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Robert Guerrero Oct 2014
I want to lay in bed with you
No thoughts of ***
Racing through my body
But the only thought
I'll allow tonight
Is the thought of holding you
Under every moonlit lullaby
And let stars watch with full smiles
As they witness my love for you grow
I don't care what the world has I say
I'd rather you call me your teddy bear
Than they'll know I'm not in it for the ***
The royal treatment is for you
And this late night cuddle session
Is only the beginning
Because tonight I'm going to show you
That even with my weakness
I'll protect you through the night
I'll be your dream catcher
Your luck rabbits foot
And chase away the worries of tomorrow
I'll cuddle concrete
I'll cuddle rose pedals
But nothing in this world
Could ever amount to the roaring passion
I can ever feel
When its your heart and soul I cuddle with
Your my yesterday
My every day tomorrow
And the last thing I want to embrace
When I fall asleep thinking of you
This late night cuddle session
Isn't over because I'll hold you
Till the moon and sun decide to collide
I love you like teddy bears love cuddling
And theirs nothing this teddy bear loves more
Than loving you
Dedicated to Mystery. A really cool girl I'm glad to know
Classy J Nov 2016
Diving into bath salts, raving flue that is as sicking as math, at least that is what I conclude from my findings presented to the court. Objection, objection, sir I don't see the connection, maybe your rhyme scheme needs perfection. Maybe it does, but ***** it, I'm blessed by God; baby please sit down and take a chill pill and just enjoy this buzz. Busting off, so back off, bout to prove my case like I’m Ace Attorney, oh and I know it’s off topic but if I lived in America, I would’ve voted for Bernie. What the **** am I on? Came to save the digital world you can call me a digimon, you bet I’m a champion! Serendipity dear deputy; I’ll be typically wittingly searching for some tranquility. What is the validity of this vicinity as I only accept notability and won’t let this become a liability!

Pathologically paraplegic hypochondriac with insomniac who be popping poems profusely perfect; while whimsically worm's try to be strategic, but sadly choke and lose it. Miles set apart; it certainly is not a strut in some park, but everyone has to start somewhere before they engrave their mark. Don't reside yourself to just being a silhouette, nor be one to toot your clarinet. Two sides to every person like Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde; be careful to not let your pride turn into carbon monoxide. For pride will always lead to your downfall, so please take off your iron curtain and tear down your Berlin wall. Improvident incongruous incredulous confidence; underwhelming astonishment of such fundaments of these heinous and callous acts of deceitfulness. Trickery of thy decadence; why art though jittery when you are full of benevolence? So used to getting what you want I bet; well this situation can not be fixed by dough, so I see why you are in a cold sweat! Fake confidence won't help you here especially when one lies; you made a mistake and will face the consequences and I am not one quick to forgive no matter how much you apologize.  

Don’t have time to consider your sensibility, because my life is going a twitter with too much hyperactivity for me to deal with your stupidity. Befittingly that I’ll be building up the intensity, to infinity and beyond goes this creativity of this anomaly. Not going to prolong this phenomenon, I’ll be going off like a Molotov over this intercom, yeah you better not ever underestimate this underdog. Lackadaisical are these other rappers; they’re so replaceable and incapable to be educational. Incomprehensible is this loop of hip-hop now a days, why can’t we be inspirational or is it to late because we left morals and substance back in the olden days. Can’t afford to be anchored anymore, I’ve poured in too much time to be just be locked behind some door. I refuse to be ignored and be left ashore; I am not worried about going into the storm; because you are bound to come across some things that need some work like chores. Spinning the wheel, reminiscing of how it felt when I no longer concealed who I was and my self-image had been healed.

Used to be reclusive & convinced myself that I was a duffass, but now I’m exclusive to being a smart ***. This is the new era, this is a new fire; it’s time to spice things up so better pull out the sriracha. Leading the revolution like I’m Che Guevara, I’m light as feather whatever the endeavor even if my life story doesn’t end up as pristine as Cinderella’s. Why so infatuated by worldly wants? Why so decorated when you can't hide the fact that you're the same basic *** font? Trying be something else, striving to be someone else, wanting to be anything else. You are who you are, if you think it will make things better you cucu, because in my eyes you are really a star. You have to expand your interpretation and perspective of life, you have to demand without hesitation a piece of that collective pie; because I believe everyone should be equal in this life.

Calculated bullets that go straight through my cranium; manufactured outlets that show great things but have also turned us into brainless aliens. Complicated hookups that grow irritating and become as unstable as uranium; what was once sacred has become as spontaneous as going to a gymnasium. Confiscated trinkets cast away and leaves those affected very irritate; while also simultaneously making apathetic souls that have gone through the same thing be able to understand, help or relate. Cultivated rebellious culprits that don't take the memo of being cooperative, instead they choose to be provocative and opposite of the other conglomerates. I’m so fascinated by this fabricated segregated supposedly liberated and sophisticated community; where-as some so foolishly stupidly amusingly think that everyone has the same equal chance at opportunity. Moderated, regulated and orchestrated where some are situated; if you don’t think that it has something to do with be affiliated to a certain demographic then maybe you never got educated in the affairs of those discriminated. It’s a good thing then that class is in session; so viewer or listener  please use discretion when taking time to witness or hear my position. Deafening out all ill whims; wrestling with these unsettling menacing fears and guilt from all of my sins.

Yeah no need for hallucinogens, all I need is two hydrogens and one oxygen. Rocking in my moccasins; so you can bet I am not one to drop my promises. Native honour who is also a innovative scholar and who was created not to falter. I may not be good with numbers, but I'm good at making sure you never slumber on my words; because I work on them day and night in my 36 chambers. Beware the pretender, they are manufactured by the vendors to keep us from being together. Defend your heart; be wise who you befriend and who you pick for your counterpart. There will be hurt and affection can be perverted, so know your worth and never ever let yourself be distorted. It is not your fault, it is not my fault, so then who is at fault? Is it just life in general? Is it because of the being who lives eternal? Is it all of the above? I don't know, but we shouldn't judge and instead choose to accept and love!

Pardon me Martin, but if this class were a prison I’d be the warden. I make the rules here and I took the tools given to me to get me here. So listen, please listen to my lesson that I have to present to you as class is still in session. Loading yawl with ammunition to be able to transition to be able to complete your goals or missions. No I’m not tripping, I’m driven  by a higher force to break away the old ways of thinking such as division. This is not the prohibition anymore, so please open your minds and join me on this expedition. Going into the unknown, so here’s to hoping you get through this, as time goes on and be able to look back at it we may feel like this was no more than a tiny but important milestone.  Achieve, believe, conceive, receive, intrigue, and succeed because I think you are unique. You are the only you in the whole galaxy, don’t let agony turn into tragedy; ***** anxiety; yeah and never let your dreams just be some fantasy.

Outro: Sit down class ain't over yet, forfeit those frowns or fake faint or try to jet. Lastly remember what transpired today; don't go hastily and forget about it on December break okay? For though class may be over, more days or years to come until its finally over. Though education ends, one never stops learning even on vacations with family or friends.  I hope you can look back with fondness, I hope you can stay on track in the future if you truly take the time to just focus. Is there truly an end or is this just the beginning to a new bend.
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

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

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

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

2002

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

2003

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

2004

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

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

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

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

2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

2006

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

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

2007

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

2008

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

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

2009

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

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

2010

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

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

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

2011

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

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

2012

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

2013

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

2014

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

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

2015

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

2016

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

2017

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

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

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

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

2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
Raj Arumugam Oct 2014
Session 1
Greet people you meet;
smile and give 'em a Presidential wave




Session 2
Facilitator:
What  happened to you
Participant Jones?
Would you care to tell everyone?


Participant Jones:
This man at the mall
stepped up to me and punched me
Cause, he said, I was smiling at his woman


Facilitator:
Be undeterred, O participant Jones
Be persistent - practise positive behaviour


Session 3
Facilitator:
What's with that bandage on your head
O participant Jones?
Would you care to tell everyone?


Participant Jones:
That's where my wife's ladle landed
O positive Facilitator -
for my wife thinks I'm trying to get fresh
with the women in the neighbourhood
with my exuberant smiles and hand waves


Facilitator:
Have no regrets, practise in earnest;
the broad smile wins all hearts



Session  4**
Participant Jones did not attend;
has not been heard from since Session 3
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Composed on 00:53, 21/09/2016 using Hello Poetry's 'Words' algorithm. We don't assume this means something.
We'll sing of the sesh, our heads' song,
With cheering rousing bants,
As 'round a blazing joint we throng,
The starry heavens clothe us,
Impatient for thy coming line,
To shtall off tha morning's ****-light,
Hear our tchoons pulse thru the night,
We'll chant a sesh-head's song.

Sesh-heads are we
whose lives are pledged to sessioning,
People have come
to us from places all over,
Sworn to rave,
No more our ancient seshland
shall shelter the anti-craic of the state.
Tonight we house the gap of danger,
In session's cause, comedown or ****,
Bass cannon's roar as we dance,
We'll chant a session's song.
Sinne Fianna Seis,
atá faoi gheall ag Seisiún,
Daoine dár slua
thar ó áiteanna do ráinig chugainn,
Faoi mhóid bheith rave,
Seistír ár sinsear feasta
ní fhágfar faoin frith-chraic ar an stáit.
Anocht a teach sa bhearna baoil,
Le gean ar Seis, chun báis nó saoil,
Le balla de dord romhainn, agus muid ag damhsa,
Seo libh canaídh amhrán na tseisiún.
JJ Hutton Jun 2010
I'd like to think that she's thinking:

"How far have I fallen?"

As she sits on the corner of her bed,

Listening to the soft buzz of his battery-powered toothbrush.

I imagine her,

Running her fingers through her clumsy, coagulated hair.

Glancing at her chipped, crimson toe nails,

Then looking to her class ring,

Made entirely of imitation ingredients,

Wondering when is the proper time to trash it.


When she was still a friend of mine,

I never saw her wear make up,

I never saw her show off in tight jeans

or low-cut tees.


But as he spews the toothpaste into the sink,

Skinny jeans lay tussled on the floor,

Next to the side door

that leads to his sister's side room.

The make up she wears

is from the night before.

It's skewed and shows evidence of running,

Like a wasted watercolor.


I'd like to think he isn't that handsome,

And that he's obsessed with Paul Walker.

I'd like to think when he re-enters the room,

He's in grey sweatpants,

He's wearing a black tank top,

With a Confederate flag backdrop,

With two barely dressed babes looking ******

in the foreground.


His hair, unwashed and greasy.

He rubs his belly,

And bears an idiot grin

on his face.

Looking like he just learned how to smile

at this pace.

"Did it feel good?"

feel good.

After he asks, he scans her body,

Beginning at those crimson toes,

And Ending at that clumsy hair.

Every second he scans,

He still wears that drawn-on

Idiot grin.


I'd like to think at this point she thinks of me.

Of my warnings and prophesy.

Her eyes start at the chipped toe nails,

Course over her tanning bed-inspired legs.

And finally reach the only thing she has on,

A t-shirt that belongs to his sister.

A t-shirt, when given by him,

It was mentioned, "thanks, mister".


Though she didn't satisfy all his redneck intentions,

During last night's expedition.

He still paid her back with a morning

one-sided session.

"It felt good" she says.

In reference to the ten minute *******,

When her body was strummed and plucked,

Underneath his sister's Terri Clark T-shirt.


As she sits in the filth and the ****** fallout,

On a bed that is six days *****,

While he is grinning,

Being everything but wordy.

I'd like to think she's thinking:

