Chalice of Prophecy

Chapter 1

A Trip to the Garrison

Brenna swiped a strand of hair from her face.

Did Devyn really expect her to take in everything he had just spilled out—a dissertation ending with a barrage of questions?  

Three caretakers-of-the-cup had gone missing. She didn’t need him to remind her of that. She knew it all too well. The solstice of sunsglow marked the timing of each disappearance, and Devyn was assuming she was unaware or in denial of how close the next solstice was.

“Will you answer me?”  he asked.

She had allowed the events he described to tumble about in her mind on many occasions; she still found it impossible to give any meaningful conclusion to why it had transpired.

“Brenna?”

What was the word Devyn had used? Ruthless. Well, he had put an expletive in front of it, and yes, it was well-known that Lord Wallace would kill people for even a perceived offence that might sit farther down the ladder’s rungs than any perception of failure to carry out his desires, but to kill a caretaker-of-the-cup represented nothing less than dousing the fire meant to cook your meal. No, something else was in play, something Lord Wallace  kept to himself.  It was much too easy to assume that the caretakers had failed to deliver a prophecy and so he had them killed.

“Talk to me?” Devyn asked again.

“I’m thinking about your last question.”

“Which one?

“The question about did I understand that Lord Wallace would kill me if I did not receive a prophecy? That question. It makes no sense that he would.”

“The last three are missing, most probably dead. Is that not enough proof for you?”

Proof? She let that settle. Lord Wallace’s announcement to his people after each of last three failures had been the same, the caretaker has disappeared.

“But he needs caretakers,” Brenna said. “And he needs them to hear the prophecy from the chalice.”

“There have been no prophecies. Or there have been prophecies that Lord Wallace doesn’t want us to know. Either way you’re in danger.”

There was more here, more than Devyn realized, much more than perhaps even Lord Wallace might be aware of.

She accepted that it was not this celestial body—Kielara—her beautiful world—that  might bring about her demise; no, if malevolence came for her it would emanate from the evil that ruled and claimed Kielara’s bounty.

“There are other caretakers. He won’t pick me.”

Hid hands rolled into fists. “You can’t know that, and I believe we should let it fall to the side of caution.”  

Her world was not the safe and loving place she had lived as a child; more precisely, it was not the one she remembered growing up in. She didn’t need Devyn to remind her of that. But he was her husband, lover, her friend, her blue-eyed farmer, a man much more proficient with a sword than with words, a man striving to convince her that the world she knew had changed, if it ever existed the way she saw it, and this world was poised to offer her up—the snuff of a candle flame in the midst of a raging storm.

“I don’t want to be the caretaker-of-the-cup, any more than you want to go back to being a mercenary.”   

He stopped, placed his hand on her shoulder, giving her a look that would make most people cringe.

“Listen…” “You’ve no idea how evil he is.”

He was using his best soldier stance to get inside her defenses. She knew better; he had told her too many stories of how he used his size and battle scars to intimidate his opponent.

For a man who claimed to have used his sword more than words, he carried an arsenal of battle howls that could intimidate the most capable alpha wolf from further wanting to defend his territory.  But his actions in all their time together told her she had nothing to fear. Still he was, at the moment, doing his utmost to intimidate her.

“I found you. I’m not going to lose you.”

Those blue eyes of his, focused and intense, she had to laugh, no matter how persuasive he was attempting to be. “I believe it was me that found you.”

She took his huge hand, kissed it, placed a finger on his forehead, and pushed him away in a playful manner, before walking-on.

She noted the change in his demeanor, as the mercenary in him caved to her response; he kept pace, his head down, his shoulders drooping like some schoolboy on his way to the schoolmaster to be disciplined. Not some schoolboy that anyone would care to bump into. This represented no weakness on his part; it was his love for her and his respect for their relationship giving in to his fervent need to make all decisions—mountains don’t ask that they might block the rays of the sun.

His actions were a calculated orchestration to make her see what he perceived to be unfolding, and though she might laugh to break the tension, her heart ached for what she knew him to be undergoing.

“You’re not listening to me, are you?”

“Yes, I am.” She gave him a playful bump and ran to the riverbank. “Lightsgift’s come early. Look. So much energy.”

He came up beside her and looked-out on the torrent of turbulent water, the murky yellow mixture of melt-off, and the heavy rains that had pelted the land during the past few spins of Kielara. The early growth of grass and shrubs were being drowned by the frantic momentum of the water, water in a hurry to reach the ocean.  

“Still too early for planting…, more frosts to come,” he said.  

She pressed against the closeness of his arm encircling her waist.

He spoke again. “I won’t let him take you.”

He was not going to give up. All this talk, and they were but a short distance into their journey, their farm in sight should they look behind.

She loved lightsgift, if a little early this turn of the seasons. The South River gushed with the massive energy brought on by the sudden onset of the growing season—the power of nature, the bounty of awakening from repose: eddies tangled in each other as they rushed downhill out-of-control, looking for banks to smash over, a formidable force kicking and dancing, a hatchling of chicks let loose from the nest and scattering in all directions, this deluge a thousand-thousand fold more powerful, the very essence of life coming to satiate the thirst that the long cold season had brought upon the land.

“Do you hear me? I won’t let him take you.” 

The young girl, somewhere deep inside her, remembered dancing in the sunlight, celebrating the unset of warmer weather, letting the rays wash over her face, the new fragrances of fresh growth  filling her very source, bidding her to be out-doors exploring her world, that dance stirring in her now, if only to remain in her imagination.

“I don’t plan to be taken by anyone.”

A deep breath to take it all in, she lifted her head; there, a hawk, not a species she recognized; it sat perched on a birch branch which had gone reaching for the heavens, and then dipped down to where it might soon touch the water. The hawk perched well above to where the branch curved back down on either side; his dark eyes were on his hunting territory, no doubt.

“We need to plan.”

What a magnificent creature, his red tail feathers glistened, twitching ever so subtly, ever alert for his need for flight; the spots of orange along the brown of his back looked like ripples on a wind-blown creek being scorched by a setting sun, such a powerful form in so small a body. She took no small amount of delight in her reckoning that great power came from small packages.

“I know you’re concerned.” She answered.

A slight jolt of clarity whispered something different. The hawk looked directly at her; a tiny yellow line outlined his formidable beak. His eyes seem set on telling her something, so she imagined. How absurd. Yet his eyes held more than the gaze of a predator. Impossible.

Brenna glanced at Devyn. A tinge of guilt surfaced. Was that what she saw in the hawk’s eyes?

What was she doing making a hawk her confidant?  Yes, she allowed she would do anything to take her mind off the possibility of being called to be caretaker-of-the-cup.

“I need you to be concerned. Your ignoring this will not make it go away. You have to know that.”

The hawk flew away. Even he knew better than to be her culprit.

There could be no way to avoid the issue, and she would not allow any further silence to trouble the man who loved her so much.

“They won’t pick me. And if they do, there is nothing we can do about it.” She turned to face him.

Caught up in the flight of the hawk, she had not thought before speaking. She should have chosen better words. Too late for that, now. She could only defend what she had said. “Our friends and family live all about Great Temple Reach. We can’t leave them and simply disappear.”

“I know what this place means to you: your family, friends, all the things which make your life worth living. But—”

“What makes you think they’ll pick me?”

“Those chosen before were your age, and you are one of the most intelligence people I know, a deadly combination for a Lord looking to ensure success after so many failures.”

