Rosebud

rosebud-imgStories on the radio, the view-master, sledding, catching sculpins.

I loved going for a ride in the skiff. My dad would bring along a treat and we would sit in the front and let the spray and the bouncing through the waves excite us beyond belief—better than any roller-coaster we had no knowledge off, more exhilarating than a wild dog sled ride, which we also cherished.

I miss ice-skating and roller skating, comics, the Hardy Boys.

A cold Pepsi after a ball game we played sometimes in the park, sometimes on the street—cars being a nuisance to our fun; first put the peanuts in the top and catch them as they fizzed out the opening; someone always called “drops”. We’d hang in the store until we were kicked out, but not before we purchased a Popsicle – orange my favorite.

The fish and chip shop was also a great place. There, pinball machines, you had to leave a quarter on the machine as a way to get in line—three games for a quarter. The fries were hot, a special kind of soggy, and begged for salt, gravy, and vinegar – that too had to be shared with who came along with you. Sometimes you shared the pinball as well, one flipper to each; harder to pass the ball but someone to blame when the game went by too quickly.

The first days of summer, after school was done, the first snow, and Christmas.

The first long kiss at a party where the night was still young and there was lots of time to try again. Holding hands on first dates, especially when she was the one who reached out. Sex changed all that, a little like finding out about Christmas, all the better as you could now get what you wanted sometimes, but something was lost, nonetheless.

Fireplaces, lots of beer, skiing.

There was a time when friends were everything. Routines, card games, dinners, vacations, parties, like a wild and free flock of birds. Find us here, now there, what’s new? Try this, hugs, come on let’s go out and have some fun. No cares, the child still in control, the adult slowly emerging but at a loss to embrace true purpose.

I remember work, dedication, stress, breaking things.

I don’t particularly blame the transition—necessary as such learning is. Such times come like the two sided coin; what waxes great on one side has not far to reach to the other side where disaster waits its turn. This time has little to do with what will be missed; rather it is the sculpting of your life. You remember where the chisel cut, where the hammer smashed, and should you be lucky enough, where a loving hand brushed the dust away.

Rain, snowy days, sunshine, fresh air, music, good books, dogs, saying goodbye, new beginnings, reaching out, so much more to do.

But people come first.

The Last Heartbeat

The Last Heartbeat

Let the light in one last time
No going back now
To where the sparrows sing among the boughs
Building nests beside ponds along the perimeter flush with spring rain
Fluttering, joining in nature’s theme of rebirth and beginning
Intent on life and creation.

                                                                                                                   A filtered light no less
What else could a window bring
DoveWhen far outside the woods moan against the storm to come
Wondering where the warmer days have gone
Colorless, pale against the full moon’s reflection of the other side
Hibernation, not yet dead.

Draw the curtain
Burial of all that must be
Seasons have no place where the spirit dwells alone
When one must leave the other
Eternal, not a cycle to move from light to darkness and back again
Final, the last beat of a heart.

Two Tramps

AutumnI read again “Two tramps in mud time” —a poem by Robert Frost. He wrote it with a setting of spring time. I, for some odd reason, seek it out as the autumn leaves begin to fall.

I won’t try and interpret the poem—I would be wrong in any case. I often see things that were never intended; while others might think out of the box, I am nowhere near the box. Still, anyone reading the poem will get a sense of purpose versus desire and how they might come together. As well I always come away from the poem with a keen view of the vantage point from where I look at things has much to do with what I see—and I should be cautious to always remember and understand where others are perched went they share an opinion.

My main interest in the poem is chopping wood. Gathering wood for the winter is so in tune with nature. Animals that hibernate will look for a den; the nutty creatures of the world gather what they must. Spring’s purpose is to explode with growth and possibility; autumn demands we prepare to sustain. Chopping wood helps me go into that frame of mind. Yes, there will be holidays; but they too should remind us of thanking the good earth for its bounty, and as darkness creeps in we will ask the spirits to protect us through the long night.

The first row of wood is always the best, as it says ‘yes’ you will have fire; there will be warmth as the cold winds whirls around the chimney, and the heat and smoke rise to forbid entry. After the first row, there is a feeling of accomplishment—the rest will add to what was up to now a necessary task. I wonder if squirrels count their store in fashion?

Chopping wood conjures up what it must have been like when homes were heated entirely from wood; wood houses, piles like pyramids, axes ringing for days and weeks as they moved the cords of logs to what the long winter would require. Of course the smart ones were a year ahead of the cycle if dry wood was the goal—a whole different matter.

The chopping is much a form of meditation. The piece of wood is set to where the knot will not impede the split to come. The swing of the axe, one hand holds, the other slides along the handle with the arc of the blade. The wood and the axe are one; bring it down again on the heel of the axe, and let the wood do the work—the chunk of wood gives, and so it goes.

It is a good time to be outside and ponder what is to come; cycle into cycle, the more the hope that work will surrender to pleasure, and that pleasure might be one with the work. What other reason would we do what we must, unless we are doing what gives us pleasure?

We are all tramps in the mud unless we take up the axe for a different reason.

The Druid and the Flower – Chapter 3

sealsoftheages-book1

Chapter 3 – Walker Bob
Summary of the Journals
Subtleties of choice
Often echo unintentional transformations

***Bobby – Ten Years After The Collapse ***

Some things do not need an event to mark the occasion. Some outcomes are preordained. Perhaps it is a combination of circumstance and decision-making that sculpts character; perhaps the sculpting is subtle and slow-baked; perhaps it is hot like a hammer shaping molten steel. Years before the world fell apart many knew each day they woke that all hope was lost. The molding was complete, no polish necessary, the possibility of gleam long exhausted. More precisely, they no longer cared about hope. Such an attribute would mean they had aspirations of their own. This represented the people who served his father. Before and after the collapse those who worked for his father, served him and him only.