"How far have I fallen?"
Copyright 2009 by Joshua J. Hutton
Meztli Apr 2015
White smoke dancing in the air
A pretty smile and the natural swaying of her hair.
Dark lips and a laugh that echoes in her head.
Thinking about what lies ahead
Keeping a straight face is harder than it seems.
For she has learned to fake
the difference of a smile and a tear
She can no longer make appear.
Living in her one way mentality
She resides next to fear and goes to  sleep with reality.
While having an affair with fantasia
This goes on daily it's impossible to interfere
But as dreams become sueños they turn into esperanza and that is all she needs to keep her fighting for la causa
The session is over but she's learned a new lesson
A reminder from her Spirits
"Don't forget where you came from
 and what you came for. "
Then she slowly disappears...
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empyrean gain family personal spirit flowing wanted point poem lying wander loved wind knowing sleeping rest stuff doubt flow began embrace months knows discovery society hate aeon darkness chemical surely searching meant oneself infinite share forgotten fell late person religious conscious *** you've teenage blame eye instead different clear bring follow known decide forth strange cool stand we'd miss psychedelic passion today wasn't language catch purpose patterns tonight subject madness temporal ready simple sanity asked entheon absurdia entactus psychedelics metaphysics humans particle unto skies inside arms drink smoke bass youth breath listening close depths intangible expression mortal nostalgia practice return loose maybe dancing shadows king war answers morning silent dust ****** party generation near judge define asleep quite machine lines moving learn hath fate ate crowd standing haze guess brought certain fair read ways hours irish scared fine reckon possible ain't year psychedelion ******* apotheon substance isn't study bliss selfish ends warm dopamine explain fix addiction culture respect wisdom calm hurricane problem contradiction heaven forlorn vain gold sweet hidden effort fast she's breaking changed engine faith dance maze alas girl sigma watch grand heavy justice wait tried doors appear phenomena definitions somebody ignore feelings process sonder cybran soft depression chasing taken throw answer action relief having wandering compounds quantum necessary effects empathion ethos begin everybody rising clouds emotions indigo falls ecstasy fresh american walking glow outside speak force grow physical says view voice happiness shame sought age understanding lay individual billion explore crave pretty lights comprehension tears big sands crime waves taught forever venture adolescence welcome humanity comes zero storm wise claim swear sounds pass **** met he's internet mr table company repetition heard playing ***** mirror lets awake sorry doing dreaming states pondering ridiculous simply greater heal hear natural mydriasis mydriatic substances fades asking measure worse scoreboard destroy erase blood leaves worlds abandoned skin twisted walk grace smile fading illuminate hearts bed food ignorance admit drunk spring exile apart killed talk master meet waking chose neon adventure join **** mist aren't breathe psi laughing feet river trance wonderful floor hair desire breeze birth desert fade looked urban continue nation probably second belong willing alike criminals progress cyberspace sole survive names pills fears beginning digital you'd sadness easily depressed perceive surreality poets merely remains sober closer prose fact growing died save insanity defined session soon realm empyreal taste suicide science skins quality peace raise ashamed azure quit yearn piece notions absurd noble liberty entheogenesis reckoning feedback particles object reconcile baseline chain sardonic false weather hallowed intoxication wasted 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won't medium empathos essence events reflect apotheotelos actual determine house issues worked begging virtuality swore gleaming sly gentleman wicked abyss feed lands tea moon miracle honest streetlights tale lust nights early chained allow placed life's actions emotional plant plan drizzle speaks spin hypocrite conviction watching rules jump application chains forged angel fail reflections lot illuminating flag grip fly sick wonderfully create freeman shine job supposed eggs draw pupil dripping tremble mescaline singularity subjective darkens alpha needed atlas orange discover rabbit warp joint wonderland perfection ponder souls silence ahead roll magic ease bag sorrow escapism sake chest magnitude chaser cloud infinity replaced revelation survived vs carry yearning school slip games begins curiosity heavens powerful typhoon furious theory hypothesis apathy serenity mind's marks window humankind cybernetic fraternity liberate cut movement excuse stopped thunder tire apparent mastery occurs motion paper masses throes falling race hanging bear follows sardonicism endless burning idea ideas burden court ya verse consume kick method stood temporary flash realized eat kindness occur advice shades properties shores hang shining ink rolling minutes street deem tools autumn empatheon entheos reach echoes remix diamonds gets worthy identity thoroughly stuck happens recall conclusion choices fiend dealing finding gun son stimulant experiencing depth twice starshine whilst chosen thereof hooked confused enables painful desires serotonergic teleology prey loop wishing relation neural animal hallelujah ultimately projection communication actuality significant experiences remind transcendention notion proposition works illusion puppet offers chalk series occasion calling degrees ended sin figure slick ending ash sentence glance rend november eve drum rainy destruction romantic drawn shadow observe ghosts bodies wandered atmosphere box familiar children honor road serve beliefs strong avoid lessons returns poison relax exhale whispered intention liquid stare dope needs ****** smoking club relative glitter reached fractured stones junkiedom aspect ketamine heavenly scares domain excess robes vast euphoria grass thrall elation buzz renew dr waste let's morality wanna bottle immortal owe intuitive wouldn't teachings transcendent nocturnal education eternal divinity drive aligned illegal lamplight sell sail insomnia curious beatific seeing insane continuum kiss beta void soar roar fog basis **** town cost regrets appropriate brave threat using emptiness fountain short stole shield riot shade ghost numbness stained steam dreampt october ion derived hazy money message sing quote metaphysical scene swept plain colors nirvana alright unlike dear low teens nonetheless pick considering teenagers beneath door electronic kids build pulse teaching kid mistake teach tear contextual political civilization vision dissociation completely tells normal nevermind raised brings laughed melody spot streets holding coffee praying violence appreciate vengeance law trust exploits slowly trouble mirror's refrain compassion eats recognition discovered blaze otherworldly pieces darkest angst brothers sit win buckfast vicious binge breaks undead forgot demands able notice lucid dimensions evolution sunrise plans philosopher killing produce working cloth produced painter gazing favourite track bunch haul arrives started chemistry prevent awaits definitive strive versus rule dread bare slow stayed onward altered helps lifestyle losing followed woke fight event innocence charade child ventures higher y'all acceptance pay any-more bay vicissitudes codex cannabis pleasures planes doses awareness steal beat zero-summing narcotic lest strength matters reading easy sons drift solstice half formed normality weren't hungry hopes declare research tales envelope regret tired breed release honestly haven't it'll blow entheogenic stories amidst insofar technology direct binary pushing gotten patience danger symbiosis dilation gleam untitled risk remembering aeons contemplate suppose allows goal certainly virtues well-being popular regard result tornado mescalito usually distant creating skyglow behold manifest psychedelia representation endeavour excitation transcendental resonance odd growth hedonism possibly focus proper assert formation described interpretations reflective determination rational consuming cherish expressed pathos psychoactive eventually significance dissociative strings author experiential specific oxytocin loves glimpse frames loneliness elements created 'pataphysics craft betrayal typical built wall wonders concerning critique signifiers books failing assume effect 'auld subject-object lethe scorn wants shroud understands enhanced ascend tides finality collapse lake reclamation beach proclamation justify junkies hood teen streetlight caressing lips other's comprised harvest midnight blink aching lesson responsible native fortune mistakes nurture grown healthy test mock especially badly boring walked gorgeous innocent villain giveth benediction stone rictus nightmare skystruck insignificance struck **** nothing's thrown unspoken den shatter loss subjugated angels myth fallen demon temples reborn irrelevant thousand clothed plains whispering insert telling everybody's ultimate expand immortality small rapture bound dry comedown starlight whispers contained watched attack mechanism questions palindrome perpetual surreal theme perspective bane heathen basking singular physics sighs rhyme deity sincerely goodbye fit asunder naught comfort adrift -the radiance plunge rock planet twine applause current enhancement zen profit terrible ill weary leaving fierce alchemy luck speed opportunity men arose prophecy steadfast captured sage demand weird estates gathered distance all's foretold sold wrath kinda relentless advance coil anybody columbine ocean drown spoken ancient eden wet blessed crimson concepts yesterday 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guys haunts spark poems poetic pull remained gazed vagabond presented blanket cried stranger glad lucidity turns sum details pour valuable exceed represent surprise continuity occasionally relinquish gravity likes weeks wrought gathering entirely reaper rays aging root laid balance four-twenty provide double-edged ceased exploration mates world's walls alteration faces breach million grey tidal unknown price absolute garden haunting train jungle aloud allowed habits closed syntax difficulty alter scratch glimmering drifting quenched explained forfeit in-between clearly ideals ubiquitous chemicals happening abandon supreme drifted soothing reveal alcohol stimulants psychonautes indescribable conscience closest dying andor travel gentle foodstuffs tree worried demons pair recognise inability ensure including hey graciously prove logic rhetoric 15 galaxy lately hearth ethereality forsake wanting steps memorable 'round player moves del you- encourage finished suspect frequently intoxicants acts aer veil qualities animals remembered karma kissed burying shooting bold scattered input howling design forsaken banish seraphim wide cola united democracy meandering -one zed's hot commit self-sufficiency thought's psychosis flows unreality immersion aesthetics realms struggle wisely immanence absolutely member add writings coin avoidance naturally boys inseparable standard convinced concerns passed prudence quick external suffer choosing produces letter proclaimed myths pains shroom bright absurdity awhile prospect sad distribution recreation responsibly ghb adrenergic minor neurotransmission cyclica lonesome foolishness cometh 5-ht2a beings golden pitch cathinone suggest conclude cognitive motions ethical condensate precious abuse compound underlying adult bask push damage attachment originally determinative heaviness concept facts today's regress detract step ugly absence cosmic note imagination psychedelos noumena noumenon reader haunt determining error questioning habit measured limitations manifestation learning arcadian joke hallucinogens material diethylamide mysterious exists 'twas response proportionate quantized nervous anyways identify qualify device analysis moderate moderation alterations accompanying totality fascinated gradually 'the represented brief juxtaposition played t'was resides tribe stead vote period liminality delete recurring mirror-neurons alexithymia craic ar positive drank maelstrom pharmahuasca wondered reflecting lovely facebook typing quale implicit dispute occurring fallacy treasure exactly reduction distinction discussion man's construct couple contain lovers failed confidence writer's integrity worst psychiatrist sesh rare chronology scale drug's definitely title sesh-heads who'd asks unable tomorrow plucked picture alphabet named coherence task pretends inevitable contemporary trips graces wrote entertain vice elicit psychoactives feens conform deface replace grin h-bomb atomic bleeding 20 bloodless unequalibrium following quench hunger bent euphoric display interstellar vertigo influence waited sunlight explored paradise soaring faded sitting unafraid aqua tinted source itches optional differently stem rich greed forbidden negative privacy react earned ails charity gift couch courage endlessly fascinating boyfriend phrase movies hopelessly loud admission inherent hypocrites intoned devil laconic sinful vein surrounded movie contempla
Composed on 01:33, 27/02/2017 using Hello Poetry's 'Words' algorithm. We still don't assume this means something.
Styles Dec 2015
Appreciating her subtle tones, as they turn me on.
Far past my boiling point, my temperature rising,
I’m burning up in this joint. There's no surviving.

My eyes all over her curves, as I observe.
Conversation shorter than sure.
Flirted with our eyes, now our hands asking for more.

I started ******* on her lips, now they were my own,
Kissing on my tongue, turned my tongue to her clone.
Pulling her into my hips, like I wanted to bone.
Sending shivers up and down her backbone,

I could feel her body shiver, as she rubbed it against my hard bone.
looked deep into her eyes and she moaned and groaned.
I filled my mouth with the taste of her own,
swallowed her lips with my mouth, as she moaned.
As we kissed on each other, the moment kept getting better.  
Her body language making a point, leading me on - very clever.
the deeper we got, she got even wetter.

Her erogenous zone, and other places to be known -
got me harder than a stone, my head spinning like a cyclone -
as I endured her weather.  
My fingers wore her scent like cologne.
wet as a puddle, I want to play in forever.  

She, lost in the pleasure.
This love session close to closure the further they go.  
As much as she wants to, her body can never say no.
Nigel Morgan Aug 2013
It always intrigued him how a group of people entering a room for the first time made decisions about where to sit. He stood quietly by a window to give the impression that he was looking out on a wilderness of garden that fell steeply away to a barrier of trees. But he was looking at them, all fifteen of them taking in their clothes, their movements, their manners, their voices (and the not-voices of the inevitably silent ones), their bags and computers. One of them approached him and, he smiling broadly and kindly, put his hand up as a signal as if to say ‘not just now, not yet, don’t worry’, or something like that.

This smile seemed to work, and he thought suddenly of the woman he loved saying ‘you have such a lovely smile; the lines around your eyes crinkle sweetly when you smile.’ And he was warmed by the thought of her dear nature and saw, as in a photo playing across his nervous mind, the whole of her lying on the daisied grass when, as ‘just’ lovers, they had visited this place for an opening, when he could hardly stop looking at her, always touching her gently in wonder at her particular beauty. In the garden they had read together from Alice Oswald’s Dart, the river itself just a short walk away . . .

Listen,
a
lark
spinning
around
one
note
splitting
and
mending
­it

As he finally turned towards his class and walked to a table in front of the long chalkboard, half a dozen hands went up. He had to do the smile again and use both hands, a damping down motion, to suggest this what not the time for questions – yet. He gathered his notebook and went to the grand piano. He leafed through his book, thick, blue spiral-bound with squared paper, and, imagining himself as Mitsuko Uchida starting Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto, fingers placed on the keys and then leaning his body forward to play just a single chord. He held the chord down a long time until the resonance had died away.

‘That’s my daily chord’, he said, ‘Now write yours.’

Again, more hands went up. He ignored them. He gave them a few minutes, before gesturing to a young woman at the back to come and play her chord. Beside the piano was a small table with a sheet of manuscript paper and a Post-It sticker that said, ‘Please write your chord and your name here’. And, having played her chord, she wrote out her chord and name – beautifully.

He knelt on the floor beside a young man (they were all young) at the front of the class. He liked to kneel when teaching, so he was the same height, or lower, as the person he as addressing. It was perhaps an affectation, but he did it never the less.

‘Tell me about that chord,’ he said, ‘A description please’.
‘I need to hear it again.’
‘OK’, there was a slight pause, ‘now let’s hear yours.’
‘I haven’t written one’, the reply had a slightly aggressive edge, a ‘why are you embarrassing me?’ edge.
‘OK’, he said gently, and waved an invitation to the girl next to him. She had no trouble in doing what was asked.

Next, he asked a tall, dark young man how many notes he had in his chord, and receiving the answer four, asked if he, the young man, would chose four voices to sing it. This proved rather controversial, but oh so revealing – as he knew it would be. Could these composers sing? It would appear not. There was a lot of uncertainty about how it could be done. Might they sound the notes out at the piano before singing (he had shaken his head vigorously)? But when they did, indeed performed it well and with conviction, he congratulated them warmly.

‘Hand your ‘chord’ to the person next to you on your right. Now add a second chord to the chord you have in front of you please.’

Several minutes later, the task done, he asked them to pass the chords back to their original owners. And so he continued adding fresh requirements and challenges. – score the chords for string quartet, for woodwind quartet (alto-flute, cor anglais, horn, baritone saxophone – ‘transposition hell !’ said one student), write the chords as jazz chord symbols, in tablature for guitar, with the correct pedal positions for harp.

Forty minutes later he felt he was gathering what he needed to know about this very disparate group of people. There were some, just a few, who refused to enter into the exercise. One slight girl with glasses and a blank face attempted to challenge him as to why such a meaningless exercise was being undertaken. She would have no part in it – and left the room. He simply said, ‘May I have your chord please?’ and, to his surprise, she agreed, and with some grace went to the table by the piano and wrote it out.

A blond Norwegian student said ‘May we discuss what we are doing? I am here to learn Advanced Composition. This does not seem to be Advanced Composition.’

‘Gladly’, he said, ‘in ten minutes when this exercise is concluded, and we have taken a short break.’ And so the exercise was concluded, and he said, ‘Let’s take 15 minutes break. Please leave your chords on the desk in front of you.’

With that announcement almost everyone got out their mobile phones, some leaving the room. He opened the windows on what now promised to be a warm, sunny day. He went then to each desk and photographed each chord sheet, to the surprise and amusement of those who had remained in the room. One declined to give him permission to do so. He shrugged his shoulders and went on to the next table. He could imagine something of the conversation outside. He’d been here before. He’d had students make formal complaints about ‘his methods’, how these approaches to ‘self-learning’ were degrading and embarrassing, belittling even. I’m still teaching he thought after 30 years, so there must be something in it. But he had witnessed in those thirty years a significant decline in musical techniques, much of which he laid at the feet of computer technology. He thought of this kind of group as a drawing class, doing something that was once common in art school, facing that empty page every morning, learning to make a mark and stand by it. He had asked for a chord, and as he looked at the results, played them in his head. Some had just written a text-book major chord, others something wildly impossible to hear, but just some revealed themselves as composers writing chords that demonstrated purpose and care. Though he could tell most of them didn’t get it, they would. By the end of the week they’d be writing chords like there was no tomorrow, beautiful, surprising, wholly inspiring, challenging, better chords than he would ever write. Now he had to help them towards that end, to help them understand that to be an  ‘advanced composer’ might be likened to being an ‘advanced motorist’ (he recalled from his childhood the little badges drivers once put proudly on their bumpers – when there were such things – now there’s a windscreen sticker). To become an advanced motorist meant learning to be continually aware of other motorists, the state of the road, what your own vehicle was doing, constantly looking and thinking ahead, refining the way you approached a roundabout, pulled up at a junction. He liked the idea of transferring that to music.

What he found disturbing was that there were a body of students who believed that a learning engagement with a professional composer, someone who made his living, sustained his life with his artistic practice, had to be a confrontation. The why preceded, and almost obliterated, the how.

In the discussion that followed the break this became all too clear. He let them speak, and hardly had to answer or intervene because almost immediately student countered student. There evolved an intriguing analysis of what the class had entered into, which he summarised on a flip chart. He knew he had some supporters, people who clearly realised something of the worth and interest of the exercises. He also had a number of detractors, some holding quasi-political agendas about ‘what composition was’. After 20 minutes or so he intervened and attempted a conclusion.

‘The first rule of teaching is to understand and be sympathetic to a student’s past experience and thus to their learning needs, which in almost every situation will be different and various. This means for a teacher holding to an idea of what might, in this case, constitute ‘an advanced composer’. I hold to such an idea. I’ve thought about this ‘idea’ quite deeply and my aim is to provide learning opportunities to let as many of you as possible be enriched by that idea. You are all composers, but there is no consensus about what being a composer is, what the ‘practice of composition’ is. There used to be, probably until the 1970s, but that is no more. ‘

‘You may think I was disrespectful in not wishing to engage in any debate from the outset. I had to find a way to understand your experience and your learning needs. In 40 minutes I learnt a great deal. My desire is that you all go away from each session knowing you have stretched your practice as composers, through some of the skills and activities that make up such a practice. You all know what they are, but I intend to add to these by taking excursions into other creative practices that I have studied and myself been enriched by. I also want to stretch you intellectually – as some of my teachers stretched me, and whose example still runs through all I do.

Over the next seven days you are to compose music for a remarkable ensemble of professional musicians. I see myself as helping you (if necessary) towards that goal, by setting up situations that may act as a critical net in which to catch any problems and difficulties. I know we are going to fight a little over some of my suggestions, the use of computer notation I’m sure will be one, but I have my reasons, and such reasons contribute towards what I see as you all developing a holistic view of composing music as both a skill and an art form. I also happen to believe, as Imogen Holst once said of Benjamin Britten, that composing music is a way of life . . .

With that he walked to the window and looked out across that wilderness of green now bathed in sunshine. He felt a presence by his shoulder. Turning he suddenly recognised standing before him a young man, bearded now, and yes, he knew who he was. At a symposium in Birmingham the previous summer he had talked warmly and openly to this composer and jazz pianist in a break between sessions, and just a few weeks previously in London after a concert this young man had approached him with a warm greeting. Empathy flowed between them and he was grateful as he shook his hand that this could be. She had been with him at that concert and he remembered afterwards trying to recall his name for her and where they’d met. She was holding his arm as they walked down Exhibition Road to their hotel and he was so full of her presence and her beauty no wonder his memory had failed him.

