Posted tagged ‘Novel’

Love Connection – II

October 1, 2010

Norma Jean remained active in my memory. Her eyes, her facial expressions, her voice, her touch, her embrace, her scent lingered in my neural pathways like a parallel universe. I wanted to see her again but my only connection would be through Alphonso and his only interest in me was business, a very risky business. And then there was Earl to consider.

I checked with a friend in the music industry, and he said: “Yeah, I know Norma Jean. She’s a sweetheart. But you do not want to mess with her. She’s got a boyfriend, a very big dude, and he can get nasty.” He gave me the address of the studio and I drove by hoping to see her going in or out. I didn’t notice Alphonso until he beeped his horn.

“What are you doing down here?” he said, then, without waiting for an answer, he added: “Meet me at the crib. We need to talk.”

A big shipment of powder cocaine had arrived in the city, he said, and he could get it to me at kilo weight for a very good price, if I put the money up front. I told him, even if I could cover the money, I couldn’t handle the product at kilo weight. I’d need to involve someone else who could. And that would be tricky. But, if he was interested in working with me, I could move it in smaller quantities. Which would give me a good excuse to come around and possibly visit with Norma Jean.

I felt tempted to use my line of credit from Sonny for a really large purchase but that would require a commitment to the drug business which I wasn’t prepared to make. My parole status had changed, I no longer reported for drug testing, but even a small infraction could sent me back to prison. A major bust would send me back for the rest of my life, I feared. Playing it safe by delivering no more than a few ounces of powder cocaine at a time to an assortment of trusted friends would be enough to keep me afloat. And, to account for my income, I still had my day job at the factory stacking freshly stamped gas tank panels.

I finally caught up with Norma Jean at a crowded nightclub in a downtown hotel. She put her arms around me, and whispered: “Be an angel, get me high. Can you do that? I’m performing here tonight. I’m terrified.” When I nodded affirmatively, she took my hand and led me through the hotel lobby to an elevator. “I’ve got a room on the fifth floor,” she said as the elevator door opened.

A woman was sitting in the room, a black woman, older, heavy set, attractive, well dressed. “Who are you,” she said in a husky voice when she saw me enter.

“He’s the one I was telling you about,” Norma Jean responded.

“Oh,” the woman said, leaning back in her chair, giving me the same look I had received from Earl.

I handed Norma Jean a glass bottle filled with finely chopped and fluffed pearly flakes of cocaine hydrochloride salt ready for consumption, and said: “Be careful with this stuff. A match head in each nostril is all you need. No big lines.”

“I know,” she said: “This is the best coke ever. I’m getting too fond of it. I need to ease off before going on tour.”

“Uh-huh,” the older woman interjected.

Norma Jean shot the woman a quick glance, then, turning back to me, she said: “Can you leave me some?”

“Yeah,” I said: “I can leave the bottle. I’ll pick it up later. Take as much as you want. Offer some to your friend.” When the woman responded with a blank stare, I said: “Where’s Earl?”

“Don’t worry about Earl,” Norma Jean replied: “I’ll take care of him.”

The older woman stood, and said: “How you gonna take care of Earl when you can’t even take care of yourself?” Then she turned to me, and said: “Mister, you better take that bottle with you.”

I dumped a small pile onto Norma Jean’s tooting tray, a mirror from her purse. That’s all she would need, anyway, I reasoned, and the older woman probably saved me from a mess of trouble.

While walking through the hotel lobby on my way back to the club, I ran into Alphonso. “Glad you made it, Brian,” he said: “This is a big night for Norma Jean. With recording industry executives, booking agents, and media critics in the audience, she’ll need all the support she can get. I’d ask you to our table but there’s no place for you.”

Showroom tables were either taken or reserved. I worked my way through the standing room only crowd until I had access to the bar and a clear view of the stage. A stack of electric keyboards were on one side. Electric bass, drums, and rhythm guitar in the middle. Horns and reeds on the other side. I recognized many of the musicians, all top notch pros from around town.

The band played a credible rendition of Duke Ellington’s ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,’ as Norma Jean took the stage. She had three female singers standing behind her on one side and two male singers standing behind her on the other, backing her up as she sang the original lyrics with the traditional melody. Then she began to stretch the harmonic structure while inventing rhythms with a musical insight Ellington would admire. She sang original verse bordering on rap with quick riffs from trumpet, trombone, tenor saxophone, and clarinet punctuated her phraseology.

The words were difficult to follow because of the reverberation between two different speaker systems serving the showroom and the bar area where I stood, plus I just didn’t understand what she was singing about. That changed as she abruptly morphed into the next number, an electrifying rendition of ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New,’ a 1970s hit by the Stylistics.

