The Plot

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A man sits at a table reading a book. It’s early in the morning, and he rubs his sleepy eyes. His finger traces the words down the page as he silently mouths the sentences. The phone rings.

Sheldon and Jamian were brothers cut from the same cloth, so to speak; yet in some ways they were as different as night and day. Sheldon, five years Jay’s senior, had gone off to MIT, and was currently teaching an astronomy class. (He had only come home now for his father’s funeral–which happened to be on the day before his birthday.)  He loved books and learning, and he was always pointing out the constellations and telling their stories, or, on a really hot day, he would point up at the sun and say,”That one star over there is just too damn close!”

Jay, on the other hand, hated books and learning–it gave him a headache. He never finished high school, and  could barely read, but he was not stupid. Jamian had a different kind of smarts. Since his mother had turned senile and the old man fell ill, he had been running the farm by himself, and he was good at it. And like Sheldon, he could make people laugh. He could make up a funny song off the top of his head, or tell a story that would have the boys roaring. He wore bibs all the time, which only lent to the down-home kind of boyishness about him, something the ladies seemed to find irresistible.

Now that the funeral was over, there was one thing left to do: spread the ashes. The old man had certainly mentioned wanting his ashes spread at a plot he referred to as Valhalla–because of the rows of huge pines–enough times for the boys to know they had a mission. And even though Valhalla was half-way up Pike Mountain, the old man hadn’t foreseen any problems with it. Of course, he hadn’t planned on dying in the winter, or right before a Minnesota snowstorm, or a few days before his eldest son’s birthday. Still, they had confidence that they could ride up there on the mare, and get back before the snow fell.

They left early in the morning with an eye on the darkening clouds. With two riders and two feet of snow on the ground, the mare lumbered along, painstakingly slow. By noon, they figured they were about half way. The snow started to come down; lightly at first, and then in huge quarter-sized flakes, falling softly and silently.

“Sheldon,” Jay said, tapping him on the shoulder.

“Yea?”

“Did you ever pretend that the snowflakes are like an army of tiny aliens with parachutes invading the Earth?”

“No, Jay, I can’t say I ever did. But I think that aliens would have to be a bit more advanced than that to traverse interstellar space…you know, come from another star system.

“Do you think they would attack us? I mean, they might be really hungry after a long trip in space.”

“Well, we’d like to think that they would have to be so far beyond our technology, that we would be the barbarians. On the other hand, Indians. Look what we civilized folk did to them.”

“Smorgasbord Earth, next right. Gas, lodging, and all you can eat.”

They rode on in silence for a while. Until Jay said, “Sheldon.”

“Yea?”

“How come humans are the only animals that need glasses?”

“I’m not even going to answer that one. You should pick up a book some time. I mean it; reading enriches your life, Jay. I know you’re no dummy.”

Finally, they reached Valhalla. The snow was coming down heavy now and the wind had picked up. When Sheldon opened the urn to dump out the ashes, the wind whisked them away, and Mother Nature put the ashes where she wanted them.

Even so, they had accomplished the mission and carried out their father’s last wishes, so they began the journey home.

When it started to get dark and they still had a ways to go, Jay suggested they stop and build a little snow-cave like they used to as kids, and spend the night in it. “C’mon,” he said, “It’ll be fun, Sheldon. I’ll dig it out.”

The snow seemed to be subsiding now, and Sheldon would rather have kept going, but this would be a real opportunity to drill it in his brothers head that a proper education is essential in today’s world. And a chance to get closer to his brother. And his toes were freezing. “Yea, okay,” he said, getting off the mare, “my toes are freezing anyway.”

Sitting back and watching Jay dig the snow like a gopher in a garden made him smile. Maybe not everyone is cut out to be a scholar, he thought for the briefest of moments.

It wasn’t long, the snow-cave was carved, and the two brothers were comfortably nestled inside. The snow had ended, and now the sky cleared, revealing the stars like shining jewels on an inky black velvet sky. Looking up out of the cave entrance, light pollution was nil, and the boys had a view seldom seen by modern man.

“Wow.” Jay was the first to speak. “I never knew there were so many stars!”

“That’s just it, Jay. You miss out on so much by refusing to read a book. Just think of all the wonderful things you could learn. Like, for example: you see that bright star over there?”

