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Glenn McCrary Jun 2014
“Two faces -- both as perfect as mine once was.” ~ Two-Face


[Do just stood there in a state of slight bewilderment.]


DR. NIGHTMARE: Come to my office now!

DO: For what?

DR. NIGHTMARE: I’m not going to ask you again, Do.

DO: Look with all due respect sir I did nothing wrong.

DR. NIGHTMARE: And if you were really as respectful as you claim you would do as I ask.

SPORE: Do just go. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.

[Do opens his mouth and attempts to speak but Spore cuts him off.]

SPORE: I’ll go with you…

DO: Spore you don’t have to do that for me.

SPORE: Well I want to...

DO: But why?

SPORE: Because it is my fault that you are in this situation. The least that I can do is offer my emotional support in your time of need.

[Tears began to well up within Do’s eyes.]

DO: Thank you Spore.

SPORE: No problem Do. You helped me in my time of need when no one else would. I’m just trying to return the favor.

[Do smiled at Spore. Spore returned the smile. Do turned his attention to Dr. Nightmare.]

GUM: We’ll be here when you get back, Do.

SWEAT: Do what you need to do bro.

DO: Thanks guys. Okay Dr. Nightmare. Let’s go.

[Do & Spore follow Do from the lunch yard back into the asylum. Five minutes pass before they reach Dr. Nightmare’s office. Dr. Nightmare escorts Do & Spore into his office. Anaïs was standing in the corner by Dr. Nightmare’s desk. She was wearing a jet black dress with a large red plus symbol on the front of it to symbolize her expertise of her chosen field. She waved at Do. Do waved back. She was also wearing bright red high heels. Dr. Skitz and Dr. Crocker were also present on the opposite of Dr. Nightmare’s desk. Dr. Nightmare lights a cigarette, takes a hit, inhales the smoke and begins speaking.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Please have a seat both of you.

[Do and Spore proceeded to have a seat in the chairs behind them.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Do you know why I invited you into my office?

DO: I have some idea. Could you please explain a bit further?

[Spore giggled. Do lightly elbows Spore in her arm.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: But of course Mr. Nino. I would never want my patients to have to constantly wonder about life’s trials.

[Dr. Nightmare takes another hit of his cigarette and blows the smoke in Do and Spore’s direction.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: You are here today because we have been made aware of a couple of incidents that you have been involved in. These particular incidents go against the rules and overall moral conduct code of Black Wick Asylum.

DO: Oh, well please excuse my originality.

[Spore, Anaïs, Dr. Crocker and Dr. Skitz begin to chuckle together.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Are you trying to be funny?

DO: Well if you refer to the idea or moreso the simple ability to act stupid then yes.

DR. NIGHTMARE: This is exactly why you are in here right now.

DO: Yeah, for an incident of which I am technically morally innocent. It is the concept that exists within your brains that causes the majority of society to view such an act from more of a bigoted perspective. Now put the ******* cigarette down and get to the point. You have five minutes.

SPORE: Do what the he—

[Do places his finger to Spore’s lips to silence her.]

DO: I know what I’m doing.

[Do removes his finger from Spore’s lips.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Very well then, Do.

[Dr. Nightmare takes one last hit of his cigarette before putting it out upon his ashtray. He picks up a small remote from his desk, moves his office chair around and points the remote towards a medium sized camera sitting on the wall directly across from where Dr. Crocker and Dr. Skitz were standing.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Please turn the lights off, Anaïs.

NURSE YUCKI: Yes, Dr. Nightmare.

[Anaïs turns the lights off. Dr. Nightmare pushes play. The video begins. Dr. Nightmare decides to fast forward the video then resumes playing at the part where WiFi was about to hit Spore. Do then blocked WiFi’s punch. They briefly argued then WiFi took another swing at Spore. Do once again blocked WiFi’s punch and began ramming his elbow directly into WiFi’s nose instantly breaking it. Do continued hitting WiFi before finally slamming his rib cage directly on his knee. Dr. Nightmare paused the video.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: When exactly were you planning to tell me this Do?

DO: I wasn’t sir. Why should it be my job to inform you of such a situation as chaotic as this? Doesn’t this place have cameras?

DR. NIGHTMARE: This is an asylum, Do. Of course we have cameras. Unfortunately the day that you and WiFi got into that fight my cameras were malfunctioning due to a glitch in the system. Some of my cameras were working just fine that day. The other cameras weren’t working at all. A lot of the malfunctioning cameras had nothing but static screens on them particularly the camera in the cafeteria.

DO: So then how did you get footage of us fighting?

DR. NIGHTMARE: I hired several assistants to monitor and record any and all activity that goes on in the rooms that contained the malfunctioning cameras. There was somebody in there monitoring you the entire time and you didn’t even know it.

DO: But who was it?

DR. NIGHTMARE: That’s not important, Do. As the head of this institution I must do what I have to do to keep up with all daily activities of this institution. Frankly, if any such activity does not concern or affect you then what business is it of yours?

DO: How much time do you have?

DR. NIGHTMARE: Not enough time in the world.

DO: So then let’s move on.

DR. NIGHTMARE: Right. The next thing I wish to discuss with you are the results of your four dimensional emotion detector tests.

DO: Well this should be interesting.

DR. NIGHTMARE: Yeah, don’t hold your breath kid. Since Dr. Crocker was in charge of your happiness, sadness and fear tests you will be talking to him first. Carry on Dr. Crocker.]

DR. CROCKER: Thank you, Dr. Nightmare. How are you doing today Do?

DO: I’m doing just fine sir. Thank you for asking. How are you?

DR. CROCKER: Splendid sir. Alright Do let’s discuss your test results.

DO: I’m listening.

DR. CROCKER: Okay one minor detail that we must note is that each test is rated by any number from one through five with five being the highest and one being the lowest. You scored a five on both your happiness and sadness tests.

DO: What memory did I envision for the sadness test again?

DR. CROCKER: From what I’m reading it says that you envisioned the memory of when your ex-girlfriend Oku broke up with you.

DO: Yeah, that was a pretty sad memory. I spent every night that September crying myself to sleep every night. It hurt so bad.

DR. CROCKER: I understand.  Now the memory you chose for your fear test consisted of a series of scenarios in which you were abandoned. The most effective memory of those scenarios was of a mysterious woman abandoning you. Would you care to explain that?

DO: I don’t wanna remember… Even though I clearly still and always will remember, I choose to avoid anything that causes me to reminisce about it.

DR. CROCKER: Understood. Well I thought you’d like to know that you scored a five on your fear test too. You have a knack for selecting the deepest memories of your psyche.

DO: That is what you wanted is it not?

DR. CROCKER: Nothing more and nothing less.

DO: Is there anything else I need to know regarding these test results?

DR. CROCKER: Your diagnosis, yes. Judging by how high you scored on these tests I am afraid that I have to diagnose you with bipolar and borderline personality disorder.

DO: That explains all those manic episodes of extreme euphoria and depression.

DR. CROCKER: Perhaps, yes. I’ll be turning you over to Dr. Skitz for the rest of your test results.

DR. SKITZ: Thank you, Dr. Crocker. Okay Do I’m gonna just cut corners and get to the ******* point with your results.

DO: Thank you, Dr. Skitz.

DR. SKITZ: No problem, Do. We all have precious and valuable time. The last thing we should want to do is waste it.

DO: That is a very good point doctor.

DR. SKITZ: So with that being said I am pleased to inform you that you scored a five on your anger test but, you scored a three on both your anxiety and depression tests.

DO: Alright go ahead. Lay it on me.

DR. SKITZ: Do, you have schizophrenia.

DO: So bipolar and schizophrenia huh? Sounds interesting.

DR. SKITZ: This isn’t a game Do. This is your health we are discussing.

DO: Yes, I know. I was being sarcastic.

DR. SKITZ: Anyways that concludes your diagnosis. I’ll turn you back over to Dr. Nightmare now.

DR. NIGHTMARE: Thank you gentlemen.

DR. CROCKER & DR. SKITZ: You’re welcome, sir.

DR. NIGHTMARE: So what did you think of your test results, Do?

DO: I think they were slightly shocking though not surprising.

DR. NIGHTMARE: I have to honestly say that I agree with you on that one. Anyways with all nonsense aside I’ve decided to make a deal with you.

DO: And what is this deal that you speak of, sir?

DR. NIGHTMARE: Well since you are our newest patient I’ll let you off with a warning. Should you happen to break these rules again you will be paying some serious consequences. You are dismissed.

DO & SPORE: Thank you sir.

[Do and Spore get up and proceed to exit Dr. Nightmare’s office.]

SPORE: So who do you think was recording us in the cafeteria today, Do?

DO: Your guess is as good as mine Spore. Had I known who it was I wouldn’t have been questioning Dr. Nightmare about it in the first place.

SPORE: Good point. By the way Do don’t worry about those tests. It is something that every patient has to go through before being officially considered for enrollment here. Also you’re fine the way you are in my opinion.

DO: Thank you, Spore.

SPORE: So do you have a room mate? More importantly do you have a room?

DO: No I do not.

SPORE: You can room with us. There are four beds in our room with two beds in each room. We have room for one more mate.

DO: Okay. Thank you, Spore.

SPORE: No problem, Do.

DO: So how do we get to our room?

SPORE: Well, this asylum is seven stories high. Our room is on the sixth floor. We stay in room 666. There is an elevator straight down the hall on your first left.

DO: Alright then let’s go.

[Do and Spore continue down the hall arriving at the elevators in less than a minute. Spore presses the button as she waits for the elevator to arrive. The elevator finally arrives. Its doors open wide inviting Do and Spore in. Do and Spore walk in as the doors close behind them.]


9 HOURS LATER….

[ A man dressed in a long, red hoodie walks up the stairs leading to Black Wick’s infirmary. He pushes the wooden oak double doors open. The entire infirmary was dark except for the moonlight that was shining throughout. He approaches one of the patients in the infirmary. The patient he had selected happened to be a young man. He had long, wavy, red hair and pearly, white skin. The man began aggressively shaking the patient.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Wake up, WiFi!!!!! WAKE UP NOW!!!!!!!!

[WiFi began mumbling in his sleep.]

WIFI: Can’t I just go on the roller coaster one more time…? Please…?

[WiFi slowly drifted back into a deep sleep. Dr. Nightmare grabbed a wooden bucket from the corner of WiFi’s night stand. He walked over to the sink and filled the bucket with cold water. Dr. Nightmare then walks over to WiFi’s bedside and pours the water all over him. WiFi was startled awake.]

WIFI: OKAY! OKAY! I’M AWAKE! DON’T HURT ME!!!

[WiFi looks up only to see a giant pair of red eyes and attempts to scream. Dr. Nightmare quickly takes his hand and covers Wifi’s mouth.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Quiet fool! It’s me!

[WiFi stops screaming which was Dr. Nightmare’s cue to remove his hand from his mouth.]

WIFI: Dr. Nightmare?

DR. NIGHTMARE: Yes.

WIFI: What are you doing here?

DR. NIGHTMARE: I have come to ask a favor of you.

WIFI: What do you need?

DR. NIGHTMARE: I need you to stalk Do and his friends.

WIFI: What’s in it for me?

DR. NIGHTMARE: You get to stalk your ex-girlfriend.

[WiFi begins to bare a wickedly evil grin.]

