not worth it anymore. And this — this is a just an unpoetic musing about the wrecks that we are, an impulsive attempt of detoxifying you out of my system. This — this is me, disowning your sadness; this is me disowning your demons. So let's just cut the drama and all that sweet **** — we weren't those kind of people. We were the almost-but-not-quite's, the could've-beens, and the never were's. We weren't the kind that bags the happily ever after. We weren't the kind that makes it.

All we are is everything short of lovers. All we're made for is everything short of I love you's. And this is everything short of love.
Clindballe May 2014
In a trance, slashing throats. I'm in a killer mood someone's going to pay for this. All this betray and backstabbing. Pleasure by seeing other people suffering. Stressed out, messed up, ****** up. Killing every living thing as I walk by. Tonight you're all going to pay. Tonight is the end. **Suffer!
Written: May 22. -2014

— The End —