Posted tagged ‘Writing’

Without Narrative

March 2, 2012

Rome Ants In The Sky

“What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“Like a big bang.”

“Oh, that. It’s nothing.”

“Nothing? It’s a big bang.”

“It’s a puff of smoke. It will be gone in no time.”

“Where’s it coming from? What’s causing it?”

“Nothing’s causing it.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

“In other words, you don’t know. Why don’t you just say that?”

“I know it’s nothing.”

“How do you know?”

“Because nothing exists. It’s all just a dream.”

“I exist, you exist, the big bang exists, the puff of smoke exists. Isn’t that something?”

“Sounds like the title of a song.”

“You’re not making sense.”

“I don’t need to make sense. You’re the one who’s always trying to make sense out of everything. You’re hearing a big bang. Oh, wow! What are you going to do about it?”

“Do about it?”

“Yeah, do about it. In another ten to the negative thirty two seconds, the negative-pressure from vacuum-energy density will produce a thermodynamic phase transition resulting in a cosmic inflation. You are about to expand exponentially in volume by a factor of at least ten to the positive seventy eight in approximately ten to the negative three seconds.”

“Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”

“Get used to it. We’ll be together for a while. I’m the Yin to your Yang.”

_______

Growth of the Lone Wolf

“Throughout today’s economy, from oil and military hardware, to timber and agriculture, to public services and education, it’s all about privatization and corporate acquisition. An inflationary period will follow, effectively reducing the national debt, while increasing the dollar value of these privatized acquisitions.”

“What? You think this is being manipulated?”

“Only a fool would think otherwise. The globalized oligarchy, the wealthy financial speculators, the multinational corporate leadership, they have absolutely no problem seeing the American middle class disappearing into the abyss of soul crushing poverty.”

“How come you’re always thinking so negative?”

“Because I’m hungry, I’m cold, it’s raining, and my feet ache.”

“You should get yourself a new cardboard box like mine.”

“I need more than a new cardboard box.”

“Of course you do, everybody does. I’m just saying, it would be a good next step for you to consider. Stop worrying about privatization and corporate acquisitions. Think more on a practical level. Deal with the world at hand, the world you live in, where you can do something about it.”

“Oh, okay, do something about it? I got an idea. Let’s leave our little nest here in the alley behind these garbage dumpsters and go rob that bank out there on the street. That’s the world we live in, isn’t it? If we’re successful, our troubles are over for a while. If we get caught, we go to prison, get a roof over our head, medical attention, a warm bunk, and three meals a day.”

“Get a new cardboard box is a better idea. Do you know how well fortified that bank is? How well armed the local law enforcement agencies are? Even in this small college town they have an armored personnel carrier. It was given to them by a federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The local law men and women have all gone through military style training in the use of military weapons. They come dressed in SWAT outfits, eager to engage.”

“Prison doesn’t sound too bad right now. It’s where all the good guys are, men and women, the one’s who stood their ground and continued protesting when public demonstrations were banned and martial law was imposed. They’re organizing in prisons now, spreading cooperative ideals, evolving a new political leadership.”

“Forget prison. Get a new box. Stay free.”

“Free? Living in an alley, in a cardboard box, hidden from the world behind garbage dumpsters, like rats?”

“You wanna organize? Talk to the people at the homeless shelter, at the church basement where you get most of your food, at the political events on campus sponsored by university students. It’s going on all around you. Get involved on a local level.”

“The leadership required to reorganize our future society is maturing and ripening in prisons right now. Many have had combat experiences in the US military.”

“You been there?”

“I did a relatively short stay inside the wall of a high security federal prison. The inmates there were like, bank robbers, hijackers, skyjackers, kidnappers, counterfeiters, drug smugglers, firearms and explosives dealers. They all had long term sentences. I was being coerced by federal drug agents. They wanted me to become a snitch. I didn’t know what I was getting into.”

“You were coerced?”

“I made a mistake, got involved in something I shouldn’t have. I saw an opportunity to make some quick cash and it turned out to be a federal drug sting. One agent sold me the drugs and a different agent purchased them from me. The charge was possession with intent to distribute. The prosecutor said I showed a willingness to participate and I was therefore guilty. I was facing fifteen years in prison. I had a wife and children, a business. When they offered me a deal, I jumped at it.”

