Monday, May 18, 2015

The Firesmith



Tanya is a little confused about her feral little sister, Tyger Linn. There are two sofas and a bed, it is night, why must we rush out into the yard when there is a noise, when that noise is clearly not a human intruder? But Tyger Linn has an ancient calling when it comes to her home; any trespasser is a bad trespasser. Lilith and Tanya want more clarification if it involves having to give up the spot next to me.

Tyger responds better to hand signals than the other two will. She understands that voices carry and that silence is a weapon that makes no sound when unsheathed. Give me six like this one and I will own the forest. I wonder what I would do with one hundred acres or unlimited space in the wild. Give me a pack of small and hard muscled canines who know my thoughts and know their jobs. Oh, yeah, we’re going to need a fire.

It had to be a fairly hard sell, at first, fire. It’s dangerous and unpredictable stuff. It requires maintenance. There had to be a group of cavemen who sat there and very pointedly observed that this new thing, this fire, destroyed night vision. It created deeper shadows in the night. Who knew where those sparks went as they danced in the sky and after all, just what in the hell was that stuff anyway? There had to be that debate. “Come on, man, you don’t even know what that stuff is and you want to bring it inside?” “What if the Spirits want it back?” “What if it attacks us in the middle of the night?” “What if it’s some sort of Demon?”

And the debate raged on.

At first it wasn’t much of a debate because fire was something that showed up after lightning strikes and no one knew how to draw it out of the sky without there being a cremation. But there were those early people who watched sparks fly from rocks and wondered…There were those who felt the heat of friction and had thoughts… Who knows how the first fire was started or who started it. The first Firesmith must have amused the hell out of his family, sitting there knocking rocks together or rubbing sticks furiously while everyone else hunted or gathered or watched out for predators.

Slowly, but surely, the technique tightened. This worked better than that, and this worked better with this material.  The early humans were highly attuned to one another, had a heighten sense of smell, and they could tell by the excitement of the Firesmith and the smell of the smoke, hey, he’s making what seems to be a tiny fire out of those sticks and rocks! Look at this, hey, come over here, HOLY MOTHER OF FRED FLINTSTONE IT IS FIRE!

And there it was. A tiny fire made into a larger one which everyone sat there and stared at as if it had just appeared by magic. Was it magic? Was it of this world? But there the first Firesmith is, eyes gleaming, sweat pouring of his body, or her body, and there’s the fire, right there on the cave floor, and suddenly there’s the first need for firewood and the debate as to what the hell are we going to do now that we have it?

Suppose it was cold outside, very cold, and the Firesmith knew there were those in the tribe, very young and very old, who would not see another Spring or their first one. Yet the fire crackles and the cave is warmer and old hands, wrinkled with age and scarred by many years of hunting are held out to feel life again. The newborn suckles noisily as her mother feels the warmth envelope body and child. The doubters are still doubters but now they can clearly see that fire means their own children and their own parents will live longer. I still don’t trust this stuff but let’s go get some firewood.
Our first grandparents were created by fire, I believe. There were the first elderly human, pushing thirty, who has seen many other senior citizens buried and mourned, never to see another Spring but now there is this. The other members of the tribe desperately want to keep that wealth of information, the stories, the hunting techniques, and all that has been learned in a lifetime, and now this… The winter will not kill them.

A largish cat sits on her haunches and considers the activity in the cave. The devourer of forests has erupted in the den of humans and she awaits their screams of terror. She has hunted in front of fires before, it’s risky certainly, but it can be done, but after a while she realizes something is wrong. Two of the humans walk right out of the cave and they are carrying this thing with them, on a branch, and there is no fear. The feline slips further into the darkness and the humans collect wood. Wood? The cat feels confusion. Something is well amiss here but she knows that different is dangerous so she seeks safer prey. She will not kill an old human today.