‘Brilliant,’ the young man said, ‘Thank you. Just so much to think about.’

And he could say nothing, suddenly exhausted by it all.
Mitchell Duran Sep 2013
The retainer where she was put
Was made of concrete. My father told me they had
Dug the grave first, then poured the concrete in, waited for
It to dry and harden, then hammered in six
Circular spikes in the four corners, two on either side
Of the middle. They lifted the concrete cast out with a crane.
My dad was going to be charged 300 dollars a day for the rental,
But because of the circumstances, Home Depot let us have it for free.

-

Where was she?
Where had she gone?
Would I see her face again?
Would she want me to
Meet her on the other side of the river?

-

I answered my cell phone.

"Make sure to bring flower's."
She had been crying. Her voice wavered the way sun light
Does on moving water.

"Make sure to bring flowers," she repeated, "And
That you wear what your father and I bought you."

I nodded my head with the receiver pressed up against my ear.
We both let out a sigh. My mom hung up. I put my phone in my back pocket.

-

Lately, I had been seeing a shrink about repetition. He liked to use the word cycle.

"Everything is repeated," I would tell him.

"Life is a cycle," he'd disagree so to get me talking.

"Can cycles be identical?"

"Technically not. Some cycles are extremely similar, but no two cycles are
Completely the same. Are two people's lives ever exactly the same?"

"I wouldn't know. I don't know that many people. Maybe."

"You know lots of people, Camden. You have told me about many of your friends."

"Are we talking about the seasons?" I asked, changing the subject, "Like fall, winter, spring, summer? We are born, we live, we die, and we are born again?"

"That's a very natural way of looking at it."

"I know it is." I inhaled deeply, swallowing air and wondered what time it was.

"If you are so sure, why look for validation from me?" He liked this one, I could
tell. I imagined him shopping for clothes and then exploding in aisle 16 because of a sale on jeans.

"The word cycle is used by people too afraid to use the word repetition. Everything is
Repeated for the next generation, the next group, the next of the next of the next. We shift things
Around, give things to one another to shift life to make it look different, but, things remain the same. Everything contains the primal function we were all doing and living from the very beginning, only now, there is more of a separation. Music is still music, words are still words, paintings are still paintings, love is still love, death is still death, only done differently and more intensely."

"We are talking about man furthering technology because we, as people and creatures, are
Statistically more prone to flee than fight?"

"Why do you think it has caught on so quick?" I touched both
Corners of my lips with my tongue and suddenly realized I hadn't eaten breakfast.

"It is a theory," the psych nodded, "A theory with, I am sure, many
Palpable facts you could make a very nice report with to prove...something." He
Was at a lost for words and I felt guilty that my mom was paying him $75 an hour.

"We are very split. There are too many of us. Too many hands spinning the china."

"Who is we Harry?" The psych hadn't looked up from his pen and pad of paper, until now. I could
Tell he was annoyed with me either because he was making no progress or because the session
Had just begun and I was already digging into him.

"Culture. The government. You, me, my dad, my mom, the taco bell cashier, the geniuses at Apple computers, a paper weight, my dead sister. We're all apart of these shifts, all putting in a certain amount of energy and lies to keep the protection of the projection going. The question I keep asking myself is: do I want to use my strengths to be apart of this cycle or not?"

His eyes flared open for a moment like he'd swallowed a firefly, not at the question I had posed for myself, but from what I would soon see was from the mention of my sister. He had something.

"I was notified by your mother that you may not want to talk about your recently deceased sister. Is It O.K. if I ask you some questions about her?"

I was leaning forward on the couch with my hands clasped in between my legs. The psych had looked up at me now. He was sweating at the top of his thin hairline. Observing that I was staring at his building perspiration, he, trying to be nonchalant, took out a thin, white napkin from his grey shirt pocket and dabbed the top of his head. The napkin looked like cheap toilet paper. I'd have offered him some water, but I had no water to give and I didn't know where the sink and cups were to give him any. I figured he did - it was his office - so I asked him for some. He pointed me in the direction of the bathroom. I got up and found a stack of paper cups. I poured myself a cup and went back to the couch, but instead of leaning forward, I sat back, relaxed, and let the expensive leather couch take the weight I had been carrying away.

"So," the psych maintained cooly, "Would it be alright if we were able to discuss your sister?"

I lifted the paper cup over my head and the psych's eyes, after I poured the water over my hair, my face, and clothes, was a mixture of what my mom's eyes looked at the funeral, defeated, confused, and with a loss of faith and hope. My father's eyes had only held hate, anger and the need to lash out at someone, but the only someone that would have fit the bill would have been God.

"Sure," I answered, "Let's talk about my sister."

-

I finished drying myself in the car. The psych had let me keep the towel.
I leaned out the window to look at myself in the side mirror. I looked fine.
Presentable. Accountable. Like I had been through something where I had
Faced my soul. Like I had used and abused my emotions. There was comb in my glove compartment, so I took it out and rushed it through my damp hair. Slicked back. The sun
Was out, no clouds, burning up the inside of my car. That taste that comes after
Finishing something that's supposed to do you good didn't come. I was left with an unsure hand.
Putting my keys in the ignition, I turned them, and felt the engine rumble in front of my legs.
The sun sat in the sky like a lazy hand and I had nowhere else to go but home.

-

"Let's go to the river today," my dad said over coffee and two over easy eggs on top
Of burnt wheat toast. "I'll drive and you and your sister can sit in the back and sing."

I looked over at Ally. She was gazing into her fruit bowl she had prepared for
herself because dad didn't understand the concept or how to make it. The lamp light above us
reflected in the smooth apricot yogurt and the flecks of granola scattered on top
looked like beige, jagged rocks. My dad's offer hung in the air and neither
of us bit the lure. I had just woken up and was unable to speak clearly, a decent
excuse. Ally was simply choosing to ignore him.

"What you think there Ally?" I asked her. I sipped my coffee. It needed more cream. I got
U, got it and brought the carton to the table.

"We can take the truck down there and load the back with the fishing poles and tackle
And inner tubes. We haven't...done that...in a long time," he said, chewing his food as he spoke.

Ally poked her fruit bowl with her spoon, silent.

"What you think, Cam?" My dad was desperate. He knew I'd say yes.

"Sure. I've got no plans this weekend."

"No schoolwork?"

"It can wait till Sunday. Only math and some reading."

"Ally, what do you think?" my dad asked, leaning over to her. I could see he was
Trying to be as courteous and gentle with her as he knew how to. I felt bad for him.

"Sure," she muttered, "That sounds like fun." I could barely hear her, but somehow,
I could tell she sounded happy.

"Perfect," my dad smiled, "We'll pack the car up Friday,
Drive up Saturday morning early, camp one night, then get back Sunday afternoon." He
Took a long sip of his coffee and swished it around in his mouth, then dug
His fork into the dry toast and ran his small steak knife over the eggs. A silent pop came from
The egg and the light orange yolk spilled out. "Perfect," he repeated, "Just great."

Ally poked a grape from her fruit bowl and dipped it into the yogurt.
I took another sip of my coffee and looked up into the fan, spinning above us.
We were going to the river.

-

"Your sister turns five today," my mom told me, "And that means
I want you to be on your best behavior."

I nodded, unsure what the point of a birthday was. I had had one before, or at
least I thought I did, and all I remembered was that I got presents and the colorful balloons
and the cake we all ate with fire kind of floating and burning above it. Somewhere
in that moment I remember thinking that the cake was going to catch on fire, then they, everyone,
some that I knew and some people I had never seen before, yelled and shouted to
blow the fire out, so I quickly did, but not because it was for a wish, which I later found out it was supposed to be for, but because I truly thought the cake was going to catch fire and they wanted me to take care of it. At that point, I was unsure what it meant to be alive or why to celebrate it all.

"This is her day, Camden," my father told me, "So I want you to be happy for your sister."

"I am," I said. I was wearing my favorite white and blue striped t-shirt and
New shoes that my mom had bought me for the party.

"Sometimes you have to think of other people," my mother continued, "And today is one
of those days. I don't want any crying because you didn't get any presents or that none of your
friends are at the party. There are going to be a lot of Ally's friends there, but not many
of your's...do you understand?"

"Yes, Mom."

"Do you understand, Cam?" My father repeated. His skin was the color of a burnt
pancake and he smelt like stale sugar and sun tan lotion. He was in front of me and was
holding a thin magazine with a man in a boat holding up a fish on a line on the cover.  

"Yes, Dad," I said again. I was hungry. I wanted mac n' cheese, my favorite food.

I had been on the floor, laying on my stomach watching Ren and Stimpy. They were standing in front of the television and I remember trying to wish them out of the way. Behind them were two, large bay windows where three palm trees stood in a row like tropical soldiers. I could see there was no wind because the three of them stood still, as if posing for someone. Their leaves were bright green, a mixture of the neon green Jello I used to love to eat and the orange Jolly Rancher my dad would always have in a tiny tray in the middle of the dining table. My mother hated having them there because it always tempted Ally and I, but he never moved it until he moved out.

"Do you like your show?" my mom asked, turning to see what I was watching.

I nodded, absently. Ren was licking Stimpy's eye because he was complaining about having
an eyelash in there. Stimpy was completely still and smiling like he does - dumb and content.

"Interesting..." my mother trailed off. She walked to the kitchen behind the couch and
Opened up the pantry for something. "You hungry, Camden?"

"I'm starving," my dad said, "Let me go check on Ally in the bedroom. She should be up
from her nap."

I got up from my stomach and sat back on my legs, "Do we have mac n' cheese?" I asked.

"Let me check."

She reached up for the cabinet over the stove where I could never reach and
Opened it. I rose slightly up from where I was sitting to see if I could see the glorious dark blue and orange package, but wasn't able to see over couch. I hovered there, still like a humming bird.

"You're in luck," I heard her say, "We've got one box left."

"Yay!" I screamed and got up, running into the kitchen.

"But," she smiled, stopping me, "You'll have to share it with your sister."

"No! I don't want to! I always have to share."

"What did we just talk about Camden?" she said, lightly stamping her foot.

I tried to remember, but couldn't. I shrugged.

"You need to learn to share, Camden. You also need to listen better when your father and I are talking to you. You and your sister are going to know each other a very long time and I want you to learn how to share now, so you two can be happy in the future."

"The future," I asked, "What's that?"

She paused, then said, "It's a time," she paused again, "Ahead of us."

"Do we know where it is?"

"Not exactly," she sighed.

"What's it look like?"

"No one really knows. People can only imagine it."

"Is it very far away?"

She opened the top of the blue and orange mac n' cheese box and poured the dry macaroni into a large silver ***, lifted the faucet, and let it run inside for five or seven seconds. She placed the *** on an unlit burner and turned to look at me. Her eyes looked far away and right there with me.  

"Closer then you think," she said and turned the burner on.

-

I turned into the taco bell parking lot. There was something I was trying to remember that was in my trunk, but I couldn't recall the picture. A haze blew over the windshield that was a mix of heat and wind; I wished to be somewhere else, someone else, someplace else, but, there I was, sitting there underneath the sun, like everyone else. If I was able, I would have unlocked the door to my car and opened the door and walked out - but - there was something else lingering underneath my fingernails, something I couldn't name.

"Two tacos," I said into my hand, "And a water."

"Pull to the window," the voice buzzed over the muffled speaker.

"Yes," I said through my split fingers.

In front of me, over a patch of clean cut green grass and a yellow, red, and orange Taco Bell signature sign, was a fresh gas station with a willow tree *** near the front entrance. He had a sign that hung around his neck that read Juice Please - Very Thirsty. How I knew this was because I had seen it every time I had been asked to fill up my dad's car every other Sunday. I had never given the tree a dollar, yet, I felt that I owed him something. I tried to pull up to the window, but my clutch was grinding and a cloud slunk overhead. I was tired and only wanted to eat.

"That'll be a two twenty-five," the voice said through the thick, clear glass.

"Yes," I said to myself, digging into my wallet for three dollars.

I ****** the three onto the thick plastic platform. A quick sweeping plastic brush pushed the bills toward the asker, and the bills were gone. I had no food. I had nothing. My money was gone and all I had was a gurgling car in front of me and an empty front seat beside me. A pair of clouds waded by my front shield window. A shadow drew itself out in front of me like a **** model. A beep. Sudden and behind me. There was sound. I looked over my shoulder and a black  2013 Cadillac was sitting there, windshield tinted grey, the driver a shadow. I was unsure what to do...so I pulled forward six inches, hoping the offer would be enough. I wasn't in the best neighborhood.

The window to the left of me slid open. An arm erupted forward with a plastic bag,
"75 cents is your change."

The hand dropped three quarters next to the plastic bag. I grabbed the bag with the two tacos and three quarters and quickly wound up my window. The face in front of me was a dangerous blur: smiling, frowning, not caring either way what happened to me next. The hands had gobbled up the three dollars and I was happy to see it go. Who needed money? I tossed the plastic bag onto the passenger seat and sped off two blocks for my grandma's house. Salvation. The holy land. A place with free hot sauce and two dog's that were stolen without paper's. Eden.

-

"What are you learning right now?" I asked Ally.

She hesitated, then said, "Something to do with science." She paused," Lot's to do with rock's."

"Rocks?" I stammered, not remembering a time when I learned about rocks in school, "What kind of rocks?"

"I don't know," she grinned, looking up at me, "All kinds."

I laughed and kicked a stone into the river. The sun was out and reflected on the water like an unpolished diamond. We had grown up a quarter mile away, but still, it felt foreign to us.

"I like it. There's some things you could see that you would never think to read about it in books."

I had read plenty off books. Most, I took little from, but Ally, I could see, had taken plenty.

"What are you doing in school?" Ally asked me.

"What do you mean?" I
Edna Sweetlove Jan 2015
O how I recall with joy a visit to Jackson, proud capital of Mississippi,
The land of the fearless fatties, the glorious land of the uber-obese,
A paradise enjoying amazingly high blood pressure and diabetes rates,
Thanks to the greed and gluttony of its 'proud-to-be-portly' inhabitants.

How delightful to stroll along its leafy boulevards, admiring the advertising
For junk food shops: "Super-Size Your Deep Crust Giant Pizza for only $1!"
"Real Men love our Emperor Size Cheeseburgers, King Size is for Kids!"
And "Come Try Our All Day Giant Breakfast with Triple French Fries!"

How enchanting to see furniture stores offering discounted extra big sofas,
Builders and carpenters with their cut-price floor-strengthening deals,
Tailors' shops with their displays of buffet pants and elasticated jeans,
Realtors promoting houses with double porches and wide internal doors.

And, O the trailer parks, those truly splendid residential areas,
With their giant size immoveable vehicles with spacious entry portals
To allow the immaculately dressed residents to carry in an armful
Of multi-packs of chocolate iced crème flavour filling Krispy Kremes.

But most wondrous of all, the myriad rival Pentacostal Chapels
With their guaranteed reinforced concrete padded sofa-pews
And their portrayals of plump Jesuses to make the fatties feel at home.
And all those "funeral parlors" with their gaping super-wide caskets.

How I loved the blinking stares of the sleep-deprived bible students
As they staggered out of an architectural wonder of a chapel,
Bleary-eyed after an all-night bible study session, and all eager
For a healthy breakfast of a dozen flash-fried sugar encrusted "donuts".

I was there in this glorious world centre of ever-escalating obesity
With my latest gorgeous lady love (at only 140 pounds and five foot two,
possibly the slimmest woman in the entire Jackson Metropolitan Area)
And we decided to try some good ol' Mississippi fine dining as a treat.

Holey Moley! What a feasts on offer: pan-fried catfish, deep-fried catfish,
Steaks the size of an encyclopaedia and all accompanied by unlimited fries!
Sweet potato and pecan pie with butter, sugar, eggs and extra cream,
And Mississippi Mud Pie with its chocolate crust and sticky chocolate filling!