A male singer joined Norma Jean at center stage and she gave the impression there really was something going on between them, judging from her facial expressions, her body language, and the sincere joy expressed in her singing. I remembered holding her in my arms as she sang like that to me. I felt surprisingly jealous. And I wondered how Earl felt.

Love Connection

October 1, 2010

Powder cocaine supplies had dried up in the white community due to a series of major busts by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. The only cocaine available was crack, a form in which cocaine could not be snorted or injected but required smoking. And the main source of crack was in the black community.

A friend hooked me up with her most trustworthy connection.

“His name is Alphonso,” she said: “Don’t call him Fonzie.”

We waited inside a busy downtown jazz club. When he arrived, she introduced us and then departed. I fronted him money for what I considered a relatively small purchase, playing it safe until I knew him better.

He returned a short time later, and said: “Everything’s cool. Finish your drink. Let’s go to the crib.”

The apartment opened into a hallway that went back past the front room to the kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms. Walls and ceilings in the large front room were painted flat black. It was low budget yet theatrically decorated with an assortment of shaded lamps directing beams of light at various angles downward onto brightly colored furniture creating a shimmering visual mosaic.

Alphonso sat on a white leatherette vinyl couch, and said: “You are some kind of crazy motherfucker, Brian, do you know that? For coming down here with this kind of money. People will kill you for far less. What are you doing with all this dope? Flipping it wholesale? I could break it up and sell it in small units for top dollar, tonight. Make you some real money, splitting the profits.”

The front door buzzer sounded before I could reply.

“I got some people coming up,” he said: “Don’t nobody need to know what you and me got going here. It’s party time. Understand? That’s it.”

“Yeah, I understand,” I said, looking into his waiting eyes, acknowledging his control of the situation.

A tall, heavyset black man wearing black pants, suit coat, and tee shirt, stopped at the opening to the front room, and said: “What’s this white boy doing in here?”

An attractive young black woman in a bright green dress entered the room without hesitating, and said: “You got something against white boys, Earl?”

Earl followed Alphonso down the hallway to a back bedroom, saying: “I didn’t know you deal with no white boys.”

The young woman in the green dress extended her hand, and said: “Hi, I’m Norma Jean.” She looked young and fresh, early twenties at the most. Yet she seemed fearless and self confident as she took my hand and smiled. Then she turned to the radio, she said: “What music do you like?”

I nodded my approval as a dreamy love song featuring passionate voices and lush orchestration filled the room with its acoustical presence at low volume.

“Drink?” she said, hitting a switch, illuminating a wet bar I hadn’t noticed in the back corner of the room: “Alphonso stocks Tanqueray’s London Dry exclusively. You should hear his Tony Sinclair. Better than Rodney Mason. How do you take your gin? Poured over ice, a jigger of tonic, a wedge of lime, that’s how I do mine.”

While mixing our drinks, she sang along with the radio music, and her voice sounded professionally trained. When I asked, she said: “Oh yes, I’ve been singing all my life, in church and in music school. I’m working on a studio album right now and rehearsing for a tour. We’re almost ready to book.”

“You talking that crazy shit again,” Earl said as he entered the room from the hallway.

Norma Jean laughed, and said: “Earl ain’t got no music and he don’t respect nobody else’s music. But he’s my man and I love him. I’m going to need his muscle on the road.”

“You’re going to get my muscle up your ass if you don’t stop talking shit.”

“He’s been promising that for days. I’m still waiting.”

Earl sank into an extra large spherical poof chair with his back, arms, and head supported and his big feet extending out into the room. Closing his eyes, he said: “This is some good shit, Al.”

Alphonso looked at me, and said: “You smoke pot? Wanna try this?”

“I do,” Norma Jean said, singing the words.

The marijuana made me paranoid. Earl was staring at me. What’s going on here? Where’s the crack? Or my money?

Alphonso read the expression on my face, and said: “Earl’s my bodyguard. He’s armed and dangerous. We’re going out on the town to spread that crack around. We ain’t doing it here. I got more people coming. They’ll be here soon. Relax, enjoy yourself. It’s party time, remember?”

Norma Jean played a battery operated keyboard in perfect unison with the music on the radio, humming along and shaking her head in time. After a second gin highball cocktail, my paranoia dissolved along with my inhibitions. Four, five, six, I’m not sure how many people arrived next and went into the back bedroom with Alphonso. But right behind them, two black men, one black woman, and three white women arrived and entered the front room. They all seemed surprised to see me there. Norma Jean fixed drinks for everybody, making conversation like she was the regular hostess.