There is a woman who remembers many summers and many winters and she sings songs about the plants she loves and how they heal the body and sooth the mind. The fire crackles and hisses while the tribe listens and remembers her words. The Firesmith feeds the fire, not too much, but just enough, and suddenly one of the young men stares at the walls, at the shadows thrown from the flames. With a bit of charcoal he draws lines and shapes and suddenly the tribe sees horses and deer and because of the shadows of the flickering fire, the herd beasts seem to be running, their legs moving, and even the singer must stop with wonder. The first artist was born out of fire, I believe, the first to use the dimension of moving light. Dreams, where everything is surreal, was mimicked by fire and ironically we could spend more time seeing at night in firelight.

There must have been a grandchild, tall and fell wed, the daughter perhaps of the same couple whose son was a Firesmith, and she was the first to gather the information from a Grandmother, and a mother, two generations of knowledge now, not just one, not just that of the parents but now she sees the world from further away. She will remember her Grandmother’s voice and the way her eyes started into the flames. She will pass this vision to another daughter and another granddaughter and they will become the first generations to have never lived without fire.


There’s something to be said for true darkness, I know that. Tyger Linn is somewhere out to my left, on the perimeter, her ears and nose silent radar. Tanya lumbers around in the brush and Lilith stays close by my side. This is primal and dark and it is good. This is the world before fire and before light. But I crave the heat and the flame. My mind yearns to bask in the glow of coals that seem deeper than any ocean and warmer than any sun. For as much as we humans might love the darkness we love more separating ourselves from it and bringing forth our sight. Somewhere, many thousands of years ago, a human being set forth to create fire from wood or rock, and in that, created me.

Behold! I have now created that person, the first Firesmith.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Manipulative Epaulets for the Stenographer.




It’s an odd problem, I admit it, but it’s been with me all my life. I have a decent vocabulary but I can’t pronounce about three quarters of the words I know. Some are much harder than others. Way back in the 80’s I bought a woman some flowers, just because I thought she might like them, and she got mad at me. We had been dating for a while and she told me that if I had bought her flowers without a reason I had done something wrong she was about to hear about or I was being manipulative. This argument broke out in the middle of dinner and I told her, “If you aren’t walking home, get in the car” and she said, “I’m not finished” and I said, “We are” and we took it into the parking lot.
The real problem began when I told her I was not being ma-nip, ma-niploo-a, I wasn’t trying to manipulate her.
“Manipulative” she said as if she were daring me to repeat it.
“Moo-not-a-trieme” I said and I realized she was a witch and had cursed my tongue.
“Manipulative” she said again, with a gleam in her eye, and I knew at that point she had taken over the argument and was now enjoying my obvious inability to say a fairly common word.
I took a deep breath, looked her dead in the eye and said, “I-am-not-being-ma-nip-you-live-a-tive” and she cracked up laughing. She laughed all the way to her place and even though this was one of those we’re-done events she couldn’t control a very serious case of the giggles.

The more stress I’m under the less likely I am to be able to speak any known human language that involves words consisting of more than two syllables. I actually speak better after a few beers because I sound drunk. When I’m sober I sound like an illiterate serf trying to explain quantum mechanics to a group of rabid five year olds on meth in an echo chamber.

Dinosaur names? Yeah, right. Scientific names for snakes? Uh-huh, keep dreaming. The names of famous composers not named Smith? It sounds like I’m chewing super glue and hair balls. I dated a woman with Polish ancestry and she could speak seven languages fluently. She and I sat together and tried to get me to pronounce her last name. I couldn’t get close. It was like trying to juggle water.

And as bad as it sounds it gets even worse as it goes along. I may be able to limp along and pronounce some words that have more than six letters in them, but if someone asks me to repeat a word I just nailed, flawlessly… I can’t. No, really, I can’t. I once used the word “Conflagration” in a sentence and someone said, “What?”  And suddenly conflagration, one of my favorite words of all time, became an alien tongue twister that required a second mouth to say properly. And because stress makes it worse I was soon down to the “See Spot run! Run, Spot, run” level of communication.
I once fumbled the word “Stenographic” and it sounded like I was trying to invent a word that involved canned fire and illicit sex with a secretary.  The three people I was speaking to, well, they began looking at me as if they knew what I was trying to say and hoped I would say it soon, but instead I began to sound like Dracula with a fishbone caught between two fangs, “Bluh! Bluh bluh!”

