Saturday, December 30, 2006

western hospitality

The boy paused, still blowing into his gloved hands.
"Are you lost?"
The gloves dropped, and the boy looked up, his blue eyes heated with a sudden strange intensity. He gazed, searching, for a long moment.
Discomfort grew on the back of Joshua's neck like hot, prickly moss.
He ventured further hospitality.
"Do you need something?"
Joshua read the answer that leaped into the boy's eyes but never made it to his cracked lips.
He felt Ebenezer pushing against his leg again and heard the faint whisper of conscience begging him to open the door, bring the boy in, seat him by the fire.
He stiffened his legs and broke the gaze, pretending to hear something within the house.
"Hold on." He turned and pushed the door almost closed and bustled back to the pot on the stove which was, as chance would have it, almost boiling over.
He belabored the task of moving the pot to a hotpad on the counter and turning the stove off.
He walked reluctantly back to the door, ignoring Ebenezer who stood staring at the door.
The boy was halfway down to the road when he swung the door open again.
He quelled the burst of satisfaction that spread hot guilt all over him.
"Do you-" he began, but bit it off, unsure of what to say, or what he wanted to say.
The boy, not hearing or disregarding, bounded down the slope and hit the road in a dead run, disappearing quickly.
Joshua leaned against the doorjamb, watching the last place the Dallas Cowboys parka had flashed through the trees.
The longer he stood there with the door open, letting the warmth of the house rush out like vapor into the snow, watching for, hoping against, another glimpse of royal blue, the more satisfied he became that he'd done what he could.
At last, a chill shuddering over his shoulders, he stepped back and closed the door.
It was snowing again.

He picked up Copperfield, stroking the black head between the ears until a rumbling purr pulsed against the feline's ribcage.
Dumping him lightly at his water bowl, he retrieved a bowl and spoon from the cabinet, ignoring the irriation he felt with Ebenezer who lay in front of the fireplace, head resting on his paws, ears pricked and eyes trained on the door.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

With an ear tuned to the simmering pot on the stovetop, he surfed aimlessly, merging onto the billion lane cyber super freeway and cruising in the fast lane, blazing through carefully prepared sites at a dizzying speed, caught up in the attention deficit culture.
He slewed into a site with the informative url and spun out, carefully picking through selected information archives on Monet.
Monet was precisely his ideal of the perfect artist. Not crass enough to depict matter in it's bold reality, not presumptuous enough to think he could exactly duplicate the beauty of his subject, and yet not so temperemental as to disregard any and all semblance of reality and cast order to the wind.
Sparse were the collections of artwork in Joshua's cabin, but each one was chosen carefully for its taste and placed deliberately, fulfilling its aesthetic potential.
No computer-generated glassed-in prints of winding rivers, cheery lighted cabins, or budding roses adorned his wall.
The sound of a dog dish skittering across tile, an explosive, inquisitive bark
and the scrambling of claws across hardwood was the only preamble to a thunderous knock on the front door.
It sounded thunderous because it had never happened before. Ever.
The heavy oak door hung on brushed brass hinges by Joshua's own hands had never fallen under the summons of a human hand.
Telling it was, that the option of not answering the door never occurred to him even though perfectly social people did it all the time. It certainly would have been an acceptable quirk for a hermit.
It was what he'd been waiting for, after all. What was solitude without discovery?
Solitude was meant to be discovered. Without discovery, it grew stagnant.
This thought never occurred to Joshua overtly, still, the blood pulsed in his head as he proceeded to the door. Joshua held no hate for the human race. He wasn’t even jaded. He was simply temperamental, and in danger of becoming extremely eccentric.
Ebenezer and Trotwood hung back, disconcerted.
He unconciously cast a glance about the room, searching for imperfections, reaching for the doorknob.
He swung the door open.
He wouldn't have been so eager.
A boy, nine or ten, blue toboggan, Dallas Cowboys parka, gloves, too big, shuffling his dingy tennis shoes over the packed snow.
Ebenezer thrust his big head in between Joshua and the door, but removed it quickly when Joshua surreptitiously squeezed his head in between his leg and the door.
He said hi with that bright ring of expectancy that said, I think your cabin is really cool. Aren't you going to invite me in? I'll play with your dog.
With all his reclusive soul, he wished to simply step back and shut the door.
Of course he couldn't. Mostly because he couldn't simply ignore the fact that an undesirable breach of his sanctuary had occurred. A child meant others, others who had no better sense than to let children wander and disturb. What if there were more children? A vulgar vision of his yard littered with deflated, sun-bleached basketballs, a forgotten blue and yellow plastic three-wheeler, an overturned slide,
and a blue plastic swimming pool filled with stagnant water and dead leaves filled his mind.
Joshua measured his tone. "Hello."
A silent pause ensued in which the intruder inexplicably cupped his gloved hands and breathed into them.
A reluctant hint of civility crept into Joshua's voice, "What can I do for you?"
"Um. . ."
You want to come in. Because it makes perfect sense that since you exist and you are a child that you have the right and even the invitation to impose yourself on anyone and everyone.