When a tray filled with small rocks and crumbs of crack cocaine arrived from the back room, everyone except me had a glass pipe in hand. Norma Jean sat down beside me with a lit rock sizzling in a glass tube. “Here, open your mouth,” she said, holding her eyes on me while she filled her lungs with a long toke on the pipe. Then, leaning over, she kiss me, and emptied her lungs into mine. As the cocaine reached my brain in a rush of erotic pleasure I started to wrap my arms around her. But then I noticed Earl watching with an unamused expression on his face and I held back.

Shortly afterward, Alphonso entered the front room, and said: “I’m going out. Wait here.”

Earl and some other people went with him.

Norma Jean filled my lungs with another kiss and this time I put my arms around her and returned the kiss.

“Let’s dance,” she said, pushing herself away and then reaching back to take my hand.

Two other couples were already slow dancing to a soulful lament while a rotating globe chandelier reflected ballroom lights swirling in the otherwise darkened space. Norma Jean fit perfectly into my arms and I wanted to make love to her. But then she began to sing, seriously sing. I had never held a woman singing like that in my arms before, I realized, and I began to sing in return, hesitantly at first, yet she inspired and encouraged me to sing expressively with emotional force. It wasn’t sex, no, but something very similar. And I could still face both Alphonso and Earl when they returned, knowing I hadn’t abused their trust, technically speaking.

Lucifer Rising

May 3, 2010

perfect and beautiful once
now transformed demonically
hellish eternity awaits
for sinning unforgivably

Before time and the physical universe came into being, the once perfect and beautiful Cherubim, Lucifer, had already been banished from Heaven for the unforgivable sin of questioning God’s judgement. Leading up to his banishment, Lucifer had infected many other angels with his thinking and they were likewise banished. They were horrified to find themselves arriving in Hell where they were transformed into demonic beings. Lucifer became Satan.

Why did God create the physical universe and place humanity within it? Satan couldn’t figure that one out. When God decided to banish lost human souls to Hell, it became unbearable there for Satan. God was still punishing him, he concluded, and he spent more time on Earth than in Hell.

Satan became attracted to humankind and the other demonic angels attempted to confine his activites on Earth. Pitman Grumpt, a lonely old man, unknowingly gave Satan a safe place to hide. While attempting to use an ancient Egyptian magical spell to protect his land from developers, Pitman conjured Satan’s presence in the physical form of a dung bug, a scarab beetle. Satan was delighted. He could remain there undetected indefinitely, if careful.

Pitman knew Satan’s material manifistation as Mr. Beetlebug, who became his friend and began to help him save his present land and regain the other land his family once owned in the area.

Nell Shea opened the door for Satan to enter Earth’s world as a human, he became Marlowe, Christopher Marlowe. Through Nell he met Klaus and became deeply involved in human affairs by expanding Klaus’ knowledge of science.

Klaus became a world authority on science and technology. Therefore, when he warned the world of a pending collision with a massive shooting star traveling from the center of the galaxy outward, the major powers followed his lead. They transfered military spending and other resources to preventive and security measures under Klaus’ supervision. A unified global effort to avert the collision transformed human society, eliminating violence, poverty, hunger, and ignorance in the process.

Satan earned God’s forgiveness for his part. He was risen back up to Heaven and restored to his original perfection and beauty as God’s favorite Cherubim, Lucifer. God’s only purpose in creating humanity and the physical universe, as it turns out, was to give Lucifer this opportunity for redemption.

the end of time
rhyme and reason
a new beginning

All Too Human

April 12, 2010

Books had become Johnny’s main obsession. The world of ideas seemed more real to him than the prison cell where he spent most of his time reading, effectively escaping into his imagination.

He had a parole hearing scheduled for the next morning and he wanted a new book to read, something that would distract his mind from obsessing on the future. Would he have enough free time to read on the outside, he worried, how would he support himself?

“I’ve got just the book for you,” the prison libarian told him: “Listen to this: ‘The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world and darken our idea of existence.’ Guess who wrote that.”

“Who?” Johnny responded.

“Nietzsche, ‘Human, All Too Human,’ written in 1878, some of his best writing. And he wrote a lot of good stuff.”

“Good stuff, huh? Can you be more specific?”

“You have to read him to understand what I’m talking about. Everybody who reads him gets something different. Because he makes you think for yourself.”

“How can he make you do anything?”

“Well, yeah, first you need to open your mind and start reading, of course. He can’t make you do that. But once you start reading and thinking about what he’s saying, it’s like looking at the reflection of your soul in a mirror.”

“I’m not sure I want to look at my soul,” Johnny said: “But, okay, I’ll give it a try, thanks.”