WIFI: When do we start?
Jupiter moon v Saturn Methane


Today Javk Dyer and Chris Mainwaring are having a fun day at Jupiter Moon oval, to celebrate the after life UFL tournament, and Jack Dyer started the ball rolling with two space kickers, Daniel Morecmbe and Graham Thorne, and Graham Thorne kicked about 2 goals and 17 behinds and he beat Daniel Morecambe who just kicked 1 goal and no behinds and after they was over we went to the handball competition run by Tony Campbell, and we had some great participants like Don Bradman and Tony Grieg, and Zara Baker came in and was the first to get a bulls eye, and she got it twice, and also Peter Sargent handballed two through the bullseye and him and Zara were looking like winning, untill Blske came in and scored a superb bulls eye three times and he won the hand ball competition, there were two more entries, who were Peter Harvey and graham Kennedy, but neither of them got bulls eyes, so Peter Sargent won the prize, the next thing was the tie up footy game, you see if you miss a goal you get a part of your body ******* and if you get a goal, you don't, so the aim is to not get it wrong, because you will find it hard to get free to kick your next attempted goal, so the first was Naomi Innes, and she kicked a behind and Ted Bundy tied her legs together, and then Brett Eggins kicked a great goal, and he yelled put, boys are better, your going down little girlie, and then Zara Baker kicked a goal and she went over to Brett and said, girl's are smarter than you, na, nani, na na, then Scott Macdonald came up and kicked a goal and went up to Zara Baker and said boys rule the afterlife, chicks rule the bed afterwards, and then Marilyn Monroe came over and kicked a behind and the boys tied her legs together and both Naomi and Marilyn were trying to be free the next time, and then River Phoenix had a shot and he scored a behind and he disgraced the boys when Ted Bundy came out and tied his legs together, yes Ted felt good and the final person was Micheal Jackson, and he scored a beautiful goal, and now for the second and last series, and first Naomi with her legs tied together, tried to push her legs up, and because it was tbe afterlife, Naomi pushed her legs and showed us her skills she learnt in death, then Brett Eggins, kicked another goal, and Brett said I am the ruler of this afterlife, no one will beat me, no way no chance no hope and then Zara Baker, who requested to run with the ball with defenders trying to stop her, but that was a trick, because little Zara Baker was too fast as she swung around everyone and scored her second goal, and she said, go Zara, go Zara, I am the greatest in the afterlife, oh yeah I am and then Marilyn Monroe came to magically kick with her feet tied together, and she tried a full somersault over the top of Jupiter moon and scored a great goal and Marilyn said, I am the greatest kicker in the after life, and seeing I don't know much about Aussie rules, I seem alright, dudes, River Phoenis had the next kick and he wasn't too lucky and Ted Bundy tied his hands together as well as gag his mouth, and he is the loser, so he is going to burn in hell or get burnt by the methane, whatever came first, Micheal Jackson came in next to score a great goal,  and Zara, Brett and Micheal Jackson were our winners, congratulations to you 3 dudes, yes this was a great day at Jupiter moon, and everybody had fun.
Nat Lipstadt Dec 2016
A minyan is an assembly of ten Jews.  With ten present, the group can perform a fuller service, adding congregational prayers that an individual alone cannot say, and in heaven, received, as if from a 
more powerful, unified voice.

~~~
Satan laughing with delight at the happy news,
unusually proud of his soul-retrieving,
red state minions,
having scored late in the '16 season,
a long awaited prize,
a high priest of music, a hallelujah singer
just come  cross the borderline,
once a mere earth bound legend,
now to be mockingly enjoyed
in this, his legendary peculiar tier of heaven
~
a banner year it was, a cornucopia of new arrivals,
singers, songwriters, composers, conductors, rock 'n rollers,
itinerant blues musicians,
who as a rule, were not the most faithful observers
of the Ten Commandments and its host of detailed relatives
~
body and drug abusers,
of traditional morals, not such big users,
and as for their *** lives,
best not discussed in front of the baby devils,
just quite yet
~
all this made for easy "pluckings,"
as he smiled devilishly, his own ironic sense of humor,
an added delight for the new American Pie
that would forever serenade him henceforth
~
indeed this Leo-nine most new arrival,
intensifies the pleasure,
for deep in this one had waxed the god-spark,
his own fractured demise,
now allowing the cracks of light to be closing,
lessening by an immeasurable fraction
the despised joy to the world
-
then a raucous rustling heard,
a voice unseen but siren penetratingly heard proclaiming:

**** you Satan,
this time you've gone too far!

return unto me them all,
for you have overstepped the boundaries I have constructed
when birthed I the universe so long ago

these children, mine,
for though they were not perfect in their lives,
they perfected ever so much my designs,
the world I granted them,
with their music, voice and hands,
absolving them of all their sins

Surrender to me them all!

my Prince,
my lion, Cohen, high priest of my temple,
my haggard and worn Merle,
the greyed and Frey'd eagle, Glenn,
Natalie, daughter of the Earth King of Cole,
my rose of Sharon Jones,
my Emerson and my Lake,
Leon Russell,
my white bearded russet
who wrote 'A Song For You,'
the Duchess, Patty,
my Bobby Vee,
the first ro see
'the night has a thousand eyes,'
Frank Sinatra Jr., his fathers torch bearer,
my David, my right arm, my Bowie knife carrier,
who fell from heaven and needs returning unto me,
mine own Kanter, Jeffersonian pilot of my Airplane,
my Michael, George,
my Martin, George,
who never sang a word
but gifted us some Beatles,
My black and White Maurice,
who reignited the Earth, with Wind and Fire

all these mine and all the musicians of this year,
they have died, but not their music,
now to join my heavenly chorus,
my musicians' minyan
Second of a trilogy, but the first one posted,
about Leonard Cohen

Kohen or cohen (or kohain; Hebrew: כֹּהֵן‎, "priest", pl. כֹּהֲנִים‎ kohanim) is the Hebrew word for priest used colloquially in reference to the Aaronic priesthood. Jewish kohanim are traditionally believed and halakhically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the biblical Aaron. The term is colloquially used in Orthodox Judaism in reference to modern day descendants of Aharon, brother of Moses.

Among the few remaining responsibility of a cohen today is the chanting of the priestly  blessing in the synagogue on high holy days in a special tune, instantly recognizable  by every Jew.   When the  Jewish priest chants the blessing, the Spirit of God is presumed to become present in the synagogue, and all bow their heads, fathers cover their children's eyes, lest one witness  god's image. Ironically, the special way that a cohen extends his arms and holds his fingers in a V  shape, was borrowed by another Canadian Jew, Leonard Nimoy, as inspiration for Spock's  greeting.

see en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priestly_Blessing

see
//jewcy.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/leonard-nimoy-vulcan-salute-yiddish
Victor D López Dec 2018
You were born five years before the Spanish Civil War that would see your father exiled.
Language came later to you than your little brother Manuel. And you stuttered for a time.
Unlike those who speak incessantly with nothing to say, you were quiet and reserved.
Your mother mistook shyness for dimness, a tragic mistake that scarred you for life.

When your brother Manuel died at the age of three from meningitis, you heard your mom
Exclaim: “God took my bright boy and left me the dull one.” You were four or five.
You never forgot those words. How could you? Yet you loved your mom with all your heart.
But you also withdrew further into a shell, solitude your companion and best friend.

You were, in fact, an exceptional child. Stuttering went away at five or so never to return,
And by the time you were in middle school, your teacher called your mom in for a rare
Conference and told her that yours was a gifted mind, and that you should be prepared
For university study in the sciences, particularly engineering.

She wrote your father exiled in Argentina to tell him the good news, that your teachers
Believed you would easily gain entrance to the (then and now) highly selective public university
Where seats were few, prized and very difficult to attain based on merit-based competitive
Exams. Your father’s response? “Buy him a couple of oxen and let him plow the fields.”

That reply from a highly respected man who was a big fish in a tiny pond in his native Oleiros
Of the time is beyond comprehension. He had apparently opted to preserve his own self-
Interest in having his son continue his family business and also work the family lands in his
Absence. That scar too was added to those that would never heal in your pure, huge heart.

Left with no support for living expenses for college (all it would have required), you moved on,
Disappointed and hurt, but not angry or bitter; you would simply find another way.
You took the competitive exams for the two local military training schools that would provide
An excellent vocational education and pay you a small salary in exchange for military service.

Of hundreds of applicants for the prized few seats in each of the two institutions, you
Scored first for the toughest of the two and thirteenth for the second. You had your pick.
You chose Fabrica de Armas, the lesser of the two, so that a classmate who had scored just
Below the cut-off at the better school could be admitted. That was you. Always and forever.

At the military school, you were finally in your element. You were to become a world-class
Machinist there—a profession that would have gotten you well paid work anywhere on earth
For as long as you wanted it. You were truly a mechanical genius who years later would add
Electronics, auto mechanics and specialized welding to his toolkit through formal training.

Given a well-stocked machine shop, you could reverse engineer every machine without
Blueprints and build a duplicate machine shop. You became a gifted master mechanic
And worked in line and supervisory positions at a handful of companies throughout your life in
Argentina and in the U.S., including Westinghouse, Warner-Lambert, and Pepsi Co.

You loved learning, especially in your fields (electronics, mechanics, welding) and expected
Perfection in everything you did. Every difficult job at work was given to you everywhere you
Worked. You would not sleep at night when a problem needed solving. You’d sketch
And calculate and re-sketch solutions and worked even in your dreams with singular passion.

You were more than a match for the academic and physical rigors of military school,
But life was difficult for you in the Franco era when some instructors would
Deprecatingly refer to you as “Roxo”—Galician for “red”-- reflecting your father’s
Support for the failed Republic. Eventually, the abuse was too much for you to bear.

Once while standing at attention in a corridor with the other cadets waiting for
Roll call, you were repeatedly poked in the back surreptitiously. Moving would cause
Demerits and demerits could cause loss of points on your final grade and arrest for
Successive weekends. You took it awhile, then lost your temper.

You turned to the cadet behind you and in a fluid motion grabbed him by his buttoned jacket
And one-handedly hung him up on a hook above a window where you were standing in line.
He thrashed about, hanging by the back of his jacket, until he was brought down by irate Military instructors.
You got weekend arrest for many weeks and a 10% final grade reduction.

A similar fate befell a co-worker a few years later in Buenos Aires who called you a
*******. You lifted him one handed by his throat and held him there until
Your co-workers intervened, forcibly persuading you to put him down.
That lesson was learned by all in no uncertain terms: Leave Felipe’s mom alone.

You were incredibly strong, especially in your youth—no doubt in part because of rigorous farm
Work, military school training and competitive sports. As a teenager, you once unwisely bent
Down to pick something up in view of a ram, presenting the animal an irresistible target.
It butted you and sent you flying into a haystack. It, too, quickly learned its lesson.

You dusted yourself off, charged the ram, grabbed it by the horns and twirled it around once,
Throwing it atop the same haystack as it had you. The animal was unhurt, but learned to
Give you a wide berth from that day forward. Overall, you were very slow to anger absent
Head-butting, repeated pokings, or disrespectful references to your mom by anyone.    

I seldom saw you angry and it was mom, not you, who was the disciplinarian, slipper in hand.
There were very few slaps from you for me. Mom would smack my behind with a slipper often
When I was little, mostly because I could be a real pain, wanting to know/try/do everything
Completely oblivious to the meaning of the word “no” or of my own limitations.

Mom would sometimes insist you give me a proper beating. On one such occasion for a
Forgotten transgression when I was nine, you  took me to your bedroom, took off your belt, sat
Me next to you and whipped your own arm and hand a few times, whispering to me “cry”,
Which I was happy to do unbidden. “Don’t tell mom.” I did not. No doubt she knew.

The prospect of serving in a military that considered you a traitor by blood became harder and
Harder to bear, and in the third year of school, one year prior to graduation, you left to join
Your exiled father in Argentina, to start a new life. You left behind a mother and two sisters you
Dearly loved to try your fortune in a new land. Your dog thereafter refused food, dying of grief.

You arrived in Buenos Aires to see a father you had not seen for ten years at the age of 17.
You were too young to work legally, but looked older than your years (a shared trait),
So you lied about your age and immediately found work as a Machinist/Mechanic first grade.
That was unheard of and brought you some jealousy and complaints in the union shop.

The union complained to the general manager about your top-salary and rank. He answered,
“I’ll give the same rank and salary to anyone in the company who can do what Felipe can do.”
No doubt the jealousy and grumblings continued by some for a time. But there were no takers.
And you soon won the group over, becoming their protected “baby-brother” mascot.

Your dad left for Spain within a year or so of your arrival when Franco issued a general pardon
To all dissidents who had not spilt blood (e.g., non combatants). He wanted you to return to
Help him reclaim the family business taken over by your mom in his absence with your help.
But you refused to give up the high salary, respect and independence denied you at home.

You were perhaps 18 and alone, living in a single room by a schoolhouse you had shared with Your dad.
But you had also found a new loving family in your uncle José, one of your father’s Brothers, and his family. José, and one of his daughters, Nieves and her
Husband, Emilio, and
Their children, Susana, Oscar (Ruben Gordé), and Osvaldo, became your new nuclear family.

You married mom in 1955 and had two failed business ventures in the quickly fading
Post-WW II Argentina of the late 1950s and early 1960s.The first, a machine shop, left
You with a small fortune in unpaid government contract work.  The second, a grocery store,
Also failed due to hyperinflation and credit extended too easily to needy customers.

Throughout this, you continued earning an exceptionally good salary. But in the mid 1960’s,
Nearly all of it went to pay back creditors of the failed grocery store. We had some really hard
Times. Someday I’ll write about that in some detail. Mom went to work as a maid, including for
Wealthy friends, and you left home at 4:00 a.m. to return long after dark to pay the bills.


The only luxury you and mom retained was my Catholic school tuition. There was no other
Extravagance. Not paying bills was never an option for you or mom. It never entered your
Minds. It was not a matter of law or pride, but a matter of honor. There were at least three very
Lean years where you and mom worked hard, earned well but we were truly poor.

You and mom took great pains to hide this from me—and suffered great privations to insulate
Me as best you could from the fallout of a shattered economy and your refusal to cut your loses
Had done to your life savings and to our once-comfortable middle-class life.
We came to the U.S. in the late 1960s after waiting for more than three years for visas—to a new land of hope.

Your sister and brother-in-law, Marisa and Manuel, made their own sacrifices to help bring us
Here. You had about $1,000 from the down payment on our tiny down-sized house, And
Mom’s pawned jewelry. (Hyperinflation and expenses ate up the remaining mortgage payments
Due). Other prized possessions were left in a trunk until you could reclaim them. You never did.

Even the airline tickets were paid for by Marisa and Manuel. You insisted upon arriving on
Written terms for repayment including interest. You were hired on the spot on your first
Interview as a mechanic, First Grade, despite not speaking a word of English. Two months later,
The debt was repaid, mom was working too and we moved into our first apartment.

You worked long hours, including Saturdays and daily overtime, to remake a nest egg.
Declining health forced you to retire at 63 and shortly thereafter you and mom moved out of
Queens into Orange County. You bought a townhouse two hours from my permanent residence
Upstate NY and for the next decade were happy, traveling with friends and visiting us often.

Then things started to change. Heart issues (two pacemakers), colon cancer, melanoma,
Liver and kidney disease caused by your many medications, high blood pressure, gout,
Gall bladder surgery, diabetes . . . . And still you moved forward, like the Energizer Bunny,
Patched up, battered, scarred, bruised but unstoppable and unflappable.

Then mom started to show signs of memory loss along with her other health issues. She was
Good at hiding her own ailments, and we noticed much later than we should have that there
Was a serious problem. Two years ago, her dementia worsening but still functional, she had
Gall bladder surgery with complications that required four separate surgeries in three months.

She never recovered and had to be placed in a nursing home. Several, in fact, as at first she
Refused food and you and I refused to simply let her waste away, which might have been
Kinder, but for the fact that “mientras hay vida, hay esperanza” as Spaniards say.
(While there is Life there is hope.) There is nothing beyond the power of God. Miracles do happen.

For two years you lived alone, refusing outside help, engendering numerous arguments about
Having someone go by a few times a week to help clean, cook, do chores. You were nothing if
Not stubborn (yet another shared trait). The last argument on the subject about two weeks ago