Monday, October 23, 2006

a litle background

Fourteen e-mails promptly went the way of the recycle bin, one from his thankfully far removed editor in New York busting his chops over a deadline received a thorough reading, a snort, and the delete button, and three more, one from a brother in Colorado Springs, another from a sister in Denver, and the obligatory daily from his mother in Butte were left unopened for later consumption.
If Joshua has been misrepresented to the reader heretofor as a man without acquaintance, even a man without family as a frame for his identity, an orphan having exploded into this vast expanse of wilderness like a human Big Bang, it is the fault of the writer and must be set right.
Friends he had, of mostly past or long distance acquaintance, and family as well; family of even a markedly normal and functioning quality, family that faithfully attempted contact with him, though more and more they resorted to one-sided e-mails, to which he responded, eventually.
This family consisted of his parents, a retired sytems analyst for a small freight company, and a semi-retired nurse who still worked one day a week for insurance purposes; one brother, married, with three children and an interesting to say the least career niche chiseled out of online marketing; two sisters, one a housewife, one child, and a burgeoning E-Bay customer base, the other sister, the youngest, recently married, bearing a master's degree and no children, and a promising if not lucrative future in cataloguing southwestern cultural history and native American contributions to eventual modern society.
The family had always been close, existing with a high level of functionality, and forgiving compatibility that many families only dream of.
The in-laws got on very well, as did the cousins, minus the usual competitiveness and awkwardness that will plague several young relatives who see eachother only two or three times a year and always in the confines of a backyard, a cleared out garage or family room.
The adults fared a little better, the conversation buffered in the courtesy supplied by adulthood. The women were perfectly content to shoulder the massive food burden necessary to family gatherings, as long as the men and the children made no great nuisance of themselves, getting on very well, thank you, the interaction graced with the social kindness of the sex, and later complaining only mildly in the privacy of their allotted bedrooms of the others' rambunctious children or the inevitable dispute over the use of glass or plastic, china or paper plates.
The men oscillated between the garage, the shop, the den, and the respective vehicles in the front drive, providing there was a new one or one with a particular confounding ailment. The interaction here was easy and relaxed, lacking the stress of competition that festered among the male gender of so many extended family circles. The camaraderie had only recently been jarred by the discordant addition of the youngest sister's husband, an energetic, ambitious, supremely confident young Cingular Wireless salesman who sported a year-round tan, a regrettable lack of subtelty, a strident conversational voice, and a hearty fake laugh.
However, even this dissonance was soothed by time and the new guy's realization that his male in-laws were not quick to be impressed or possibly didn't need to be. The gusto was quieted, and the laughs were reserved for things found genuinely humorous, instead of anything and everything related to his promising career, including but not limited to anecdotal on-the-job training. When the restraint became too much, and the energy ebbed too low in the masculine discussions, this brimming chalice of sanguine-choleric personality would bolt, like a caged tiger, for the kitchen in search of wide-eyed feminine appreciation.
Perhaps no family is completely normal.
But if general compatibility can be supposed to contribute to the sum of "normal" this family functioned at ninety percent.
This nearly normal family discussed often among themselves the frequent absence of their brother, for whom they all exhibited a fondness of such a degree that was to him almost inexplicable and at times, an irritant.
Joshua hadn't always been so reclusive. At an earlier time at any family gathering, he might've been generously titled the life of the party. His poor mother, clearly the most distraught over her eldest son's "self-imposed exile", as she called it, was forever trying to place a particular point in time or circumstance to his remarkable change in demeanor and habits.
His father, less disturbed, but still puzzled, reasoned perhaps it was due to his being single, a writer, and a psychology major in college.
"Any one of the three is enough to weird a man out, Janet." he pointed out to his wife. "At any rate," he inevitably concluded, "it's a phase, just like all the others. Remember the genius phase?"
Todd, his father, was here referring to an extended phase of Joshua's thirteenth and fourteenth years, when after reading a biography of Albert Einstein, he had decided to be a genius, and had affected all the trappings. He labored intensely over each subject in school, especially math and science. But chemistry, which wasn't available until the eleventh grade, became his passion. The school library became devoid of a large segment of the non-fiction section from 323.575 to 323.975 for weeks on end. He lusted after petri dishes and test tubes but scorned the Nickolodeon chemistry set his mother purchased at Wal-greens, utilizing only the blue microscope, with smiling ameobas on either side, and only after he had scraped the ameobas off. He spent hours with an open chemistry book and various bathroom and kitchen chemicals.
At least he never blew anything up, besides maybe his hair, his father, ever the irreverent one, was fond of saying, referring to the tousled hair-do that Joshua refused to admit, but everyone speculated, was emulative of his new idol.
His expectation for every test and review quiz was nothing less than a 100% A+, and he was disconsolate when he received a B+ in science and an A- in math, and became indignant when his sister pointed out that "Einstein was an idiot in school, too."
That phase weakened gradually and eventually died, but this phase, as his father insisted it was, was now years in dying off.