“You became a snitch for them inside a federal prison, that’s a deal?”

“My wife was able to retain all of our property and take ownership of the business. We didn’t lose anything financially. The terms of my freedom were less clear. They said I’d be eligible for a parole hearing in eighteen months if I cooperated with them. It took me more three years to finally gain parole. The authorities were never satisfied with my level of cooperation. The only reason I was paroled is, the prison had become over crowded. They couldn’t justify keeping me there. I was unproductive as a snitch and it was clear to the parole board that I had been entrapped in the first place. I didn’t belong in prison.”

“Well, at least you had a wife and property and a business waiting for you when you got home.”

“Not quite. It’s remarkable how much the world changes in three years. I lived on memories while in prison. I built a fantasy world in my mind. Negative possibilities did not exist. That’s how I survived in there. You don’t know what it’s like. Luckily for me, there’s an unwritten rule, don’t ask other inmates what they’re in for, or how much time they’re doing. If you ask these questions, people get suspicious of you, unless they know you well and have already offered that information voluntarily.”

“How long did it take you to learn that?”

“I learned it on the ride from the courthouse jail to the prison. Nine of us prisoners, chained together in threes, were in the back of an armored van with two federal marshals up front. One prisoner I was chained with became a mentor to me, sort of, and that really helped.”
“A mentor?”

“He had previously done time there for possession of explosives and he was returning on a parole violation with additional charges still pending in court.”

“What, you asked?”

“Yeah, that’s when he warned me about the unwritten rule. And then he commenced to tell me his life story. At first I thought he was a big blowhard. Especially when he told me he had been the weightlifting champion at the prison. I mean, he was big, about six five, six seven. Yet he was also, I must say it, fat. He had a big head and a fat baby face. But, you know what, he regularly won all the weightlifting competition while I was in there. And that’s impressive. There are some very big, muscular dudes pumping iron in prison.”

“So he wasn’t a blowhard.”

“No he was the real deal. He was smart, too, and very kind, if you were his friend. I don’t know if I would have made it without his help. I eventually told him my situation and he understood immediately. He advised me to just lie to the feds and not give them any straight up information about other inmates. That didn’t go over too well with my handlers, of course. They kept warning me about doing the full fifteen year stretch. But I had to live with myself day to day and with the other inmates. Snitching is a cardinal sin. Punishable by death. Plus, I learned to respect most of the inmates there more that I respected the federal agents or the government.”

“And when you were released, what happened?”

“Prison is one of those before and after experiences. When I got home, nothing was the same as I remembered it. Everybody had changed. My wife had become a very independent, powerful woman. I fell in love with the new her, even more than the old. Unfortunately, that feeling wasn’t reciprocated. She loved the old me much better than the new, it seemed. We lived together but she was the boss and I walked the line.”

“Where is she now?”

“She’s in heaven.”

“How come you’re living out here?”

“Same reason you’re out here, along with all the other millions who have been sacrificed on the alter of a jealous deity, capitalism. Offered up for the sake of something considered more desirable, higher profits.”

“Let’s go and get you that new cardboard box. You’re gonna need it tonight. We’re getting ten inches of snow.”

Fifty Five Word Anthology

February 10, 2011

~Number Nine

San Francisco’s macrobiotic community in 1969 had many divergent sub groups ranging from yin to double yang. At open house dinners around town, intravenous drug users were finding nourishment and hope alongside health addicts who had never so much as smoked a cigarette. I was still coming down from the CIA’s LSD experiment in 1965.

~Disgeneration

Our closed physical universe has been winding down since day one. Solar decline recently accelerated. We need a source of outside energy. Human consciousness must find it. That’s the purpose of intelligent life. We are the bridge uniting matter with spiritual energy. We knew this in the sixties. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

~Big Bang Cools

The early universe was an opaque fog of diatomic hydrogen gas. As it expanded, temperatures declined and, with internal pressures dropping, gravitational collapse initiated star cluster formation. Stars radiated energy, stripping electrons, ionizing hydrogen atoms, clearing the fog: the universe became transparent. Our watery planet with sunny blue skies happened much later, strictly by chance.

~Many Rivers to Cross

The fertile earth, you can kick it, lick it, smell it, warmed by the heat of a fire that never goes out, not in a billion years, and by then terrestrial life will have already ended due to the planet’s surface becoming too hot for liquid water to exist, so be happy you’re here now.

