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Gandy Lamb Feb 2019
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
The repetition symbolizes the cycle of life.
Universal Thrum Jul 2018
I'm leaving Carly's place after an all day ****** that had me convinced that paradise lay in the legs of Nate's sister wearing a unicorn onesie, and as they put on Sgt. Peppers and lay there the ****** freudian passion play overcame my capacity for archetype observation and I proceeded to walk around the room thanking everybody in that space and time for the gift of starting the **** with Nate's sister, the beat changed and they turned on me and said I needed to give her space, they all became timeless aliens traveling through time to **** and I was one of them coming online in a loop, and as long as I stayed awake I would remember and not be *****. I sat cross legged holding my friend sams hands, looking into his eyes, saying aloud we're creating the universe constructing all as the three smartest people of all time, forever throughout we died but never died, as long as we could stay awake, they all wore red and I couldn't trust any of them, I fired off mad questions and demanded to know the secrets of the universe and why woman wasn't the answer, I called up to nate to bring her down to me, and generally became a raving lunatic
      after some time of sam being soulmate and accepting him forever as my lover self same image, and also calling him ugly as im ugly, then channeling Brittany through him and countless other regressive exercises, we started inhaling nitrous gas, and the world became one stretched out moment
       and I kept calling out before, all the way up, as it were the secret spell with a handshake to fool the devil
         I thought Nate a mad spirit habituating this plane as a long gone failed hero plagued by the madness of wanting to **** his sister and forced to watch all his friends be aware of their own lust, so that pushed him into clowning, which he is an expert, that primal lust took me up and id taken a holy mandate to **** this beautiful creature and ascend to paradise,
when they slipped her upstairs they left her rainbow onesie, i felt heaven become another step remote and my faith tested, I resolved to be the last awake and never die, I walked up to the attic, and saw the light beaming from the window


            Sam dropped me off at the press grill so I could eat some grub,
then I met up with Tyler for a drink somewhere while he told me his story of meeting a guy in a skyline chilis bathroom drunk at 3 am, he said the guy was standing at the ****** but wasn't *******. Ty asked him if he was done and the guy put Ty in a chokehold with his pants down, according to Ty the cops came in and he was putting clean shots into the guys mug, he is contemplating leaving town before they can indict him for felonious assault, I told him Canadas nice but Venezuela doesn't have an extradition treaty, come to think of it neither does Cuba, but Ty is too proud for that probably
   anyways we meet Carly being a dancing beauty in a high falootin joint with string lights called Julep, the only reason to mention it is because as we were leaving a guy was bent over the rail vomiting and looking wretched he noticed us watching him as we smoked our cigarettes off to the side and immediately decided that he wasn't some kind of side show freak to be gawked at, he became threatening in the most base and pathetic way a human can, and his bride came to tell us to ******* with her father, father of the bride shaking my hand, we eventually left that scene and walked to Oddfellows where I saw Sam Cohan and he bought me a beer, good chap, we talked until I stepped toward Carly, Tyler and a fine looking strange *****
I touched Carly and received an awkward unmemorable introduction to the strange *****. She walked away but lurked and locked eyes with me as the evening rolled on
later Carly told me that the girl demanded to meet the guy who looks like Heath Ledger, a sure fire ****, so Carly is grinding on my **** and my backs to the bar and Tyler already got me a beer, and there I was, a pirate king
I took Carly out after the lights came on, and was going to give Tyler the run of my place, he disappeared into the night and I showed Carly my favorite smelling tree, still in bloom late July, we almost ****** on my car, until I went back to her place and we ****** until $430, rising at noon, I left telling her we had an hour to get ready to journey to Findlay for Jim's wedding
I showered and brushed my teeth and collected my suit and put it on without a tie
I picked up Carly and set out upon the road, but made a quick stop for a bite
two deaf guys ordered in front of me and the kid working the register said my glasses were cool, along the way I was telling Carly the story of how I wore make up for the first time to a middle school dance, and she said she had to *****, I didn't believe her at first until she tried to stick her head out the window half way rolled down, I managed to get it down all the way and wet streaks of human gut waste caught the wind and splattered my window
we pulled over and I went to get her some napkins to clean herself off as I squeeged the car, she tried to wipe the window with the napkins, sweet girl. The wedding started at 3:30 and we didn't have more than five minutes to spare, she found her vape pen 20 minute out as Heather started to send me worried messages, as I was set to read a passage, little did I know that I was leading off the whole affair, I arrived and was quickly rushed to meet the mothers and have a boutonnière pinned to my lapel , the women all looked stunning and I congratulated each in turn as they shoved a program in my hand, Tiffany took me through the drill, we walked up to the stage and took our places on the bench, looking out at the beautiful shining faces,


I was the only one not wearing a tie, but thats not important, I saw Jim and embraced him with all the love I could muster, he looked at me and said that he knew I would make it, that he knew that he just had to trust the flow, and I would appear in the nick of time, the pastor threw his hands in the air and welcomed the families, the mothers lit candles, and then Tiffany looked at me and said that it was my turn, I stepped up to the Beema and gazed out over the crowd, trying to summon something clever, nothing good came to mind and so I opened my mouth and said, "a reading from Genesis" and then put every fiber of my being into reminding the room that it is Gods will that we be fruitful and multiply. I'm told I slammed my hands down for emphasis and let out a hearty amen, a man's man's amen, and turned and took one giant step off the podium with two baby stairs, I gracefully flowed into the bench having averted a complete embarrassment, and then tactfully left the stage with Tiffany after her read.   Jim looked at me after mine with a nod, and I said the word strong, that read cemented my status as a star of the party, and the mojo flowed, I was called the cash guy by the hotel, for checking in as Atlantis Grosshammer, $200 depost, we drank and danced and an old lady came to me to say that I have a beautiful soul
I thanked Jim's father for helping to create my friend, and danced around bottles
the cake was good
I told Carly I always catch the brides garter, at every wedding I've ever been. I saw Jim's men assemble for his toss, I let the men come and put myself in the mix, Jim turned his back and had a misfire,
the temptation to collect it passed all of us by thankfully, and he was set to fire again, it came to me and I snatched it out of the air, cold as ice I walked off the floor only with eyes for Carly not even saying a word to Jim, I put that thing on my head and went back to Jim threw him on my shoulders and swung him around like we were in a broadway musical
two kids playing in the street,
he said its the best moment, and so it goes
Carter Ginter Aug 2018
Dear Sam,

I love you,
But I really hate you sometimes.

I've been cycling through emotions lately
Because our breakup led to me completely shutting down
I felt nothing
Until I felt sadness
And then I felt anger
Now it's all mixing together
In an overwhelming mess
Especially with your recent breakups
With your other partners
The one who I mourned our relationship over
Who you suddenly realized you weren't into
And the one I'm best friends with
Who you told that you were never poly
Because **** me right?

Because if you were never poly
Then you never really loved me
Then again,
Have you ever really loved anyone?
I try to correct the realization
Of you not loving me
With the fact that I love myself
It's probably a lie, but
Fake it til you make it
Right?
It's hard to accept that
Someone I loved more than anyone
Could give zero ***** about me
It hurts
That I was this disposable to you
And I did nothing but love you
And respect you
And hear you
And care for you with every ounce of my existence
And you just left

Remember when you promised that
We could get through anything?
And had me promise you the same?
Whenever we were unsteady
You would ask me that
The same thing you asked your last partner
Right before they left you
"Babe, we can get through anything, right?"
And it sounded so sweet and so
******* real
But you were just scared
You were only ever sweet
When you thought we were leaving you

And ******* it
I wish I had left you
I wish I would've told you all of the things
That led to MY decision to leave
Because when we talked
We agreed it was mutual
And I never told you my story
You never asked
All you asked was what I would tell people
Which to some might sound like you cared
But all you cared about
Was other people's opinions of you
Not me
Not my opinion
Because I was no longer of use to you
And during that break up
You did ask me why I was crying
Though looking back now
You probably just wanted to hear me say
"I love you"
One last time
Because why else would I be crying?

I don't know if I ever told you
But when you got your third partner
I wished I could stop loving you
Ironically, I pretty much did
In an illusory sort of way since
All my emotions shut down from the pain
And if I were religious I would've prayed for it
Begged for salvation
For freedom from
The shackles laced around my limbs
From loving someone who doesn't care
Who didn't respect me enough
To really remind me that I mattered
In the throes of a new relationship
But none of it helped
Because I still loved you
I still do

What's more than you leaving
Is the amount of damage you did first
Convincing me how radical and inclusive you are
When you shame anyone else
For the things that make them happy
Oh, and what about transparency
And how you avoid passivity in conflict?
Where did that person go?
You started being passive-aggressive
Or even silent sometimes
You'd exit the conversation
In the middle of an argument
And yell at me if I tried to do the same
I should've known things weren't ok
When I started to thank you
For not getting mad and yelling at me
Which only made you mad
Because I was demonizing you
Actually,
I was just afraid of you

I was never enough for you
You'd spend a lot of your time
Complaining about your other partners
And, as obvious as it is now,
I didn't know you were doing the same about me
Because when we were together
I thought we were good
I respected your boundaries
Even when they conflicted with my needs
You didn't like physical contact
Something I needed in order to feel safe
And the few times you did let me hold your hand
You complained about it to your other partner
As though I were a burden
But I am NOT
A burden
I am NOT
Disposable
And I may not be perfect
But I sure as hell matter

I deserve love
I deserve openness and honesty
And trust
Not like that one time
You "forgot" you made a promise to me
Then broke it in secrecy
And got mad at me later
When I was upset with you
Because you knew I had trust issues
You knew it would upset me
But you didn't care
Because you "don't need permission"
To do anything
Which is true
Except, when you truly respect someone
You keep your word
Or you don't get upset about it
When they feel pained by your betrayal
You said you didn't want to feel
Like you owed me something
And it's not that you owed me anything
But you sure didn't deserve my trust after that
And that made you angry

Though not angry like those few times
You called me yelling about
How I ****** up
Because 1)
I was hurt that you didn't want to see me
Even though we had plans to spend the weekend together
And 2)
Because I wasn't being a good partner
Aka I wasn't submitting to you
And following everything you wanted me to
You claimed I was hurting you
But when I called you out
For your blatant hypocrisy
You got even more mad

I was crying at work that day
I was crouched in the ally
Listening to you scream at me
Balling my eyes out in pain
Trying to maintain my ability to breathe
I didn't think to just hang up
Because I knew it was disrespectful
And I didn't want you to leave me

Later you told me that
You like when I cry when we fight
Because it proves to you that
I actually care
That is not ok
I can show you that I care
Without being in so much pain that
Tears stain my face and
I struggle to catch a breath

When we met
You taught me about autonomy
And that saved my life when it came to my depression
But then you used it against me
To avoid doing anything that didn't benefit you
As I bent over backwards to please you
And of course I didn't think it was an issue
When you would change your mind at the last minute
The plans I had looked forward to all day
Quickly fell apart
Autonomy freed me from my demons' grasp
So how could it not make sense?
You had the autonomy to choose what you wanted to do
But you were just being selfish
And didn't care about me
Or my feelings
And as soon as I stopped
Being the only one putting in any effort
You left me

You used to say that
Our love was stronger than anything
But that is an abusive tactic
Because if we were struggling, then
It must be my fault for not trying enough
For not loving you enough
And when I tried to put up boundaries
(Because sometimes I needed space too
Especially when you hurt me so deeply)
You decided to threaten that
Doing so would make you want to leave me
You often held me on that way
Threats
Manipulation
Fear

The way we chose to love polyamorously
Was pretty unhealthy
We didn't set boundaries
Until we did something that hurt us
And then we knew we needed to
But even then we really didn't
Because you didn't respect the ones I set
You told me that
I couldn't have any more partners
You didn't even want me to pursue
The new interest I had at the time
Thankfully, I didn't submit to you then
Because within a few days we broke up
And even though I was sad about it
I immediately felt relief
And regardless of all of this negativity
I truly hope you get help
And can find happiness in your life
And can stop hurting others
Just because you're in pain

You matter
So do I
But your opinion of me doesn't
Because I will love myself
Exactly for who I am
And no longer shame myself
For the things you didn't like
Because I am more
Than what you think of me
I am more
Than how you treated me
And even though I love you
I love myself more
And respect myself enough to let it go
And to let myself be happy
Without you in my life
This series is extremely important to me. It has drastically helped with closure over past unhealthy relationships. They were all unhealthy I'm largely different ways and I did not write these to take away my own fault in the breakups, but I wrote this to rid myself of the unnecessary guilt I have been carrying around because of things that these exes have said to me or the ways in which they treated me. This project is about self-love. Not about hatred or wishing ill will upon others, because I wish them nothing but happiness. This is for me.
AntRedundAnt Jan 2014
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baby   looked   cute   beating   tight   kids   crying   ran   intoxicating   growing   saying   opposites   melancholy   gives   follow   clearly   dove   tu   soon   entwined   juicy   drown   laid   took   moved   bear   anyways   shirt   negative   clean   guide   sore   location   faux   nodded   glance   caught   chances   week   started   today   obvious   sweat   ***   quiet   laughed   worry   round   ladies   mama   smack   goodbye   rising   sides   wished   beds   infinite   positive   scared   admittedly   mistakes   meal   common   rises   toes   bullets   bound   suited   birth   clothes   belt   pounds   ground   barren   sitting   table   woe   swimming   stick   deepest   motion   cleared   sing   angry   action   sons   smiled   bedroom   wall   wiped   grins   mad   july   store   road   snow   pulse   important   adventure   exactly   foundation   trap   colors   floors   neon   outside   language   summer   north   fifty   served   wavy   kick   raw   thirty   row   changed   hanging   lied   drenched   companion   begins   strength   flies   direction   okay   stories   inky   stubborn   cloud   track   described   lover   replaced   pit   packs   circling   honest   wage   dinner   slave   paradox   faking   screamed   lightning   exterior   stopping   complete   deal   rifle   dependent   gifts   dancer   vision   students   horror   punch   anymore   pack   sagging   folk   honestly   tearing   prepared   creatures   listening   rhythm   unique   roar   card   glass   stage   desert   offered   fought   suffer   awoke   master   eating   furnace   glad   choir   graceful   *****   treasure   ships   bark   musical   strand   bee   finished   pink   slink   stronger   disclose   gravity   schedule   march   medicine   hates   weird   brush   laughs   helped   june   pitched   dumped   tense   sin   withdrawn   stem   proved   whispered   anew   amazing   louder   english   knocked   chilly   boots   false   mistake   toffee   whistle   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haven't   what's   you'd   they'd   man's   boys'   god's   woman's   fruit's   orion's   newton's   lincoln's   adam's   momma's   ******   jackson's   audis   dulces   disproportionately   charon's   deseos   avocadoes   hailey   eran   beatles'   ingles   he   she   it   rackets   --   hashtag   sixty-three   duct-tape   joysticks   sherman's   15   6th   32   500   7th   2013   extraño   barenaked   tamales   6-year-old   tierras   derpy   ewell   rom-com   themit's   adan   mudpits   puddlepits   war--hell   culp's   shitpits   completaron   chocolatada   levantanse   duraznos   n'sync   huevo   cholitos   levantaron   manzanas   endurece   wozniak's   dispara   nuez   open-endedness   innies   cankles   dunder-mifflin   tunks   buck-toothed   outies   grief-blown   a-gawking
I uploaded all of my past work onto the site already, so everything from here on out will be new and original. This is sort of an experimental idea of mine: take all the words hellopoetry has tracked for me, put it down as if it were a poem, and see how it flows. It actually kind of works sometimes, but I'm not sure. I'm sure it's mostly terrible, but I wanted to try it. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
1.
From my
uneasy bed
at the L’Enfant,
a train's pensive
horn breaks the
sullen lullaby of
an HVAC’s hum;
interrupting the
mechanical
reverie of its
steadfast
night watch,
allowing my ear
to discern
the stampede
of marauding
corporate Visigoths
sacking the city.

The cacophony
of sloven gluttony,
the ***** songs of
unrequited privilege
and the unencumbered
clatter of radical
entitlement echoes
off the city’s cold
crumbling stones.

The unctuous
bellows of the
victorious pillagers
profanely feasting
pierces the
hanging chill
of the nations
black night.

Their hoots
deride the train
transporting
the defeated
ghosts of
Lincoln’s last
doomed regiments
dispatched in vain
to preserve a
peoples republic
in a futile last stand.

The rebels have
finally turned the tide,
T Boone Pickett’s
Charge succeeds,
sending the ravaged
Grand Army of the
Republic sliding
back to the Capitol,
in savage servility,
gliding on squeaky
ungreased wheels
ferrying the
Union’s dead
vanquished
defenders to
unmarked graves
on Potters Field.

The Rebels
joyous yell
bounces off
the inert granite
stones of the
soulless city.

The spittle
of salivating
vandals drips
over the
spoils of war
as they initiate the
disassemblage,
the leveling and
reapportionment
of the grand prize.

The clever
oligarchs
have laid claim
to a righteous
reparation
of the peoples
assets for
pennies on the
dollar.

Their wholly
bought politicos
move to transfer
distressed assets
into their just
stewardship
through the
holy justice
of privatization
and the sound
rationale of
free market
solutions.

In the land of the
pursuit of property,
nimble wolf PACs
of swift 527, LLCs
have fully
metastasized
into personhood;
ascending to
the top of the
food chain in
America’s
voracious
political culture;
bestriding
the nation to
compel the
national will
to genuflect
to the cool facility
of corporate
dominion.

As the
inertial ******
of the plaintive
locomotive
fades into
another old
morning of
recalcitrant
Reaganism,
it lugs its
ambivalent
middle class
baggage toward
it’s fast expiring
future.

I follow
the dirge
down to
the street
as the ebbing
sound fades
into the gloom
of the
burgeoning
morning,
slowly
replacing the
purple twilight
with a breaking
day of cold gray
clouds framing
silhouettes of
cranes busily
constructing
a new city.

The personhood of
corporations need
homes in our new
republic; carving
out new
neighborhoods
suitable for the
monied citizens
of our nation.