Just a note. This "serial" is written sheerly for my pleasure, and with no particular drift or plot in mind. You have just as much inkling about the next turn of events as I do. Throw me a nice plot twist idea, if you like. I don't promise to take it. There is just a touch of my protagonist in me.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hope is there, just buried deep.

James Dobson sets himself up for disappointment.
As do we all.
It's called hope.
In a recent broadcast of Focus on the Family, he interrupted regularly scheduled programming to bring some pressing social concerns to the listening audience, first and foremost, a South Dakota ballot initiative to essentially overturn the recent from-out-of-the-blue state ban on abortion. The supporters of the initiative are all very democratic and American, I'm sure. After all, they just want the people to decide. Regardless of the motivation, the abortion ban, if polls are to be believed, may well share the fate of the very lives it seeks to protect. Seems the people think the governor and state legislaiture may have overstepped their bounds.
Dr. Dobson stressed the importance of this upcoming vote, urging us to fight on, because we're winning.
He gave the results of a recent study that shows abortion opponents winning the ideological battle over abortion. Some seventy percent of the American public, if polls are to be believed, think abortion is morally wrong.
We're winning this battle, he exulted, crediting advanced ultrasound technology for the ground gained.
Immediately, hope rang hollow.
The benefits of such technology notwithstanding, the victory, so called, is moral, which is another way of saying it is useless.
The reason being, there is no depth to this change of heart.
Americans are exceedingly opiniated on many, many issues, but opinions dwell on the surface, a safe distance above the deep, powerful undertow of conviction and they can be turned by no more than a gentle breeze.
If Americans are stirred to righteous indignation against abortion only by ever-advancing ultrasound technology, if it takes the clearing footage of a kicking, squirming, living fetus nestled inside the womb to sway their minds, then they can be swayed just as easily by the first agenda-driven movie director who takes it in his or her head to do a two-hour documentary featuring a rape victim in South Dakota who hadn't the funds to drive to Fargo to get an abortion.
We live by a moral code that we believe to be cohesive and structurally sound and are affronted when someone points out the contradictions and the weaknesses.
We are an amalgam of every possible belief system that exists. We have traded hateful prejudice for the guilty pleasure of complete acceptance of literally everything. There is a nice benefit to this new acceptance and tolerance. In exchange for accepting the moral shortcomings of others, we can play the intolerance card whenever someone questions our moral faults. With a tradeoff like this, tolerance feels pretty good.
You can be right, as long as the truths you hold are not in opposition to another's truth. This truth held in exclusion of all contradicting ideas becomes arrogance, and loses its place in line. It must then go to the bottom and work its way back up through the levels of truth, recognizing its obligation to be relative and not absolute, apologizing for its presumption all the while.
Truth, in and of itself, holds no direct appeal, unless it is cloaked in something exciting.
There is no demand for truth, unless it is gutsy, gritty, shocking, sizzling, rebellious, revolutionary, charming, disarming . . .
For truth to sell, it better have market appeal.
Unadorned, it will go unnoticed by the modern connoisseur of truths.
C.S. Lewis pried into the post-modern mindset in 1942 with the Screwtape Letters.
His fictional senior demon writes to his hapless nephew, "It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries ealier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false', but as 'academic' or 'practical', 'outworn' or 'contemporary', 'conventional' or 'ruthless'. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous-that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about."
'Nuff said.
The only comfort I find here, and it is a comfort, is that the truth, unadorned and unaffected, will shine all the brighter in this moral fog.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