In his cell, Johnny slowly scanned through the beginning pages of the book until his attention focused on the words:

. . . I commend my personal experiences particularly to the ears and hearts of those who are burdened with some sort of ‘past,’ and have enough spirit left still to suffer from the spirit of their past . . . above all . . . I commend them to you whose burden is heaviest, you rare, most imperiled, most spiritual, most courageous ones who must be the conscience of the modern soul and as such must possess its knowledge, in whom is concentrated all that exists today of sickness, poison and danger . . . whose lot it is that you must be sicker than any other kind of individual because you are not ‘only individuals’ . . . whose comfort it is to know the way to a new health, and alas! to go along it, a health of tomorrow and the day after, you predestined ones, you victorious ones, overcomers of your age, you healthiest ones, you strongest ones . . .

Johnny’s over-burdened conscience had imperiled his mental and spiritual health for as far back as he could remember. As he marked the page and closed the book, he felt a new confidence surging.

During the parole board hearing, one of the nine panel members asked: “What book are you holding in your hands?” Johnny held the book with its cover showing, and the member said: “Human, All Too Human. I’m impressed.”

The final tally came up five to four in favor of parole. The board granted him a conditional furlough to a downtown halfway house. If he held a job and stayed out of trouble for six months, he could move a step closer to personal freedom.

He signed-out from the halfway house early on the first morning to go looking for a job. After going to the university bookstore to purchase his own copy of Nietzsche’s book, he found a restaurant in which to eat breakfast. When he applied for a dish washing job there, the owner came out to interview him.

Noticing the book, the owner said: “What are you reading?”

Johnny held it up for him to see, and said: “I just started reading it but, so far, it’s a really good book.”

The owner silently stared at Johnny for a moment, and then said: “You look like a sober and intelligent guy, why do you want to work in my kitchen?” When Johnny explained his legal situation and promised to do a good job, the owner said: “I’ll give you a try. Don’t let me down.”

During an afternoon break, less than a week into the job, Johnny sat in a remote area of the restaurant’s basement warehouse reading aloud from Nietzsche’s book, listening for additional meaning as the words passed through his ears:

. . . The strongest knowledge, that of the total unfreedom of the human will, is nonetheless the poorest in successes. For it always has the strongest opponent, human vanity . . .

He closed the book, and said: “I don’t get it. Without free will we’d be mindless automatons. We don’t have total freedom, no, but neither do we have total unfreedom. And that’s not my human vanity speaking, it’s my will to life.”

“Who are you talking to?” the restaurant’s owner said as he came down the steps from the kitchen.

Johnny jumped to his feet, and replied: “I’m talking to Nietzsche, sir. I sometimes get the feeling he’s listening to me. It’s just my imagination, I know. Yet I believe Nietzsche intended to have such an effect, like he’s there and he’s talking directly to you.”

The owner silently stared for an instant, and then responded: “If you can break away from yourself, we could use your help in the kitchen.”

The owner’s sarcasm irritated Johnny. He thought about moving on; but he needed the employment to satisfy his parole conditions and he didn’t feel qualified for anything more than washing dishes and disposing of garbage.

He preformed his physical labors with Nietzsche’s words, “total unfreedom of the human will,” still lingering in his mind. Memories from his criminal past entered his consciousness and he thought about robbing the owner or maybe kidnapping his children and holding them for a ransom. But he rejected these thoughts from his consciousness by the free expression of his will; and, in the process, he disposed of Nietzsche’s total-unfreedom theory, he believed.

He kept the book out of sight and he no longer read aloud in the restaurant’s basement warehouse. He decided instead to read a passage every morning before going to work and then analyze it from memory while engaged in his physical labors. To begin, he randomly selected a short aphorism entitled, “Knapsack of the metaphysicians.” He read it through once before separating its logical elements.

. . . Those who boast so mightily of the scientificality of their metaphysics should receive no answer; it is enough to pluck at the bundle which, with a certain degree of embarrassment, they keep concealed behind their back; if one succeeds in opening it, the products of that scientificality come to light, attended by their blushes: a dear little Lord God, a nice little immortality, perhaps a certain quantity of spiritualism, and in any event a whole tangled heap of ‘wretched poor sinner’ and Pharisee arrogance . . .

Nietzsche’s sarcasm, along with the restaurant owner’s sarcasm, reenforced Johnny’s pessimistic mood. “Scientificality of their metaphysics?” he wondered aloud: “Isn’t that a mutually exclusive, contradictory dichotomy?” He scanned through the book and found another short aphorism, “Incurable.” Again, he read it through once before separating its logical elements.

. . . An idealist is incorrigible: if he is thrown out of his heaven he makes an ideal of his hell. Let him be disillusioned and behold!—he will embrace this disillusionment just as fervently as a little while before he embraced his hopes. Insofar as his tendency is among the great incurable tendencies of human nature he is able to give rise to tragic destinies and afterwards become the subject of tragedies: for tragedies have to do with precisely what is incurable, ineluctable, inescapable in the fate and character of man . . .