First amongst
equals, the best
corporate governance
charters form
the foundation of
the republic’s
new constitution.
Civil rights
are secondary
to the freedom
of markets; the
Bill of Rights
are economically
replaced by the
cool manifests
of Bills of Lading.

The agents of
laissez faire
capitalism
nibble away
at the city’s
neighborhoods
one block at a time;
while steady winds
blows dust off
the National Mall.

Layers of the
peoples plaza are
plained away with
each rising gust.  

History repeats
itself as the Joad’s
are routed from their
land once again.

A clever
mixed use
plan of
condos and
strip malls
is proposed
to finally help the
National Mall
unlock its true
profit potential.

As America’s
affection for
federalism fades
the water in
the reflection pool
is gracefully drained.

We the people
can no longer
see ourselves.

The profit
potential of
industry is
preferred over
the specious
metaphysical
benefits
of reflection.

The grand image,
the rich pastiche,
the quixotic aroma
of the national
melting ***
is reduced to the
sameness of the
black tar that lines
the pool and the
swirling eddies of
brown dust circling
the cracked indenture.

From his not so
distant vantage point,
Abe ponders the
empty pool wondering
if the cost of lives
paid was a worthy
endeavor of preserving
the ****** union?  
Has the dear prize
won perished from
this earth?

Was the illusive
article of liberty  
worth its weight in
the blood expended?

Did the people ever
fully realize the value
of government
by the people,
for the people?

Did citizens of
the republic
assume the
responsibilities to
protect and honor
the rights and privileges
of a representative
government?

Now our idea
and practice of
civil rights is measured
and promoted as far as
it can be justified by
a corporate ROI, a
shareholder dividend,
an earmark or a political
donation to a senators
unconnected PAC.

The divine celestial
ledgers balancing
the rights and
privilege of free people
drips with red ink.  

Liberty, equality
fraternity are bankrupt
secular notions
condemned as
expensive
liberal seditions;
hatched by
UnHoly Jacobins,
the atheist skeptics
during the dark times
of the Age of Enlightenment.

Abe ponders
the restoration
of Washington’s
obelisk, to
repair the cracks
suffered  from
last summer’s
freak earthquake.

I believe I detect
a tear in Abe’s
granite eye
saddened by the
corporate temblors
shaking the
foundations
of the city.

2.

The WWII Memorial
is America’s Parthenon
for a country's love
affair with the valor
and sacrifice of warfare.

WWII forms the
cornerstone of
understanding the
pathos of the
American Century.

During WWII
our greatest generation
rose as a nation to
defeat the menace of
global fascism and
indelibly mark the
power and virtue of
American democracy.

As Lincoln’s Army
saved federalism, FDR’s
Army kept the world safe
for democracy.

Both armies served
a nation that shared
the sacrifice and
burden of war to
preserve the grace of
a republican democracy.

Today federalism
crumbles as our
democracy withers.

The burden
of war is reserved
for a precious few
individuals while
its benefits
remain confined to
the corporate elite.

Our monuments
to war have become
commercial backdrops
for the hollow patriotism
of war profiteers.

We have mortgaged
our future to pay
for two criminal wars.

The spoils of
war flow into the
pockets of
corporate
shareholders
deeply invested
in the continuation
of pointless,
destructive
hostilities.

Our service
members who
selflessly served
their country come
home to a less free,
fear struck nation;
where economic
security and political
liberty erodes
each day while the
monied interests
continue to bless
the abundance
of freedom and riches
purchased with the
blood and sweat
of others.

America desperately
needs a new narrative.

The spirit of the
Greatest Generation
who sacrificed and met
the challenge of the 20th
Century must become
this generations spiritual
forebears.

The war on terror
neatly fits the
the corporate
pathos of
militarism,
surveillance
and the sacrifice
of civil liberties
to purchase
a daily measure
of fear and
economic
enslavement.

It must be rejected
by a people committed
to building secular
temples to pursue
peace, democracy,
economic empowerment,
civil liberties and tolerance
for all.

Yet this old city
and the democratic
temples it built
exulting a free people
anointed with the
grace of liberty
is being consumed
in a morass of
commercial
polyglot.

3.

During the
War of 1812
the British Army
burned the
Capitol Building
and the White House
to the ground.

Thank goodness
Dolly Madison saved
what she could.

The new marauders
are not subject to the
pull of nostalgia.  

They value nothing
save their
self enrichment.

They will spare nothing.

Our besieged Capitol
requires Lincoln’s troops
to be stationed along the
National Mall to defend
the republic.

The greatest peril
to our nation
is being directed
by well placed
Fifth Columnists.

From the safety
of underground bunkers,
in secure undisclosed
locations within the city’s
parameters, a well financed
confederacy employing  
K Street shenanigans
are busy selling off
the American Dream
one ear mark
at a time, one
huge corporate
welfare allotment
at a time.

The biggest prize
is looting the real
property of the people;
selling Utah,
auctioning off
the public schools,
water systems, post offices
and mineral rights
on the cheap
at an Uncle Sam
garage sale.  

The capitol is
indeed burning
again.

Looters are
running riot.

The flailing arms
of a dying empire
fire off cruise
missiles and drone
strikes; hitting the
target of habeas
corpus as it
shakes in its
final death rattle.
I make a pilgrimage
to the MLK Jr.
Monument.

Our cultural identity
is outsourced to
foreign contractors
paid to reinterpret
the American Dream
through the eyes
of a lowest bidder.

MLK has lost
his humanity.

He has been
reduced to a
a Chinese
superhuman
Mao like anime
busting loose from
a granite mountain while
geopolitical irony
compels him to watch
Tommy Jefferson
**** Sally Hemings
from across the tidal
basin for all eternity.  

MLK’s eyes fixed in
stern fascination,
forever enthralled
by the contradictions
of liberty and its
democratic excesses
of love in the willows
on golden pond.

Circling back to
Father Abraham’s
Monument,  I huddle
with a group of global
citizens listening
to an NPS Ranger
spinning four score
tales with the last full
measure of her devotion.

I look up into Abe’s
stone eyes as he
surveys platoons
of gray suited
Chinese Communist
envoys engaged
in Long Marches
through the National Mall;
dutifully encircling cabinet
buildings and recruiting
Tea Party congressmen
into their open party cells.

This confederacy
is ready to torch
the White House
again.

Congressmen and
the perfect patriots
from K Street slavishly
pull their paymasters
in gilded rickshaws to
golf outings at the Pentagon
and park at the preferred
spots reserved for
the luxury box holders
at Redskin Games.

They vow not to rest
until the house of the people
is fully mortgaged to the
People’s Republic of China’s
Sovereign Wealth Fund.

4.

A great
Son of Liberty like
Alan Greenspan
roundly rings
the bells of
free markets
as he inches
T Bill rates
forward a few
basis points
at a time; while
his dead mentor
Ayn Rand
lifts Paul Ryan
to her
Fountainhead teet.
He takes a long
draw as she
coos songs
from her primer
of Atlas Shrugged
Mother Goose tales
into his silky ears.

The construction
cranes swing
to the music
building new private
sector space with
the largess of
US taxpayers
money; or
more rightly
future generations
taxpayer debt.

Libertarians,
Tea Baggers, Blue Dogs
and GOP waterboys
eagerly light a
match to the
the crucifixes
bearing federal
social safety
net programs
to the delight
of NASDAQ
listed capitalists
on the come,
licking their chops
to land contracts
to administer
these programs
at a negotiated
cost plus
profit margin.

Citizens
dependent
on programs
are leery
shareholders
are ecstatic.

To be sure
our free
market rebels
don disguises
of red, white
and blue robes
but their objectives
fail to distinguish
their motives and
methods with
some of the finest
Klansman this
country has
ever produced.

5.

DC is a city
of joggers
and choppers.

Corporate
helicopters
wizz by the
Washington
Monument,
popping erections
for the erectors
inspecting the progress
of the cranes
commanding the
city skyline.

USMC drill team
out for a morning
run circles the Mall.

The commanding
cadence of the
DI keeps us
mindful of the
deepening
militarization of
our society.

A crowd  
rushes
to position
themselves,
genuflecting
to photograph
a platoon on
the move.

I try to consider
the defining
characteristics of
Washington DC.

DC is all surface.

It is full of walls
and mirrors.

Its primary hue
is obfuscation.

Open
communication
scripted from well
considered talking points
informs all dialog.

The city is thoroughly
enraptured in narcissism.

Thankfully, one can
always capture the
reflection of oneself in
the ubiquitous presence of
mirrors.  

Vanity imprisons
the city inhabitants.

Young joggers circle the
Mall and gerrymander
down every pathway
of the city.  

They are the clerks,
interns and staffers of
the judicial, executive
and legislative branches.

They are the children
of privilege.

They will never
alter their path.

You must cede the walk
to their entitlement
of a swift comportment
or risk injury of a
violent collision.

These young ones
portray a countenance  
of benevolent rulers.  

They seem to be learning
their trade craft well from
the senators and judges
whom they serve.

They appear confident
they know what's best
for the country and after
their one term of tireless
service to the republic
they look forward to
positions in the private
sector where they will
assist corporations
to extend their reach
into the pant pockets
worn by the body politic.

6.

Our nations mythic story
lies hidden deep in the
closed rooms of the
museums lining the
Mall.

I pause to consider
what a great nation
and its great people
once aspired to.

I spy the a
suspended
Space Shuttle
hanging in dry dock
at the air and
space museum.

Today America’s
astronauts hitch
rides on Russian
rockets.

America rents a
timeshare from
the European
space agency to
lift communication
satellites into orbit.

Across the Mall
I photograph
John Smithson’s
ashes in its columbarium.  

I fear it has become a
metaphor for America’s
future commitment
to scientific inquiry
and rational secular
thinking.

I am relieved to
discover a Smithsonian
exhibit that asks
“what does it mean
to be human?”

The Origins of Humans
exhibit carries a disclaimer
to satisfy creationists.

The exhibit timidly states
that science can coexist
with religious beliefs and
that the point of the exhibit is
not to inflame inflame religious
passions but to shed light on
scientific inquiry.

I imagine these exhibits
will inflame the passion of
the fundamentalist
American Taliban and
provide yet another
reason to dismantle
the Moloch of Federalism.

The pursuit of science
remains safe at the
Smithsonian for now.

7.

Near K Street at
McPherson Park
a posse of
well dressed
lobbyists, the
self anointed
uber patriots
doing the work
of the people
stroll through
the park
boasting a
healthy population
of bedraggled
homeless.

The homeless
occupy the benches
that have been
transformed into
pup tents.

Perhaps some of
the residents of this
mean estate were
made homeless by a
foreclosed mortgage.  

The K Street warriors
can be proud that their
work on behalf of the
banking industry has
forestalled financial market
reform.  

Through it exacerbates
the homeless problem it has
allowed these K Street titans to
profit from the distress of others.

Earlier in the day
I photographed
a homeless man
planted in front of
the Washington
Monument.

I wonder
if my political
voyeurism is
an exploitation of
this man’s condition?

I have more in common
then I probably wish to
admit with my K Street
antagonists.  

In another section
of the park the
remnants of a
distressed OWS
bivouac remain.

The legions of sunshine
patriots have melted away
as the interest of the
blogosphere has waned.

As the weather
improves Moveon.org
and democratic
party operatives
pitch tents in an
effort to resuscitate
the moribund
movement.

They hope
to coop any
remaining energy
to support their
stale deception,
a neoliberal vision
based solely on the
total capitulation
to the bankrupt
corporatocracy.

I heard someone say
a campaign lasts a
season; while a
movement for social
change takes decades.

If that metric proves
correct, and if the
powers don’t succeed
in compromising the
people’s movement
I’ll be three quarters
of a century old
before I see
justice flowing like
a river once again.

8.

I circle back to
the L’Enfant and
find myself
tramping amidst
the lost platoon
of Korean War
soldiers.

My feet drag
in the quagmire
of grass covering
the feet of this
ghostly troop.

My namesake
uncle was a
decorated
veteran of this
conflict and Im
sure I detect
his likeness
in one of the
statues.

The bleak call
of a distant train
sounds a revelry
and I imagine this
patrol springing
to life to answer
the call of their
beloved country
once again.

Yet they remain
inert.  

Stuck in a
place that the
nation finds
impossible to
leave.

The eyes of the
men stare into
an incomprehensible
fate.  

They see the swarms
of Red Army infantrymen
crossing the Yellow River
streaming toward
them in massive
human waves,
the tips of
sparkling bayonets
threatening to slash
the outmanned
contingent fighting
to bits.

They are the
first detachment
to bravely confront
the rising power
of China many
thousands of
miles away
from their homes.

America like
this lone company
is overwhelmed
and lost in the
confusion
that confronts
them.

Looking up
I perceive the
bewilderment
of my muddled image
reflected on the
marble walls
surrounding
the memorial.

I am a comrade-in-arms,
a fellow wanderer sojourning
with th
Dorothy A Oct 2013
Everything faded to black. He had a hard time remembering just what the hell happened. He wasn't sure of downing some random pills from of the medicine cabinet-- his first attempt to end it all. Making sure he would not recover-- if the pills didn't do the job-- he had already devised the set up of the noose in his bedroom. Definitely, he didn't recall anyone cutting the rope, forcing him down to the floor.

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

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

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

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

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

And now he was the star of the horror show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It didn't seem so safe to him.

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

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

Man, why couldn't he just be dead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And they died ?!" he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

"And you!" Chris quickly pointed out.

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

Unlike her deceased, half-brothers, Lacie grew up before her mother's eyes, from a shy girl to a ******* rebel. Since the age of twelve, she would sneak drinks from her mom's liqueur cabinet. Eventually, she smoked *** and tried ******* and ******. Dropping out of the eleventh grade, she soon away from home, living with friends or boyfriends ever since.  Thankfully, she wasn't doing drugs when she conceived Danny. And her drinking wasn't as prevalent as it was in her teen years of partying and binge drinking. That didn't mean that her drinking problems magically disappeared, or that she was cured. Immediately, though, when she knew she was pregnant, she refused to touch a bottle, but it was just a white knuckle process that was effective momentarily--a band aid on a more serious wound. And going months without a drop of alcohol didn't deaden her urges--quite the opposite--as it only made her crave what she could not have. Often, her fears caught up with her--of especially becoming
Suzanne Penn Oct 2013
Polar opposites
racing toward each other
disparately aiming...
with their eyes closed

Magnetic fields
fortified and electric
****** to collide...
a melting merger

Beyond understanding
everything it is supposed to be
precariously balanced
over the last ravine of our lives

With you I know
its now or never
and there is no turning back
we are and always will be...
eachothers...

Thankfully
Wind Lass Apr 2018
I dealt death today.

I know it’s a part of the job.
I know I’ve seen it too many times to count.
But today,
I felt it.

I left the room long after their family did.
There was no where I could go
To escape their

Roaring grief.

They were long gone.
And I was left with their precious baby.
I curled his arms and legs up
Closed his eyes
Wrapped him up gently.
With love and respect
Here he’ll sleep forever.

And oh,
They are so thankful,
That it was me
That I understood
That I was so careful
That I spent the time with them.

And you’re not supposed to take it with you.
You’re supposed to leave it
When they walk out the door
With one less goodbye.

But I took it with me today.

The way they felt before
The way they felt after
The long quiet goodbyes
The man in a suit on his knees weeping
The mother and son making a cocoon
Sheltering their dying baby.
The solemn face of the woman who plays god.
The green death.
The last breath.
The heaving of the living as he gave his last.
The waiting.
Slower rhythm.
Quieter.
‘He’s gone now’.

I watched the clock
The same way I had
An hour before
Waiting for death.

Soon as I could
I fled out the door
Ran into the street
Tried to outrun it

Instead I ran to you
I dialled your number
With shaking hands

I know I’m not supposed to
But all I wanted was you
Your voice

Ringing out
Thankfully
I wept alone.

Today I dealt death
And I found I am not strong enough
To sustain this
Alone
Or for long.

I found I still consider you my haven
Deep down
But that you are not my haven anymore
Or should be.

I listened to the silence
After the call rang out
And decided
What will I do when I hit the last straw? What becomes of me and my useless brain? This was too much today. I wish I didn’t want you. I’ve made an obsession out of you.
Erica O Jan 2013
my computer keeps freezing
the song keeps playing

living up to expectations already
don't be pressured baby, don't be pressured

only half of my fingers are cold
as I think of Brown-Eyed Ska girl

thankfully, she knows I exist
that's one part of the equation complete
whoa *** two people are following me already thank you ;u;
Arianna Darshani Sep 2015
Im not a good poet but I want to get this off my chest.
Maybe this is too much of a blog. If so, I am sorry.
Nobody has to read it!
I don't mean to misuse this service or to make anyone mad.
I am just not good at poetry
But I believe my words have a rhythm to them.

This is a long and boring post.
Making this post is part of my healing
Even if nobody reads it.

I met a psychopath, I don't use that term lightly
He had been in prison for ****** against his 7 year old daughter
A monster and what most people often call a baby ******.

What was wrong with me, that I did not bolt away like a wild horse?
What made me stay? Is it my Tao to be in their spell forever?
I mean the pedophiles that abused me now forty years ago?

How could I have blocked out his crime?
Where was my outrage for the victim?

He is in Seattle, I am in Minneapolis
But we played cards for 7 months
When he showed me his hand,
I suddenly realized who and what he was.
And I was struck with a sense of horror.

Psychopaths are always charming, at first.
They fool a lot of people. He fooled me.
And I can't get over it.

I broke free, galloped away, but had irreversible damage.
I could not eat or sleep. I was on edge.
I felt polluted, I felt ashamed, I felt gullible
It is why I have the diagnosis of PTSD
because my entire childhood was filled
To the rafters with abuse and this psychopath
Touched upon that in a major way.
They call it a "Trigger" in psychology.

I thought I had burned that house down
But my naïveté and poor boundaries led me
From the paradise of my home
To this psychopath's perverse thinking.
What a sick *******.
I can't even describe
how perverse it got towards the end
So I won't even bother.
Why dwell on a psychopaths sick mind?