One of the true horrors in life is knowing what word is perfect in a sentence and a thought, knowing how to say and use that word to great effect, and suddenly my mouth freezes up as if there are no words left.  “I’m sorry, you’ve spoken aloud twelve words today without making a complete idiot of yourself. That exceeds your allowable quota by ten words.” In Basic Training I tried to ask what purpose the epaulets on our field jackets served. I managed to get out the first two or three words, and it sounded like English, but then the connection between my brain and mouth became severed. Had there been a King Cobra in my mouth I wouldn’t have been able to spit the damn thing out. The Drill Instructor looked at me as if I was about to have some sort of thrashing seizure. Ah, but he was a simple man; there was no ailment that push-ups could not cure.

If you’re a woman and you’re curious about my level of attraction I have for you (yes, I realize this is a very rare occurrence, please don’t interrupt) then just take notice of how eloquent I happen not to be. If three and four syllable words are causing me to stumble linguistically, (ask me to say that one) then you can assume I’m serious. If I start talking about a book I read and can’t repeat the title without two shots of tequila and a valium I may be in love.

A few weeks ago I had to sit in a room with four attorneys and give a deposition on something that happened five years ago. Given enough time to think about it, and an eyewitness, and some notes I’ve taken, I might be able to tell you what I had for lunch yesterday. However, in a time when my ever present inability to communicate with human beings could have been more disastrous than ever before, I managed to say, out loud and quite clearly, “Memory is both malleable and fallacious in the very best of times and this isn’t the time to rely on any device that fails to locate a pair of eyeglasses perched upon my head.” And I think that scored a lot of points. I kept my answers down to “Yes” or “No” or most honestly, “I do not remember”.
Maybe there is a lesson in that for me. Maybe if I just said a whole lot less I would say it a whole lot better.

Take Care,
Mike


Friday, May 15, 2015

The Boann (Rewritten)




“I hate the damn beach,” Cal said and it surprised me because I had always heard he loved the beach.
“I don’t like it either.” I replied and it was true. It’s far too much sun and far too much sand and what I really liked are the waves, but it’s always hot and always sandy.
“I don’t give a damn what you like.” Cal said and we fell silent again.
“And I don’t much give a damn what my daughter likes, either, even if it’s you.” Cal said suddenly. I sipped my beer and counted to ten before taking another sip. Cal was hitting his pretty hard and if I couldn’t talk to the son of a bitch I sure as hell could get drunk with him.
“You’re a,” and Cal paused as if he was searching for a way to say it nicely, “you’re a writer? You just sit around and write? That’s it? That’s what you do?” He drained his beer and tossed the can back into the cooler. I drained mine, too. I reached for another.
“Get me one too, if you cando that.” Cal said as if I might fumble the can or lose my way.
“And you were an,” and I paused in the same matter, “an accountant? You just sat there and counted all day?”
“Was a time I would’a dragged your ass out there in the open and made you bleed til I was tired of the color red.” He said this without a bit of arrogance in his voice and I nodded because I felt like he might still try it. “I did that, did she tell you I did that once? Her first boyfriend in High School, did’she tell you about that?”
“Yeah, she did.” I lied hoping he wouldn’t tell me anyway,
“Fine young man, quarterback on the football team, good family, all that stuff, but I knew if I messed up that pretty face I wouldn’t have no trouble with the rest of’em. Brought her home after midnight smelling of beer and cigarettes and was just going to drop her off and drive off. Pulled the sum bitch right out of the window of his daddy’s car.” Cal killed his beer in three gulps and so I did too. I got us both another one.

“Like to went to jail over it.” Call sighed. “Made him bleed plenty but didn’t hurt him, really. I went to a lot of trouble not to hurt his arm.” Call laughed hard and suddenly. “And I sure as hell didn’t hurt his fists any!”
I raised my beer to salute him and then we drank together. I finished first and got us another one.