“Yea, I see it.”

“Did you know that we can tell exactly what that star is made of, how hot it is, how far away it is, and which way its moving by its light? Or that some stars are so far away, that their light, traveling at six trillion miles an hour, still takes billions of years to get here.”

“Amazing.”

“Somewhere out there,” Sheldon said, pointing into the vastness of space, “two black holes collided and sent out gravitational waves when we were neanderthals living in caves. During the waves’ journey here, we evolved into modern man, discovered science, and built an interferometer just in time to measure those waves.”

To the north, curtains of green and scarlet light danced across the sky.

“Sheldon,” Jay said after a while.

“Yea?”

“I’m sorry I don’t have a birthday present for you.”

“That’s alright. I’ll tell you what. I’ll considerate it a present if you promise to try to educate yourself a little, okay?”

“You got it.”

“Those are some awesome northern lights, hey Jay? Do you remember when ma used to tell us that the northern lights were caused by Eskimos walking on the reflecting ice of the North Pole?”

“Yes I do, but I know what really causes them now.”

“Like hell you do. But you could, if you would just pick up a book sometime. That’s what I think. But then, you never did care what I thought.”

Jay sat up straight and cleared his throat. He said, “When charged particles from the sun strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, they cause electrons in the atoms to move to a higher state. When they drop back to a lower energy state, they release photons, creating the aurora, or northern lights.”

Sheldon was dumbfounded. He stared at Jay in disbelief, and then remembered the book he’d seen on the table. “You dipshit,” he said, grabbing his brother around the neck, “I think you just might have given me the best birthday present ever!” His toes were beginning to warm.

 

 

 

 

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BREAKING NEWS

Man-angry-with-his-computer

I like to write my poems and prose

To try to entertain,

And so from politics I’ve chose

To usually refrain.

But now I feel the time is right

To properly address

A trend I see of late that might

Be stirring up this mess:

So many people get their ‘news’

From Thisisfake.com,

Whose posts begin with BREAKING NEWS

And end with PASS IT ON.

The Newsfeed on their Facebook page

Is fraught with blatant lies,

And every day their growing rage

Ferments and multiplies.

They simply do not know this stuff

Is made to get their goat;

Unfortunately, they’re smart enough

To get out there and vote.

Lost Star Trek Screenplay

enterprise-tos

FADE IN

The Starship Enterprise, circling a planet

DISSOLVE TO

The bridge of the Starship, the CREW doing routine work

SPOCK, First Officer, Vulcan

SPOCK

Captain, may I be excused to go to the head?

KIRK, Captain

KIRK

Again, Spock? Damn, that Vulcan bladder must be the size of a walnut. Go ahead.

SPOCK leaves the bridge, CREW resumes work

SULU, Helmsman, Japanese

SULU

Hey, Cap, now I gotta go too.

KIRK

What the hell? Well, go ahead. And tell Spock to quit playing with it and get his green ass back here.

SULU

I believe he would be in the Alien latrine, sir.

KIRK

Oh yea.

SULU leaves the bridge, Spock returns, CREW resumes work

CHEKOV, Navigator, Russian

CHEKOV

I don’t know what was in that Klingon hotdish, Captain, but its running right through me

KIRK

Go, go go. And tell SULU to get back here pronto.

CHEKOV

Ah…he would be in the unisex toilet, sir.

KIRK

Oh yea…that.

CHEKOV leaves the bridge, SULU returns, CREW carries on

UHURA, Communications, black woman

UHURA

Well, I don’t want to be left out, sir…

KIRK

Go for it. Might as well. And tell Chekov to shag his ass back right quick.

UHURA

I think Chekov is in the Men’s can, sir.

KIRK

Dammit! Wait…in that case, I’ll tell him myself.

FADE OUT

End of Scene 1

 

A Tale of Two Stones

rock in hand

My old friend Jimmy and I have always had a slightly different take on things. You see, I’ve always been a sort of straight-up science guy–hell, Bill Nyes is one of my heroes, along with Tyson, Sagan, and Krauss. I’ve always been skeptical of any kind of pseudo-science, whereas Jimmy, dumb shit that he is, falls for every conspiracy theory and junk science blog he reads. The moon landings were faked, there’s a face on Mars; I’m surprised he doesn’t belong to The Flat Earth Society. I’ve always thought he’s just smart enough to be dangerous, and he is.