Robert MacDonald had no aspirations either. His father ran this city. The West End had once represented a city within a city—people with all sorts of backgrounds speaking a variety of languages. The area had sported three universities, all those students with their minds waiting for the store of drugs his father and his army provided; not the legalized stuff, which came watered down as a bottle of gin in a sleazy bar. Before the collapse his father sold misery to folks; after, he inflicted misery.

Bob’s dad liked to walk the streets and meet with the folks who sought his trade. He remained careful to have his well-trained posse by his side in case someone decided to welcome his presence in a manner not to his liking.

Bob did his utmost to stay out of his father’s way. That was not a task to be accomplished easily, no matter how great his effort. The same posse protecting his father kept a soft collared leash on him. No one wanted the wrath of his father should his father’s son come up missing.

Bob finished his workout in the private gym. Two hours of programmed routines under the watchful eyes of a trainer who reported all progress to his father. The last half hour required a ring workout designed to keep him up close and in focus with his fists, his body, and his face. Well, this morning’s ring work-out had only lasted a few minutes. The dude was still out.
He tied his worn leather boots and left the pile of workout clothes for someone else to clean up. Today was Saturday and his father had told him to be in his office by nine o’clock. The clock showed eight forty-five and his arriving on time necessitated a five-minute walk. He’d best not be late, as that would mean a lesson before the main lesson. He crossed the gym floor with the two guards flanking him from a distance. He pushed the two big doors open and stepped out into the sunshine. He moved forward and let the doors swing shut behind him. He walked down the steps well aware that his not hearing the click of the doors closing meant his two guards were following close behind.

Bob turned to the left as he entered the main pathway that joined his home, his father’s office to the right.

“Bobby! You know you got an appointment, right?” One of the guards rushed to catch him.
“Ya, I know! I need something from the house first.”
He continued along the path and through a wrought-iron gate guarded on either side by watchtowers. The real guards peered down from a perch well-hidden on the roof of his spacious home—a much safer and more functional place from which to guard the residence.

He opened the door and went directly to the kitchen, where he encountered his mother.
She glanced at the clock. “Bobby, you’re going to be late.”
“I need a kiss from my mom and a grape juice.” He swung the fridge door open, grabbed a long, slender bottle of grape and closed the door gently.
He kissed his mom on the cheek. “You’re right; it looks like I’ll be late again.” A huge grin spread across his face. His mother gave him a gentle pat on the cheek.
“You are a strange boy. I love you.”

Bob headed out the door, took a sip of grape, replaced the cap and tossed the bottle to one of the guards. “Let’s go.”
He gave his left shoulder a turn, attempting to press out a kink from having landed that last uppercut to the chin of his opponent and dropping him to the ground.
That guy was at least eighteen. My father is upping the ante.
Well, not bad for a thirteen-year-old.
The dude should not have smiled at me after I jabbed a few easy ones. I was hoping to have a fun round, rather than the usual lesson insisted upon by my father.
I bet the dude won’t smile tomorrow.

They entered the waiting area of his father’s office at eight minutes past nine. Bob took note of the time but held back a smile. This was not a place to smile.

He sat for twenty minutes; not like his father to delay a slap across the head for being late. Maybe he had something better planned. No matter. Bob would suck up whatever punishment he was dealt and get on with the day.

His father had told him this would be a day of instruction; he would learn how to use a weapon while on the move. Bob had already had numerous practices with targets, utilizing guns of many sizes and calibers—his father referred to these as the old stock from a romantic era. He liked to explain to his son how the old weapons released the feel of power to the shooter as they exploded their intent. Modern weapons were far more effective and deadly but gave no such payback to their user. But they offered an advantage while on the move—a burst that releases itself over nanoseconds should the first round not be precise as intended.