Johnny laughed, and said: “Makes an ideal of his hell? Oh, now I get it. Nietzsche’s actually a comedian.”

He arrived at work that day in a better mood as a result of his new interpretation of Nietzsche’s persona. The restaurant owner’s sarcasm no longer bothered him. Instead, he found it rather witty.

No Refuge for the Refugee

March 31, 2010

The wars began long before Grace came into the world. Conflict and struggle constituted the norm in her life, it’s all she had ever known, and, at seventeen years of age, she had become increasingly involved with dangerous assignments. Her father, Malachi, regretted the need to send children on these missions but sending his own daughter made it doubly difficult. Yet he could not treat her any differently than the others. Conditions were deteriorating and their chances of surviving were diminishing. They were caught in a violent conflict between opposing armies, struggling frantically to stay out of the way.

Grace returned to the cave from a scouting mission, and said: “Government troops have been driven from of the area. Heavily armed rebels now surround the refugee camp. And that convoy of trucks is still sitting at the crossroads.”

Malachi silently acknowledged his daughter’s report with a forced smile as Dan’s voice came from the back of the group huddled in the cave, saying: “Those trucks are carrying food. You know that, don’t you?”

Before her father could respond, Grace shot back: “No, we don’t know that.”

Her words reverberated in the hollow chamber as Malachi said: “Even if they were carrying food, we couldn’t do anything about it.”

Dan persisted: “I have a plan.”

Malachi gestured to his daughter to control her outbursts, and then he said: “Let’s hear it.”

Dan’s arrival in their group had ignited Grace’s competitive nature. Malachi was pleased at first to see his daughter challenged by someone her age. But the young man had a unique understanding of the strategic and tactical position they were in and his daughter seemed unable to accept that.

Dan began his explanation: “As I’ve told you before, there are several groups, just like you, not far away.”

Grace interrupted: “How long do you think those trucks are going to just sit there?”

Dan replied: “I think they will be there for awhile. It’s international aid headed for the camp. Food, medicine, and clothing that neither the army nor the rebels need badly enough to weaken their present positions to go after. We are the ones who need it most, along with the others I’ve mentioned, who are mostly loyalists, followers of the socialist government. The rebels are rightwing followers of General Adolpha. If they continue to hold the camp hostage, they’re tied down for awhile. And the army will not be returning anytime soon. I’ve been expecting this kind of thing to happen. It’s what I’m here for.”

Malachi interjected: “Do we have time to communicate and coordinate with other groups?”

Dan replied: “My purpose in coming here was to communicate and coordinate. I’ve been telling you that all along. Many other groups know the same things you know. They are assuming you will be ready along with them when the time comes. And those trucks are the type of target they have been waiting for.”

Grace received her father’s permission to speak with a glance, and then said: “Okay, so we take the trucks. But we also alert both sides to our presence here. I doubt if the combined strength of all of these groups you mentioned could stand up to either army. And, if both armies turned against us, where would we be then? I say we hold back.”

Malachi responded emphatically: “I think that’s best. I’m unable to envision a successful confrontation and, therefore, I’m unwilling to ask this group to lay down their lives for such a cause.”

Grace raised her arms in a triumphant gesture, looked at Dan, and said: “We’ve survived until now by living off the land and we’ll continue to do so.”

___

At the rebel headquarters outside the refugee camp, the lieutenant on duty informed the sergeant of the watch: “General Adolpha will be arriving here by helicopter in an hour.” Then, as he raised his binoculars to view the camp, he added: “We need to arrange a meeting with whoever has command inside there.” The sergeant responded: “That will be easy, sir. We have direct communications with them. Some priest or something has been demanding food and medicine. Says he knows there’s an aid shipment due.”

While continuing to scan the camp with his field glasses, the lieutenant muttered, as though to himself: “Yes, well, that will have to wait.” Then, his curiosity satisfied, he pulled the glass down, and instructed: “Let’s get this, whatever he is, on the radio.”

In answer to the sergeant’s call, a voice crackled through the speaker: “This is Father Joy. Have you news about the supplies? Conditions are worsening here. We need immediate assistance.”

The lieutenant spoke into the microphone: “You can have that assistance and your supplies, whoever you are. But first you must lay down whatever arms you have. And you must allow the camp to be occupied by our forces. All government troops, except for those remaining inside with you, have already left the area.”

The priest’s voice came slowly from the speaker, his exasperation evident in the deliberate pronunciation: “There are no troops in here. And we have no arms to lay down. We couldn’t stop you from coming in here if we wanted to. Right now, your political philosophy means nothing to me. It’s your humanity I’m worried about.” Then he shouted: “We are dying in here.” And was gone.