“It doesn’t mean I’m next. Lots of people are my age.  …intelligent?”  

Caretakers were central to their way of life, and a chosen caretaker became caretaker-of-the-cup, a unique responsibility that all the races, all the cities, all the people of Kielara depended upon. She shivered, in spite of what the warm sun and gentle breeze offered.

“Let’s get going, or we’ll never make the city today.” She commenced walking. Devyn kept by her side.

They crossed South River Bridge and turned north toward the East River, the second great river flowing out of Bow Lake, a lake fed by the range of mountains well to the north. On a clear day one could catch a glimpse of the snowy peaks, smoky and stoic against the clear of a blue sky.

Their conversation turned lighter: favorite fiddle songs, who would do the cooking to celebrate their anniversary, plans for the arriving planting season.

“Hens or ducks?” He picked up a small rock and tossed it toward the river. It skimmed a few times on the surface before diving beneath the current. “I think we need more hens if we’re to do any serious bartering.”

She tried her luck at skipping a rock: only one skip before it sank. “I thought you wanted to do more growing, maybe some late season crops to balance out the trips to market.”

“If it’s to be crops or hens, I’ll take crops. Plus, crops have their season, hens peck on forever.” He quickened his stride.

There was to be no way around what occupied his mind. She took a hop to catch up with him. “I know you love your goats so much more than your hens, it’s why the hens get more food than they really need. I think the goats would rather be viewed as you do the hens. Why do you like those goats so much?

“You know why. You’re just trying to change the conversation.”

Yes, she knew. He had a soft spot for the goats. They kicked and bucked, jumped and danced, in some crazy fit of life. He saw it as raw energy and love of their existence, a trait he thought few other animals portrayed. While he had slaughtered hens and cows, sheep and geese, she noted he was never able to slaughter goats, and had finally decided that goat meat was not an appropriate food, whatever that meant.

This man was everything she had ever hoped-for in a mate, but he owed her an honesty of what he was preparing to do, a sharing of what he had already put into action, or he and his goats could go share the root cellar.

“You have a plan, don’t you? I knew this morning, even before Amaris made her arrival, that you had something on your mind. And then you suggested we should walk rather than ride.”

“Wanted to spend some time with you, is all.”

“Time with me? Then, we should have taken the horses. Would’ve been there and back by now.”

He didn’t look at her when he spoke next. “They’ll not take you.”

Her very source shook with the intensity of his remark; no matter it came barely above a whisper. “We’ll talk about it more tonight, okay? Let’s enjoy the walk and the day.” Clearly this topic would little be solved by talk of hens and goats.  

She gave his back a few scratches, and they continued along; they fell into a forced silence that was bound not to last. She knew he was not one to brood. Yet today he struggled in despair, awash in his need to solve an impossible situation. There remained nothing she could do, other than walk by his side and hope that the surroundings and the quiet of the morning would provide him some solace.

She glanced at the sky. Amaris sat well above the horizon, now much dimmer as the sun took over the day. When lightsgift wore on into the season Amaris would climb higher and higher, until she would be at center sky in the middle of the day by the time the season approached sunsglow. Then the smaller of the two moons would be almost impossible to see, the strong sun shining straight down and insisting on being the greater light. Of course Balac would still be noticeable and lower on the horizon where he followed Amaris across the sky day after day.

At last he had accepted the silence, or so she hoped.

The stories of the two moons were familiar to her as getting up in the morning. Her mother used to read to her how Balac chased Amaris, hoping to charm her with his size and speed. But she always managed to keep ahead of him, even though he never gave up trying to catch her. Her mother said that in the heavy heat of sunsglow, especially at the end of the season, Amaris would wait for him, allow him to catch up, but he would tire with the heat of the day, and so she would continue, believing his efforts had somehow diminished. Later, in the cool of moonrest, and more so when frostbite approached, she would change her mind, and she would glow with the crisp light of sparkling diamonds, and he would speed up once more, to her heart’s renewed desire.

The East River came into view, and here a number of other roads joined the main road. Folks, most on horseback, waved a good morning; they too were making their way to the garrison.

By the time the two of them reached the bridge, Devyn appeared more like his usual self, his chin high, and his footsteps wide and sure. She knew better than to take it as a sign of acceptance of any kind. He was merely putting on his defensive cloak in front of so many other people.

“How long will you be at the market?” she asked.

“I’m hoping for the same spot as last year, so I can be done before Balac climbs into the sky and home even before Amaris becomes invisible in the mid-day sun.”

“When did you get so lazy?”

He gave her a playful slap on the behind. “That’s not lazy. That’s being smart.”

Her heart leaped. Maybe posturing had something to do with the change. He was indeed somewhere else inside his head other than struggling with the impossibility of their situation.

Impossible situation? No, no, plenty of time until the end of sunsglow so she told herself. She recalled having asked Simon how the timing of the ritual came about. He answered it represented a special time, when the light of day was at its greatest.

Why had she ever been born on that day? It’s what made her a caretaker. It was a cruel date to be born, and many a midwife attempted to skirt delivery for either side of that day, as those who did arrive came with a pained delivery. Less than one in ten such babies survived the day. They said it was because of the gift.

Simon had gone on to tell her even more details. It was not merely a right bestowed because of the day. People born on that day of ending and beginning came with a special attribute, an attribute not fully understood: a clear connection to the cup and the ability to hear the prophecy that came with each solstice.

There was also another attribute that came with being born on that day, one she refused to talk about—the magic; Simon called it the gift. She poked that stray braid of hair back over her shoulder. Some gift.  

Most times, the message involved ways to improve medicines, grow crops, or improve on technology—each prophecy offered a leap in knowledge. In rare times it made predictions about what was to come; those prophecies were often disputed until the truth unfolded.

The prophecies served not only the people of West Haven Sanctuary; the people of the Vineyards Expanse, the Flat Lands, the Northern Reaches, and even the faraway Eastern Seaboard, all had emissaries inside Great Temple Reach awaiting the pronouncement of each solstice message. The Desperate Lands kept to themselves, yet even they were said to have a representative present, albeit in the shadows and then gone before the light of day would find them.

Her thoughts came back to the present as the garrison loomed before them. The massive iron gates to Great Temple Reach were open and folded back against the thick walls of stone, walls which stretched to Bow Lake in one direction, and in the opposite direction, off to the shore of the Muirin Sea on the city’s eastern side.  

In contrast to what the great walls and gates projected, their entering the city came without obstacle. No one inspected their belongings; they didn’t even merit a glance from guards who were busy talking with each other, taking little notice of the folks streaming in and out of the city. It lent itself to an open and inviting city. She glanced at the castle on its lofty perch. She knew better than to totally accept the city’s apparent openness. The garrison was more like a wonderfully woven silk web, where Lord Wallace was the one and only spider. Until now she was far from his notice. That would be different should she be chosen caretaker-of-the-cup.

They passed through the gates and into the market area: stalls, concessions, carts, horses, children, and a plethora of stray animals scampered about, the children happy to be a little out of reach of busy folks selling their wares or making purchases. She noted the cleanliness of the market area—brushed down every night by the order of Lord Wallace, lest an unpleasant odor should sail upon a breeze to his stately palace high on its hill at the center of the city. A puff of smoke from the forge touched her nose, and she could hear, above the din of those gathered the pounding of a hammer on an anvil. Other aromas greeted her senses, a cornucopia of things being cooked or baked, seared on an open flame or turned on some spit.