The large oak door finally swung open and his father’s main man ushered him inside the den, where his father and two other men stood viewing a screen. His father’s reference to his office as a den conjured up all sorts of irony. But then again, a den was truly the home of a wild animal.
“When did it happen?” his father asked one of the men. He turned to acknowledge his son’s presence with a slight nod.
“Don’t know, sir. There’s no time stamp on these old systems. The warehouse was empty. We didn’t give it much interest.”
“Well, this happened in one of my warehouses, so that makes it my problem. Why did we ever review the recordings?”
“It was a routine service, sir. It just so happened she took it last night.”
“Do you know who she is?”
“Cindy something or other.” One of the men started looking through items that had been collected from the site.
Bob’s ears perked up as he heard mention of the name Cindy. He had been to a birthday party two days earlier and had received his first kiss from a girl named Cindy. She’d been celebrating her fourteenth birthday.
Bob got up and moved closer to his father.
His father turned to face him and positioned the screen so Bob could no longer observe what they were viewing. “This don’t concern you. I have some things to take care of. So let’s you and me meet up tomorrow same time, and do it then.”
Bob pressed closer. “Who is this Cindy, Dad? Why are you talking about her?
“She’s a mess I need to clean up. It don’t concern you.”
“Dad, I know a Cindy. Tell me it’s not the Cindy I know. What did she do to you? She’s just a girl, and she doesn’t do drugs.”
His father gave him a stare designed to melt an iceberg. Bob saw his father’s fists clench and relax. Not at all like his father to pass up a moment to be a little brutal.
“You two get out. Wait outside. And close the door.”
He turned to Bob.
“If I show you this, it stays in this room, you understand?”
“Dad if you hurt her, I—”
“I didn’t hurt no one. Shut up and sit down. Tell me, who is this Cindy you know?”
Bob proceeded to tell his father about the girl and the birthday party.
When Bob finished the story, his father moved to the shock proof plate glass window and stood there, silent for a while. He turned and came back to the video screen.
“I don’t know if this is the Cindy you know. But if it is, you’ll find out soon enough, once you leave here and check and she comes up missing. It’s best you find out now. All our warehouses are monitored. Some more than others. This warehouse was empty, but monitored nonetheless. One of our men was doing a routine inspection of the equipment and he found this. As best we can tell, it went down last night. This is not pretty. We had to dump the body.”
“Dad, let me see the video, please!”
His father turned the monitor his way and pushed the rerun.
He recognized Cindy.
The video went on for what seemed like hours. No voice, nor was voice necessary to understand what was happening. So helpless, so cruel, so unbelievably gruesome.
Even his father turned away.
Bob tried to run from the office. His father stopped him cold and pushed him into a chair. “I assume you know the girl. That makes this even more a problem.” His father pointed to the screen. “You know who the guy is?”
Bob shook his head.
“We do. He’s a hothead punk kid who likes to think he can run a gang and take whatever he wants.” His father put his hand on Bob’s shoulder. “I got no problem with whatever he wants to do unless he messes up my territory. It now seems he’s messed with more than my territory. He messed with a friend of yours. That, son, is a death sentence.”
“Father, I want him.”
“One day this’ll be your business to handle, but this is my problem.”
“Father, this is not one of your problems. This is…was my friend. That punk is my problem. He has to pay for what…that…I wanna make him pay. Do you know where he is?”
“My men have him. They picked him up a few hours after reviewing the video. They have him at the warehouse.”
“Let’s go!” Bob made for the door.
“We go when I say.” His father turned off the video. “Let’s go!”

*****

They entered the warehouse. The blood had already been cleaned from the earlier scene. Jamie Devereux sat in a chair, bruises readily identifiable on his face, his mouth holding a gag.
One of the men turned to his father. “We gagged him. He wouldn’t stop screaming for his bloody miserable life.”
Bob approached him. “Untie him, remove the gag, and give him a knife.”
The men turned to his father for direction. “Do what he says.”
One man untied him and removed the gag. The other returned with two switchblades, blade in.
Bob took one of the knives and pointed to the prisoner. “Give him the knife.”
“I ain’t fightin’ no boy; especially no boy who belongs to him.” He pointed at Bob’s father.
“Suit yourself.” Bob tossed the knife to Jamie Devereux who caught it but did not switch the blade open.
“My guess is you’re better suited to fighting little girls. Well, you’ll never do that again.” Bob took a quick step and lacerated Jamie Devereux’s right cheek. The blood poured.
Jamie Devereux pushed the switch and the blade flew open. “Hey, I got no fight with you.”
“Oh, but you do.” Bob stepped in and lacerated the other cheek and stepped back before Jamie Devereux had registered what had happened.
The trick with a switchblade on skin required you to tear with the edge, not cut. More pain, more blood. Cutting belonged to surgeons. He wanted to lacerate, and so he did.
Jamie Devereux went into fighter stance, flipped the knife over. Bob read the move. Jamie Devereux intended to finish the fight with a stab to his chest. Bob feigned a jab, and as he had anticipated the other man reached out his free arm, a move designed to pull him in and plant the knife in Bob’s chest, clean and final.
Bob pulled back before completing the jab. He instead sliced through Jamie Devereux’s wrist as he tried desperately to retreat from the ill-fated extension.
The contest continued for some time before it became apparent that this was a game of cat and mouse but Jamie Devereux was not the cat.

Bob’s father had planned to teach him about modern weapons today. But there were some things even his father didn’t understand about power. The new-style weapons were fast and lethal, silent and effective killers. Yes, the old style weapons gave the feeling of power but they did very little to engage the emotions of the opponent, especially if they held one too. The knife presented power and emotion. The situation allowed each to assume some hope, some possibility of victory. Bob took care to take a small slice at a time; each slice took away hope, until all hope was gone. The sweetest part of victory came in knowing your opponent accepted that hope had abandoned them.
Jamie Devereux pleaded for his life, offering up all sorts of gibberish about how he was forced to do what he did to such a helpless young girl.
Bob let his knife end it.
“You should have said no.”

His father took the knife from his hand. “Go with my men. I’ll be along in a bit.”
Bob looked at the blood on his hands, ran them against his pants, and followed the two men out the door.
Bob’s father waited until two of his personal guards arrived on the scene. “Which one of you pushed the Devereux kid into doing this?
The two guards looked at each other before one of them spoke. “We did what you asked sir.”
“You forget this happened, you hear me?”
“And clean up the mess.”
Bob never forgot the name, Jamie Devereux, nor did he ever speak the name again.

***Bob – Twenty Years After The Collapse***

Bob was more than comfortable in his city. Well, his father’s city. He’d left his teens behind a few years ago. He took some measure of amusement in being referred to as a Gater—a play on words which aptly described his way of life.

The collapse had been a most glorious event for his father, who’d immediately recognized the wonderful opportunity it presented. Like rats on a sinking ship, people scurried everywhere, looking for a place to hide. The sinking city like the sinking ship offered no place to run, no place to hide.

All the wonderful stuff left behind—a gold mine beyond anything his father had hoped for—so easy for the picking, at least in the early stages of the wonderful disaster.

