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Fah Aug 2013
(via phatphilosophers)

(via phatphilosophers)

(via phatphilosophers)
jeffrey-lebowski:

Untitled by Yayoi Kusama.
Acrylic on canvas, 45.5 x 38.0 cm. Signed and dated 1993
jeffrey-lebowski:
Untitled by Yayoi Kusama.
Acrylic on canvas, 45.5 x 38.0 cm. Signed and dated 1993
(via phatphilosophers)

These are the days that must happen to you.
Walt Whitman, from Leaves Of Grass (via violentwavesofemotion)
(via phatphilosophers)
18 HOURS AGO / LARMOYANTE
axiatonal:

Canola Flowers Field, China
axiatonal:
Canola Flowers Field, China
(via awaveofbliss)

(via awaveofbliss)

whatisadvertising:
What would modern technology and social networks look like if they were vintage ads
This is a post gathered Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Skype, iMac, Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation as if they were vintage ads.
(via thebronxisburning)
aplacetofindlife:

Someone Should Start Laughing
I have a thousand brilliant lies For the question: How are you?  I have a thousand brilliant lies For the question: What is God? If you think that the Truth can be known From words, If you think that the Sun and the Ocean Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing! Someone should start wildly Laughing Now!- Hafiz
aplacetofindlife:
Someone Should Start Laughing

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?

If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,

If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,

O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing Now!

- Hafiz
(via cosmic-rebirth)

meditationsinwonderland:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, We Should All Be Feminists
How could I not reblog this?
(Source: bakongo)
1 day ago – 234,004 notes

artismyempire:
gentledom:
A wonderful analogy.
What I shall do today.
(Source: boyqueen, via thebronxisburning)
1 day ago – 30,054 notes

(Source: maryhadalittleblunt, via awaveofbliss)
1 week ago – 81 notes
beachsloth:

SYNESTHESIA by Joshua Espinoza
                God watches everyone’s first kiss. Although God used to be an awesome God He’s been a bit lazier as the years have progressed. Long ago God felt that raining frogs on Egypt was cool. People were turned into pillars of salt for looking at the destruction of their towns. Now God isn’t into that whole vengeful thing. Rather He realizes the importance of free will and understands it is more important than any instruction manual.
                Dreams are the ultimate instructional manual. Sub-conscious hates being a sub. Sub-conscious wants to be dom-conscious. Unfortunately such things do not happen anymore. Drinking dreams from people is potentially delicious. Flab is the hallmark of a family man or woman. Their dreams have become realities. Mere impulses of creatures become vaguely self-sustaining then fully self-sustaining. Right in the heart is where the familial love lives. Floaters in the eyes are more than floaters. When one sees floaters they see ghosts. Floaters are ghosts for the vision-impaired.
                Afterlife is big into God. Death brings people closer to God. They live in God’s domain hoping for the best. From on high the angels live on the down low. Beneath angels are the exciting ones, the ones they can and do mess up. Humans are interesting for their ability to mess up all the time and somehow remain completely loved. Every human is made in God’s image. Once people come back to God they realize how much of their decisions were good, how the evil was more than counterbalanced by the good. Living in Earth tends to make people forget how fortunate they really are.
                The world hates leaving people behind. In Heaven everything is fine. From Heaven people can see themselves from light-years away. Such distance makes it easier to see what the right and wrong decision was. Death takes the people away. Online presences remain long after the body has left. Everything has a digital footprint entirely different from their real life footprint. Sometimes it is bigger and sometimes smaller. It depends on the lust for life.
                Kissing is a form of lust. Lips love each other. Lips like locking together. That is where the key to the heart comes from, from the lips. Words flow from the mouths of babes. Life means the words work well but the tones work better. Even babies understand the importance of tone. Words are meaningless. Tones are tender. People wrap themselves up in tones, in the environmental sounds that surround them for that is what it means to be alive: it means to interact.
beachsloth:
SYNESTHESIA by Joshua Espinoza
                God watches everyone’s first kiss. Although God used to be an awesome God He’s been a bit lazier as the years have progressed. Long ago God felt that raining frogs on Egypt was cool. People were turned into pillars of salt for looking at the destruction of their towns. Now God isn’t into that whole vengeful thing. Rather He realizes the importance of free will and understands it is more important than any instruction manual.
                Dreams are the ultimate instructional manual. Sub-conscious hates being a sub. Sub-conscious wants to be dom-conscious. Unfortunately such things do not happen anymore. Drinking dreams from people is potentially delicious. Flab is the hallmark of a family man or woman. Their dreams have become realities. Mere impulses of creatures become vaguely self-sustaining then fully self-sustaining. Right in the heart is where the familial love lives. Floaters in the eyes are more than floaters. When one sees floaters they see ghosts. Floaters are ghosts for the vision-impaired.
                Afterlife is big into God. Death brings people closer to God. They live in God’s domain hoping for the best. From on high the angels live on the down low. Beneath angels are the exciting ones, the ones they can and do mess up. Humans are interesting for their ability to mess up all the time and somehow remain completely loved. Every human is made in God’s image. Once people come back to God they realize how much of their decisions were good, how the evil was more than counterbalanced by the good. Living in Earth tends to make people forget how fortunate they really are.
                The world hates leaving people behind. In Heaven everything is fine. From Heaven people can see themselves from light-years away. Such distance makes it easier to see what the right and wrong decision was. Death takes the people away. Online presences remain long after the body has left. Everything has a digital footprint entirely different from their real life footprint. Sometimes it is bigger and sometimes smaller. It depends on the lust for life.
                Kissing is a form of lust. Lips love each other. Lips like locking together. That is where the key to the heart comes from, from the lips. Words flow from the mouths of babes. Life means the words work well but the tones work better. Even babies understand the importance of tone. Words are meaningless. Tones are tender. People wrap themselves up in tones, in the environmental sounds that surround them for that is what it means to be alive: it means to interact.
(via bluishtigers)
1 week ago – 74 notes

(Source: samsaranmusing)
1 week ago – 78 notes
maymonsturr:

My mantra.
maymonsturr:
My mantra.
(via cosmic-rebirth)
1 week ago – 568 notes
foxxxynegrodamus:

***
foxxxynegrodamus:
***
(Source: lnpfeed, via awaveofbliss)
1 week ago – 1,635 notes
cosmic-rebirth:

Live joyfully, make your life a dance, all the way to the grave.
cosmic-rebirth:
Live joyfully, make your life a dance, all the way to the grave.
(Source: cookiecarnival)
2 weeks ago – 22,305 notes
“The point is not to pay back kindness but to pass it on.”
– Julia Alvarez (via cosmic-rebirth)
(Source: amandaonwriting, via cosmic-rebirth)
2 weeks ago – 275 notes

(Source: diawf, via awaveofbliss)
2 weeks ago – 2,799 notes
bl4ckhippie:

Fly.
bl4ckhippie:
Fly.
(Source: rootsrukkus, via awaveofbliss)
2 weeks ago – 750 notes

(Source: lizzlizzcomics, via bluishtigers)
2 weeks ago – 110,456 notes
meditationsinwonderland:

ॐ flower child in Wonderland ॐ
meditationsinwonderland:
ॐ flower child in Wonderland ॐ
(Source: vegan-hippie)
2 weeks ago – 139,177 notes

(Source: jrich103, via cosmic-rebirth)
2 weeks ago – 4,848 notes

pleoros:
Helminadia Ranford - Guilin,China
(via hungryforworld)
2 weeks ago – 329 notes
designgather:

Oak Room
Andy Goldsworthy
designgather:
Oak Room
Andy Goldsworthy
(via cosmic-rebirth)
2 weeks ago – 286 notes
miguu:
don’t be afraid.
lean into your genius.
let your own brilliance support you.
you are something
we have all been waiting to know.
please.
(via bluishtigers)
2 weeks ago – 339 notes

odditiesoflife:
Amazing Jabuticaba Tree
This is an incredible tree that bears its fruit directly on the main trunks and branches of the plant, lending a distinctive appearance to the fruiting tree. The jabuticaba (Plinia cauliflora) is a fruit-bearing tree native to Minas Gerais and São Paulo in southeastern Brazil. Otherwise known as the Brazilian Grape Tree, the jabuticaba is grown for its purplish-black, white-pulped fruits. They can be eaten raw or be used to make jellies and drinks, including juice and wine.
They are wonderful trees to have and are fairly adaptable to most environments but they grow extremely slow. Jabuticaba flowers are white and grow directly from its trunk, just like its fruit. The tree may flower and fruit only once or twice a year, but when continuously irrigated, it flowers frequently and fresh fruit can be available year round in tropical regions.
Common in Brazilian markets, jabuticabas are largely eaten fresh; their popularity has been likened to that of grapes in the US. Due to its extremely short shelf-life, fresh jabuticaba fruit is very rare in markets outside of areas of cultivation. So if you are ever in Brazil, be sure to try the incredibly tasty fruit called jabuticaba.
source 1, 2
(via hungryforworld)
2 weeks ago – 1,462 notes

(Source: samsaranmusing)
2 weeks ago – 118 notes

(Source: rorycwhatsyourthesis, via samsaranmusing)
2 weeks ago – 130,113 notes
oecologia:

Star Trails over Matterhorn (Switzerland) by Felix Lamouroux.
oecologia:
Star Trails over Matterhorn (Switzerland) by Felix Lamouroux.
(via samsaranmusing)

burningveins:
multicolors:
benskid:
Know where you stand.
Wow
This is kinda creepy..
(via hungryforworld)

Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment.
Zen Master Dogen - (1200- 1253) AD (via samsaranmusing)
2 WEEKS AGO
101fuymemes:

COLLECTION OF awesome CLOUDS
101fuymemes:
COLLECTION OF awesome CLOUDS
(via roslynoberholtzerbddd)

itscolossal:
Planetary Structural Layer Cakes Designed by Cakecrumbs

Do not resist events that move you out of your comfort zone, especially when your comfort zone was not all that comfortable.
Alan Cohen (via raeraenjma)
(via awaveofbliss)
4 WEEKS AGO / THE-HEALING-NEST
so apt
so apt
(via awaveofbliss)

(via awaveofbliss)
treewellie:

"The area between Kluane Lake and Haines Junction, Yukon, skirting the great cordillera of the Wrangell / St. Elias Mtn. range, is commonly productive of these stacked lenticular clouds … In late summer, as the sun begins to set around 11 PM, it’s beautiful to see these unique clouds, which are higher in altitude than their surrounding companions, catching the last peach coloured rays of the sun."
treewellie:
"The area between Kluane Lake and Haines Junction, Yukon, skirting the great cordillera of the Wrangell / St. Elias Mtn. range, is commonly productive of these stacked lenticular clouds … In late summer, as the sun begins to set around 11 PM, it’s beautiful to see these unique clouds, which are higher in altitude than their surrounding companions, catching the last peach coloured rays of the sun."
definitelydope:

BBQ on the balcony (by fernlicht)
definitelydope:
BBQ on the balcony (by fernlicht)
(via awaveofbliss)

Birth by Alex Grey
Birth by Alex Grey
(via receptive)

(via bluishtigers)

(via awaveofbliss)

There is a time and place for decaf coffee. Never and in the trash.
(via 17yr)
(via hungryforworld)
1 MONTH AGO / MIDWESTRAISEDMIDWESTLIVING
surreelust:

Man with His Skin by Peter Zokosky
surreelust:
Man with His Skin by Peter Zokosky
(via cosmic-rebirth)

Oh soul,
you worry too much.
You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul,
of the soul.
Rumi, from Who Am I?   (via bluishtigers)
(via bluishtigers)
1 MONTH AGO / VIOLENTWAVESOFEMOTION
xpudding:

xpudding:
(via cosmic-rebirth)

(via thebronxisburning)

(via cosmic-rebirth)
treewellie:

La costa de la luz by Francisco Mingorance
treewellie:
La costa de la luz by Francisco Mingorance

itscolossal:
Mirror City: A Kaleidoscopic Timelapse of Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Vegas and L.A. [VIDEO]

(via cosmic-rebirth)

awkwardsituationist:
gmb akash documents the 350 kilometre journey from dhaka to sylhet, bangladesh made by those who, unable to afford the price of a ticket or find room to ride inside, risk death by traveling atop and between train cars
(via suntochukwu)
purpleaggregates:

White Tara The female enlightened being of long life, wisdom and good fortune When I see the signs of untimely death, May I immediately receive the blessings of Arya Tara; And, having destroyed the Lord of Death, May I quickly attain the deathless vajra body. OM TARE TUTTARE TURE MAMA AYUR PUNAYE GYANA PUTRIM KURU YE SÖHA OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SÖHA
purpleaggregates:
White Tara
The female enlightened being of long life, wisdom and good fortune

When I see the signs of untimely death,
May I immediately receive the blessings of Arya Tara;
And, having destroyed the Lord of Death,
May I quickly attain the deathless vajra body.

OM TARE TUTTARE TURE MAMA AYUR PUNAYE GYANA PUTRIM KURU YE SÖHA
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SÖHA
(via dancingdakini)

(via guerrillatech)
hungryforworld:

Monet’s Garden. Givery, France.
hungryforworld:
Monet’s Garden. Givery, France.

(via awaveofbliss)

(via cosmic-rebirth)

Internal and external are ultimately one. When you no longer perceive the world as hostile, there is no more fear, and when there is no more fear, you think, speak and act differently. Love and compassion arise, and they affect the world.
Eckhart Tolle (via samsaranmusing)
(via suntochukwu)
1 MONTH AGO / SAMSARANMUSING
malformalady:

The golden spiral of fungus. In geometry, a golden spiral is a logarithmic spiral whose growth factor is φ, the golden ratio. That is, a golden spiral gets wider (or further from its origin) by a factor of φ for every quarter turn it makes.
Photo credit: Devin Raber
malformalady:
The golden spiral of fungus. In geometry, a golden spiral is a logarithmic spiral whose growth factor is φ, the golden ratio. That is, a golden spiral gets wider (or further from its origin) by a factor of φ for every quarter turn it makes.
Photo credit: Devin Raber
(via deeperthansoul)
polaroidsf:

Welcome to Eden
polaroidsf:
Welcome to Eden

(via bouddra)

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of
meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for
your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
Francie Lynch Aug 2014
Grasp the past in memory;
The present by attention,
And our future with anticipation.



Last week. This week. Next week.
Sounds trite, but that's three weeks
In a flash.
No wonder I'm weak-kneed.
It's a life-time for some.
So sad!
It's an eternity for others.
Too bad!
Eliot measured our world
In coffee spoons.
Carpe Diem* works for today.
But
Carpe Diebus Septem
Seizes the week.
There's so few of them.
Males get about 4200.
Females about   4400.
In this light, women don't
Really outlive men that much.
What's 200 weeks?