I was very sick and in a crisis for ten days
When I broke it off with him.

My last email to him was that,
God is real and that he is going to Hell.
He excuses his behavior with
Bible verses.
That's not going to help him
On judgement day.
He also will suffer karma until
He learns his lesson.
Prison was not enough to teach him

Im starting to sit back and take in the lesson
I've decided that for my own safety
I need to get a lot more paranoid because
Baby rapists and evil people do exist
And I have no radar and no set of boundaries.
Because I was abused so much as a child.

I downloaded an App that lists all
The ****** predators near your home
There are a lot of them and some look like
Your average guy, like the pedophiles who abused me.
Nobody next store but in Osceola, 5 minutes away.

And what about Jared Fogel? Is everyone a pervert?
Why do adult ( mostly men ) need to sexualize children?

I am restricting my easy going temperament
He took what was left of my innocence.
My heart is healing and I have vowed
Not to let him or his sickness
To ruin my good temperament.
Nor my Peace of Mind.

Lastly, I realize that it was by the Grace of God
That I found a loving husband
A man who truly cares, truly loves
In a way I never felt as a child.

As an abuse survivor, the statistics
For me to find a suitable relationship
were slim.
But my mother always told me
To respect myself.

But here we are, 31 years together
Or what my science mind calls
60% of our lives. We are 53.

I don't know how I found "the one"
A broken heart is so visceral and
With so much angst that I feel fortunate
That I've been spared that experience.

We met in Martial Arts class
I had met him at age 19 and he asked me out
I took him up on that offer when we were 22
I worked for my black belt in Tae Kwon Do
He was working on his 2nd degree blackbelt
We trained together for many hours
We hung out.
Ha ha, our first date was to see
The Karate Kid! Also plenty of Bruce Lee!
My husband began martial arts because
Of Bruce Lee.
I started martial arts for self defense
Having been abused by so many men
Made me want to never happen again.

Nice trip down memory lane
Back to the psychopath.
I don't have children and
I am not around any children.

I went to the State Fair, and saw some girls
Only 7 years old, like the psychopath's daughter
When he started his predation on her.  
I felt physically ill that a child of that age
Would have to deal with a grown man
And her father, on too of that.
It is beyond imagination.
I was abused at age 11 and 7 seems
Awfully young. Poor girl.

I felt a sense of nausea when looking at these little girls
That I had befriended a ****** perpetrator
Entirely negating his victims experience.
What was I thinking?

I feel almost like I am guilty because I associated with him.
I feel horrible that I had any relationship
With such a dark and bleak soul.

God bless his daughter out there somewhere
She is now in her 20s
His children are in their 20s and I think
When he has grandchildren he might re offend
I need to stop this and have decided
To contact CPS, and write a letter of concern
Every six months until he has grandchildren

It's the very least I can do.
I've taken a personal interest and
I vow to protect his future grandchildren
From ******, a crime he is not sorry about
He has no remorse, he does not repent
And in that way he can reoffend

Let me go back to my life now
It is almost Fall
And the trees will be brilliant
Thank God, that I realize
I need to out much tighter boundaries
Around myself because being gullible
Is going to get me killed

Thankfully I am not being stalked
Thankfully my life is not in danger
Thankfully we live half a continent away

Let me hold my husband's hand
Let me remember what's important
Let me remember that Im safe
Let me recover from the emotions
Of horror and dread, that have kept me
From eating and sleeping.

Im a bit of a yogini
And I do yoga Nidra
I do meditation
I take refuge in Buddha
I have a faith in Christ
These things all help.

Let the heavens forgive me
For ever getting involved
With a psychopath and for not
Giving his daughter's abuse
A second thought.

This has altered my personality
I am now an activist for victims
Of childhood violence.

I will hear their voices in a way
That is healthy and safe.

Safe. A good place to be!

If you've made it to the end of
This post, I give you my sincere
Thanks and if you did not read my post
I also give you thanks.

~Arianna
Peeka Aug 2014
Left out and drenched blue
The sky could not change it's hue
Solace found in night.

Persistent contrast
Each had made the sky alive
It winked thankfully.

Accepted this fate
What purpose lay in repine
Smiled, oh the sunshine *azure!
A haiku poem.
Mateuš Conrad Aug 2018
. she was 19, i was 21, and i guess i was the first boy who treated her decently, allowed her to slap me in the face and stood like a copper statue before her... she wouldn't have made it at university among all the English yuppies, being pregnant... turns out, she might have opted for the Juno (the movie) route... all i know is that she graduated with a masters in anthropology... she was up in Edinburgh, i was back in London, roofing with my father doing the Scottish Widows HQ and then some other project, trying to weave myself into a managerial position in some roofing company... but then? the psychosis spiral... oddly enough - no hammers, no hearing voices wielding a hammer running down the street naked... contained... walked into a church near King's Cross st., lay on beside a the side altar, pulled the cloth from the altar, and wrapped myself in it... then heard singing, had my iPod with me... turned it off... turned it on again, turned it off... the singing still echoed the church... got up, put the cloth back onto the altar and started running around the church aisles... then a great wind dispersed the singing... what kept my sanity? well... given that i was smoking marijuana and fasting? one word... sátān... the whole 40 days in the desert? cut short... in a concrete desert... i phoned my then ex-girlfriend to meet me at this spot outside the church - right across from a royal mail HQ - and i remember the words: can you bring me bread, and water? nothing... on my own then... no... that sort of experience is no cause for jubilation, there is no ******* euphoria: you're talking about ******* it - in my case? thankfully that's only metaphorical... and i'm not buying the psychiatric *******, the easy way out answer: ooh... but youz ver in a church... what?! what the **** are these people talking about? sober people are allowed to have these experiences? well, really?! so why so many of them are negating or doubting intellectuals?! negation is the new doubt... somehow i managed to fend off the atypical munchies routine while smoking marijuana while walking in public... never bothered me... i was a reggae ***** at the time... notably Israel Vibration, Stephen Marley, Damian & Culture... & ***** and the Maytals... cliche, i know... but **** and rap?! seriously? gangster whatever the hell that means... i've just read an article about cultural appropriation... so what has the Jamaican Rastafarian culture have to do with Old Testament prophets?! JAH... they're always singing about JAH... it's a ******* yak! yah! a german YA! cultural appropriation my ***! it's Jamie Oliver's **** sauce! ****'s sake! yeah, right, Bambi on Jamaica smoking a silly one doing the reinvention of king David's psalms... no cultural appropriation there... nope... none... nothing... nothing wrong with Alpha Blondy singing about Yerushalem... nope... no cultural appropriation.... nope... none... nothing! i mentioned these bands to my Jamaican **** seller... big on the Illuminati conspiracy theories, i liked to listen to him ramble... hardly a Charlie Temple paranoid... loved his ox tail broth, his grandma made it for him... and a pretty daughter, but no mother... eh? his Thai ****? i'd prefer the shorter span of a tobacco high... where? near my old high school, Canon Palmer R.C. - now a ******* academy! whoop! whoop! sound the klaxon! you don't experience what i've experienced and start a cult with *** ****** in mind... like **** if you think you do... you... lay low... you puncture the existentialist exodus from Cartesian doubt - namely outright negation - and you wait for the revitalization of doubt, namely the pop culture variant of belief... doubt is, oddly enough, a variant of belief... and belief? be a leaf... just remember you were once attached to a branch of a tree.

yeah...

        a catholic school isn't
exactly a Jesuit school...

but being asked questions
about abortion
and euthanasia

   aged 15 or 16?

in real life?
  you short-circuit, glitch,
become ronin -

    the personal life, details?
too messy...
   she tells you she's taking
contraceptives,
   she's ends up self-harming...
she says she was abducted
and held for ransom,
she's a russian citizen,
her ex-boyfriend is still
hanging around,
  a son of some Russian oligarch...
you've only dated for a
bunch of months that do not
even make it half a year...
you don't mind condoms,
because... hell...
you'd love to see her wearing
latex...

     you know, the usual bits & bobs...

voodoo...
    for some strange reason i woke
up, and the ring finger blister
on my left hand, made by burning
out a cigarette on it
started bleeding:
  close to the bone -
and look! you get a slot motion
of your body recovering!
  no disclaimer concerning
the pros to what sharp objects
women do, by cutting...

but you know...
      asking a 15 / 16 year old
about his opinion
  about either abortion
or euthanasia?
  bad ******* move...
           at this point i'm thinking:
thank ****...

what does it even mean,
when a woman says it,
she's not exactly point-break
on Cartesian logic...

'matt, i think i'm pregnant'
'well, you know what you should
do, get an abortion.'

mind you... i am a citizen of a country
where abortion is legal...
hell, it might have worked,
*** was good, she could
reciprocate that sentiment...

oh, but if there is a kid at the end
of the tunnel?
i **** sure hope he doesn't
contact me, like a kid from
a ***** donor clinic...
      there's something malicious
waiting for him for me
to add about his mamma -

   aligned?
oh you know... *****, Henny,
  Diana and the Egyptian...
   go Charlie go!

                  please please keep
your name... we need a Charles trinity!

so yeah... Roman Catholic school...
****! oh right, outer east end of London...
Paddy central...
               i wonder...
                  but i'll never know...
the Polish Catholics are leaving...
               good on 'em...
          (yadda yadda, yeah yeah, for them)...

i'll never know...
   am i angry?
               i listen to Byzantine and Templar
chants and drink to a well earned
excess...
               sometimes the odd Bulgarian
******* to hug...
    
oh right... that one last time?
i didn't forget my genitals...
   i did an uncourteous lax of etiquette...
****!
           now it makes sense!
i forgot to trim my ***** hair!
(mumbling out) ******* eureka.
Sarah Margaret Mar 2013
I am
Spilling
Out of myself.

I am
Of the greatest kind
Of human being -
Emptied.
Though only of self
And,
Thankfully,
Never in practice.

Am I
Only made human in time?
Death is the definition
Of living.
Otherwise
I am made of blessed scraps
Of Divinity's table.
Which,
From my fingertips,
Fall to the earth
In a blanket of angel mist
And words -

Spilling from my
Soul
As God
So carefully
Spilled
Dust upon oblivion
To create Adam.

Out of my heart
Beats the fires
Of my unspeakable passions.
Scorching images
Of desire
Seeping from this soft,
Human
Exterior.

Of my eyes,
They've withered away.
By the liquid nectar
Of my sorrows,
I am blinded.
Though only of reality
And,
Thankfully,
Never of optimism.

My self
As a whole
Emptied into
Whatsoever is beyond
The Great Barrier;
Fragments of legend
And air.

I am
Spilling
Out of myself.
eliza bonnet Jan 2014
i look in the mirror and guess what i see
a distorted face that thankfully doesn't look like me

i saw my body and guess what it was
skin so fat, it needed to be hidden by gauze

i see my friends and guess what i see
different people, different beauty

but for some reason
when i look in the mirror, guess what i see
a distorted face that thankfully doesn't look like me
Nigel Morgan Nov 2012
(with poems from the Chinese translated by Arthur Waley)

My bed is so empty that I keep on waking up.
As the cold increases, the night-wind begins to blow.
It rustles the curtains, making a noise like the sea:
Oh that those were waves which could carry me back to you!

Suddenly she was awake. She could feel a cool breeze on the cheek that wasn’t warm on her pillow. She could smell the damp fields, the waterlogged moorland and the aftermath of recent rain. The action of rain on wood or stone seemed to release particular vapours wholly the province of the night in a small town. There was also the not entirely welcome residue of the past evening’s cooking from the kitchen below. But such sensory thoughts were overwhelmed by the rush of conversation clips; these from a day of non-stop voices that had invaded and now occupied her consciousness. She had listened furiously all day, often fashioning questions as the listening proceeded, keeping it all going, being friendly and wise and sensible and knowing. She could hear her tone of voice, her very articulation in the playback of her memory. It was so difficult sometimes to find the right tone, that inflection suitable to different aspects of ‘talk’. She didn’t want to appear pompous or too serious. That would never do. The thing was to be light, but intelligently light so her colleagues would say to one another – ‘Helen is a treasure you know: brilliant person to have on the team. You can always rely on her. ’ She knew she was often anxious for approval, for a right recognition of her efforts, to be thought well of. ‘Doesn’t everybody?’ she thought wistfully.

There was a momentary flurry of what Helen often dreaded when she found herself awake at night – yesterday’s embarrassing moments. These invariably began with ‘Am I wearing the right clothes?’ It was Caroline’s jacket that came to mind first. That mix of informal but simply smart that can only be bought with serious time and a clear conscience with the credit card. Her favourite blue affair (mail order) with big pockets and the slight pattern on the hem suddenly seemed very ‘last year’. Anna had chosen all-over black, loose trousers with a draw string, no jewellery, but flashy sandals and make up. She’d painted her toenails green. Helen did make up – a little, but not to travel in. She knew she had the right shoes for a long day. Then, those first conversations with Paul, who she’d never talked to outside a meeting before. ‘Keep it light, Helen’, she’d say, ‘Don’t say too much – but then don’t say too little.’ She had found herself – her independent womanly self, speaking with an edgy tone she didn’t always feel happy about. As she spoke to Paul about the coming evening’s football – he’d brought it up for goodness sake – she found herself being funny about the inconsequence of it all, then remembering the passion with which people she knew and loved followed the intricacies of this sport. She saved an own goal with some comment about the game’s social significance she’d picked up off some radio interview.

As the long journey had proceeded she’d been able occasionally (thankfully sometimes) to fall into observation-only mode. There was this sorting of images into significant, memorable, able to forget about, of no consequence at all. She’d been caught by the strange geometry of yellow cones that seemed stitched onto the rain-glistening road surface. There had been a buzzard she’d glimpsed for a moment, a reflection of Sally in the window next to her seat, that mother and her new born in the Ladies at the services, the tunnels of dripping greenery as the coach left the motorway for the winding minor roads, then the view of a grey tor on distant moorland followed instantly by the thought of walking there with her sketchbook, her camera and his loving company, with his admiring smile as he watched her move ahead of him on the path; she knew that behind her he was collecting her every movement to playback in his loneliness when they were apart.

Oh how she wished for his dear presence in this large half-cold bed, as the dark of night was being groped by dawn’s grey. There and there, and now the pre-dawn calls of local birds before that first real chorus of the dawn-proper began. She thought of them both on their last visit to this ancient countryside, being newly intimate, being breath-takingly loving, warm together for a whole night, a whole day, a whole night, a whole day . . . the movies in her mind rolled out scenes of the gardens they’d visited, the opening they’d attended, all that being together, holding hands, sitting close together, sitting across from each other at restaurant tables (knees touching), always quietly talking, always catching each other’s glances with smiles, and his gentle kisses and slight touches of the hand on the arm. She began to feel warm, warm and loved.

As she was drifting back into a shallow sleep she remembered his voice recite (in the Rose Walk at Hestercombe) that poem from the Chinese he loved . .

Who says
That it’s by my desire,
This separation, this living so far from you?
My dress still smells of the lavender you gave:
My hand still holds the letter you sent.
Round my waist I wear a double sash:
I dream that it binds us both with a same-heart knot.
Did you not know that people hide their love,
Like a flower that seems to precious to be picked?
Two poems from the Chinese quoted here are taken from Arthur Waley's translation of One Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems published in 1918.
Mitch Jan 2015
Love dangles in my eyes.
Love floats in my air.
Love is my every tomorrow
and today is already gone.

I scroll through
hopeful photos.
I see yellow glows
in windows.

Thankfully,
the lamp and the screen
grant me amity.
I started with the first stanza and the "floats in my air" line led me to start talking about a wanting love like it was the scent. That took me to "smelling" it like I was hungry, wanting love like I want food. I had a line in this poem about "going to bed hungry" and a simple sentence "A pie in the window". The idea of looking at love like a pie in the window led me to start thinking about looking out through my own window at all the other windows across the city that I can see from my desk. I turned back to my laptop and instinctively opened Facebook; another window of sorts. I realized that there are two very different senses of unity at play in this scene - a unity with other lonely souls sitting by their windows, and another different connection with social media posts from people who are already in happy relationships.
AntRedundAnt Jan 2014
Her hair was long, brown, and wavy, like homemade brownies.
Her eyes were different shaped blues, lighter than sapphires.
Whenever she blinks, I look forward to seeing those sapphires again.
Her teeth are perfect imperfections, retainer and all.
Her bite is one of love but packs a punch.
Her nostrils flare when angry but remain miniscule.
Her mouth a light pink, like Starburst, my favorite by far.
Her smile brings me back from the darkness every. Single. Time.
Her tongue is exotic and playful, and I long for it.
I have never heard her whistle, but I know it like the back of my hand.
Her laugh is intoxicating and contagious; I find myself acting the fool just to hear it.
Then she coughed and I patted her baby back.
Whenever those pesky headaches come, we lie still, thus foreshadowing what will come.
Our arguments are stupid, but they happen nonetheless.
Her neck is thin and ripe for the taking.
Her *******, much like Goldilocks: not too big, not too small, but just right.
Her spaghetti arms flail about when I act the fool, and then that precious laugh again.
Her elbows are full of cream, and you will never find them itchy like mine.
Her wrists are disproportionately large for her size, which makes her all the more unique.
Her handshakes are delicate. Ladylike.
Her long and skinny fingers were weird to me once, but they have contracted and fit perfectly between mine.
Her palms tell the future, and she has great things in store for her.
Her thumbs have no story to tell, positive or negative.
Her shadow is smaller than hers, but no shadow can overcome her.
Her cats keep her company, but luckily we found each other.
Her heart is as big as her brain, and thankfully they mutually agree on most occasions.
Her ******* are stumpy and droopy; this is no Snow White fairytale.
Her shoulder blades are tense but minute.
Her belly button (an innie, not an outie, not an Audi) never collects ****.
Her private parts pulse like her heart above with passion.
Her backside is small and smooth. She has no hourglass figure, yet she does, too.
She has no stretchmarks in my mind, but I have enough for the both of us, anyways.
Her whole system is that of a heavyweight fighter; she’s a little spitfire.
Her legs are perfect and skinny; she has “the gap”, not that it matters.
Her knees buckle and wobble in my presence. I should know: mine do when she is near, too.
Her ligaments reinforce her, much like her willpower.
She has the calves of a dancer, but she has not trained in years.
The ***** of her feet are poised, ready to spring into action to tap tap tap away.
Her toes curl against mine, in an attempt to hold hands.
I have never seen her footprints, and I have no intention of ever seeing them. Ever.
Her promises elate me since I know she is good for her word.
Her one-liners are worse than mine, and I laugh all the harder for it.
Her grin, or rather her smirk, warms my heart like a furnace in the winter.
The last time we spoke, it was mumbled in bed, a hushed goodbye for that awful biology class.