The West End was now a fortress inside a city that had shrunk from millions to less than a hundred thousand—not the doings of his father, though he might have hastened their demise as he gathered and controlled everything of value. The circumstances that destroyed the world were many steps beyond his father’s ability to comprehend. The collapse gave people extremely limited possibilities for survival. Most failed. His father thrived.

His father walked about the neighborhood with his guards in tow—a passive display of power. Walker Bob adopted the walkabouts for its obvious symbolism; though he learned that some theatre was necessary now and again.

He had his men pull the prisoner along behind him. They moved out to what had once been a well-maintained sports field belonging to one of the universities. The field had given itself up to trampled grass and rubble. Bob strolled to the center and waited for the word to get out. Walker Bob was taking a walk. His men had impressed upon the locals they’d best attend the meeting.

Walker Bob stamped out his second smoke and approached the prisoner. “Okay then. I need to know who helped you with this.” The prisoner dropped his eyes. He had already been informed he would not be leaving here alive. Walker Bob waited.
“That’s okay. You know you’re a dead man. But it’s not that easy.” Walker Bob gave a short whistle.
Six of his men marched from the back of the gathered crowd with four children and a woman, their hands tied behind their backs.
Walker Bob went to where the youngest stood, put his hand on the child’s shoulder and turned to face the prisoner. “My promise to you all is we will protect you and ensure you live well while under my care. In return you will not steal from us or betray us. This man has done both. He did not operate alone. I must know who the others are.”
Walker Bob turned his eyes on the crowd. He turned back to face the prisoner. He gripped the young boy’s shoulder; the small boy winced but was unable to withdraw from the grip. Tears formed in his eyes.
“I know at least three others helped you steal from my father. I’ll ask you one more time, and then I’ll kill this child.”
“No…no…stop, please. I’ll tell you.”
Quick movements erupted in various sections of the assembled crowd as the guilty men attempted to flee from the inevitable. Walker Bob’s men moved to intercept, but he stopped them with a wave of his hand. “They have no place to run. We’ll deal with them later.”
The names of the accomplices were gathered and verified by those in the crowd who’d watched them flee—three other men in total.
Walker Bob turned to the prisoner. “Say good-bye to your family, and choose your way to die.”

***Walker Bob – Twenty One Years After The Collapse***

His father had, soon after the collapse, decided the old university would make a great residence. The grounds now housed extended family and the personal guards who came trained to identify and kill any predator with an intent to attack. They watched for, listened to, and sought out information on a level that would have impressed the agencies of old. The entire clan of the city was now widely referred to as the Gaters—a loose derivation of the gatherers they’d been. Of course, they did not only gather what they wanted; they took whatever they desired from whomever they wished to. Many unfortunate souls fell in the wake of their precision raids.

Walker Bob understood emotion of any sort was a poor director of a careful plan. You might allow yourself to have one or the other, but not both. Not that he ever had an urge to lose himself in some flood of joy or remorse, shame or pride.

He needed to get about his father’s bidding, but for that he needed a key.

Walker Bob found his father’s right-hand man inside his house on his knees, puking and struggling for breath. He had come looking for him, needing to retrieve a warehouse log from his father’s office. The den stayed locked to all except his father and Reggie. His father was not due back until late afternoon.

He picked Reggie up and helped him sit on the couch.
“Bob, he poisoned me.”
“Who poisoned you?”
“Your father.”
“Why would my father poison you?”
Reggie coughed again, and a small trickle of blood dripped down his chin. “I’m old. It’s my time to go. Your father has to replace me. I know too much to remain alive. I had hoped for a more honorable way to die. You father has a strange way to reward all my service to him.”
He coughed, spit, and struggled for a breath. “Perhaps I can return the favor. I pushed your mother off the roof that night.”
“Wha—?”
“Listen to me! Didn’t you find it strange his new wife showed up so soon after?”
Walker Bob struggled with the rage inside. Rage he could summon at will to bring fear to those he wished to admonish. He never thought it could arise from a button someone else had pushed. His mother had fallen to her death from the roof many years ago. She liked to go up and gaze at the distant Big River, especially on a night when the sky was full of stars. He knew it represented a moment in which she conjured some semblance of freedom. He had assumed it an accident. “You’re a crazy old man.”
“I might be and lots more. But I remained faithful to your father and I did what he asked.”
Walker Bob pulled his boot knife and ended the misery, for one of them at least.

*****

Walker Bob had drugged all of the guards. When they awoke they would assume someone else had done so.

The last words to his father before he pushed him off was that his mother was getting her payback.

He stood at the edge of the roof where his mother had taken her fall. He gazed down.

His father lay on the ground below, blood and bone mingling together.

Walker Bob left the roof, went downstairs and outside.
There he sounded the alarm.

Some Days Just Suck

sad kiten Some days just suck.

All the bullshit about cease the day, enjoy the moment, grasp at your future. Some days you have trouble just wiping your ass. Well, I do anyway.

Those of you that read my stuff know I come packaged in a heap of optimism folded into an impossible ability to stay down. I remember Cool Hand Luke at the fight scene. Please don’t think for a moment I have such ability; my not staying down is in an air conditioned house against the heat, and a warm fire against the cold. But, I so admire his ability to get up no matter what. The other man kept hitting him, and Luke no matter what, would struggle to his feet and with arms limp at his side, take the next punch, and the next.

No, thank God I don’t live with that, but I do have miserable days. My thoughts wander to all the shit I might have avoided, to the emptiness of it all. Who the fuck would come inside this mind and tidy up? Not me, surely. Shame, disaster, remorse, more shame, childish things, manly things I should have avoided, paths left untraveled, I could go on and on.