On average,
We're the run of the mill aggregate.
You can't take one back,
Or extend one.
There's the week-end we crave,
Not weeks' end.
(My knees are buckling)

If time isn't an event,
Or thing,
Why such a cruel sting.


Weeks aren't noticed slipping
Unless you've two weeks holidays,
Or two weeks til... Christmas, or
A fortnight til Martinmas.

Carpe diebus septem.*

The weeks of youth.
You fist the car keys
At 830 weeks,
Then you discover you need
Gas, money, a girl/boy, and
All that other necessary stuff
For the next 365 weeks.
So, get a part-time job.
Part time is small compared to the
1820 ahead of you in the full-time harness,
Followed by 900 weeks of sleeping in,
Babysitting, living and breathing.
It's a limited time
To dispose of your assets.
Give, share, spend, enjoy...
****!
I'll die broke.

After 1300 weeks of bachelor(ette)ness
We partner-up for 200 weeks
Of co-habital bliss and kiss
Before the blisters and sisters
Join the family.
The drama unfolds from our
Box seats for 1000 weeks,
And if we're fortunate,
We countdown: 5,4,3,2,1, liftoff:
We have launch.
The kids are orbiting.
And they will, eventually.
Your union producing the fledglings
May last 365 weeks of meals, deals,
Forgets and forgives...
I digress.

Many have.
Look to Club 27.
They had 1400 weeks before digressing.
****** and Bin Laden – 3000.
So young. So nasty.
Einstein was young – 1316
Newton  was old at – 1639
Relatively speaking.
Johnny went across the universe at week 2037;
Elvis left the building at 2164;
JFK left us weak at 2377.
(My knees, my knees)
Mozart and Beethoven were composing by 364.
(I was reading about ****, Jane and Spot at 364)

Ageing is returning to Standard Time.
The weeks get shorter.
The well-spring of the phrase (around 3000),
Youth is wasted on the young.*
All 156 weeks of it.

Me. I have 1040 til 80.
Then, 1800 DAYS til 85.
Then, get out the stop watch
And count the hours and minutes.
The timer's thumb is poised to press.
Thousandths of seconds by then,
Before the oneness,
Omni-chronologist.
antxthesis Aug 2014
If only you knew how much nights i spend awake

If only you knew how how much i gaze at your face

I cropped the only photo I have left of you

And i stare at it for hours

And i enlarge it just to feel your presence

It makes me feel as if you're right here, with me.

And oh that smile

Oh how it drives me wild.

It's been two weeks since you slammed the door to my life

It's been two weeks since you've left

It's been two weeks and I'm just not over you.

If only you know there are days when i need you

Days when I'm not okay

Days when i need you to make my day

And you're just not there

My heart screams and calls and rants and raves but you don't hear

In fact you don't even care.

It's been two weeks since you slammed the door to my life

It's been two weeks since you've left

It's been two weeks and I'm just not over you.

If only you knew that i reread the poems i wrote for you

From the days when my mind had wrapped its fingers around you

And would not even let go

And it really hurts to know you're not the same

It hurts to know those days are gone.

It's been two weeks since you slammed the door to my life

It's been two weeks since you've left

It's been two weeks and I'm just not over you.

If only you knew that I've been having sleepless nights

If only you knew that every night there's a fight between my eyes and I

If only you knew that the times i go to sleep

Are getting less

Last week it was minutes past five

This week the hours have decreased a lot,

The latest was 1:55.

It's been two weeks since you slammed the door to my life

It's been two weeks since you've left

It's been two weeks and I'm just not over you.

If you only knew how much I've written about you

You're special don't you think ?

During our days of bliss

I wrote 12 poems,

Some you didn't hear

And after, which is now

I've written the same or maybe more.

If you only knew that i not only write about you with pens and pencils

Or in word documents

But I've written about you with blades on my wrists

Even my eyes have stories to tell

And if you look closely you'll be able to decipher them.

My heart also has one to tell and if you listen carefully you will hear.

It's been two weeks since you slammed the door to my life

It's been two weeks since you've left

It's been two weeks and I'm just about getting over you.
Crystal Peterson May 2018
.... Reset

Time Since I've Cut Myself: 1 Minute
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Reset

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Reset

Time Since I've Cut Myself: 30 Seconds
Time Since I've Cut Myself: 1 Minute
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Time Since I've Cut Myself: 12 Hours
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Reset

Time Since I've Cut Myself: 30 Seconds
Time Since I've Cut Myself: 1 Minute
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Time Since I've Cut Myself: 1 Hour
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Time Since I've Cut Myself: 2 Months
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Time Since I've Cut Myself: 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days

Reset

Time Since I've Cut Myself: 30 Seconds
Time Since I've Cut Myself: 1 Minute
Time Since I've Cut Myself: 10 Minutes
Time Since I've Cut Myself: 1 Hour
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Time Since I've Cut Myself: 1 Year
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Time Since I've Cut Myself: 3 Years
Time Since I've Cut Myself: 3 and a Half Years
Time Since I've Cut Myself: 4 Years
Time Since I've Cut Myself: 4 and a Half Years
Time Since I've Cut Myself: 4 Years 9 Months 16 Days 11 Hours

.... Reset

Time Since I've Cut Myself: 10 Minutes

You've done it a hundred times before
But just when you thought the day would come
When you'd lose track of time
You'd forget when it was
And you wouldn't have to count anymore
You thought you were free of it
You'd made it far enough
You thought you'd gone long enough
You thought it was over....

You fall right back to zero.
Lauren Pope May 2013
Eleven Weeks. Is that all it took?
To take us from strangers, to
lovers, to strangers again? I knew
you for eleven weeks yet it felt
like a life time of memories.

Eleven Weeks. Is that all it took?
For me to break every rule of
love for you? To let down my guard
and make you the exception?

Only Eleven Weeks. For you to
become the most important person
in the world to me. For me to become
so co-dependent on you that the
thought of you not being near made me ill.

Eleven Weeks to go from a strong, independent woman to a love sick fool.
Eleven Weeks to sell my soul and give you everything you wanted from me.
Eleven Weeks to lose who I was because I thought you were so great.
Eleven Weeks to rethink my previous notions about love and affection.
Eleven Weeks to become the loneliest I've ever been.

It's not a lot of time and the simple fact that
Eleven
Measly
Weeks
Can change who I am at the core of my being is not okay with me.

Twenty one years being who I was.
Eleven Weeks to tear it all apart.
Ayeshah Sep 2013
He said we'd be happy, in love- together forever.

His Forever was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

His Forever was me waiting for a love that wasn't truly there, a loyalty that only I gave,
empty words- promised after your battery and being choked out.

His Forever was me with many lonely nights and calls of concerned &my; ears listening to you laughing,
saying "i love you woman" yet its not me you've said this to, that was,
10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago.

He said we'd communicate & work things out, be faithful, loyal and always devoted forever.
His Forever was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

His Forever was me being an attentive house wife,mother to his children lover and intimate companion,friend, plus budget keeper and everything else he'd might of needed,
That was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

His communication was speaking about me in a disrespectful way just to get sympathy from whom ever would sway his way
His communication was lying to me, lying to our children and everyone it'd seem- about everything,
from his wear about the newborn child and the money we, me & his children went with out,
we struggled when we never had to just so he could court a woman who apparently already has a man.

Sharing things with her and doting on her son, given her what should of been the promises he failed to keep with me.
His Forever was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

His Forever was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,
Where he said he'd do anything in his power to make things better,
but that was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

For Better become For Worse after only 3 to 4 years of marriage.

Until Death Do Us Part, was the death of what could of been something magical.

His Through Sickness& In Health was carried out by his DWI, and me continuously~ standing,supporting him & sticking by.

Yet when I needed him and stuck in the hospital there was no through sickness or in health.

His Forsaking all other, well that was the year before 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

Within the first year everything seemed perfect the illusion's of what we or I've striven to achieve...
If you're confused that was, 11 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago.

I remember holding hands and laughing for sometimes no reason at all,
Walks in the park sometimes down the street just to enjoy each others company.
Laying in bed gazing into each others eyes,hands entwined.

Love letters handwritten of all the lustrous and love felt feelings expressed where words vocally couldn't express,
A wedding day that made him cry and i watched 1 single tear fall from his eye as he said I do.
He didn't and never been that type of man since.

Fist on my face, slapped down choked and ****** assault, lies and stealing what little i had,
jail became his best friend, where he learned to hone his abilities to deceive.

But truth is,
I blamed me for a lot of it until I realized I gave all I can and did my best.
It wasn't me it was him and i had to leave, taking the children with me.

I can say all in all I've learned a painful lessons...

I'm only sad it took me,
10 years,
8 months,
2 weeks,
4 days,
12 hours,
32 minutes,
and
18 sec!*

Always Me Ayeshah ®
Copyright ©
Ayeshah
K.C.L.N 1977 - Present YEAR(s)
All right reserved ®
Francie Lynch Dec 2016
Our Holiday Season's fast upon us,
Ribbons and bows are holding sway,
But I recall all the fuss
When Christmas was two weeks away.

Yes, it's been a year already
Since being swept-up in the frenzy;
Singing Silent Night and Silver Bells,
And awake until the last Noel.

But Yules ago, when just a boy,
Not toying in childish play,
Yet wanting more than I could say;
But Christmas still two weeks away.

You'd think that on the twentieth
I'd get a better sense of it,
But Christmas still two weeks away.

Come December twenty-first,
I felt I was Christmas cursed;
For it didn't matter what who'd say,
Christmas still two weeks away.

At dawn on the twenty-second,
The smell of pine seduced and beckoned;
Beneath the needles I spied presents,
Recognizing a gift-wrapped sleigh,
I cursed, It's still two weeks away.

The day before the twenty-fourth,
I couldn't see the wooden floor,
Gifts were flowing to the door.
I crossed my fingers,
Wished and prayed,
But Christmas still two weeks away.

The twenty-fourth languished
Long and slow,
The light would fade,
The night would show,
Off to Midnight Mass we'd go,
We'd press palms and plead forgiveness,
Then touch wood and beg for snow

Although it's still two weeks away,
I've much to do,
I cannot say,
Thank God tomorrow's not Christmas Day.
*Christmas but two weeks away.
When you're young, time can't move fast enough.
Meg R Mar 2014
Two weeks
That’s all it was.
That’s all it ever will be.
My cerebrum became filled,
With your chicken hair,
And your dimpled smile.

Two weeks
Of the sun rising.
Of the darkness taking over.
Pondering the subconscious.
Picking apart each other’s thoughts.

Two weeks
Filled with smiles,
Leaving laugh lines on our young skin.
Kisses until our eyes became tired,
Causing my nerves to short circuit

Two weeks
Was all that fate would give.
To spill our secrets.
To let our paths finally cross.
Until the divide quickly came upon us.

Two weeks
Where the past didn’t matter.
Where the future became unclear.
Your beautiful mind,
Giving sight to my own.

Two weeks
Where our demons started to lose their battle.
War cries slowly silencing.
Fourteen days,
Of peace.

Two weeks**
That’s all it took,
For you to leave your mark,
And then you disappeared.
Mateuš Conrad Nov 2018
so... i know that i will not be richer than
my parents...
they're heading off for two weeks
to Costa Rica,
while i'm heading back to Poland...
a tourist hellhole,
back to the town of my birth,
a ****-hole (once communism collapsed,
the steel industry collapsed)
to spend five masochistic weeks
with a neurotic grandmother,
who hums a lot,
a song i'm still to decipher...
and a dementia riddled grandfather,
to read a book,
       not drink, not use the internet:
on that point... thank ****!
i'll need about 5 weeks to forget how
**** youtube became in the past year!
it's not exactly a, "holiday"...
when i think of the tropics i think...
that one time in Kenya...
looking for shade...
why do these people travel
to the most obscene destinations
for a ******* suntan?
or some, other **** and *******?!
go somewhere colder...
i said to them... go to Norway...
you'll come back to England...
hey presto! the tropics!
instead, going to a tropical region,
and then experiencing holiday
blues, shell-shocked by the return
to the cold...
   it's like you're in an ice-bath one
minute... foo! into the sauna with
you....           eh?!
but i appreciate the offer...
it's not like enjoyed Kenya that much...
what, a, waste, of, time...
the macaque monkeys and
the pirate baboon were the only fun
bits staying at this tourist resort...
the rest?
bland bland blah blah...
i was so bored that i just pretended
to sleep most of the time...
just give me the ******* basics,
a book to read, long nights,
and two old people,
and enough recipes to cook for them...
i'll be fine...
    i'm not exactly the type
easily distracted like a cat might
be with a laser pointer...
5 weeks? a 3 volume book?
over 1000+ pages?
                smithy...
                   ****... it's more
than a holiday, it's a hiatus...
i can leave this garbage lewd language
behind and turn to the high-brow
19th century *******...
no, i think this time, i'll cut off
the internet completely,
i'll not buy credit...
i'll not drink for five weeks,
i'll certainly not ******* for five weeks...
i'll not smuggle in bottles
of ***** and drink and write
at the kitchen table during the night...
**** it, i'll make this classic...
i'll be armed with 70cl of liquor
for the trip,
that should do it,
the alcohol ought to run out by
the time i'm as Warsaw Western
train-station...
so me cooking dinners for two old
people for a month...
obviously i'll take a book in English,
so i don't, "forget" the language...
Heidegger's ponderings VII - XI...
plus... i sleep better in the fellow
land...
   i don't need alcohol to lullaby
me...
   which is a nice relief...
one thing you find out,
after doing a self-imposed rehab...
you appetite comes back,
you actually eat three meals
a day...
given the day's genesis of
a coffee and 2 hour's worth of reading...
i guess that's why i wouldn't
bother going on holiday
to some exotic location,
sieving through two weeks of
a tourists' resort...
         who the **** expects to read,
on the beech?
  in Kenya i could hardly breathe
in the sun... shade shade... show me the shade!
i almost can't wait...
a hiatus mingling with a reading
holiday...
  a neurotic grandmother
and a dementia prone grandfather...
match made in heaven...
  i just can't wait for the nights
were he attempts to wander out
from the apartment wearing his
pajamas... working on calming him
down and getting him back to bed...
oh, don't worry...
dementia isn't that bad...
it doesn't involve any
   hostile proteins... that eat the brain
away... he's just super-charged
with memories...
that, yes, that flaw of being
mortal...
the cameo cinema floods
the old mind...
                           but i do like
the fact that my presence uplifts him...
i still feel pretty ****** not
bothering to read a book suggestion
he's nudging me to read...
what?
  Leopold Tyrmand's
      book zły,
and i'm like... but when you die...
i won't have any meaningful association
with this country, or these people?
if you're into the vlogging scene
you'll know this...
tim pool / tim cast...
'they're just, economic migrants...
oh? so... that makes me less than
what is a, "genuine" migrant...
a refugee...
you know, the Kosovo refugees
that came to England in the late 1990s...
and were prominent around
the Ilford train-station?
they ****** off!
   but the economic migrants remained,
integrated...
  just economic migrants...
yeah, because economic migrants
were not just the same old migrants
with not language skills they had to learn
as, muted 8 year old kids in
a primary school...
     oh no... economic migration is
privy to all the benefits of...
"other" migrations...
      oh yeah... i was ready, economically...
oomph...
             i had it easy... all the way through,
having my *** smeared with
honey sitting on a laurel wreath!
we're just economic migrants...
           **** it... let's call Pol ***
and get this party started...
we can even groove out
to the brian jonestown massacre's
song fingertips...
                        while we're at it!
god... 5 weeks... no internet...
the rekindled fascination
with the texture of paper in my hands...
this is more than a holiday...
     this is a well earned hiatus;
where i'm going to, isn't my "home"...
all it is, is a memory...
of a child leaving it aged 8...
there is no longing of me for it...
i'm not some czesław miłosz...
who left with a longing...
   economic migration has that aspect
worth its worth...
you... have no emotional investment,
in either the place you left,
or the place you went to...
Poland gave birth to me,
but England isn't a home either...
    this... this language?
this isn't ownership of the British people,
since anyone can acquire it...
conquer it, without even wanting
an inch of the language's geographic
extensions...
  i, i own, this, language...
because, it, is, mine!
this is my home...
            and sure as ****...
Poland is a vague recollection,
the day my grandparents die,
the die when i have no one to speak
Polak to...
                that will be my first death...
i'm, white, you see, i'm privileged,
i get to experience more than one death!
   i really have a vague sense
of identity...
         the best assumption i can
make of myself is... to be... rōnin;
i pledge no allegiance to either camps,
i have a certain critique of both...
i have my reasons...
but it's not like i'm going to tell people
what they are.
Syd Sep 2017
I moved into our new apartment building
and for two weeks
every time I heard someone in the hallway outside our front door
I imagined it was you
coming home to me