Recently he returned from a trip to L.A., so I stopped in to see how it went. He offered me a beer, but I felt the Sobriety Stone in my pocket and refused it. Jimmy thought stones had magical powers, but I just carried it to remind myself not to drink. I’d been sober now for several months and I attributed it to my stone and running. Yes, I traded in one addiction for a better one, the runner’s high.

As we sat down at the table, I pulled it out, and set it down. It was a nice smooth, polished piece of amethyst. “The word amethyst means not drunk, you know,” I said.

“Oh yea?”

“Yea, something about the Roman god of wine, Bacchus, turning a girl named Amethyst into crystal, and pouring wine on her. Anyway, I’ve come to be a bit fond of her–my sober companion.”

“Well, I have a stone that blows yours out of the water. I’ll go get it.” He ducked into his bedroom, and, because he always had to one-up me, I wondered what he’d bring out. An elephant carved out of blue tiger’s eye? A crystal for his crown chakra?  A piece of fool’s gold?

He came back and set an ordinary-looking rock on the table. We both looked at it in silence. Finally, I said, “That’s a rock.”

“It’s a healing stone,” he answered. “You wouldn’t believe where I got this.”

“I don’t believe I would.”

So he tells me this story about how he was coming back from L.A., and somewhere in the Sedona/Flagstaff area his car over-heated. He pulled it to the side of the road, and waited for it to cool down. While he was sitting there listening to the radio, he noticed someone coming toward him from the desert. Pretty soon he could see it was an old, bent-over Indian woman, her brown face sere and wizened. She seemed to be coming directly toward him, so, thinking she might be seeking help of some sort, he got out of the car, and started walking toward her.

“No, no!” she yelled, coming close now, “You must not step here–this is sacred land!”

“I thought you might need help,” he offered.

“I need a ride into Flagstaff,” she said,” and I will give you a healing stone from the sacred land for fare.”

So he gave her a ride to Flagstaff, and she gave him the stone, and the mysterious Indian woman disappeared into the city streets.

I laughed out loud. “That is such an obvious scam, I don’t believe you, man…a rock?”

And that was when Jimmy came right up to me, looked me in the eyes and said, “You don’t know everything.” The words stuck in my mind. You don’t know everything.

“I know enough not to believe in magical rocks,” I said, picking it up. “I tell ya what–I will believe in it 100 % if this stone can erase this old scar from the back of my hand!” I held it up in my hand and turned it so Jimmy could see the scar. We both watched for a minute; the scar was still there. “As I thought.”

The next weekend, my Sobriety Stone proved its lack of power as well. I fell off the wagon and swan dived head-first into the pavement. As soon as my party-hungry friends heard I was drinking, they started showing up, and soon my place was packed, and I was drunker than hell. When Jimmy showed up, and made fun of my impotent Sobriety Stone, I decided to embarrass him in front of everybody. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

“Where’s your magic rock, Jimmy?” I was so loaded, I was slurring. “Listen, everybody,” I said, “I held Jimmy’s rock in my hand like this and I…and I…” –my  drunken vision suddenly focused on the back of my hand, and there was no sign of any scar. It was completely gone. I’d had it for years! “I…I guess…I don’t know everything,” was all I could say.

(originally posted July 2016)

 

Of Gods and Trees

1970s-Yoga-Practice-e1435559084233

I think that I shall never see

Another year like ’73.

I turned 18, became a man,

And strutted ’round, so lean and tan.

The drinking age was dropped too far,

And high school lunch was at the bar.

The army turned to volunteer;

The only draft we knew was beer.

I graduated, got employed,

And bought the things that I enjoyed.

Yes, only God can make a tree,

But we were gods in ’73.

Celeste – 2

SOLO

Celeste was a nice but terribly spoiled nine year old. An only child, she was born on Halloween in 2006, a little more than nine months after Nasa’s spacecraft Stardust delivered its cargo to Earth. Two months after her birth, her grandfather, Albert P. Lamoine, CEO and founder of Lamoine Industries in Minneapolis, keeled over dead from a massive heart attack, leaving her father Boone with a sudden and considerable fortune.