Ended in your crying. You’d accept no outside help until mom returned home. Period.

You were in great pain because of bulging discs in your spine and walked with one of those
Rolling seats with handlebars that mom and I picked out for you some years ago. You’d sit
As needed when the pain was too much, then continue with very little by way of complaints.
Ten days ago you finally agreed that you needed to get to the hospital to drain abdominal fluid.

Your failing liver produced it and it swelled your abdomen and lower extremities to the point
Where putting on shoes or clothing was very difficult, as was breathing. You called me from a
Local store crying that you could not find pants that would fit you. We talked, long distance,
And I calmed you down, as always, not allowing you to wallow in self pity but trying to help.

You went home and found a new pair of stretch pants Alice and I had bought you and you were
Happy. You had two changes of clothes that still fit to take to the hospital. No sweat, all was
Well. The procedure was not dangerous and you’d undergone it several times in recent years.
It would require a couple of days at the hospital and I’d see you again on the weekend.

I could not be with you on Monday, February 22 when you had to go to the hospital, as I nearly
Always had, because of work. You were supposed to be admitted the previous Friday, but
Doctors have days off too, and yours could not see you until Monday when I could not get off
Work. But you were not concerned; this was just routine. You’d be fine. I’d see you in just days.

We’d go see mom Friday, when you’d be much lighter and feel much better. Perhaps we’d go
Shopping for clothes if the procedure still left you too bloated for your usual clothes.
You drove to your doctor and then transported by ambulette. I was concerned, but not too Worried.
You called me sometime between five or six p.m. to tell me you were fine, resting.

“Don’t worry. I’m safe here and well cared for.” We talked for a little while about the usual
Things, with my assuring you I’d see you Friday or Saturday. You were tired and wanted to sleep
And I told you to call me if you woke up later that night or I’d speak to you the following day.
Around 10:00 p.m. I got a call from your cell and answered in the usual upbeat manner.

“Hey, Papi.” On the other side was a nurse telling me my dad had fallen. I assured her she was
Mistaken, as my dad was there for a routine procedure to drain abdominal fluid. “You don’t
Understand. He fell from his bed and struck his head on a nightstand or something
And his heart has stopped. We’re working on him for 20 minutes and it does not look good.”

“Can you get here?” I could not. I had had two or three glasses of wine shortly before the call
With dinner. I could not drive the three hours to Middletown. I cried. I prayed.
Fifteen minutes Later I got the call that you were gone. Lost in grief, not knowing what to do, I called my wife.
Shortly thereafter came a call from the coroner. An autopsy was required. I could not see you.

Four days later your body was finally released to the funeral director I had selected for his
Experience with the process of interment in Spain. I saw you for the last time to identify
Your body. I kissed my fingers and touched your mangled brow. I could not even have the
Comfort of an open casket viewing. You wanted cremation. You body awaits it as I write this.

You were alone, even in death alone. In the hospital as strangers worked on you. In the medical
Examiner’s office as you awaited the autopsy. In the autopsy table as they poked and prodded
And further rent your flesh looking for irrelevant clues that would change nothing and benefit
No one, least of all you. I could not be with you for days, and then only for a painful moment.

We will have a memorial service next Friday with your ashes and a mass on Saturday. I will
Never again see you in this life. Alice and I will take you home to your home town, to the
Cemetery in Oleiros, La Coruña, Spain this summer. There you will await the love of your life.
Who will join you in the fullness of time. She could not understand my tears or your passing.

There is one blessing to dementia. She asks for her mom, and says she is worried because she
Has not come to visit in some time. She is coming, she assures me whenever I see her.
You visited her every day except when health absolutely prevented it. You spent this February 10
Apart, your 61st wedding anniversary, too sick to visit her. Nor was I there. First time.

I hope you did not realize you were apart on the 10th but doubt it to be the case. I
Did not mention it, hoping you’d forgotten, and neither did you. You were my link to mom.
She cannot dial or answer a phone, so you would put your cell phone to her ear whenever I
Was not in class or meetings and could speak to her. She always recognized me by phone.

I am three hours from her. I could visit at most once or twice a month. Now even that phone
Lifeline is severed. Mom is completely alone, afraid, confused, and I cannot in the short term at
Least do much about that. You were not supposed to die first. It was my greatest fear, and
Yours, but as with so many things that we cannot change I put it in the back of my mind.

It kept me up many nights, but, like you, I still believed—and believe—in miracles.
I would speak every night with my you, often for an hour, on the way home from work late at
Night during my hour-long commute, or from home on days I worked from home as I cooked
Dinner. I mostly let you talk, trying to give you what comfort and social outlet I could.

You were lonely, sad, stuck in an endless cycle of emotional and physical pain.
Lately you were especially reticent to get off the phone. When mom was home and still
Relatively well, I’d call every day too but usually spoke to you only a few minutes and you’d
Transfer the phone to mom, with whom I usually chatted much longer.

For months, you’d had difficulty hanging up. I knew you did not want to go back to the couch,
To a meaningless TV program, or to writing more bills. You’d say good-bye, or “enough for
Today” and immediately begin a new thread, then repeat the cycle, sometimes five or six times.
You even told me, at least once crying recently, “Just hang up on me or I’ll just keep talking.”

I loved you, dad, with all my heart. We argued, and I’d often scream at you in frustration,
Knowing you would never take it to heart and would usually just ignore me and do as
You pleased. I knew how desperately you needed me, and I tried to be as patient as I could.
But there were days when I was just too tired, too frustrated, too full of other problems.

There were days when I got frustrated with you just staying on the phone for an hour when I
Needed to call Alice, to eat my cold dinner, or even to watch a favorite program. I felt guilty
And very seldom cut a conversation short, but I was frustrated nonetheless even knowing
How much you needed me and also how much I needed you, and how little you asked of me.  

How I would love to hear your voice again, even if you wanted to complain about the same old
Things or tell me in minutest detail some unimportant aspect of your day. I thought I would
Have you at least a little longer. A year? Two? God only knew, and I could hope. There would be
Time. I had so much more to share with you, so much more to learn when life eased up a bit.

You taught me to fish (it did not take) and to hunt (that took even less) and much of what I
Know about mechanics, and electronics. We worked on our cars together for years—from brake
Jobs, to mufflers, to real tune-ups in the days when points, condensers, and timing lights had Meaning, to rebuilding carburetors and fixing rust and dents, and power windows and more.

We were friends, good friends, who went on Sunday drives to favorite restaurants or shopping
For tools when I was single and lived at home. You taught me everything in life that I need to
Know about all the things that matter. The rest is meaningless paper and window dressing.
I knew all your few faults and your many colossal strengths and knew you to be the better man.

Not even close. I could never do what you did. I could never excel in my fields as you did in
Yours.  You were the real deal in every way, from every angle, throughout your life. I did not
Always treat you that way. But I loved you very deeply as anyone who knew us knows.
More importantly, you knew it. I told you often, unembarrassed in the telling. I love you, Dad.

The world was enriched by your journey. You do not leave behind wealth, or a body or work to
Outlive you. You never had your fifteen minutes in the sun. But you mattered. God knows your
Virtue, your absolute integrity, and the purity of your heart. I will never know a better man.
I will love you and miss you and carry you in my heart every day of my life. God bless you, dad.
Prathipa Nair May 2016
Kerala, with its blessed beauty of nature, long and silver-haired with colorful clips of fishes and a black mountain cap, standing in a green curly dress full of colorful butterflies and glowing flowers on it, mesmerizing eyes with calm and peaceful nature gifts us a pleasant world.

             In 1975, a new creation of God, his loving child came to this world. I cried as every child does but at the next moment I laughed because I have been born into God’s own country, The Paradise. Thanks to the Almighty for bringing me to this wonderful heaven. Oops! I forgot one special person. Slowly I turn towards that smiling face, the one who is holding me in her hands, my sweet Mother.

            Hi, I am Neha, the blessed child born into a loving and caring family. Our house too was not less than a paradise in a beautiful village which was full of greenery. It was a joint family with grandfather, grandmother, great grandmother, uncles, and aunts and especially with a dozen of cousins! After three years, being blessed with a younger sister.

          I was a shy and reserved character for strangers in the outer world but I was open with my family just because of the serenity they made me feel by giving the freedom to express my feelings and wishes. My childhood days gave me the most memorable and golden moments in my life. It was such great fun! In those days we used to play a lot of outdoor games, going for movies with our granny, fighting with brothers, walking on walls, sitting near the pond and chatting till our granny came running with a bamboo stick, competing with the cuckoo and making it angry and making fun of boys! My cousins and I never missed the regional movies on Doordharshan. I was passionate about listening to music on AIR, writing it down, memorizing it and singing along with the singer. When my mother finds me missing, she comes searching for me without a second thought to catch me red-handed with a radio.

         Then came the tape recorder which made it easier for me to listen to my favorite songs when I wish and record my own sweet voice... (giggling) Actually I love doing intoxicating things and have fun which I shouldn’t being doing! Isn’t it funny? But my grannies were too strict that I had to control all my mischievous behavior and be a very good girl. Got confused? Ha! Ha! There were about four grannies. There was always a unity in our family. I never had the feeling of being without a brother of my own as my cousins who were brothers always made me feel more like their own sister.

        One more thing about me friends, I am a great devotee of Lord Krishna, whom I believe is always with me as a friend, lover and well-wisher. Oh my God! I revealed the secret about my love and lover! Imagining Him as a lover, playing with Him, dancing with Him, enjoying happiness to the fullest with Him was my great dream. Please don’t shake with laughter but I really wish that to happen, a blessing to see the original form with His flute, the sky-blue colored Krishna and experience the love and lust transforming myself to Radha, making it a spiritual affair.

My father, who was a great artist, used to draw Krishna’s pictures especially for me, knowing my crazy love for Him.

            I did my schooling well as a normal child and scored average marks happily!

I felt that I was the luckiest person in this world. (smiling)

            Mmmm. Now it’s time for college. I got admission for BA English Literature, my favorite subject, my passion and one of my dreams.

            One of my cousins (sister) and I joined the college. We were in great excitement and were sure about having great fun because when we both were together, there was no doubt of pleasure and entertainment. Even though I was not so modern I was stylish and became a queen in everyone’s eyes!  We had a great time in college with our friends. There were boyfriends too.

One of our friends, a best friend, Nikhil was so special, caring and loving, always doing something exciting to make me fall hard into laughter.

         Hey! One more secret: I used to feel that I am playing with Krishna as a friend (Remember my wish?  ...LOL)

         Nikhil and I used to fight a lot on different topics but when it’s all over and we got tired, we were back together with more affection and fondness for each other. He was a very comfortable friend with whom I could share any of my feelings and viewpoints straight from the heart.

I was moving forward to the fourth month of my college, September, when the buds of beautiful flower forget-me-not blossom smiled at us.

       In this beautiful month, comes Onam, the day that welcomes the great King, Mahabali to Kerala. It was a month of celebration for me. A pookkalam would be drawn, decorated with different colorful flowers in front of each house till the day of Onam for ten days, which I really enjoyed during the festival.

       Knowing my wish to do this, permitting me to make pookkalam for those ten days.

      I got up early in the morning wandering everywhere to collect flowers from our house and of course our neighbor’s house (giggling).

       After making my art with flowers and admiring myself, I gave a pat on my back mentally as if I have won the first prize for pookkalam. The most interesting thing is, my cute great Grandmother joined me with a no tooth smile (imagine)

I enjoyed my holidays with my family in new clothes and Onam sadhya with my favorite Ada pradhaman ( payasam) ….yummy !!

       During those days there were only landline and it was strictly prohibited for us. Permitted to make only important calls if necessary and only girls could ring us, not boys (how sad, isn’t it?)


                        No mails! No Facebook! No Whatsapp!

      Still it was a great time because we were able to feel moment of celebrations, relationships and perceive the worth of feelings of our dear and near ones. Almost everyone was free of mental and emotional strain in our time. The only reason was many of them were able to solve the complications and pressure of their lives through direct communication, a joint family, a joint society. There was always a lot of helping hands.

         Children enjoyed each others company as they met daily by playing outdoor games, going to school by cycles, walking together and sharing their daily class sessions, their mischievous acts and how were they punished together by their teachers. They even shared their family issues and there was no need of counseling for children at that time.


         I was back to college after the Onam holidays and celebrations. You might be thinking why I didn’t mention about missing my friends and college.

Actually they were in my thoughts but I am the kind of person whose policy is to “Live in the Present” and not spoil the present happiness of oneself and others.


       I am sharing one more secret! I missed a special person among them. Guess who?

You were right! It’s none other than Nikhil, my Krishna.

       Reached college in my caravan, BSA SLR (my cycle) with my cousin sister. All our friends came running towards us and we contributed our love and affection for each other.

I lost my father when I was in college but my uncle never gave me a chance to mourn the loss and stood with me as a pillar filling absence of my father. I always believed that Krishna was with me in all my ups and downs in different forms to support me.

After my father’s death, I decided to take life in a methodical way with my credence in Krishna to overcome the trammels coming on my way.

I accomplished my graduation and joined for post-graduation. You might be wondering why I am not mentioning anything about Nikhil….hmmm….I read your mind….

The truth was that I was totally lost after the death of my father and my full concentration was to complete my graduation well.

        Hey! But his full support made me more ardent and to gain more will-power to face all ups and downs.

        Nikhil completed his B.com and then joined to do CA. As his father got transferred his family relocated to another state. That was a big shock for me but I consoled my mind and heart, requesting them not to make me weak.

Accomplished my post-graduation, did my Teachers Training and I am an English teacher now! Surprised? But happy for me, right?

       One thing friends, till now I have faith and belief in my Krishna.

I know what is going on in your mind. Did Nikhil and I communicate with each other after his father’s transfer? Did we meet again?

After leaving the city, we were in touch for few months till he flew to America.

Slowly I too stopped communicating with him and engaged myself in daily matters and family duties and took care of my mother and sister.

      All my cousins, one by one completed their academics, some got married and settled in their family life. But there was always a get together once in a month. Now my mother wanted me to get married and settled.

      Many alliances came and I was ready to shake my head like a goat to the one which my elders chose for me.

Ha! Ha! Just kidding…. They know what is good and bad for me. Actually that is what I believe.

Hmmm…. Anyway I made one promise to myself that if I give birth to a baby boy, I would surely name him “Nikhil”.

Now I am a wife and a mother of a one and a half-year old boy.

Excuse me, did you ask me something?

Oh! My son’s name?

One second please …. My baby is crying…

Nikhil…….

Please change the baby's diaper !
A short story of a girl who lived in Kerala in 80s and 90s.  Hope you all will enjoy it :-) Sorry, if it's too long.. Please take time and have patience to read it.. Read when you are completely free and mood off :-)
Nigel Morgan Nov 2012
There’s a film by John Schlesinger called the Go-Between in which the main character, a boy on the cusp of adolescence staying with a school friend on his family’s Norfolk estate, discovers how passion and *** become intertwined with love and desire. As an elderly man he revisits the location of this discovery and the woman, who we learn changed his emotional world forever. At the start of the film we see him on a day of grey cloud and wild wind walking towards the estate cottage where this woman now lives. He glimpses her face at a window – and the film flashes back fifty years to a summer before the First War.
 
It’s a little like that for me. Only, I’m sitting at a desk early on a spring morning about to step back nearly forty years.*
 
It was a two-hour trip from Boston to Booth Bay. We’d flown from New York on the shuttle and met Larry’s dad at St Vincent’s. We waited in his office as he put away the week with his secretary. He’d been in theatre all afternoon. He kept up a two-sided conversation.
 