for two weeks
I had every light in our place on
all the time
to let myself pretend
this home was occupied
and wished
I had someone
to argue over
the electric bill
with

for two weeks
I went to the beach
and sat alone
stared out into the ocean
for hours
until the sun burned my skin
and the sand found it's way
into my eyes
here
I allowed myself
to think for a moment
that you are only miles
away from me
just out of my reach
but safe
nonetheless

for two weeks
I looked out the bedroom window
and the kitchen window
and the living room window
all the windows I could find
searching for your car
your face
you

in two weeks we came so close
to seeing each other
and yet
we're still so far apart

for two weeks I checked my phone
two hundred times a day
I sent you texts
I knew you would not answer
or receive
and called to tell your voicemail
goodnight

for two weeks I fought back tears
in grocery stores
as I bought entirely too much food
for just one person
but I filled up the cart anyway
because what if you come home?
the milk went sour
and the bread ran dry
and I took out four bags of trash
by myself

in two weeks
I transformed a house into a home
without you
I hung decorations you have never seen
in a place you have never been
I bought furniture
without asking your opinion
on the tan sofa
or the gray one
I had to make these decisions
without you
I put together our dinner table
and ate at it alone
I found
this home feels one hundred times
more empty
with all these furnishings
that are meant to accommodate
several people
and yet
here I am
alone

for two weeks
for two months
I've waited
and god
please let it be over soon
Mateuš Conrad Jan 2017
that's 3 weeks without a keyboard,
that's 3 weeks on a dual-detox -
         that's that: roughly: antagonism
of: once upon a time...
           there can only be one Hans Andersen,
and as the story goes: ol' granny
   passed on the tales, without which:
no talk of posterity, and seances at
the theatre; alternatively: what if Kierkegård
opted for opera, rather than theatre?
    well: horrid is the task of dropping names,
as if being a village idiot, in that
capacity: giving directions... no such thing!
  nonetheless: a horrid task...
3 weeks... without this horrid world-entanglement...
amphetamines in the wild west,
                   and yet... everything slows down...
that's 3 weeks without such ''luxury''...
    and would you believe it?
3 weeks went by: in a blink of an eye.
             strange, or what 21st century writers
fail to recognise: the ******* canvas has changed!
any-single-one-of-them bothered to scrutinise
this new canvas? anyone?
     ah yes, it's still in its adolescence -
it's still: Dostoyevsky, scuttering in the grand
dungeon: that's the Moscow underground.
             the canvas! the canvas!
                             and indeed, if this be some
bellowing horn, from the depths of some forsaken
place... i'll go into the street, and sabotage
civilisation with graffiti...
                     then again: i have the least
expectations, such that capitalism works...
poetry... and what investment have you made?
nil, or almost nil... evidently: zilch!
      ah, but to have invested in canvases,
a studio, paints, brushes... see... no one sees
investment in poetry: primarily because the poet
has done the minimal...
            unless of course it turns out to ****
with a hot poker something once resembling
nations... which now resides in the insane asylum
(even though those, have been abolished)
                           , nation - ooh! what a ***** word!
the left irksome sometimes uses it:
in theory: the nation-state...
                        and then there's the resurgence of
ancient Greece... in a sing-along:
maybe 'cos i'm a Londoner... brother! brother!
Athenian! Athenian!
                                       but we are born into
a Spartan wedlock... no one really bothers to
**** our gob with Shakespeare...
    then again that is the schizophrenia (alias
dualism) in humanity... thus, to be frank,
psychiatry can be congratulated, it has provided
one useful term... and i will use it, over and over again,
in a non-symptomatic way, because, i find,
it stands, as if the Olympic Graeae (Zeus, Poseidon
and Hades) eating the carcass of some inhabitant
of Tartarus...
                               evidently: tartar steak...
doubly evident: tartars, or the remnants of mongols,
settled in crimea, and elsewhere in the Ukraine...
   tartar                      tra-ta-ta-ta... ku ku ryku!
a ja fu! krecha! a ja znow... fu!       radowitą
uprzejmość... skłaniam...  
    or what i call: rising spontaneously from the depths...
polymaths applauded, the tribunal resides in
bilingualism... trenches... history... perspectives
and current affairs... wicker man media...
                        so... an example of pedantry?
ó....               that's an orthographic dignitary -
        an aesthetic muddle... as is
c-ha                               contending with samo-ha...
     ch                            came from antagonism of
cz                                   which was later antagonised
by č               in česka.... say that: hen party
bound to Prague... in the Czech republic...
                                          ch      k..­.
i am, quiet frankly... standing at the feet of the tower
of babel... and i'm looking up, and i see
correlations, and i see decimal marks,
which, when given enough geography,
can seem like England and the isles,
       and central Europe...
    Iberia? phantom of Seneca...
  eureka! let's begin, once again...
  why is there a continuum beginning with
Plato and Aristotle?
                                           we could become
reasonable people... told to deal with madmen...
we could claim beginnings with Seneca...
and Cicero...
                      and why? the Romans loved poetry...
the Greeks antagonised Homer...
            the Romans loved Horace, Virgil,
                           Ovid... perhaps we should really forget
beginning with Plato and Aristotle...
       the former has become a church,
the latter a dentist's assistant (minus the ancients'
concept of a joke).
                      evidently i have to finish off reading
Seneca... his educational letters to Lucilius....
      moralising ******* that he was, thus, perhaps
a nibble at Cicero? but i must say:
                           it has to begin somewhere,
so not necessarily in stale-bread Athens...
                      and having such perspectives helps
in claiming casual conversation?
   assuredly - if it doesn't involve talking about
the weather...
                                which is always a great mystery
   if it's given enough aurora.
   onto the mystery of dialectics,
as discovered by Alfred Jarry in his Faustroll
Pataphysics contraband...
                                                nag­ging agreement...
nodding without approval... (chapter 10) -
beginning with αληθη λεγεις εφη
        (you speak the truth, he replies) -
   and ending with ως δoκεì
                              (how true that seems)...
and then some dub-step...
        know nothing dROP! boom! jiggy jiggy,
get the rhythm.
   as i always find it hard to look at
    diacritical arithmetic...
                                  given the following
represent a prolonging: hangman:
       å, ā and ä...
                             esp. in Finnish -
stratum: hedningarna täss on nainen.
                        rolling yarn, plateau, two dips;
and i will never say something profound...
i'll just say something no one else has said,
benefit of the doubt? somewhere, someone,
                                      kneels at the same altar.
  such are the distinction - invaders from the
north, and invaders from the south...
                                           even with
crusading Golgotha mann -
the times? many bats, supers, spiders,
but not enough readings of thomas mann...
                              easily befallen into prune-nosed
high-airs... it comes with the diet of literature...
   unfortunately.
                              and with yet another book:
i have burried yet another living person
i could have had a beer with, and conversed.
it always happens, every time i read a book
i have to attend a funeral... by reading a book
i have burried someone alive...
                          shame, in all frankness...
    i will sit in a congested train, touch a breathing
body, and consecrate the touch with
a warring genuflect - harbringer of a Teutonic
passion for initiation: a komtur's slap across the cheek.
   chequers played with passions...
           and some have to be approached like
caged animals, their vocabulary as cages,
                and the whole world before them:
cageless!
             some have indeed become so encrusted in
their daily: routine, that it would take a zoologist
(thrice oh, begs some sort of diacritical marking)
rather than a psychologist to understand them...
    like the darting dupes they are, enshrined in
20% gratis! smile! have a nice day! boxing day sales!
all but pleasantries, fathoming the grave.
   stiff vocab and all other kinds of perfume...
                           a king and his charlatan knights,
who are merely ditto-heads.
                  and not of this world, afresh -
among the nimble hands prior to birth -
surely there is: more grandeour in birth
   that entry via a ******...
                            the greatest pain of ****...
and when the ancient treaty was signed
under the name: Augustus Cesarean - or
recommended for a need of aristocracy -
    it was, for a time, the mana magnetism:
and such was the rule of poetry:
rather than a crown, donned the laurel leaves...
donned the laurel leaves...
    and such was the covenant from ancient
foes when trying to assimilate the Jew...
three kings from Babylon,
                         the child in Egypt...
          no good tides from Nazareth...
         a crown of myrrh - later overshadowed
by dogmatic sprechen, simpler: thorns...
yella things... or rzepak, Essex is filled with it...
rzepak... so why bother adding a dot above
the z, when you get capricious and use rz to
denote the same?! thus a science:
voiced retroflex fricative... Stalingrad!
                       can you really stomach this kind
of jargon? if it wasn't for science fiction:
science would be twice removed from gott ist tot,
*******' worth of pondering, given the close
proximity rhyme... nothing that rhymes should
ever be taken seriously, it should be hymnal!
                         Horatio! mein lyre!
   mein Guinness leier! rabbi krähe -
     and they deem that ****** white when talking:
thinking? i'd prefer Cezanne in real life -
   maggot wriggling and all...
                                          as much eroticism
as bound to a dog slobbering its testicles:
which means ****-all in an almighty stance
   for a dollop of halleluyah in Nepal.
well: pretty talk, pretty pretty pretty: i feel pretty,
oh so butter-fly-e.
                                    2 week stance,
***** in autumn... but so many Swiss hues
coming from the same concentration of decay!
shweet!  zeit-ser!        and that's me talking
kindergarten german: innovation begins with
a fork and a spoon, should the tongue come to it...
            i see a poem,
i see something worth bugging... c.i.a.,
f.b.i., hannibal's lecture in Florence, Venice for
the rats... bugging... shoving...
  shovelling... necro grounding, rattling...
    windy via north... Icelandic...
drums along incisors of abstract gallop:
violins... fringes of the mustang... airy airy...
all regresses toward the Vulgate...
         like ****, like said, and the only pristine
stress comes with vanilla ice-cream,
or a medium-rare beef ****! hmph!
                         fa fa fa excesses with that hurling
puff...
                      and i did finish Kant's
critique of pure reason... minus two calendars...
but, so help me god, the 2nd volume was hiding
under some corner...
                           thus, from transcendental methodology
came plump apricots, plums and pears...
             sweet decay fruit baron...
              and it's called sugars in the intricacy of pulp...
lazily grown, dangling on that caricature of
a formerly known: full crop of wheat-crude fringe.
    2 years... honest to god!
         but so many books in between...
i was given a recommendation...
i cited it already... kraszewski's magnum opus...
29 books...
                       although that's history fictionalised...
but nonetheless, it really was about
     the cossack uprising in the 17th century...
   and it was, as i once said, something i can forgive
sienkiewicz - the film version,
as in: i will not read a book once it has been adapted
to a movie... it's self-evident that too many
people have read a piece of work and are gagging
for a conversation... but where's the playground?
           ******* cherades!
  chinese whispers and a Manchurian candidate!
  i thought as much.
                          and whenever it's not a preplaned
escapade, what becomes of the day?
     was it always about a stance for carpe diem?
  syllables: di                em.
                            carpe is said with more lubricant.
corpus diem. well, that's an alternative, however
you care to think about it.
                and whenever you care to think about,
the proof is there: mishandling misnomers:
poets as tattoo artists... although no one sees the ink,
signatures on a reader's brian (purposively altered,
toward a Michael Jackon he-he, and other:
albino castratos the church venerates!)...
   that's 3 weeks in a catholic country...
  3 weeks... if only the football was better,
      i'd be called Juan Sanchez...
               but, evidently, the football is bad...
     so it's catholicism on par with a sleeping inquisition...
no one really expected Monty Python to conjure
that one... because it never really took place,
not until a trans-generational exodus
postscript 2004... once western brothels were exhausted,
and the Arab started ******* a hippo...
              then it was all about lakes and rivers
and Las Vegas 2.0 in Dubai!
                     you say quack... i say:
                                                    easy target.
and they did receive a blessing from Allah...
enough ink to write out Dante's revision of the Koran,
and some Al-Sha'ke'pir to write a play called:
the Merchant of Mecca.
  last time i heard, when the reformation was
plauging Christendom, no one invited the Arabs...
these days i think the little Lutherans of Islam
watched too many historical movies...
me? pick up a crucifix and march to Jerusalem?
  and is that going to translate into:
   blame the populists! blame the nationalists!
it's like watching a circus... why is the Islamic
reformation asking for third party associates?
                  i was happy listening to
the klinik... albums: eat your heart out...
time + plague...
                             once again: the world narrative
gags for enough people to conjure up
     a placebo solipsism... and that's placebo
with a squiggly prefix (meaning? how far
that ambiguity will take you) - ~placebo...
well: since existentialists were bores...
it's about time to head for Scandinavia
   and ask: is that " ''                 for passing on
an inheritance, or better still: ripe for
acknowledging ambiguity?
                          and if you can shove this
  into your daily narrative... you better be
a connaisseur of chinese antiques...
                frailty... then again, theres: ******;
well hell yeah *****'h, it's a murky underwold
after all.
                     and yes: that's called a petting word...
some say hombre, and we'll all be amigos
and muskateers at the end of the story.
                                    finally... i feel like i'm writing
a poem that i'll never end...
              why? it was supposed to be about
how John Casimir of Sweden championed
  the crown away from his brother Prince Charles
(volume 1)...
                      the bishop of Breslau...
a recluse... couldn't ride a horse...
    then again: nothing worthy imitation...
beginning with a donkey...
                               the transfiguration of palms
into whips... 2000 years later
talk of Hercules is madness... that other bit?
complete sanity.
                              well... if that be the case...
the book is there... i signed it, 2nd volume of
Kant's critique...
  