Even when things are good, there is always a chance of calamity. Money can always test your resolve, a dishwasher refuses to wash, a fridge refused to cool, or on one of those special days a furnace gives up the ghost. Health is always there as a concern—your own of course, and should that be okay for the moment, there is always yours friends and family to be worried about.

Accidents of all sorts like to visit at the most inopportune times; animals keep you busy with more ailments than humans.

Most of these things we expect, and when they come we usually spit in the wind and take in on the cheek.

But some days are just plain old depressing. Maybe it’s due to a lull in the action, a time when the little demon of futility sneaks in to pester us. Nothing special is happening, but there is a pall of misery about the day, like a funeral is about to happen. Nothing to be done except endure and allow it to move through you and beyond.

Most days I know to keep a close watch on each moment as it unfolds, that is all I have to do. That is all any of us have to do. And that is not hopeless; it is the way of things. I remember the ways of rain. Sometimes gentle, sometimes it comes in torrents. Sometimes it teams up with the wind and kills what it can. But, then again it goes back to being gentle and cleansing, and is all about growth.
We can be no more than nature intended. It is feeble to believe we are Devine, and it is so much feeble to believe we are inept. It is merely the way of things.

Some days just suck.

A Final Goodbye

I did not know to hug his neck. It was not something we did— being men of course. I only knew to remain silent and wait. Tradition came steeped in tradition; it would not do that walls be torn down, or new ones erected. The ways were as they should be for a reason.

DAD - Me and lenBest to stand erect and watch as women pulled the evening in around what must happen. They were all about care and concern; protocol dictated a precise unfolding of the circumstances. How they knew what was preordained to happen, perhaps slipped my ability to comprehend.

The tie rack, in one corner of the room, stood incongruent to all I knew to be true. It was nothing more than a long pole with a base at one end and a primitive “Lazy Susan” at the top where the ties hung to be picked as needed. It was an ornament rather than a thing of function; he never wore ties, but they sat there nonetheless waiting his change in character. The handkerchiefs were another matter. They were atop the dresser and knew his nose as well as any breath of wind that came to visit. One always hung from his pocket, awaiting the next sneeze or cough. The mandatory cross hung above the headboard, and on the opposite wall a picture of St Jude, his favorite saint—the saint of lost causes.

Why would they let us stand so long? My mother scarcely noticed us, as she moved about and muttered between prayers. We were like the stoic soldiers on display at the presentation of The Nutcracker Suite—required to be, but not to be noticed. I of course did not quite understand what all the fuss was about. I remembered late summer, for some odd reason, how he had told my mother to stop hitting me on the bum—I had well paid for the indiscretion of having half burned down the garden. I recalled, yet again, how his pockets always contained some delight when he came from the store. He would give us each a pocket to choose and we would reach in to find some delight—a candy bar, an apple, a piece of candy—we enjoyed surprises.

I remember best his smell. He would lay down on the big couch, he always wore a woolen vest, I would snuggle his back. I would not sleep, though I got lost in the safety and closeness, care and concern, belonging and family—love.

I could not understand why they were so concerned, and it frightened me.

He asked to say goodbye to me, I scare understood why. He often took trips to purchase the items to replenish the store for winter, but that trip had already happened. Where was he going and when would he be back?

I should have hugged his neck and kissed his face. I never knew what a final goodbye meant.

I know it now.

The Lost Art of Reading

DogReadingSomeone gave me a book and approximately one week later I returned it as they happenstance where at my place. They were surprised if not taken aback that I had finished so quickly. I did not hurry through the book, in fact I had other pending projects so the book did not get the best of my time; plus I had my latest edition of Writer’s Digest to read, one of my songs needed tweaking, and I still do yet but another pass on The Druid and the Flower as I await the beta readers.

I am not at all bragging. I really, really have no understanding of how much other people read. I am always reading something or other. My wife is the same, usually about horses, dogs, all forms of natural medicine and host of other attractions that keeps her printer at a constant clip.

Neither of us watch sports, maybe that’s a game changer when it comes to reading. (Pun intended.)

I also read selected blogs, especially those constructed by other authors promoting themselves and their work. I never knew Flash Fiction existed some months ago, but my editor is a very capable Flash fiction writer, and I have become hooked. I follow a select few political commentators—as exciting as watching golf; but it lets me know which way the wind is blowing—the golf I mean.

I love words. I think everyone gets off where they read a clever line from Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, the immortal words of Yogi Berra, or a myriad of other clever people. There is something in us that loves a good story. There is so much bountiful information, with easy access, to enlighten any mind with new insight or give simple pleasure of a new world or idea. I hope dearly reading has not become a lost art to all the other media that so tickle the senses.

Many things might pass as we enter this new age of world instant communication and contact. Some would argue that if it is worth holding onto it will survive. But then I think about the food I eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced and handled. How water comes to us in bottles, pricier than the gas we buy. You can no more drink from a fresh stream of water, or chew on the new fallen snow, than you would eat two week old road kill. Lots of good things have gone their way, the most recent our freedom to make it through a scanner with our shoes on, safety is always a concern. We can no longer let a ten or twelve year old child walk to school by themselves, definitely not to the park. All doors are locked, guns loaded and waiting in some place where most likely they will be useless, but provide a wonderful opportunity for a misguided household incident.

Oh ya, reading. The chances are slim to none.