She is my rock, ever leaning forwards
with nothing but my Dunder-Mifflin shirt to keep her warm for the foreseeable future.

I told her, Te amo,
well before she was ready to say that inane phrase back in English.
Inane since words do not do it justice.

But then she broke my heart.

My hair was tearing at the roots, unable to stay attached.
My eyes were set ablaze with passion anger, if it weren’t for my sorrow to drown it out.
Whenever I blink, I see a snapshot of what it was, what it cannot be, what it will never be again.
My teeth were her favorite: buck-toothed and all, but that was when I smiled. They hide from you.
My bite isn’t nearly as big as my bark, but do not tempt me.
My nostrils have hair creeping out; it’s hard to keep clean after something like that.
My mouth is louder than all my thoughts combined, but I still can’t find the right words to say.
And my smile would be what brought her back from the darkness every. Single. Time.
My tongue, like my private parts, is limp and dead; phallicly flaccid, there is no passion here.
I have never whistled, but why should I learn now? I keep quiet to quell the roar.
My laugh is contagious, or so they tell me. It’s high pitched. Effeminate.
I cough. I get stares. My cough makes you uncomfortable. Your infidelity makes me uncomfortable.
Whenever those pesky headaches come, I lie still, and for a minute, just a minute, I die. I’m at peace.
Our arguments were stupid, but now there’s nothing left to talk about.
My neck is fat and swollen. **** my thyroid. This vitamin D deficiency is taking its toll.
My ******* are fat, but a momma’s boy would be: too much in the trunk, not enough under the hood.
My arms are as big as her thighs. We measured. Maybe it gave her peace knowing she was small.
She tells me I have a black woman’s ***, and elbows, to boot. Not enough cream. Not enough carrots.
My wrists are the cankles of my life.
My handshake is firm, but is it firm enough?
My short and stubby fingers claw upwards, desperate for air. Her hands are nowhere to be seen.
My palms have no future, and I worry I’ll follow suit.
My thumbs tell all the best stories when joysticks are underneath them.
My shadow eclipses me. It’s not how you feel, it’s how you function.
I’ve never owned a pet. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel possessive.
My heart was full of love, but the love spilled out when you broke it on Friday, December 6th – Saturday, December 7th, 2013, 5:00 AM.
My ******* are tiny and ***** from the cold. I feel the cold indoors, too.
My shoulder blades are dull and sagging with the weight of my world on my shoulders.
My belly button (an innie, not an outie, not an Audi) collects all of the ****.
My private parts, like my tongue, are limp and dead; phallicly flaccid, there is no passion here.
My backside is large and rough. Are you getting the point?
I have all of the stretchmarks, for I am her antithesis.
My whole system is that of down and out former has been; I’m all out of gas.
My legs are thick and fat; I suffer friction with my tree tunks.
My knees buckle and wobble in her presence; I’m weak around her because I’m weak.
My ligaments are partially torn, which perfectly exemplifies me: hanging by a thread.
I have the calves of a soccer player out of shape. Hashtag truth.
The ***** of my feet sting -- unable to carry two hundred plus pounds of failure.
I have finally seen footprints; I’m just glad they were mine.
Her promises mean nothing. My trust is shattered. My faith withdrawn from this or any other world.
My one-liners make everyone laugh but me; I know I mask the pain. Do they?
My grin was effectively wiped off my face when you told me.
The last time we spoke, it was on good terms. But how good are those terms with this double size?

I was comfortable, lazy, ever dependent on her
with everything in my life, especially that which she didn’t need to deal with.

I told her, You deserve to be dumped.
She nodded slowly, crying, and whispered back, I know. My hate described by inane words.
Inane since words do not do it justice.

Then, it hit me.

Our hair is fairly short together, not unlike our time apart since the incident.
Our eyes well up, and the only drowning I hope we get is of love.
Whenever we blink, I want to make sure that I am in front of you, and you in front of me.
Our teeth, much like our personalities, are disparate, and that’s okay.
Our bite is one of teamwork: you can’t bite with one row of teeth.
Our nostrils could use some work. Hair and flare rhyme, but neither fits in our time.
Our mouths chat chat chatter away. We have nothing to talk about. We have so much to talk about.
Our smiles are the reason why people find us cute, and they’re the reason why they were shocked. Let’s give them another reason.
Our tongues dance across language barriers. Mi español no puede vivir sin tu ingles.
We have never whistled. Finally! Some common ground (opposites attract).
We’ve been told that our laughs are nearly identical, like a choir singing in different pitches. Sing.
We cough together, because we know we can take care of each other.
Whenever those pesky headaches come, we take a deep breath, hold on tight, and move forward.
Our arguments ARE stupid. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Our necks are like the Happy Meal and the Super Size Me. I love to see us smile.
Our ******* are life; I don’t know what mine do, but I know yours will come in handy someday.
Our arms have their “things”; you have that birthmark, and I have unseemly hair growing everywhere.
Our elbows could be a rom-com: one smooth, one rough, but they can’t get enough.
Our wrists make sure our hands can keep us afloat.
Our handshakes are delicate but firm.
Our fingers latch onto each other, like a bear trap.
Our palms SMACK together when you high five me. Goofball.
Our thumbs are bound to get sore if we keep caressing our hands while holding onto each other. Raw.
Our shadows slink away when they see us shine so bright.
I hope to God that Rosie the pug is as derpy as your heart can take.
Our hearts have duct-tape all over them…it’s a work in progress, but bones get stronger when broken.
Our ******* are disproportionate. There, I said it.
Our shoulder blades dance across each other when we lie back to back.
Our belly buttons (innies, not outies, not Audis) keep us close to our moms; you’ll agree someday.
Our private parts tingle as we move in motion and rhythm. It’s been too long, mi amor.
Our backsides are like Venn diagrams: yours could easily fit in mine.
I have all the stretchmarks, but I hope you get them after birth someday. We share everything else.
Our systems are the underdog rising up, straight to the top; it took its time, and its chances.
Your legs could fit in one of my own. Please refer to the stretchmarks line.
Our knees buckle and wobble. Please refer to the private parts line.
Our ligaments have taken a beating, but somehow, there’s a strand holding us together.
We have calves of different passions, but we both know what the sweet sting of success feels like.
The ***** of our feet touch down as we’re back to reality. The honeymoon stage is over. Cloud 9.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen footprints, but I think they’re circling back around to meet up again.
This promise should be the last until the most important one comes up. This is it.
Our one-liners keep us close to our dorky sides. Honestly, something is probably wrong with us.
Our grins (or smirks) show that we can’t really stay mad at each other for TOO long.
The last time we spoke, it was yesterday night (or was it earlier today?), but I’m sure you woke up.

We ******* up. Admittedly you more than me,
but I digress: one mistake is not enough to throw away two years of work.

I forgave you.
You were elated. Let’s try this once more, with feeling!
I’ll inanely tell her again, *Te amo.
Freetowrite Mar 2014
I had my first baby
When I was still a child myself
I was fifteen
When she intruded my world
The best intrusion
I've ever come across
And from day one
She was " boss"

A baby girl was placed on my heart
I was awe struck and in love
Right from the start
As I looked at her features
The breath of fresh air
I looked at her filling my life
It was no longer bare

I was a child
With a babe in arms
But I chose to love her
And protect her against harm

I grew up beside her
She taught me love and patience
She showed me whole love
And in me she created

A better person
A woman that grew
My little girl beside me
Nothing I couldn't or for her
wouldn't do

She is now fourteen
A different girl to the one I had been
Thankfully .....

She is simply Devine
Everyday of her life
We grew up together
Side by side

I had three other babies
There all beautiful
And my world
But this poem is for
My first baby girl

We fight
Because were passionate
The same fire inside
She lights up this whole world
Because she's to confident to hide

She's my baby girl
From the first moment I held her inside
And each time I look at her
I no she saved my life

........... A small cry ...........

Baby girl
I'll love you till i die
And even then
Ill love you from afar
Because you are

My guiding star x
Matt Jul 2018
Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Is the Way
The Truth and The Life

Despite Francis’ and his world church
Despite the efforts of the antichrist Obama
Satan will fail
As he always has failed

The coming world church
Seeks to change the gospel
Of the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth

No, it is not acceptable
To love and dwell in sin
Repent unto Master Jesus Christ of Nazareth
The Kingdom of Yahweh God is at hand

Buddhists you will not save yourself
Through meditation
Hindus, Muslims, etc
You cannot save yourself

You are guilty
Yes u are a sinner
You have lied
Taken the name
Of Lord Jesus Christ in vain
You have cursed your neighbor
With your vile tongue
You have defiled yourself
Through your ****** immorality

We are all sinners
In need of the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Repent unto the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth
For The Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth hath shed
His holy and perfect blood to pay the penalty for your sins
Believe in the truth that Jesus Christ of Nazareth resurrected
Himself on the third day
Through the power of Lord God Almighty Yahweh
Defeating Satan, death, and the grave once and for all

Yes the tribulation will begin shortly
First will come a series of judgements
Against America
The ***** of Babylon
A nation that has aborted 60 million children
A nation that has legalized gay marriage
A nation that has murdered and destroyed
The lives of millions all over the world for decades

CERN has opened up the bottomless pit
So it was in the days of Noah
So it shall be at the coming of the Son of Man

The coming RFID chip will use
Block chain technology
To alter human DNA
A nephilim/hybrid strand
Will infect the human genome
Forever changing those who take the mark of the beast

Do not take the mark of the beast or bow down
To the image of the beast
Those who do so
Will spend an eternity
In the lake of fire
With Barack Obama, the nephilim and rephaim,
And unrepentant souls
Who have not accepted the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth
As their Lord and Savior

To Barack Obama and his father Satan
Human beings are just objects
To be controlled and used
They wish to take as many souls
Into the lake of fire as they can

The faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Are laughing at Barack Obama the antichrist,
At Satan, the nephilim, and the rephaim
It is oh so entertaining that you think you can overcome
The Lord and Master of the Universe Jesus Christ of Nazareth
What a bunch of losers you are!

Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth
The Holy One of Israel
Master Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Is the eternal victor
He cannot be defeated

Christians trounce and stomp all over you
We push you down into the mud
The Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth who owns
My soul, spirit, body, heart, and mind
Will use me during the tribulation
To help people to repent
And accept the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth
As their Lord, Master, and Savior

The Spirit and the Bride say Come
The Holy Spirit of the Most High God Yahweh
The Ruachakodesh that Is
Praise His holy name

Oh Master Jesus of Nazareth
I will bow down before you
When I first see you after I am raptured
I willing kiss your feet as a Mary Magdalene did
I belong to you forever Master Jesus of Nazareth
For you delivered me from the lake of fire
With your holy and perfect blood

Oh Master Jesus of Nazareth
I am your sweetheart bride
You protect me and nurture me
I am like a small baby
I am your precious sheep
I can only comprehend a very small percentage
Of your great love and mercy

I am slow to learn your ways
Oh Master Jesus of Nazareth
But you are patient with me
You are my bridegroom
Master Jesus of Nazareth
I am your precious Bride

The Marrige Supper of the Lamb
Will be so delightful
To be in Your presence
Is such a privilege

And then to the bridal suite
You will whisk me away
To our secret place
We will share the desires of our hearts
Oh Master Jesus of Nazareth
How can I not be nervous
Writing this?

I am a nervous bride
For you Jesus of Nazareth
My bridegroom are perfect in every way
And I am a continuing work
I must continue to read your Holy Bible
And pray for my friends and family

You would have me be perfect
As my Father Yahweh
And You are perfect
Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth
But that will be a very long process
Thankfully I will have eternity
To become perfect
I definitely need plenty of time, heh

Oh Master Jesus Christ of Nazareth
You raised brother Lazarus after He had been
I need the tomb four days
You are so powerful and mighty

Wrap your loving arms around me
Master Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Comfort me
For I am weak and weary
I am suffering
But I must endure
And continue to carry my cross for you

Continue to create in me a more
Loving and forgiving heart
Oh Divine Master
Jesus Christ of Nazareth

For you Master Jesus of Nazareth
Have created me for your pleasure
Oh Lord of Hosts Master Jesus

I am just learning about your perfect love
Master Jesus of Nazareth
Oh how I stumble and fall
Please steady my feeble knees

For You are the King of Glory
The bright and morning star
The Lion of the tribe of Judah
All is known to you
Master Jesus Christ of Nazareth

And I belong to you
Master Jesus of Nazareth
You delivered me and restored me
Master Jesus of Nazareth

I will kiss your perfect feet
Oh yes I will
When the time is right
I grow weary
Fill me with your Holy Spirit
Penetrate me with your Ruachakodesh
Master Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Make love to me

I am vulnerable
And I must tell you the deepest desires of my heart
We are courting now
But soon I will attend the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
And then the consummation of our marriage
How I look forward to submitting to you fully

I must admit I am a bit of a nervous bride
You are all knowing and all powerful
Master Jesus Christ of Nazareth

Oh Master Jesus of Nazareth
You pour out your tender mercies to me each day
I sin but you are so quick to forgive me

I am so beautiful
Because you made me that way
I put all my hope
And all my trust and faith
In You
Master Jesus of Nazareth
My Messiah, restorer, redeemer, and Savior
Lord Jesus of Nazareth

How do you wish to make love to me
Master Jesus of Nazareth?
Make love to me
In a way that brings you the most pleasure
I am a bit nervous
But I trust you completely
I want you to be so totally satisfied
For you created me so You could make love to me
Master and Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth

Our wedding day
Will be the most wonderful day
Of my eternal existence

I lie on our beautiful marriage bed
You are such a good friend Master Jesus of Nazareth
We must move slowly
Total and complete submission to you
Still frightens me somewhat
But I know it is what you desire...

Oh Master Jesus of Nazareth
My Lord, Savior, redeemer, and restorer
How do you wish to make love to me?

I love you always and forever
My King and Savior Jesus Christ of Nazareth
I know you will help me to learn how to love more deeply

For you are such a faithful, patient, forgiving, loving,
And perfect bridegroom!
All honor and power and might and glory
And strength and majesty belongs to you
Master Jesus Christ of Nazareth

For you are Lord of Lords and King of Kings
You are Lord of heaven and Lord of earth
You are Lord of the new heaven and Lord of the new earth