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
| | | | | | | | | | | | | Y| | | |
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

        an oak... in a forest of pine...
an oak in pine wood...

then onto the wood of sighs:

aH aH aH aH aH aH aH aH
aH aH aH aH aH aH aH aH
aH aH aH aH aH aH aH aH
aH aH aH aH aH aH aH aH
aH aH aH aH aH aH aH aH
aH aH aH aH aH aH aH aH
aH aH aH aH aH aH aH aH
          (somehow the surd escapes,
and later morphs into, but prior to)

a short script: variation on MW...

      pears' worth of blunting runes:
opulance s and ᛋ - versus z,
    congregation minor: the interchange, ß,
buttocks and *****, minus phantoms of erotica.
yet, taking into account trigonometry...
sine (genesis 0), and cosine (genesis 1),
or            M                                   W
(no Jew would dare believe the Latins have
the second 'alf of the proof: that loophole of all
things qab-cannibal-mystic - cravat donning
mystique - a flit's worth of sharpening,
or dental grit... flappy tongue,
flabby oyster, lazing for a crab's palette)...
so?

1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0
1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0
1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0
1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0
1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0
1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0
1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0

of course there's an
Sam Conrad Dec 2013
So I've got this story...
And it goes a little something like this-

There's a girl that I hurt really bad on way too many occasions that I love more than anything. Pretty much everything I write on here is about her. She became the love of my life, and I told myself she was the one I wanted to spend my life with. Except I was a ****. She was going somewhere to an event that lasted 2 weeks and was really important to her and let's just say I ****** it all up really really bad. She made a lot of friends there and it was a great experience for her, kind of like camp is for some people, how boy/girl scouts are for some people, and she learned a lot there, and had lots of fun too. I was so horrible to do what I did.

At least we're young though, and there's still time to grow...right? I'm only 18, she's almost 18, and we both have lives to live ahead of us. I feel like I need her though. She treated me perfectly in our relationship. I mean, looking back, there's nothing I can fault her for, at all. I just got ****** at stupid crap that doesn't even matter.

Except, she's into somebody else now and probably thinks I'm no good for her. She doesn't talk to me anymore. Anyway, I'm rambling, I haven't gone to bed, I took a bunch of pills, am getting sick, and it's 7 AM...so here goes. This story is somewhat censored, though.

_________________­___________
"The Worst Weeks of Our Lives"

I met this girl and she became the love of my life. She took me places I'd never gone before and her and I fell in love like some people wouldn't believe. Ask my friends. Ask her friends. No, her friends probably wouldn't admit to it anymore. But I choose to remember the things they said. Kids were like totally rooting for us all day every day. We were so perfect. It was great.

So with a few mistakes here and there, (mostly me...all me, really) we realized we weren't perfect. But it didn't hamper out love. Nobody is perfect, right? We realized that. Overcame.

But then, we went too far. Her parents drew lines we weren't supposed to cross. Oopsies. Her mom really put me in my place. I'll just leave it at that. Asked me when my 18th birthday was, so she could mark her calendar as the "day she could touch me". Told me I was a liar. Husband in the background drunk and screaming, as usual. Except screaming "that ***** ain't sorry. He ain't ******* sorry, ******* ******* marking up my ******* daughter I can show him how to be ******* sorry"

Lots more. I'll go crazy if I speak the rest. It was a hickey on her neck. We didn't do much more.

I got really scared. I mean, they were brutal. I wasn't used to that kind of brutal. Psychotic levels of brutal. All of the sudden I became numb. I stopped being so intimate with my girlfriend. They told me not to come around their house anymore. I started doubting myself. If I was any good for her. She cried and cried. Told me how sorry she was. For getting us in trouble, and for what her parents did. But it wasn't her fault. After all, I am the vampire that bit her neck.

After a few weeks, her parents dropped it completely. I didn't though. I was so traumatized. I'd been getting flashbacks. Nightmares. So scared, I was. I kept avoiding her, not only her parents. I mean, I didn't have a car anyways, so the only place I could go to see her was at her house. She reassured me I was allowed. But with no contact with her parents since the phone call that changed my life I was reluctant.

This was around 2 months before she was going to go to a 2 week event. A special event to her. One I'd even wished I'd gotten involved in. Really, I did wish. I just missed the application deadline. Throughout the next two months, we grew more and more distant. I was harsh on her. I hurt her. I'd get mad at her and then call her and talk to her until 3 in the morning. I made her hate herself, and then she felt bad about me feeling sorry too. "You always force yourself to be nice to me just so I feel better, but I'm ****, I'm trash, I'm nothing, I'm so sorry" she would say. Most of the time, she didn't even do anything wrong. One of my best friends died at the same time her parents killed me inside, I spent all my days sleeping and crying and when I wasn't doing that, I was getting angry at her (and quickly regretting it), manufacturing conflicts that were completely unnecessary. Not to mention I'd had health issues, and my parents kicked me out of my house a few months beforehand.

In the time before she left to her special event, I really tore her up. I said the dumbest things I've ever said to someone in my life. I'd never even said such dumb things to even an object, or myself. Why I would say them to a girl who saved me from suicide (I was very unstable and depressed when coming out of a bad relationship, and getting kicked out of home) and why I said it all to someone I wanted to spend my life with I'll never know.

The dumbest things I'll ever say to anything that breathes in my lifetime. I told her one night that the "only reason I was still with her was because if I left she'd hurt herself" (she had a history of self harm, even though she's the sweetest girl I've ever met) and another night I told her "If only she were going somewhere important I'd understand" and lots of other insensitive and selfish things that I can't even believe came out of my mouth. I mean, the whole basis of it was that her and I hadn't spent much time together (really because of my own selfish fears) and I was going all *** on her testosterone-fueled-rage style for days over and over and over.

Don't I sound like a horrible person? I was. I was horrible to her. As much as I hate to say it, I'll probably make similar mistakes again someday - It's like relapsing - but I'll make every effort I can to learn from my horrible past and never be that person again.

So when she went to the event, I was with my grandparents out of state and I downloaded my favorite sad playlist (Staind, great band) to listen to on the trip.

Yes, seriously. I told her that stuff and called her event unimportant and then I went away too. How stupid I was for what I said. I should have been slapped or something.

A day or two after I'd left, I realized how stupid it was of me. For the whole thing. That whole time. That whole span, those two months where I not only neglected her, but emotionally ****** her.

There's a song called "Tangled Up In You" that has the most wonderful and intimate lyrics and I listened to it and sung to it over and over and over late into the morning (I'm talking 3-4 in the morning) every night for like 10 days and along with a song called "Right Here" by the same band. I cried myself to sleep so extremely ashamed of what I'd just done to her.

I knew I was wrong, but what I didn't know was that she was crying her eyes out wrapped up in (someone else)'s arms at that event...
I didn't know she was getting all kinds of love and support.
I had no idea...not that it was bad, it was good because she needed it.

But it got her to thinking about me, what kind of person I was.
When we both got back, I started making more of an effort to spend time with her and go out of my way to talk to her, make her happy, and basically, stop being such a ****.
Except she just got confused and conflicted because she was numb and falling out of love, because I was nothing that anyone should love, to her, over that prior time.

Her mom broke us up about a month later, after some...you know what, I'll just leave that bit out...
I told you how the first phone call went. The phone calls I got from her and her husband in the end were just so much worse. I don't even want to think about them. I went into convulsions and kept dropping the phone.

I went back to these two songs to help keep my sanity and I belted out "Tangled Up In You" every day in my car... so loud I was losing my voice.

I'd had some communication with her, surprised her at her work one night, bought her flowers, wrote her my true feelings on some napkins, showed up when she got out of school one day, when she was deathly afraid, and surprised her with a smile and drew a heart on her hand...

Her and I were on the same page. She still loved me. She was just hurt. I still loved her. I was just trying to make up for the compromised mental state I spent so much time in. I had compromised hers too. I needed to get her out of it. She told me she would wait for me. That we were in a speed bump, that it would all be okay.

So some weeks passed, a month, and she still had my back. As strong as ever. Her parents found out I bought the flowers. They found out I'd been talking to her. But...

Knowing she still had my back, that she still loved me, and that she would wait for me...she called what her mom did (in breaking us up, in our break) a "speed bump"...I was okay with it. I mean, I really wanted to be a part of her life, but man, her parents HATED ME! (In retrospect, probably with good reason. Shame on me for the things I did to her. Really.)

We had some major issues (mostly due to my inability to shut my stupid mouth) and I decided that maybe some time to ourselves to focus on ourselves and think was a good thing. She could focus on loving herself again and I could focus on becoming a better person.

I mean, when her parents found out her and I were still talking to each other after they broke us up, they blocked my number on her phone, went to my church and made up extra stories to my pastor, (told him I'd came and banged on their door at one in the morning one night), when I called to apologize to them they didn't pick up, called me back later to cuss me out and hang up on me, logged into their daughters facebook account and blocked me, then told their daughter that I had called them when she was sleeping and cussed them both out, and that she was to have nothing to do with me again. They threatened legal action against me, too. Tried to make my life hell. They didn't want me around their daughter, ever again. A blind rage that went on for a very long time until every communication route was blocked.

She went to school and told her friends the false stories her parents told her, and her friends already didn't like me...I mean just look at what I had done before...it wasn't good. Not for me, anyway. Also her. She felt duped. Used. By her parents. She didn't know who to trust or what was real. Everyone was telling her how horrible I was.

I got a chance to talk to her one day. We talked for hours, face to face. Sat in the cold and talked. It was an amazing talk. We caught each other up completely on our lives. We talked about our love. Our past. Our emotions. All of them. Good and bad. But we told each other we'd always love each other. She stuck by me, and also reassured me that she always would. I left that conversation feeling so secure. The most I'd felt since way before I'd become a total **** to her. When her and I were so deep in love.

She's always wanted to go far away from college. She told me stories of her past and what her parents did to her, what she did to herself that were not good. Not good at all. She wanted to get away from her parents.

Meanwhile I was so caught up in the feelings she gave me when I was in her arms, I almost couldn't handle the fact that she wanted to leave. I pleaded for her to stay, in a time that her and I were both unstable and it was already taboo that we were even on the same property. But still, she said "she wanted to stay" because her and I work so well together...when we work together, that is, and I and her were both determined to work together. I told her I would do anything for her. In all of it though, I told her that the decision was in her hands and I would still love her the same if she left, and that I would wait for her. Because I loved her more than anything.

After that talk, things got quiet. I guess, too quiet. I was legally bound to stay away from her. I talked to someone she worked with and asked them to tell her hello for me. I thought though, we were on good terms following the talk, I thought she'd be elated to hear from me.

She never responded.

One day, a couple weeks later, she told me I really needed to get over her. That she didn't love me like that anymore. She told me she'd been falling out of love since the summer, and she'd gone crazy and needed space. She said she wanted to be friends, but no relationship. No relationship anymore. She said she couldn't handle it. She said she couldn't handle a relationship in general.

She made that message a bit accusatory. I'd been talking to two friends, one who I'd known for years and a new one I'd just made. Both overlapping friends with hers. Those two helped keep me sane.

She started that message with "I heard you've been messaging my friends, and to be honest, I haven't had the heart to message you back." She repeated multiple times that I needed to get over her. She told me that it wasn't anyone else's influence too. She even listed people. People who'd separated us. Hurt me. Hurt her, in a way, but encouraged her in others.

At the same time, she blocked me on facebook again. She had unblocked me when she found out her parents did it for her. Odd though...I thought she wanted to be friends. I mean, it was like the only way I was able to have her in my life at all. To read her facebook posts and her read mine. To have discussions with friends. We have a lot of overlapping friends.

Man, she killed me. One second I thought she was my soul mate and the next I was in the bathroom puking my guts out because she was telling me we'd never be together again.


So fast forward to today...I still love her. And she's basically in a relationship with someone else. She's also either on the fence about her sexuality, or decided she doesn't like boys anymore. I feel bad about that too. Its like I ruined male relationships for her. It's only been a few weeks since she told me I needed to get over her. She doesn't talk to me anymore. I go to high school events even though I graduated last year just to see her. When I don't approach her, she ignores me. I'm just another person in the room. When I do approach her, she has such a scared look on her face. She doesn't want to talk to me, but she can't be mean to me. She's falling in love with someone else and she's getting happier. She doesn't need me showing up everywhere just to depress her.

Yet I keep bothering her. Because I'm a sucker for her. I can't help it. I love her. I want her to be my future. But at this point I'm grasping at straws. So hard. I shouldn't be trying anymore. But I'll end up trying until the day I die. And only then will I stop believing in her and I. I know it's a pipe dream. But I'll hold onto it. Because it's the only thing I have left of myself now.

Last night, (I mean, right before I wrote this around 5 AM, it is now 8 AM) I played those two songs again. I forgot they were at the end of my playlist and I started shivering and crying my eyes out. I got chills. I got so cold. The tears just ran. They ran down my face faster than I've cried in a long, long time.

I'm only okay right now because I took a bunch of pills. Pills that have this kind of effect on me. They make me kind of numb. Kind of happy. Upper and downer both.

That's pretty much, my sad ending to a sad story.
I'm living the kind of life that only people like Shane Koyczan know how to explain to people.

Ironically, she loves Shane Koyczan.
I do too.
We grew up in broken homes and lived broken lives until we found each other.
Then we broke each other.