“I need but a short time to meet with Simon,” she said.

“I’ll be done before second moon rises quarter,” he added.

“You sure you don’t mean Amaris? You being so in a hurry to be alone with me.” She kissed him on the cheek. His eyes told her he was back to his ponderings.

“I’ll be waiting at the Sabre’s Inn before Balac gets a chance to yawn.” He turned and was on his way.

She watched until he disappeared into the crowd. Her heart sank for his grieving, a grieving she could do nothing to relieve. She could only hope they were both wrong. She could not admit to him he was right. To do that meant her family, friends, her home would be in peril.

She commenced walking north, away from the market area, the castle looking down at her. She continued further to the other side of castle hill, the temple area—her destination.

Another shiver in her source, how far had she come from when she would visit the temple and be lead around by her favorite cleric? He was a younger man back then, and she a small girl free of all concern, and full of dreams for her uniqueness. What she would give now to have been born on a different day.

People passed her by, and they exchanged nods; not people she knew, neighbors none-the-less, their numbers dwindling with her reaching the top—the inner city where the nobles, teachers, scientists, soldiers, and other professions lived. She took a direct path north to where the visiting area of the temple provided an expansive promenade and view of the city below. Behind the temple sat the magnificent observatory, its tower stretching into the sky. There the scholars studied the heavens.

She simply knew him by his first name, Simon, a simple cleric back then. He had been her friend for so long. Now, he was the head cleric. He loved life, and he loved food. She smiled, remembering her last visit. He would not stop commenting on the new tea he had found, something new from the Vineyards Expanse.

“Source must be nurtured,” he had said. “It’s not enough that you turn your face to Ogmia when the sun begins to shine; you must also nurture the source of your being so it too gives back to Ogmia.”

The best place to find Simon would be in the main dining room. She crossed the promenade, pulled open the door and entered the dining area. He was probably near a window. A quick sweep of the expansive facility—ornate with cubicles of live flowers, art objects hanging from the ceilings, and pulsing with delectable aromas that begged indulgence—revealed her target. He sat feeding a small squirrel. He held a morsel of food being nibbled on by the squirrel, and with his other hand he sipped his tea. He looks so engaged in the moment that she almost retreated and let him be. But it would appear his instincts were on alert, and he turned to where she stood watching him. The squirrel took a last bite, looked her way, marked her for some foreboding evil coming to interfere with its meal, and scampered away beneath the table.

“Come. Come sit with me.” He put his hand on her shoulder and kissed her cheek. “I was expecting to see you today. The warmth of the sun told me so.” A broad smile spread across his face. “Plus, last time we met you said you would look me up when your husband came to book market day.”

The smile left his face. He looks about furtively. “Sit down, Brenna. Sit down. Let me get you a cup of tea.”

She waved him off. “Let me get the tea…. Can I get you one?

“No, I still have plenty, thank you.”

She returned and sat across from him—a few sips in silence before she approached the subject they both knew was the purpose of her visit. “Will they pick me?” She put her cup down; it rattled against the saucer.

“I used to be a confidant of Lord Wallace. But that was before what happened… what did not happen in the last three rituals. Now I am only allowed to feed the squirrels. I fear not for myself; the path I travel has mostly been of my own choosing. What happens to me is of no consequence. Any fear I have is for those I have counseled, those whom I have guided. Perhaps I gave then more danger than good fortune.”

He did that  look around, once again. Could her predicament be causing him such concern?

“My dear child, I wish I knew what will happen next. In these times I have as much to say in his decisions as does the grass to how it will bend to the wind.” He looked away. “You must not come visit me again. That much I can tell you. Stay far away from me and this temple with all of space you can muster. I know Wallace’s eyes are on you. That is all I know. I believe that anyone who sits in my favor might be a target for Lord Wallace, and you being a most qualified caretaker makes you so much more.” He replaced the cup in the saucer; steady like a rock for a man with such concerns. It would appear he was more concerned for her than himself.

“I—”

“No, it’s time for you to go. No more.” He got up, kissed the top of her head, and scurried through the door.

All right, that went well. Her thoughts tumbled in turmoil as she made her way back to the market area. Surely, if Simon thought she would be chosen, he would have told her. But, he did tell her, didn’t he? He had also recognized the consequences of her leaving, no doubt, what would happen to her family. He knew she was trapped, and he could do nothing to save her. No, Simon, there has to be another way.

Devyn would not be finished yet. Maybe a few shops along the way would help: a new belt for Devyn, and pastry for their celebration to come, a wind chime made of small birds, intricate yet sturdy.

A calm of sorts came with each new breath. The shopping done she headed to the Sabre’s Inn. Surely, her wait would not be long.

She entered, and there he was. He held a tankard of ale; a goblet of wine sat across from him. His face lit up as she approached the table.

His eyes told a different story.

Happy Good Friday



I write this the evening before Good Friday, taking some time to look out at the evening rolling in over the farm. Cheryl is way down in a back pasture with the dogs, all three looking about, exploring the unfolding of spring; a bit late this year, I imagine; but then I always guarantee folks that in this region there will always be buds on the trees by April 25th. I picked that date to allow winter its most ostentatious display of how long it might last should it not want to leave.

In my youth, Good Friday help a most solemn, dark, yet auspicious occasion; the touch of an oxymoron there I avow. For a child, the statues and crucifix draped in purple, I was deeply lost and sad that someone great had died. I scarce understood the meaning of it all, and it would be a long time before I could glean an assemblance of such.

It only matters to me what I believe, and I won’t bore you with my journey with the spiritual.

I would, however, like to share one notion: the idea of custom, ritual, and celebration. Yes, the libraries are full of books exploring our cultures and our customs. Many such pilgrimages into our soul tend to look for a special meaning, hoping that such exploration will find one idea more enduring than any other.

My notion is that the idea of custom, ritual, and celebration is enough in itself. What we do to embrace those traits make it soulful, make it important, make it lasting. There is no need for it to be more than that.

Yes, I get it; when such rituals hurt others, then yes, they need to be expunged, or at the very least altered to inflict only goodness and acceptance on all our world’s creatures.

Happy Good Friday, everyone. Go into the darkness today, look for the light you might be seeking; let Saturday be your day where you might not even find yourself if you went looking (that being the message I give credit to Thomas Moore – Care of the Soul – and a myriad of other brilliant works): Mr. Moore expressed the idea that Christ in not mentioned on Saturday, and it might be good to ponder what Christ did on that day, and, so ponder what we might do to prepare for the light); and this Easter Sunday, find the light that you might need, the light that is in all of us, dare we take the time to look and cultivate.

The strongest, darkest, winter must soon enough give way to the light of spring.

Oops, gotta go, Cheryl and the dogs are back: time for a whiskey.

Woods

My Lower Paddocks


Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I have always loved this poem by Robert Frost. I used to past his old home-steed from time to time when I went to visit my son, and I have a collection of his works. I don’t know if he wrote the poem I have posted above while he lived in Derry. The woods there have mostly gone to towns, but his old home still has the look and feel of a farm.

I moved to Canterbury a couple of months back, the idea being to scale down on size and perhaps have a place for a horse or two, a few stray cats, and maybe a pair of goat . We will see, as we will allow the plan to unfold as necessity, reason, and inclination sees fit; yes, mostly my wife’s.