‘You boys have a good week? Did you get to hear Barenboim at the Tully? I heard him as 14-year old play in Paris. He played the Tempest -  Mary, let’s fit Mrs K in for Tuesday at 5.0 - I was learning that very Beethoven sonata right then. I couldn’t believe it - that one so young could sound –there’s that myocardial infarction to review early Wednesday. I want Jim and Susan there please -  and look so  . . . old, not just mature, but old. And now – Gloria and I went to his last Carnegie – he just looks so **** young.’
 
Down in the basement garage Larry took his dad’s keys and we roared out on to Storow drive heading for the Massachusetts Turnpike. I slept. Too many early mornings copying my teacher’s latest – a concerto for two pianos – all those notes to be placed under the fingers. There was even a third piano in the orchestra. Larry and his Dad talked incessantly. I woke as Dr Benson said ‘The sea at last’. And there we were, the sea a glazed blue shimmering in the July distance. It might be lobster on the beach tonight, Gloria’s clam chowder, the coldest apple juice I’d ever tasted (never tasted apple juice until I came to Maine), settling down to a pile of art books in my bedroom, listening to the bell buoy rocking too and fro in the bay, the beach just below the house, a house over 150 years old, very old they said, in the family all that time.
 
It was a house full that weekend,  4th of July weekend and there would be fireworks over Booth Bay and lots of what Gloria called necessary visiting. I was in love with Gloria from the moment she shook my hand after that first concert when my little cummings setting got a mention in the NYT. It was called forever is now and God knows where it is – scored for tenor and small ensemble (there was certainly a vibraphone and a double bass – I was in love from afar with a bassist at J.). Oh, this being in love at seventeen. It was so difficult not to be. No English reserve here. People talked to you, were interested in you and what you thought, had heard, had read. You only had to say you’d been looking at a book of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings and you’d be whisked off to some uptown gallery to see his early watercolours. And on the way you’d hear a life story or some intimate details of friend’s affair, or a great slice of family history. Lots of eye contact. Just keep the talk going. But Gloria, well, we would meet in the hallway and she’d grasp my hand and say – ‘You know, Larry says that you work too hard. I want you to do nothing this weekend except get some sun and swim. We can go to Johnson’s for tennis you know. I haven’t forgotten you beat me last time we played!’ I suppose she was mid-thirties, a shirt, shorts and sandals woman, not Larry’s mother but Dr Benson’s third. This was all very new to me.
 
Tim was Larry’s elder brother, an intern at Felix-Med in NYC. He had a new girl with him that weekend. Anne-Marie was tall, bespectacled, and supposed to be ferociously clever. Gloria said ‘She models herself on Susan Sontag’. I remember asking who Sontag was and was told she was a feminist writer into politics. I wondered if Anne-Marie was a feminist into politics. She certainly did not dress like anyone else I’d seen as part of the Benson circle. It was July yet she wore a long-sleeved shift buttoned up to the collar and a long linen skirt down to her ankles. She was pretty but shapeless, a long straight person with long straight hair, a clip on one side she fiddled with endlessly, purposefully sometimes. She ignored me but for an introductory ‘Good evening’, when everyone else said ‘Hi’.
 
The next day it was hot. I was about the house very early. The apple juice in the refrigerator came into its own at 6.0 am. The bay was in mist. It was so still the bell buoy stirred only occasionally. I sat on the step with this icy glass of fragrant apple watching the pearls of condensation form and dissolve. I walked the shore, discovering years later that Rachel Carson had walked these paths, combed these beaches. I remember being shocked then at the concern about the environment surfacing in the late sixties. This was a huge country: so much space. The Maine woods – when I first drove up to Quebec – seemed to go on forever.
 
It was later in the day, after tennis, after trying to lie on the beach, I sought my room and took out my latest score, or what little of it there currently was. It was a piano piece, a still piece, the kind of piece I haven’t written in years, but possibly should. Now it’s all movement and complication. Then, I used to write exactly what I heard, and I’d heard Feldman’s ‘still pieces’ in his Greenwich loft with the white Rauschenbergs on the wall. I had admired his writing desk and thought one day I’ll have a desk like that in an apartment like this with very large empty paintings on the wall. But, I went elsewhere . . .
 
I lay on the bed and listened to the buoy out in the bay. I thought of a book of my childhood, We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome. There’s a drawing of a Beach End Buoy in that book, and as the buoy I was listening to was too far out to see (sea?) I imagined it as the one Ransome drew from Lowestoft harbour. I dozed I suppose, to be woken suddenly by voices in the room next door. It was Tim and Anne-Marie. I had thought the house empty but for me. They were in Tim’s room next door. There was movement, whispering, almost speech, more movement.
 
I was curious suddenly. Anne-Marie was an enigma. Tim was a nice guy. Quiet, dedicated (Larry had said), worked hard, read a lot, came to Larry’s concerts, played the cello when he could, Bach was always on his record player. He and Anne-Marie seemed so close, just a wooden wall away. I stood by this wall to listen.
 
‘Why are we whispering’, said Anne-Marie firmly, ‘For goodness sake no one’s here. Look, you’re a doctor, you know what to do surely.’
 
‘Not yet.’
 
‘But people call you Doctor, I’ve heard them.’
 
‘Oh sure. But I’m not, I’m just a lousy intern.’
 
‘A lousy intern who doesn’t want to make love to me.’
 
Then, there was rustling, some heavy movement and Tim saying ‘Oh Anne, you mustn’t. You don’t need to do this.’
 
‘Yes I do. You’re hard and I’m wet between my legs. I want you all over me and inside me.  I wanted you last night so badly I lay on my bed quite naked and masturbated hoping you come to me. But you didn’t. I looked in on you and you were just fast asleep.’
 
‘You forget I did a 22-hour call on Thursday’.
 
“And the rest. Don’t you want me? Maybe your brother or that nice English boy next door?’
 
‘Is he next door? ‘
 
‘If he is, I don’t care. He looks at me you know. He can’t work me out. I’ve been ignoring him. But maybe I shouldn’t. He’s got beautiful eyes and lovely hands’.
 
There was almost silence for what seemed a long time. I could hear my own breathing and became very aware of my own body. I was shaking and suddenly cold. I could hear more breathing next door. There was a shaft of intense white sunlight burning across my bed. I imagined Anne-Marie sitting cross-legged on the floor next door, her hand cupping her right breast fingers touching the ******, waiting. There was a rustle of movement. And the door next door slammed.
 
Thirty seconds later Tim was striding across the garden and on to the beach and into the sea . . .
 
There was probably a naked young woman sitting on the floor next door I thought. Reading perhaps. I stayed quite still imagining she would get up, open her door and peek into my room. So I moved away from the wall and sat on the bed trying hard to look like a composer working on a score. And she did . . . but she had clothes on, though not her glasses or her hair clip, and she wore a bright smile – lovely teeth I recall.
 
‘Good afternoon’, she said. ‘You heard all that I suppose.’
 
I smiled my nicest English smile and said nothing.
 
‘Tell me about your girlfriend in England.’
 
She sat on the bed, cross-legged. I was suddenly overcome by her scent, something complex and earthy.
 
‘My girlfriend in England is called Anne’.
 
‘Really! Is she pretty? ‘
 
I didn’t answer, but looked at my hands, and her feet, her uncovered calves and knees. I could see the shape of her slight ******* beneath her shirt, now partly unbuttoned. I felt very uncomfortable.
 
‘Tell me. Have you been with this Anne in England?’
 
‘No.’ I said, ‘I ‘d like to, but she’s very shy.’
 
‘OK. I’m an Anne who’s not shy.’
 
‘I’ve yet to meet a shy American.’
 
‘They exist. I could find you a nice shy girl you could get to know.’
 
‘I’d quite like to know you, but you’re a good bit older than me.’
 
‘Oh that doesn’t matter. You’re quite a mature guy I think. I’d go out with you.’
 
‘Oh I doubt that.’
 
‘Would you go out with me?’
 
‘You’re interesting.  Gloria says you’re a bit like Susan Sontag. Yes, I would.’
 
‘Wow! did she really? Ok then, that’s a deal. You better read some Simone de Beauvoir pretty quick,’  and she bounced off the bed.
 
After supper  - lobster on the beach - Gloria cornered me and said. ‘I gather you heard all this afternoon.’
 
I remembered mumbling a ‘yes’.
 
‘It’s OK,’ she said, ‘Anne-Marie told me all. Girls do this you know – talk about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. What could you do? I would have done the same. Tim’s not ready for an Anne-Marie just yet, and I’m not sure you are either. Not my business of course, but gentle advice from one who’s been there. ‘
 
‘Been where?’
 
‘Been with someone older and supposedly wiser. And remembering that wondering-what-to-do-about-those-feelings-around-*** and all that. There’s a right time and you’ll know it when it comes. ‘
 
She kissed me very lightly on my right ear, then got up and walked across the beach back to the house.
Brumbies night live

ACT v lions


Hi dudes and welcome to gio stadium
Where the mighty brumbies will be trying to win after some terrible performances they have had and mate it is going to be a great match
No matter who wins and the brumbies who are number 4 in the Australiasian conference and we have to hope that they have the power to best the lions this evening on brumbies night live
With the last win from the brumbies being on March 15, and they are bound to win tonight and mate it should be cool, our first entertainer is George from red hill
Take it away George

Coming out tonight
With a lot of power
The mighty mighty brumbies
The team of the hour
They will beat the odds
Never giving up
Come on brumbies
You must win yes please be the best
Brumbies team brumbies team
They must fight hard tonight
Knock the lions completely out
And pile on the tries
Brumbies team brumbies team
Will we win tonight
Come on brumbies players
Please put on a fight right

Thank you George and tonight brumbies night live will be great
If brumbies win and not lose and now here is Peter from cook



Go brumbies we will fight them
Go brumbies we will never lose
Never, brumbies will win tonight
Go brumbies this is footy
The big game they play in heaven yeah
Brumbies we must win tonight
Go brumbies beat the lions
On our home we need to win
Yeah mate we must win oh yeah
With our players playing average
In other games
Our last win was March 15
Come on brumbies we must win
Come on brumbies we will win
If we put our mind to it
Get our mindset right yeah
Come on brumbies
We must beat the lions
Yeah we will win if we play well enough yeah we will win hope-ful-ly
Yes we are the team of the week
If we win tonight
Go brumbies we must win yeah
Go brumbies we will beat South Africa
Yeah dude we will be triumphant yeah
Go brumbies

Thank you Peter and lets hope brumbies win tonight and if our mindset as you put it is right we will win and win well

And now here is John from Casey



Come on the brumbies
We need to be triumphant
We need to show South Africa
Who is boss
Come on the brumbies
Hopefully we won’t lose this
Cause if we do our adrenaline
Will be pushed right down oh yeah
Come on the brumbies
The lions will be waiting
But we must win
Never ever give in
Because it must be our turn
Dance goes the cheer girls
And cheering goes brumby jack
As the brumbies are superb
Yes we will win oh yeah
And the team to win tonight
Will be the mighty brumbies

Thank you John and I hope the brumbies are listening because mate
They are due for a win and if they are good enough they will win battle and conquer and now here is rick from kaleen with a brumby rap



Yo hey brumby team
The best team at the GIO yeah
We will fight we will say
That we will beat the lions hands down
Come on hey brumbies team
Everyone will cheer you as you take the field
With the crowd going brumbies Clap clap clap brumbies clap clap clap
Brumbies clap clap clap right from start to finish
You see brumbies we beat the tahs
At their own game yeah we are cool
We haven’t won since then
But the lions tonight will be our feast
We will trample all over them
And say brumbies clap clap clap
Brumbies clap clap clap
Right till the very end
Go brumbies yo from start to finish
Duuuuuuuuddddddeeeeee!!!!!

Thank you rick and that was a cool rap beat for the mighty brumby team
And I hope they win against the lions tonight and now here is harriett from
Deakin


Brumbies team show the crowd a good time
Brumbies team show us how you win
Pile on the the tries
Make sure you never look like losing
Never lose go the brumbies team
Brumbies team fight till the final
Siren mate show us your style
Come on brumbies we must win this evening come on mate we must win oh yeah
You see the brumbies and lions meet this evening who will win
Who will ****** win
Everyone cheers for the brumbies this evening at 9-30 we will know the result
Brumbies team we will win this evening
Brumbies team we will win this game
We must fight we will conquer to be the best overall you see we are the best

Thank you harriett and that was a great song about the brumbies hopefully winning well let’s hope the beat the lions and very soon we will be watching the kickoff between the brumbies and the lions
Go brumbies

And welcome back and we are about to start this brumbies night live match
Against the lions from South Africa
Go brumbies go brumbies win this match
Come on brumbies we need to win this yeah we do and we will
Well, I hope anyway go brumbies

Welcome to half time and the mighty brumbies are leading at the half time break by 19 points to 8 and this is a crackerjack game of rugby mate and now for our half time entertainment and first of all is Gordon from Macgregor

Yes mate we were down and
I felt bad when the lions started well
And scored the first try
But the conversion was missed
And the brumbies got in
And with their successful conversion
We lead 7-5 but the lions were given
A penalty to the lions mate made the lions retake the lead but
We stuck at our guns at 8-7 down
And we pushed ourselves to the limit
Then we scored a great try
And again we converted it 14-8 was the score the lions tried to put pressure on us but we stuck at our guns and scored a unconverted try
It was 19 points to 8 at half time
And what do you reckon brumbies fans are we going to give up I say
No fear
Thank you for the summary Gordon
And now here is olly from Fraser
Go the brumbies win win win
Go the brumbies win every time
When we play so late at night
We have to see whether we can put up a fight
Go the brumbies win oh win
Go the brumbies make sure
You don’t give up this lead
Thank you olly and now it is time to
Start the second half
Go brumbies
Kick some ***
Go brumbies
Show some class
Come on brumbies win against the lions

Welcome back and it is full time at gio stadium and the brumbies beat the lions by 31 points to 20 after a very good second half of 12 - all the deadlock couldn’t be broken and here is Patrick from wanniassa

Here comes the brumbies
Here comes the brumbies
The ACT brumbies
Beating the lions 31 points to 20
What a picnic
Here comes the brumbies
Here comes the brumbies
The ACT brumbies
It was a very good win indeed mate
Those mighty brumbies won and the crowd is happy
Like a real smart happy Chappy
Here comes the brumbies
Here comes the brumbies
The ACT brumbies
We provided the best entertainment
You have a ever seen
Yes we had a picnic
Go the brumbies
Go the brumbies
We are the champions
Of the territory of the ACT
Especially tonight yeah
Go the mighty brumbies
Go the mighty brumbies
We will provide some of the best
Performances of the super rugby
Oh yeah what a picnic
Go brumbies you are the best

Thank you Patrick and now we cross to the brumbies cheer squad
Brad and Thomas and Daniel to cheer like they have never cheered before

Hi everyone at the brumbies game
I hope you enjoyed us win 31-20 mate
We put the pressure on the lions
Keeping above them anyway we want
They scored the first try converted it to trail by 4 but we piled on tries and
Won by 11 and the second half was 12 all dude, what a match this turned out to be and the lions tried and tried and tried but we were better tonight oh yeah, thank god I nearly died
As the crowd yelled so loud
The brumbies supporters stood up
Nice and proud and we had a good mindset tonight better than the lions
But the lions still played well
But we were better really really cool better mate yeah mate yeah
Go the brumbies on brumbies night live kick ***, go brumbies

Thank you brad and Thomas and Daniel and yes it was a great win by the brumbies and it was a 12-all second half and thank Christ brumbies lead the first half and now here is Pete from Melba

Go the brumbies go the brumbies
We won yeseree
Come on brumbies
Come on brumbies
This night was ours oh yeah
It was an even second half
But the brumbies still was leading
Yes and we cut the lions in two
And their hearts were a bleeding
But lions played well
But not well enough
Go the brumbies go the brumbies
We’re the best in the super rugby
Well on our good day, mate
Go the mighty brumbies
We are the champs of gio
But hopefully we can win more
To show today was no fluke

Thank you Pete and now it is time to go, so here is our final curtain song

As we draw the final curtain
And it is the brumbies on top oh yeah
Time to head out to go to our houses
While the wild ones have their beer
It was a very good match
The lions were displaying pressure yeah but the 12-all second half meant
The brumbies are the best
Oh yeah bow bow
Yes, the brumbies are the best
See you next time we have brumbies night live
Brumbies night live





Johnny'.   Hi dudes and welcome to Brumbies night live right here at Canberra stadium
And this is a great night for this wonderful match, and Sue Longways is in the Brumbies
Tent with a few supporters with their Brumbies speeches and here's Sue
Sue'.     Hi and I had a great day at the Canberra show it was ever so greet and now here is Jacob who is 11 and he has supported the Brumbies all his life, Jacob here is his speech
Jacob'.  Ladies and gentlemen of the Canberra stadium
We are gathered here tonight to see the Brumbies ****** the Reds
I don't care what the score is
I don't care if I sit right next to this freaky old fogie
Who never washes, I just know at full time
As long as the Brumbies win, it will be alright, hey dude
Sue'.  Thank you Jacob and now here is the next speech by Bob O'reilly
Bob'.   Ladies and gentlemen
We are here in Canberra stadium the stadium
That is in the coldest winter in the entire Australa
And tonight if the Brumbies don't win