“Kris,” Cal said, “she took her time getting over that one. Rebellious type. Started bringing home flute players and mama’s boys and video game experts. Flute player! How’s a man wake up one day and wanna play a damn flute? But she never latched onto nobody until now. Went through eight years of college bringing up that what couldn’t make it through a week of boot camp but never the same one twice.”
Cal stopped talking and he must have realized what it sounded like when he said what he had. We drank in silence for a while and when he was done he got me one too. I killed mine and realized that I was nearing my limit if I was going to drive. Or walk.

“Kris tell you about the Boann?” Cal asked but his voice was lower now. He killed his beer very quickly and I struggled to drain mine. He got us both another one and I took a gulp of it, trying to get it down in case he chugged his right off the bat, but he leaned forward and looked out over the water. “She wasn’t a large boat, just something for me to have after I retired and I thought about renting her out, being a fishing guide, but I don’t know shit about fish and I can’t stand fishing people. But it was fun to get out on the water, and I fell in love. I started navigating with a sextant and a compass, I wasn’t a whole lot good with it but I loved it. I started keep’n charts and trying to figure out how the tides and currents worked. Live and breathed it as much as I could while Kris was trying to get her Pee- Ache- Dee and when she finally graduated she wanted to go out on the Boann and celebrate. Had that damn vet she dated for a while, specialized in poodles or some such as that. Man looked like he hadn’t seen daylight since he was a young’un. Had long yeller hair that curled up like a girls. Like to had seen him in a foxhole taking fire. Cal looked at me sideways as if he thought I would have something to say about it but I didn’t. I took another gulp of beer and squeezed it down. My eyes watered.

“Beautiful day, spectacular day, and the Poodle Boy ruined it all because he couldn’t shut the hell up. I was ready to kill him and Kris just kept laughing at me every time she could see I was about to explode. It was his fault, really, and I wish’a Kris had brought that damn flute player instead. I should have listened to the water, and the wind, but I didn’t, and I knew I hadn’t done right, and that damn storm caught us out in the open before I could make a run.”
Cal stopped and rubbed his hands through his hair and then put his cap back on. He got us both a beer and didn’t say anything at all for a while. We both drank in silence and I had just finished one beer and started on the next. If I was going to marry Kris I was going to have to learn to drink. I was getting intoxicated and it was getting hot. The heat waves rose like the water and crashed into me. The sea breeze seemed to have died.
“I knew the storm was coming but we were already in when I realized we weren’t getting around it. Whadda you do? I mean whadda you do? The wind picked up from nothing to damn near gale and suddenly there was me and the boat and there was the sea and the wind, and God Almighty had taken real boat from real sailors and left nothing but a slick spot on the surface afterwards. I fought that storm. I fought her like I was fightin’ for  my family’s life, but truth is I fought it because I had always wanted it. I wanted to know. I would have never took Kris and her mama out there for that but it was better they were there, you see? With them there I couldn’t give up or back down. I had to take everything that storm had and I had to push the Boann as far as she would go. Poodle Boy was screaming like a little girl and my wife made a mess of herself screaming with him. I could hear’em squealing from the deck. But barely. The wind was up and the water rose up to take the Boann from me. She wanted the boat and wanted me, but mostly she wanted to take Kris from me, and she wanted me to know she could. I’ve been shot at. I’ve had men try to kill me and I’ve put bullets in those men. Grenada wasn’t nothing to talk about as far as wars go and it was shameful to kill men who weren’t equal to what I was, and I knew they weren’t, but the water was more than a match for anybody or anything. Three times I rammed the stick hard forward, as tight as she would go, and gave the engines all they could take. Three times the Boann climbed, and climbed, and she climbed to the top of those waves and I eased her down the other side. Them three times, them three waves, them three moments of my life meant more to me than any medal I ever won. My boat, mine, my hand on the wheel, my own, and my mind in that storm. Mine! Mine! I tell you I rode that thing like I was fucking her.” And then Cal fell silence and drank his beer slowly. I hadn’t realized it but I had stopped breathing. Kris had never mentioned this. I could see why. Cal finished his beer and reached his hand out, and I put another beer in it. I finished mine and started another.
“Finally, the wind backed down, just a little and the rain slacked off. I still fought it but the storm was dying and then it was gone. Just like that, the sun came out and you could see it walking out over the water to try to kill somebody else for the rest of the day. My wife and Poodle Boy were huddled together whimpering like someone had whipped them good, but Kris was down on the bilge pump. It’s a handle that takes both hands to pull and while I was trying to save her life she was trying to save mine. Her hands were bloodied from the work and she had cracked her head on something when the Boann lurched. But I knew right then I couldn’t tell her what she could have from then on. I saw in her the same thing I seen in men that fought beside me. I should’a known then.”
Cal stopped and looked at me. He took off his cap again and look at me as if he were trying to figure out I how I would look in a foxhole or on that pump. “Another?” I asked and got us both a beer. I wanted him to keep talking now.