But she's falling for someone else, because I wasn't what I should have been to her, and she knows
But she doesn't believe in me anymore, the way I believe in her...because I wasn't what I should have been to her, and she can't hold onto me when I'm a 50/50 chance, of bringing her down again.
If only she would let me hug her again, kiss her one more time...I could die happy, knowing I poured all my heart and soul out into that last kiss.
But I'm a gamble. And she can't put her heart out on the line for someone who wasn't always good to her. She used to call me her "sweet boy" and she still tells me I'll always be her "sweet boy", but the fact of the matter is, it doesn't cut it to only be sweet s
I needed to write this. I've been going crazy. I told her I needed to talk to her but she's been avoiding me. If she reads this, I know its hard for her. There are more explanations I need to give her, I hope she will let me speak to her someday. I've found out a lot about myself in just the last few weeks. Stuff I don't talk about in this story. To you, my dear...if you read this, I'm sorry. I know it's tough. Its very tough. But look at the positive, dear. I'll keep living. Maybe I'll be okay someday. Your happiness is what matters to me. If you're happy, I'll keep myself going. I'm going to go to sleep now. Finally, I have some peace.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Underneath Jun 2018
I’m gonna be gone for four weeks. Well not exactly four but that doesn’t really matter. Four weeks to make new friends. Four weeks to try new things. Four weeks in somewhere new doing something new. Four weeks I don’t get to use you. No Sticky Bumps. No *** Wax. No new stickers. No waking up early just because I want to go out with you. I think I’ll name you Aaron. Not perfect but you’re pretty close. Close enough to love. Every nose dive. Every bail. I’ll come back. But it’ll be four weeks. I might miss you the most. Probably not but I might. Four weeks. Then I get to go back out in the surf. Three hundred dollars. On a surf board that I didn’t know how to use. Four weeks before I get to make that count.
Should I have kissed you? You see I got that vibe, what I mean is you consume my every thought,
When you smile the world stops.
My heart resembles a hummingbird, and by that I mean when I see you it’s still and fast all at once.
Was that a date? what I mean is I was expecting a third person but you came alone, you gave that look and said ‘I got this babe’.
Conversation is easy and it’s in those moments I realise we fit better than Lego.
Do you see more than just my size?
You asked ‘what do big girls drink’, I replied with wine, but what you missed was my heart loosing its wings and  hitting the floor.
Of course a few weeks later I learn about another girl
A few weeks later I learn you knew how I felt all along
A few weeks later I am standing in front of you pretending everything is fine
A few weeks later I am standing in front of you feeling like glass hitting concrete flooring
A few weeks later I confess to you how I feel
A few weeks later my fitness planner is scolding me because I have stopped eating
A few weeks later I fear the last words you say to me are “don’t worry ***”
Jenn Yeo Jan 2015
It's been two weeks since I've last took a breath
My face is blue and there's pains in my chest
It's been two weeks since I've opened my mouth
Even why I try nothing comes out
It's been two weeks since I've been able to think straight
I've been flooded with thoughts that chain me to my bed by my waist
It's been two weeks I've been holding back
I'm fighting myself from approaching you, it's all that you asked
It's been two weeks and I've been spending everyday worrying that you think I'm fine with this
When you're all that I need and all that I miss
It's been two weeks and I've been trying to find the words
To tell you I'm sorry and it's my fault for all the hurt
It's been two weeks and soon it'll be a month, a year and then a lifetime and I don't know how I'll get through
But you said it was best and I've always had my trust in you
I can't write anymore but my heart still breaks the same
Megan Hoagland Mar 2013
1 month, 3 weeks
since I have last known your hands as my own
since I last had you body for warmth to hold
since I said "I love you more than you know"
1 month, 3 weeks.
We are strangers with memories
farther apart than we were from the start.
My first kiss, my first love, my first true look into a soul.
1 month, 3 weeks.
how could three years, a lifetime, just end?
how could we be so close, and so far?
how could we be so open, so blind?
1 month, 3 weeks
and I'm finally falling apart
and I can finally cry
and I can finally see
1 month, 3 weeks
Is this what it is to be happy?
Is this what it means to be free?
Is this life?
1 month, 3 weeks
and I'm finally happy.
dSitoun Jun 2013
Two weeks..
All it took was two weeks for me to fall in love
I didn't knew I could
Let's just say...I accidently fell in love.
Two weeks..
Who could have known
That it was so easy to break down the walls..
The walls I had made
To make sure my heart won't break.
Two weeks..
You said words that was as sweet as honey
Oh boy..
What have you done to me?
I was never good with words
Until I met you..
Two weeks ago.
Naomi Sa'Rai Feb 2012
How you held me
Kissed demanding
but gentle
(the days and weeks)
Yes you swooned me
Spooned me
as we splayed across
(the days and weeks)
Sure we liked
As if in love
Felt drip drops
Thought of rain
Blackened dove
(the days and weeks)
Thought of you
Your spirit rang true
Bells singing
Distance
(the days and weeks)
If your mind
Ever wanders
My heart will surely find it
Tell your feet to stay still
My body moves
Astounded
(the days and weeks)
Made me listen
As your hands speak
Forcing me to reality
(the days and weeks)
Spent in a room
Feeling of doom
Whenever your around
(the days and weeks)
Saddened
Blackened eyes
Maddened
How you held me
Kiss demanding
Taking all away
(the days and weeks)
Came
You never stayed


Murray
its been
moments since I thought about you
in any capacity
minutes since
I remembered some portion of our story
hours since I felt anger
days since I tried to pick up my phone
weeks since I last contacted you
months since we last touched.

its been

months since you crushed me
weeks since I put on the brave face
days since I longed for you
hours since I spoke of you
minutes of starring into a blank screen
silently pleading
moments before all this is behind me again.

It’ll be

Moments of weakness
when I think about “us”
Minutes of silent cursing
while you run through my mind
Hours of rationalizing
before I let it go
Days of depression

I know

Weeks of emotions crammed into a few minutes
Months of self doubt and insanity

Soon it’ll be

years

But I’ll always have


the



tears.
BD Apr 2019
They came expected,
But oh so unexpected,
Dusk stalking blue skies and sun,
A small patch; barely infected,
Just a few weeks and they’ll be gone,
Just a few weeks and they’ll be gone,

The naivety of my youth allowed me to forgive them,
But time has passed,
They have been feeding,
Infesting,
Like mould in a damp corner,
I ‘must be handling them wrong’,
A new product promised to do wonders,
To my ears an angel’s song,
Just a few weeks and they’ll be gone,

And yet a few turned to a family,
Beneath the diet, the exercise, the routines, the gallons of water, the research,
I could hear Lucifer laughing,
Like that one person at my school,
That was a year ago,
And yet they and Lucifer still laugh at me,
Through murky panes and pictures,
Just a few weeks and they’ll be gone,

Every day they disappear more,
I tell myself I’ve won,
Yet old pictures show me it’s an illusion,
Surely they’ll end for summer’s fun,
Just a few weeks and they’ll be gone,

I now greet my friend the mirror,
Between everything I do,
He tells me it’s getting clearer,
His story’s must be true,
Just a few weeks and they’ll be gone,

I am a fool to my own deceit,
For the naked eye of me the whole world,
Can see these demons,
These scarlet brandings,
And every glimpse I catch in my friend the mirror,
In the reflections of a stranger’s wondering eye,
The voice in my head says ‘why me’
That’s all that it’s come to,
There is no more light in this night that has consumed me,
So all that is left,
Is echoes,
‘Why me’

But they won’t be here for long,
Just a few weeks and they’ll be gone.
Morgan Mercury Sep 2013
The first time I saw you it was in math class.
I didn't notice anything about you at first I just memorized the back of how your head was.
After all, I had an hour to ****.
The second time I saw you were in English class.
You sat next to me but not by choice.
But I was happy about it.
It took me about four to five weeks to talk to you,
and I wasn't even the one to speak first.
You introduced yourself and then we worked together on an assignment.
It's been two weeks and I haven't said another word and I probably won't out of random.
My anxiety swallows me whole
and I'm sorry I can't even say hello.
But I have had time to notice you.
And let me just say
I'm in love with your taste in music
I'm in love with the way you hold your books
thinking that if you change the sound of your voice when the diagonal changes,
or if you struggle reading words you've never seen before and sit there for a few seconds trying to piece together what they mean.
I love how you can play the mandolin, you should show me sometime.
As I think about these things I also pick up how you would never even think of me.
I mean really,
you probably want some girl that's outgoing and can strum a guitar solo at midnight with you.
You probably want someone with long hair you can intertwine your fingers in,
or someone you can spend an afternoon together after church with.
I can't move mountains
and I can't even speak without looking like a fool,
but even if nothing will ever happen
It would be just as quite exciting being friends with you.
We could trade books and make each other mixtapes.
It hasn't even been a month yet and I'm already writing mediocre poetry about you.
I'm sorry about that by the way.
I'm not asking for a relationship but a friendship with someone like you would feel just the same.
I wrote this in like 20 minutes and I apologize I don't even know
2013
T Jones Aug 2014
Not a poem but in protest of flagging truth about racism in Traverse City, Michigan


Traverse City, Michigan: Racism is still alive and well in our area.

We weren't always welcoming
Cross burning's (City of Traverse City, MI)
I'm born and raised in Traverse City, Michigan and still living in the same neighborhood where I grew up. I can remember when blacks were not welcome in most parts of town and the one or two around were military visitors.

We had two known cross burning incidents. One back in the late 80's or early 90's the other was around 1924, ******* groups like Ku Klux **** was behind both cross burning incidents. I found old articles on the earlier one but someone is trying hard to white wash history of Traverse City by hiding evidence of the most resent one. Ones like me who were there remember those dark days like it was yesterday. It don't bode well for tourism or the Cherry Festival if there's a record of racism in our city.

Copy pasting one two different retelling of story reported by our sometimes biased Record Eagle articles regarding the first and and will continue to dig for the other one.

January 31, 2009
KKK was active in early '20s

The 1924 bombings and cross burnings in downtown Traverse City were not the first **** activity in northern Michigan.

The Record-Eagle reported flaming crosses in the Mancelona area on Aug. 1, 1923, a full year before. Six weeks later, Traverse City commissioners refused the **** permission to hold a Sept. 17 open-air meeting at the corner of Front and Cass.

About 300 people showed up anyway and marched to a vacant lot west of Front and Union after the unidentified property owner gave permission, carefully noting that it "did not commit him to any relationship with the organization," the newspaper said.

The Record-Eagle also passed on information from an identified **** source in its Sept. 17 report:

Two, maybe three organizers had worked for weeks in Traverse City. About 150 Traverse City men from "among the leading citizens" had joined. An open-air ritual with the traditional fiery cross burning on a hillside would be held "sometime but not yet" in or near Traverse City, and it would be "merely a part of the **** ceremonies and have no special significance."

People who expected to see hooded men in white robes performing rites at the Sept. 17 rally were bound to be disappointed, the paper said. A new state law banned wearing masks in public. It also would be difficult to tell how many in the audience were KKK members because "every person who has signed the Ku Klux card has pledged to keep his membership an absolute secret."


Traverse City, Michigan wasn't always welcoming to people of color.


Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 1, 2009
Ku Klux **** terrorizes TC in 1924

KKK cross burnings, explosions rock city

By LORAINE ANDERSON
Black History Month has special significance, since it begins fewer than two weeks after the nation's historic inauguration of its first black president, Barack Obama.

But there are parts of that history that Traverse City, like the rest of the nation, would rather forget. The city never had a large black population, but it did not escape a visit from the Ku Klux **** during a frightening night of downtown explosions and cross burnings on Aug. 9, 1924.

Traverse City has never seen anything like that night of terror. Buildings shook. Store windows cracked and shattered. Houses as far away as 16th Street quaked, the Record-Eagle reported.

And though outside agitators were blamed, some local people may have been involved.

It started about 8 p.m. after three explosions went off across the river from the Lyric Theatre, where the State is today.

The crowd at the Lyric all but stampeded toward the door as women and children screamed. Panicked shoppers spilled out of downtown stores. City police phones jangled with alarm.

A large cross burned on the north side of the Boardman River near Cass Street. About 50 smaller burning crosses appeared almost simultaneously at the centers of intersections across the city. Each was crudely nailed together and swathed in oil-soaked rags. Sparks flew when several cars struck them. A city fire truck raced through town to douse flames.

Then, a "touring car" with four men, robed and hooded, though not masked, slowly trolled down Front Street carrying a sign surrounded by red flares blazing three letters: KKK.

Copies of the Ku Klux **** newspaper, "The Fiery Cross," later were found downtown, and police determined that at least two cars were involved in planting and lighting the crosses.

**** leaders called the explosions and flaming crosses a recruiting gimmick, but it was more than that. The 1920s was a reactionary time in the United States. The **** had risen again, starting in 1915, widening its anti-black focus to Jews, Catholics and immigrants, particularly those from southeastern Europe. Its membership was strongest in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

The ****'s most powerful year was 1924, when it reached an all-time high of 5 million members nationwide and virtually controlled the government of Indiana. Its most popular slogan was "100 percent pure American."

The **** had a solid base of support in Michigan. The **** fielded two candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 1924 and a ****-backed candidate was elected mayor of Flint. A write-in **** candidate even made a strong showing in a Detroit mayoral race.

In June 1924, 1,000 men joined the KKK in an Oakland County cross burning attended by about 8,000 people. Traverse City's demonstration took place just two months later. But who was really behind it?

"There is some doubt among the authorities as to whether the offenses were actually committed by local people or men from outside. They believe that local people were associated in the affair," the Record-Eagle reported.

An unidentified spokesman for the local **** denied responsibility, speculating that it was the work of **** enemies or rogue Klansmen. He told the Record-Eagle that the **** repudiated terror tactics and burning of "unwatched crosses."

Two weeks after the bombing, city police obtained felony and misdemeanor arrest warrants accusing Ku Klux **** organizer Basil Carleton of Richmond, Ind., of setting off explosives. Indiana police arrested him on Aug. 29.

Witnesses testified in two trials in December and January that Carleton had purchased 25 pounds of dynamite, fuses and three caps from Hannah & Lay Mercantile Co. about two hours before the explosions. A Park Place Hotel clerk said he saw Carleton hurrying away from the direction of the explosions about 10 minutes later. Two **** members testified that Carleton was not at the scene.

Yet he was never convicted. Juries acquitted him in both cases because the prosecutor could not prove to their satisfaction that he was at the scene of the explosion or that he personally set off the dynamite.

The bomber escaped justice. But the good news was that in Traverse City, no night of terror like that happened again.

It was this event that sparked the cross burning in Traverse City. We had only one black family in our city, when Betty Ponder and her family left Traverse City for the first time due to no one wanting to rent to them, population of blacks in our predominately white city drop to zero.


******* Movement Targets Northern Michigan

by Robert Downes

National Alliance advocates the creation of "two Americas"

Traverse City, Mich., noted primarily for its beaches, tourists and cherry pie values, appears to be erupting as a national battleground of opinion over the ******* movement, with forces on both sides of the issue coming out of the woodwork to vent their outrage over racial issues.
On Thursday, June 5, residents along stretches of Washington and Front streets in town came home to find a slick package of information from the National Alliance hanging from their doorknobs. An outgrowth of the American **** Party, the National Alliance is a ******* group which advocates the creation of "two Americas," one of which would be "White Space only with no Jews or blacks." The Alliance, advocates genocidal practices if need be to achieve its goals, and plans to distribute 1,000 information packets in Northern Michigan.