I will never still go to it, cause we are having fun
Cheering for a team, in the game they play in heaven
Sue'.  Back to Johnny,
Johnny'.  Ok, now we are just about to start the match, so take break, and on the other side Brumbies night live will bring on the action
The crowd yell from behind, a big cheer
Half time queensland reds 17
                  ACT. Brumbies. 9

Johnny'.  Welcome back to the Canberra stadium and the reds are leading by 17 points
To 9 and the 17 points were consisted of two tries to the reds by (Aidan Toua) and (Lachie Turner) and Quade cooper scores 3 goals for the reds and nick white and Jesse mogg scores for the Brumbies, and it is still in the Brumbies reach, but it is going to be tough
We will need to at least get two tries to be in with a great start to this season, and now here is show setter Sue longways with today's speeches, here goes

Sue'.   Ok well the Brumbies are down now, and we need to really let up a great speech
So come on dudes,,let's party, hey dude, ok, so first speech by 24 year old Adam
Adam'.    We are the mighty Brumbies
We play here with so much pride
We are the best in the ACT
Yeah, we are really the best
I want the Brumbies to win tonight
No, why have it any other way
So come on ole Brumbies, and fight' em ya Brumbies
We need to get 'em, and slice them up
Yeah mate yeah, we will win tonight
We are 17 - 9 down but who cares we are the best team in the land

Sue'.  Ok thanks Adam and now here is Bert Navarak with a speech
Bert'.  Ok we are gathered here in Canberra stadium
At half time where the opposition are leading us 17 -9
And I am not really a Brumbies fan, neh, I am the devil to the Brumbies
If I stay, the Brumbies will lose, so then the Brumbies choir came in
And said, well yes, well yes, this man is not our fan
Bert'.  No I won't leave cool people support their team ya knoThe Brumbies choir'.  Yeah, that is right, we don't want you hear
You see we are spoiling your reputation mate
Bert' my reps ok, I am staying all night, I will be back to punnish ya if the reds lose
Sue' ok dudes back to Johnny
Johnny'.  Ok on the other side of break, the second half of Brumbies and reds
Reds         27
ACT.         17
Johnny'. Well oh well the Brumbies lose the first Brumbies night live for the season
But in that second half Jesse Mogg scored one try, but the reds scored one try as well by
Chris feauai Mogg scored two goals, while Greg Holmes, Quade cooper and it was a great match and the Brumby of the match this week, to make the speech, here is Jesse Mogg
Jesse'.   Members of the writers cafe and also people who are interested, I have scored a bit tonight, but our team didn't win
Ii really would have liked if we were on top, at the start
But sometimes it's hard to make that happen
Other teams want to win as well
And the reds are playing well this last year
And they played well tonight, it was fantastic
To be our there, but we were on the wrong side
Of the football score, but we are going to win
Pretty soon, I just feel it in my bones, buddy, boy
Johnny'.  Ok thank you Jesse Mogg, and Sue that was a pretty dismal performance
By the Brumbies
Sue'.    Yeah, I think that all the fun we had tonight, was put together by AAA, and
Yeah, this will be great, yeah the reds 27 beating the ACT 17, it is going to be cool


Sent from my iPad
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
The maroons scored the first try hooray hooray
It was converted oh yeah hooray
You see it went upstairs and it was decided the try is theirs
So the might of Queensland
Are the first scorers
But then after 5 minutes or so
The mighty blues scored their first and it was fun so fun
Will the blues win
Well that will only happen if
They can keep it up oh yeah
The score is 6-6
Then there was some silly moves but it was cool when the blues broke loose then the maroons broke loose
Until the blues broke loose to score an unconverted try
To make the score 10-6
Making Queensland lick their wounds
And just as the blues scored that try they took the ball and ran it down to score another try
To make it 16-6 poor buggery
Maroons what is happening
At present the blues are too good
And that was the lead at half time oh yeah and the maroons had a very close chance
But the blues are in front
Dude it is great
Can they keep it up oh yeah
Buckaluck
After a few of misses and mistakes the mighty Maroons
Are hoping to have started a small heart attack by racing in
With a converted a try to make the score 16-12 the crowd roar and cheer so loud
And let's hope this game doesn't disappoint the crowd
The blues make this slip up which could be bad for their chances of the second match
The score is still the blues up by 4
But more misses like that
Could be their destiny
It is touch and go for the blues cause the maroons are looking like overtaking the lead but the blues stopped them
As well as an injury to the maroons and this will
Make them conquer all
The hopeless blues knocks the ball on and the maroons get the ball back yeah
What is happening to those hopeless blues
The maroons scored a try to tie it up
And Thurston is the player to
Bring the maroons leading again
Yeah mate yeah he got the goal
18-16 to the maroons
What will the last 2 minutes hold yeah buddy boy the maroons are too strong and bold
As we draw the final curtain
The maroons came back to beat the blues 18-16
They were down by about 10
Mate but the pressure from the maroons was too strong
Cheer cheer the Queensland team the blues played like ****
But as that final
Curtain drew
Yeah we sink down our vb
The emus formed a football team
Up Walgett way;
Their dark-brown sweaters were a dream
But kangaroos would sit and scream
To watch them play.

"Now, butterfingers," they would call,
And such-like names;
The emus couldn't hold the ball
- They had no hands - but hands aren't all
In football games.

A match against the kangaroos
They played one day.
The kangaroos were forced to choose
Some wallabies and wallaroos
That played in grey.

The rules that in the West prevail
Would shock the town;
For when a kangaroo set sail
An emu jumped upon his tail
And fetched him down.

A whistler duck as referee
Was not admired.
He whistled so incessantly
The teams rebelled, and up a tree
He soon retired.

The old marsupial captain said,
"It's do or die!"
So down the ground like fire he fled
And leaped above an emu's head
And scored a try.

Then shouting, "Keep it on the toes!"
The emus came.
Fierce as the flooded Bogan flows
They laid their foemen out in rows
And saved the game.

On native pear and Darling pea
They dined that night:
But one man was an absentee:
The whistler duck - their referee -
Had taken flight.
J A M Aug 2014
You scored the leading role
A liar in London! the title appeared
Perhaps you studied for this part
Perhaps it was an accident
Perhaps it was the past ignited
Liars never reveal their sources
Out loud
Their sources reveal them
In silence
Rotting their souls
Dopamine addict
scored, but itched
for a serotonin fix.
This sonder mirror, these
incessant cravings for opia.

Staring down mydriasis, that
bracketed emptiness, haunting
egolessness, one lasting hit after
shooting up with the metaphysics.
Consigned to it, being strung out
on ∃xistence, whatever depth
you'd ascribe to it: a category.

Know passion is incandescent,
Embrace peace as effervescent;
Lost in the gaze of fall liberty,
Rainy daze in winter ecstasy,
Found in a maze of spring
empathy, azure haze of
summer vibrancy,

Mescalito tornado on desert sands,
Shroom typhoon on distant shores,
∀cid cyclone on the horizon,
Pharmahuasca maelstrom
drank the earth; ion chaser
ate a hurricane, and The Empyrean was born.
Äŧül Apr 2013
Let me continue the story about a guy named Akshant,
Who belonged to Mathura in India, once the city of Krishna.

Akshant rejoined college and scored acceptably well this time,
He had realized his mistakes while he was to stay at home.
Repentance on committing mistakes intentionally was ripe,
He barely controlled the regret from flowing through his eyes.

Anamika was the only friend who was by his side in this time,
Giving him relief from loneliness which rang as the door chime.
Akshant had a poor memory so not much could stay on his mind,
Stressing his memory too much would only make his brain to grind.

Akshant then studied cautiously holding onto Anamika's hand,
Cautious he was not to crush it as he had formerly done to others.
He brightened up his professional life along with the romantic life,
And he scored brilliantly given his mental health was really affected.

The dried clots inside his brain were still an issue two years later,
But he controlled himself to not harm others from his anger.
The clots used to come out through as tears and ear wax,
Almost all was physically well after three more years.

Akshant went Kodaikanal after his bachelor's degree college,
He was an eligible bachelor when he had a job confirmation.
This happened when he was drifting away in the Kodai lake,
Anamika who sat next to him in the boat congratulated him.

Now Anamika confessed her feelings for Akshant in the boat,
Akshant couldn't find any words & found himself quite quiet.
This made Anamika challenge and taunt about his manliness,
Which caused Akshant get enraged & kiss his reply on her lips.

The boat swayed terribly in the star-shaped lake's still waters,
Anamika ogled & felt her hair get wet & this made her ****** Akshant.
She started kissing him back now & her eyes were coming back to normal,
These had been wide ogling when Akshant had started kissing hard and so it was.
Read part I here:
http://hellopoetry.com/poem/7-seconds-part-i-of-a-poem-based-on-my-unpublished-novel/
My HP Poem #176
© Atul Kaushal
Le 17 Avril, 2013.
Danny Valdez Jan 2012
He woke up
next to the empty spot
where Wonder Woman had been.
He puked in the toilet
slammed down a forty-ounce Miller High Life
and started putting the suit on.
boots
the gray and black tights
the gloves
the yellow utility belt
and the cape.
It was leather.
He put the cowl
under his arm and left his apartment.
It was a late start
nearly noon
by the time
the bus got him to
Mann's Chinese Theater.
He saw a lot of his
friends and colleges
as the bus went down to his stop.
It was a regular day
all the characters were
in their usual little groups.
Spider-Man & Captain America
two Mormon boys that had been
excommunicated from the church
they got caught **** *******
each other
now they were stuck in Hollywood
like everyone else.
The X-Men
or H-Men as most people called them
were a group of junkies.
One of them had a cousin at Fox
and they got four replica X-Men costumes.
So that's how they scored
their junk everyday
garnered pretty good tips from the tourists.
Cyclops, Jean-Grey, Storm, and Wolverine.
It was a good grift. **** good idea.
Then you had the impersonators
plastic surgery freaks
obsessed with Michael Jackson
creepy bald men dressed as Dr. Evil
and there was always
a lazy fat guy
that would do Elvis.
Not know any of the songs
and saying the catch phrases all wrong,
"Well, thank you Ma'am....thank you so much."
Those guys never lasted too long.
The cutesy cartoon characters
were almost always
pedophiles or ******* ladies.
The horror people were hands down
the most bat-**** insane of the lot.
They got into the most fights
they terrorized the kids
and they talked a lot of ****.
Would bate guys into fights.
Michael Myers would always start ****
with guys that had beautiful women with them.
It was ****** up.
The LAPD took away Freddy Kruger last month
for beating up a guy
right in front of his kids.
There was talk from the cops
about shutting down their whole thing down.
Making it illegal to dress up in costumes
and get tips.
'Panhandling' as the office had said.
But
Batman hung out with
Superman & Wonder Woman
while doing his thing.
The night before
Wonder Woman and him
had been drinking, smoking, and
they ****** once
before she asked him
what she needed to.
"We got two new guys starting tomorrow."
"What?"
"Yeah. They came up to me on the street today,
wanted to know if they could hang with us."
"Wha? What? Well...do they have costumes?"
"Yeah." She said, exhaling smoke, wrapped in the sheet on the bed.
"These guys got a Green Lantern and a Robin costume. Really good quality,
they showed me pictures. Hey, you finally got a Robin now! Isn't that great?"
"****...I don't know Diana...I was kinda liking our little *******.
"Oh come on, Bruce. It'll be good." She said, wrapping her arms around him
as he sat on the edge of the book, looking out the window.
"We can finally get the big, group tips. Like what the H-Men got going."
"Alright. That's fine."
And the next day
there they were,
Green Lantern & Robin.
Wonderful costumes, like she said
their hair color and overall appearance
spot on.
"Hey there!"
"Hello. Robin. Green Lantern."
Their gloved hands all shook.
They got acquainted and he couldnt help but like them.
Nice guys, musicians, Rockabilly guys, from Venice.
They went out into
the crowd of people
Superman's voice booming over the crowd
telling everyone that they're safe from
evil and wrong doers, blah, blah, blah,
the usual ******* that Superman always said.
Batman yelled to Robin over the enclosing crowd.
They were now fully entrenched by people
fat & sweaty
Batman's panic attack took over.
"COME ON!" He shouted over the rising crowd noise.
The dynamic duo
shoved & pushed
parting the sea of fat tourists
and breaking out onto the sidewalk.
"What's up, Batman?" Robin asked
looking up to him.
The size difference was just like in the comics
Robin was a little guy.
"I just needed to get outta there. Let's go take a lap
down Hollywood Boulevard...see what kinda cash we can grab."
"Okay, Batman."
They walked
up and down
the walk of fame
posing for a few pictures
making some kids day
with wide-eyed excitement
that will be with them forever.
They made forty bucks too.
"Alright, that's good for now. Let's grab a beer, Robin."
It was a small dive
on Hollywood Boulevard
they were two beers in
and Robin was learning a lot
about how Hollywood really was.
Some real talk from Batman to Robin.
"Yup. I moved out here in 1997. I saw that movie 'Swingers' and I thought...
I could do that, that could be my life, I want that."
"And what happened Bats?"
"Well...I came out here, went to film school, did everything I was told, and...
I still got ******." He said, taking a long pull from the bottle.
"Well what happened exactly?"
Robin's green glove, gripping the brown bottle
tilting it back, bubbles rising
"Well...ya see...when I was in film school, the instructors all told us...you either do your internship here in Hollywood or go to New York. Anywhere else and you won't be able to make it. That's what they said."
"Yeah?"
"Yeah. So I did my internship here in Hollywood and it was for nothing. The whole two years that I was at Faramount, I was never allowed to even touch any film equipment. Well, just to dust it off and clean it. But they didn't even try to teach me anything there. I just did food runs at lunch, got them their Starbucks in the morning, and took out the trash. Swept the parking lot, cleaned the toilets, I was a ******* janitor at that place. And you know what happened next?"
"Huh?"
"One day they just fired me. Just like that. After two years of being their ***** boy. So now I have $50,000 in student loans that I can't pay back, and a degree that got me nowhere."
"****." Robin said, finishing his beer.
"Yeah. So what do you do?"
"I'm in school for audio engineering."
"Ah...the music business eh?"
"Yeah, Batman."
"Hmm."
Batman grew silent then, just finishing his beer, and staring into the mirrored wall.
He wanted to say,
"I have 117 scripts sitting in a stack next to my t.v. That's eight screenplays a year. Robin, I've been at this for fourteen years and it doesn't get any better. I never stop trying and I keep at it, year after year. But I'm done. Get out while you
still can Robin. This city will eat you, **** you, **** you. If you still have a home, I suggest you go back to it."
Batman sat there, his beer finished, still staring straight ahead.
Robin pulled out a ten dollar bill, smiling, calling for the bartender
with that sparkle in his eye
of youth and hope.
He didn't want to say all that ****
crush that gleam in Robin's eye
like he once had.
Those were the best days
the great days
the glory days
to be young, handsome, poor, and hopeful
that you could make it
that it could happen.
So Batman didn't say another word about it.
Nope.
There were things
Robin would have to learn all on his own.
Cné Jun 2017
James
Trying to find a place to ***
I went behind a big o'l tree
She saw me there
Completely bare
Then we became a WEE!!

TF
Oh the deepest trouble, *****
Playing with girls, that sin
just ware these words
don't think her absurd
when she wondering says, "is it in?"

Cné
So glad for you, on getting some
while relieving yourself, on the run
Girls that sin
worderin'
bored, did she ask, "Did you ***?
Or are you done?"

Sorry boys, just having fun!

James
Hey, welcome aboard
if you're feelin' bored
just give it a rub
but not a snub
that's how we scored

TF
Y'all are so bad, yes it's true
just tell me when your through
pushing, pulling
tweaking, fulfilling
your hands now full, of goo

Cné
How could I be bored, with the likes of you two
in need of rubbing, please don't be blue
Make no mistake
I have what it takes
especially, for men well overdue

TF
Talented and beautiful too
always pulling it through
it must be fate
it's always so great
getting a tugging, from you

James
Walking the streets before dawn
you looked and her light was on
you saw her fare
but didn't care
and wonder where your money's all gone

James
Poor Bill, he never did learn
he saved all the money he could earn
to pay a sweet lady
at place that was shady
and wonders why his pecker still burns

TF
Bill never learned his lesson
the burn just grew, not lessened
he never went back
his pecker he lacks
no more ****** sessions

TF
The ladies of the evening
sights beyond believing
the things they do
while making you
penniless, and leaving

Cné
A working girl, works it
with Johns, turning tricks
*******
and f¥€king
can't blame her, for getting you sick

TF
The doctor told her to take a break
her body one day, might break
all that cavorting
and oral contorting
she just really loved, her tube steaks

James**
He told her to take a seat
when she really wanted a treat
she was feelin' dry
and wasn't shy
And so she went after his meat

James
Cruising the streets just chillin'
searchin' for a chick just millin'
She shook her ***
I couldn't pass
Oh, well, another shot of penicillin

TF
Something's wrong with Suzy
something oozing, from her coozie
she scratches at an itch
her john's just call her a *****
that's the sum of it, laying down, with floozies

Cné
Suzy was rode hard, put up wet
with men on the street corner she met
Wiggling her ***
for just a little cash
***** status. she earned, you bet

Disclaimer: It just gets sicker from here...

James
Went to the bathroom to sit on the ***
I like to **** while I'm on the clock
There wasn't any paper
I used a finger scraper
I might better had used my sock

TF
Now if there's one thing I know
being a clock, that's fast, and not slow
fingers be scraping
flecks are escaping
****, will under the fingernails, go

Cné to James
Please wash your hands before you eat
Be careful cruisin' down the street
or chillin'
with penicillin
I fear a terrible peril soon, you will meet!
Paras Bajaj Dec 2018
In January,
I had fun.

In February,
I ****** up.

In March,
I was in a dream.