A full chapter from – The Druid and the Flower

sealsoftheages-book1

Chapter 2 – A Druid’s Journey
Summary of the Journals
Conor
The making of a druid comes with much woe

Conor Logan descended from a long line of Logans tracing his heritage back to the old country. Myth and folklore stored in the family journals told of sheep stealers and inn keepers; the family later, choosing survival over the gallows, took up fishing as a more assured if not more arduous way of life. Conor’s more immediate ancestors had immigrated to this land a couple of centuries before. Two brothers boarded a ship in the old country. One of the brothers died soon after the crossing, from a disease that took hold of him while on the voyage. The other brother went on to have a family of two—Benjamin and Daniel.
Those two brothers set out at an early age to make their fortune in the world. They undertook a journey to an island well east of the great continent, an island known to be teeming with fish of every sort. The two were fishermen at heart, perhaps feeling a connection to men before them who had earned their livelihood on the sea. The voyage began with abundant good spirits, from a small fishing port on the mainland looking east to a vast horizon of ocean. They sailed south and east to where their ship met with a raging storm as they neared the Southern Cape of Gray Rocks Island. This treacherous cape had earned the respect and concern of all who sailed those waters. The cape was often immersed in fog banks, appearing out of nowhere and remaining for weeks—a thick, gray soup. Such thick fog banks offered no visibility beyond your nose. Some even argued it was best to close your eyes in such situations as one could then at least provide a mental image of intended destination.
A pleasant journey turned to misadventure for Ben and Daniel. Their ship came captained by a seasoned sailor, but on a raging sea covered in dense fog, no vessel could be considered safe. The wooden hulled schooner slammed full ahead into the one hundred foot cliffs—another feature which made the Southern Cape famous.
Many an inn, where brew served the thirsty, might also serve up an old sea shanty that told of the cape’s dark past.

There’s a black crow on my shoulder
A north wind’s comin’ on
There’s a black crow on my shoulder
That howlin’ gale is strong

Been sailing south for many long days
On an angry ocean swell
If there’s any sight of land to see
This devil fog won’t tell

I fear we can’t go forward
I know we can’t go back
And the riggin’s talkin’ to me
The sails will give no slack

I hear a whisper
It’s the crazy ocean’s sister
She’ll take me to my water grave
She’s a siren, I’m her slave
Benjamin was one of two to survive; the other was not his brother. Ben finally made his way to the northern shores of Gray Rocks Island, and established a canning factory which supported the local fishing industry for many decades. The fisheries had since died as did the heart of the small coves about the great island; Conor’s grand-father was born in the cove, and left while still a youth, and traveled to the mainland to find new opportunities.
When the collapse occurred, Conor, little more than one year old, and his family represented a lucky few tucked away in the mountains away from civilization. His father and mother were soon before teaching crop administration and growth as professors in a large university. They left the “big city” setting and put what they knew into practice, a few years before the Conor was born.
The collapse ended all but necessary travel for them, and Conor’s family learned the need to stay hidden and leave few signs upon the land that they even existed. The small community of less than a hundred moved about as the ebb and flow of hunting and farming dictated. They shared with each other and hid any food—mostly preserves that could survive the stay for a return trip in their annual rotation.
The encampment they utilized in summer offered little to resemble a library, but it held a small cellar where a cache of books and journals lay hidden. He always loved returning to the summer area, as living there represented best his idea of home, the longest stay and the most enjoyable times he could remember of those early years.

***Conor At Six Years Old – Five years after the collapse***

Conor was six and his sister a few years older on this particular rotation. The cold of winter still stuck to their mountain quarters. It had been a difficult stay with deep snows and a scarcity of food. The herds that normally populated the area in winter had not returned. Hunting was difficult and sparse with success. The group was more than usually excited to be returning south to lower pastures in hopes of a bountiful summer growing season. The lush green valley thrived once again with flowers and wildlife. The rivers flowed fat with the deluge precipitated by the spring thaw. Conor was coming home, his favorite place.
Summer home allowed a special moment each day. When the chores were completed his mother would sit him and his sister down and read from one of the books or journals.

*****

This evening she promised to read from an old journal written by one of his ancestors.
A small campfire burned and the night sky twinkled with stars. A few others gathered as his mother took her familiar seat and readied the journal.
The attack came quickly and seemingly from all sides. His mother moved to snatch him and his sister to safety but the attackers had planned—and now carried out with machinelike precision—a near complete massacre of the small band of people. The terrible atrocity resulted in much screaming and bloodshed. This abated quickly as his friends and family were dispatched without a chance to defend themselves—so overpowering was the attack.
Conor could scarcely comprehend what was happening. His mind went numb with the violence he witnessed; he had no understanding to why such an event had unfolded. He wished only they had not left their winter home so soon. He and his sister, along with all the younger members of the small tribe, were gathered up and caged for the journey ahead.
A few of the elders escaped; Conor knew from what he witnessed that his parents were not among them. The attackers took nothing other than children.
A group of clan members circled the campfire and urinated as the others tipped over tables and supplies. The campfire hissed the only sign of counterattack against the onslaught.
They became captives of the Gaters—traded twice and finally ended up far north, where they began learning the ways of a particular clan somewhere in a city that had once been a major metropolis along the Big River.