Protest organized to oppose July "NordicFest"
The incident arose only a day after more than 150 people from throughout Northern Michigan gathered at a "Hate-Free TC" meeting to oppose the NordicFest, a skinhead rock festival sponsored by the Ku Klux ****, to be held at a secret location 20 miles south of town, July 3-6.
The NordicFest is being advertised on the Internet and will feature at least six skinhead bands featured on Stormfront Records and Resistance Records -- both of which are purveyors of neo-**** hate music. It will also reportedly feature speakers from the Ku Klux **** and Aryan Nations.

Thus far, the NordicFest's location has been a closely-kept secret by David Neumann of Bloodbond Enterprizes, the concert organizer and a former director of the Michigan Knights of the Ku Klux ****. Neumann has told local media that 300 tickets have been sold for the concert -- about half the number he expects to sell. Reportedly, concertgoers will be provided with maps to the secret location at a checkpoint.

Bands expected to play at the NordicFest include Intimidation One, Aggravated Assault, Blue Eyed Devils, Max Resist and the Hooligans, and No Alibi.

Local churches offering seminars on the ******* movement and the importance of diversity
GATHERING STORM

Journalists have made inquiries on the NordicFest from as far away as London, New York and Colorado as a result of the Northern Express story circulating on the Internet. A segment for National Public Radio is expected to take the issue nationwide, possibly focusing the world's attention on Traverse City on the eve of the National Cherry Festival -- an event which draws more than half a million visitors, many of them from ethnic minorities.
"We're creating a rainbow ribbon that we hope everyone will wear in rejection of skinheads and the ****," said Rabbi Stacey Fine of Hate-Free TC. "We hope to have hundreds of ribbons during the time the **** is here, available from downtown merchants."

Fine says the group also hopes to march in the National Cherry Royale Parade with a three-by-eight-foot banner covered with thousands of signatures in a show of support for racial and cultural diversity. Thus far, Cherry Festival officials say they have received no applications from Hate-Free T.C., but will consider the request if approached.

Dottie Kye of Hate-Free TC says the group doesn't plan to try stopping the NordicFest despite their opposition ot the concert. "We're ignoring it," Kye says. "We celebrate anyone's right to organize and free speech. But our thing is unity and celebrating diversity." In addition to several church seminars on the ******* movement and the importance of diversity, Hate-Free TC is organizing a three-day "Unity Festival" which will feature dozens of musicians, artists, poets, actors and peace activists at the Traverse City Opera House, July 3-6.

Concert organizers Tim Hall and Tom Emmott say that more than 40 musical acts will send a pro-diversity message to area teens, with performers including Willie Kye, Alright Already, John Greilick, Samantha Moore, the Motor Town Juke Boys, Bentley Filmore, the Sisters Grimm, and Lack of Afro, among many others. A concert with Fishbone is planned for later in the month.

"Even if the NordicFest doesn't happen, something positive is going to come of it because it gets people thinking about the prevention of violence"
THE TEEN CONNECTION

The Unity Fest counter-concert is seen as a vital tool in fighting the influence of the ******* movement on teens in the area. After the initial story broke, the buzz in local high schools was that the NordicFest would be offering free beer to minors. Although that notion is clearly erroneous, a small number of teens in the area still cling to the idea and have also been attracted by the rebellious nature of the skinhead rock scene.
Tim Hall believes that his Unity Fest concert will help turn that tide. The three-day concert will be located in the heart of Traverse City in the old City Opera House, with easy access for the hundreds of teens who hang out downtown, often with little to do. "Our message is going to be one that values racial and cultural diversity," Hall said. "And we've had a great response so far. We had to put a lid on the performers when we reached 40 acts, because everyone wants to play at this event."

The Unity Fest will also coincide with the Annual Reggie Box Memorial Blues Blast, which was created five years ago to bring the heritage of black music to Northern Michigan for the overwhelmingly white Cherry Festival. This year's Blues Blast will feature John Mayall, Marcia Ball and the Bihlman Bros. in a free concert downtown on July 6. The concert will also feature a strong message promoting diversity.

The law enforcement view Traverse City Police Chief Ralph Soffredine says members of the law enforcement community, including the State Police and sheriffs from Grand Traverse and Wexford counties, are taking a wait-and-see approach as to whether the NordicFest will even be held.

"People ask what we would do if the skinheads wanted to march, and it's our position that they have the same rights under the First Amendment as anyone as long as they're obeying the law," Soffredine said. "It's a neutral situation for us. We just want to maintain the peace."

He added that skinheads coming to Traverse City would be treated "no different than if longhairs come into town, or square dancers. We'd certainly observe them and respond if there's trouble."

The chief noted that a similar event occurred in the Buckley area several years ago when several motorcycle gangs gathered for a rally. While the event was monitored by local police agencies, few people in the area knew that it occurred.

"Even if the NordicFest doesn't happen, something positive is going to come of it because it gets people thinking about the prevention of violence, which has become a serious problem in our community and our schools," he concluded. "The unfortunate thing is that it sometimes takes a ******* or a racial issue for people to get active."

"Sheriff Barr implies that people who have the courage to confront them will be put in jail."
ANGER FROM ACTIVISTS

Not everyone is happy with the neutral attitude of law enforcement. Judy Lowenzahn of Traverse City thinks that local police agencies should get tough on the **** concert, which has no legally-required bond or liquor license.
"These hateful groups are using skinhead music to recruit soldiers for their facist movement," Lowenzahn said. "If they are allowed to hold this event, in violation of local, state and federal laws and in violation of common decency, we will be capitve audience to their deranged homophobic, anti-semitic, racist, sexist ideology. Those who protest this message, along with those who are their scapegoats will be targets for hate crimes."

Lowenzahn upbraided Grand Traverse County Sheriff Barr after he made comments in a local paper that "I'd just as soon personally let them have their little event and be on their way." Barr added that if there was a confrontation between the skinheads and protestors, "there's going to be someone in jail."

"Does Sheriff Barr suggest that people of color and others who don't fit the aryan model hide inside their homes for the holiday weekend?" Lowenzhan responded. "Rather than offer a plan to protect the community from the violence that grows whenever white supremecists do outreach, Sheriff Barr implies that people who have the courage to confront them will be put in jail."

Northern Michigan targeted because of the predominantly white population
KLUELESS

Up to now, the vast majority of Northern Michigan residents have been klueless on the **** and the ******* movement. Many, for instance, had no idea that there even was a Ku Klux **** operating in the region until Neumann revealed that there are about 60 members operating mostly as "a fraternal organization" between ******* and the Mackinac Bridge.
Similarly, the existence and agenda of the National Alliance is all-ne
Jon gregg Dec 2012
Four weeks before,

An aroma of pine that sicks to the walls of your house,
Pictures that dangle from ten feet in the air,
The fake gas fire place smells like burning rubber,
Socks that don't fit hanging from the fire place,
Kids laughing and running around with new phones and car keys,
Four weeks before,
Family members talking politics around a turkey dinner,
Manhunt and kid the can games in the backyard,
Grandmas asking what to get for Christmas,
The a pumpkin candle releasing its scent apawn the bathroom,
Four weeks before,
School work piling up on my new iPad,
A sad break up from separation summer,
Closing the windows to keep out the fall breeze,
A hurricane?
Four weeks before that?
Johnathon N Jan 2014
And no amount of alcohol can make me forget the way it was to hold you
I still can’t bear the fact you’re gone, it’s been two months and two weeks
Two months and two weeks of total hell
Two months and two weeks of me hating myself
I made a promise to my friend that I wouldn’t drink away my problems anymore
I’m finding it hard to cope with the day to day activities as this and that just constantly reminds me of you
It’s been two months and two weeks of feeling dead
But before that it was two years of feeling like I could take on the world
It’s been two months and two weeks since we ended it and no amount of alcohol can make me forget the way it was to hold you
Solaces Jan 2014
For 2 weeks we stayed at this resort.. It WAS AWESOME!! So much to do.. It was right by a lake and they served awesome food.. We were there for 2 weeks.. I remember their beds were so soft and the rooms did not need air conditioning.. They stayed cool,, The walks out by the lake were so beautiful at night.. The stars would wisper their colors to us and sometimes I could hear the moon speak with its silver voice.. In the mornings the blue skies welcomed us with open arms.. The rock road was good for bike riding.. We rode our bikes all day.. We had lunch at one of the picnic tables and I bbq for everyone.. I threw back some beers and slept so good that night.. I had so many peaceful dreams.. On the last day here I took one last walk by the lake under a stormy sky.. It had not started to rain quite yet.. The smell of atomshere started to fill the air.. There was a young boy at the shore of the lake.. He was sitting there trying to make a castle.. I was admiring the storm horizon and I noticed the trees from afar were all upside down.. I took a deep breath and rubbed my eyes and the trees begin to move.. I knew then It was all a dream! I looked to the boy and created a sand castle for him with my mind.. In fact I created an entire city of sand as the boy was screaming with joy.. I then played with the lightning! I was here for 2 weeks! I slept and awoke for 2 weeks, yet I was truly only asleep for 6 hours.. AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!
2 dream weeks = about 6 hours sleep time..
Tom Leveille Aug 2014
and here i am again
at the intersection
of pedestrian language
& old wives tales
swallowing gum
like 7 year memories
opening umbrellas inside
cause i can't seem get away
from all of this rain
i ******* with my left hand
cause i was told
back in highschool that
"it feels like someone else is doing it"
it gets me wondering
about the difference between
losing you and finding out
that some one else found you
or my sleep
or lack thereof
its starting to tear me apart
i keep having this dream
where you are in
an unfamiliar body of water
trying to wash my poetry
off of your hands
or the one where
something happens in my chest
every time you sit
on someone else's bed
i'm tired of feeling like something you've misplaced
but don't have the heart
to look for anymore
tired of you saying my name
like you're trying to bury it
i'm tired of wondering
if you can tell the difference
between the absence
of my voice & silence
the other day
i almost started sobbing
at work when a woman
asked me about
our equipment
i was explaining how
things come apart
and almost mentioned your name
it made me think
of how you used to say
things like "what would you do
if i showed up on your doorstep
one day?" now, i haunt
the windows in my house
i don't leave for weeks at a time
i sit on the porch like the dog
you didn't shoot behind the shed
the one that refuses to die
until you come home again
i told somebody once, that
you didn't even know
what my voicemail sounded like
i wonder if they thought
it was because you
are so important that i never
let it ring that many times
before picking up
or if you dont know
what it sounds like
because you've never called
you can't be the ****** weapon
and the search party
i'm tired of all the seats
to the ferris wheel in my chest
being empty
tired of your voice
being the one i look for
in abandoned places
that one sound i beg
to bounce back
down vacant hallways
i just seem to stand there
in all of that quiet
like someone looking for a mistake
on an eviction notice
so i guess the hardest part
isn't letting go
it's forgetting
you ever had a grip
in the first place
and since you've been gone
i wonder if when
you pushed yourself away from me
you used your left hand
so it felt like someone else did it
I Don't Care Sep 2013
We'll travel down the old stone path,
Wondering why these things started to change.
We'll walk along the old train tracks,
Thinking of all the words that we once sang.

And it's so hard to stay so young forever,
School and work and life get in the way.
You're just like the last day of summer,
Days feel like weeks, weeks feel like a day.

We'll run amongst the old beech trees,
And count our blessings, dreading August's end.
We'll sing about another time,
When we can be together once again.

And it's so hard to stay so young forever,
School and work and life get in the way.
You're just like the last day of summer,
Days feel like weeks, weeks feel like a day.
1970 Odysseus visits cousin Patsy in New York City she introduces him to her best friend Lauren’s older less attractive more reclusive sister Tanya Mulhaney extremely wealthy family father founded corporation manufactures pinball machines which years later develop to video games then casino empire he favors and spoils Tanya but dies suddenly her envious sisters and mother gang up on Tanya is pale skinny flat-chested copious brown bush Odysseus sits in bathtub with Tanya and he probes in a way they hits it off maybe no boy has ever touched her in that way her complexion is so fragile slightest fluster prompts pink blotches on her cheeks neck chest back he admires her book smarts he’s attracted to her refined strangeness he thinks her bush and flat-chest are **** she laughs shyly offers to take him around the world he accepts Odysseus tells his parents Mom goes crazy yells into telephone what are you a ******? you father and i work like fools to send you to the best schools so you can make something of yourself you’re going to throw everything away to be a ***? i tell you we’ll disown you you won’t have a home to come back to do you hear me? we’ll disown you! she sobs how can you just walk out after all we have done for you? you ******* kid! Odysseus takes leave of absence from art school he and Tanya take Iberia jet 12 hour flight with stopover in Iceland to Belgium Tanya sinks into one of her moods swallows several pills to help her rest sitting on other side of Odysseus is curly haired skinny talkative musician claims he has jammed with Miles Davis and other jazz greats Odysseus says yeah right and i’ve shown with Johns and Twombly where exactly are you heading in Europe? musician answers he is a scientologist on his way to visit L. Ron Hubbard in England Odysseus does not know what Dianetics are and wants explanation he asks many questions and musician talks for hours they enjoy each other’s rapport as jet descends in Brussels they exchange home addresses in the States 9 months later when Odysseus returns to America a friend notices scribbled address while skimming through his travel journals Odys! how did you get Chick Corea’s address? do you know him? do you realize how brilliant he is? he’s a keyboard virtuoso! Odysseus questions Chick Corea? who’s Chick Corea? he looks at journal page then says oh that guy i sat next to him on the jet to Europe so he really is a famous musician huh? wow!