continuing some more

He disliked the idea of heading home without the dog.
He stood at the crest of the mountain for a long while, facing south.
The lonely distant drone of an aircraft reached him and he looked up, just in time to see a black silhouette float through a hole in the increasing cloud cover; a charcoal triangle moving slowly across the sky, a Stealth fighter.
The image was surreal, as always,the sense of the quiet savagery of the wild, undeveloped mountains so indifferently conquered by cold technology. He had lived here for years, and still felt the chill of isolation, the science fiction sense of being stranded on an island of wilderness in the midst of a bustling world. To the north, the brooding beauty of the mountains virtually disappeared under a colorfully clashing world of tourist attractions. To the far east, the mountains weakened and broke into long, sloping plains of tall, yellow grass. To the south, a barren expanse of Army appropriated land met the concrete desert of a combined metropolitan population of 3 million souls. And to the west lay the home of the black falcon now floating through the high desert sky; an Air Force nerve center of legendary importance and secrecy.
Yet here he dwelt, in the comfort of his self-imposed exile in a land where you could walk for miles and miles through the forest and never find any more definite signs of civilization than an occasional boulder-strewn logging trail, invariably made impassable to anything other than pedestrian travel by a heaped-up burm of soil and rocks.
When he'd first moved here, the solitude, so long sought, had quickened his spirits in a hundred different ways. Now it had become a way of life, a routine that suited, not excited.
Yet some peculiar propensity for loneliness carried him quickly through the years in a pleasant fog of contentment, and the affection he harbored for his way of life and the contempt he held for the general population grew each time he was forced to leave his nest and rub shoulders with reality.
At length, and still not bearing in mind any particular course of action, he stirred and took a look around.
And took in a sharp breath.
Ten feet away, underneath a wretched, drooping pine, stood Ebenezer, watching him, head held high, gaze inscrutable.
A knifing wind froze on the trees, and Joshua felt a prickling numbness in his cheeks
A pause, and Joshua shuffled one foot forward.
The husky's shoulders hunched and his head lowered, still watching.
Joshua stood completely still, fascinated.
Until a sense of humor touched him. This was ridiculous. The pitiful excuse for a graveyard, probably some long gone backpacker's attempt at cryptic immortality had flung a smothering mantle of melodrama over that was now wearing hot and prickly.
He squatted and scooped up a handful of snow, molded it and hurled it at Ebenezer, who sprang aside deftly and landed in a playful crouch, the spell broken.

They got back to the cabin an hour later, after an uninterrupted beeline from the top of the mountain to the front steps of the cabin.
David Copperfield stirred lazily from his post on the back of the chair in front of the fireplace, shook his head, and sprang lightly in front of Ebenezer.
They greeted casually with a quick whiff, the animal equivalent of a brief nod, and Ebenezer proceeded to his water bowl, leaving an idly curious David Copperfield to watch Joshua shed his boots and coat.
This accomplished, Joshua scooped up the cat and slumped in the same chair.
Copperfield appeared to be done with sitting for a time, however, escaped and bounded toward the utility room, where he shared his eating quarters with the husky.
Joshua closed his eyes for a minute.
He opened them to behold a decidedly late evening hue of sunshine streaming through his bedroom window, spilling out into the hall, bathing the living room floor in an orange glow, and splashing over the stone fireplace in front of him.
The unscheduled length of the nap disoriented him for a few moments, as he leaned forward and rubbed his face in his hands. He looked toward the kitchen, trying to remember what he'd planned to eat.
A pot of stew, made yesterday.
Joshua dined largely on stew, soup and chili. His array of spices, measured and applied in precise amounts, were of an eclectic variety, gleaned from various cooking sources and magazines. He'd even taken to online foraging for recipes, variations on vegetable soup, and odd herbally-influenced concoctions of cider and tea. He took a great amount of care in food preparation, with special attention to appearance. If the coloration or consistency displeased, he scarcely bothered with discriminating taste, he threw it out. In this manner, he'd avoided belonging to that tired stereotypical subculture of bachelors to whom fine dining was Buffalo Wild Wings and good home cooking was Hungry Jack's.
He removed the pot of stew from the refrigerator, placed it on the stove on low and went to check his e-mail.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Last Man