(The chef de cuisine in our upscale diner told us that Southern cooks
had created this wondrous dessert because its sophicated ingredients
were available cheaply and the recipe required only minimal culinary skill,
and what's more it came with a treble serving of supermarket ice cream!)

We declined the bottomless cup of watery coffee with compulsory sugar
And enquired if we might have a bottle of his finest wine. Quel faux-pas!
The dear fatso was mortified and told us his was a Christian establishment
And strong drink was frowned upon. Did we think he was a degenerate?

That night we lay bloated like beached whales in our tasteful motel room
(its bed reinforced with ferro-concrete to deal with the horrid possibility
that any gargantuan visitors might wish to copulate vigorously);
Oh how we burped and farted, longing for a dose of bicarbonate of soda.

All good things come to an end so, after a nessy session on the toilet
(we filled it thrice), we bade farewell to the desk clerk and sloped off.
"Be sure y'all come back real soon," he declared, patting his fat gut,
"Cuz you both sure do look two real skinny Limeys, ya hear me?."

As we drove out of this elegant city that steamy Southern summer morn
In our rented 4X4 super-strong chassis Land Rover, how we smiled
At the scene outside Walmart where the special offer of the day
Was five pounds of free candies with every single assault rifle sold.

But alas! And alack! Tragedy was not so very far away that day:
Some corpulent teenagers toppled off the sidewalk under my auto's wheels
In their indecent haste to take advantage of the latest McDonald's bargain:
A quart of complimentary Dr Pepper's with a whole oven-fried McTurkey.

Oy! What a horrid mess my fender made of their pudgy, mottled flesh
And how wise we were to speed off before the cops arrived
At least, we avoided being beaten us to a pulp for being leftist libtards
Come to laugh at the dear redneck ways south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
PoserPersona Jun 2018
Yes, it's seemingly a nonsensical rhetorical question, but, for that precise reason, it will illustrate a lesson, if you so desire to tag along for this short session.

Per Wikipedia, "The horse (Equus ferus caballus) is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus. It is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae." Hmmm... I much prefer that the horse goes "Nay," eats hay, has a mane, and is ridden by cowboys, cowgirls, Indians, equestrians, knights, jockeys, conquistadors, Mongols, and all. Even better, just point a horse out or otherwise show a picture to a kid and they will never be mistaken again. Even the littlest ones will never be stumped when faced with a rhino, tiger, giraffe, camel, and such.

Admittedly, there is a worry that we could be fooled with that of a donkey or mule. How come no one has taken advantage of this?! What a scam to get us rich! "Duh doy," you say, cause we all know when we see a horse, so why would anyone try to trick us with an ***?! Well I ask you in turn, why does anyone try to trick us with good art versus bad, let alone art versus crap? How could anyone fall for that?!
Ken Pepiton Dec 2018
Clarifying failed. Spelchek is not on strike.

{clear ification, an ionic bond be tween me and thee,
alienated mind, not mined, crafted
from tactics and strategies
beyond chess.
Player One,
1980's era
jewish-geek-mid-pubesence-kid-level,
proceed with caution.
This trope has trapped many a curious child.
---
Now, enter the old ones,
Grandfather taught uncle chess so well
he went to the state tournament in Kayenta,
and a grandma was
state-champ-bare-bow-in-the-rain-shooter,

these, now must learn

minecraft on x-box to be considered
for the real life role of

good at games grand parents
from the time right after atom bombs kicked up dust
places dust had not been in a very long time and
as the dust began to settle

some dust mights was cationic.
Negative bits, they became embedded in the code.
Bumps, fering, coming together
just a knot in a string,
attracting anionic curiosity might

round and round phorward ferring to be
a thread to tie my heart to yours

like twisted Pima cotton thread,
that I pulled from an old sweatshirt
to tie a crow feather in this paho of words filled with old jokes

Making this clear would belie the entire story AI and I know true}

truth is. we agree. no capsokehspaceasneededcommasetal.
caps okeh space as needed commas et al
go.
Did that work? That line

subject of this act fact done, agree to follow,
and I may lead and be

not you, me, dear reader, I mean first true

there is no any if nothing is. So simple some say its sublime beyond the spectrum of ones
and zeros thought on off probably

either or any time time can be accounted for

wouldn't you take a

thought,  nothing,
as it is commonly said to be understandable,

the state of not being, imagine that

the state of not being we negate in being,
unless you are mad and are lost in a whirlwind
such as such voices have been said to

have twisted into threads as
wicks for our lamps
turn floating on
golden oil twisting
wickered into wickering wee shadow fibers
on the western wall for legends to sprout from.

Wickering mare over there, expands us both by my hearing her
you had no idea she was near enough to hear
time is no barrier in actual ever.
What phor can contain me,
whispered my whimsy

Imagine she spoke,
what would she say for what reason
would she say

good good good, I feel good, ha,
I am right, by accident. ever body can feel this good.

good is good.
good is.
Sam Harris, agrees, good as far as good goes, is good
in every vecter from now

the terrain does exist, beyond the moral landscape, to

true true
trust me, I been there.
Been there done that was inserted into the vernacular on my watch,
first summer post war.

matter must not matter as much to me as it does to thee, nestypass? no se?

All jewish boys have chess move metaphors.
(a phor is for containing,
bearing
meta,
everybody knows, like metaphysics,
after physics in the stack of stackable metadata)

OHMYGOD THE IDW circa 2018 -- who knew I ate this **** up?

[the old code calls for excretion of digested material
from which meaning has been extracted in the idleword accounting processor:
literal
<pre>what if utterance=****, then **** haps, no else then</pre>]

Did that happen? One of my friends told me that happened in Florida, the whole world turned to ****... for lack of a nail a kingdom was lost, they say, little foxes spoil the grapes,
hung chad ex
cuses...

Pre-expandable ROM, not magic. tech,

pre-infinite imagination? impossible.
and nothing is what is impossible with good as god.

Is there no perfect game?
is the game the session or the life of the user
offline

rerererererererererereroxotoxin, poison pen
ideal viral umph exspelliered
up against the wall

reset. We

kunoon albania omerta oy vey, who could say?
one way better, one way not? quark.
up or down, with variable spins, who can say?

Life's right,
yes. but mo'ons of other something must have been for higgs to ever matter

and it does, I got commas, from 2018.

Are you with me? This is that book I told you I had access…

You or some mind other than mine owned mind, where
my owned peace rests in truth,

otherwise, I know every any or else in the code since I can recall,
in time

if this were a test I swore to take to prove to you
the we can be me in your head

phillipkdicktated clue

if you don't know me by now, maybe we should stop.

Temptations are times. Time things. Time spans, yeah, like bridges

or portals, right
The Internet in One Day, Fred Pryor Resources,
Wu'wuchim 1995.

Ever, not everish or everistic or every, but ever
body knows,
but you.

Catch up. We left all our doors blown off, once we learned that we could blow our own doors off,

there are no open sesames or slips of leth or sibylets

shiba yah you knew all along there was a
song she sang all one and we watched it morph
before our very eyes

alone.

The magic stories words may contain, may bear, we must agree

more than we may know, by faith, metagnostic as we see

the sublime gift of the magi
become clear und

be und sein sind both trueture same tu you, we agree.
But. Lock here, no pre 2018 editing codes

validate past last go.
Do one good thing today. That was my goal. Today https://anchor.fm/ken-pepiton Part 3 Soyal Hopi Mystery Enactment (called mystery plays). And the intro to Moral Landscape by Sam Harris, led me let ******* write a poem.
tonight we gather
to mark a
commencement day

four decades on
from a late June
afternoon

exchanging
embraces and
bon voyage wishes

departing a grand
chandeliered Rivoli
embarcadero

bound
to glorious
destinations

our bold sails
welling with
youthful
exuberance
in pursuit of
dreams
and intrepid
endeavors

our life
journeys
are blessed
with rich
abundance,
the grace of
challenge and
the gift of days

this evening
as we reconnect
to share the joys
and wisdom gleaned
from well lived lives
we will also celebrate
in multicolored splendor
the lives of classmates
who have commenced
journeys to other
destinations

though their
earthly sojourn
is complete
passed friends
remain alive
in our memory

surely the spirits
of the beloved
will walk this
room tonight

forever young
their quiet presence
will gently touch
tender hearts

they’ll appear
as they once looked
on their finest day

and as we relive
the bits of our lives
we shared with
one another

we may feel
the grasp of a
warm hand
as we once did
during that
snowy evening
west end walk

we’ll dance with them again
around Tamblyn Field bonfires
gyrating in a shared
ecstatic ebullience

we’ll applaud most likely
to succeed lives
most beautiful smiles
and crack up
to the hilarity of
class clown jokes

we’ll taste the kiss
of an after dark
Lincoln Park
rendezvous

groove to the
rock steady
beat of a
bad company tune  

we’ll submerge again
in a Yellow Submarine
to embark on an epic
Greenwich Village
journey

we’ll roll down
the shore on old
Thunder Road
windows open
hair blowin
radio blastin

we’ll taste the sweet sip
of Cherry Cokes
and Root Beer floats
at Roadrunners

chasing lost love salty tears
spilled over ***** upperclass home boys
and the soft blush sentiment of a
first French kiss

wouldn't it be nice
to swoon to the
fantasy and
winsome yearnings
of favorite
summer songs

filling our head’s
with mind
blowing collages
starring
team mates
drama club
second takes
heady chess club
checkmates

we’ll marvel at the disruption of
premillennial breakthrough science projects
created by pocket protected slide ruling
entrepreneurial math wizards

we'll recall droll gossip
by drab hall lockers
dim gym showers
awkward dances
Yippie people power

patriotic assemblies
cool sharp dressers
right on brother
Que Pasa lil sista

rock and roll album covers
Simon and Garfunkel poetics
Go Go Boots kickin
FM radio psychedelics

Midnight Confessions
emphatically blared
from the cafeteria jukebox
Civil Rights, Earth Day
and righteous
anti war activism

tribes of hoods, Ra’s,
jocks, artistes and tie dye hippies
everything is groovy
lets get a sandwich at Ernie’s

first carnal explorations
Moody Blue Tuesday trysts
man could she speak German
boy do I dig her dress

we did hard time together
at split session detention centers
ate chocolate chip cookies
cracked up to Mr. Thomas’s
Ides of March tragedy

took first tokes and
sips of Boones Farm
we partied hard
and did no harm

admired academic brainiacs
and the civic commitment
of student govie reps
shut down the gubmint
was never a threat 

basketball rumbles
Bulldog football
**** Ludwig soccer teams
nimble cheerleaders

leggy majorettes
kick *** marching band fanfares
compelling masquer presentments
Park Avenue wayfarers

they were
crew mates
on The Soul Boat
rode shotgun
to Midnight Rambler
Doobie Concerts

cruised hard in
the Root Hog
Rat Raced Louie
in tiny white Pintos

we booked
many a mile
with our lost
friends

on the road to
this evening

authoring
volumes of
fabled odysseys
and fantastic
recollections

their stories
are our stories
telling our stories
keeps them alive

some may say
gone too soon
but the measure of
a well lived life
is not counted
in days, nor
accomplishments

but how one has loved
and how much one was loved

quietly there
always with us
forever to be
a wholesome
part of us

as the brothers
from Cooley High
would say

lets tip a sip
for the brothers
and sisters who
ain’t here….

God bless
Godspeed
enjoy the evening
vaya con dios mis amigos

Music Selection:
Pat Metheny
Mas Alla


RHS 74
Class Reunion
Elks Club
Rutherford
11/29/14
jeffrey conyers Jan 2013
Yeah, you.
This day is going to be our day.
Yes, we.
We gonna jam until the morning comes.
Or until the cops knocks upon the door.

And when the lights goes down.
We're gonna be jammin' some more.

It's gonna be, a jam session of love.

With the Ohio Players playin' in the back ground.
I can't wait to see you get down.
With Earth, Wind and Fire followin' behind.
It's a clue for us to have some quiet time.

And any noise being made.
Don't worry.
We know the noise makers of the noise.

It might be mine.
It might be yours.

It's comin' from our jam session of love.

Listen to Kool and the Gang talkin' about Celebration.
Which we're doing without hestitation.
Listen to the Commodores singin' Just To Be Close To You.

As we enjoy the mood of one another.

We might throw in Chairmen of the Board in the end.
But then again.
It might be the Rolling Stones.

You'll never know.
When we're jammin' our way to love.

The music is just for easin' the situation.
For we aware of what we're doin' as the night passes

We're jammin'.
We're lovin'.
We're kissin'.
We're huggin'.
I chose a name for me
because I needed to be
someone else for a while
and now I'm here, so many
years later, entertaining
foolish notions that I might
go and just quit everything.

I fear now my time is up,
I might have to renounce
all that I did love,
All I've become,
All of the work;
All for nothing.

I can't quit
the session,
I spent years
to become who
I thought I am
or thought I was.

What is it?
An seisiún;
A concept as
uniquely Irish
as the craic itself.

Quitting the session
sounds like quitting
on life itself, to an
Irishman, I feel like
I've gone and quit
being who I am.

An seisiún, thy
time will come
again, when the
world need be rethought
in the lair of some
'auld sesh-gremlins
who've been out on it
for the glory of gremlin-hood;

The drink, the pills,
Bump o' K, couple a' trips,
Some speed, bitta coke, few benzos,
Loada **** and of course, lots of ***** ***.

I'm a fool. The session still
resides within me, it is just
sleeping
soundly.
'Cause I need it, so badly.

My name is Mydriasis Alethe
and for a moment there, I
entertained quitting the
sesh. Everyone has
their moments
of weakness
but not
everyone
understands.
thrcy Sep 2013
I'm in great depression
in life that is my main obsession
it holds me like I am their own possession
wants me to say "I'm fine" instead of my real emotion
keeps my feelings with succession
comes out of nowhere & attacks me with such aggression
only leads me to one direction
sadness, madness,  numbness, & no other kind of expression
I tried to say my confession
of how it goes through progression
at times it gives me an impression
that I'll be better soon, instead I am left with its *******
also tells my mind to have some session
speaks to me all about my imperfection
it gets scary in there with all the tension
saying I am some sort of infection
that needs to be a suspension
eternally telling me a suggestion
for all it wants to mention
is to end it all & leave everyone out with no some sort of connection
so it will leave me hanging with no protection
to vanish myself in front of a mirror & see my own reflection
of how I'm not such a great exception
and I'm not at all a perfection
Jessica Altieri Dec 2014
"Would it be entirely inappropriate of me to suggest a hangout session in which we go out for tea and some mostly-nonserious flirtation?", he asks, all of which is proceeded by more than two hours of silly, random banter involving eyeballs and pineapples in vacuums.

It seems being asked on a date has become so taboo, to the point that when it does happen, the natural reaction would be to say yes.

TBC...
Tanvi Bird Dec 2014
Progress

4:26 am. Got out of bed.

Feeling really low again. Envy at my sister's good fortune and new friends. She is getting ahead, she is in a good place- but we are not and I am definitely not. Everything in her life presently makes her happy except me. She never trusted me because I dated G. Now I don't trust her either. I don't want anything from her. I finished the story. She didn't edit. She hasn't offered me anything from her end. "Jotted down some notes" is all she said. She did that in college with all her professors, and got As. It isn't fair. See, she does things whenever she feels like it and IF. And she doesn't trust me? I stopped asking her to do anything. If she wants to she can. I did my part.

I don't know where my life is taking me. I am working ******* little ropes that come at my direction-- but I am not even sure if they are worthwhile endeavors and if they will turn into anything. I just know I have nothing else.

I consider contacting my ex, F. Why him? He's the only one messed up like me. L is married with a beautiful baby and that woman he left me for, G is probably already married by now to that other stunning girl. But F will always be alone.