***Conor At Fourteen Years Old – Fifteen years after the Collapse ***

Conor lived a bitter existence during those years. His sister fared even worse; being forced to take a husband at such a young age. The good news, should there be any, was that Tex owned ten other wives and carried sufficient rank in the Gater Clan to ensure Conor and his sister remained safe from harm from anyone other than himself.
His sister continually told Conor stories of their family and how things used to be, how they would once again be united, though he knew different. She kept him well-informed about the world they now lived in, guiding him in what it took to survive. She brought him books from the spoils her husband often returned with from his many escapades. Conor became an avid reader of everything he could get his hands on, if only to avoid the unpleasant reality of his surroundings. He felt the taint upon his hands of every book he read, giving a silent prayer for the immense price that strangers had paid so he might read.
Conor turned fourteen, the same year Tex informed him it was time to join the ranks of the raiders. At first he merely shared in the returning raid party stories of the hunt. Next he participated in the daily lesson, where he learned to fight and kill. Weapons, which at first were strange and awkward to his touch, soon became lightning deliverers of death. He joined in the raids before he turned fifteen; though his role was mostly one of gathering the contraband, he witnessed and was forced to participate in the carnage that took place, even if only as a spectator.
He rebelled as best he could; tried many times to talk about the violence, but Tex would have none of it. The more Conor pushed, the harder the slaps he received from Tex’s impatient hand. Tex and the rest of the Gaters only saw a boy who needed to become a man.

*****

His sister entered her seventeenth year a few days before. Conor returned to the house along with Tex. Tex came covered with blood from the raid and had consumed the usual amount of brew to anoint the cruelty he had displayed. Conor’s sister came down from upstairs to help comfort her brother, as she knew full well the shame and remorse he always carried from such episodes.
She went to where Conor sat and put her hand on his head. He could not even look up to acknowledge her presence.
“Leave the boy alone.” Tex pushed his wife against the wall. “You’re the reason your brother is useless to us on raids. I spend more time pushing him along than getting any real work done. This is your damn fault. I will have no more.”
Tex unloaded a mouthful of expletives designed to explain to his wife she paid too much attention to her brother. Brutality being his favorite tool of persuasion, he slapped her across the face as he took another gulp of the brew he held in his other hand.
“You’ll not disrespect me in my own house. I gave you and your little brat brother a place to live. And this is the thanks I get.”
Tex moved closer, his fist clenched for another assault. Conor, with all the force a young boy could muster, slammed Tex in the side of his head. Tex shook his head and laughed. He grabbed Conor by the hair and lifted him off the ground. He released his grip and Conor dropped to the floor, a backhand from Tex sending him careening across the room.
Conor’s sister screamed for Tex to stop. Tex cursed and gripped her neck. He threw his empty mug against the wall, took her head and snapped it back, breaking off her last words in mid-sentence. He cursed her name.
Conor rose from the corner in rage as the lifeless body of his sister hit the floor. Tex turned toward him with rage also in his eyes. The boy of fourteen grabbed a shearing knife from the block on the counter, then the man of fourteen plunged the knife deep into Tex’s chest.
Their eyes locked for one last instant. Tex saw then the demons who would drag him to hell, and Conor felt his soul tremble with the horror of what he had done.
His sister’s last words rang again in his mind, “Run, Con—”
And run he did.
He spent that night calling her name in a whisper. When morning came he never spoke it again until his sins demanded it.

*** Conor Seventeen Years Old – Eighteen years after the collapse ***

Conor learned that some things are not easy to run away from. The brutal massacre of his parents he carried with a mixture of irreconcilable loss and shame that he should have done something to stop what had happened. The killing of his sister left the burden of guilt and an empty void that he was alone. He felt the blood on his hands for what he had done to Tex, one demon telling him he should have done it sooner, another demon telling him murder was wrong.
He had raced from the island giving little thought to direction. He ended up south from Big River. The skills he had learned from the Gaters now became an asset. He knew how to kill and steal, move in stealth and take what he wanted. This new environment was bewildering and hostile—a perfect haven for his intense anger. He stole food and clothing wherever and from whomever he could and he learned that the will to survive is a mighty teacher.
In less than a year he’d been joined by others and they became a pack of feral dogs doing whatever needed to be done to survive. He soon lost all sense of social order and immersed himself in leading his small band to acquire what they needed by whatever means he thought necessary.
*****

They scouted out a small camp and decided the five of them—his favorite size group to hunt with—would easily overpower the group of three around the small campfire site. They walked in, weapons displaying their intentions.
The two women and the man at the fire stood and moved together, preparing for the inevitable confrontation. As they did so, Conor glanced behind him, only to be surprised by three men moving in from behind—he had not staked out the camp properly.
What should have been a simple overpowering exercise in intimidation and robbery turned to bedlam. The first shot came from one of three approaching from behind. One of Conor’s comrades flew forward and slumped to the ground. Conor dove to the ground, rolled and came up facing the three who had surprised them.
The air rang with the explosive pops of rounds leaving the chamber and landing in flesh, bone, and what else might be in the way of eleven people caught up in a tragic event.
The encounter was over in seconds, the scene now one of blood and silence.
Conor heard a click from behind. That gun was empty.
The gun he carried was empty as well. All of his men were dead.
He turned to face the last one standing from the group they intended robbing. She reached into her pack for another clip. Conor covered the distance before she could insert the clip, and grabbed for her legs, bringing her to the ground.
She hit the ground with a thump and began to strike at him with all her strength. Conor grabbed her arms and laughed at her feeble attempts to free herself.
Then the full import of his actions shattered him. He recalled his sister crumbling to the floor.
“Caroline!”
He let the woman go and he ran.
Then he ran some more.