The men in our society are plagued by an ongoing identity crisis.
Some might argue that the shifting sands of society's concept of manhood is mainly a media spectacle, fashion wizards and retailers seeking to foment dissatisfaction in order to sell their product. It may have begun in that manner, but America usually becomes conflicted when we're told to.
I don't know when the plague began, perhaps with the advent of television situation comedies, but it is now a pandemic.
I remember some time ago reading an article on about a new surge of boisterous masculinity in country music. Toby Keith was quoted, fairly extensively, as an authority on the subject, proof that the new confidence purported in male country stars was mainly an industry allowance to be a slob with a foul mouth and a mischievous propensity for drinking yourself into mindless oblivion, all the while trolling in a mournful, goat-like vibrato.
I am glad that Toby Keith and other country stars now feel it's okay to be male.
The article served notice on me that the time for un-selfconsciousness as a man was over, had been over, in fact for some time, for the term "metrosexual" had been coined seven or eight years earlier by an astute British journalist named Mark Simpson who had taken note of the masculine meltdown of the 1990's.
The concept was largely ignored for almost ten years, until some genius marketing strategist seized upon it for gain, tweaked it, and it became a media buzz-word.
Metrosexuality, which was by Simpson's reckoning handwringing anxiety over what sort of man to be, morphed into the new rage. It was Neutrogena's wistful daydream come true. Men who were not uncouth were now expected to be finicky.
Very finicky. Manicures, skin pampering, waxing. . .Advertisers laid the guilt on like a thick layer of pore refining moisturizer.
You mean you don't? was the incredulous reply accompanied by nicely sculpted raised eyebrows.
Metrosexual mania raged on for some time, pumped up by advertising. The label rested comfortably on Hollywood favorites such as Brad Pitt, George Glooney, and Ahnald Schwarzenegger, and, perhaps even more fascinatingly, Donald Rumsfeld, in "an antediluvian way." I wonder if anyone has informed Mr. Secretary he's an antediluvian metrosexual.
At some point, however, the hand-wringing began again.
Maybe women didn't want men to spend more time at the beauty salon than they did.
One Reader's Digest article I read during that time period based on confessions of a metrosexual told of the author's wife reacting with distaste at the prospect of her husband's nails looking betters than hers did.
What an Amazon woman.
Enter the ubersexual, a term I assume wrested from Nietzche's proposal of the uberman, or "overman."
The manicures and eyebrow tweezers were tossed overboard in the turbulent seas of cultural identity.
Ubersexuals were the new man's man and, more importantly, woman's man.
Ubersexuals are immaculate without obsession, sensitive without emotional instability, and supremely confident without arrogance.
They walk a tightrope over a pit of Bengal tigers, in other words.
Interestingly, the new pr guys for "ubersexuality" were mostly former metros.
(Except for Donald Rumsfeld. I think he still plucks his eyebrows when no one's looking.)
The transformation of metro to uber came to Mark Simpson's attention to which he replied, " Any discussion in the style pages of the media about what is desirable and attractive in men, and what is 'manly' and what isn't, is simply more metosexualization."
More hand-wringing.
He goes on, "Metrosexuality -do I really have to spell it out- is mediated masculinity."
So why does a Brit have to be the one to point this out?
The snide question rose in my mind when I read the article on country music manhood,
how masculine is masculinity when it's affected?
Here we have men studying how to be men. Not how to be great men, or good men, just men.
It's a pathetic picture. Maybe they should teach classes.
And the most disturbing thing to me about the male sex identity crisis is the icons we're given.
In our culture, who's more manly than a NASCAR driver, or a baseball player, a football player, or, deliver us, a basketball player?
Sports can no longer be considered entertainment, it is a way of life and it is the obsession of most males young and old in our society.
And this is one reason we can't decide what sort of men to be. What foundation for manhood is laid when our role models are engaged wholly in trivial pursuit?
It's a game, for crying out loud.
What is the meaning of life when the most breathless moments in America occur during the World Series, or the Indianapolis 500?
These are our shining examples of masculinity.
Men who don three foot wide shoulder pads and tight shiny pants, swagger out on a field and growl at each other through face-shields, and hold forth eloquently after the game is over, "Uh, yeah, I think-um, I think the thing was, you know the thing is, we just all, you know, really came together as a team, today, and you- we did what we needed to do cuz. . . you know we came, come out here to win, dats what the coach been tellin us. So you know, I think we did we what we came out here to do."
Dazzling analysis.
And over on the sidelines, you have the sports eunuch, the representative of male America, with his shirt off and head shaved and face painted with the team colors, shrilling and waving his arms and jumping up and down.
And the culture media has to ask why men are conflicted.
It's sad.
The problem with second-guessing your manhood should be obvious.
It's no good if you have to explain it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fully Man