He doesn't want me. Why should I contact him? I had told myself I won't contact him until I at least got a full time job. He's an Ivy League P.H.D scientist at Penn researching the brain, traveling, making intelligent beautiful friends, and doing triathlons successfully (of course the smart ones are successful at many things). However, he still has trouble finding the "one". He's ******* 37. No one is ever good enough for him. I wasn't good enough for him. *******. He's broken like me. No, he ignored me. I won't contact him. ******* can contact me if he wants to.

I realized I have no friends. None at all. I used to think I had so many friends. Mostly men that just follow me around for a while and then leave me when they realize they aint getting this *****.

There's K, but he's J's ex's friend- so our friendship is limited. There's my sis S, who I meet once every other month, but she doesn't always respond to messages (and I rarely text her anyway). There's Je- she and I meet twice a year and we don't really connect anyway. She has other best friends and I am not really in that circle.

Cas- she is academically successful(valedictorian) and has a job, but frankly she is a bit slow. Can't explain it. Plus she bailed at me about the apartment thing and strangely she doesn't like me to meet her other friends in intimate settings, she just likes meeting people one by one. Like she's met my friends and got some of their numbers, but for some reason has never provided me an opportunity to meet hers. Maybe she feels awkward introducing me since she and I met online? Since she's not philosophical or an intellectual, I don't understand the point of meeting more than once a month if it's just me and her. I like her, but she always seems high without actually being high. I feel like I have to go out of the to meet her, but she doesn't have any energy at all.

Ro- the verbally abusive drunk? Let's face it. It's a mutually beneficial- two lonely people who have no friendship compatibility uplift each other relationship- but he's actually of the the more interesting to talk to people . Then there is Chr who just flirts all the time and fights. I swear his ex wife drilled some holes into his brain. He's just rude. He acts nice, but he's ******* nuts inside. Then there are those occasional people that text you Happy New Year. When I was in a relationship, I was so consumed by it that not having friends didn't matter. I have no friends. I am completely alone. Always have been. In law school, in elementary school, in middle school- I was always the only one who sat alone.

I like sad music. I just listened to the Hollywood version of Les Miserables- one of my favorite all time literary pieces and the beautiful Selena Gomez' new single Heart Wants What it Wants. I love to hear singing melodically, softly, simply of their pain. Every single singer in that musical has a painful story. The innkeepers in their desperation, Javert, of course Fantine, Jean Valjean, and the most relatable Eponine. And the sound of the violin. And the harp.

5:13 am. Let's talk progress.

Today I finally had the trial tutoring session. It was Algebra 2. The girl who is my tutee, she is sweet and extremely hard working. As and Bs in Algebra 2 weren't enough for her. I prepared extensively. My own Algebra 2 teacher was terrible in high school. He flirted with the pretty girls and bragged about himself. I got As for nothing. We spent most of the semesters on the same one or two chapters. I've always wanted to good at everything, to redo and master everything. Maybe this is my chance to become good at everything I **** at.

I am teaching myself before I teach her. I am supposed to be proficient. I had to begin on a surface level pace today. She and her mother both seemed happy. I touched on all her first semester topics. Next week is the second trial session. I will learn more and teach her in depth. If all goes well, she will end up being my client and I will be assigned more tutees. If only I could make a full time job out of this- I totally would. Each session pays well. Of course, the first two sessions I give are complimentary. After that.

This is a gamble. If I don't get enough clients- I will still have to manage the ones I have, invest a lot of time into studying for assignments, and then still make enough money to qualify as full time- then I will be scrambling. I can't imagine possibly getting between 6-8 hours of tutoring every day, since most people get out of work after 5pm and I have to travel around for sessions. I hope it's possible. I would work very hard.

My plan is to ace this Algebra 2 tutee preparation. I have a week to make myself more of an expert.

I have to go to more networking events. Sign up for Asian Film Festival & World Affairs. Meet people. Get connected. Make friends.

Keep reading current events, legal issues, technological advancements, and foreign news.

Re-reading my previously written Step 1- Embodying Positively helped me by reminding me to trudge forward and remain strong and positive, for both my own sake and the sake of the people in the world.

6:02 am.

I am going to do a second 5k this December. My first one ever was last month. Second one in December will be progress. I've got to start practicing again.

I gave up sugar instead of meat for Advent. I felt it was much harder, but more rewarding. Today is my third day of the no sweets diet. I did have sweet iced tea and a pretzel with sweet cream cheese, but I will stop those too. I might allow myself to have just one iced tea a week- moderation is more effective than going cold turkey and messing up. This is a huge accomplishment as I am a sugar addict. I look pretty fit, except a little tummy that goes up and down and only noticed by closest family members and friends.

I need to be fit for my health, to be the best I can be, to be fit, for a future potential job in the FBI or PO.  I only get up once a night to *** now. Some nights I used to *** 6 times a day. Is that an indicator of future diabetes or what? Consuming a lot of sugar can lead to a lot of internal diseases including infertility and cancer. If I can give up sugar for one month, I may try to keep doing it. Wow.

6:27 am. Go to sleep, T. Good night moon. Good night stars. Good night Mercury. Good night everyone.

.........

12/16/2014

Went to an Asian Law Society event last week. Made a couple friends, excited to be a member and get involved. Also met a guy, hope he's Catholic so my parents will accept the relationship if I decide to go out with him. He's emotional, Korean American, and verbal- a Gemini. Interesting but probably just as crazy as me. I am looking forward to getting to know him.

Just finished my weekly career discussion group, this is my second week in attendance. I was about to give up on the group, but John one of the members, who is a runner (and I think out of work firefighter), reached out to help me by emailing my resume around to different people he knows. He's the reason I decided to keep coming until I find a job. We shall see what happens. I have a tendency to jump around to things and not see them to fruition, but I am working on developing strong skills.

Today, I am feeling grateful. I live in a generation in which globalization is both a positive and negative thing. However, today I feel positive despite all the problems. There are so many opportunities, and I just have to figure out to unlock the how.
Nik Krutilla Sep 2012
She sits across from me sipping and slurping her fat free french vanilla.
While I'm pacing myself with cappuccino imitation.

"All I'm saying is, that if he starts calling me baby, I might wanna keep him!"

She says it with that cajoling tone.
But I can notice the glimmer in her eyes that tells me she longs for that.
That sweet pet name that would mean she's special to him, in her mind...

I never could get comfortable around those things...pet names.
Cutesy little endearments reserved for a child's affection.

What is wrong with me?

She's vibrating with unmasked giddiness, glancing at her phone.
They've been dating for only months but she is lost in him.

Him.
With his once a week date nights
and clean shaven face
and joking interaction with her friends.  

She's full of soft embrace and warm affection and vulnerable interest.
Wanting never looked so form fitting on a person.
Like a cup waiting for a refill...

"If you want, I could see if his friend is up for dinner next week? You know it's been months for you..."

I hope she doesn't choke on her millionth slurp with the glare of indignation leveled at her cherub-like face.

"Ah thanks, but no thanks." races out of my mouth before I even hesitate to pretend to consider her obvious proposal.

How is it that easy to just offer companionship like that? Do I give off a "desperate for love" vibe?
And what the hell makes her think I can't find someone on my own **** time?


"Okay, okay. It's just...I hate seeing you alone. Don't you want to not be alone anymore?"

I know she loves me but those kind of questions from her caring heart, make me contemplate knocking her in the head.

My alone-ness she says.
My singular existence.

I'd laugh at her if I didn't know it would hurt her feelings.
To disregard her feeble attempts at pairing me up with whatever half-assed man candy she could sway my way.

I'm staring at the ring left from my coffee,
wondering if I should just give in this one time for her,
for me,
for the over used batteries at home.

"I'm not lonely you know. I just, haven't felt that connection yet."

Looking pitifully back at me she wonders aloud, "You're always waiting on that connection but have you ever felt it before? I mean, how do you know it's even real, that body, mind, spirit...magnet pull you believe so fiercely?"

It's the first time I've given her a genuine smile today as I tell her yes I have felt it before.
Briefly...
Bitter sweetly...

I just never got his last name.

It might have been years ago but I can still recall with clarity that electric tornado that seemed to have surrounded us.

We had only been gifted ten hours together but it left a mark on me for over fourteen years.
His face is definitely matured I imagine and his body shaped differently.
But I'll never mistake those sea green eyes, haloed by dusty blue cloud rings.  

The only boy who has ever made me want to get lost and never be found.

"Well...good luck with that. But until mystery man crashes back into your life, for god's sake live a little huh!"

She means well I'm sure but like an eager pup I just tsk at her goofily plastered expression and finish off the grainy remains of my only afternoon delight. She's in a hurry to make her "honey bunny" a homemade dinner anyway so it's not hard to cut things short on our weekly coffee shop vent session.

She's floating out the door before I even get my coat above my elbows but I can't feel offended.
Mulling over the uncomfortable idea of boring interaction with another stranger I decide to grab one more drink for the ride home.

Alone.

Oh, wonderful...now she's planted that seed.

Shaking it off, I order my vice and move benignly to wait and resolve to not think about anything related to that anymore either.

"Seems outrageous they charge so much for imitation don't you think?"

The question's asked to me but I pretend I can't hear it. A guy hitting on me today is not what I want to deal with.

And he seems to be standing right behind me
making goosebumps scatter across my neck.

He tries again, "So I guess you like buying bottom of the barrel cappuccino?"

This time I've gotten a little itchy from his voice and want him to just stop in his tracks.
So I turn to tell him where, in fact, he can go...

But I'm the one stopped short and a bit flabbergasted.

No way do things happen to me like this.

Those coincidental, lucky, fated things...

I almost wish I was a liar right now with the things I just spilled to my loyally, encouraging friend.
Because there is no way the universe would be this cruel.

Finally I exhale and word *****,

"They're the only place that taste just like the ones at my grandmas' house every summer when I was a girl. I waited a long time to find that connection again, even if it is just coffee..."

The smirking face and broad shoulders that greet me aren't the cause of my temporary delirium.
Not even the wild hair and black rimmed glasses.

It's the sea green, haloed dusty blue eyes centering all the rest that shallow my breaths

Of all the places.....

Like a falling satin sheet his face morphs into a query riddled expression.

I hear the barista call out a name and he reluctantly steps away, never taking his eyes off mine whispering,

"I'll...be right back. Don't move...please?"

I'm nodding like an awkward parrot and he turns to grab his imitation coffee.
The same kind I'm waiting on.
And I start smiling after a second.

Not because of the similar drink order, which could be anyone...

But because of something I haven't known until this moment for over fourteen years.
All thanks to fate, or destiny...
Or perhaps the oblivious barista.

His last name...


*© NDHK
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.
Tommy Jackson Oct 2015
I have to take a plane
Further out west. To Seattle, high city, mountain dressed.
I have to take a plane
Jam out the western peaks,
This southern guitar will reverberate the club's
Jam session 101.
E. Spruce street,
A cocked back string for me
Is going to be the Wests loaded gun.
Going away from this page for two week's going to be out in Seattle Washington for a jam show with me as an invited guest, not to mention to lead show a few well knowns, fleet foxes, band of horses, Hey Marseilles, as more unknown artists who are just starting to grow like me. Wife's going with me will be a long journey to northwestern united States.
sandra wyllie Aug 2019
After the session I’d go shopping. It was Black Friday
and all the sales were going on. I was exhausted
when I came home. So, I slipped into my blue night-gown
with the stars and slid my feet in my pink slippers. That’s when

the phone rang. He said he didn’t like how our session
had ended. OK, I said so let’s talk about it. But he said
he didn’t like talking on the phone. He said come in. So, I was gone –
in my star night-gown and slippers. Slipped into the cold,

dark night – drove the length in 10 minutes to reach
his gate. He was already waiting. He guided me into his office,
which was dimly lit – and smoky like someone just had
a cigarette. He pulled me in his arms – our eyes danced, as we

swayed to the music playing in our head. But all I could feel
was the heat of his breath on my neck, and the bulge in
his pants. He sat down in his rocking chair and pulled me on top
of him. The stars on my night-gown shined against

the dark room. All was still until he stuck his tongue in
my mouth like a drill. “Oh, God! I crossed a Boundary”
he exclaimed!  We rocked that chair out until we left a groove
on the floor. After that I kept coming back for more sessions –
things started progressing into *******
Talia May 2017
I had a tough therapy session, can you listen?
She said, "Talia, you can't live in the psych ward."
But what am i supposed to do when every time i drive my car i have to pull over because i can't see anything but car accidents?
I'd never cried in front of my psychologist until she said that suicidal thoughts might be something i have to live with.
She said, this is bpd.
I said thank you.
She said that if i continue to purge at the rate i am going my heart will stop before i turn 18.
I couldn't help but think that i hope it does.
Mya Jul 2018
We're all self-destructive at heart
This practice is an art
That we've perfected
While emotions are left neglected

Come now, come now
I guess I could see how
Such a past
Would stick and last
But it's not healthy to dwell
Inside this hell
You trap yourself in


Maybe you're right but people are people
And no amount of praying under a steeple
Will save a soul
Or help wanderers know
How to thrive
Or keep tender moments alive
We'll destroy what we can't control
Just to fill a hole
And I'm afraid I'm joining the herd
JM Romig Apr 2010
They sat across the table from one another. One girl staring at her notebook. The other’s eyes fixed on her classmate. On the broadside of the table sat a dark haired woman, the only smiling face in the room. The shy girl’s crimson hair hung out from under her hooded sweatshirt as she sketched axes on the front of her notebook. The other girl’s golden locks hung in curls around her face. Her beauty was undeniable, as was the disdain in her eyes.
“So, can one of you two describe to me what happened today on that stairwell?” asked Mrs. White, the guidance counselor at Jacob Grimm High. Despite the gossip floating around the school about her, a smile was always plastered on her face. Most of the children found this unbearably creepy. “Nothing ma’am. We were just having a friendly conversation, when that pig came along and insisted, very forcefully, that we come here,” the blonde said, sarcastically, her eyes never letting go of their gaze on the other girl.
Mrs. White chuckled “That’s not how it happened, Goldie. C’mon, tell us your side of things.” Goldie rolled her eyes. “Well, Mrs. White, it’s like this: my bio class was just letting out, and I was heading down to calculus. She comes flying UP the DOWN stairs, like a maniac, slamming into my shoulder. I hit her, she hit me back. Now we’re here.”
“Is that true, Ms. Ridinghood?” asked Mrs. White, turning her head to the other girl.
“Not entirely,” she answered, finally joining the conversation. “Ms. Princess here was going up those stairs before I even got to them. To be honest, I was zoned out, just following the sheep. I’m not having the best day, so a friend gave me something to take the edge off this morning. I was following her up the down stairs, apparently and she turned around and started coming at me, shoving my shoulder as she walked past, then got offended – like I did something wrong – and hit me. So I punched her back. We wrestled for a minute before the rent-a-cop came and broke it up.”
“Hmm.” Mrs. White turned to Goldie, who was looking down the floor. “Goldie, why were you going back up the stairs?” ,
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“So you did go back up the stairs and come down a second time?”
“It was actually my third time,” Goldie admitted, embarrassed. “The first time I went too fast, the second time I went too slow. That time would have been just right. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder . Go ahead, laugh it up.”
“No one’s laughing,” Mrs. White assured her. Although Red was a little, until Mrs. White turned to her. “Can you tell me why it is you needed to be ‘zoned out’ today?”
“None of your business, that’s why,” Red snapped.
“I have read your file, I know what day it is.”
“Then why did you have to bring it up?” Red was now agitated.
“For Goldie to hear. So you can better understand one another.”
“*******! What kind of understanding am I to get from this preppy ***** with a silver spoon up her ***? I’ve spit puddles deeper than her!” The two girls rose up, over the table. Mrs. White was able to get in between them.
“Now, both of you need to just calm down and talk this out like civil adults. Keep in mind, this is your only alternative to expulsion. “
Once everyone regained themselves, Red spoke again, this time directly to Goldie.
“Six years ago, today, my grandmother was murdered.” Goldie began to see Red with new eyes. “Remember The Wolf
“That guy who went around vandalizing houses?” ?”
“Yeah. He was hiding out in the woods. I was going to visit my grandma, who lived out that way. I saw him. He’d shaved so I hadn’t recognized him from the news. I told him I was going to my grandma’s place, dumb idea—I know. He suggested a different route, said it’d be shorter. By the time I got there, grams was gone. He was in her bed, dressed like her, waiting for me. His eyes…were so…big. If it wasn’t for Larry, a woodsman working nearby, I would be dead too.”
“I heard about that! That was you? Wow…I’m sorry. ” Goldie shook her head in amazement, then added, “Didn’t the woodsman chop off his head?”
“No. He shot him. Larry carries a gun when he’s working in that forest, because of all the dangerous things that happen there.”
“No doubt, that place is freaky. I got lost in it once, when I was six. I ended up at this cabin. I thought it was abandoned. Imagine my surprise when the family came home. I was sleeping in the kid’s bed, and I’d eaten their food too. I think I even broke something.”
“How’d that play out?”
“I did some time in juvy for property damage and theft.”
“Wow…that’s so messed up. At least you learned your lesson, right?”
“Oddly enough, no. When I turned eleven I started breaking into people’s houses. I mean, I didn’t take anything, just slept in their beds, or watched TV. I never got caught again.” Goldie sounded mildly disappointed.
“You know,” Red interjected “we are a couple of freaks, aren’t we?”
“Yeah. Hey…where did Mrs. White go?” Goldie said, finally realizing that Mrs. White had made an escape somewhere in the midst of their discussion.
“I don’t know.”
“Oh well…did you hear she has seven midgets living with her?”
“That’s just a rumor,” Red said.
On that note, the bell rang, and the two girls left the room giggling like old friends.
This short story originally appeared in Issue 1 of the now defunct "The Platypus : Kent State Ashtabula's Journal of The Arts"