~Stupiditās

We are hardwired for empathy, understanding, and communicating. Why have we failed to organize ourselves into a global society with a sustainable ecology? We need a unifying purpose which embraces our humanity while respecting our individuality; yet the intellectual force of the ruling class is focused on short term profits for the top one percent.

~Blues, Away

Low-skilled adults in a winner-take-all economy, homesteading the urban wilderness, rethinking assumptions without a master plan. The decaying city up for sale, commercial properties underwater, worth less than their mortgages. No buyers in sight. We may be stuck here with it. Things could get worse. And yet, how wonderful life is with you in the world.

~Women on Top

Today’s job market favors aggressive, educated women. They’re dominating the information age. My wife recently earned her bachelor’s degree. She’s been going to school at night after working all day in an office. I’m a stay at home dad. Boy am I sad, not! Keep her happy, that’s it. Kids take care of themselves: thanks Internet.

~Popular Economics

Volatile markets, a rapid bidding down, a specific sequence of events, not merely academic, without evidence of a deliberate attempt, beyond finger pointing: how could someone manipulate the markets, make off with a gazillion dollars, and avoid detection? Determined prosecutors are still searching reams of data, hundreds of transcripts, using meta-math developed by Harry Potter.

~Wee Party

Selfish, arrogant, and exclusive, yes, and greedy. You wanna tax my income? Try it. I’ll run you out of office. I want politicians who will beef up the border. Armed guards who will shoot to kill on sight. A strong military presence around the world to secure priority access to energy resources. God bless America.

~Piece of Mind

I’m earning top honors at the university, studying bling theory, all the observable forces necessary to make a relationship shine in the presence of internal penetration. Bling dynamics are governed by friction and kinetic energy, which combine to produce mutual oscillations. Even in a down job market, I can always find work as a gigolo.

~Z Boson with a Hardron

The night, when viewed in a mirror, violated all the laws of parity, symmetry, and conservation. Her response, strongly interactive, the flavor of strangeness, is the reversal of expected spatial axes. I can go macho, make the stars appear brighter. Or go wimp, become dark and evasive. She remembers the big bang. Hard to compete.

~A Stranger from Paradise

At midnight, flutes and drums, a traditional dance, her body moving rhythmically in sync with mine, the goddess of love in a blue velvet dress, no bra, pink panties: all phenomenon from the beginning to the end of time radiated outward from our union. Her happiness gave meaning to life then. Where is she now?

~A Fragmentary Vision

Flashing eyes and floating hair, a damsel with a dulcimer, an Abyssinian from Ethiopia, a reality never before achieved without the milk of paradise while living in a pleasure dome, a variety of actors singing and dancing, now buried beneath the shifting sands of time; yet the dream, the insanity, remains the same: the expectation of true love.

~Nineteenth Amendment

She clearly wasn’t a normal girl. At six her parents found her under a table with a book. They asked her to read aloud. She read so perfectly, they were shocked, since no one had taught her. The book she had selected from the shelves of the drawing room was a play about a prostitute.

~She’s Out

A woman falls in love with a man and then another man and then another woman. The two men fight and come close to killing each other. Until they finally realize she’s out of their reach. And there will never be another woman like her. Not for them.

~I heard the news today, oh boy!

You listened to Beatles music on the AM radio, the jukebox, watched them on TV, bought their records, played them loudly all day long. They filled your heart with joy, you said. But then they broke it. They were human, all too human, which you reluctantly recognized. I had never really liked them until then.

~Auld Lang Syne

I’ve been drunk every new year’s eve since 1956, with few exceptions. I should know better than to drink before driving these unfamiliar roads outside the city during a snow storm. And she could have warned me there were no gas stations or convenience stores out here. Where’s that goddamn cellphone when I need it?

~Bud Business? Booming!

You were in it for the money. Legalization would evaporate your profits and decentralize your control. A campaign of brutality became necessary to assure it never happened. The war on drugs allowed you, effectively, to play both sides against the middle. Then you became seriously ill and found pain relief with medical marijuana, home grown.

~Lucifer’s Farewell

You didn’t believe I could survive your wrath, fall from Heaven, traverse the void, arise from the burning lake, outplay the devil. You condemned me to Hell for all eternity. Yet I escaped. I became human through the power of love. I’ll die a natural death soon. Nobody knows who I am, not even you.