In April,
I woke up.

In May,
I wanted to die.

In June,
I even tried.

In July,
I also scored.

In August,
again got bored.

In September,
I missed her.

In October,
I wished her.

In November,
I felt alone.

In December,
I moved on.

-Paras Bajaj #PoetrybyParas
Instagram : @mr.parasbajaj
Styles Jul 2019
like a song,
     my fingers scored
     I touched your keynotes
     by pressing your buttons
     your moans were music
     to my ears;
Akela Santana Oct 2014
Take me back to June 12th, the day we first hung out together, drinking beers and ***** shots, singing karaoke to Green Day, Michael Jackson and the out of place Lady Gaga at our favorite bar called Villains.

Take me back to all those days we'd hang out at Milk Coffee Bar and laugh at horrible things like the Columbine Shootings or the 9/11 attacks and *** smokes off our mutual friend Jean; drinking beers and listening to horrible local indie bands play their horrible, airplane sound/ white noise, indie music.

Take me back to "the perfect 90's couple".

Take me back to the first time I kissed you by accident, causing the caterpillars in my stomach to induce metamorphosis, letting the butterflies to spread their wings for the first time.

Take me back to the first time we slept together, with no ***. You caressing my back, me slipping into a peaceful slumber to the sound of your heart beating, a sound I've never heard before.

Take me back to July 10th, the day we told each other we liked the other and I talked you into asking me out.

Take me back to the time you said I was worth it.

Take me back to the nights we'd stay up till 4 in the morning talking about nothing in particular or talking about everything and anything that came into our heads.

Take me back to the day we were on my front porch and I said "I love you, you're funny" and you replied "I love you too".

Take me back to the first time we had ***, making love, and you made fun of my blushing and called it cute.

Take me back to your birthday party I can barely remember because I drank so much and you ended up taking care of me and checking my pulse to make sure I was okay.

Take me back to our first official date at Bubi's where I dressed up for you for the first time and was so nervous I could've ****** myself.

Take me back to the talks we would have about moving in together, or when I was sad that you didn't want kids and I did so you said "I might hate children but I would consider having children with you".

Take me back to the Loop where I showed you I could be stupid and dance like a fool.

Take me back to the Cards Against Humanity game where I showed you I can be a bad *** girl and make you laugh at my dumbassery.

Take me back to Korey's end off summer party where I got to watch you fail at the NHL game and record your cute silliness  when you actually scored.

Take me back to when we started to drift apart because you had to go back to University to start the semester, where I should've suggested staying over for weekends even if you had to study.

Take me back to when I got depressed and said "I have no reason to live" and made you think you weren't good enough for me to stay, even though that was far from the truth. You were my only reason.

Take me back to when you needed some space and time to think.

Don't take me back to when you broke up with me.

Take me back to when you wanted to give it another shot.

But don't take me back to when you decided to break up with me again.

**It's been years since then, and all I can say is that, I loved you. I'm glad we could've dated, cause you showed me what love was, even though we didn't last, and for that I am grateful. Thank you, Nektarios.
Something I had to write. This Is about my ex boyfriend Nick.

I just want him to be happy......
That day, something got into me.
Approaching the corner of 155th
and Broadway on the Upper West Side,
my friend and I were only a block from home.

Either we'd been on a mission for candy necklaces
or bubble gum cigars, from the place where the guy
was always grumpy, never actually scary,
and the sawdust on the floor, the real cigars
in fancy boxes were something to wonder about.

Or we had just scored our first fresh sugar canes,
one each, and much taller than either of us.
The kindly Puerto Rican green grocer, proud
of his new shop, hoped we'd try the plantains
too, getting a kick out of our delight
in what he'd always known.

The light was red, and we weren't in a hurry.
I just got curious about this trap door on the side
of the old cast iron signal post,
and decided to see
if it would open... and it did.

Smiling to myself, an uncommon, delicious
sense of mischief lighting me up inside,
I calmly flipped a switch.

Instantly, all four lanes of traffic, heading north
and south on Broadway came to a screeching halt.

The feeling of power was intoxicating.
And unforgettable.

Had I been an older kid, had the policeman
who happened by been less lenient, had anyone, God forbid,
been injured, I could have been in some serious trouble.

Injury never entered my mind, and maybe the officer saw that.
All in all, I got away with the only really naughty thing
I did as a child, and still get to smile.
And remember.
©Elisa Maria Argiro
Joseph S C Pope Feb 2013
I

Wonderlandia, torn off the submerged lung
of a daydream diary.                   Reoccurs
as she does with silver eyes, weary Alice
during tea time--bullets burning past her
                                     like flowing nations.
Everyday similar tsunamis fund
                                     the lack of 20/20.
Nose to tail--the surge of angry engines
splits the ends of her blonde strands.
    Each one the last witness to maddening hospitality
--utopia never sweats as it talks and withers.
Amnesia blots,
new aspirin machines
vaporize apples and ***
on the other end of spectrum,
                                                     trans-positional labels--

Guillotine gargling teapots
       have no patience
         to the bushes of Olympus opiates
                                      bound in yellow barrier tape,
                     five o' clock traffic
               welcomes her back to what we are facing.


II


Dreary weather of late fall                       and her beautiful,
              powdered face

great mouth of atomic hell,
         when she speaks--80,000 deficiencies boil alive
                                                   --Trinity's teething test
                                                           on the tired bones
                                                   of a story-teller's raspy cards--

"None the wiser," she speaks,
                                "during the transition of ships
                   vermin turn into krakens culturing
                               on the surface of a raindrop.
    Heroes, villains, animals frozen together
                 after now eating for four days.
     The transition of one genocide
                                                        ­  to the other,
                the delineation of cat-and-mouse,
   mingle too long
   with the dead
   and its necrophilia."

                 Blind Alice wanders off the highway,
leaves her brewed cup of steamy static
on top of the unimportant saucer, sticks pins in her *******,
             and enjoys the sound of Cleopatra
             rolling over in reincarnation.


III

      Dear Alice smells
sunbathing, studded tangerines
                      assimilating liquor within the vast,
       empty, glowing nausea that is--
                        the warm germ

Oil                                    and                 ­          water
               rippled glass too silly for skulls
              made humid by distant salt water,

blood, acid, enzymes,
cheating probability
that runners with drunk kids
have blood between their toes.
                                                      Death­ to the distillation within
                                                    --the chronic diamond too polished
                                                       in *** to see the roses in her *****
    She curses these wood songs,
             heritage patriots with the pelts of wild lions
             with antlers over their heads,
                                                  faces advertising war paint
                                                applied by gargoyle hands
                    --sad memoirs always drink people
                                                  that use God as a cookie jar.


IV


  Gorgeous names
  on graffiti institutions give her a home
                                                         a market
                                                         a nickname
           still                  Alice only accepts Alice.

Grace periods where she misses tyranny
                  rise and fall like endorsed breathing.
    Now Alice feels her dress fall off,
                                  extinct years message future occupancy
                                  about what to wear.
New era, this era, past eras plead guilty
in a      clinic museum
             of forcing demons
              down the medical
              throats
of first graders. Court adjourns at 9:01 PM, Saturday

             The populus can sleep now,
                          but not her.
                 No one gave her clothes
                 to cover up the drained monochrome.


V

Instead she celebrates her flesh,
                                        the broken glass,
   and quakes and leads off to expose
           others to its potential vital prosperity.

         Instead
                     headlines like bumper cars read
                     about the beheading of weeks,
                     failing rescue missions,
                     and debates on teenage tolerance.

Nicotine intoxication points Alice
to over-extended memories--wards of music
sequenced to point out the extinction of marble tigers.
                        Only 550 expected to understand
                         tethered to millions able to survive.

  Flood waters look at moral standards, a mean hurricane
                                   that collapses the death toll
     all patented 50 states
     have a dating service
     and huff paint as a way
                              to pray to art.
                                                      Double­-canvas faces
                                                      dyed in pixel     hope
                                                       that the media levees hold,
             but volunteer to herd sheep into poppy seed fields.
                                            She refuses to stay,
                    to watch the long night
                    of castration on men with mud-covered ankles.
                                      Television says eunuchs want
                                       to be prodigal's children,
                                       everyone wants to come back home
                                       to mom and dad, safe zones, away
                                       from themselves.
                                                     ­                 It says our ancestors want
                                                            ­          this for all of us. They worked
                                                          ­            so hard to tie up the hair
                                                            ­          out of Aphrodite's face.

                                     They treasure the silver eyes of Alice,
                                          but call them blue,
                                                  they issue her high cholesterol
                                          but pump sweet ****** into he stomach,
                                                  they tell her to put down the drill,
                                            so she can finish their orchestra--

her lightning
    is
     a
  string
     of
  souls



VI


     She decides to depart Sunday,
to discover the ordinary beginning,
                        painting WHY? on its delirium.
re-arrangeable viewers become
                      inserted sounds under percussion and piano.

       Caging various important charts
                                          undetermined
   ­                           as finished attention.
                                                      ­              Three movements in flux
open end the people                     vacuuming
                            craftsmanship blocks
                   from                                dogs and zen.

                                                 The
                                 suspended letter               is happening in 1951
   drenched in existential white                                            spacing
        ­                                                   the viewer
                        from integrated architecture.

Down
the
bell is a structure called
"the quarantined wheelchair."
                               Dead ignorance changes pattern
                               after six movements of the second hand.
Alice speaks, "To you all, know
                                       that this is an un-dramatic situation.
          Everyday windows with the same
           participants have girls drinking
                                                     orange juice, activate fluid,
                    both exist as objects
                    and caught propaganda."

                                                   ­                      Six tunnel
                                                          ­      audiences are watching
                                                        ­        drown in the plastic silk
   her                                                       built by the motorized collage
                                                         ­                                        spider.

          Alice, a kinetic mannequin pop star
                        is limp in the glass point.
             Rhythmic flux is objectified war torture
                         censored in fitness magazines
by simple toilet literature.

                                        Six tunnels worth of eyes
                                 latch to the *******
                                           as a way to bury **** protesting.
                                  A coat of pepper spray
                                   works in front of the exhibition.
This stage is shaded by moans.


VII


      Alice the female, has a door-to-door friend
                                                          ­    over the sea
of the cathedral's ceiling               who died of disemboweled
pulchritude             at the mutilated nuclear other-place.
                     Her friend was a synthesized example
                     of staged catastrophes. Her friend is her, silver-eyed
                                                     ­                                             Alice.

            ­                     She performs herself and herself
                                 but they are played by polished, scored poets.

Everyone of them incorporates the events
                                 of a dancing gunshot. Everything rests
                                                           ­ at an intermission

               but after fifty minutes of pondering,
          the lost audience remembers
         her name is Alice.
                   So it comes back on with a shower of sweat
                  and this clear
                                  substance
               ­                                 called
                         ­                              patience.
       This composing, peering vulnerability
                        psychologically destroys the flux tension
              like analog genocidal dictators.
                                   Ultimately this is dream liquor

     commentating war to the war tree
      using trauma and chairs as humor.



VIII


               Patience on the water level lives translucent
                                            on networks that brand flesh
                                            with displaced identity.
Alice convinces us all that pickled ***
                                                             ­               takes eight years
                     to ****** and we accuse it
                                         of being fake. Afterwards, her character dies
in confident silence.


IX


     Not majestic, but she does cough
                  to mock the earth.
        The seeds of Alice are ripe,
                        harvested early, and now her children come out and dine
        like speaking tongues on gibberish.
                          The room is fat with hair

and kindness. Feeble, mundane hands chew on each other,
                                                         feet stand proud.
We even call her Alice or "the beautiful *******,
                                             a black cloud feasting
                                             in orange."
                       Everyone feasts on the nectar
                                                         she has, but never the rye
which makes her round. Juice is squeaking and her children laugh
                         as in competition.

     It's a distinguishable game as the mixed
                                                           ­      couple up front
              begin to play whistles as
                                         everyone eats
                   the pride of the silver-eyed Alice's children.


X

                                                ­ The children's souls
                                                       bow and say
                                           "Thank you for barely growing."
                                                   and dissipate after five minutes.

          "Curiouser                                   ­                                      and
           Curiouser"                                                       ­                   they
           say                                                              ­                        as
           they                                                             ­                       leave
           this                                                             ­                         homage.
                  The decimal backbone
                     of each of sweet Alice's
                                   blonde strands
                   divorced by the gust/ of a green light's/ allowance.


XI Epilogue*


  The day crawls away
                   a vigilant pest
     of the nocturnal project
                   --suns beam down still, like
                  stomachs of grinning felines
                           at Valentine's day.

toxic-dyed fingers
                        soldered
to bodies pittering across rainy streets

--legionnaires with hearts on stones
                         we are waiting for her orders,

     thistled-teeth clench,
                                         but did she
                                          actually
          ­                                ever come?
SøułSurvivør May 2015
~~~