Copyright © 2011 J.M. Romig. All rights reserved
eph you see kay etouffee if you see Kay tell her a catawampus catahoula hound hog dog crossed bayou levee last night all right what did you say if you see Kay tell her a catawampus catahoula hog dog crossed the levee last night all right i heard what you said the first time why you got to repeat eph you see kay you ******* ****** **** what? what did you say you ******* ****** **** heard you the first time you **** a **** a ***** a ***** hello stop end begin believe conceive create no thank you i already ate what? what did you say begin believe conceive create no thank you i already ate quit ******* repeating yourself  you ******* ******* hello stop end begin believe conceive create eph you see kay etouffee if you see Kay tell her a catawampus catahoula hog dog crossed the levee last night all right

the renown physicist dressed in brown wool suit brown leather laced shoes white shirt burgundy knitted tie wild curly graying hair climbed the stairs walked across the stage stood at the lectern adjusted narrow support pole height reached down into brown leather briefcase retrieved his thesis concerning the relative theory of everything tapped microphone composed his posture made a guttural sound clearing his throat looked out at packed full auditorium it became evident to the distinguished audience the renown physicist’s fly was open and his ***** hanging out it was unanimously dismissed as a case of professorial absent-mindedness

all the creatures of the earth (excluding humans) convened for an emergency session the bigger creatures talked first grizzly bears stood upright explaining demand for gallbladders bile paws make us more valuable dead than alive sharks testified Asian fisherman cut off our fins for soup then throw us back into the sea to die elephants thumping heavy feet stepped forward yeah poachers **** us for our tusks rhinos concurred yes they **** us for our horns wild Mustang horses neighed about violent round-ups then slaughtered processed for cat food whales complained of going deaf from submarine sonar tests then sold for meat many dolphins sea turtles tuna swordfish sea bass smaller fish swam forward pleading about getting caught in long line nets barbed baited hooks over-fished colonies chimpanzees described nightmares of being stolen from their mom’s when they are very young then used in research labs for horrible tests song birds chirped about loss of their habitats land tortoises spoke in gentle voices about being wiped out for housing developments saguaro cactuses dropped their arms in discouragement masses of penguins solemnly marched in suicidal unison to edge of melting icebergs polar bears and seals wept honey bees buzzed colony collapse disorder bats flapped about white nose syndrome coyotes and wolves howled lonesome prairie laments the session grew gloomy with heart-wrenching unbearable sadness sobbing crying then a black mutt dog spoke up my greyhound brothers and sisters and all my family of creatures i sympathize with your hurt but it is important to realize there are people who care love us want to protect us not all humans are ravenous carnivores or heartless profiteers a calico cat crept alongside black dog and rubbed her head against his chest an old gray mare admitted her love for a race horse jockey who died years ago a bluebird sang a song suddenly lots more creatures advanced with stories of human kindness Captain Paul Watson Madeleine Pickens Jane Goodall a redwood tree named Luna testified about Julia Butterfly Hill the winds clouds sky discussed concerns by Al Gore lots and lots of other names were mentioned and the whole tone of the meeting changed every one agreed they needed to wait and see what the next generation of people would do whether humans would acknowledge the cruelties threats of extinction and learn grow figure out ways to sustain mother earth father sky then the meeting let out just as the sun was rising on a new day

there is a cemetery in Paris named Père Lachaise buried there are the remains of Jim Morrison Oscar Wilde Richard Wright Karl Appel Guillaume Apollinaire Honoré de Balzac Sarah Bernhardt the empty urn of Maria Callas Frédéric Chopin Colette Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot Nancy Clara Cunard Honoré Daumier Jacques-Louis David Eugène Delacroix Isadora Duncan Paul Éluard Max Ernst Suzanne Flon Loie Fuller Théodore Géricault Yvette Guilbert Jean Ingres Clarence Laughlin Pierre Levegh Jean-François Lyotard Marcel Marceau Amedeo Modigliani Molière Yves Montand Pascale Ogier Christine Pascal Édith Piaf Marcel Proust Georges Seurat Simone Signoret Gertrude Stein Louis Visconti Maria Countess Walewska and many other extraordinary souls it is rumored at late dusk their ghosts climb from graves gather drink fine brandy from costly crystal glasses smoke fragrant cigars and once a year on November 2 party hard all night culminating in deliriously promiscuous ****** **** it’s difficult to know what the truth is since the dead don’t talk or do they
Shari Forman Mar 2013
A sound better and livelier as ever startled me. Baffled and unaware of my surroundings, my eyes slowly opened, viewing my irresistible grandmother’s hand gently touching my cheek. Listening carefully, I noticed a beautiful sound coming from her voice. The warm-hearted, lovable lady warmly smiled down at me as my smile formed into the shape of a crescendo, getting larger and wider, finally to a laugh of pure joy. I knew one thing was certain to be true; I fell in love with the intriguing sounds bit by bit.
I awoke to the sight of my father playing his guitar at a medium volume. The sound of the instrument inspired me and motivated me to follow him. I lie in my crib listening intently to the various sounds coming from the guitar. It was almost morning, yet I thought it was later in the morning because my light was on its maximum strength. I watched his fingers move very quickly on the guitar, yet the sounds were beautiful.
“Good morning my love,” said my father smiling at me. “Did you have a good sleep, my love?” he said.
“Pno,” I said on my very own.
“What did you say my love?” said my father startled and impressed that I had just muttered my first word at age one. His smile was soothing in my opinion. His eyes became lively and big with complete shock and joy.
“Po neo.”
“Piano!” said my father ecstatic at the moment.
Considering music was his dream, he wanted me to take part in the wonderful career as well. He set his guitar down against my light blue-colored wall. Then my father went to my small rocking chair and sat down. He put his face in the palm of his hands. I thought he was crying and intimidated by me, but then I realized he was very proud of me and believed I would go far in life. He stood up and picked me up gently and set me down on a chair next to my piano. He smiled and embraced me with affection. I knew my father’s name by heart but I couldn’t manage to say it. It was William. He started playing simple notes on the keys with his thick, masculine hands. He played six notes, all with important meaning and full-care. He motioned for me to take part playing as well.
“No, no. You’ve done it all wrong my love. You must listen with ease and act how you feel,” said my father with concern.
I started weeping large sobs as my father talks in a loud tone with disapproval.
“What, my dear?” says William concerned.
I pressed a key on the piano and roar with laughter.
“You’ve got it my love,” said my father in a soft, mellow tone.
I then take again to the keyboard, this time with full confidence playing again. My father then sang a song while playing the piano. I didn’t know the name of the song, but he told me it was a song he had written after. That inspired me to write my own songs and play the piano and possibly the guitar.
“This is the world, I hail from.  The sorrows and pity we might feel for each other. But arised a God who’s mighty strong. Who turns our sorrows into pride and joy, and this is where I am hail from,” sang my father very emotional.
“You’ll go far my love, I promise you. One day music will save you...” said my father.
…28 years later those words stuck with me…
I was off to work going about my usual day. I was thirty one now and living with my girlfriend in our apartment. I still lived in my hometown, California. Whenever I thought of my hometown, the song “Hometown California,” came to me automatically. I’d just start singing. I wouldn’t consider myself an excellent singer, but that was just a hobby of mine. I was phenomenal at playing the piano and very good at playing the guitar in the eyes of many people.
…When the weekend finally came, I found the time on Saturday morning to fit a tennis match in with one of my good friends, Troy.  As we rally back and forth, something caught me by surprise. A grey-haired man about twice my age had an awkward looking smile that lit up his whole face. I was baffled at the bizarre stranger. He came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder.  I looked at him.
“Hello young fellow. My name is Harry Hayfold and I was wondering if you would like to train with me to become a professional tennis player.” said the man.
‘No thanks man, I’m just playing a match with my friend. Thanks anyways.” I said and I went back to rallying.
“Young fellow, please. You’ve great skill as I see,” said the older guy eager to say something more.
“I don’t think I want to train for hours for a chance at becoming a pro- tennis player. Thanks for the compliment though,” I said a little annoyed.
“It would be your loss sir.” said the man.
I just continued rallying with my friend. My friend looked baffled as well and felt bad for the guy. I didn’t care if he was still standing there; I just wanted to play. When we were finished rallying, we started a match. As I throw the ball up to serve, he shouts something right next to me.
“Would you please just listen to what I have to say?!” said the man angry.
“Oh, my god; could you leave us alone now?  I’m not doing the training classes; I have a job. I work in a music store, okay!” I said very annoyed.
My friend came over to my side of the tennis court and asked what the problem was to the man.
“I can’t stand people like you. You’re a liar and a creep.” said John.
“Which music store do you work at?” asked the man.
“It’s called Music Academy. Can you leave us alone now?” I said perturbed.
“I’m very sorry to have bothered you.” said the man.
“Yeah,” I said without any enthusiasm.
“No wait, he’ll be honored to do the classes with you sir. He needs money anyway,” said John’s friend Troy.
“What are you doing?!” I said to my friend with fury. “I will be fine financially once I get signed professionally which will happen troy. It will definitely happen. This guy… He’s out of his mind,” I said confident.
“What did you say your name was?” said the man.
“John.” I said.
“Excellent Johnathon.”“Meet me here on these same tennis courts tomorrow morning at eight o’clock. Don’t be late.” said Harry.
I smashed my racket as hard as I could on the ground with full force, releasing all of my stress and anger out on the court.
“Alright John,” said Troy with pity on him. We’ll hang out again soon.” He said and left.
“Crapola!”  I yelled in mid-air after everyone left.
The next day I don’t even consider going to the psychotic man’s tennis class. Instead, I make my way to work early.
As I’m exiting my shift at night, I noticed someone standing behind a wall. And there it was… I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Oh, no,” I whispered to myself.
“Hello Jonathon. You’re session was at eight am this morning. Have you forgotten?” he said concerned.
“Listen, I don’t think this whole business with the excessive training classes to make me into what I will never become and putting my job in jeopardy of getting fired, is going to work out,” I said with a smile.
“I’ve watched you work in the store John,” said the man concerned.
“Oh jeez, now I’ve got a personal stalker. This is gonna be interesting.” I whispered.
“How much do you make a week? I’ve come to sought you don’t look happy working there and want to become into a real musician.” said Harry.
I was just about to completely lose my mind when I took a deep breath and bit my tongue to avoid making a scene. My face turned so red.
“Once I get a record deal with the piano, then things will be even better for me. But as of now, I’m very happy, just not super happy. And you know what else, I’m so happy I began music because I couldn’t get much happier. Oh, the glory of being a musician would make me so happy. And you barging randomly into my life and ******* up everything… well I couldn’t get much happier!” I managed to scream at the end of my statement.
“Come with me John. Please let me help you find a way to forget that you’re not a musician.” said the man.
“My father was my inspiration. He’s dead now, yet I’m following in his footsteps because I want to.” I said.
“I see… I’m very sorry for your loss John,” said Harry with a fake sad expression on his face.
This man was driving me up the wall by now. I had had it with his monkey business.
There was a long pause…
“So tomorrow at eight?” I said completely unsatisfied, yet willing to experiment with what he had in mind to teach me.
“Yes, oh yes that would be just perfect John,” said Harry ecstatic.
We both started walking to our homes. He had walked rather quickly for an older guy, and me, slowly like I’d just had a pancreas failure.
When I arrived at my apartment, my girlfriend wasn’t there.
“Jenny, I’m home”… “Jenny, you there?” I said baffled at the silence. “Jennyyyyy”, I said playfully. Jennifer… Is dinner set toniiiight?” I said as I smiled at my own humor.
All of a sudden, the phone rang, which startled me and made me uninterested at this point to answer. I answered the phone anyway.
“Hello?” I said.
“Hello, this is a patient of Jennifer; is Jenny there?”
“No she isn’t at the moment,” I said unsure of my answer.
“Ok, thank you,” she said and hung up.
“You’re welcome,” I said sarcastically after she already hung up.
I walked into our bedroom to take my work clothes off and put pajamas on. The door was closed which got me a little concerned and angry. I walked in the bedroom and turned on the light.
“What the hell is going on here?! Get off my girlfriend you crazy *******!” I yelled.
“No John, please stop. He’s my fiancé John,” said Jenny annoyed with me.
“What are you talking about Jennifer?” I said raging with anger.
“Listen john, I’m sorry. Things weren’t working out between us recently and things just clicked between… well Steve and I.” she said.
“ I can’t believe what I am seeing right now,” said john through tears of disappointment and anger.
“Things weren’t working out between us John_”
“Yeah, I think you mentioned that already.” said John crying hysterically.
“Well don’t be sorry. Be sorry at yourself because I did nothing but treat you nicely. What happened to us Jenny? We were so in love with each other. I can’t believe what I am seeing.” I said.
My girlfriend my starting to cry now and as she began to speak I walked out stomping on the floor and slammed the front door as I exited my apartment.
“The next morning John arrived at the tennis courts that he visited two days ago with his friend.
“I’m here; let’s start playing tennis,” I said calmly.
“Wait, wait. I have not yet explained the concepts.” said Harry.
“Yeah, yeah, concepts. I know,” I said annoyed.
I picked up a tennis ball and hit it over the fence as hard as I could.
“Excellent work there John,” said Harry sarcastically.
“That was just a warm up professor. Now here comes glory,” I said about to ****** someone.
I slam my pre-broken racket on the floor so hard that it cracked in half. The man was outraged at the horrifying scene.
“I missed work this morning for this crapola?!” I yelled.
John, you’re crazy right now. Sit down and relax!” said Harry firmly.
“Music is all I want and you’re taking that away from me.” I said
“I apologize sir; I don’t think I want to do this anymore.” I said.
“Anymore? You haven’t even started playing yet,” said Harry with a little chuckle.
“Ok, fine; I’ll play.” I said. “I don’t have a racket now.” I said ashamed and guilty.
“That’s not my problem.” said Harry. “If you no longer have a racket, I will let you have my spare racket if you practice drills catching the ball precisely with only your hands.”
“Ha, you’re kidding right? That was a good one Harry; very good.” I said.
I tap him on the shoulder.
“See you tomorrow.” I said.
“Will you stop acting arrogant and negative for once John! I was serious about the hand drill.” said Harry.
“Ok then.” I said.
Harry got on the side opposite from my side. He took a bunch of ***** and out them in his pockets.
“Now John…I want you to catch the ball wherever I throw it okay?” said Harry.
“Yeah, I’m ready.” I said.
He fed the ball over the net and John caught the ball wherever he threw it. When he was getting exhausted from the number of ***** being fed to him, he took the ball and smashed it on the ground.
“What in heaven’s name has come over you?” asked the man terrified.
“Nothing, except the fact that my girlfriend is now getting married with her new fiancé and was having an affair in my bedroom. That is it ladies and gentleman, the show is now over,” I said sarcastically.
“Oh, haha…hahahahahahaahahaa.” Harry chuckled.
Harry burst out laughing.
“John, John, I’m sorry. The way you said it made me laugh, that’s all.” said Harry.
I run up to the old man about ready to **** him (not literally) when he started coughing. He fell down to his knees holding his chest.
“John,” he whispered trying to grasp more oxygen.
“What happened Harry? Are you alright?” I asked nervously panicking.
I ran off the court to get my cell phone in my tennis bag on one of the park benches and called an ambulance. I then run back to Harry.
“I’m calling an ambulance for you Harry. It’ll be okay,” I said about to cry from the sight of what just happened.
When the ambulance came, he was put on a stretcher by several paramedics and taken to the nearest hospital. I don’t bother calling my ex-girlfriend, knowing I was through with her insecure ways and immaturity level. I drove to the hospital following the ambulance as I drove. I arrived at the hospital minutes after him and sat in the waiting room for over two hours with his son who was about my age, if not older. The doctor came out looking down with tears in his eyes. He ripped off his glasses and fell to his knees. He stood up…
“I’m very sorry. There was nothing more I could precede on doing,” said the doctor.
The doctor walked away looking very upset and disappointed in himself and what happened. I turned to his son and saw such shock and disappointment in him.
“He was a very mysterious, outgoing person and a great father,” said his son through tears.
I nodded my head and smiled.
“My father tried to teach you basic steps of becoming a tennis player, but it wasn’t for a career. Trust me. He wanted you to learn something new. That’s all. He can be difficult at times, I know, but he is a very courageous man and loves helping others,” said his son smiling at me.
I was shocked. I was living an okay life with music. But now I realized that this man inspired me to follow chase after what you want. He taught me that things may be challenging in life, but you can overcome them if you work hard and love what you do in life. Even through financial problems, I realized that you can still achieve your dreams and it is never too late to start a record deal. His son left the hospital before me without mentioning what his name was. I believed the Harry and his family were a mystery, but a good mystery. I showed up to the music store the next morning and the manager of the store had exhilarating news for me. I had gotten signed by a famous musician! This was the best day of my whole entire life and I could not have asked for anything more in life.
“Signed by Buddy Clark, I present to you your record deal. Sign this and you have a chance to work with this talented man for a chance at achieving your dream John. Well done, we’re all very proud of you,” said the manager of the store.
All of the workers in the store started cheering me on and applauding my superb work and efforts. I was now in tears of pure joy and I felt worth something major for the first time.
“Thanks a lot Jason,” I said to the manager of the store. “This is a gift; it means the world to me,” I said as I gave him a hug.
I realized life is not all about tennis or music. It’s the important things in music that make you feel out of this world amazed. People may have a strong opinion about something they love, but never take a person for granitite.
John Stevens Oct 2014
I was asked to talk on hope so… This was presented March 12, 2009 for a  “Celebrate Recovery” session.