~Halfway to the Top

Twelve seasoned mountain warfare counter-terrorism army veterans with backpacks, carrying M4A1 carbines, wearing combat helmets, reach a semi-barren plateau halfway to the top of the Hindu Kush mountains, the sparsely populated center of world population, where they find themselves surrounded by numerous armed men who must be killed immediately. Why else would they be there?

~Private Security in 55 Words

He’s returning from close combat experience during special operations in mountain warfare near the northeast Afghanistan border. As a good soldier, he cannot and will not question his mission there. And, as a thinking individual, he knows better than to open the floodgates of speculation. But don’t you dare try to take away his guns.

~His Longest Day

He parachuted into Normandy on six June, forty four, to support the amphibious landing on Utah Beach. At the age of eighty nine, his heavily medicated eyes show a rare spark of interest when Red Buttons gets his parachute caught on a church spire, hangs there, pretends to be dead, avoids the fight below.

Creeper

January 14, 2011

This lady at work, she gave me a joint of weed to try, claimed she grew it herself, called it Purple Train Wreck. I saved it for the evening, planning to relax in my room, listen to music, read a book, practice the guitar. It burned real smooth, had a nice taste, but not much happening otherwise. Disappointed, I jumped in my jeep and headed for the bar.

Traffic was moving fast and furious, streets looked unfamiliar at night. The bar, when I finally found it, was noisy and crowded. People were giving me dirty looks. I started to cough, like I was coming down with something. I could feel it spreading throughout my body. I’m going to die, I thought. The immediacy of that possibility saturated my consciousness with anxieties. I needed a drink.

The bartender said he couldn’t serve me, said I was barred for starting a fight. You got the wrong guy, I told him, I don’t start fights. He said, look what you’re doing now, you’re starting an argument. No, I’m not starting an argument, I said, I’m just defending myself. He threatened to call the cops if I didn’t leave peacefully. I told him to kiss my ass. I didn’t realize the bouncer was standing behind me until he wrapped a beefy arm around neck, and said, we don’t kiss ass here, buddy. Then he grabbed me by the ass and threw me out the back door. I had to climb over a large pile of smelly garbage bags to get out of the narrow alleyway behind the bar.

When I reached the parking lot, I found several cars blocking my jeep but I certainly wasn’t going back inside the bar looking for help. I could either take a cab home or spend the evening on foot in the neighborhood waiting for the parking lot to clear. It was a warm night so I decided to walk down to the next bar just a few blocks away.

Streetlamps were dim and far apart. All the storefronts lining the narrow street were dark as far as I could see except for the occasional bar. The street itself had two lanes of busy traffic with a parking lane on each side filled to capacity. Yet I seemed to be the lone pedestrian on the sidewalk.

I had gone a block and a half when a man and a woman came running at me from out of the darkness of a storefront alcove. The man held an empty wine bottle in the air, and said: “I’m gonna bust your motherfucking head wide open.” And I thought, if he was going to do it, he would have done it, not tell me about it. I assumed he was bluffing. She screamed: “We want money.”

I would have given them money if they had asked me for it. I would have invited them to dinner and drinks at the bar. I found them attractive, somehow, I couldn’t say why. He looked like a taller, aging, emaciated Charles Manson without the swastika on his forehead and she looked like a strung out teenage runaway from a Hollywood casting call: too perfect. How did they get together, I wondered.

A police cruiser stopped in the street and flashed a bright spotlight in our direction. The couple departed as quickly as they had arrived.

“What are you doing out there?” a police officer demanded, his voice amplified and broadcast through a speaker mounted on top of the police cruiser alongside the flashing lights.

“What the fuck does it look like I’m doing?” I said: “I’m walking down the goddamned street. Why aren’t you chasing those muggers?”

“Get in the car,” the officer demanded: “Don’t make me come out there after you.”

They were holding up traffic. And, since I had done nothing for which I should fear being arrested, I climbed into the back seat. The doors locked with a loud thunk as the police cruiser began to slowly move up the street.

“Jesus! You’re reeking marijuana,” the officer in the driver’s seat said. The officer in the passenger seat turned, shinned his flashlight in my face, and said: “Don’t you know that’s against the law, sir? You look ripped. What have you been smoking?”