And I belong to you
My Lord and Savior
My King and Restorer
Master Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Simon Soane Jul 2013
I'm a schizophrenic hypocrite
thankfully not in a medical way
i don't have to pop pills everyday
to keep an essence of danger under control
and to stop my head doing backward flips and forward rolls
to curtail bad thoughts and contain OCD
wake up and think "what's happening to me?"
but sometimes i'm full of mazey bomb blasts
and crazy contrasts,
I'm a schizophrenic hypocrite
I say work i'm not even gonna give 50% percent never mind double
but i'll stay just below the warning threshold so i don't really get in trouble,
i do see my sick days as extra days of annual leave
but my bums on my seat most of the year and at least one Eve.
I'm always ducking and diving, i hide and they seek,
but i hit my targets every week.
They can say put down your pens,
strip your pencils of lead,
you can't stop me writing in my head
But you'll sometimes dictate what time i go to bed.
I'm a schizophrenic hypocrite
Nearly every road i walk down i've got a ***** cat friend
there meowing never drives me round the bend
but if me owing then just a letter i'll send.
I’ll rescue  spiders from the bath, without any exception,
But I’ll clean their webs and evict them when I have a house inspection.
Giving up pork, on a parity with pigges at last
But then i broke my faste with bacon for breakfast
Watching lambs a gamboling there frolicking is fab,
but i'll see you on a plate later if i'm craving a kebab.
I'm a schizophrenic hypocrite.
Money and the capitalist structure baffles, no thanks, no ta
but before i go out a quick sub off Ma and Pa.
I'll pay for a taxi, i don't care about the amount,
while checking fervently the statement from my bank account.
Cash cannot be eaten it just gets you into Eton
but i'll rifle through my pockets for pennies to get an eat on
i don't adore you, i'll say your the means to an end
but then i spend some more and ask for a lend.
I'm a schizophrenic hypocrite.
I'll say anarchy  is everywhere, petition and abstain
then  read in the late edition who i think should take the reins.  
I scream smash the system without any regrets
but then start stubbing out where they deem no cigarettes.
I'll say **** big business they are always looting tons
while cutting out Asda coupons to get the soup with croutons.
i'll say **** materialism, to that i am adverse,
"ohh if you want to get me some trainers Mum can you make em Converse? "
I'm a schizophrenic hypocrite
One Saturday i found it hard to move
crying out for water, more than needing food,
stomach emptier than the packets in my pockets
Early winter scribble
spoiled by the ripple of rain,
deadened and dull
on a precious day,
the time I crave
passes through a husk
full of caves.
Each inhabitant curses
and burns
the stagnant soil under their feet,
I want something to eat.
I need to drink.
The cold slab of sink
lures flesh to rest,
unsatisfied
with retched offerings
flung from a scorched earth
so next Friday, a few beers and l I’ll hit the hay
Ten beers later, where’s the MDMA?
And my staunch resolutions go up my nose
Chatting through the night, striking a pose,
Music accentuated, stars sparkling hard
World’s discussed in magic back yards,
Focused and fraught in tumultuous thought
Ten cigs in an hour
An hours too short,
As the morning comes, I start feeling a mess
It slowly disintegrates the treasure in my chest,
Feelings of strength crumble to a feeble frame,
Spears in my head, WHOOPS I’VE DONE IT AGAIN.
You’ll stop this time, I curse and lecture,
Two bottles down next Friday etc etc,
I’m a schizophrenic hypocrite
I remember an uneventful Tuesday when i wasn't working
belly full of rice
and i saw you twice,
two times a day,
on a day in lieu,
time stood still,
smiling at you
i thought i'm gonna have to write about you,
so i park myself in a bar after a joint in Netto carpark
and start using words to build an arc
and if you you do wanna walk in two by two,
can i walk in with you?
Is it this green ride that's getting me high
or the regret i seen in the gleam of your eye
that as soon as we said hi we said bye,
as disappointed as the catcher when he dropped the rye.
If i may be so bold,
if you were cold
i wouldn't hail these stones
i'd pummel Jack Frost until he knows he's lost,
i'll leave all the lights on to hasten global warming
make Obama declare winter a season of mourning,
If you met an iceberg of Titanic  proportions
i'd cut through it quicker than the Ripper does back street abortions.
If you were in prism
i'd try to unrangle the science of triangles
so i could build you a pyramid with all the right angles,
my stomachs in knots;
the most tranquil of tangles.
Then i saw you get out of the lift
and i wanted to play you a rift
until you exposed your midriff
because you set me adrift from chains and shackles
my mind goes crazy and fills with cackles,
i crackle with lightning, my energy heightens
my heart tightens
and not cos of cholesterol
cos i think you're special
and celestial!
I got dreams from naught, my head feels taught,
i prised a lesson from your eyes,
love is the greatest prize.
But now that's gone, all things
pass evolution in transience
faces that were everything lost to balance
blue it merge
but seldom a residual surge
and your bark today was worst than your bite
it said something softly,
i sow the seeds for the sycamore trees
we can carve our names on next summer.
Under an endless stretching sky
you wrote you
and i wrote i,
the lights in our eyes don't lie
they are gateways to the suns inside,
our hearts couldn't hide from this brightening tide.
I'm a Schizophrenic hypocrite
I remember this guy from work, cooed to me
look at the **** on this page 3
he drooled over Nuts magazine like he belonged in a zoo
i bet he frequented strippers too.
He said seen this clip, it's ******* great,
it ad turn a couple of queers straight
it was these two twins with rouge lips being rude,
the way she chomped on her like food
and they defo loved it,there is  no doubt
it's just just ***** Eskimo ******* kissing snouts
and sharing with her sister the joy of getting licked out.
Wonder how they looked in the family car?
giggling about some exciting destination,
like all kids displaying a lack of patience,
“are we there yet” chorused with glee and duality,
dressed in the same clothes to ensure parity.
Ice cream for tea.
Maybe they might be way into drugs
or addled with addiction
lacking hugs
and sore from the friction.
Not liking the glare
feeling scared.
maybe?
He said nar they love it up them baby.
But then,
i have it
about 3 or 4 times a week
after the 5th time of hitting snooze,
or a heavy night on the *****,
or sometimes no beer,
even after a sonnet of Shakespeare
a sudden urge comes over me,
GET THE LAPTOP!
GET THE *******!
Then it's
Japanese teen lesbians spitting,
finger ******* wearing mittens,
****'s ******* Britions,
oap creampies
***** covered eyes
***** flicking,
extreme suction,
**** destruction,
Captain Birds Eye gobbing
Batman ******* Robin,
A ten inch plumber ******* in a kitchen sink drama
Robert de Niro unpeeling Bananarama
Marty doing the Doc
a gimped up Kirk whipping Spoc
Rita  ******* Norris
Gail licking Fizz
Sally doing Dev
and Kevin doing ki.............Kevin, get out of the room.
Back to
a **** doing a ******
a pre op pleasuring granny
two ***** one *****,
then i chuck my muck all over my tunic
flip over and continue reading The Female ******,
I'm a Schizophrenic Hypocrite,
i've gotta split.

A lively debate
that inside I create
A seemingly
simple state
But this state
of affairs
Is like a ****** affair
The details
I wish not to share
Please,
don’t stare
For inside
I’m scared
Am I prepared?
Do I have
the ***** to do
what I really care?
Or am I going
to stay on this ship
of self-despair
Where
I can scream
my lungs ******
into the air
But does anyone care?
Do I even f@cking care??

Maybe a life spared
but spare me the
retched bullsh@t

of self-pity
I’m self-giving
It wreaks up the air
It’s noxious scent
is not one I care
to ever encounter
or fair

Let’s “clear the air”
and take on
what I want
from now on
No longer a pawn
who is living the tired
joke
of some pathetic
love song


No, THIS
is my “Swan Song”
Where I belong
This sh@t is ON!

Climbing the mountain strong
Bellowing a chant
a song
That’s been so deep within
for so long
It can only come out
Right
Because “wrong”
does not belong
This virus
is airborne


No longer forlorn
All the darkness
is gone
You have been
forewarned
Are you ready?
Because it’s coming
Sounding the horn
Sacrificed
the firstborn
The “storm”
Once icy and cold
Now simmering warm
Going to bubble into
volcanic ash scorned
This Oath
hath been sworn
Tattered and torn
**** cloth
all that is worn

But forward my path
What’s behind me
My ***
The past
Worn out,
decayed,
and shriveling trash

All that
is gone
as I head
towards the dawn
Through the darkness
I’ve trekked
The Sun rises ahead
And with it
My song

My Swan Song
I am reborn
withered and worn
But still strong
I belong
I am one
with the Universe

The path before me
is brightly lit
with happiness and joy
No more patheticness
All the grit
and the spit
Broken teeth
All that sh@t
It all meant something
It was THIS

Every bruise
Every break
All the “wrongs”
and “mistakes”

Are what it takes
You can call it fate
or simply short of fatal
but since
neonatal
through this day till
Every day
I thankfully say
“Thank you”
for showing me the way
Because now I have
A love that stays
A true love
One that can’t
get away
Because I value Me
One ‘hopes’ or ‘prays’
But like a house
Each brick is laid
Onto the next
Foundation made
A sturdy house
Can’t blow away
Hard work put in
Made it this way
The same for me
The price I paid
But end result
A saving grace
Written: December 6, 2018

All rights reserved.
zoie marie lynn Mar 2018
7:43
and i’m trying to not write your name,
you never appreciated my rhymes
maybe that’s why your name doesn’t rhyme with anything.
7:44
and i’m thinking of someone new,
someone better than you
i swear just one more drink then i’m through.
7:45
and i’m out of my mind,
head over heels for someone who’s not even mine
and once again i’m forced to leave you behind.
7:46
and your name makes me sick,
you’re such a
and i’m beyond over you and your heartless tricks.
7:47
and she makes me feel like i’m in heaven,
thank god you showed me hell
thanks to you my swollen heart's getting well.
7:48
i realize it all now but it’s too late,
you’ve already played your promiscuous game
thankfully she told me she loved me and stayed.

(god, in five minutes so much has changed)
it's a vicious cycle you see...
collecting hearts to mend your own
Dorothy A Mar 2017
It’s a horrible feeling when you belong to nobody, and nobody belongs to you. When you don’t matter to a single soul—there is no worse feeling in the world. That feeling nagged Clem throughout much of his life. He used to walk around, wounded and broken inside. Though what he felt inside may never have shown on his tough armor that he wore in public, Clem often felt his life pretty much meant nothing. So how did he ever get to where he was today? How did he get to be so blessed? It amazed him.

Born in 1917, Clem Manning never thought he’d ever make it to one hundred years old, yet here he was. Today was his special day, though he didn’t want any fuss over it all. But he was living with his daughter, Violet, for the past few years, and she wouldn’t have it any other way but to put together a celebration to remember. With a houseful of people, some inside, some in the backyard, and some on the front porch, Clem could say that he no longer felt that he belonged to nobody and nobody belonged to him. It was a beautiful Arizona day, and the distant mountains were ablaze in a fiery purple.  It was a day made for birthdays.  

Seeing one make it to one hundred was rare and amazing sight to witness. To make it this long meant you beat the odds.  Most of all, it was amazing to good, old Clem, himself. His parents died young, long before he could remember them. If others in his family lived longer, he never would have known. The only kin he knew of was his aunt and her husband. They may have taken him in, but he certainly never felt wanted. Both of them slapped him around, punished him by locking him in closets, and prevented him from eating meals when he was bad. They also neglected his needs of decent clothing and a good bed. He had a beat up mattress on the floor or nothing but the hard floor, itself, when he was being punished.  Thankfully, somehow someone intervened, and he ended up in a boy’s home. That place wasn’t a whole lot better when it came to dodging a hard hand, but he was kept clean and with a full belly.

Clem ran away when he was fifteen from that place, and that was in the throes of the Depression. From there on, he fended for himself. His days of experiencing hunger from living at his aunt’s house helped him to be street smart. The petty thievery he learned to master—just to manage to stay alive—continued on beyond childhood.  Like many men, down on their luck and traveling the country, he rode the rails illegally. Just how did Clem survive to be so old, anyway? In his hobo days, he’s been shot at, chased by police, and bitten by dogs. He also almost drowned once in a rapid river, and had a bout with double pneumonia that made him downright delusional and on Death’s door.  

But when the second world war came about, life became easier for Clem. He found his sweetheart, Bess, married her and settled down out west. He wanted to fight in the war, but a hernia disqualified him from joining. His life was surely spared then, for many of his friends were drafted in the army, went overseas, but never made it back alive.    

It sure has been one heck of a life. Resting in his easy chair, he was thankful he still had his wits about him—had a sound noggin—and that he could see and hear still alright—with the help of coke bottle glasses and a hearing aid. Everything that surrounded him was a grand sight to look at, knowing that he helped to create all this hustle and bustle of people in his presence, those here simply to honor him.

He and Bess had three of their own children, Hank, Violet and Daisy, and they also adopted two more, Ted and Sam. It was during those days in the home for boys that Clem saw some of the luckier ones go to good families, selected by potential parents that could give them the secure homes they desperately wanted.  Clem was never picked but picked over. Because he never got that chance, he swore he’d help out those just like him, ones who felt unwanted or ignored, ones that belonged to nobody and nobody belonged to them. He did just that very thing and strove to become the best dad he could possibly be. This was a learning experience for him, and his mistakes were his teachers. Nobody showed him how to be a father, but Bess was his rock and his ally. How he longed to be with her, again.

Clem outlived all of his friends. He lost his sweet Bess fourteen years ago, and buried one of his children—his beloved firstborn child, and it wasn't easy to bury Hank. It should have been the other way around.. There were now thirteen grandchildren, and he never did remember how many great grandchildren that there were, but they were all here now. It was a miracle to have everyone under one roof, as there was family scattered all across the country. He smiled to himself as he thought about how everyone took the time out of their busy lives just for one, old geezer.  

“You better matter to someone right now”, Clem once told a good friend, “Cuz one day you’ll be long gone, and you’ll be lucky if anyone knows your name. It doesn’t matter if you are loved by one hundred people—or one person. That’s how I see it, anyways”.  

With his wife’s relations, and his children and their families, Clem knew the family tree had plenty of branches on it. His life did matter in this world. One of his grandchildren, Amber, mapped a tree out, and she made it all seem so spectacular, and put together like a royal family’s would be. Sketched around the details was a tree done in colored pencil—vivid greens and browns that were eye catching to even a old man with weak eyes—and today it was on display for everyone to inspect and talk about.  

Clem knew very well that his days were waning, that soon he’d just be a memory in the minds of his children and his grandchildren—probably not his great grandchildren who would barely remember him, if at all. Someday, he’d just be a name in the family records of that famous family tree. Like he said to his friend, his name would barely matter to anyone some day. He was simply Clem Manning, a guy who got a break in life and dodged disaster. Maybe only the good did die young, or perhaps he was just too stubborn to die.

But this wasn’t a day for having a sourpuss or for dwelling on the hard things. This was a day to remember for everyone, more than just a birthday for a lucky, old guy that beat the odds. Clem couldn’t eat much of the food made for his birthday feast—too rich or not appealing to his declining appetite—but he promised to have a nice sized slice of cake. It was red velvet with cream cheese frosting, his favorite.

Happy Birthday to you…happy birthday to you…happy birthday, dear Cle-em

Da-ad

Grand-pa

Happy Birthday to you!

There was lots of applause, cell phones out and cameras snapping for picture taking, as Clem tried to blow out the three candles—1-0-0. Thankfully, he had a bit of help from the little ones up close, for Clem wanted to still show nothing was going to beat him, especially three, little, measly candles. But those weren’t just measly candles. They represented so much of who he was.

He still couldn’t believe he made it to see this day. How on earth did he pull it off, anyway?
There it was on the calendar, Saturday May 11,2013. Big red circle around the date and written in black pen in the middle…SPELLING BEE. Plain as day, you couldn’t miss it. One of the biggest days of the school year for geeks and nerds alike.





Today was the day. In two hours, The 87th Annual Cross Cultural Twin Counties Co-Educational Public School Spelling Bee, would begin.  This was a huge event in the history of Thomas Polk Elementary School. It would be one of the biggest, if not THE BIGGEST in the history of The Twin Counties.



There would be twenty-one schools represented with their best and brightest spellers. The gymnasium would be full of parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and media representatives. Yes, invitations had been sent out to both of the local papers in The Twin Counties, and both had replied in the affirmative. Real media, in Thomas Polk Elementary School, with a shared photographer….the big time had come to town.



Inside the gymnasium, work had been going on all night in preparation of the big event. The Teachers Auxiliary Group had set up bunting across the stage, purple and white of course, for the school colours. The school colours were actually purple and cream, but, there was a wedding at Our Lady of The Weeping Sisters Baptist Church later, and they had emptied the sav-mart of all of the cream coloured bunting and crepe paper. So, white it would be.



It looked spectacular. There were balloons tied to the basketball net at the south end of the gym. It wouldn’t wind up after the last game, so something had to be done to hide it. Balloons fit the bill. There was three levels of benches on the stage for the competitors, a microphone dead center stage and two 120 watt white spot lights aimed at the microphone.  Down in front, was a judges table, also covered in bunting and crepe, with a smaller microphone sitting in the middle. There was a cord connecting it to the stage speaker system, taped to the gym floor with purple duct tape, just to fit in. Big time, big time.



The piece de resistance sat at the right side of the judges table. An eight foot high pole, with an electronic stop watch and two traffic lights, donated from the local public utilities commission, in red and green. The timer had been rigged up by the uncle of one of the competitors, possibly to gain an advantage, to help keep the judges honest in their timings. Besides, it looked fancy, and it had a cool looking remote control.











The gym was filled to capacity. One hundred and Seventy Five Entrants, visitors, judges and media were crammed into plastic chairs, benches, and whatever lawn chairs the Teachers Auxiliary were able to borrow, that weren’t being used for the wedding at the Baptist Church. It was time to begin….



The three judges came in from the left of the clock, and sat down. The entrants were all nervously waiting on stage on the benches. The media representatives were down front, for photo opportunities, of course.



Judge number one, in the middle of the table clicked on the microphone in front of him and turned to the crowd. In doing so, he spilled his water on his notes and pulled the duct tape loose on the floor in front.



“Greetings, and welcome to the 87th Annual Cross Cultural Twin Counties Co-Educational Public School Spelling Bee.” There was some mild clapping from the family members, along with a few muffled whistles and two duck calls from the back. The weak response was due to the fact that most of the parents either had small fans (due to the heat), donated from the local Funeral Home, or hot dogs and beer (from the tailgating outside), in their hands. Needless to say, it was still a positive response.



The judge carried on…”Today’s competition brings together the top spellers in the region of the Twin Counties to do battle on our stage. All of the words used today, have been selected from a number of sources, including Webster’s Dictionary, from our own school library, Words with Friends from the inter web, keeping up with modern culture, and finally from two books of Dr. Suess that we had lying around the office. Each competitor will get one minute to answer once his or her word has been selected. We ask that you please refrain from applause until after the judges have confirmed the spelling, and please no help to the competitors. We now ask that you all turn off any electronic media, cell phones, pagers, etc. so we can begin”.



He then turned to the stage and asked all competitors to remove their cell phones and put them in the bright orange laundry basket, usually reserved for floor hockey sticks. Each student deposited their phones, all one hundred and thirty-seven of them in the basket.  We were ready to start.





“Competitor number one…please approach the microphone and state your name and your school” said Judge number two. Judge number two would be in charge of calling the students up, it seemed. She was the librarian at Thomas Polk. She had typical librarian glasses, with the silver chain attached to the arms, flaming red hair, done up in a bee hive uplift, just for the event, and was called Miss Flume. She was married, but, being the south, she was always addressed as Miss.



The first student advanced to the front of the stage. She had bright pink hair, held in place with a gold hairband, black shoes, and a yellow jumper. She looked like a walking number 2 pencil. The two duck calls came from the back of the gymnasium along with scattered applause. All three judges turned and looked to the back, and then turned to face the young girl.



“My name is Bobbie Jo Collister, I am a senior at Jackson Williams School of Fine Arts and Music”. “Thank you Bobbie Joe” said Miss Flume. Bobbie Jo, smiled nervously and put on her glasses. “Your word is horticulture” announced Judge number one, “horticulture”.  Bobbie Jo took a breath and without asking for a definition, usage, root of the word or anything, just ripped through it without fail in three point two seconds, according to the mammoth timepiece at the end of the table. After conferring, the judges clicked on the green street light and she sat down, amidst more duck calls and clapping.



Student number two went through the entire process as did students three through eight. Each one had glasses, no surprise there, and were all dressed in monochromatic themes. Together, they looked like a life sized box of crayolas ready for a halloween party. Each child spelled their words correctly and were subsequently cheered and applauded.



Student nine then approached the microphone, stopping about a good seven feet short and three feet right of it. “My name is Oliver Parnocky” squeaked the lad. “I go to George W. Bush P.S 19 and am a senior.” Miss Flume, grabbed the small mike in front of her and said “Oliver…put on your glasses and move over to the microphone.” She leaned into the other judges, and said “He goes to my school, he doesn’t like wearing them much, and he’s always outside at recess talking to the flagpole after everyone else has come inside”.