===================================================

My­ daughter asked me where I was going this evening. I said I was going to “Celebrate Recover” meeting to give a talk on HOPE.  She asked, “what are you recovering from dad?’  I told her” My name is John and I am a recovering parent.”  She was rather amused.

Hope. When all is going well and the world seems to be heading your direction… you maybe don’t need hope or think about hope very much. If you do it might be rather superficial as in “I hope I get to work on time”. Personally, right now, “I hope I can get through this talk on hope.”

When life puts you through a trial by fire and all seems hopeless in the eyes of man, when all is burned away such as pride, selfishness, lust, ( insert your favorite hang up here)… all that is left is hope and faith. For me pride evaporated. I had and still have a bumper sticker which says “Proud parent of an O’Leary Junior high student.” The bumper sticker has faded into near nothingness now but it is a reminder of what was left for me. Hope and faith were still standing tall. Pride faded into the past and hope refreshes the vision of the future.

Hopes in our past are probably gone or maybe faded like the bumper sticker. We must look for new hope from Jesus’ words and His life. We must base our hope on Him, live in Him, trust in Him and never give up.

Most of my life, I have been the type who could fix things. Then the reality that my youngest daughter was broken and I could not fix her nearly shattered my life. As hard as we may try we can not live the life of someone else for them. Alcohol and drugs had apparently triggered bi-polar tendencies and she went from a straight A student to a total failure in a matter of months. It was very difficult to understand or even accept that this was happening to our family. For some time the guilt factor was rather great. Where did we go wrong? Why is this happening to OUR family?

The next two years spun totally out of control. Counseling and therapy seemed to make the situation worse. I remember saying in one session, “I feel as if she is on the other side of a glass wall. There is a door in the wall but there is no handle on my side to open it. As I pound on the door, she is bleeding to death and she will not or can not open the door and let me in to help her.” I felt helpless and there was little hope. Life as we knew it was slipping away and it would never be the same again.

Skip forward to May 6, 2003. At work, I received a call from a credit card company and they ask, “did you make such and such purchases? No.” They put a stop on all activity on the card. I went home and found my card in my daughter’s room. I told her to get dressed we are going to take a ride. She got some clothes on and we went down to the Sheriff’s office. A couple hours went by as we sat on a bench and waited. Our hearts sank as we watched her taken out of the sheriff’s office in chains to juvenile detention.  

This was the turning point of hope. It was going to be a promise of new hope or a train wreck. It all depended on the decisions she would make in changing her life style. There was a light at the end of the tunnel and I hoped it was not an oncoming train. After 20 days of detention and another 30 days house detention, we made a trip to the Walker Center where she would spend the next 30 days. It was not an easy 30 days and there were some very tense moments. About 3 weeks into the 30 days, there were three intense days of family sessions. On the second day of the family sessions at the Walker Center, we were on our way home and for the next two hours, I felt compelled to write this piece. I could not stop writing. It just flowed out of the pen from the interaction with parents and our children.

“My Name is __.
I am a Dopeless Hope Addict.”
© (7-25-03) John L. Stevens

Life seemed to ****.
The pain seemed so real.
The drugs seemed so easy
To change what I did feel.

At first it seemed to help
To cover up the pain.
But the ******* sound I heard
Was my life, down the drain.

The hole I found myself in
Got deeper by the day.
Hope seemed to fade from me
That help was on the way.

The help I sought and found
Was the “friends” who got me here.
Those who had the ***, the ****,
The drugs and the beer.

The family I once had loved,
Seemed distant from me now.
My love had turned to hate
By the love of drugs somehow.

The hole caved in on me
From a distance I could hear.
“We loved her, Oh so very much”
“We failed her. Somehow my Dear.”

They pulled me from the darkest hole
I, myself, had dug.
And took me into their arms
To rescue me from drug.

The days turned into many weeks.
My head began to clear,
To see the ones who really love me.
My hate was not so near.

A cloud of doubt and guilt rained down
For the things I had done.
Soon love returned to fill my heart
Where once the drugs had won.

Forgiveness came from those who loved,
To me, for the many years.
For the pain and sorrow I had caused
To them, through many tears.

A group of families gathered ’round
With love so great for me.
I soon discovered through the tears
Their abundant love was free.

I felt the love of those who care.
I learned to love again.
To care once more for what I’d lost.
To trust and live within.

When temptation comes to my door
To offer me a high.
Let Love instead answer the knock
And with Serenity say – goodbye!
——————————————-

This story has not ended. It will continue for a life time. Life is about choices we make on a daily basis. It dictates what we will possibly do tomorrow based on what we do today. Life is built on choices. The end of the story will be written when we meet the One who loves us unconditionally. The One who died on the Cross for us.

Love triumphs over adversity when God is in it. In the vernacular of Lola of “Charley and Lola “Never, never, never, ever give up” must be the words to live by. Progress is made even when there are two steps forward and one step back. Thank God for the progress. Hope lives on in the hearts of those who trust Him.
======================================================

A strange feeling set in during the time she was in detention and a ward of the court. We could sleep at night. We knew she was in a safe place and not running in the drug culture. It meant we would not get a call in the middle of the night to identify her body. It was the first time in a long time we could breathe.

On Father’s Day that year, my daughter wrote me a two page letter, a beautiful letter saying she understood why we did what we did. I treasure this letter. Tough love does not get any tougher. It was very tough on us. Most every night the last few years when I go to bed and she is awake, I hear this little voice as I pass her bed room, “Goodnight Daddy, I love you.” “I love you too, Sweetheart.” It melts my heart every time.

As I lay my head on the pillow my thoughts most every night are, “thank you Father for this day. Thank you for my daughter, thank you for letting us be her parents.” And with that, all is well in the world.


Faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love. Without love there would in all likelihood not be very much faith and hope hanging around. God’s love for us is so great, how can we not give our love to our children and each other, unconditionally, as an extension of His love for us? The story of the prodigal son was ever on my mind. A story of never ending love and hope on the part of the Father.

My hope is in the eternal Jesus who has promised to never leave me or forsake me.

I can not imagine living my life without hope. I can not imagine living without the love of God.

Spring of 2002 unraveled for a friend of mine. His wife got sick, his mother came out to help them and she had heart failure and died in the hospital one floor below where his wife was located. A month later his wife died, he lost his job, a vertebrae in his neck deteriorated, his insurance evaporated. It was Job all over again. We spent many hours of many days trying to make sense of his situation. It seemed pointless. Absolutely hopeless. I can remember a cold fear pouring over me. There was nothing I could do to help him.

I wrote a piece called “Hope for Tomorrow” a couple months later that reflected his loss and my loss when my mother died 1991. Writing is therapy for me. Writing puts on paper a reminder of where I am at that time. The words of this piece points to the loss of a loved one but the thoughts can translate to any loss.

Hope for Tomorrow
© July 2002 John L. Stevens

My heart was so heavy
With sadness and sorrow.
The day was so dark
I could not see tomorrow.
Hope seemed so dim
Through the tears that I cried.
I could not see You Lord
The day that she died.

I remembered Your promise
To be by my side.
For always You’re with me
In You I abide.
In the midst of the darkness
Your hand touched my soul.
You drew me so close
And made me whole.

There are times that I cry
Alone with just me.
When the silence comes crashing
Like a storm-troubled sea.
There are times that I laugh now
When I remember the years.
That we shared together
Through the good times and tears.

The peace oh Lord
The memories You bring.
Fills my life with hope
Make my heart strings sing.
Draw me close to Your side
And lead me gently on.
Give me hope for tomorrow
Till the dark turns to dawn.
———
Open my heart Lord
Let out the sorrow.
Pour in your spirit
And hope for tomorrow.
I need Your touch Lord
On my heart this hour.
Fill me with Your love
With Your healing power.

===============================

I hope these thoughts I have shared with you have been an encouragement to your heart. I hope you will have a renewed resolve to never give up but keep taking baby steps forward as you make your journey with Jesus through this life. Now from the words and wisdom of Lola, “I will never, never, never, ever give up Charley.”

To those who did not go to sleep, thanks for listening.
Ok it will stay up.  It is still a source of pain to read and to remember the days that almost killed me.  Maybe this is for you.
sandra wyllie Jul 2019
in her pajamas. “Why are you wearing that”
he asked. She felt like it. She wore unusual things
to each session. One time she dressed as an alien
in a full-length neon green suit, with antenna for ears

and not wearing any shoes. “You’re Unusual”
another one said. Some could take this as an insult. But she
took it as a compliment instead. She came to one session
with a dozen balloons tied down by weights. And made

the psychologist wait outside his office door
as she set them up in order. On each different colored
balloon, she wrote her feelings. There was sadness, anger
and jealousy, excited and nervous, even happy. When he

entered his office, he could barely walk. He had to
go through a maze of balloons to find his chair. Thank God
the man wasn’t visibly impaired. It was like bumper pool,
bouncing off her feelings with balloons. One time she came into

the session wearing nothing but a bikini, and holding a
humongous branch that fell in her backyard from
a storm. The branch from the old oak tree was taller than
her! She loved to taunt her shrinks., They never knew what
she’d do. And it was hard to think when a patient is wearing
a string bikini.
Joel M Frye Sep 2016
The power of music
and friendship
heals dead connections;
a well-meaning member
of a jam session
offers me a guitar.
I politely decline,
embarrassed by my disability,
and they shrug.  Your choice.
The familiar curves
beneath my arm
like a woman
from my past,
my amnesiac left hand
reaches for the
muscle memory
of fifty years' practice.
After an agonizing minute,
the G chord miraculously plays,
as I played it at five,
the three big fingers alone
strong enough to hold it.
The switch to C impossible;
so I play a variation.
Doesn't sound bad with the group.
My God, I might play a D7
by the next time it comes around
in the song.
The gang is playing old standards,
Ohio State music;
three chords and a cloud of dust,
which suits my present skill(?) well.
I almost cried when a few tunes later,
we sang A Horse With No Name
to my accompaniment.

Beethoven was deaf, yet heard the Ode To Joy.
Hawking is paralyzed, and travels the universe.
I have three good fingers,
and no good excuses.
Le Lotus Dec 2013
I'm sick enough i might die
I can take no more pain
But it is just not 'The Time' yet
God, my soul inside you still haven't take

He gives me pain to **** the sins cause by my mistakes
He gives me pain as a chance to change

Dear god, you still let me breath
As I awaken with fully recovered soul today,
I whispered Alhamdulillah, Allah you're so great
Madds Jul 2012
The counsellors office has always been uneasy
and the chairs always too cold
always a small breeze with the windows
not even cracked open.

This was the newest patients second visit,
everything was casual,
routine questions,
just another average case
but then there was a sudden silence,
the patient became curious and fidgety,
the counsellor sat waiting, watching.

"uh, doc. I know this isn't your dance
or anything,
but do you feel that?"

It had gotten the slightest bit colder
but that was usual
in these 2 decade old buildings.
"feel what, kiddo?"

"That!"

the patient standing now,
was pointing to the door,
as the violent ghosts swooped in
attacking them both,
too much blood and two mangled bodies
on the floor,
the receptionist didn't even hear a scream.

With the next appointment,
the receptionist walked in
getting a mouthful
of that putrid metal-blood taste.

I guess even buildings have a tormenting past.
John Mahoney Jan 2012
Dear Lesley,
I'm sorry to have to do this through a letter, but
last time your crying just humiliated
the other couples in your group session.
Although, this might save embarrassment,
and make me look better, now that we are
both sleeping with other people. (If you
can call conjugal visits to your ex-husband people.)
This letter may well be the last memory
you will have of me, if your social worker
lets you keep it as a memento anyway.

I am leaving, and I won't be looking back either.
I am sure you won't be surprised or terribly upset.
It is completely your fault, no doubt about it!
Mainly, it is your long history with lying problems,
even more than your alcoholism, that keeps me
from being even remotely interested in continuing
this relationship with you. (I told you I forgave
you for sleeping with your boss, but I guess I
never really did.)

You would be so much better off finding someone
that can accept the emotional baggage that
you carry around, the ones with the orange tags.
Maybe your analyst can explain that to you better
than I can. I must say, I will miss some of the exciting
times we had together. Like when you got so drunk
and flirted with my father at our family Christmas
dinner. My mom has still not gotten the red wine stain
out of the tablecloth where you puked on it.

I'm glad this is finally done and we can go our
separate ways. I think you will find someone else
with whom to have an unhealthy relationship based
on physical attraction and a passion for strip-club bars.
Hopefully, this will happen incredibly far away.