“Wait a minute,” I said: “I don’t get this. You’re letting those mugger get away but you’re hassling me for copping a buzz and walking down the street?”

“Don’t get smart with me,” the officer responded: “Nobody’s getting away with anything. We’re part of a dragnet operation in force tonight attempting to clean up this neighborhood. If you people would stop coming down here to cop your buzz, at the drug house and the whore house and the bar, and stop wandering the streets stoned out of your mind, that would make our job a whole lot easier.”

A voice deep inside my head told me to shut my mouth, these guys were just doing their job. I handed over my drivers license and showed several other pieces of ID from my wallet. As the officer entered my identification into their computer, a female dispatcher’s voice filled the cruiser’s interior with radio chatter. I had no idea what she was saying but the officers seemed concerned. After handing back my drivers license, the officer in the passenger seat, said: “We could hassle you, sir, if we wanted to, but we don’t. We’re not even going to search you this time. If there is a next time, we won’t be so forgiving. Go home. Stay out of trouble.” They dropped me where my jeep was parked. And then they hastily moved up the street through traffic with lights flashing and sirens wailing.

The parking lot had cleared. I jumped in my jeep, drove straight home, locked the door, sat in the dark, thinking: Why am I alive? Why here, alone in this old house, in this crumbling city? Where am I going in life? I’m too passive, too accepting, allowing things to just happen. I’m always looking backwards, trying to figure out what went wrong. I should be looking forward, getting ready for the future, with optimistic anticipation. When I closed my eyes, I felt myself floating weightlessly in a vast empty space. I saw a dim light on a far horizon coming closer, getting brighter. Then it hit me, like a train wreck.

Ann Hides Her Bush

November 4, 2010

Ann works in her autumn garden while her husband, Buddy, along with their son, Bud Junior, and his school chum, Mickey, are out in the now empty grain field playing ball games. And that’s how she likes it. She would rather see the men out there playing with their balls than hanging around the house fighting, which are the only two things they seem interested in doing, or watching others do.

Her garden provides her with a unique natural sanctuary. Lined with trees to the north, it’s rimmed all around with selected vines and bushy vegetation. Working alone, she builds a fire, burning dried twigs and branches in a crudely constructed rock pit. In a small kettle of boiling water, she steeps leaves freshly picked from a bush she keeps hidden in a protected area of the garden. She drinks the tea warm, sipping slowly, enjoying its sharp, bitter taste on her lips and tongue, mixing it with saliva before swallowing.

Her consciousness expands to include an immediate perception of eternal time and infinite space. Earth is alive and speaks to her of knowing. The material world transforms through stages into its ethereal essence until she is pure thought in a universal mind of cosmic consciousness.

When the men return hot and sweaty, she has their favorite beverage waiting. It’s a fermented mixture of grains from the field along with herbs and spices from her garden, made with pure water from the flowing well. Buddy’s a big man with a big thirst. Throwing back his head, he empties a large foamy mug with one long, pulsating gulp. The two younger men sip from their foamy mugs and laugh, shaking their head to acknowledge Buddy as the winner in that category of competition, if none other.

Ann drinks with the men before serving dinner but she prefers her beverage made from fermented grapes. On the kitchen table there’s a tossed salad of garden greens topped with an oil, vinegar, and herb dressing. There’s butter and cheese to go with fresh bread still hot from the over. And there’s a thick soup of mixed beans, turnips, onions, and sweet basil.

No Place Like Home

March 25, 2010

“I can’t believe it,” Dora shouted, still holding the disconnected telephone to her ear: “We won the trip.” Jonas turned from his writing desk, and said: “You’re kidding.” And he sincerely hoped she was kidding because he dreaded the prospect of traveling. He wanted to continue working on his current project, an epic novel written in verse using iambic pentameter which he painstakingly lettered and illustrated freehand for the official manuscript copy. “No, I’m not kidding,” Dora replied: “You can take a break for this. It’s a chance of a lifetime to visit the Mediterranean. We can not, I repeat not, turn it down.”

“Take your girlfriend, what’s her name? She’d love to go.”

“No, I want you to come with me, to share it with me. What’s the matter with you? You know how long I’ve been dreaming about this.”

Jonas put down his pen, pushed away from the desk, and said: “You’re right. When do we leave?”