But I took this picture this morning as I was letting the Dane and the Terrier have a romp outside. The sight so conjured up the beauty and stillness of that poem above.

It is a beautiful world, no matter the angst that is stirring on the winds of change and progress. We all have our baggage, our struggles, our concern for the future. We must not let that take away from the incredible times we live in, the great technology, the gifts of modern medicine, the ability to connect over vast distances, and in having all that I hope we never forget the greatest gift: Being a part of nature, the world, its people and its grand array of life, and should we get a chance to look up, may all of us feel a connection with the vast universe.

The babies who request I go outside

A Matter of Age

A deep pervasive loneliness has crept its way into my space; a loneliness I have never felt before. And as the autumn approaches, there is a coldness I have never know, not at all like the welcoming fresh breezes of autumn that I’m accustomed to. There are no delicious colors, no hurried scampering of small critters preparing for winter, no bright sky where blues glitter from the sun, and clouds sail by with the blustering white of an old clothesline of sheets hanging to dry. No, this cold comes with an intention to destroy all foundation of habit and control, all the building blocks of place and belonging, all pretense of longevity and lasting. It is what the grave might bring, but this is before the mercy of grave, before the rest a hopeless stray to a merciless world could ever expect.

Perhaps it is a part of aging; perhaps it is part of too much memory, too great a stretch of what should be, versus what could be, versus what is. Perhaps life and its memories are nothing more than shards of broken glass meant to pierce the soul until it expires from the attack.

All it takes is that one precious combination of timing and disaster, and wheels that turned each day into a wonderful unfolding of a new beginning, no matter how trivial, now becomes the wheel of destiny, a moment when life catches up to you and demands its due: the fall, the retribution for whatever longevity you have achieved, the meaningless lost conjecture of it all, if there had even been a purpose.

Volkswagons, birch trees, oceans, pans of ice, tents, cold beer, hockey, sex, burning fires, stars, scars, tears, leaving, loosing, wins, gains, food, sickness, dogs, leaving, arriving, growing, learning, jumbled recollections of what could easily have been another person, as this one is all alone and waiting for a train that will never arrive. The Tracks were torn up before he bought his ticket.

Still there is the mournful child of endurance. He is the one who gives you your next step, lends you a hand that cannot get you up, but it promises it will never let you go. The endurance child is who taught you how to ride a bike, to swim, to play an instrument, learn a sport, and an assortment of other abilities which required more than wishful thinking.

But sometimes even the child of endurance needs time off. He has never failed to return, and so his twin will sustain me as I wait. He is the child of continuity. His job is to ensure no matter how complacent, how safe we find ourselves, the mere act of living dictates we have change and a wiliness to adapt to new and differing circumstances.

The old man in me almost forgot that, as much as the young man in me had no need to ponder such trivial matters.

The Noise

Oh oh, here he comes.

O’Reilly & Ollie

Why is it, just as I settle down, he shows up?

Ly is with him, so I might as well get up. Ly knew Ollie would just complain until he came  to get me out.

Boom.

That noise again. It always makes me jump. Why would someone make that loud a noise so late in the evening? Or any time for that matter.

Stop looking at me. I got up didn’t I? Go on in.

That dog is spoiled rotten.  

The light flicks off.  Ly’s off to bed. I love their bed, especially in the day time. You can lay on it and gaze out the window. Boom, boom. Ow, I hit my head. I know I’m not suppose to cause commotion at night, unless I hear something strange. This is not strange, but it hurts my ears.

They think I’m scared, but I’m not. If I could find what was doing it I would eat it, or at least chase it away.

Ollie is scared too. I can tell. He pops his head up, in that big bed of his, every time that loud boom sounds. For such a big dog he sure is a scaredy cat. I don’t know why they give him the bigger bed, I bark louder than him, I chase everything faster and further than him, but he gets the larger bed.

That’s why I go in and tear it up now and again, so they will blame it on him. My bed is never torn up. Yet, they never…

Boom, boom, wind against the windows, a deluge of rain upon the roof.

 Ok, that’s enough. They need my protection. Bark, bark, bark….  

 Oh good the door is not completely shut. A nudge with my head…  There we go.

Bark, bark. A light snaps on. Oh good, Girl is awake, and she’s saying my name so she’s not mad. She knows I’m here to save her. I’ll just stay here next to their bed until all the noise stops.

Oh no, what’s she doing? She’s picking me up. I don’t like being picked up. What’s she going to do with me?

Slow down, slow down. I need to slow down. I’m okay. Listen to her words. None of them make any sense but she is talking in a loving voice, so it must be okay.

Boom, Boom. Put me down, Put me down. She places me on the bed next to Ly.  I’m not allowed on the bed.

What’s Ly doing. He reaches out and pulls me close to him.

I like getting up in his lap to take a nap. This is not that. This has never happened before. Plus, he has not said a word. I hope he’s not mad at me. It was Girl who put me here. He has to know that, right?

No, he can’t be mad. Sometimes, during the day, when Girl is not around, he lets me stay on the bed. It even got to where Ollie and me both get up here when Girl is not at home.

But this is weird.

I’ll stay on my back with my legs in the air. Ok, ok, he’s rubbing my belly.

Boom, Boom. Ly is not afraid of the noise. I can feel it. Yet, I shouldn’t be here in their bed.

Where’s Ollie? Am I to be punished for waking them up? If I don’t move, I’ll be fine. After all, they have never hit me, and even when they talk loud at me it’s because I’m not doing what I should.

Yes, I’ll stay on my back, keep my feet in the air until that noise stops.

How long has it been? I need to go outside for a pee. Not yet though.

Should I close my eyes? No, stay on my back, paws in the air, eyes wide open.

The rubbing almost tickles. I should lick his hand to slow him I like it, but I don’t think I’m suppose to be here.

It’s been silent for a long time. Maybe I’ll roll over. Girl is in the way. She will have to move. A couple of digs with the front paws should do it. There, she moved. Ah, this is better. Which one of you two is gonna rub my back? The noise has stops. I saved us all. What’s Ollie doing on the floor down there. Shouldn’t he come up?

Why is Girl getting out of bed? It’s time for sleep. Oh, oh, ya I need to go outside.

She knows that. No more sounds. I had to hold it for a long time, and Ollie needs his drink from where the water runs. Then back to our new bed.

What? She’s making us go back to our old beds.They call each other by weird names: Ly, Girl.

I need a bed as big as Ollie’s.

This is the thanks I get for saving them from the noise.

The Confession

The Confession
by
R.L.S.

New Year’s Eve, a sultry bar—The Rusty Anchor, the windows echoing the light tapping of the wind—the spirits of old fishermen looking for a leeward place to steady themselves from the bitter winds and frigid salty ocean spray that made their life so short. No rattle of bottles or clinking of mugs, at least not tonight.

Most old-time sailors were long-gone to their rest, of course, and the younger ones who fished on the big trawlers were tucked in with their families and friends for a night of celebration that was more about balls dropping, champagne, and movie of the year than any business on these gloomy docks.

He glanced at the clock, a few ticks after nine; a glance in the mirror gave up the bar’s only patron, himself. The bartender had disappeared in back. No matter, he preferred being alone.