*** Conor Nineteen Years Old – Twenty years after the collapse ***

The time following the incident, the madness of what he had done, the events surrounding the death of his sister, and before that his mother and father, etched themselves deep in his sub-conscious, mixing together to return in recurring unsettling dreams and nagging dreadful thoughts, all the time as he wandered in solitude, dragging the remorse on his young back. He vowed never to steal again or take another life. No matter what he did to push back the evil he had done, his mind insisted he wander inside a dark, heavy hell that all but engulfed him. Some days, he would hope for an encounter that would end his life, end the memories. The irony might be the resolve he now embraced, deemed giving himself up for the slaughter, as no less an evil than carrying out such a slaughter. So, he continued on.
The seasons circled while he took the time to adjust to his new resolve. He headed south from the extreme cold and when the winds turned warm once more he migrated north, keeping to himself except in the rarest of circumstances.
The solitude finally found him longing to visit one more time the place his family most felt at home. He could not recall the way; the path to where he was and where he had come from was but a blur and a series of disconnects to any discernable route. With a vague direction in mind he continued south beyond his usual boundaries. The new journey included gradual reorientation with people he met along the path, perhaps hoping to find himself again. When he could not forage from the forest he presented himself to whatever group he thought to be marginally safe and asked for food in return for work.
Most of the people he met were accommodating and did their best to offer him aid. This made him all the more guilty for the terrible things he had done to others and again the irony of the situation drove him to meet his demons as perhaps a path to himself.
Happenstance presented a large farming community that offered work in summer and hunting, trapping, and woodcutting in the winter months. He allowed himself to join the community, which in turn gave him a place to heal, rest, and ponder.
No one asked him too many questions. He worked harder than anyone and accepted only the food it took to keep him alive.
The community had a small library, which contained many books that dealt with mind development and scientific breakthroughs in the centuries before the big collapse. At first he could not even bring himself to pick up a book. He would visit there at times and only browse. Finally, one day when he found the library empty he picked up one of the books.
From that time forward, whenever he was not working he was reading and writing in a new journal the community provided him, once they recognized his propensity to write and read. He even took to reading to the children, and ofttimes adults, inside the community cooking hut.
In the months that followed he slowly regained a piece of his humanity and a terrible but necessary understanding of good and evil that he would be forced to carry forever. He recognized clearly the choices a man can make and he pondered how easily it was to choose evil over good. The difference lay in the understanding of life’s purpose.
Much of his reading time was spent researching and contemplating what that purpose might be, and when he felt another phase was complete he told the small community it had grown time for him to leave, and he continued on his quest to find his home.
It was during the early start of the next autumn he finally happened upon what was the last gathering place of his family. Nothing looked familiar, though he was certain of his surroundings—if only by the fire pit in the center where he had last seen his mother and father. He went there, knelt, and closed his eyes. Too much had happened since, to even wish them back; all he hoped for was a connection.
The footsteps behind him caused him to struggle to his feet and turn around. An old man put out his hand in welcome.
Conor blinked an opening through the flow of tears and shook the old man’s hand. “I am sorry. I’m just passing through and I will be on my way.”
“Sit, my friend. You do not strike me as a man in a hurry.”
“Perhaps you’re right.”
The old man bade Conor sit on a bench, where he joined him.
“I saw you arrive and kneel beside the pit. I knew immediately you were somehow connected to that terrible tragedy that fell on our community.” A young lady arrived with two mugs. “I asked young Stella to bring us some tea as I came to talk with you.”
Conor accepted the tea and they both sat a few minutes in silence. Conor then told the old man of his family, how his mother would read from the journals around the fire. The old man acknowledged they were his friends as well as Conor’s family.
More silence ensued.
The old man commenced speaking once again and Conor listened intently; the old man bowing his head, perhaps is shame, as he described how he and few others had escaped the massacre.
Conor gave the old man a hug and explained some of his own shame and remorse. “Some actions might well be your own but they do not necessarily define who you are or what you might become. A character is much more a long series of decisions and experience. Any one action, no matter how big, is but a drop of water in the lake of who you are.”
The old man bowed his head once again. “I sense your wisdom has come at a terrible price.”
Conor didn’t answer.
When next Conor spoke he expressed his intention to move on.
“Wait just a moment.” The old man scurried to the small hut behind where they had been sitting. He returned with a large stack of journals. Conor knew immediately what they were—the journals of his ancestors, including the writings of his father and mother. He took them and rubbed his hand over the faded leather.
“I don’t know why I kept them but I’m glad I did.”
“Thank you.”
Conor turned and walked away into the evening—his two pack mules with a little more burden, his burden somewhat lighter.
He read the journals from start to finish a few times; then he headed to where a few from his ancestral family had long ago lived—a place he would learn had been renamed North Face Cove.

And so it begins

Chapter 1 – Endings

The Book of Ancestors

There were but few among the multitudes
Who knew the way forward

Micca had gone to sleep the night before with the expectation of a beautiful and eventful day to follow. It so happened, this was the day she had envisioned, but it came at a terrible price. She pushed her feet into her slippers and made her way downstairs.
The satellite-feed monitor caught her attention as she entered the room. The green light indicated it was in the “on” position, but the blank screen told a different story. She sat and checked the connections. An examination of her other communication equipment gave her the same message. She glanced at her leather-bound journal―bulging fat and overflowing with articles and memorabilia sticking out at odd angles—on the right side of the monitor. The journal held a record of her successes and failures, her goals and her life lessons. All she had done—the planning, the gathering of like-minded individuals, the procurement of the necessary components, the building of the new community―none of that had prepared her for the immense trepidation that now filled her entire being. She shook as if the earth itself was shaking her. There was nothing she could do, nor was there anyone to contact. Her community was far away from the chaos that would take place next in most areas of the world.