The lieutenant pondered the necessary steps to secure the camp before the general’s arrival. There may be important civilians inside, he believed, making the job a delicate one. Yet his main concern would always be the safety of his command and he wanted to avoid unnecessary losses. As a soldier, he had no personal political philosophy. He followed orders without questioning the authority of his superiors.

Yet the war began, the lieutenant knew, when General Adolpho refused to take orders from the government, which he considered to be communistic. The lieutenant sympathized with the communists in his heart. If it wasn’t for his father, who died serving under then Major Adolpho in the government army, he could easily be on the other side. Mostly, he just wanted to end the war and get on with rebuilding a new society: one in which every individual had the opportunity to reach the highest possible potential. However, for now, it was his job to find the important civilians in the refugee camp and make them available to the general when he arrives. And he was determined to execute his orders to the best of his ability.

Inside the camp, Father Joy stood with the radio’s microphone still in his hand. “We need to form a surrender committee,” he said, thinking aloud. Something in the lieutenant’s voice gave him hope where none had been before. “I pray to God I’m right,” he added; then, remembering when his faith seemed strong enough to endure anything, he realized how challenged his beliefs had become. But now there was a rational voice on the other end. Demanding, yet rational. And there was an aid shipment eminent: food and medicine and clothing. It seemed to him as if events had gone full cycle, and order was returning. With hope extending his expectations, he envisioned the possibilities.

Father Joy himself had no real argument with General Adolph’s fascist leanings. The church’s existing absolute power was similar in nature to the power which the general sought to obtain. For the church, finding itself on the side of the communists was simply a matter of tactical circumstances. Neither side would actually guarantee the church’s property rights. The very fact of legitimacy favored the government, which wasn’t considered “too communistic” until General Adolph used that claim to justify his rebellion.

Cooperation had become the buzz word. Communities based on sharing cropped up all over the country. Businesses were owned collectively. Even stock market trading was done by mutual collectives. As Father Joy contemplated the scene around him, he thought aloud: “Perhaps collectivism went too far. Leadership suffers when every decision must be debated until a majority agrees. Responding to brutal attacks becomes impossible.”

He continued talking to no one in particular. And no one was listening. Hunger, thirst, and despair had distorted their awareness so completely they seemed to not even care about a future. When the government troops abandoned them, and General Adolph’s rebels surrounded them, they gave-up completely. And now they waited, wanting only to die without more pain. Father Joy’s faith allowed him to stand apart, never completely controlled by external forces, always expecting God to give him the necessary strength to continue.

___

Commander of government forces, General Robbert Dewitt gathered his staff in the war room, and said:

“Our ranks are getting thin. Between numerous battle losses and desertion, we’re finding it difficult to protect the civilian population. New boundaries are being determined, and we’re temporarily giving up a lot of ground and a lot of people. But we remain the one force capable of reuniting the country. Factions operating unchecked must be eliminated, one by one, if necessary.

“At the refugee camp in Hollow Junction, two anti-government factions are present on the scene. The use of tactical nuclear weapons would give us an opportunity to cancel out a large percentage of the opposition in the area with one quick move. Problem is, we take out some of our own people in the process. Seems they’re important people also. But who isn’t important? Anyway, since General Adolph himself will also be in the area at the time, the president has authorized the strike.”

___

Malachi gasped when he saw the flash of light. And even though miles away, on the other side of the mountain, he soon felt a mechanical shock wave. “I don’t believe it,” he shouted as he ran for the shelter of the cave, not sure if it would do any good, wondering what the range of radioactive fallout would be.

As they huddled in the darkness of the cave’s deepest recess, Grace whispered: “Dan and his people, the aid givers, the refugees, the rebels, that whole valley, they’re all out there right now, exposed to the full force of that explosion.” With anguish and frustration overwhelming her, she shouted: “It doesn’t make sense.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Malachi said as he reached in the direction of her voice, wanting to wrap his arms around her, wishing he could protect her from all that was happening.

“Why would God let them do it?’ she sobbed on his shoulder as her body convulsed against him.

Malachi’s heart painfully constricted and he tried desperately to think of something reassuring. “It’s not God’s fault, dear,” he said; and then, doing his best to sound convincing, he added: “Everything happens for a purpose.” 

Neolithic Nomad on the Borderline

March 29, 2010

My life changed directions abruptly after I ingested mushrooms on a mountain in Mexico. During the resultant visions, I witnessed the transformation of pre-atomic matter into conscious life, not in a time sequence, but all at once: in one big bang. My individual existence diminished in importance as my consciousness filled with an awareness of the indwelling spirit at the center of our being. The future of conscious life on Earth, and perhaps in the universe, became my immediate, heartfelt concern.