How had he gotten here? Was he the victim of dreadful improbable events that should not have come together? What was that science program he had recently watched: the Kuiper belt? …in extremely rare circumstances a chunk of ice would get pulled into the gravitational vortex of the earth, collide with the atmosphere with such velocity that it would burst into flame, and leave nothing more than a brief flicker of light in the sky… He felt a smile begin to unfurl. Another sip of whiskey and the notion of a smile vanished. Few would see the chunk of ice disappear. None of the few that did would care. Was he that chunk of ice—here he was now: cold and alone, trapped in a situation too late for any possibility of escape?

He lowered his glass into one of the many spills covering the splintered wooden bar, and tapped the bar twice. The bartender appeared without a look or a word, and tipped the three-quarter-full bottle. He nodded, took a sip and allowed a furtive look towards the door. How long had he been here? One, two hours? And still no sign.

His left hand quivered. He pressed it against the bar; smears of blood. He had used his shirt to wipe away what he could before tossing the shirt into the bay. The t-shirt and black coat he wore were more suited for autumn that a cold winter’s night. There would be no going back to his room to get another shirt or a better coat. That ship had sailed, so went the old axiom: bridges burnt, horses or fucking cows leaving the barn with the doors open; whichever way the words went. His brain exploded in full realization that none of those ridiculous clichés gave any measure to the magnitude of what he had done.

*****

“Bless me, Father…” The subtle aroma of spring flowers floated in through the small opening in the wall, lavender maybe; a memory of his sister popped into his consciousness. He pushed it away, but the smell lingered, as did the memory of Celia. He was unable to identify for sure what the wonderful aroma was, not being versed enough to tell one flower’s smell from another. His knowledge ended with telling the difference between a rose and a tulip, only then because he saw so many roses at funerals, and the lilies were always on display at Easter. He knew even less about women, coming from a family of four boys, and only one sister, she much younger than him. He had been shuffled off to the seminary at a very young age; his best memory of her was she as a child.

He came back to the present as he registered the woman stumbling with her words. “I don’t know when it was I had my last confession.”

He had given up long ago saying, “What are your sins, my child?” Maybe that was when he had found out early on that few of his visitors were in fact children, and their dumping of sins was often as repetitive as a drunk saying, one more time, he would never drink again as the last vestige of a relationship passed out his door, someone escaping the wreckage that would most surely continue. Not that he condemned anyone; he merely came to accept that the repetition of sin was not much different than taking a piss or a dump. You wipe your ass and move on until it happened again.

…and so he said, “You bring a most wonderful reminder of spring flowers. What is it you would like to share with God?” He would have liked to explain that he was not playing at being God. He was more facilitating a direct talk with God where one could be honest and sincere. He believed that to some degree. Yet, he knew somehow that the people who told him their sins looked to him to forgive them, as if he were the one in judgment. There was no amount of talking that could explain the difference, and so he allowed the sinner to follow through as they saw fit.

Silence, other than her breathing, labored short breaths, and then a small sniffle; different than the effect of a head cold.
He held back a smile as he realized he was sort of an expert on such things; sitting here in the dark, his ears became his eyes. He had learned to read what the penitents were feeling and groping to share, often in conflict with what their words depicted.
“Father! It’s… it’s okay if you hate me for what I’ve done. I’m sure God does.”
She was a young woman. Best he go slowly and not come across insincere. “God does not hate anyone. He hates sin, but he loves the sinner.”
“I have to tell you my sins before I can be forgiven, right?”
Her pain was almost palpable. “No, you may focus on your sin and then ask for forgiveness. Our church teaches that it might be best to share with a priest as doing so states clearly what the sin might be, and in granting absolution both the penitent and priest understand the sin being forgiven. The priest might then offer a suitable penance before granting absolution, such that the penitent might reflect on the sin so as not to repeat it.”

More silence. She blew her nose…, and stuffed the tissue in her handbag. She shifted on her knees, and in the dim light through the small latticed window he watched in his peripheral vision as she bowed her head.

“I didn’t want them to do it, but I let them.” She got up, pushed the door to where it slammed against the confessional booth. He could hear her receding footsteps echoing against the walls and ceilings of the expansive basilica as she made her exit, …and then silence.

The door opened, and someone else entered. “Bless me, Father…”

*****

The young woman’s confession had taken place months ago, somewhere around the middle of July. His first assumption was that it was a young girl having her first sexual encounter. He remembered discussing that very topic with many of the other priests. He never saw it as temptation. He saw it as the natural urges of young men and women to pursue what the universe had given them—an incredible need to continue the species. How many got too mixed up in the sin and missed entirely the new responsibility of being sexually active? Once again he was no expert, but he had heard every view from it was God’s fault for making them want sex, to it’s not really sex unless there’s a child conceived.

He pondered in the weeks to come that the young girl might carry a more serious grief. The word that lingered with him from what she had said—them. That gave her sin a different possibility. Plus, her demeanor was one of total desperation. He thought of his sister then. No matter, the young lady was now long gone. He had decided to let the mystery settle in with the many others that came to him in the confessional over the years.

Now as he sat at the bar, even a small glimpse into her suffering soul resonated into a terrible sadness. He had not come here tonight for his usual escape; the finality of that flashed through his mind.

He loved the docks and he loved the water. He also loved to drink. Not to excess, just enough to keep the edge off of the strange life he led. It was by no means a hard life, but it had those few moments which shifted his very soul to scream stop; let me off. He had suffered the indignation of the priest scandal, where even a few of his pastor friends were shuffled away. He had scolded himself for being so naïve, even worse when he recalled some of the confessions where young men and women took on as sins of their own the cruel acts of the maggots and the filth of society. But even now he could not help but lift his glass to the true sinners. “May God forgive them.” There was no one about to even answer; so he did, “Amen.” And he allowed the priest inside him could forgive. It was a whole other matter for the man who had bared witness to so much. Was he and the priest even the same? Another question that would never have an answer. And so, he had found the docks, and the many bars in the area that asked no questions of him.

Growing up he had assumed he would be a fisherman like his father and two of his older brothers. When his mother died everything changed. His father became withdrawn and angry. His father’s love of whiskey went well beyond his hold on the bottle, and in many of those drunken stupors his father informed him that it was his mother’s wish he become a priest. In his final year of high school the decision was made, and he was shipped away.

His brothers, sister, and father had come to celebrate his ordination, and even though they were on different coasts they would find time to visit every so often, each telling him how their mother would be so proud of him. Still, he secretly longed for the sea and the life of a fisherman.

It did not bother him as his brothers started families that he could not. Families, he soon learned, often came with secrets and dark places in great violation of the love and safety they depicted to represent. The things they told him in the confessional scorched his soul to where he would come back to his small room, get down on his knees, rock back and forth, and dream of the sea: wind and rain, high swells and white water, hard work, far away from the sins of this world. And every time he would get up off his knees and move on; his mother had wanted him to become a priest, even though he never once remembered her saying that to him directly.

Perhaps the Nor’easter was the catalyst for all that was to come. And as one disaster might well insist on another, so it was that the second one went on to stamp a spot of darkness on his soul that knew no God or master. Two of his brothers on one boat, a hell of a storm, both lost at sea up along the coast of Maine. He had moved back here then to console his father, sister, and his only other brother. But his father was broken, and his sister soon found herself alone in a house with no parenting.
.
Instead of recognizing that Celia was a lost girl without a mother or father he had merely resented the shame that came when the principal of her school tracked him down to discuss his sister’s fall from grace, and his father’s apparent inability to deal with it. She was skipping classes, producing only failing grades, disrupting classes—the few she bothered to attend—and the principal informed him she was using drugs.