Good riddance, and Happy New Year.

PS Maybe you should just go back to being a lesbian.
PPS I have no idea where you parked your car.
Amitav Radiance May 2014
I was brought into this house
Ordered from the local furniture shop
Made to order according to specifications
I am a wingback,
Upholstered in full-grain leather  
True to my rich heritage
I was placed in the library
Amongst the illustrious works of famous writers
Half- a - century have passed, providing support
To the backbone of the family
Although tired, he finds solace in my cozy embrace
I give him my wings to fly into the world of literature
Cervantes, Bunyan, Bacon, Goehte, Dostoevsky, Chekov, Tolstoy
Some of the names from the illustrious collection
Not all were privileged to have a seat here
He was transported to each era, savoring the rich legacy
Of literature down the centuries
I was privy to the mind-boggling debates
Which he conducted with himself
Trying to reason each work of literature
A mere wingback rose to be a companion
Providing sturdy support on the mahogany legs
One fine day the reading session ended in deep slumber
Five decades of bonding and companionship came to an end
Now, I stand here, forlorn, at the corner of the library
Reminiscing the reading sessions, and siesta
The wingback does not have the wings to fly away from this bond




© Amitav (Radiance)
Mateuš Conrad Aug 2018
daj, do wynagrodzenia: reszty.
daj: to niby: siebie;
a... dam... dam...
ale pierw: powiem:             to!
(ich) nicht werden
                  geben (ihr) das nacht!
first... i'll punch myself
hard enough to give myself
a plum-eye: ******* pacifists...
and then?
    then i'll strap a trouser belt
to protect my knuckles...
and then... then...
                    then: we'll "talk":
who might find a translator
ready...
   god...
i'm gagging for a
knuckle exchange...
        almost... itching!
like i might await
a shaving... from a Turkish
barber... in Essex...
of all Danish palaces;
and why would i want to allow
consort with these women?
considering the fact that
the russian ones believe in trans-national
grievance taxation:
of someone... who hasn't...
actually died...
              you know what?
*******...
suffer...
       watch me wipe my ***
with a satanic smile
ennobled
by a coulrophobia...
excesses of vogue
                      atypical models...
how is it... that...
coulrophobia doesn't translate
in reverse?
  and what's up
with the black privilege of
jass music, akin to white mozart...
as...  
  sure as ****, the drum would be
the first, and only thing,
prior to the people learning
the ******* clarinet!

oh drop me your ****** ***
holocaust dead bomb
on a polish ***...
     i triple, quadruple dare you!
you *******... ivory coast
   centipede!
               i'm *******...
as watts: wild-eyed...
       unstrap me from this
"unreality" of conversation...
then undo the internet banking...
and the rest of it...

             not adam watts!
    glitter & doom....
who?      tom waits...
oh **** me... blue valentine?
if that's not a **** with me
album... what is?
                 live circus?
        
do i look like a ******* ****-
(see the hyphen?
it's a prefix... the english are
lazy sometimes: couldn't,
i.e. could not,
remnants of shakespearean
english...

       i'll always cite macbeth...

  time, thou anticipat'st my dread
exploits: the flighty purpose never
is o'eertook, unless the deed go with it.
from this moment, the very firstlings
of my heart shall be
  the very firstlings of my heart.
   and even now, to crown my thoughts
with acts, be it thought and done.


it's hardly a racial slur, ergo...
why so ******* sensitive akin to a french
footballer or a ballerina?
   ****- (hyphen! hyphen!) ergo a prefix...
as already mention:
no, no...
   it's not: no iraqi ever called me a pa-ki
      (pákí)... yeah...
and you never called an afghanistani an
afghan, ever, no?
   pure camaraderie in that part of
the world... all the way... yeah yeah... yeah...
-stani (suffix) is sometimes missing
because... the english like to shorten words...
e.g. why is daniel: dan,
why is matthew: matt?
  why is muhammad: mo (farrah)?
                                    ******* pansies...
police your circumcised penises fiddling
english teenager girl, first,
come after my vocab. justifications: after;
savvy?

or a gypsy?
   by now...
     i'm looking like any
traveler...
and the world...
       forever resembled
a world,
  in the confines of
      a claustrophobia...

but... if there's a bigger concern for
a world...
  and a freedom...
i want a bare knuckle fight...
a black eye...
namely...
you bring  BOXING GLOVE...
and i'll bring...
     a LEATHER BELT...
wrapped around my knuckles,
and the wrist...
    like i might care to give
a second attempt to smile...

ah... the men... who care
about minding, if not in the least,
keeping women...
      bye bye, bye bye...
       and i've allowed myself
to know my grandfather...
as i did the slap in the face...
and...
the key question:
in the unfathomability of counting
the 32 / 4 ratio...
alas... one fist... one smile...

and countless... dentistry encounters...
because?
   because the rest?
the cultural artifacts of a today?
  lost to h'americana...
            as i might have wished...
for my prior genes
to make an autobiography
in **** germany...
  
   what?
  
      well... obviously: the oops.

no, for the crescendo...
you know...
           i'm getting this funny vibe...
gott ist tot... it's not really spectacular...
nietzsche really believed in eternity,
to the point where he pointed:
what does science offer, only old age...
what does religion provide? eternity...
oh nietzsche was big on eternity...
   gott ist tot is as unspectular as:
is it: how to do you pronounce x,
or is it: how do you pronunciate y?
debate:
              everyone says around here
the former... since no one wants to be a *****...
pro-nun-ci-ate (pro-nun-cíate)...
   might as well replenish the vocab. bank
and replace the word with:
how do you elocute z? / recite)....

gott ist tot / gott ist tod...
    "same ****, different cover"...
you know why i believe in god?
    not the christian reference points...
salvation blah blah, saviour and hide & seek blah blah...
n'ah... where would i derive all my vocab.
hunger if not from him?
   some men derive their vocab. from
women or gambling...
            i am not in the position of their
luxury... so god it is...

            primarily though?
               god is metaphysics...
             ergo? his judgement is not clouded
by metaphysical questioning...
it's impossible to receive a metaphysical
answer from a metaphysical question
when engaging with a metaphysical
ontological paraphrase of one's own search
for meaning in this mortal frame...

oh sure sure, my belief in god is as juvenille
as anyone else's belief in humanity's
clarity when it comes to jurisprudence
and its application...
    i've experience "jurisprudence" once...
drive-by phone theft...
me and three fwends...
   i catch the number plate...
i tell one of my fwends to note it down,
police station, report, culprit found,
a sit in at a barkingside police station
looking at mug images,
spot the ****** (it was dark when the mugging
took place, photographic memory, **** happens)...
a court session, australia is playing england
at the ashes (****, i missed it)...
in court the defence lawyer shows me
another picture of the culprit...
back then photogrpahs had dates
attached to them...
the photograph? over 4 years old...
i tell him: but this photograph is 4 years old!
how can i identify if this is the same
person: i, myself, will probably
don a beard in four years time!
      a simple slip-up...
        now that i have a beard:
it's so much more fun than growing your
hair long... i hated the nickname
chewbacca back in high school when i was
growing mine for a french braid...
i walk out of the court,
come to terms with the detective...
and i see the same hunger in him as i see in me...
will justice be served?
highly unlikely... since the victim
didn't recognize the *** in the mug-shots...
justice was probably not served...

   and this is how god plays into all of this,
hell or heaven, blah blah...
man created the figure of domina Iustitia
as blind... god created death to be blind...
justice was never supposed to be blind,
death was: the unfortunate deaths
of teenagers in car accidents,
among all the other freak accidents...

clouded with so many metaphysical questions
i don't appreciate man's ability to adhere
to jurisprudence without being
subjectively contaminated...
i have more belief in an "imaginary"
god than belief that strains me to belief
in man's sense of justice...
          the nuremberg trials are a rare exception...
but only when the culprits are
unabashed and fathomable by a collective
sense of pride... a blidness...
i believe in god, because i'd love to experience
the judgement of a post scriptum of
metaphysics...
  personally? i have been wronged...
heavily...
            i will not name names....
i know when and how i was wronged,
and by whom...
                2007... Canterbury...
      i won't name names: i'm not a rat...
man is too clouded with metaphysical questions
to begin with, god isn't,
he's a metaphysical ontology "bias"...
which is why, he is primarily a jurisprudent
answer...
   i'd love to experience divine jurisprudence,
hell or heaven are not of my concern...
and i don't imply divine jurisprudence
associated with the polytheistic take of
jurisprudence via a solipsistic mechanism
of a minor god and the person in question
without the hurt party...
in monotheism the god is solipsism personified...
these days: also the personna non grata...
so no... gott ist nicht tot...
            he's a personna non grata...
i just don't appreciate the human *******
of law, law governance...
   come on, in england you can receive
an a.s.b.o.s. for your cockerel being too loud
in the morning, your dog barking...
           would you trust man with
jurisprudence?
  a woman was cleared of the ******
of her husband
       when she hammered his head into a pancake:
over an abusive relationship...
police, weren't, "there"?!
sure sure... the hammer will do...
i believe in god without a sense of reward...
i just don't think man is capable of
passing justifiable laws...
no man could ever pass the eternal laws,
gravity... 100°C for the boiling of water...
i need a being  who has groundwork
in eternal laws, in unshakeable laws...
the ten commandments aren't:
you shall not...
   more... maybe, you shouldn't...
they are the most pristine jurisprudent
laws available... the: maybe you shouldn't,
eh, chappy?

       i just don't like playing the thesaurus game
on the more tight-knit game
of "passing" the wink-wink of Solomon's
judgement...
please, **** me please,
i'll eat 20 raw herrings in a cream sauce,
slurp 30 oysters,
eat 40 strawberries on a hangpverl
eat out about 50 harem virgins
like a castrato if you ask me, nicely,
**** camel cockey:
lucly i landed on a black gold slurp
with plenty of bangladeshi slaves:
******* of riyadh...
     what did muhammed tell you?
you camel jockeys / sand *******
have clearly forgotten...
******* arabs: short attention span...
you need to remind
the retards...
the dajjal would come from the east...
a palace of gardens...
well obviously the prophet wasn't
thinking about genghis khan...
            
  hmm barbarians...
vikings, arabs: yet so inclined to like poetics...
funny, that...
the civilized peoples banished
the poets...
            the ruling class and their cushioned
people: sacrosanct sycophants...
wankers, basically.

    the hajr? muhammad spoke of the dajjal
coming from the east,
and the east being a city of gardens...
where isn't riyadh and where is mecca?
isn't riyadh east of mecca?
was the dajjal to come from the outside
of islam, or from wtihin?
      last time i checked...
sh'ite islam isn't friendly to sunni islam...
if islam was the one true religion...
would have a shcism have occurred?
i don't think so...
   a persian would never bow before
an arab... that much os true...

oh i believe in god...
given how man practices jurisprudence...
is it some sort of, a, thesaurus game
i wasn't told about?
to me the human quest for jusctice is
a thesaurus game...
man is incapable to pass but one,
eternal, law...
he's great at nuanced laws...
laws allocated to sports...
i mean, **** me, cricket?
the best vocab. you'll ever pick up...

even god isn't as pertinent
in making the sort of music associated
with the limited alpha-to-beta
of A, B, C, D, E, F, and G...
wow! seven... seven?!
how many heads does the beast
of revelation have? oh... 7!

i'll stop tolerating islam, and start respecting it,
when it, acknowledges its presence
as a character study in the book of revelations...
then i'll just move on,
having made my point...

until that time comes...
    it's 600 years shy of becoming what
degenerate christianity has become,
oh and it's ripe...
it's gagging to implode!
600 years and wait for it to become
the next secular vasal conglomorate...

the warning muhammad gave
about "the best from the east"
was in point of question:
   a reference ti gneghis khan...
more like ibn saud:
  thst fat diabetic one eyed ogre...
and the legacy of decadence he left
behind...

saudi men with slavuc girlfriends,
buying up pink cushions and *******
chihuahuas...
**** after ****...
  you know the three slavic proverbs?
1. better a sparrow in your
hand, than a dove on your rooftop?
explanation?
better the small joys at-hand,
than impossible possibilities out of reach....
2. a drunk can spot east,
past mecca, whenever honing
the safety of his own bed... even at night...
not much of a proverb...
3. i don't care to rememeber...

once toleration comes into play,
i will, respect... just a waiting game...
i'm pretty sure no iranian will
bow down to a sunni camel jockey...
i like proud *******,
it implies: there are absolutes,
un-moveable goal posts...

                      if you are ever to bind yourself
in supporting a "side" outside a sports' dynamic,
always the outsider...
always the outsider... in this case?
the ****'ite islam brigade...
       the persians...
the sunnis can shove it...
   *****, bones, whatever....

                   ****'ite islam i can
fathom, even respect,
sunni islam i just tolerate...
  as much as iran takes claims for the
big satan in ref. to h'america...
well... if h'america supports the infantile
saudi arabia, who's to blame them?

you know that polonaise joke about
about the pacifism of jews in
2nd world world war poland?
the joke ran along the words:
weren't the jews shooting the nazis
using crooked elbows (rifles)?
they always seemed to miss them,
taunted into walking into gas chambers,
the ******* hobbits...

          what? some bolshevik Brooklynian
jewish rada is to spare me
                 the pay-up diffrential
telling me, i was wrong?

  as i said before: the nazis lamented
when the warsaw uprising happened...
no, st. paul's doesn't stand proud
because, because...
   even with the blitz...
                 the luftwaffe were told:
you drop a bomb on st. paul's: firing squad...
and when notre-dame de paris -
last time i checked...
   the nazis didn't luftwaffe the **** out
of paris... did they?!

                  the nazis weren't mongols;
no people so well versed in chanel in terms
of their military being so well
   suited & booted could ever make such a
                              architectural sacrilege...

what?! people under the silicon curtain
are gagging, begging even: for nazis!
can i be the first?!
i just want to please the hungry!
if not punk then moving swiftly into ska...
am i the first?
   siliziumvorhang...
well, **** me... from under the eisenvorhang...
what's with these neo-communist pseudos?

and the hebrew god?
a jealous god... so a god with the knowledge
of the existence of other gods...
why wouldn't a jealous god have
no knowledge of other ("imagianry") gods?
to be jealous of only one's own existence?!

3 / 1: that's the ratio....
that's the only ratio... 3 times i experienced
love at first sight:

when i fell in love at first sight...
malina, samantha, janina,
priya....

equal measure: isabella of grenoble...

in reverse:
magda, promis, ilona, kot (i forget her name,
7 years old, first kiss, you can be forgiven
to forget, she had two twin sisters
and she was the senior,
her fasther drove a distribution truck,
milk, i think)...

****, i actually mismanaged
that ratio...

i believe in "a" god...
since i find too much of human jurisprudence
to be riddle with the thesaurus...
i don't think man can pass
law, he can "suppose so"...
but he will never pass the sort of law,
made forbidden,
or absolutely allowed....
i don't believe in a god akin
to the sort of a pontous pilate god
where i'll always find myself
outside of punk evolving into ska...

         mind you...
i'd hate to be trapped within
the confines of an atheistic exclusion zone
of intellect,
      to be trapped in nothing is one
thing, but to be trapped inside
the confines of an atheist's "nothing"
is quiet another....
i don't like being a hamster inside
a cognitive wheel of another...
   god is the jurisprudence spirit,
man the metaphysical spirit...
and i would very much like to stand
in the light of divine law being passed
to finally feel my shadow...

kult: brooklyńska rada żydów...
  not familiar?
  i forgot punk a long time ago...
esp. when californians came up with their
version, ergo? ska...

i'm currently taping a film
about the silesian vampire...
how strange, that the prussians came
back into the ***** of the polonaise...

growing a beard is so much fun!
fiddle after fiddle: and no violin!
atheists bore me
as much as the theistic hags
who's only ambition are
the thrill associated with Sunday
h'america and cinema...
               i can imagine only one
heaven...
where i am blind and given
               a large library of music.

— The End —