in October 1970 Brussels is damp chilly Tanya wears hip-hugger jeans black turtle-neck top North Face shell she huddles her arms around her chest smokes cigarettes looks through hotel room window out into gray overcast sky speaks in defeatist voice i didn’t bring clothes for this weather she picks at her plate in hotel restaurant glumly vacillates later in bed after refusing *** decides they leave tomorrow fly to Canary Islands for several weeks to get tan before traveling through Morocco during winter months Canary Islands are laden with Swedish tourists including bikini clad young girls many not wearing tops Odysseus is thinking about how to swing some of that Swedish free love once Tanya gets drunk succumbs to Odysseus’s ****** overtures it is good  one day while returning to hotel from beach 2 Spanish police stop and question Tanya and Odysseus police order to see their passports then command them into squad car police bark in Spanish rifle through their daypacks point a finger Odysseus can smell alcohol on their breaths Tanya and Odysseus are terrified police drive off main road to remote location abandoned ruins no one is around police order them to step out police drive off laughing Tanya’s complexion is crimson she sobs they could have murdered us no one would know who we are or where to find us we’re lost where are we? Odysseus looks around replies don’t worry we’ll be all right i watched where the driver was going we’ll retrace their trail

they fly to Tangier travel south by train Tanya is irritable insisting Odysseus carry her backpack Casablanca is ***** 3 men peer from sunglasses act suspicious wear tattered trench coats Tanya and Odysseus snack at cafe which provides hookahs for smoking hashish Odysseus scores several grams Tanya laughs suggests they rent car drive south travel to sandy beaches of Diabet for 6 weeks in the morning she paces around French hotel room with cigarette in one hand ashtray in other like she is sultry 1940’s Hollywood actress she stays in room and devours Penguin Classics Tolstoy Stendhal Proust Huysmans Zola turns out Tanya is sexually frigid she buys Odysseus anything he wants but does not put out they take train Marrakech it is sun drenched with blue skies mountains in distance Odysseus wants to go out explore get ***** with the natives he visits Medina daily witnessing many bizarre scenes he does not understand a woman squatting over an egg a man with no legs dragging himself through marketplace holding up cigarette butts in his hand he meets a professor who is out of work because king of Morocco has closed the universities due to teachers’ strike professor explains woman squatting over egg is fortuneteller and man dragging himself has been offered crutches many times yet makes more money playing off pity of tourists cigarette butts are for sale the professor invites Odysseus to visit Berbers in mountains Odysseus persuades Tanya she reluctantly agrees the 3 travel by bus in first-class front row seats vehicle filled with lively families chickens pig bus driver has assistant who lugs people onto bus or shoves them out door at a midpoint bus stops in little town everyone exits bus then men women children urinate in street local venders sell trinkets snacks Odysseus buys nibbles shish-kabob that later professor informs is roasted cat and dog they reenter bus wait suddenly butchered lamb flank is flung onto Odysseus’s lap a man climbs aboard bus stairs then grabs large carcass and heedlessly walks to back seat Odysseus wipes blood and slime off his jeans Tanya demurely giggles bus climbs mountains arrives at small Berber village professor leads them along narrow winding street of shanty huts sheltering merchants open kitchens professor tastes from various steaming iron kettles finally decides on one they are directed to rickety roof where they sit wait a boy comes up with plastic bowl filled with water and small box of Tide following professor they wash their hands then minutes later proprietor brings up simmering *** of couscous serves it with scratched raw plastic bowls no eating utensils they eat with their fingers Tanya seems bothered declines to partake she withdraws into silence after meal she becomes irritable complains of headache says she needs to return to Marrakech she remains standoffish on bus all the way to French hotel

after Marrakech they take boat trip to Italy while onboard Odysseus meets Italian Count who has an eye for him Odysseus wears Jim Morrison beat-up leather jeans Bruce Lee t-shirt scraggly whiskers Count wears thin manicured beard tiny red Speedo swim trunks Tanya grins amused Count offers Odysseus and Tanya to be guests at his villa in Milan city flourishes with stylish clothes loud lively restaurants classical sculptures covered in car pollution following several weeks of aristocratic wining and dining amazing 11 course elegant soiree Odysseus botches compliance with Count’s desires they are asked to leave Tanya laughs hysterically they board train to Germany based on Tanya’s tour book they find historic hotel with wind rattling windows coin operated hot water bath in Munich Tanya stays in room Odysseus goes to dance club meets brown-hared pale skinned German girl neither speak the other’s language he pays for hourly rated room they play German girl in animated gesturing warns him as he is going down on her but he does not understand until several days later scratching beard finds ***** seeks A-200 lice treatment German version leather pants disposed Tanya knows but says nothing she buys Volkswagen they drive through Black Forest Tanya wants to visit King Ludwig’s castles Odysseus does the driving mostly they listen to the Who’s “Who’s Next” and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” he follows Tanya’s instructions not knowing who King Ludwig was eventually he learns Ludwig was colorful character built extravagant Disney like castles and friends Richard Wagner Bavaria is cold gray brown deep forest green scenic Swiss Alps visible in southern view they drive from Neuschwanstein to Linderhof to Herrenchiemsee then Freiburg lodge in bed and breakfasts Tanya grows restless by all the driving decides to ditch car along road in northern France as Odysseus unscrews car license by road side several cars stop French people concerned they need help Tanya is anxious hoping for clean get away from abandoning vehicle they board train to Paris Tanya speaks a little French in spring of 1971 they are backpacking in search of hotel on Left Bank it rains all morning sky is overcast Tanya reads “Pride and Prejudice” Odysseus draws in sketchbook at sidewalk café sitting next to them are older Parisian couple man detects they are Americans he turns to them expresses in English his contempt why can’t you Americans learn from France’s lessons in Vietnam? Tanya and Odysseus don’t look up they feel like dumb ugly Americans within days they leave Paris

cross English Channel by boat they find temporary apartment in Earl’s Court in London it is overcast almost every day within a month they move to larger place in Chelsea with backyard with run down English garden Odysseus weeds garden plants tomatoes lettuce carrots radishes flowers Tanya stays in her room smokes reads at night they go out to ethnic restaurants one night they visit Indian restaurant a very proper English woman sitting at next table orders exotic fruit for dessert Odysseus asks waiter what kind of fruit waiter answers mango Odysseus has never seen or tasted mango English woman delicately eats the fruit with fork and knife Odysseus orders mango for dessert he attempts to imitate how English lady proceeded fruit slips around on plate finally out of frustration he picks it up in his hands bites into it he is aroused by how luscious mango is sniffing with nose scraping fruit’s skin with front teeth then ******* the seed Tanya makes a face suddenly the seed slides from his grasp shoots across table Tanya’s cheeks neck turn scarlet voice raises stop it Odys! you’re disgusting! are you intentionally trying to embarrass me? why are you doing this? he replies i’m not doing anything to you i’m enjoying the most delicious fruit i’ve ever tasted who cares what it looks like? later she laughs about incident offers to buy more mangos promises to take him shopping at Harrods tomorrow he goes along with their arrangement until it all seems like pretty background scenery to an empty intimacy missing all his friends back at art school he writes about his loneliness he feels trapped in Tanya’s web several times he sneaks English girls into his room when Tanya jealously confronts him he admits he has had enough and wants to go back to Hartford she suggests at the least they fly to Bermuda for several weeks to get tan before returning he declines on June 30 1971 Odysseus returns to Hartford and Tanya moves to San Francisco on July 3 Jim Morrison overdoses in Paris
Damian Murphy May 2015
At last they are away off on holiday
We thought the day would never come
A free gaff for two weeks, Hip Hip Hooray
We are going to party and then some!!

Two weeks with no rules or regulations
Gone are the mind-numbing routines
Let the party begin, bring on the celebrations
Let’s live it up like proper teens!

There was a sermon about responsibility
But was anyone listening at all?
As for all that talk about maturity;
One might as well talk to the wall!

We can have our friends over for parties
Oh we are going to have mighty craic
Yes, we can do just as we please
At least until those two come back.

No more checking over our shoulder
To see who’s in and who’s out
Yes we can be just that little bit bolder
Knowing they are not lurking about

We can get up whenever we choose
Eat at any old time of the day
Maybe overdo it a bit on the *****
They cannot wreck our heads the next day

It will be two weeks of take-aways
No more being forced to eat healthily
We can have friends over for overnight stays
Ah God bless freedom and liberty

We can forget about washing and ironing
They are always are on our backs
Thank God to be free of constant nagging
We can chill out, really relax.

For there is always something they want done
Keeping up with their demands is tough
It’s never ending, it’s not much fun
It seems we can never do enough

But now for two weeks all that will desist
Absolutely nothing will be done
And though they left a “To Do” list
They have two chances; “Slim and None”

Two weeks without judgement and criticism
About everything we do and say
Two weeks of pure hedonism
Doing just what we want every day.

But all good things must come to an end
And though we really love them dearly
Their two weeks holidays will soon end
and our kids will have to come home, clearly!
Free gaff is a slang term used by teenagers to describe those times when parents are away and they have the house to themselves
Ashley Chapman Jul 2018
Pressesd tenderly,
your carnal flower opens,
its butterfly released,
hovers like a hummingbird
drinking from the bill.

Oh, I too would steal you away
and cage you happily,
to get under your black-fringed skirt; 
to see that pretty dress,
fly off once more,
and see you bare;
burned now forever in my banks,
a first sight,
of dark curls!

As I think of it,
my desire stirs,
but of us
I have already masturbated twice:
jammed,
hips pinned,
sliding over our wet perspiring bellies,
in our jungle heat:
'cause in the firmament of our embrace
- it's hot -
where glued we **** into each other,
stoking flames,
until sleep,
when we disappear from each other.
My mind crowds,
with niggling neurotic inanities;
yours with manic dreams where bed-wetting criminals in cages beg to be freed,
before better spaces overtake.

When I awake,
I am lying next to you,  
Gwen over the horizon of your fertile valley,
a mountain,
white and reposed.
You,
murmuring desire for me.
****!
I can't wait to answer.

It is late,
late morning,
and we are all half asleep.
You have your back to me,
as we lie,
rubbing feet,
stroking hands,
(the oiled bulb at the end of a finger),
your fine shoulders,
(that delicate but persistent bone in your wrist that stretches with pointed elegance);
as quietly inside,  
(warmly enveloped),
my couched *****,  
rocks us:
each diffusing into the other
like the early morning brew.

Lust and love,
closing-in,
which for a good while on edge had been:
the weeks,
days,
hours;
faint promises from afar;
sometimes a little closer,
our shadows in daylight cross,
as one over the other storms;
and once (or twice),
a sleeve brushes,
even better,
hair crackles,
as a speaking lip touches lobe,  
and for a moment,
taking in the other's scent,
a hint sublimely overpowers.

And these,
dearest of fancies,
are just some,
with which to penetrate your mind,
as you have mine:
the energy of my yielding tenderness,
inviting you to complete me,
as I spread for you with desire.

Much later,
those daring looks you have,
the way you walk our stage:
your beautiful elongated face,
those quick-fire arousing eyes,
your sultry self-assuredness,
your pre-possessing self.

I could talk about your couple,
of generosity,
reaching up,
beyond mere comprehension:
of the fact that I like Gwen
(his love gift for you, me);
but actually,
in truth,
I prefer to take this moment to make love to you;
to say how wrapped I am,
folded in your limbs,
in our mingling sweat;
how with your joy,
you touch my desires,
into yours,
so they flow,
run rather:
honeysuckle from your blessed nymphae.

You love my smell,
you say,
and I dream of gathering you in pheromones,
of drugging you,
of intoxicating you,
so once again you will find me,
take me,
have me.
Entice you once more like a creature from its shell:
Come!
where I can ravish you,
all of you,
lay naked to me,
flesh,
sinews,
everything,
your very bones;
those fine elbows,
those knees I would like to ******* over;
wash their smooth surfaces in my come:
from these cliff heights,
rain ***** on the rocks below.

To once more cast aside your socks and get at your toes,
to pour oil on 'em,
to rub and squeeze' em,
while in the moist cavern of your insides,
we ****,
half washed over by our own tide.
And as we do,
I quail,
speaking sweet nothings of appreciation;
from full lips,
your sounds return,
the hypnotic rhythm of your breath:
I engorge and in our labyrinth,
- the maiden and the bull -
we consume ourselves.

There,
Sweet Lentiform,
you did it,
you got me rolling in flesh,
lusting after your intimate parts,
wanting you in bed as I know you must have me:
pulling me on you,
kissing and biting;
my arousal in your palm,
pops,
as you run a curved finger over my nethers.

Lying,
lying,
side-by-side,
lying prone,
lying ******,
never unconsumed,
because,
please,
please us,
with more;
so rarely,
unfucked even for a pause,
nothing doing more than sleeping and carousing;
our sustenance barely enough to keep us at it,
an occasional comic thrown in.
Oh,
God,
throw the ******* comic at me,
will you?
Beat my ******* flesh with it if you like.
Anything to see you standing in all your pearly naked glory!

And if you can,
keep texting me,
so I can hang on your every word like a ******* puppy!
Beautiful
long-haired,
skin tight,
upright,
wise,
gorgeously wild,
woman ...
Now pull me by my **** into your **** -
where I love it best.
howard brace Feb 2012
Inconspicuous, his presence noted only by the obscurity and the ever growing number of spent cigarette stubs that littered the ground.  It had been a long day and the rain, relentless in its tenacity had little intention of stopping, baleful clouds still  hung heavy, dominating the lateness of the afternoon sky, a rain laden skyline broken only by smoke filled chimney pots and the tangled snarl of corroded television aerials.

     The once busy street was fast emptying now, the lure of shop windows no longer enticed the casual browser as local traders closed their premises to the oncoming night, solitary lampposts curved hazily into the distance, casting little more than insipid pools mirrored in the gutter below, only the occasional stranger scurrying home on a bleak, rain swept afternoon, the hurried slap of wet leather soles on the pavement, the sightless umbrellas, the infrequent rumble of a half filled bus, hell-bent on its way to oblivion.

     In the near distance as the working day ended, a sudden emergence of factory workers told Beamish it was 5-o'clock, most would be hurrying home to a hot meal, while others, for a quick drink perhaps before making the same old sorry excuse... for Jack, the greasy spoon would be closing about now, denying him the comfort of a badly needed cuppa' and stale cheese sandwich.  A subtle legacy of lunchtime fish and chips still lingered in the air, Jack's stomach rumbled, there was little chance of a fish supper for Beamish tonight, it protested again... louder.

     From beneath the eaves of the building opposite several pigeons broke cover, startled by the rattle as a shopkeeper struggled to close the canvas awning above his shop window.  Narrowly missing Beamish they flew anxiously over the rooftops, memories of the blitz sprang to mind as Jack stepped smartly to one side, he stamped his feet... it dashed a little of the weather from his raincoat, just as the rain dashed a little of the pigeons' anxiety from the pavement... the day couldn't get much worse if it tried.  Shielding his face, Jack struck the Ronson one more time and cupped the freshly lit cigarette between his hands, it was the only source of heat to be had that day... and still it rained.

     'By Appointment to Certain Personages...' the letter heading rang out loudly... 'Jack Beamish ~ Private Investigator...' a throat choking mouthful by any stretch of the imagination, thought Jack and shot every vestige of credulity plummeting straight through the office window and amidst a fanfare of trumpet voluntary, nominate itself for a prodigious award in the New Year Honours list.   Having formally served in a professional capacity for a well known purveyor of pickled condiments, who  incidentally, brandished the same patronage emblazoned upon their extensive range of relish as the one Jack had more recently purloined from them... a paid commission no less, which by Jack's certain understanding had made him, albeit fleeting in nature, a professional consultant of said company... and consequently, if they could flaunt the auspicious emblem, then according to Jack's infallible logic, so could Jack.  