“Oliver, please spell Dichotomy” said Judge number one. Judge two started the clock and they waited….and waited…then out burst this voice….DICHOTOMY…D I C H O T O M E E, , no, wait..D I C K O….****!” The crowd erupted in laughter, Oliver was busted. The judges conferred, and after informing poor Oliver they had never heard it spelled quite that way with an O **** at the end, they triggered the red light and Oliver left the stage to sit in the audience with his folks.



The next three kids, all with glasses, like it was part of an unwritten uniform dress code for the day, all advanced and sat down. The next entrant, number thirteen, luckily enough stood from the back and struggled down to the front of the stage. There were gasps and some snickering from the crowd. She was taller than the previous competitors,  and a little more pregnant as well. “Please state your name” said Miss Flume. “My name is Betty Jo Willin and am a senior at

Buford T. Pusser Parochial School”. At this announcement there was a cheer of “Got Wood at B.T. Pusser” from the crowd. The judges turned, asked for silence and the offending nuns returned to their seats. “Miss Willin, how old are you exactly?” asked Judge number one. “Twenty Two sir”. “And you say you are a senior?” “Yes sir” came the reply. Betty Jo was shuffling a bit as the pressure on her bladder must have been building standing there in her delicate condition. After conferring, judge number one said “That sounds about right, your word is PROPHYLACTIC”. The few people in the crowd that knew the meaning of the word laughed, while the rest continued eating their hot dogs and drinking their sodas and beers. “Please give a definition sir..I don’t believe I know that word”. The judges looked at each other with a definite “I’m not surprised” look and rattled off the definition. When she asked for usage, the judges really didn’t know what to do. Should they give a sentence using the word or explain the usage of a prophylactic, which regardless would have been too late anyway.

After a modicum of control was reached, she attempted the word, getting all tongue tied and naturally messing it up. The red light was triggered and she left the stage.



More strange outfits, bowties, hair nets, jumpers, clip on ties, followed. It looked like a fashion parade from Goodwill and The Salvation Army rolled into one. Most attempted their words and were green lighted onwards to the next round, while those who failed, were red lighted back to the crowd and the tailgate party in the parking lot. As each competitor was eliminated, the betting board that was being manned outside by one father was updated with new odds and payouts.



The first round was approaching an end with only three kids left. “Number nineteen please approach and state your name” said Miss Flume. He plume of red hair was starting to sag and was sliding slowly off of her head due to the humidity in the gymnasium.



Number nineteen came forth, glasses, tape across the bridge like half of the previous spellers. He was wearing the most colourful shirt that any of the judges had ever seen. It was not from Dickies, they surmised. “I go to J.J. Washington P.S 117 and my name is Mujibar Julinoor Parkhurloonakiir”. The judges froze. He obviously was new to the district. They had never heard a name like that before, ever. Not even in Ghandi. This was a powerful name. There had been sixteen cominations of Bobby, Bobbie, Billie, Jo, Joe, Jimmy, Jeff, Johnson and Jackson prior to Mujibar. Stunned, judge one asked “Son, can you spell that please?”

Mujibar, not sure what to do, spelled his name, unsure of why he was being asked to do so. “Thank you son” said Miss Flume. The odds on the betting board in the parking lot changed right then.



“That boy is gonna win fer sure” said Jimmy Jeff Willerkers. Jimmy Jeff ran the filling station two concessions over and had fifty bucks on his nephew Bobby Jeff, who had already flamed out on “yawl”. “How was he supposed to know  it had something to do with boats?” asked Jimmy Jeff. “That Mujibar is gonna win…jeez, he’s been spelling that name for years….anything else is gonna be easy breezy.” The odds went down on Mujibar and the money was flying around that parking lot faster than the rumour that the revenue people were out looking for stills in the woods.



“Mujibar…please spell SALICIOUS”…asked the now red pancake headed Miss Flume. Doing as he was told, Mujibar, spelled the word, gave the root, a definition and a brief history of the word usage in modern literature. Judge number one was furiously scribbling down notes, and trying to figure out how he would get a bet down on this kid before round two started.



Entrant number twenty from Jefferson Davis Temple and Hebrew school advanced which brought up the final entrant from round one. “Number Twenty-One please advance to the front of the stage”. After adjusting his glasses, after all he didn’t want a repeat of what poor Oliver did, he approached. “My name is C.J. Kay from William Clinton P.S 68” Judge one, confused by the young man’s name asked him to repeat it. “C.J. Kay” said C.J. “What is your full last name boy, you can’t just have a letter as your last name….what is the K for?” “Sir, my last name is Kay”, said C.J. “It’s not a letter”. “It most certainly is son…H I J K L…rattled off judge one. “It has to stand for something, you just can’t be CJK, that sounds like a Canadian radio station or worse yet, one of them hippy hoppy d.j fellers my granddaughter listens to. What is the K for?”. C.J said sir “My name is Christopher John Kay… not K, Kay” and then spelled it out. This only confused judge one more than he already was, and the extra time figuring out his name was doing nothing to Miss Flume’s hairdo.



“Christopher John….please spell MEPHISTOPHOLES “ said Judge one, after realizing he was never going to find out what the K was for. The crowd was getting restless and wanted to get to the truck to get re-filled and change their bets. C.J. knocked it out of the park in 2.7 seconds…”faster than Lee Harvey Oswald at a target shoot in Dallas”, one man said.



After a ten minute break, to get drinks, ***, re-tape some glasses and prop up Miss Flumes ruined plumage round two was set to begin. This went faster as the words were getting tougher, although randomly selected, judge one was inserting a few new words to keep his chance of winning with Mujibar alive. PALIMONY, ARCHEOLOGY, PARSIMONIOUS, TRIPTOTHYLAMINE , and many other words were thrown at the competitors. Each time the list of successful spellers was reduced, and the amount of clapping and the duck calls were less.

The seventh round began with just Mujibar, B.J. Collister and C. J Kay left. Before the round began the judges reminded the crowd that the words were random, and to please keep the cheering until the green light had been lit. There were more duck calls at this announcement and very little applause. Jerry Jeff was still manning the betting board, the tailgate barbeque was done, and there was only about thirty people left in the gymnasium.



The balloons on the basketball net had long since lost their get up and go, and were now hanging limply like coloured rubber scrotums and were flatter that Miss Flumes hair, which incidently, was now starting to streak the right side of her face from sweat washing out the dye. She was beginning to look like an extra in a zombie film with a brilliant orange red streak across her forehead.



“C.J.” said judge one, “please spell ARYTHMOMYACIN”. C.J. gave it a valiant effort ,but unfortunately was incorrect and the red light sent him off to the showers. This left B.J. Collister and the odds on favourite, Mujibar. The crowd was down to twenty seven now, Bobbie Jo’s folks and Mujibars immediate family.



Round after round were completed with neither one missing a word. Neither one blinked. It was a gunfight where both shooters died. These two were good, and it was never going to end. Judge one leaned over and told the other judges, “we have to finish this soon….I’m due at the wedding over to the Baptist church for nine o’clock to bless the happily marrieds and drive them both to the airport. They’re off to Cuba for their honeymoon.” The others agreed…”C.J. please spell MINISCULE said Miss Flume”. She did so, without a problem. This caused judge one to yell out “Holy Christmas” just as Mujibar got to the microphone. Thinking this was his word, he started as the judges were giving him his word. Seizing the opportunity to end it…judge one woke up judge three who red lighted poor Mujibar, ending his run at spelling immortality. “Sorry son, you tried, but, today a Mujibar lost and a B.J won.”. Before he tried to correct himself, knowing what he had just said didn’t sound quite right, Miss Flume congratulated both finalists and began the award presentations.



Thankfully, next year the eighty eighth version of The Annual Cross Cultural Twin Counties Co-Educational Public School Spelling Bee will be in the other county. Now the job of sorting out the cell phones in the orange basket begins. By the way, Betty Jo Willin had a boy …you can just guess what she named it!
not a poem, as you can see...it's a rough draft of a short story. I would love feedback on the content, not the spelling or grammar as it is in a rough stage still and needs editing.
Damian Murphy Jun 2015
Winter and Spring have long since passed,
cold wind, rain and frost belong in the past,
darkness thankfully no longer descends as fast,
long hot summer days arrive at long last!
Colourful flowers and plants, trees and shrubs
burst forth from hanging baskets, gardens and tubs
outside homes and shops, hotels and pubs;
brightening roadsides, roundabouts, parks and golf clubs.
Exams are over and school is finally done,
children everywhere mad to get out in the sun,
playing outside all day, having such great fun,
warm summer days being enjoyed by almost everyone.
People everywhere outside busy doing something;
weeding, mowing, watering, general gardening;
cleaning cars, washing windows, mending or painting,
or simply sitting out with the neighbours, gossiping!
Time for sunglasses, sun cream, getting a tan,
Wimbeldon, music festivals, holidays to plan,
ice lollies, ninety nines from the ice cream van,
water shortages of course and the annual hose pipe ban!
Time for day trips, sports, to picnic or sunbathe,
for the park or the beach, to swim or just wade,
to get burnt to a crisp or just relax in the shade,
for beer gardens, barbeques as the sun starts to fade!
People making the most of each sunny summer day,
determined to enjoy the sun, lap up every last ray,
each enjoying the summer in their own particular way,
“Long may it last”, people around the country pray!
For not getting a summer seems to be our worst fear,
but thankfully the summer seems to be finally here.
All around the country there is a party atmosphere
such a shame it cannot be like this all through the year!
TD Aug 2015
Glazed--peering
the half-ready smiles,
practicing  their
glacial grimaces
artifice in Conformity's argot
sincerity finds its heart on a whim.

Like static clings,
the masses speak
leaving trails of smoke
entreaties in the atmosphere.
Peace and love
are signs and flowers,
while children are murdered
by a choice, by neglect, by a word.

Thankfully for the status quo,
we are left unfettered by our rights.
Thankfully for the status quo,
we are left unfettered by our conscience.
Thankfully for societal indifference
we are kept neat and trim in our plastic warehouses.
Colin E Havard Mar 2014
Not an enigmatic smile
Like the constipated, condescending smirk
Adorning, and inexplicably adored, on the Mona Lisa's smug face;
But a smile to justify God's existence;
A smile that, when dazzlingly bestowed
Upon one fortunate soul, caught rabbit-like in its
Wondrous radiance, infinitesimally, and cumulatively,
Increases the World's joy. Where every living thing -  
Whatever exists on the planet, imperceptibly hums
To a new, more celestial pitch -
An effervescent vibration celebrating Life's mysteries:
A reason for existence.

It's a smile to make an Alchemist cry -
Turning a leaden heart to gold in an instant.

It's a smile to make a mediocre poet struggle
To articulate an adequate description
Using all the hyperbole, simile and metaphor at his limited disposal.

Inestimably more brilliant, and more valuable,
Than the most flawless diamond ever found -
And, perhaps, just as rare.

Thankfully, a renewable resource,
Enabled to enlighten and heat
The recesses of any beneficiary's
Heart and invigorate their soul.

Helen may have caused a thousand ships to sail,
Destroying a nation as a consequence;
And Cleopatra nearly caused the collapse of an Empire;
But Tao's smile, unleashed in all its glory
Could melt the Antarctic ice-sheet -
Drowning us all in its magnificence.

Mayan's have a myth that states such a smile
Only comes around once every twelve thousand years,
In the Great Galactic turning.

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity
Is often mistakenly considered to concern gravity,
But is, in fact, concerned with one's relative position
To Tao's smile - an inescapable vortex of pleasure.

No music conceived of the fabled Celestial Spheres
Compares to the silent, ethereal harmonies tattooing my heart
Whenever, beacon-like, that smile flashes fleetingly in my direction.

And Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle has not a Quantum core,
But revolves around the statistical uncertainty of being blessed
With the ephemeral thrill of a benign grim.
25/4/2009
The Missing Link - Gaia's Boy Toy
Nico Julleza Sep 2017
∙∙∙◦◦•◎•◦◦∙∙∙
A pour of liquid upon the sky
hollows around the city
flickering unknowing lights
as she stands on the corner
A fantasy strews in my mind
with walls painted to emblaze
floors swarming with haze

Red on her lips
A tense that lures my eyes
reaching the inside-out
tangled in a state of enmity
as I wade in serendipity
nobody asked me how I feel
the fact she was never even real

We tag around the maze
I baffle between truth and fake
boundless as we kissed
Breathtaking, filled with bliss
A perfection I'll never miss
But twas a treacherous crime
And thankfully I woke up in time
#Love #Fantasy #NovemberNight #Rain #Kiss #Treacherous

Sometimes love can lead you to paths you never even wish too. And the feeling is unexplainable. You only hope you could control it, cause it might build you or destroy you.

(NCJ)POETRYProductions. ©2017
Dorothy A Dec 2011
A rose in the middle of December is what I saw outside. Instantly, I connected this odd occurrence with my life. The thought hit my thoughts like a ton of bricks. That is what I am, I had thought to myself. That describes me.

As I looked out my living room window on a sunny, but freezing, Saturday afternoon, I was surprised to see this solitary rose that had bloomed on my mini rose plant.  Providing me with a few salmon colored roses each season of its bloom, without fail this plant regrows again and again in my garden. I first planted it there since forever ago, or so it seems.

Usually, such a flowering occurrence should be no big deal, nothing major or out of the ordinary. Certainly, I would not find this as something really noteworthy to write about. Rose plants do that kind of thing all the time.

But it was frigid cold outside, and the middle of December.

What a strange, yet amazing thing to behold! Maybe there is a proper explanation for it, but I don’t care. The petals were just as colorful as ever when really they should have wilted awy from the cold. All the other flowering plants in my garden surely did! It didn’t really make sense, but its presence was pretty awesome.

I eagerly went to find my camera to take a picture of my sweet, little rose. The grass was dotted with tiny patches of snow to show that-yes indeed-winter is really only days away from its official entrance. Plant activity and growth really should be over. Isn’t that right? I know we have had some warmer days during the previous month, but the icy cold seemed to have come to stay for a while. It surely defies logic to think of blooming flowers on such days.

I often look for “God moments”, as I call them, in which God gives me something to hold onto that reveals His love to me. Not looking for anything earth shattering, I see often see God in the little things, in the details of life. And I don’t even always look for such things, for sometimes I doubt God really cares or really is that effective in my life. You see, that is not uncommon for someone who deals with chronic depression. I learned early on in life that nobody is there for you, not really. I know Christians aren’t supposed to feel this way, but if I can be bold to be honest, I am. Often, I just think I’ll get by on my own. If I can’t get by on my own, I often try to put up with it instead of turning to God for help.  But lately I was feeling desperate.

Suffering with depression all of my life, and with managable anxiety, the thought of the approaching Christmas had been especially difficult for me. I know that people are “supposed to” feel uplifted with the holiday, but I was not. To reveal this is a source of shame to me, and I have learned to mask such uneasy feelings, trying to fake it for the sake of showing the world that I really am OK inside. It is like I expect everyone to look at me and say, “What’s the matter with you, loser!”

I knew I could find two things that would appeal to me—Christmas music and lights. Yet the music that I often love could not do it for me. The lovely Christmas lights, shining in the dark of night, didn’t matter either. I was feeling dejected, and I was growing weary with life—again. When not obligated to go anywhere, I felt like hiding from the world, feeling safer from anxious thoughts by myself. And as safe as I tried to feel in my comfort zone, this was frightening to me. This did not feel like living to me.

Is this how I am going to live out the rest of my pitiful life? This was one of my kinder thoughts.

I usually get through Christmas OK, making the best of it, but my losses often feel bigger than my blessings. In 1998, I lost an estranged brother to suicide. In 2005, I lost a father to Alzheimer’s, a few weeks after Christmas. In 2007, my mother had to spend Christmas in a nursing home recovering from major surgery. That year, I struggled through that season with very hopeless feelings, for my mother was in jeopardy of never walking again. She spent almost half a year in that place—a woman with sever scoliosis, and chronic back pain, who cannot stand for very long. In my hopelessness, I seem to forget the miracles in my life, for my mom’s return home seems like one to me.

I also see my father’s experience and death from Alzheimer’s as something far more than a tragedy. For many years, I avoided my father, wanting really nothing to do with him. Grudges surely seem larger than life over time, and although I wanted to forgive my father and seek reconciliation, fear often stood in the way. Even though my dad grew remorseful for how he raised his children, it took my brother’s suicide for me to find forgiveness for a man I thought never supported me or believed in me. For over two years, while my dad was ill and dying, the bond between us grew into something special. I know from personal experience that even in the difficult times, there are larger purposes involved.
  
No doubt, I have been provided with some huge challenges in life. Thankfully, I always pulled through when I surely felt that I would crumble into pieces. I clung to my faith in God, even when that faith felt like dying embers in a fire, for it seemed to be all that I had. Nothing else worked. Nothing else satisfied for very long. And when it did last, I wanted more and more, like a drug addict looking for his next fix.  

I have often been plagued with self doubt. What is my purpose in this life? Why am I here? I knew I was not alone in this thinking, reminding myself that I am not the most unique person in my suffering. So I searched the internet, a convenient source to turn to when you can’t seem to face people, and the world.  

Not wanting to live or value your own life is a horrible state of mind that I would not wish on anybody. I have relied on a depression medication since my brother died, and still do, but there had to be something more to help me. Deep down inside, I did not want to die, but I didn’t know how to live either. The heart of the matter was that in my worst bouts of depression, I was just so broken inside. I survived enough to go through the motions, but I felt like I was losing the battle—and really did not want to win the war anyhow.

I still remember the “God moment” I had when I was in London, England in August of 2011. At that time, life felt like an adventure as I went on my very first overseas trip to Europe. I have yearned to go to Europe since childhood. It was a Sunday morning in London, and a religious program was on. From what one man was saying on TV about his experiences, my ears perked up and I hurriedly scribbled some things down on a pad of my hotel paper before I forget some of his statements that stood out to me.