The money was the only reason Cindi, Boone’s wife, didn’t leave him. She had truly learned to loathe his bible-thumping, holier-than-thou bullshit, but she liked to think she’d put up with him for Celeste’s sake. Sometimes she did feel a little sorry for him–a grown man believing such ridiculous nonsense! And his Bible Studies, what a crock.

They made it to the front seats reserved for them just as the organ accompaniment began. Celeste stood center stage, her beautiful long dark hair (from her father’s side) giving her a natural halo. Her pretty face was in stark contrast to Jesus’s bloody head on the cross behind her. Her new Christmas outfit sparkled.

The woman at the organ nodded, Celeste opened her mouth, and her angelic voice began to resound throughout the church, first floating loftily in the rafters overhead, and then spilling down on the congregation like a fresh summer shower. The girl could sing.

After the program, they found their car had a thick layer of ice on it, so while Boone scraped the windows, the girls chatted. “That was absolutely astounding, Cel, I was so proud.”

“Thanks, mom, did Daddy like it?”

“Are you kidding? He practically popped the buttons off his jacket!”

The door opened and Boone slid in behind the wheel. “Man, is it cold,” he said, blowing in his cupped hands, “I hope the roads are plowed…this is bad.” He pulled the Mercedes up to a stop sign, and, unlike his usual law-abiding self, drove right through and up the entrance ramp onto the freeway.

“Dad!” Celeste called from the back seat. “You didn’t stop.”

Cindi joined in. “Yea, I believe that was…ah…a…sin?”

Boone knew there was no way out of it, so he said nothing, and clicked on the radio. The snow was really coming down now, shifting in the wind in time with Mariah Carey’s O Holy Night. Finally, he said, “You know, we have so much to be thankful for…”

Celeste caught her mother’s eyes in a here we go again look. Sermon # 593882.

Boone looked over at the colorful Christmas lights in the yards along the freeway while Mariah belted out “…the stars are brightly shining…”

“We have been truly blessed,” he began, “and we have everything a person could want…the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

“You sinned,” Celeste said from the dark behind him, “the wages of sin are…you know.”

“I was just going to tell you how awesome you were tonight. And there is only one thing that really matters to your mom and me. And that is YOU! We would die for you.”

Celeste leaned forward into the light. “Really? You would die for me?”

“Really,” Cindi said, turning to take Celeste’s hand. Boone turned to her too, and while he was babbling about how much he loved her, Celeste could suddenly see a vehicle ahead through the icy windshield. There was a truck, loaded with pipes and stuck in the snow, directly in their path. But instead of warning them, she held their gaze and smiled.

“I love you too, mommy and daddy,” she cooed, and then suddenly ducked down a second before the Mercedes plowed into the windshield-level load of pipes at 50 mph. Celeste lay unconscious across the back seat as her parents bled to death on the nice upholstery up front. Mariah never missed a beat.

Now, Kor would fly solo.

Jesus Builds a Wall

Brickwall

Jesus Hernandez was a bricklayer. The Jesus you’re thinking of was a carpenter, although both are admirable professions. This Jesus lived alone in a nice house in the San Fernando Valley. He lived alone because he had “anger issues” and his wife was long gone.

His business was thriving. There was enough work right there in the Valley to Keep on Pilin’ like his sweaty T-shirt said. With a nice house in sunny California, a great business, and the wife not but a fading memory, Jesus was happy, his anger apparently conquered. But then…Donald Trump.

At first it was just a twinge he felt every time the media blasted “…and they’re going to pay for it!” But eventually that twinge turned into full-blown rage, and one morning, his neighbors were awakened to the sound of a truck delivering two pallets of bricks to Jesus’s front yard. A week later, he had constructed a wall, about waist high, across the front of his property. The neighbors hardly noticed. They lived in the Valley.

This eased his ire for a bit, and he even put some flowers on top of the wall to ease his conscience too. But words played on in his head. Rapists, murderers, drug-dealers. This would require more bricks–many more bricks.

Eventually his anger drove him to completely wall himself in, but you already knew that. And you probably assumed the day came when Jesus got hurt and needed help, but nobody could get in, and Jesus died a slow and anger-filled death. Don’t be like this Jesus.