I began looking for recognition and acknowledgement of the indwelling spirit in the eyes of others with whom I came into contact. At the US border crossing, very few people registered positive in that regard, leaving me with an uneasy feeling as I started traveling north.

I had shaved both my head and my beard while bathing before I entered the US from Mexico. I dressed in natural cotton slacks and light pullover sweater, knowing it could be many days before I had a chance to bathe again. In a shoulder bag, I carried a jacket plus several changes of cloths. I thought about walking across the country but I didn’t feel safe so I bought a one-way bus ticket to Detroit and the US/Canadian border.

The intensity of the mushroom experience quickly diminished and I began to doubt the reality of the indwelling spirit. To keep the spirit alive, I ate only raw fruit, nuts, and seeds. I drank only water, fruit juice, and herbal tea.

At night, I felt claustrophobic in the packed bus speeding down the highway. I closed my eyes to meditate on the divine spirit world but I found an empty void instead, leaving me with an internal state of vertigo. During the daytime, however, sunlight changed everything. My senses came back to life. I didn’t worry about eternity, mortality, or insanity. I had no room in my consciousness for negative thinking. The closeness of others I now found stimulating. Still, I wondered: “Who am I? Where am I really going?”

An attractive woman bordered the bus on the second morning. She walked past the empty seat beside me and then she came back to it. “Is this seat taken?” she asked, flashing a tentative smile. When I nodded in the negative, her smile broadened, and she added: “Would you mind trading places and allowing me to sit by the window?”

“You can sit on my lap if you want,” I said, climbing from the seat. The look on her face informed me I had said the wrong thing. “I’m sorry,” I muttered. She slid into the seat by the window without further comment, placing her large purse to mark the space between us. My senses became saturated with her movements, her scent, her breathing. Sitting rigidly beside her, I closed my eyes and tried to meditate.

“How long have you been riding on this bus?” she asked, turning in my direction to rummage through her purse. I knew she didn’t really care, but she made it sound like she cared, and that impressed me. “I got on yesterday near the border,” I replied, feeling compelled to explain myself to her yet having nothing more to say. She stopped rummaging through her purse and waited. After a tense silence, she asked: “How far are you going?” She’s only being polite, I told myself. Yet I could feel her scrutinizing gaze as it moved across my body. I wanted to tell her that it was none of her business how far I was going, that I didn’t even know that myself. I had paid for a ticket to the Canadian border in Detroit but I could get off before then and go somewhere else. I’ll know if I want to get off when I get there, I felt. “Where do you live? Where are you from?” she persisted.

Inventing a story, I said: “I’m an artist. I sold all my possessions and I’m traveling to broaden my horizons.” As the words exited my mouth and reentered through my ears, they effectively created a functional persona, allowing me to relax enough to breath freely. “What kind of artist are you?” she asked, sounding sincerely interested. “I’ve tried almost every medium,” I answered, surprised by how easily the words flowed from my imagination: “I’ve mastered a few techniques. But I’m still seeking that ultimate inspiration. It could be heroic. Or perhaps demonic. Do I have a choice? Not if I want to call it art, ultimate art, which is more than just pretty pictures.” She flashed a wry smile and sat back in her seat, apparently satisfied, at least for the moment. How long had she been staring at me? It seemed like an eternity.

“This is my stop, do you want to get off and come home with me?” she asked, reaching for her purse, preparing to leave. Her words ignited an emotional explosion in my heart. I imagined myself holding her in my arms while undressing her. I could tell by the look on her face that she knew what I was thinking. “I can’t,” I whispered, barely able to move my lips. Before I could catch my breath, or change my mind, she slid around me, reached the isle, and headed for the door. She looked back from there, smiled, waved good-by, and quickly disembarked.

As the bus pulled away from the stop and continued on its way, the seat next to me remained empty. I felt a mixture of regret and satisfaction. Yet I knew I had done the right thing. And I silently chanted a mantra to suppress the thoughts of undressing her, thoughts that filled my imagination with images so vivid I wondered where they came from because I couldn’t actually remember ever being that intimate with a woman before. My identity crisis intensified as I closed my eyes and attempted to sleep. Nagging questions in the back of my mind refused to go away. “I dedicate myself to the indwelling spirit,” I chanted, attempting to relive that moment on the mountain, to renew my faith. Then, appearing out of a dark mist, like images from a recurring dream, I began to remember who I was before ingesting the mushrooms. Panic and dread flooded my consciousness.