Dusk pooled in the valleys, and bled up the ravines; a creeping transition from day to night.
He watched the interminable evening wear on, so slow.
Time, which existed only in thought anyway, stood almost completely still.
He felt every passing second marked only because he felt every single beat of his heart. Slow, thundering pulses flexed his eardrums with every stroke.
The part of him that felt the way others felt desperately willed the darkness to complete its conquest of the weakening day.
That part of him that felt what others felt was simultaneously terrified as the western sky paled from smoky blue to hazy orange, from ashen gray to sooty charcoal.
Watchman, how far gone is the night?
The part of him that no one knew about was untouched by the coming darkness.
Darkness did not exist, except where he allowed it to exist.
But the weakness of his humanity rose in a swelling black tide, ebony waves washing over the solid island of resolution.
Unlight swallowed light, unstoppable.
His mortality betrayed him, wheeling a monstrous Trojan horse into the protected light, and even now, the absence of light was spilling out, blotting out the light.
There was only one who knew, only one person on earth who understood.
Earlier in the evening, they had shared a look of common knowledge.
But Nombre was a comfortless confidant.
The words of prediction that set all the others in an uproar of disillusion had merely sparked the flint in Nombre's eyes.
As they looked across the table at each other, something cold and cynical glinted behind the other's eyes like a sharp rock gleaming an in inch below the surface of an icy, rushing river; indifferent, immovable, a shipwreck waiting to happen.
There was something else there, too.
A look of supreme knowledge, yes, but something else, something he'd not yet encountered in the turbulence of the last several years.
There had been disbelief. There'd been outrage. There was indignation and judgment.
There was fear, hatred, and confused anger.
There had been love, also; misunderstanding, misinterpreting love.
But Nombre knew. He understood what the plan was and he knew the motivation behind the plan.
And Nombre despised him for it.
Looking into his bold gaze now, he saw the stare of his ancient adversary superimposed on the stony eyes.
And he was the recipient of contempt for the first time in his mortal existence; burning, despising, mocking contempt.
Nombre was laughing at him. His enemy was laughing at him.
And try as he might to avail himself of the strength of God within him, his enemy's confidence set his humanity on fire with fear.
He knew better, and he did not know better, because he chose to not know better.
And now, as he had daily, hourly, every second, he gave himself to the uncertainty, the horror of the unknown, sacrificing the part of him which no one knew to the part of him that everyone knows.
He looked deeper into the eyes of Nombre, and saw what lie behind, saw even what Nombre couldn't see.
He heard the whisper Nombre couldn't have heard.
Come. Yes, come and share my lot and taste of my food and drink.
The sound slithered across him.
And you really think that you can touch me and retain your purity? You believe you can carry the filth of these people and remain clean?
. . .a look of mocking admonition and incredulity . . .
This goes against your rules! You are breaking your own law! How can you expect your structure to withstand such a violent transgression of your code?!
. . .the look of ultimate assurance that terrified. . .
Your rule will cease to exist. You will lose control.
He felt himself descending a staircase into a cesspool; a boiling fountain of raw sewage.
The stench already clung to him. It was the smell of rotting, decaying death.
. . .and the slithering whisper. . .
You cannot hope to submerge yourself in my world and ever hope to escape my company.
There it was. The final fear, the wind that drove the storm rushed over him with a incredible fury.
Yes, my comrade, my former co-habitant, my brother, come spend eternity with me in the place you made for me and mine. And you will leave all of these people twisting in the wind, lost in the netherworld.
Their eyes were locked.
It won't work. Your great scheme will fail."
. . . laughing. . .
But then, you have no choice, do you? You promised them.
Someone else was speaking now.
"Is it I?"
The question broke his heart.
He couldn't tell him.
Yes, it was him.
It was all of them.
It was everyone.
Another nightmare visited him.
A line stretched through the ages, through what they called time, a line of people.
Everyone who had ever lived, everyone who would ever live waited in line.
They all looked different, but they all had one thing in common.
They all carried hammers.
Some dangling from one hand, some gripped tightly in both hands, or hefted in one hand and tapped into the other palm, over and over.
There were a myriad of emotions displayed over every face. There were looks of hatred, looks of eagerness, straining forward to strike their blow.
There were blank stares; eyes that held no pity, no expression, just dull anticipation of swinging their hammer.
He saw everyone, and saw not one empty pair hands.
No, not one.
It hurt, it burned, it cut so deep.
He felt loneliness, he endured the isolation of hell. He was forgotten as no one had ever been forgotten.
And now, here in the grove of trees, in the smothering night that came so suddenly, he accepted it. He threw his arms wide and embraced the night. He stepped off the cliff.
He lay down on the altar.
And he felt no peace.
. . .heard only a long, sobbing cry in the distance of his mind. . .
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?!