He talked with his brother, but Jared had family problems of his own. His father merely brushed him off as a priest who knew nothing about real life. When he finally spoke with Celia she screamed that she didn’t need a priest, she needed someone who gave a damn, not some prayer spewing robot who hid away safe and sound in some boy’s club. Her cutting remarks accused him of not being there for her. It left him feeble and useless. He took on her problem as his own, he the one being shamed, he the one having to deal with the circumstances—the school and the principal. He had totally missed the child that so needed help and guidance; he only saw the lashing out and the rebellion and his shame. He let his own feeling take precedence over the real guts of the situation. Returning to his parish, he researched the many forms of wayward behavior of teenagers, spending weeks on the computer looking for a solution, when he realized, too late, all he was doing was avoiding getting truly involved.

She skipped out one evening and was found overdosed on a park bench while he sat safe and sound in his parish rectory, becoming an expert on teenage difficulties.

Not a year later he received a call from the local police department asking if he was the son of Jack Martin. With the help of the many empty bottles spread about his house, his father had joined them there on the floor one spring morning. No need to research that one; he was dead; the alcohol had done its job.

He swore he would never leave a soul in need ever again.

This bar held a picture of his brothers and the others lost, but none knew they were his brothers, and none knew he came to drink not only for them, but for himself and his failure of his sister and father.

He gave another tap on the bar.

*****

“Hello, Father…”
That smell again, spring flowers. “You’ve come back.” An icy chill shook his being.
“I have nowhere else to go.”
“Do you not have family?”
“I did, once.” Silence. Shuffling as she shifted from one knee to the other, clearly uncomfortable.
“Would you like that we meet outside the confessional where you might sit and be more comfortable? Something he rarely offered.
“Oh, please. Yes.”
“If you will sit in one of the pews in front, I’ll finish with the two other parishioners waiting outside, and we will find a private place to talk.”
“Thank you, Father. But I only have a few minutes.”
“I’ll be quick, promise.”
She got up and left. No footsteps echoing off the walls this time. He listened to his two parishioners’ confessions, gave them absolution and their prayers of penance. The Lord would forgive him that he might have sounded a little impatient with the second penitent. He took off his purple stole and exited the confessional to an empty church, other than the woman facing forward in the front pew. It was still two hours to the Saturday evening mass.

He gave a slight cough so as not to frighten her. She turned and stood up. She put her hand out, and then pulled it back. He reached out his, and when she took it he covered it with his other hand, and smiled. He saw his sister’s eyes, not the same color, very much the same sadness. “There’s a rectory in back where we can sit and share a tea while we talk, if that will be okay.”

She nodded, and followed him. He offered her a seat and readied the tea. He noted as she glanced at her watch, and he hurried with the tea. Otherwise she kept her head down until he joined her.
Mid twenties perhaps, maybe a little more. Those dark circles on her eyes told a story of its own. He took a sip of his tea. “You said you had family, once. Would you care to tell me about it?”
“I met you many years ago.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t remember.”
“That’s okay. You gave the speech at the service when my brother and father died. There were lots of people. You were even sadder than me. You had lost your two brothers to that storm.”
“Oh my, your brother and father were on that fishing boat. Oh, yes I remember… you and your mom, such red eyes, Stacey… Stacey Driscol.”
She smiled. The smile disappeared as quickly as it had come.
“The sorrow, ten people died…” He forced himself back. “How’s your mother?”
“She’s dead.”
Another icy chill like the one in the confessional, dominos being stacked before they would all tip one against the other to some horrible finale.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.”
“You’re the only one I can talk to. I saw your grief and your pain even as I felt my own. I need someone who might understand what I’ve done. I don’t think anyone who has not suffered can really understand.”
He nodded and kept his eyes on her; no need to say anything, let her continue.
“Soon after the funeral, my mom… took her life, and with two months to go until I finished school I was alone. I wish they had left me alone. I gave up on God, the world, everything.”
“God will never give up on you.” Damn, I should have said nothing.
“Oh Father. I’m so far beyond needing God to do anything, including forgiving my sins. I could have handled being alone, the bottom of that hole would have been bearable.”
“What do you need?” Please don’t run. I can help you.
“I need you to take her away. …My daughter. She should not suffer for my sins. You have to help me.”
“I can get in touch with child services and…”
“No, no, you’re not listening. I came to you because there’s no one else who can help me.” She looked at the watch again, and got up to leave.
He grabbed her arm. “Wait, wait, I’m sorry. Tell me what you need me to do, please.”
She turned and stared into his eyes. “I have to go now. Can I come back tomorrow?”
“Yes, of course. What time?”
“Two, maybe three.”
“I’ll be here.
She turned and ran from the rectory.

*****

He glanced at the clock on the barroom wall. Ten had come and gone. The bartender had made two more visits, and the bottle was now better than half-empty.

One other person had come into the bar, asking for directions to a cruise ship. The person had seemed excited and anxious he not be late for departure. The bartender had explained that this side was all about fishing boats; the cruisers could be found on the other side, and he pointed to where outside his barroom door would show the well lit piers on the other side of the bay.

Perhaps she had changed her mind. A deep remorse took hold. Not only for what he had done but that she might have to witness and withstand the terrible aftermath. And her daughter, and her baby, what would happen to them? He clamped his right hand over his left to stop the shaking.

Had he lost his way with God? What a silly question, as if God had some plan, some vision for everyone that lived or had ever lived. He had lost his way with mankind, and most importantly his family. He might not have been able to save his brothers, but he sure could have done more for his sister and his father. At least he had connected again with Jared; though the two needing each other might be a better take on the reality of the situation. And every one of their meetings brought along the ghosts of their pasts where no amount of talking and sharing could make them at peace. There was a bond of shared misery and guilt, and that somehow covered the shame.

*****

The next day, a little after two, she returned. This time he had the tea prepared, and even added a few cookies.
“If you can’t help me, say so, and I’ll leave.”
“Of course, I’ll help you as best I can…”
“Okay, but once I tell you, that’s it. I don’t need you thinking and questioning, or wanting time to consider. If that happens I leave and never come back.”
“I’m not sure what you’re asking, but, yes, I understand.”
“After my mother died, I was three months from turning eighteen. There was no other family. Instead of carting me off, they thought it best I stay on in my home with a guardian, and finish my last few months in school, and as an adult at eighteen I could get a job and take over my family house.”
Stacey lowered her head and touched her belly. “I didn’t care much about living at the time, so I merely went along which what was arranged.”
Her story went from a sad tale of being left alone to incredible abuse at the hands of her guardian and the guardian’s boyfriend and his buddies. Even before school was out she was being fed drugs and alcohol to where she participated in anything and everything offered.

After school ended, the house was summarily sold, the money taken by her captors and she was moved to a house well isolated from any prying noses. Two other girls were added to the household, and the three were made to offer a consortium of sexual favors for paying customers.

She was cursed and beaten when found pregnant, and made to deliver her baby in the basement, the men watching and cheering her on, even as the girlfriend smacked the tiny child into life.

She was immediately after that put on the pill, a prescription that came without any visit to a doctor, the result being that four months ago she found herself pregnant again.
The only way she could get out to visit this church was because her four year old daughter was being left behind as a hostage, her captors too lazy to shop for themselves, their laziness at least providing the cover for her visits to him.
She went on to explain that one of the girls who had joined them had recently disappeared, and that the disappearance was final. They were none at all too subtle in explaining that the same would go for her and her daughter should she not do what she was told.