I awoke from a deep sleep feeling refreshed. Looking out the window, I noticed the bus had pulled off the expressway and was turning into a large shopping mall parking lot. This could be where I get off, I though, cheered by the newness of everything in view. Moisture from an earlier rain slowly evaporated in the brilliant morning sun, adding extra sparkle, creating a fairytale appearance to the mall’s outer facade. When the driver announced we would be there for an hour while the bus was being serviced, I grabbed my bag and headed to the door, almost certain I had found my destination area. An hour of wandering around confirmed it.

“Stimulating and efficient,” I said aloud, repeating words from a printed handout discribing the mall. The area had once been prime farmland. After evolving through several stages of growth into a big-box corridor, it had recently been converted into a lifestyle super center with newly constructed replica of downtown Main Street America adjacent to the modern new mall. On the other side of the expressway, construction of a large mega-church neared completion. I informed the bus driver of my decision to stay in the area; then I walked to the on-site hotel and purchased a room with my credit card. As I bathed, shaved, and dressed in newly purchased clothing, I repeated a prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude.

It felt good to be in these new surroundings and I didn’t want to face the reality of my true identity. The magic mushroom episode in Mexico had awakened something inside of me. Instead of completing my mission, I now looked for a way to escape from it. My orders were to select a target and then act on it alone; but the more I studied my chosen target area, the less I wanted to destroy it. The shopping mall, the lifestyle center, and the newly build replica of a small town main street provided ample opportunity for a spectacular event that would make my superiors proud of me. But I was beginning to like living in a hotel, wearing expensive cloths, and shopping with a credit card.

I checked out of the hotel and moved into a small townhouse apartment in the Main Street area. Then I created a second identity and rented an old farmhouse outside the development area. I leased a luxury sedan for the townhouse and a pickup truck for the farmhouse. I had been trained in methods of manipulating the global business economy to support my activities but multiple identities were always tricky. I needed to move fast. They could already be on to me. Maybe they had someone following me all along. And what about the attractive woman who invited me to go home with her? Was she a test of my resolve? None of that mattered anymore. Even if they were watching me, I moved at least one step ahead of them, and that’s how I intended to keep it, without looking back.

Woman in the Novel

March 26, 2010

John’s parents sent him to college to become a lawyer but he became a wandering artist instead, in love with love. While sketching in the countryside, he saw a young woman attending to a group of small children as they played. He asked her permission to sketch them but she gathered the children and hurried away. A few moments later, an older man came up the road to confront him, saying: “Who are you? What are you doing around here?” John showed the man his sketch book, and said: “I’m an artist. I just want to draw some pictures, sir. I don’t mean to harm anybody.”

The older man looked at the sketches, and said: “You’re a good artist. Let’s go to the house. You can draw more pictures down there. I’m the caretaker of this estate. The owner’s away on an extensive trip. The young woman to whom you spoke is betrothed to the owner, in an arrangement to payoff her family’s debt. She earns money from the local government by attending to the orphaned children who stay here.”

John remained for a while at the estate helping the caretaker with odd jobs and sketching portraits. He didn’t touch the young woman even though he thought she wanted to have sex with him when she posed nude for a painting. Later, when he looked at the finished painting he could see the desire expressed in her eyes. He had captured her perfectly. “This could be my masterpiece,” he concluded. And he brought the painting to a respected dealer in the capital city to get his evaluation.

“Who is she?” the dealer wanted to know.

“Just a model,” John replied.

“She’s too young to be posing like that, with that look of desire in her eyes. This picture is almost pornographic. It’s beautiful. But it’s not something I can sell here.”

Being a young man himself, John had not seen her as being too young. Yet, during the encounter with the dealer, he realized how the painting might suggest he had sex with the model, and he decided to keep it for himself. After hanging the painting in his small studio loft space, he thought about covering it because he felt her eyes following him around. He quickly adjusted to that, however. In fact, he began to actually enjoy it.

She became a real presence in his life and he started talking to her while standing in front of the picture, staring into her eyes. He even imagined himself making love to her. And he composed a love letter telling her of that. But when he traveled to the estate, wanting to hand deliver his love letter, he learned she had been taken by the owner to an undisclosed location in preperation for their marriage.

John returned home and placed the letter on a shelf beneath the painting. In order to ease his pain, he began to write a fictionalized account about having an ongoing relationship with the young woman in the painting even after she had married. Words flowed from his heart as he stood before the painting looking into her eyes.

The novel had immediate commercial success, allowing him to take his painting, which had inspired him throughout the writing process, and move to a much finer studio in the capital city. He thought about placing the painting on public display, or even using it to promote the novel, but he decide against that. He wanted to keep her all to himself. Plus, she might be recognized and everyone would assume she actually was the woman in the novel.