Just a note. Jesus was completely God and completely man. Focusing on the man led me to speculate about what temptations and feelings He must have faced in days before the Crucifixion.
And "Nombre" is Spanish, meaning betrayal.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


A useless thought meandered through his mind.
What must he look like, standing there?
The focus of his imaginative vision zoomed out suddenly, and he saw himself standing on the shoulder of a mountain, determined to make something mysteriously significant of a forsaken graveyard.
Who was he, really? What was he doing here? What was he doing anywhere?
It was that sensation so seldom felt, but so unsettling, as when you are talking, out loud, and suddenly begin to listen to the sound of your own voice. The tone is unfamiliar, and the words strange and pointless. And so you trail off, discomforted.
He beheld his own thoughts, and found them deliberate. Not the reacting thoughts of an astute observer, but the predisposed pondering of a man bent on . . . . . .what?
He saw what he wished to see. His sight was tinted by his own worldview.
His thoughts, his writing, his long hikes in the woods, his cabin, his world; they all had the same murky theme, obscure even to him.
The question lay before him to be considered; why? Why did he live the way he lived, sequestered and harboring a smoldering resentment for mankind in general? To what end were his writing, his entire existence?
He stood completely motionless, scuttled in uncertainty. He was unsure of what to do next, and even more unsure of why he felt he should be doing something.
Turning from this troubling direction his thoughts had taken, he moved suddenly, turning his back on the graves and stepping off the rimrock to continue on up the mountain.
Ebenezer was yet to be found.
He reached the top thirty minutes later, breathing hard.
He was cheated out of the exhiliration of a sweeping view of the surrounding mountains and found instead a long, sloping grove of small pines shuddering slightly as the high wind whispered loudly through their branches.
The sun, after chilling his mercurial temperament with its mid-morning blaze, had deserted the early afternoon sky, hiding behind one rolling cloud after another, making its way across the sky altogether unseen.
The wind had grown steadily as he climbed higher and now stung his eyes and swept sheets of powder across the crust of the snow. He scanned the woods again for movement, looking for the familiar flash of smoky white flitting through the trees. Siberian huskies were more wolf than dog, and resltessness always lurked behind Ebenezer's ice bue eyes, but he had seldom left his master alone for this long.