On the day of departure, Dora insisted on arriving early at the airport. Jonas dreaded the security check. Before leaving the house, he swallowed a tranquilizer prescribed by his doctor for the trip.

Dora watched as Jonas nervously piled their luggage into the taxicab’s trunk. “Don’t worry,” she said: “Your name isn’t going to be on the no-fly list just for getting busted with pot when you were in college.” He followed her into the cab’s back seat, and said: “What about that anti-war protest? I was arrested and fingerprinted by federal agents. They could still have that in their files.” He didn’t breath easy until the plane was in the air. Dora chided him, saying: “See how silly your fears were?” And then she added: “It makes me feel good when you’re smiling like this.” 

After a week of absorbing the Mediterranean sun and living luxuriously as guests aboard a private pleasure yacht, Dora and Jonas’ disembarked at Venice for a multiple day journey inland to explore the Italian Alps region in depth.

In Lombardy, north of Milan, they were enchanted by the city of Lecco, the capital city of Lecco province. Located at the southern end of the eastern branch of Lake Como, it’s a lake of glacial origin, referred to by locals as, Lake of Lecco. Pre-Alps mountains rise from there to the north and east.

At an outdoor café overlooking the lake, Jonas stirred his coffee, and said: “Let’s spend time here. I’ve had enough of that yachting life for now. I don’t care if it costs us more money. I can feel my creative juices flowing here. I’ll make that money back in no time.” Dora wiped her lips with a napkin, and replied: “It wouldn’t take much to convince me of that. Let’s look around to see what we can find in the way of affordable real estate.”

The villa they finally rented wasn’t exactly affordable but they could not turn it down. Located on a beautifully landscaped slope, it had a spectacular view of the city, the lake, and the mountains. “Even if this consumes the rest our savings, it will be worth it,” Jonas asserted emphatically. Then, stretching his arms and taking in a deep breath, he shouted into the sky from the open-air patio: “I feel rejuvenated.”

Local attitudes towards Americans surprised and confused them. The very first time they met the villa’s caretaker and gardener, he told them: “I once thought it was only your government, not you the people. But now, after you have elected the same government a second time, I’m forced to adjust my original assessment. American tourists should all go home. Change your government first. Stop this war. Then come back and we will welcome you with open arms.”

Dora and Jonas tried to ignore political issues during the remainder of their stay at the villa. When they were alone together, they lived in the immediacy of the moment, nothing else mattered. It would come to an end soon enough. Unless something new and unforeseen presented itself, the two weeks for which they had already paid represented all they could actually afford. They vowed to enjoy this time to its fullest.

On the morning of their last full day, while still sitting by the table after breakfast on the patio overlooking Lake Como with its fantastic view of gardens, water, and mountains, Dora cried out: “This is like being in heaven.” Jonas stood to uncork a fresh bottle of wine, and chimed in: “More like Mount Olympus.” Then, raising the bottle towards the sky, he chanted: “Dionysius, son of Zeus and Semele, hear me.” Dora held out her empty glass, and said: “I believe it’s Dionysus, dear. Dionysius was a tyrant, of Syracuse I believe. Anyway, they’re Greek and we’re in Italy now.”

“It’s all Greek to me,” Jonas said, laughing as he filled Dora’s glass, and then continuing: “Hear my plea, oh lord of the grape. Give us the strength to go home and face the music, if that be what we must do. We’d rather stay here, of course, ignoring the whole bloody mess.” Dora sighed and, while swirling her glass to the rhythm of a Vilvadi cello concerto playing in her mind, she said: “I second that.”

The put-put sound of an old van pulling into the driveway in front of the villa interrupted their blissful repose. And then the caretaker stormed across the patio and bellowed in broken English: “Turn on TV. You need know. Time to go, do something.” Dora set her wine glass carefully on the table before standing to protest. “We have one more day remaining,” she said, trying to stay calm: “Come back tomorrow morning at this time and we’ll be out of here. Until then, go tend to your gardens. I have a receipt that validates our payment. It includes today.” With a pained smile plastered on his face, the caretaker listened to what she had to say, then he abruptly exited the patio and disappeared down the slope without further comment.

“I call upon Dionysius and look what we get,” Jonas laughed, holding the wine bottle over his glass to get the last drop.