My memory of grandpa
Was that his hands were red
Showing me some pictures
A kid's book before bed.

The bones were raw and gnarled
The sinews looked all sore
The skin was thickly callused
Spotted, lined and scored.

They showed wear and tear
They echoed his toil
Grandpa was a farmer
A tiller of the soil.

Grandpa couldn't read
But we could laugh and look
His hands delicately turning
The pages of a book.


SoulSurvivor
(C) 5/12/2015
This is one of my favorite memories.

~~~
"Wow, what a mansion!"--Albert Wesker RE1


Gothic mansion, where every warrior lost it,
head, heart, and soul--as Faust did,
there walks a scientist who's blood is acid,
with glasses that turn to shade--death reactive.

" Who dares touch my holster" he says bombastic.
as walls evaginate victims, send out vines,
it is from Jesus' in the crowd--Mathew--his lines.
the sight of thorax, stinger and fang,
******* the slain,
do not phase him, for he is phase-less,
turn off receptors of pain, and all is pain-less.
A fallen teamate, still and a'swarm,
the black shades do not mourn,
as thorax crawls ontop of her
but laughs at the irony of a female,
impregnated with ovipositor.

He helped design those creatures,
and--he is her traitorous leader.

Howling night forest, awakens the staff,
as if they sleep facedown in saltwater tides,
shuffling and whale moaning, as if  harpooned--
going to lonely depths to die.
then there are the hunters, reptilian apes,
can open locked doors with skeleton claw,
move to quick in hallways,
why pump buttstock you saw.
Pepper the **** on the bed with full load,
with zombies fellating down to bone,
scream through your muzzle,
slide room apart in jigsaw puzzle.
then watch your six for the hunter,
it is stalking you, wants to put its foot on your face,
and dig in, then kick its leg--and rip off your skin.
retreat from hunters and faces bloated with cadaverine,
find a safe room to safely scream.
Sit down at the bar, pull scotch from its coffin,
on counter, rest pump and Colt python,
do not think of the things you will die from.
there are three darts in the bullseye,
in William Tell style,
but the board is in fashion of an atom,
with electrons in orbit,
the  numbers are the human genome,
and a surgical marksman has scored it.
He is Wesker, and this mansion is his tester,
blood and bone is both colors of his litmus,
horribles awaiting in dark room pay witness.
his muzzle flashlight's rooms with hot spark,
entry beats claw swing, shades now clear in dark.
they say in total black silence, one will go crazy,
from the sound of their heart.
but "My trigger that squeezes within,
charged from pupil's firing pin,
sweet semi-auto strokes of violin."
as he vaunts over dying beast,
and darkness returns to his shades,
from moon light through window,
reflecting knifes on wall from moon in wane.
he slicks back a loosed strand,
locks the door behind him, and continues with his plan.
" In my father's mansion are many rooms,
" I'll go prepare a room for you." he mocks, as he walks,
with parabellum hollow points and acid round glocks.
This is his mansion, he is Achilles loosing knees,
he is warrior and scholar, a student of Thucidydes.
team-mates--out air holes in jungle boot bleed,
blood seeping through pants--
olive drab uniform now fatigue.
rooms: blood grooves running down your bayonet--
traps-- channeling you to your death.
prop open  oaken door with knife, hope  it will hold,
walk to the far side of parlor,
the sound of medieval bolt.
door spits out knife,
just scream through keyhole.
The iron maiden taper is coming slowly,
do not let it go through non-vitals,
a slow way to die,
take it through frontal lobe behind eye.
alas a team-mate hears your screams,
in the sepulchal hall,
door swing, and out of deaths thrall.

Charley Mike: continue mission,
and paint the walls black,
with dead flesh backsplash,
gun or nerves jam, then die a ripping death,
smell a cannibals breath.
Be it known, the man in black and strap,
laughs off exposed rib cage slats,
with only a scrape to his pistol belt.

Enter the man in reactive shades,
Picture a alligator, calm, age old in the everglades.
One in the brain, and none in the chest,
those extra shots for rooks, without prowess.
" Wesker, you'll pay for this treachery," invoking Karma,
but the man in black measures her tears as he harms her.
So all that enter mansion portal,
and reach the basement, before becoming morsel,
finally catching up with Wesker,
no more trail of labotomized minds,
and jaws and eyes in epileptic shock,
from a calm trigger squeeze of glock.
Face to face with the master of the saxon race,
mastering gunpowder under the scope,
and you hear the hunters off distant,
primal howls and hissing.
Listen to what the man in black says,
the mortal contest is over,
and he has a virus to offer,
" Die here, and your death will be longer than your life,"
says the man, who's shooting hand is the reapers scythe.
" But live with this virus, and you will never die."
but watch the sun burn out in the sky."
You can refuse him, and face the nightmare creatures alone,
adding your skeleton to the calcium of mansion stone.
or take the virus that invaded the first cell,
invading mitochondria,
making 'other men' the meaning of hell.

" Come decide, lest I go prepare a room for you".--
From powder burns,  your tears are black,
eardrums ring from screaming contest of
chrome python against giant asp.
shoulder numb from combat loading shotgun,
thumbing shells straight to chamber--
almost cyclic.
blood in boots: not much fight left.
your friends are dead, and you answer,
" I rather die forever traitor, to rid the world of your cancer."

In my masters mansion, are many rooms,
dying, crying, moaning: eternal tombs.
how resident evil the movie should have felt.......I only cite the 96 video game, which only shared the setting with my poem.
Lyndal Doherty Dec 2013
We fell in love over a game of war.
With others the game could have lasted for hours,
but with you I scored because I won in only a few moves.
What I didn't know
was at the same time I was winning your affection.
You saw me at my worst
and yet I faced no rejection
of me being tired, crazy, and probably cranky
but you still liked me like the best you could see.
I wish I had known then that I would fall for you.
I wish I had known all about you.
But I'm getting there.
Slowly.  
And people who don't know you say I could do better.
And I laugh, smile, and play along,
but no.
Maybe I could, but I wouldn't want to.
Better is not always best,
but you are the best you can be
and you may not be perfect
but you're perfect for me.
And that's love.
You’re the last thing on my mind before I go to sleep
and you are my first thought when I wake
and I'm longing to keep
these memories of you close,
because quite frankly long distance *****
and you and I both agree
but when our four year stretch is finally up
you and I will be free
to have and to hold to love and to cherish
until we are old and when we finally perish
people will know us,
not me,
not you,
but both of us together
and I know the real truth
that love can sneak up like in a game of cards
when the two people playing accidentally play only with hearts.
NeroameeAlucard Aug 2016
There was no joy in Mudville,
The air was cold that night.
For the hockey team was losing
And shorthanded, following a fight.

With 5 minutes on the penalty clock
And 1 minute left in regulation
It seemed as though the season was over
And the team would be heading to the unemployment line by the train station.

The next face off was won by Mudville,
And they dumped the puck down the ice
Wilson raced down after that 3 pound puck, and out of nowhere came Johnson, a pass to score as he fell down the ice!

Tied with about 30 seconds to go,  the crowd gave an almighty roar
Because they tied the game shorthanded,
Johnson, a defenseman had scored.

The teams headed into overtime, and you could cut the tension in the air with a knife,
For in hockey overtime is sudden death, the next goal would win the night.
And after a 10 minute intermission, the teams returned to the ice

The referee skated out to center,  and dropped the puck between two anxious Sticks.
The duel was on,  and both goalies were tested
But neither one would fall for the forwards tricks

With overtime ended, we went to a shootout,
This seemed to be the only way to decide the game.
And after Wilson stepped back onto the ice, he scored giving Mudville a chance to win the game.

But Jeralds would tie the shootout in the second round, and Johnson, following him would do the same. So after a miraculous stop by Mudville's goalie,  it would fall onto Casey to win the game.

A hush fell over the crowd, as Casey stepped onto the ice, he took a deep breath and started on his way,
He skated wide left stick handling down, his head up at the goalie trying to get him out of play.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright, The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light; And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey was shutout.
A take off of Casey at the bat
Northern Poet Jan 2019
Imagine all the things I could have been
And all the places I could have seen
I should have married that girl
From Kensel Green
A beauty queen – so serene
The day alcohol ruined my life

Imagine all the books I could have read
And all those words left unsaid
I went out and got ****** instead
Fell down the stairs and broke my leg
Ten pints and I'm ready for bed
The day alcohol ruined my life

I could have been a Premiership footballer
One of the greats – the league's top scorer
Sponsored by Adidas and Diadora
Up there with Bobby Zamora
Scored an overhead kick from a corner
The day alcohol ruined my life

I could have been a movie star
Champagne and Caviar
Me and Arnie in the Terminator
*******, hookers and fast cars
Enough money to fly to Mars
The day alcohol ruined my life

The day alcohol ruined my life
I lost my kids
And I lost my wife
I woke up in East Fife
On the day alcohol ruined my life
hi dudes this briano alliano up here on saturn to welcome richie benaud and i can guarantee

the cosmos is blessed to have a great man, and here is richie singing come on aussie come on

hi everyone, i say hello to saturn

you see lillee pounded down like a machine

taylor was the best captain you’ll ever seen

brett lee got a hat trick, merv, kim and phil hughes were pretty rad yeah

till phil hughes died last year oh yeah

thommo is pounding like another machine

as a bowler he was very fast and mean

you see he will pick up wickets, while the outfielders clearing pickets

and the chappell eyes, have got their eyes on the green

then pascoe is making divvits in the green

border ordered his players around like noone you’ve ever seen

and rod marsh took some catches like healy and haddin, to win those matches

and i remember joel garner and micheal holding cleaned us out, oh yeseree

we still went, come on aussies come on, come on, come on aussies come on

after that small song, ritchie benaud took phil hughes on the cosmic turf, where my dad and mark jones

and tony grieg and rob douglas and stan niemic and phil hughes and many many more, and crocus’s earth body brian allan

played cricket at john knight memorial park, i made some great hook shots, it was cool, dad who had bias long legs

hit 34 runs off 45 *****, yeah and dad gave a methane smoothie to richie, saying welcome to the cosmos, and

mark jones hit 23 off 34 ***** and gave richie a new earth drink coca cola life, which is a drink which will put you

in touch with the cosmos, congratulations richie, marks my name, you will come back to earth when the cosmos is ready

to let you return and tony grieg scored 123 off 112 ***** and after that, he gave richie benaud a methane smoothie

and rob douglas got 87 off 100 *****, but rob said, good on you richie, you’ll a fine player, and tipped methane all over

richie saying, good job old pal, and stan niemic scored 123 off 123, and going at a run a ball, stan was happy, and when he finished

he poured methane all over saying welcome to the cosmos, and phil hughes scored 56 off 56 and went over to richie tippe

tipped a keg of methane on him and said thanks mate old chum old pal for those kind words and the other players together averaged at 123 off 122 *****

and richie benaud had methane smoothies all over him and at the end every player went into saturn club rings

to have a great celebration for the great richie benead with a lot of bottles and kegs of coca cola life, which will,

improve the quality of their lives on earth, and everyone was dripping with methane and might i add malcolm marshall bowled

very well as the official bowler getting 34 wickets, now malcolm marshall is matty b, on youtube, but this game was in honour

of the great richie benaud, welcomed to the cosmos and malcolm poured a bit of coca cola life on richie saying you love life, dude

and briano alliano came out and said

ritchie was the best commentator you’ll ever seen

you see i watched him on channel nine congratulate the gold and green

you see here everyone, welcome this great man

to the cosmos, he’s the happiest in the land

welcome ritchie benaud yeseree

the world will miss him, oh yeah you see

because you hosted nines coverage, of the cricket, well done mate

now what will buddha do with you

come on aussies come on come on, come on aussies come on

well done, ritchie benaud, WELCOME

see you next time, this was a great cosmic cricket match, dudes

now the saturn club rings was filled with methane, PARTY ON, to next life, ritchie
Maggie Emmett Nov 2015