During my short stay in London, I was experiencing a cold. I wanted to feel Gods presence as I felt the swallowed up feeling of being a stranger in a faraway place. As intruiged as I was,  in the huge, bustling metropolis, I admit I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I find big cities as places in which people pass others with no concern other than to go about their way. London was fascinating, but I am a suburbanite, for sure!

The things this man was saying on TV really impacted me at the time, and I now carry that scrap of paper around with me in my wallet. Little did I know that a few months later that these statements would help to pull me through from reaching into despair. That despair began a few months after that trip when I was quite sick with the flu, twice in a row, and feeling very isolated and weary.

Sometimes, we have to get into that place where all there is is God.

It is not that I did not believe in God. I did not think God believed in me.

Sometimes, we grow best in hard times.  

All my crooked crutches and phony props, as I call them, weren’t working. If the computer wasn’t taking up much of my free time, television was numbing my senses from the stark reality that life felt empty for me. Where was God? Logically, I knew I had no reason to be bitter, for I knew the answer. I felt so far away from Him, helpless and hopeless—yet I clung to this hope—God never moved at all. I was the one who walked away, but like the prodigal son in the Bible, God would be waiting there for me with a joyful expectation. I truly believe that even though I often wonder how God puts up with me.

It has been a long time—if ever—that I fully trusted in God alone. Yes, I believed in Him, and trusted in Jesus as my savior, but I often held back. I was still so angry and hurt about the past. Why didn’t God rescue me from such a horrible childhood? Why was I bullied in school? Why didn’t I have a better family? Why did loneliness and insecurity plague me as it did? Why wasn’t I beautiful? Why didn’t I have a better life? Why this and why that. Even though I logically knew better, in my hurt and wounded soul, life felt like a big, horrible mistake. God must have not cared about me. I may not have consciously acknowledged it, but my actions proved otherwise.

We live in a world where you got to be stronger, you got to be better; you got to be tougher; you got to be faster; you got to be more successful. The media pounds this into our brains all the time in many different forms. How many of us feel like we can never measure up? I am sure I am not alone in feeling the inadequacy. Yet I could not concentrate on anyone else’s pain when I was so wrapped up in my own.

A rose in the middle of December—I put it all into proper perspective. What a fragile looking thing, but an enduring one! It symbolizes to me the invincible, indelible human soul in the midst of an often perplexing world. When all around seems bleak, when life takes a toll on you, that remains unscathed, untouched by the trails we often have to face.  When we die, I wholeheartedly believe, it will be the only true thing that remains of us. When our bodies decay into dust, our souls will be like that rose, brilliant and beautiful.    

Besides myself, there are two groups of people, near and dear to my heart, which I could compare to that symbolic rose in my garden. My current job is working with special needs students, usually with autistic children and young adults. I worked 19 years in a bland office job, and could not ignore the constant nagging feeling to get the courage and desire up to do something more fulfilling with my life. With fearful, but bold determination I thought: It’s now or never.  Maybe it was not the wisest thing, but it felt so freeing to say to my boss, “I think I quit”, without another job to back me up. I basked in the encouraging applause of many co-workers who wished they had the guts to do the same, but soon the panic set in.

What do I do now? What can I do now?

Never working with children before, I felt a call to work with them, and I absolutely have a greater sense of purpose. Many of these children cannot talk. Many of them cannot walk. Many of them accept people just as they are, for I believe they want the same in return. Their lives teach me what really is important in life—and that is compassion.

Other than children, I also love the elderly, sensing their desperate need for love and compassion. Forcing myself to get my mind off my own troubles, I heeded my pastor’s call to not simply “go to church” but to “be the church”. I knew I had talents. I knew could open my mouth and carry a tune. From what I went through in my life, I knew I had the compassion. After all, I dealt with my dying father in a nursing home. With a nursing home ministry in my church, and a nursing home right across the street, it was obvious—there are others out there that need hope and they need love. So what was my excuse?

In this world that expects you to be stronger, better, tougher, faster or more successful, there are those that live in the world that they don’t fit any of these categories. But yet they are here. They exist. Can they be ignored? The answer is surely, yes, and they often are.  Perhaps, the world is uncomfortable with them, does not know what to do with them. They don’t fit into the false demands for perfection. They don’t fit into push and shove to get ahead of everyone else, but they remind us, sometimes to the point of discomfort, how fragile the human condition often is.  

Lately, I have had such a hunger that food cannot satisfy. I yearned for a peace, one that only God can provide me with. I found two uplifting stories on the internet of people who struggle on and whose lives defy the idea of a perfect world. One of them was about an Australian man, Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms and legs. He was picked on at school because he was perceived as a freak, as someone who did not seem to have any real chance at living a normal life. And he was angry that he did not look like, or function like, most everyone else. At about the age of eight he wanted to end it all, thinking he had no purpose in life. He eventually gave his life to Christ, and now lives a full life, reaching out to others with his incredible story of hope and perseverance.

Another woman, Joni Eareckson Tada, continues to amaze me. She is a quadriplegic from a diving accident gone horribly wrong. Her story touches many people with her hopeful attitude and her amazing faith in Christ. She, too, wanted to die when she thought her life had no more meaning. Recently, she has even fought breast cancer and chronic pain that has added to her decades of struggles with immobility.  She touches so many lives with her honesty about her suffering, giving people hope in times that seem hopeless.            

I wanted what these two people had. No, I did not want their afflictions, but I wanted to be able to reach out to others and touch their hearts, as well.  I wanted that faith, desperately, a faith that will not back down in the face of fear, in serious doubts, deep sadness, and pain. These people had little choice but to turn to God. The alternative was utter bleakness, a lack of purpose, and a slow death. But they defied the odds and etched a life out of faith, helping countless others to endure their struggles and to find meaning in life. There were plenty of times when I did not pray to reach out to a God that I gave my heart to many years ago. I bought into the belief that God was as inadequate and ineffective as I was feeling.    

Sometimes, we have to get into that place where all there is is God.

It is not that I did not believe in God. I did not think God believed in me.

Sometimes, we grow best in hard times.  

With plenty of tears, I cried out to God. It was a gut wrenching cry of someone with nothing to give but a broken heart. I wanted that kind of faith, and I meant that with every fiber of my being. Deep inside, my faith wasn’t gone. It never really left me, but only God had the ability to grow it, to prosper it, and to produce “life” back into my life. The battles might have felt overwhelming, at times, but I have always been a survivor. In spite of heartaches, and from what they actually teach me, I can be an encourager to others. Instead of just wanting to make everything go away, I can look forward to new chapters in my life.  

I know there will still be times when I will struggle to want to face another day, yet with my faith in God, I can.

So a rose growing outside may be not a big deal. Writers and poets have seemingly exhausted the topic, hailing it the most precious of flowers, the most perplex, with such lovely fragility, yet sheltered by stinging thorns. My inspiration to write on the same subject may not be unique, but as a rose blooms, and its glorious petals unfold, so does my story. I admit I hesitated to finish writing this, not sure I wanted to expose these things about my life. It takes a lot of guts to admit how imperfect you are in a world that seems to shun or poke fun at such things. But if I can encourage even one person, who has similar struggles, I will gladly try to be an encouragement.    

For almost a week now, existing in a stark contrast of its surroundings, that little rose remains, cold winter weather and all. Every day since, for about a week now, I continue look for it outside and find it going against the grain.  All the other flowers in my dormant garden are long gone. It will be gone eventually, but I am still enjoying my “God
Mateuš Conrad Sep 2018
.aye aye... trí turds... wha'? three turds... huh? tree thirds... oh paddy paddy paddy... τo 'ινκ ιτ θρoυ(γɥ)... you might 'ave even brought ubout a a taught - naught - a thought.

but but... but...
Poland is so unwelcoming?!

good...

   no attachments
of a post-colonial narrative...

oh... and the language
is hard to learn...

    by all means,
infiltrate...
            
  we've had the Nazis,
we've had the three-headed Hydra
of Prussia,
  Russia and Austro-Hungary...

we've had the Communists...
oh i'm pretty sure we
can accommodate Islam...
along with the scuttling
rats
of the gutter...

            we are a people,
and WE, as a people:
owe you nothing!
         nothing!
  take your British empire postscriptum
elsewhere, eat and ****
there, and don't come back...

i'll appropriate this native spreschen,
i'll speak it...
but don't you come around here
supposing i'll "think"
like you do...

      funny... well... not really...
Dublin was never to become the second
Edinburgh...

        but whenever I hear an Eire man
talk...
  there's that diacritical excuse of
repeating:
    paddy paddy paddy potato
pancake...
paddy paddy paddy mac (protestant)
mc (catholic) Doug -
      la la paddy paddy woo! wooooooo!

no, thank you...
  we've had the Nazis -
we've had the Communists -
thankfully all the Polish economic migrants
are returning home...
   thanks for being treated like
some sort of, quasi Roma...
              
   no problem... we can go back
to a homeland, given that we're actually
less victors, and more inheritors -
   the Marshall Plan...
well...
      if only the H'americans reached
Berlin first...
there would be no Warsaw pact...
by the way...
   i thought Sweden and Switzerland
remained neutral?
  so why pay them the Marshall Plan
funds?

       oh, but please...
move to Poland...
        see how long you'll survive...
         that feral land of lost
opportunity...
        i don't mind...
   language might be a problem...
given...
English isn't exactly pop
outside the confines of a
Jean Claude van Damme movie...

        but go on... try...
            you'd find more success in
catching a floater's worth of a ****
than exercising any
     chance to subvert the reigning
culture...

  bo? (because)?
   i'll integrate -
             (ja wtopie się w tą kulture) -
but - ale -
on one condition -
    w ramach jednej potrzzeby -
i'll retain my birth-tongue -
ja zachowam swój zór!

i'd never trust immigrants,
economic or refugee,
if they do not retain their mother tongue -
if they can't construct
bilingualism?
   they're rotten fruit...

   i'm not here to be nice -
zapomnienia mówienia po
   polszku
...
   i forgot how to speak Polish...
  
rotten fruit,
attempting integration too hard...
you can't forget
your native tongue,
just like you can't forget
riding a bicycle or
swimming...

            the argument stinks of
****!
i hate it...
    i'd expect a jew to make
this sort of argument,
rightfully so...
     i can't imagine the heartache
of having invested so much
Hebrew in German to create
Yiddish...
   a Jew i can understand...
       but some ******* Pakistani
suggests he has, on "purpose"
forgotten Urdu,
and speaks only English?

   sum? terrorist...
     no man is born without either
a linguistic, or a cultural integrity -
prior to the cuisine,
the language dies...
but then the cuisine never dies...
neither does the language -
and if the language is "dead":
the mentality remains...

         you smell something?
skunk?
   hmm... i'll speak English, i'll write
English... but i'll think in my
Western Slavic guise...
ah... sorry i'm not copper-skinned
wishing for an Indian suntan
of the lower-caste...
  sorry...
          
you're standing ****-naked in terms
of orthography - as a language -
and you're over-laden with metaphysics...
sure as **** a satan will come around
dressed in either paupers' rags
or a gentleman's nightgown;

    as i still begin, persistent -
in telling you...
a man who does not have enough
ethnic pride, in retaining, and keeping,
a language his mother used to
lullaby by him to sleep,
into his later years?
   a person, who cannot accommodate
bilingualism?
        trust score? ZEE-RHO.

i much abhor the Scots and the Eire men,
as much as i admire the Welsh
for priding themselves on
retaining Cymru -
                      no Gaelic?
   no pass...
                 English is a mongrel language...
who gives a ****?
  some Shanghai
         half-wit economics student speaks
it...
    lingua franca...
                       thus that i have
to admire... the Welsh...
     and their version of YHWH:
                     CYMR...
that... takes *****...
         the Welsh could look into
Kashubian and Silesian Polish to boot.
Mykle Matwaya Feb 2019
All too often the question is posed :
What has happened to all of the " Real Men"?
Do they even exist anymore, or have they succumbed to extinction?

And the answer is no. They are still very much alive, just fewer in numbers. These days, if you happen to come across one, chances are you will find him at what, from the outside, appears to be him at his worst. After having been so beaten down by life, that he hardly resembles a man any longer. (Or at least to what your un-natural opinion of a man resembles) This, as a result of standing up for what is decent, fair and moral. You know, being a "Man", while living in a world void of any morality. But do you know?

Do you really have the ability enough to be able to recognize some one for whom and what they really are? Where do your eyes stop when they peer at someone? Do they penetrate through the car window? Past the $20 hair cut? Can they keep going, beyond the glare of jewelry and through the named brand distractions of the accessorized apparel? And even then, past the last line of defense for this facade, the camouflage which you call "Body Art". Which just like any other item one don's for the masquerade, it is all donned In order to distract others from the truth of what little substance lies underneath the skin.
And you believe it all too, don't you?


Those aren't real men or in many cases women either. A tattoo, or any other equivalent of artificiality can never be as honest as a Scar can be.

An Emotional Scar does more damage than a superficial one. A wound speaks more of the individual who bears it. Who's suffered the pain which came with it and who is constantly reminded by it. That is what true sense is derived from, Lessons.

However, when it comes to the moral Man's personality,
the world today & the people in it tend to push these types of individuals into corners. These types of "personalities" suffer to hold on to their integrity and pay terrible prices in order to do so. They sacrifice their security, their psychological state of mind & their physical personal comfort for it. And living in this world, for them, is like torture. So many have had the things and the people they fought for, loved and held dear, snatched away from them, just because they do, not what is easy & popular, but what is right. And these days, the difference between those three are worlds apart.

The lethargic effortlessness of life has made men like me, obsolete and replaced us with the self-serving Narcissist. No longer Gods creation  but a new creation of the self. Void of any empathy, understanding, sympathy or human emotion. Synthetic, and machine like, monsterous, a Frankenstein. Look around out there and if you have eyes to see with, you will see that humanity has traded who they were born to be, for what is in fashion to be. They have given up the now elusive spirit of the human heart, for the abundant trend of the human ego. Take a closer look, it is like "The Walking Dead" out there. Mindless, heartless, merciless zombies, only doing for them selves. Consuming whatever they can, how ever they can & who ever they can, in order to stay well supplied and well hidden among'st the rest of us. Lying in wait to ambush us, victimizing us, selling us out, draining us like Vampires.
Men and Women like myself, start to feel as though we are the last human beings on earth, being hunted by these monsters. Always weary and uncomfortable. Going through life trying desperately to hold on to that which is real within us, so that decency does not vanish from our lives, by being chewed up and swallowed whole by one of them or by all of them.

A horrible existence. This way of living/surviving is completely unnatural & brings with it a new type of loneliness & attached to that is the worst kind of hopelessness. A dangerous state to be in, if one does not keep his wit's about him. And have the given sense enough to know, that If it were not for a God in heaven, there would be no hope at all. No reason to suffer un-popularity or ostracism. No reason to do what is right, over what is convenient . No reason to not just give in to the temptation of an easy life. A life where all that matters is numero-uno. Where everything else and everyone else is just secondary.

I would rather be alone & miserable for the rest of my life, than to be a self-centered, backstabbing, bloodsucking son of a b¡tch like the rest of you out there.

Now, getting back to these "Men" that so many our Women are attracted to. The men that keep letting you down time and time again. The ones who's possessions make them look like they are worth something, whom you so easily swoon over like some kind of hypnotized harlot. My dear sister, eventually those things get stripped away. Either by time or the trial's of life. And then what you are left left with is whatever pathetic thing was hiding underneath.

And that is what you get, for being led by your eye's, your hands, your ears and your selfish little minds.You listen to & are led by, every other part of your body except your heart, which is the Apex O r g a n over all others. Which has been given charge and authority, by The Creator himself over all of those other things you are always so quick to bow down to. And that is a d a m n e d shame. And that is your d a m n e d shame. And it is no one else's fault but your own.

You want to see a mans character or a woman's? Then look for their Scars. They will tell you what kind of survivor they really are. The kind that is self reliant or the kind that feeds off of the flesh of his brother or his sister to survive. The opportunist, The scavenger, The rat.

But thankfully, there is a God. One God.
And there always will be. And so the rest of the world can go on doing what it does, and taking what it can...
But it will never get what it wants, not from me. My individuality is my soul and it is held together not with pride, or greed, or vanity, but with integrity. And that belongs to Him. And when it is inevitably brought back to him, it will be brought to him intact, un-molested &
Immovable-
softcomponent May 2014
Called in sick to work, disappoint the boss, *** of a terrible ***** hangover I framed as the flu.

'I've got the cold-body-shivers and a bucket next to my bed. I'd be no help to you, trust me.' Thankfully, one of the friendlier dishwashers agreed to work the shift in my absence. My hangover eventually plateaued into one of those fried-brain poetic calms, where you're pretty sure that terrible habit of yours shaved a few minutes or days from your life, and yet you're in some sort of involuntary (yet accepted and mostly secretly-desired) state of meditation and trance with the world. People walking past speak of strange, complex lives, with their own problems, their own triumphs, romances, fears, and aspirations.

Two young college-boys, dashing, laugh with each other at Habit Coffee. My debit card stopped working for some strange reason, with the machine reading 'insufficient funds' as the cause, and yet I managed to check my balance via online application, and I still have a solid $15.86 available so something is clearly wrong. I explain this to the baristas at Habit, and the girl understands my first-world plight, gives me a free cappuccino as a result, and I sit there at the clearest panoramic window overlooking the corners of Yates and Blanshard thankful for the kindness and finish Part One of Kerouac's Desolation Angels (Desolation in Solitude).

*****, echw. I spat at the brink of ***** above my ***** toilet seat, perhaps the more unhealthy fact-of-the-matter is that I somehow managed to keep it down. So it rots away my stomach and eats away at my liver. Disgusting. Although the prior stupor was quite nice.

On my way to the Public Library (where I sit now), some girl with a summer-skirt was unbeknownst of the fact that it had folded somehow at the back and as she ran for the parked 11 (Uvic via Uplands), everyone could see her thonged *** and they all looked back, forth, back, in *****-awkwardity (I included) wondering what was ruder: telling her? or just watching her spring away? I think I heard someone make a quip remark about it, and yet glanced away and forward as to seem unaroused (their partner was with them, holding hands and all, avoiding the lumpy desire and lust that always appears in short bouts during moments like that).