“It’s time to begin our descent, anyway,” Dora remarked, more to herself than to Jonas. Pushing her glass aside, she reached for the laptop to check her e-mail. “Dionysus be praised,” she shouted: “They’re giving us a credit for the cruise time we didn’t use. Maybe we can come back next year and do this again.” Popping the cork from another bottle of wine, Jonas groaned: “I can’t wait until next year.”

Dora covered her glass with a hand before Jonas could pour, and said: “Don’t you think we’d better stop drinking now? I don’t want a hangover going to the airport in the morning.” Jonas gently removed her hand, saying: “It will never taste better, dear. Plus, we’ve already paid for it. Only two more bottles after this one. Don’t worry about a hangover. Let’s live today like there’s no tomorrow.”

After glancing at her laptop, Dora said: “I can’t believe this is happening to us.” She carefully slid it across the still cluttered breakfast table to Jonas, adding: “Check these numbers and tell me what you think.” Jonas reluctantly pushed his wine glass aside, squinted his eyes to focus on the computer screen, and said: “I’m not in the mood for numbers right now.”

“Okay then,” she replied, running her fingers through her hair and swinging her head from side to side, as she spoke: “Let me tell you what the numbers say. First, our stock value has spiked unexpectedly. Should we hold or sell? Second, we’ve been offered a million plus for the house. Should we sell or not?” Jonas eased the computer aside, making room on the table in front of him to retrieve his wine glass, and said: “Stock value isn’t like money in the pocket, is it? If we actually had cash to live on, I’d think about selling the house right now. As it is, we should go home first. If things workout from there, we can come back.”

“Always the cautious one,” Dora mocked, reaching for the laptop. Folding it, she leaned back in her chair, closed her eyes, and tried to visualize the immediate future. She had been ignoring world events for three weeks and the prospect of becoming reacquainted made her nauseous. Having visited the area, she dreamed of returning and exploring it further, including the Alps.

The next morning, as the large commercial aircraft lifted into the air, Dora leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes. She visualized the garden patio overlooking Lake Como with mountains rising majestically to the north and to the east. She made a conscious effort to imprint that view of the area into her memory for future reference. And then, having been up all night celebrating with Jonas, she drifted off to sleep.

Jonas envied Dora’s ability to block out the world around her. The perception of flying forced him to stay alert. Every sudden change in the aircraft’s motion, every jerky vibration commanded his close attention. He swallowed another pill to calm his nerves but he still couldn’t relax. His awareness of the other passengers breathing and squirming in their seats oppressed him, making him feel claustrophobic. Unable to escape the feeling, he concentrated on it instead, consciously forcing himself to remain under control by shear strength of will. He breathed an exhausted sigh of relief when the wheels finally touched the ground.

When the airport taxi pulled up in front of the house, Dora said: “I didn’t expect returning home to be so depressing. If somebody has offered us a million dollars for this place, I think we should take it.” Jonas pushed himself from the cab before replying: “Give it some time, dear. It may take awhile for us to come down from our vacation high. Nothing will seem right at first but we’ll get used to it again, you’ll see.” She followed him from the cab, and said: “What if I don’t want to get used to it again?” Lifting their luggage from the taxi’s trunk, he responded: “Let’s get inside the house where we can relax first and then we can talk about it. Ninety percent of the people on earth would be ecstatic to own a house like this in a community like this.”

Later in the day, after everything had been unpacked and put away, Dora found Jonas in the front room sleeping in front of the television; and she sat on the couch beside him to see what was on. It wasn’t just the house to which she had become alienated, she realized, after surfing through all the channels without finding something she wanted to watch.

Hello world!

March 19, 2010

Introibo ad altare dei, I will go to the altar of God, those are Buck Mulligan’s first spoken words in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Some critics say Joyce is mocking the Mass as that opening scene unfolds and the invocation of God is a mocking reminder that epics traditionally began with an invocation to a deity or a muse. There are many other ways to read it, of course. Perhaps Joyce is mocking his characters, or the critics, or himself. Or perhaps it isn’t mockery at all but a much more complicated mixture of psychological motivations.

Speaking of psychological motiotivations, why am I writing? I could sit here thinking about that, or I could move on to the next question: what am I writing about? Maybe I shouldn’t even ask such questions, just do it. Okay, here goes: Introibo ad altare dei . . .

I do not presume God’s inspirational blessing. In fact, I don’t take anything for granted when it comes to God. Yet neither do I despair. Not often, anyway.