She believed that no matter who she went to for help, they would find out, first kill her daughter, and then kill her. She emphasized that a priest could not talk to anyone as this was a confession of sorts. So, he was the only one she would talk with.
The tears streamed down her cheeks as she told the last of her story. She continued to rub her stomach and wipe her eyes. “I can’t let them kill my daughter. And if I stay it will even be worse for her, and now…”
It was his head that went down this time. Celia had no one to talk to. His father in a drunken stupor, Jared lost in his own life, himself wrapped up in the work of God. His sister all alone sitting on a park bench trying to find some escape that perhaps she did indeed find; all because her remaining family kept thinking about dead people more than the living. The autopsy had showed her to be three months pregnant. The dark spot on his soul shivered as he remembered the details of the coroner’s report being read to him.
He reached out to hug her, to hug his sister. She recoiled and fled from the rectory. He followed. “Stacey, Stacey, please wait. I’m sorry. Please, let me talk to you.”
She halted but did not turn around. “I would kill myself. I should have. But then I would have given my daughter what my mother gave me.” She rubbed her stomach. “And this one pounds my insides. She wants so much to be alive. Even more than I want death.”
He went around to face her. “I understand what you’re feeling.”
“Then you know why I no longer want or need a God. But, I do need someone, someone that understands how desperate I am. Will you help me?”
“Yes.”

*****

A few clicks before twelve. The bottle was all but empty.
He had gone back to his room after that last encounter with Stacey, got down on his knees and tried to find the sea. But there was no escaping this time. Them. That was the same word his sister had used. “You’re no better than them,” she had screamed during their last encounter. He now understood what Stacey had meant when she used the word. And he finally understood what his sister was trying to tell him, and he had refused to hear. All the listening to sins, the kind words, the absolution, yet he had not heard his baby sister cry out that she had been raped, and then ignored by her own family. He might as well have done it to her himself. He had, and now his dead sister was coming back to witness his failure and suffer his weakness a second time. His heart cracked into pieces, his mind sped out of control: the insanity of it all, the hopelessness, the sundering of innocence into depravity and guilt, utter despair, …and then nothing.

It was dark when he opened his eyes again; his knees ached. He crawled toward the bed and cradled his head in his arms against the quilt. Tears followed tears until there could be no more, and he remained on his knees until the light came.
His brother had not believed him when he told him what he had to do. Of course he left out the details, but explained the circumstances many times over. The two had argued a bit about their sister, each wanting to take the blame that the other strived to embrace. He looked at his cell phone, knowing Jared would not contact him. He had demanded him not too. There would be no trace to what was ordained to happen. Stacy would call Jared when she arrived, from a disposable phone he had gotten for her; if she arrived. Dear God, please let her show up.

A change of name for her and her child, a new life with the two-hundred thousand that sat in his late father’s estate for him to claim. His brother had found a place where she would be safe. He knew of course that she would not feel safe no matter where they took her to. She firmly believed they would track her down and kill her, her daughter, and her baby. But Stacy carried another secret she had not shared with him.

The barroom door opened. He led her to a booth in the corner where she laid her daughter who was fast asleep.
“I’m sorry I’m late.” She looked down at her daughter. “She was sick and throwing up. I couldn’t take her out in the cold. I had to pay the clerk at the motel to go get her some soup. She finally fell asleep. She glanced at the clock over the bar. Plus, …getting a cab this late on New Year’s Eve.”

He sent the bartender away with two-hundred dollars in his hand, telling him they would be departing shortly. The bartender grinned with some evil conclusion he had made of the scene and headed to the back once again.

“You have to come with me. You know they’ll kill you if they find out you helped me, don’t you?”
“Stacey, make the call to my brother. It’ll take him a few minutes to get here.”
He passed her the disposable phone, the number ready to dial. “Yes, I’m here… We’re ready. She passed him back the phone even as she kept looking around, then at her daughter, and finally back at him. “I’ve never been more afraid in all my life. Please, take my daughter, and let me go back. I’ll kill them all, and she’ll be safe.”
He put his hand on her cheek. She shriveled and backed away a little. “There’s no going back. I watched as you pushed your daughter out through the window.”
“You were watching…?”
“Please, let me finish. I gave you a half hour to get on your way, and I climbed back in through the window you left open. You were right of course. They were all passed out, the extra strong dose of drugs and the crushed sleeping pills I provided did its job; even the other girl was fast asleep. Their early New Year’s party was meant to start early and end late. The extra dose of sleeping pills added to the dope made sure it ended early.”
He knew he couldn’t give her the details of what he did next; he couldn’t bring himself to believe it. Still it all flashed through his memory.

The immense amount of blood. He slit the girlfriend’s throat first. He didn’t want to see her eyes, but he knew who she was from the description he had carefully gathered from Stacey without her knowing his intention. She fell back onto the bed as the blood spurted out her neck. Her boyfriend was naked, his hand on his crotch, snoring in his stupor, a stupid smile on his face from some dream he did not deserve to have, the two lip rings that Stacey had described were holding onto something that had not made it completely in or out of his mouth. He pushed the pillow over his face and slit his throat, but he still sprung awake and grabbed his left hand. He tried to stab at the hand and did more damage to himself than the boyfriend. He finally managed a stab to the chest.

The second man in the bed tried to sit up. Covered from head to foot with etchings he looked much like an ad campaign for a tattoo parlor. He was the one who had raped her first. He screamed an obscenity. A slice to his throat turned the screaming to gurgles and he slid back down on top of the other two dead bodies.

The other girl was by now awake. Stacey has said they called her Blondie. She scratched her blond hair as she tried to focus on what was happening. He screamed for her to get her clothes on and get out; she did so and was out of the house before the blood stopped dripping from his knife. His white shirt was covered in blood. He poured the two gallons of gas over the bedroom, lit the match and left. He removed his shirt and tossed it in a ball on the floor of the car, and put his black coat back on.
He left the rectory sedan a mile or so from the docks, wiped his blood seeping hand with the remaining clean spot on his shirt, and tossed the shirt and the knife into the bay, then headed for the bar.

He had almost lost his focus as he recalled the events. Stacey was staring at him, and so he hurried to continue. “I got the girl out of the house, but the girlfriend and her two boyfriends are dead; I burnt the house down so it will take some time if ever to figure out who they were. I leave it to God to figure out what they were.”

“Oh, Father, no.” She shook her head, again and again.
“Stacey, you never have to fear they will come for you.”
“Oh, Father, no. I was going back to kill them once my daughter was safe.”
“Yes, I know your secret. I knew you had no intention of saving yourself, only your daughter. I could not allow that.”
Head lights flashed in the window. “Let’s go. He picked up the child and carried her to where his brother waited. His brother tried to talk with him. He pushed him back inside the car. “No, no, please go.”
She looked him in the eyes. “Father, this was not…”
“Go. It’s what needed to be done.”
She kissed his cheek.
They sped away.
He touched his cheek; the cold wind brushed the warmth of the kiss away. A bell tolled; he looked out across the bay as a cruise ship pulled away from the pier. He turned and went to find his penance; a penance that was not something a few simple prayers would satisfy.