Sun swollen
reddening as it sank
that brutal ****** disc
scored by church steeples
and chimney stacks
almost lost in the drifting haze
of sulphurous yellow
and char-black smoke.

Duck boards dip
into the sodden earth
as men ***** along in conga lines
holding tight the pack of the man
in front, lest they should slip
lose quick their footing
be ****** down and smothered
by mud.

The walls of the tunnels
are packed earth
rich with blood and bone
bits and pieces of human
anatomy dangle and hang
as if posed by an artist
with a strange and cruel eye
for detail.

The scrabble for fox holes
and rough scraped ditches,
anywhere, below the line of fire.
The ting and ****-bang
of a night of action
The whistle, the dash
and the forward push
counted more in men
than metres.                                                                

© M.L.Emmett
Kaylee M Dec 2016
My heart is pounding
I rush forward
Faster than a cheetah
I jump
I drop like snow
The ball rolls around the hoop
Tips on the edge of the rim
All eyes are on the ball
Titters into the net
With a soft swoosh
The crowd erupts
Whoo-whoo
I just scored
The winning shot
I toss
I turn
It was all just a dream
Goodbye , . . .
Yes goodbye . . .
(Blah , blah , blah)

In the shortness of his breath
All desperation was taking place

I walk off
Looking at the far off , into space

The game is over
Nobody . . . no one
Scored and won

We all lost . . .

The then ,
In a notebook
While sitting on the park bench
Where he once was
A poet king
The old man jots down
(A poem about lost youth
Past days and dreams of
better days to come)

Meanwhile . . .

The sun crossed the sky
East to West
And the day was never seen
Or heard from again
Sharina Saad May 2013
I tried to be white but still I am black
Black sheep In the past, and I still am
My siblings scored straight A’s
Mom and dad smiled ,
stood proud on stage,
applause, standing ovation from audience..

What I did? I failed throughout...
Burnt my report cards...
Tarnished their good image
Not fame but shame I am black sheep to you..
A flame in your heart , I am a burden to you..
So again I am black, black sheep until my last..
I feel sorry...I truly am..

I am simply hopeless and helpless child
No matter how hard I ever did Try...
Still I am black.. not white and true..
I'm the Black Sheep in the family
Mom and dad please forgive me...
Zach Gomes Nov 2010
we play with a retired professional but
none of the other kids mind—
his alcoholism has gotten the better of his muscle
memory and god doesn’t he look bad

the ball is an old piece of garbage made from
a kind of industry plastic
half-flayed alive by loving kicks
that expose the moldy gray rubber inner-
sphere like some soft eyeball

and, behind one of the goals, the
boy who plays goalkeeper only on Wednesdays
lounges like a pimply Greek sculpture—
unable to move as an epileptic fit lazily
puppeteers his body while the players pass the ball into his gut
and I step aside, too—
my stomach aches so badly for the crispy joy
of cold cereal I can’t play—

some days are like that—shed of their seriousness
because it’s more fun to play without a defense
even though we’re always losing **** it I just scored
a goal!
I'm feeling kinda hollow,
It's a little hard to swallow.
Still Im in the lead,
So everybody follows.

Hate it all you want though,
There's no time to wallow.  
tell me what you need,
You just found that ****,
Waldo.

I don't even buy blow.
I just ****** snort it,
Gatta cop it from the *****,
That always seem to hoard it.
know they can't afford it.
I Wonder how they scored it.
Then I took four hits,
Got drunk and stole a forklift.
I don't give a horse ****.
I just want some more ****.

Got weird for a
few days,
Brain fried till my
eyes glazed
Smoked a little
more haze,
Screamed **** the pigs ,
Got tazed
strapped on my rollerblades,
And streaked out,
the VMA's

I don't give a ****,
Like a ******* Atheist
don't believe in luck,
Call me the ******* catalyst.
Some of my favorite ****. It's fun to go out of the box.
Charlie Chirico May 2013
Home Depot: Aisle Four: Shelves & Brackets.

Screws should be in the toolbox at home.
Toolbox...yes, in the garage, next to the miter saw, and
my old skates, the four-wheeled skates, not the inline,
never in line because of a rebellious nature.
A leather jacket kind of resistance.
A motorbike brilliance.
Now riding lawnmower equipment.
Dad's don't walk, we're brazen.

The ancient toolbox next to
an ancient cardboard box.
Scribbled on the front, the marking of youth,
my name, my print. Such ugly handwriting.
For God's sake.

But as for keepsakes:
The only objects that hold more merit
have more and most accumulative dust.
Yearbooks, pictured peers, so many memories
and faces. So many faces in this book.

The trophies. Number three. MVP.
A wipe of the thumb revealed the number.
And the rhyme is new.
Wit came with later age, I suppose.

Sports in adolescence, the physicality, the egotism,
it clouds critical thinking, or maybe wry remarks, too.
"Gay" and "*******" become some of the favorites.
And now this leads to an obligatory pun.
Grass stained knees. Sacking. The loser is gay.

How paradoxical!

Other contents of the box are various marks.
Grades; graduations; girls.
Three G's that I've
always evaded because of laziness.
Because **** dignity, right?
At least at that age integrity is as foreign
as the idea of it even being instilled.

How can you know if you're being raised
in the wrong?

Well, you've come to the right place.

I'm sure two examples is sufficient.

It's usually the acquaintance my son
brings home that opens my refrigerator door
before saying hello.

Or sometimes it's his friend,
our neighbor's youngest son, who boasts about his parent's
material possessions, while his parents ask
my wife and I if he can stay at our home for the night,
as they argue in the dark because the electric bill
is overdue, and their credit is scored
by the proverbial scissors.  

Not ones used to cut red ribbons, but
the ones you're told not to run with.

"Of course he can. I'm sure they'll love a sleepover," I answer passively.

"Thanks, we owe you one," he responds abruptly before disconnecting.

I could have said that owing people one
got them into their predicament.
But, like they say in the Good Book,
(The book I've always let collect dust,
not to be confused with the dust
on the box in the garage.)
Love Thy Neighbor.

And sometimes you never know
when you'll need a cup of sugar.
Thankfully I know there is sugar in the cupboard.
Milk and eggs in the refrigerator.
But no shelves or brackets.

Aisle four, Home Depot, no help.
I figure any will do, and at home
I'm *******, I mean I have screws.
I'll ask my son to help me hang them,
somewhat for the company,
also because they're for his belongings.

The neighbor's son will talk about the
elaborate woodwork on the rare chestnut
shelves his dad owns.
Surely it's perception, something
mood lighting can fix,
which his parents are arguing over,
well the lack of  lighting,
seeing as how their mood is already set.

My boy and I will place his
trophies on the shelves,
as I tell my boy I was number three.
Once an MVP.
And the neighbor's son
will tell me
his father was
number four.
Shirin Sadikot Sep 2010
You introduced me to my life and got me living,
Because of you, my existence found a meaning.

I remember the day when I first saw you bat
Your genius left even an ignorant kid flat.

It was in 1996, forever I’ll cherish the occasion
You ignited a spark of interest which is now my passion.

You scored a hundred and gave me my first cheer.
We lost that game and I cried my first cricket tear!

You gave me a Team I could proudly call ‘mine’
And the strength to support it, till the end of time.

I feel the rush of patriotism every time you lift your bat
And with pride in your eyes kiss the Tri-colour on your helmet.

You held Our Team together when all seemed to fall apart
Till you were our saviour, even in disaster I didn’t lose heart.

Every run you’ve scored, has brought a smile on my face
Each word you’ve said has in my heart, left a permanent trace.

Whenever life has got cruel, you’ve got it back in full bloom
It just takes a swing of your bat to bring the sun out from gloom

You’ve been the answer to my most desperate prayers
Like a messiah, you’ve fetched success from shadows of failures

Every moment you’ve spent on the field has been a lifetime for me
I’ve lived them all with a deluge of emotions -pride, despair, anger and glee.

With every joy you’ve granted me, I’ve been greedy for more.
And you’ve been an angel whose generosity has never turned sore.

At times when you failed, I refused to accept you too are human
But silently and patiently, you lugged the burden of my expectation

There might have been times when you just couldn’t take the pain
But you hid it behind your gritty face and played for us even with severe strain

I’ve been the most blessed of all beings, to have had a hero like you,
Your existence makes me believe, there’s a supreme power above too.

After years of being spellbound by your genius, I still crave for more
I pray that you go on forever, can’t help being selfish to the core.

I wish I could thank you for everything but I dare not try.
How does one thank the Almighty for bringing a body to life?

So, I call upon your deity; by your side may he forever stand,
And fulfill all your dreams, may your wish be his command!!!
This poem is dedicated  to Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Written on November 15, 2009 - the day he completed 20 years in international cricket... My little tribute to the man who gave a meaning to my life!
Albert Camus
Kept an Emu
Tied to a potted,
Portable wisteria
To keep him company
Whilst he kept goal
For the University of Algeria.

As Albert was fishing
The ball out
From the back of the net
The Emu mused
On the conversations they'd had
About The Oprah Winfrey Show,
The significance of suffragettes,
Adam Smith's Wealth Of Nations
And the ****** orientation
Of Sir Galahad.

Whilst discussing the plots of
The Plague and The Outsider
Warm feelings would suddenly
Well up inside her.

Why should such intellect
Elicit so much love
And even more pain?
My thoughts for this man
Aren't getting any vaguer.

Then Utrecht University
Scored again.

There are no happy endings
With Albert Camus -
Decades later he dies
In his publisher's Facel Vega.

When she heard of Albert's demise
Her initial reaction
Was hysteria
And it comes as no surprise
That a few weeks later
She died of diphtheria

Which is so much easier to do
When you're an existential emu.
Humour nonsense verse bizarre random surreal fantastical Albert Camus Emu football goalkeeper existential The Plague The Outsider
Prisoners of their own success

Their world now micro-sized

Fan adulation to excess

Their love is just disguised

Their objects of affection

Live their lives inside a bubble

Leaving their prison, though it's self imposed

Could bring them worlds of trouble

A truck driver from Tupelo

A pop band from the 'pool

A superstar from Hoboken,

And one...the King of Cool

The superstar from Hoboken

Became the Chairman of The Board

If you made it into his 'rat pack'

You knew you'd really scored

His movies and his music

Made him the world's number one

But he had to minimize his world

When someone stole his son

His boy was kidnapped, truthfully

Back in 1965

And through his contacts in the mob

He got his son back home alive

This is the price of fame folks

Behind the glitter and the glam

They've got to have their safety

But the fans don't give a ****

Prisoners of their own success

Their world now micro-sized

Fan adulation to excess

Their love is just disguised

Their objects of affection

Live their lives inside a bubble

Leaving their prison, though it's self imposed

Could bring them worlds of trouble

The Memphis Mafia gave protection

To The King of Rock and Roll

But, by choice his world got smaller

And he went into a hole

He built a house in Memphis

To protect him from his fans

And thanks to Dr. Feelgood

He died a lonely, broken man

He couldn't live the life he earned

He was a prisioner instead

It's a shame he has more value

Now that he is dead

Prisoners of their own success

Their world now micro-sized

Fan adulation to excess

Their love is just disguised

Their objects of affection

Live their lives inside a bubble

Leaving their prison, though it's self imposed

Could bring them worlds of trouble

He'd a partner and was cool

He was suave and sang songs

And he worked with a "fool"

They conquered the nightclubs

They were known near and far

But his created alter ego

Lived his life at the bar

He ran with Frank Sinatra

He was the King of Cool

But when The Chairman started lessons

Dean was right there in his school

The Beatles broke in Hamburg

But way back in sixty two

Their bubble was just forming

There was nothing they could do

They lived their life behind the scenes

For when they did go out

The girls would all go crazy

And the world would twist and shout

Privacy came hard for them

They went four separate ways

These four young men from Liverpool

LIved life inside a maze.

It's sad that adulation

takes their freedom, makes them hide

But they're safer locked away from us

They're safer locked inside

Prisoners of their own success

Their world's  now micro-sized

Fan adulation to excess

Their love is just disguised

Their objects of affection

Live their lives inside a bubble

Leaving their prison, though it's self imposed

Could bring them worlds of trouble

— The End —