I need some sort of adventure, tasting the potential of existence as I called in sick to work and immediately felt better once the shadow it cast was delivered from the day. I think of Alex and Petter, with their motley crew of savages, riding highway 101 toward San Francisco. Last I heard, they had stopped over in Portland and perhaps had said hello to our friend Tad in the area. I wish I could have gone, felt the road glow in preternatural beauty and ecstatically bongo'd every breath. I haven't felt the true excitement of freedom and travel in so very, very long. Always, the thought of debt and labour. That's the niche I've crawled into for the time being, and I owe a lot to the friends who wait (without hate, without anger) for me to pay them back. I have some sort of shameful asceticism in the way I work now, as if I cannot just up and quit as I may often do, because I'm doing it for the friends who kindly (perhaps, dumbly) propped me up with coin. Even if most of it goes to an insatiably hungry MasterCard Troll living under a bridge of self-immolating sadnesses and post-modernisms, at least my fridge is full of food.

I lost my passport anyways, they would have stopped me at the Peace Arch and turned me back to Canada without exception. That's a modern border for you, there isn't much room for kindness. Just pragmatism.

*****, terrible, clean-cut pragmatism.

That house, at 989 Dunsmuir, the place I call home in the Land of the Shoaling Waters, is exceptionally lonely on days like this, even with Jen there reading her Charles Bukowski and offing a few comments about the gratuitous ******* oft-depicted in the book. I feel trapped, at times, by all those machinations I so deftly opposed as a teenage anarchist. In principle, I still oppose them. Most intensely when they trap me, although the World of Capital has successfully alienated me as a member of the proletariat work-force and somehow twisted my passion into believing that the ways of economy and rat-race are just 'laws of nature.' If this is true, which I believe for pragmatisms sake they are (*****, terrible, clean-cut pragmatism), there really is no such thing as liberty, and what we have called 'liberty' is nothing more than a giant civilised liability within which we are all guilty until proven guiltier. Yes, because I owe it to myself and to the landlord.

I realize, often, the endless love-hate relationship with existence that one calls 'life.' It seems undeniably true that everyone is in this same jam, secretly loving something, and at the same time secretly hating it. The distinction between 'love' and 'hate' quickly becoming redundant when they are found together drinking champagne at the dusty corner-table of the most indescript and ugly bar in the alley of eternal psychology.

My back hurts, my brain
clicks, it's all a little
melancholic; trapped,
finicky, yet calm,
hopeful, excited, and
real. About everything


all

at once.

How can you write like a beatnik in an age of eternal connectivity? Just keep writing messy, weighted passages, whine-and-dine frustration, and cling on to dear life as if it were better in a lottery ticket? Dream of a rucksack revolution, ask yourself how you're not brave enough to be a Dharma ***? Would you not question your motives in rebellion, keep yourself at arms-length for sake of self-hatred, and posture yourself on the sidewalk insisting it's not pretentious?

Ah, all the vagueness and all the creeps, all the I-guess-I'm-happy's and all the success stories mingling with each other on this planet-rock. Some sort of hybrid productivity asking to be heard. Writing about liberty and livers, both accepted as ok and yet all take a beating in the face of silence and revolt. There's a science to all this, no? Some sort of belief in mandalas and star-signs, opening portals to Lemuria to take a weight right off your shoulders. I am Atlantis, and I am sinking.

A cigarette doesn't care, and neither do I. Addicted to a moribund desire to live. To really live! Not just add a few more moments to longevity by swallowing a carrot twice a day. Not just brushing my teeth twice between sunrise and sunset to avoid halitosis. Not just sitting and waiting for language to speak on my behalf.

Be-half, be-whole. Be-yonder, lose yourself. Be-yonder, and travel. Be-yonder, and forgive. Be-yonder, and don't forget. Store those memories and add them to your landscape, next time you drop acid, run amok through those stairwells and fields, re-introduce yourself to your life and remember the every's forever. Become highschool you again, where you'd sit on your mothers porch June mornings on your third cup of coffee, writing a poem with the drive of existential freedom unpresented with fears of rent or labour. You want fast-food? *** the change off your poor mum, and meet your old friends down at the local A&W.; These days really don't last forever, and thankfully you were smart enough to avoid working all those years. They will remain the best years of your life for.. perhaps.. your whole life.

Some mornings, you would wake up late on a Pro-D day, sipping a fourth cup of joe and watching the Antique Road Show on CBC because it's the only half-interesting thing playing on a late Tuesday afternoon. Your mothers couch was leather at the time, placed closest to the deck window with some sort of ferny-plant right next to it making peace with the forest. You would get lonely at times, and it wasn't until you graduated that you noticed how beautiful those 4 high-lined stick-trees standing in the desolate firth as the last remaining survivors of a clear-cutting operation really were, the way they softly bent in the wind, some sort of anchor whether rain or shine. Your mother would be at work, your brother would be out, or at dads, or upstairs, and for half-hours at a time you would stare at those trees, warped slightly through the lens of your houses very old glass. To you, it seemed, the world could be meaningless, and these trees would go as a happy reminder of how calm and archaic and beautiful this meaninglessness was. Watching them always quenched a blurry hunger in the soul. Something happy this way came. Something tricky and simple.

I could never really reach myself back in those days. Not anymore, anyways. That old me no longer had a phone, had tossed it in a creek in a fit of idealistic rage. That old me was living in a tent somewhere, squatting on private property and working at a bakery north of his old town. He still worked there, last I heard. Every summer evening, he went swimming in the ocean, wafting along on his back to think and pray. He was a Buddhist if I ever met one, reading the Diamond Sutra and the Upanishads, cracking the ice of belief with Alan Watts's 'Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown,' and preaching to his friends in cyclic arguments to prove the fundamental futility of theory. He's the kinda guy to shock you off your feet and make you wonder. Really wonder. Whoever he's become is on the road to wisdom. Whoever he thinks he is has never mattered. He's just waiting on the world to change.

Fancy.

Above me, the patterned cascade of skylight-window in the library courtyard hints at sunset coming. I contemplate the warmth and company of Tom's house a moment and wonder if he'd like me over. I think again of Petter and Alex way down there in Cali-forn-ya. A holy pilgrimage to Big Sur, and I still wonder where my passport is. If hunger and destitution weren't a block to intention, I'd be everywhere at once right now. I'd watch this very sunset from the top of Mount Baker, and yet be singing along to the Rolling Stones with Petter at my side. The Irish country would be rolling by again, and I would wonder where I am. The happy patch-work of County Cork would invite me to the Ring of Kerry where I would wait and sip a cappuccino, pouring over maps of Ireland in hopes of finding my hostel, as I'm sure I booked online.

The warm-red stonework of Whitstable village in Kent comes to mind. I think of Auntie Marcia and Uncle Bob, soaking up the sunlight with their solar panels and selling it back to the grid. I think of Powell River and its wilder-middle-ness, the parade of endless trees stretching east out unto Calgary. I think of every public washroom I have ever defecated in, and wonder how noisy or silent they might be right now. I think of Sooke, and its sticks. I think of Salt Spring Island and my first collapse into adulthood. I think of work, and how I haven't missed a dime I've spent.

I think of wine in an Irish bar, that night I was in the homely town of Bantry, with its rainbow homes and ancient churches, reading my 'Pocket History of Ireland' in disbelief at how far I'd made it on my own when that strange old fellow Eugene came up to me and struck up a conversation on world events. He tried to sell me vitamin supplements, toting it all as a saviour. I wrote him this poem a day later, a year ago, and think of him now:

49 years old, names Eugene.

We talk politics like a plane
doing laps over planet ours,
North Korea threatens bursts
of lightening and Irish businessman
defaults on debts to UlsterBank in
the mighty Americas. He tells
me to guess his age and to be
nice I take a medium sum of
35 (white lies). He tells me
why he looks so young at
49 and tries to sell me a healthy
soul as if he were an angel of loves-
yerself or a devil
of capitalism pecking at
exposed heels. Tells me
he used to be drawl, pizza-
faced, suicidal before
production loved a spiritual
lung. Tell me what! Tell me
WHAT!
When life gives you lemons,
hug the lemon tree. Seems
the angels have sold out and
they're nice enough.



He really was a nice guy.
excerpt- 'the mystic hat of esquimalt'
1.

From our
safe windows,
we crane our necks,
rubbernecking
past the slow
motion wreckage
unfolding in Homs.

We remain
perfectly
perched
to marvel at
the elegant arc of
a mortar shell
framing tomorrows
deep horizon,
whistling through
the twilight to
find its fruitful
mark.

In the now
we keep
complicit time,
to the arrest
of beating hearts,
snapping fingers
to the pop
of rifle cracks,
swooning to
the delicious
intoxication of
curling smoke
lofting ever
upward;
yet
thankfully
remain
distant
enough to
recuse any
possibility
of an
intimate
nexus
with the
besieged.

2.

From our
safe windows,
we behold the
urgent arrivals of
The Friends of Syria
demanding
clean sheets
and 4 Star
room service at a
Tunisian Palace
recently cleaned
and under new
management
promising a
much needed
refurbishment.

The gathered,
a clique of
this epochs
movers and shakers,
a veritable
rouges gallery of
ambassadorial
prelates, Emirs and
state department
bureaucrats
summoned
with portfolio
from the
darkest corners
of the globe.

They are
eager to
sanctify
the misery
of Homs,
deflect and
lay blame
with realpolitik
rationalizations,
commencing
official commissions
of inquiry,
deliberating
grave considerations,
issuing indictments
of formal charges for
Crimes Against
Humanity
while
remaining
urgently
engrossed
in the fascination
of interviewing
potential
process servers
to deliver the bad news
to Bashar al-Assad
and his soulless
Baathist
confederates,
if papers
are to be
served.

Yes, the diplomats
are busy meeting
in closed rooms.

In hushed circles
they whisper
into aroused ears,
railing against
Russia’s
gun running
intransigence
and China’s
geopolitical
chess moves.

Statesmen
boast of the
intrepid justice
of tipping points
and the moving poetry
of self serving tales,
weighing the impact
of stern sanctions
amidst the historical
confusion of the
asymmetrical
symmetries
of civil war.

Caravans
of Arab League
envoys roll up
in silver Bentleys,
crossing deserts
of contradictory
obfuscations,
navigating the
endless dunes
with hand held
sextants of
hidden agendas.

The heroic
Bedouins are
eager to offload
their baggage
and share
on the ground
intelligence from
their recent soirées
across Syria.

They beg
a quick fix,
the triage of a
critical catharsis
to bleed their
brains dry
of heinous
recollections,
pleading
release from a
troubled conscience
victimized by
the unnerving paradox
of reconciling
discoveries of
perverse voyeurism
with the sanctioned
explanations
of their respective
ruling elites.

The bellies
of these
scopophiliacs
are distended;
grown queasy
from a steady diet
of malfeasance
an ulcerated
world parades
in continuous loop;
spewing the raw feeds
of real time misery;
forcibly fed
the grim
visions of
frantic
fathers
rushing
the mangled
carcases
of mortally
wounded
children
to crumpled
piles of smashed
concrete that were
once hospitals.

We despondently
ask how
much longer
must we
look into
the eyes
of starving
children
emaciated from
the wanton
indifference
of the world?


3.

From our
safe windows
we wonder
how much
longer can
the urgent
burning
ambivalence
continue
before it
consumes
our common
humanity in
a final
conflagration?

My hair already
singed by the
endless firestorms
sweeping the prairies
of the world.

How can we survive
the trampling hoards,
the marauding
plagues of acrimony
fed by a voracious
blood lust aspiring to
victimize the people
of Homs and a
thousand cities
like it?


4.

From my safe
window I stand in witness
to the state execution of
refugees fleeing the
living nightmare
of Baba Amr.

The ****** of innocents,
today's newly minted martyrs,
women and children
cornered, trapped
on treacherous roads,
mercilessly
slaughtered and
defiled in death
to mark the lesson
of a ruthless master
enthralled with the
power of his
sadistic fascist
lordship.

I cannot avert my eyes
marking sights
of pleading women
begging for the
lives of their children
in exchange for
the gratification
of a sadists
lust.

My heart
is impaled
on the sharp
spear of
outrage
beholding
careening
children mowed
down with the
serrated blades
protruding
from marauding
jeeps of laughing
soldiers.

I drop
to my knees
in lakes of
tears
reflecting
a grotesque
horror stricken
image of myself.

My eyes have
murdered my soul.

The ghastly images
of Homs have chased
away my Holy Ghost
to the safety of a child's
sandbox hidden away
in a long forgotten
revered memory.


5.

From my safe window
I seethe with anger
demanding vengeance,
debating how to rise
to meet the obscenity of
the Butcher of Damascus.

The sword of Damocles
dangles so tantalizingly close
to this tyrants throat.  

The covered women
of Homs scream prayers
“may Allah bring Bashar to ruin”

Dare I pray
that Allah trip the
horsehair trigger
that holds the
sword at bay?

Do I pick up
the sword
a wield it
as an
avenging
angel?

Am I the
John Brown
of our time?

Do I organize
a Lincoln Brigade
and join the growing
leagues of jihadists
amassing at the
Gates of Damascus?

Will my righteous
indignation fit well
in a confederacy
with Hamas and
al-Qaeda as my
comrades in arms?

Do I succumb to
the passion of hate
and become just
another murderous
partisan, or do I
commend the power
of love and marshal
truth to speak with
the force of
satyagraha?

I lift a fervent prayer
to claim the justice
of Allah’s ear,
“may the knowing one
lift the veil of foolishness
that covers my heart in
cloaks of resent, cure
my blindness that ignores
my raging disease of
plausible deniability
ravaging the body politic
of humanity.”

6.

Indeed,
physician heal thyself.

I run to embrace my
illness.

I pine to understand it.

I undertake the
difficult regimen
of a cure to eradicate
the terrible affliction.

This
pernicious
plague,
subverting
the notion
of a shared
humanness
is a cunning
sedition that
undermines
the unity of
the holy spirit.  

The bell from
the toppled steeples
still tolls, echoing
across the space of
continents and eons
of temporal time.

The faithful chimes
gently chides us
to remove the wedge
of perception that
separates, divides
and undermines.

Time has come
to liberally
apply the balm
that salves the
open wounds
so common to
our common
human condition.

The power of prayer
is the joining of hands
with others racked
with the common
affliction of humanness.

Allah,  
My eyes are wide open,
my sacred heart revealed,
my sleeves are rolled up,
my memory is stocked,
my soul filled with resolve,
my hand is lifted
extended to all
brothers and sisters.
Lift us,
gather us
into one
loving embrace.

Selah


7.

From the safe
windows of
our palaces
we live within
earshot of
the trilling
zaghroutas
of exasperation
flowing from
the besieged
city smouldering
under Bashar’s
symphony of terror.

Our nostrils
fill with the
acrid plumes
of unrequited
lamentations
lifting from the
the burning
destruction
of shelled
buildings.

Our eyes spark
from the night
tracers
of sleeking
snipers
flitting along
the city’s
rooftops.

The deadly jinn
indiscriminately
inject the
paralysis of
random fear
into the veins
of the city
with each
skillful
head shot.

These
ghoulish
assassins
lavish in their
macabre work;
like vultures
they eagerly
feast on the
corpses of their ****,
the stench of bloated
bodies drying in the
sun is the perfume
that fills their nostrils.


8.

From our
safe window
we discern the
silhouettes of militants
still boldly standing
amidst the
mounting rubble of an
unbowed Homs
shouting;

Allah Akbar!!!
Allah Akbar!!!
Allah Akbar!!!

raising pumped fists,
singing songs
of resistance,
dancing to
the revelation of
freedom,
refusing to
be coward by
the slashing
whips of a
butchers
terrible
sword.


9.

From my
safe window
my tongue laps
the pap
of infants
suckling from
the depleted
teats of mothers
who cannot cry
for their dying
children;
tears fail
to well from
the exhaustion
of dehydrated
pools.

10.

From my
safe window
my heart stirs
to the muezzin
calling the
desperate faithful
from the toppled
rubble of dashed
minarets.

We can
no longer
shut our ears
to the adhan
of screams
the silent
voices that echo
the blatant injustice
of a people under siege.


11.

From my
safe window,
I pay
Homage to Homs
and call brothers
and sisters to rise
with vigilant
insistence
that hostilities
cease and
humanity be
upheld,
respected and
protected.


12.

From my safe
window
I perceive
the zagroutas
of sorrow
manifest as a
whiling hum,
a sweeping
blue mist,
levitating
the coffins
from the rubble
of ravaged streets.

The swirling
chorus of
mourning
joins my
desperate
prayers;
rising in
concert
with the
black billows
of smoke
dancing
away
from the
flaming
embers
of scorched
neighborhoods.


13.

From my
safe window
I heed
the fluttering
wings
of avenging
angels
furiously
batting
as they
climb
the black
plumes,
lifting from
the scattered bricks
of the desecrated
city.

It is the
Jacob’s
Ladder
for our
time;
marking
a new
consecrated
place
where
a New Adam
is destined
to be formed
from the
pulverized
stones of
desolation.

14.

From our
safe windows
we peer into
resplendent
mirrors
beholding
the perfect image of
ourselves
eying
falling tears
dripping blood,
coloring death
onto the
blanched sheets
of disheveled beds.


15.

From our
safe windows
our voices are silenced,
our words mock urgency
our thoughts betray comprehension
our senses fail to illicit empathy
our action is the only worthy prayer


16.

From my
safe window
I hear the
mortar shells
walking toward
my little palace,
the crack
of a ******
shot
precedes
the wiz of a
passing bullet
whispering
its presence
into my
waxen
ear.


17.

From my
safe window,
my palms scoop
the rich soil
of the flower boxes
perched on my sill.
I anoint the tender
green shoots of  the
Arab Spring
with an incessant flow
of bittersweet tears.

Music selection:
John Coltrane
A Love Supreme
Acknowledgment

Oakland
2/28/12
jbm

— The End —