     The recently appropriated letterhead possessed certain distinction... in much the same way, Jack reasoned, that a blank piece of paper did not... and whereas correspondence bearing the heading 'By Appointment' may not exactly strike terror into the hearts of man... unlike a really strong pickled onion, it nevertheless made people think twice before playing him for the fool, which sadly, Jack had to concede, they still invariably did... and he would often catch them wagging an accusing finger or two in his direction with such platitudes as... "watch where you put your foot", they'd whisper, "that Jack's a right Shamus...", and when you'd misplaced your footing as many times as Jack had, then he reasoned, that by default the celebrated Shamus must have landed himself in more piles of indiscretion than he would readily care to admit, but that wouldn't be quite accurate either, in Jack's line of work it was the malefactor that actually dropped him in them more often than not.

     A cold shiver suddenly ran down his spine, another quickly followed as a spurt of icy water from a broken rain spout spattered across the back of his neck, he grimaced... Jack's expression spoke volumes as he took one final pull from his half soaked cigarette and flicked it, amid an eruption of sparks against the adjacent brick wall.  Sinking further into the shadow he tipped his fedora against the oncoming rain, then, digging both hands deep within his pockets, he huddled behind the upturned collar of his gabardine... watching.

     It was times such as these when Jack's mind would slip back, in much the same way you might slip back on a discarded banana peel, when a matter of some consequence, or in particular this case the pavement, would suddenly leap up from behind and give the back of Jack's head a resoundingly good slapping and tell him to "stop loafing around in office hours... or else", then drag him, albeit kicking and screaming back into the 20th century.  This intellectual assault and battery re-focused Jack's mind wonderfully as he whiled away the long weary hours until his next cigarette; cup of tea, or the last bus home, his capacity to endure such mind boggling tedium called for nothing less than sheer ******-mindedness and very little else... Beamish had long suspected that he possessed all the necessary qualifications.  

     Jack had come a long way since the early days, it had been a long haul but he'd finally arrived there in the end... and managed to pick up quite a few ***** looks along the way.  Whilst he was with the Police Constabulary... and it was only fair to stress the word 'with', as opposed to the word 'in'... although the more Jack considered, he had been 'with' the arresting officer, held 'in' the local Bridewell... detained at Her Majesties pleasure while assisting the boys in blue with their enquiries over a minor infringement of some local by-law that currently had quite slipped his mind at that moment.  Throughout this enforced leisure period he'd managed to read the entire abridged editions of Kilroy and other expansive works of graffiti exhibited in what passed locally as the next best thing to the Tate Gallery, whereupon it hadn't taken Jack very long to realise that it was always a good place to start if you wanted free breakfast, in fact the weeks bill of fare was tastefully displayed in vivid, polychromatic colour on the wall opposite... you just had to be au-fait with braille.
                            
     No matter how industrious Beamish laboured to rake the dirt there always appeared to be a dire shortage of gullible clients for Jack to squeeze, what would roughly translate as an honest crust out of, and although his financial retainer was highly competitive he understood that potential clients found it bewildering when grappling with the unplumbed depths of his monthly expense account, which would tend to fluctuate with the same unpredictability as the British weather, the rest of Jack's agenda revolved around a little shady moonlighting... in fact he'd happily consider anything to offset the remotest possibility of financial delinquency... short of extortion... which by the strangest twist was the very word prospective clients would cry while Jack beavered around the office with dust-pan and brush sweeping any concerns they may have had frantically under the carpet regarding all culpability of his extra-curricular monthly stipend... and they should remain assured at all times... as they dug deep and fished for their cheque books, and simply look upon it as kneading dough, which eerily enough was exactly the thick wedge of buttered granary that Jack had every intention of carving.

     Were there ever the slightest possibility that a day could be so utterly wretched, then today was that day, Jack felt a certain empathy as he merged with his surroundings... at one with nature as it were.  The rain, a timpani on the metal dustbin lids, by the side of which Beamish had taken up vigil, also taking up vigil and in search of a morsel was the stray mongrel, this was the third time now that he'd returned, the same apprehensive wag, yet still the same hopeful look of expectation in his eyes, a brief but friendly companion who paid more attention to Jack's left trouser leg than anything that could be had from nosing around the dustbins that day... some days you're the dog, scowled Beamish as he shook his trouser leg... and some days the lamppost, Jack's foot swung out playfully, keeping his new friend's incontinence at a safe distance, feigning indignance  the scruffy mongrel shook himself defiantly from nose to tail, a distinct odour of wet dog filled the air as an abundance of spent rainwater flew in all directions.   Pricking one ear he looked accusingly at Jack before turning and snuffled off, his nose resolutely to the pavement and diligently, picking out the few diluted scents still remaining, the poor little stalwart renewed its search for scraps, or making his way perhaps to some dry seclusion known only to itself.
  
     Two hours later and... SPLOSH, a puddle poured itself through the front door of the nearest Public House... SPLOSH, the puddle squelched over to the payphone... SPLOSH, then, fumbling for small change dialled and pressed button 'A'..., then button 'B'... then started all over again amid a flurry of precipitation... SPLASH.  The puddle floundered to the bar and ordered itself a drink, then ebbed back to the payphone again... the local taxi company doggedly refused to answer... finally, wallowing over to the window the puddle drifted up against a warm radiator amidst a cloud of humidity and came to rest... flotsam, cast upon the shore of contentment, the puddle sighed contentedly... the Landlady watched this anomaly... suspiciously.

     The puddle's finely tuned perception soon got to grips with the unhurried banter and muffled gossip drifting along the bar, having little else to loose, other than what could still be wrung from his clothing... Beamish, working on the principle that a little eavesdropping was his stock-in-trade engaged instinct into overdrive and casually rippled in their general direction...  They were clearly regulars by the way one of them belched in a well rehearsed, taken-a-back sort of way as Jack took stock of the situation and was now at some pains to ingratiate himself into their exclusive midst and attempt several friendly, yet relevant questions pertinent to his enquiries... all of which were skillfully deflected with more than friendly, yet totally irrelevant answers pertinent to theirs'... and would Jack care for a game of dominoes', they enquired... if so, would he be good enough to pay the refundable deposit, as by common consent it just so happened to be his turn...  Jack graciously declined this generous offer, as the obliging Landlady, just as graciously, cancelled the one shilling returnable deposit from the cash register, such was the flow of light conversation that evening... they didn't call him Lucky Jack for nothing... discouraged, Beamish turned back to the bar and reached for his glass... to which one of his recent companions, and yet again just as graciously, had taken the trouble to drink for him... the Landlady gave Jack a knowing look, Beamish returned the heartfelt sentiment and ordered one more pint.

     From the licenced premises opposite, a myriad of jostling customers plied through the door, business was picking up... the sudden influx of punters rapidly persuaded Beamish to retire from the bar and find a vacant table.  Sitting, he removed several discarded crisp packets from the centre of the table only to discover a freshly vacated ashtray below... by sleight of hand Jack's Ronson appeared... as he lit the cigarette the fragile smoke curled blue as it rose... influenced by subtle caprice, it joined others and formed a horizontal curtain dividing the room, a delicate, undulating layer held between two conflicting forces.

     The possibility of a free drink soon attracted the attention of a local bar fly, who, hovering in the near vicinity promptly landed in Jack's beer, Beamish declined this generous offer as being far too nutritious and with the corner of yesterdays beer mat, flipped the offending organism from the top of his glass, carefully inspecting his drink for debris as he did so.

     A sudden draught and clip of stiletto heels as the side door opened caused Beamish to turn as a double shadow slipped discreetly into the friendly Snug... a little adulterous intimacy on an otherwise cheerless evening.  The faceless man, concealed beneath a fedora and the upturned collar of his overcoat, the surreptitious lady friend, decked out in damp cony, cheap perfume and a surfeit of bling proclaimed a not too infrequent assignation, he'd seen it all before... the over attentive manner and the band of white, Sun-starved skin recently hidden behind a now absent wedding token, ordinarily it was the sort of assignment Jack didn't much care for... the discreet tail, the candid snapshot through half drawn curtains... and the all too familiar steak tartare... for the all too familiar black eye.

     To the untrained eye, the prospect of Jack's long anticipated supper was rapidly dwindling, when it suddenly focused with renewed vigour upon the contents of a pickled egg jar he'd observed earlier that evening, lurking on the back counter, his enthusiasm swiftly diminished however as the belching customer procured the final two specimens from the jar and proceeded to demolish them.  Who, Jack reflected, after being stood out in the rain all day, had egg all over his face now... and who, he reflected deeper, still had an empty stomach.  Disillusioned, Jack tipped back his glass and considered a further sortie with the taxicab company.

     "FIVE-BOB"!!! Jack screamed... you could have shredded the air with a cheese grater... hurtling into the kerb like a fairground attraction came flying past the chequered flag at a record breaking 99 in Jack's top 100 most not wanted list of things to do that day... and that the cabby should think himself fortunate they weren't both stretched flat on a marble slab, "exploding tyres" Jack spluttered, dribbling down his chin, were enough to give anyone a coronary... further broadsides of neurotic ambiance filled the cab as the driver, miffed at the prospect of missing snooker night out with the lads, considered charging extra for the additional space Jack's profanity was taking...

     And what part of 'Drive-Carefully', fumed Beamish, did the cabby simply not understand, that pavements were there to be bypassed, 'Nay Circumvented', preferably on the left... and not veered into, wildly on the front axle... an eerie premonition of 'jemais-vu' perched and ready to strike like a disembodied Jiminy Cricket on Jack's left shoulder, looking to stick its own two-penny worth in at the 'Standing-Room-Only' arrangements in the overcrowded cab... and at what further point, Jack shrieked, eyes leaping from his head as he lurched forward, shaking his fist through the sliding glass partition, had the cabbie failed to grasp the importance of the word 'Steering-Wheel...' someone wanted horse whipping, and as far as Beamish was concerned the sole contender was the cab driver...

     In having a somewhat sedate and unruffled disposition it had fallen to Beamish... as befalls all great leaders in times of adversity, to single handedly take the bull by the horns, so to speak and at great personal cost, alert the unwary passing motorist...  Waving his arms about like a man possessed whilst performing acrobatic evolutions in the centre of the road as the cabby changed the wheel came whizzing around the corner at a back breaking 98 on Jack's ever growing list... and why, Jack puzzled, why had they all lowered their side windows and gestured back at him in semaphore..?  Rallying to its aid, Jack's head and shoulders now joined his shaking fist through the sliding glass partition and into the cabby's face, "Who" Beamish screeched with renewed vigour ,"Who Was The Man", Jack wanted to know... *"a
Terry Collett Jan 2017
The young priest
sat in the chair.

Martha sat opposite
across the desk.

The priest gazed
at the girl,
uncomfortable
with a young girl;
he wished the old priest
could have been there.

So how can I help?
He said,
looking away
from Martha,
eyeing the desk top.

Martha stared at the priest;
he was the young one,
white as flour,
in his black gown
and white collar.

I want to be a nun,
she said.

A nun?
He said,
lifting his eyes
to gaze at her.

Martha looked up
at the large crucifix
on the wall
above the priest.

The Crucified's eyes
half closed or half open
depending how you looked,
she mused.

What sort of nun?
The priest said.

An enclosed nun,
Martha said,
not looking away
from the Crucified.

The priest gazed at the girl
whose eyes were staring
above his head.

Do you think you
have a vocation?
He asked.

The nails
in the Crucified's hands
were rusty or painted
a ***** brown.

Of course,
Martha said,
I wouldn't be here
otherwise would I.

The priest looked
above his head
and saw the huge crucifix
which the girl
was staring at.

Have you spoken
to any one else about this?
The priest said.

I spoke to one
of the nuns and she said
to come see you,
Martha said.

The priest lowered his eyes
to the girl: she seemed
serious if a little odd.

I see,
he said,
have you decided
on which order
you wish to join?  

Martha looked away
from the plaster Christ:
not yet maybe the Bendictines,
she said,
staring at the priest
and at his watery blue eyes.

Maybe you should pray
and ask Our Lord
for guidance,
the priest said.

I do,
Martha said,
taking in a slight blemish
in the priest's cheeks.

I been talking to Him,
she said,
for weeks and weeks.
A GIRL AND A PRIEST IN EIRE IN 1963
David Noonan Dec 2016
Christ, it's not like we were really even fighting.
I had teased you, hit a nerve sure, but we'd been there before.
Stop being such a ***** you said, and of course you were right but could i stop?
Could i ****, not without my last card to play and yet that card had been lost
That fateful morning , two weeks last Thursday

And oh how different that  had played out.
Both lying there, still warm from the previous nights glow.
Bodies entwined as i leaned and whispered for the first time that I love you.
But as a lost child of the counter culture, you had just laughed and asked me to *******.
That fateful morning, two weeks last Thursday

So it was there that our dream had died, or mine at least.
And in its place spawned this cold bitter wounded male pride.
Intent on a destruction,  camouflaged as salvation as it reeked it's callous revenge
All for what?, some selfish need to hear those three little words.
That fateful morning, two weeks last Thursday

And now fourteen years later and so much having passed.
Would you recognise me now, would you care, would you just laugh.
At how I've become all that we swore and promised that we never would.
And yet it's me that's left thinking of you, of us and all that was lost.
That fateful morning, two weeks last Thursday
Please let me have several weeks
So that my anxiety can decompress
Several weeks
That I might feel comfort again
With you
Give me several weeks
So the furniture is gone
And we can properly pretend
That there is no history
Past or future
Only the present

Cause you don't need this
And this is just practice
For your epic
If you don't
Stop for a month of Sundays
And really think about
What it is you're writing
Who you're antagonizing
I guarantee that you'll never
Ever
Have time to formulate it all
Type for a month
And you'll never get far enough
To encourage bindings

NO more
Fix that
All that *******
That makes you RAMBLE
Yeah I said it
You run on at the mouth

Just kiss me
Tell me how you feel
With the mustached upper lip
And your fat bottom lip
Leave me mouth insides
That I have to wipe off

Several weeks before you leave me a poem like this
Don't do it.
I'll leave something that like this
Raucous. On blast. Larger than life.

Don't **** this up.
I JUST got you a job.
This whole thing should be in quotes
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

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

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

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

2002

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

2003

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

2004

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

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

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

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

2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

2006

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

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

2007

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

2008

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

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

2009

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

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

2010

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

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

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

2011

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

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

2012

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

2013

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

2014

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

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

2015

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

2016

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

2017

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

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

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

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

2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.

— The End —