The Lock

The Lock

 

You can hear creaks now and again
Especially when the wind blows hard
And rain pelts the roof
Both looking to find some way in, perhaps
I know well the sound of the pipes
Especially in the cold of winter
When the sheets can’t do the job
That the water veins do best
Special oils and paints
Sculptured rock along the greater wall
Moldings like ribbons in a child’s hair
Polished knobs and handles
Special rugs to adorn its hardwood floor
Yellow light recessed to not intrude
And as to bid anyone inside a warm welcome
The fireplace where the heart might rest a beat


Early mornings and late nights
Song and food heaped on gathering after gathering
Scented oils sailing through its doors
Giving each room a sacred blessing
Holding all the grief a family might find
In the decades beneath its roof
Holding better the love and sustaining
And the mutual care one held for the other


To not be closed upon itself
Windows and glass doors
Looking out at stately trees
Where the druids hide in the black oaks

But it is time to go
The last light dims to the touch
The key turns in the lock
The lock separates us forever

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My Mom is A Hero of Mine

I don’t have any men heroes (I think I’m changing that notion as my sons grow older, but that’s another story). My dad died when I was nine, and after that I took little interest in what men had to say. If the latter comment is connected to the first I have not found a way to break that link.

My mom is a hero of mine. She has passed, a few years ago, at the age of 97, perhaps a year or two longer than she should have stayed, but until then she lived a full life that any “demi-god” would be proud of—I believe ‘heros’ means just that, demi-god.

She became a teacher with only a high-school education, and when barely a young-woman, left her home and family to teach in various Newfoundland communities; gone for nine, ten months at a time, she went among strangers, lived with one of those families, and instructed their children on a day-to-day basis; she was a missionary of sorts in those days of no roads, cars, television, or electricity.

She met by dad in Brent’s Cove, and somewhere in her early thirties they married, and even then she moved away for a year to take a teaching position in another community, before returning to Brent’s Cove to settle in. Her first two children died at a very young age – the cost of being so isolated from hospitals, though one of them died in a hospital where he had gone to be treated for a bad case of eczema, a strange mystery death that is now lost to the times.

I was given last rites by the local priest, but miraculously (now painful for the rest of the world?) began to breathe again, and somehow made it this far.

Long before I judged her a hero (heroine does not seem appropriate, that word denotes the premise of a Wonder Woman movie) she had done what most women could not in that time period—go her own way, and do her own thing.

She had but a short time with my dad before he died; she saw no reason for us to remain in the small fishing community (that’s a story in itself that begs to her heroism, but I would rather leave it buried) after his death,  and so we moved the big city, St.John’s, an incredible move for baymen(women)—a widow and two children. She found a teaching position; you should have seen how bad the pay was then for women as compared to now(yes, uphill both ways).  She took in ‘boarders’ to bridge the need-versus-have gap, taught school, and hobbled about on her one-good foot (Yes, another story) to ensure my sister and I where educated, clothed and cared-for.

We stayed in St. John’s for five years, and mom decided she would head-off to Montreal as the teaching job in St. John’s was not enough to sustain us. In Montreal she found an apartment, a teaching job, and there we settled in. She was mid-forties by then. The world was evolving quickly in the sixties, more women in the work place, the Cuban crisis, hippies, and changing times. Her school required better teaching qualifications.

So, she worked all day, bused it down to McGill at night, came back, corrected papers for the next day of classes where she taught, and woke up early to take another bus to her students. This she did for years as she earned her degree from McGill University.

She was forced to retire early(yet another story; demi-gods have lots of stories) and spent a good deal of the rest of her life traveling, always alone, always made friends, and always laughed at the wonderful times the traveling provided.

She was a self-made woman, one of a hearty crowd that sprung forth form the early settlers in Newfoundland.

Happy hero’s day, Mom!

 

She hid her strength behind a smiling face

Her noble nature sat on equal with everyone

Never looking down

No manner of jealousy or envy made her look up

She was who she was

Nothing more nothing less

A true creature of the planet

Who followed her own path

Yet making sure that others were not left behind

The Flame

What makes a fire go out? You would imagine lack of fuel. And that might be so with actual fires, thought they do get doused now and again with a reversing wind or a trouncing rainstorm, and of course there are mixtures in canisters that do more effectively what a covering pan over a unwanted flame could accomplish.

 But those are not the fires which interest me at the moment. The spark of life, what makes that want to continue? What makes it want to go out? Here again there are certain easy answers: old age, pain, great loss, illness, a myriad of other conditions that come with the living process.

I happened on an article of a 104 year-old man celebrating his birthday. His birthday wish was that he could die. He seemed healthy, smiling, and in full-charge of his faculties; though yes I am making a grand list of assumptions from the short article on the matter. He was a scientist who was now planning to go to a country which allowed the ending of one’s life. His position was that he had lived too long, twenty years longer than he should in his estimation. So, for him at least, mid-eighties marked the termination point.

I have lived with folks who have stayed-on long past their true living points, dementia having set in, any interest in anything long gone, including any sense of who they were. I was happy for them when they finally made the transition, a transition long and hurt-full for them, that had nothing to do with what they might have wanted should their reasoning be intact.

Yet, it perplexes me to fathom where the breaking point comes between choosing life and being allowed to die. I have a view, but it is deeply rooted in my spiritual beliefs, and would not impart any objective value to such a decision.

Instead I offer something else. Life is about doing, learning, exploring. It is about eating, drinking, celebrating. It is about pain, losing, strife. It is about winning the beginning to each new day. Take away parts of this and the flame grows dimmer, to when all else is gone, and where even if food and water be in abundance as fuel, the flame will snuff itself out, thought the body continues on with its fuel consumption.

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A Writer’s Journey

A week to go before April 15th, and what was I doing at 6 am, this morning? Yup, having a coffee and thinking about writing. I wasn’t sure of the year so I looked back at my files on my laptop: draft after draft going back to where it started for me—April 2010.

There it was: evidence that I have a propensity to gear up for the next project as I see the one I’m currently working on, winding down.

I remember that moment. I was sitting having a coffee, early in the morning, and it hit me that I should write a book; no idea why. Yes, I am a prolific reader, always have been, with interests that go from Fantasy, to Spiritual, to the science of the Cosmos.

I had no idea, at the time, as to what I would write about, but within days I was starting my mornings with my two fingers tapping on my keyboard, and it wasn’t long before sentences stretched into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters.

Then the hard work began. My words did not measure up to what I expected from the many books I had read. So I searched-out teachers and books on craft. I went through an editor or two. I sent letters to publishers, jumped into beta groups, explored the world of self-publishing along with its necessary cover designing, and the various marketing requirements that tagged along with the brave new world of self-publishing.

I’ll skip the next few years and jump to the last four. In the last four years I have rewritten my first and second books, changed editors, covers, and completed the series with a third book.

I learned along the way that writing is a science and an art. More importantly, the art is useless without the science, the craft. You get the craft from practice and by leaning on the shoulders of those who have made the journey before you. Learning the craft is key.

April, 2018, eight years of writing and rewriting. The Druid and the Flower, Ashima, and the conclusion, Riddle of the Keep, have made it to Amazon, and even as stand-alone stories they give me pause to be proud; the three encapsulate a journey that mankind might take, and  they represent my optimistic view that most folks are good and that our world with find a way to sustain itself.

My fourth book – I should say our, as my son it part of that process, is well on its way, and should be completed by year’s end.

So, what’s all this about? Ok, a little bit of marketing for myself, but more-so a brief moment for me to reminisce, as this morning the sun was shining, the coffee tasted great and I was thinking about how much I love to write.

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