 “We got in and that damn old geezer, not far from my age now, looked at me like I was somebody. Them guys that was there all year round knew what I had done and they looked at me like one of their own and I was.”
Cal stopped and then he laughed. It was a sound devoid of humor or humanity. “Kris looked at me different, too. She was proud of me in a way that made me feel good. I started looking for another boat, the Boann had taken a beating, and then that damn fern. The god damn fern.”
“Fern?” I filled my mouth with beer and swallowed hard. “Is that the name of a boat?’  

“Kris’ mama put in I stay ashore while the Bo’ was getting dry docked.” Cal laughed again. “I was on a step ladder trying to hang one of those ferns that people hang up,”
“Hanging baskets” I offered. My head was spinning.
“…yeah, whatever, but I went backwards over the porch rail. Damn near broke my spine. I couldn’t stay on a boat more than a couple of hours if the wind picked up at all. It was over and I knew it. I sold the Boann and this is as close to the water as I can get.”
“Whoa” it was all I could think to say.
“You know, we went on one of them cruises but it was like being at Wal Mart for a week. Folks pushin’ and shovin’ try to get to food that runs right through you. Boat was so damn big we couldn’t really feel the water. It was like being in a small town where everybody wants to do the same thing at the same time. It was as fun as having a pocketful of hornets on a trampoline.” Cal stopped talking again and I let him. I had drank nearly six beers, or was it five? Maybe more.  But it was more than I was used to drinking that fast.
“Pain gets me now.” Cal said. “Most of the time it’s pretty bad, but sometimes it feels like they left something in me. I can feel it, always, even when I’m tore up drunk. Feels like a hand on me where one’s not supposed to be. I dodge things now, plants me feet careful like a old lady. You got mouthy with me and I can’t do nothing about it. I can turn the wrong way and it knocks me feet out from me. I call it My Drinking Buddy. Sea couldn’t take my boat from me but a plant in a wire basket did.” Cal drained his beer and I followed suit. I was totally wasted now. He could have beat me to death with a feather. I felt like I might puke.
“So you aim to marry Kris?” Cal asked suddenly and I felt the buzz of the beer bleed away. I still had a can of pepper spray on my keychain and two years of self-defense classes.
“Yes sir, I do.” I managed to say.
“And you think it’s proper for you two women to act like man and wife?”
“I do.” I had never been through this before but I knew it was coming. “I love Kris and I am going to marry her, Cal.” I sat up and planted my right foot in the sand. He was going to start something and he was going to do it now. I was going to man the pumps or lose my woman.
“Well then” Cal said, “you go right ahead, little missy.  But you got to write something for me.”
“Yeah” I felt he was toying with me. “I’ll do it.”
“You write that I wanted to take a swim one day, and you write that I got too far out and couldn’t make it back in.” Cal suddenly sounded very sober. “You get to writing and don’t forget that’s one hell of a girl.”  

And I watched him stumble towards the surf. Cal made it to the water, dove over a breaker, and headed out to sea.



end

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Captain Of The Boann






“I hate the damn beach,” Cal said and it surprised me because I had always heard he loved the beach.
“I don’t like it either.” I replied and it was true. It’s far too much sun and far too much sand and what I really liked are the waves, but it’s always hot and always sandy.
“I don’t give a damn what you like.” Cal said and we fell silent again.
“And I don’t much give a damn what my daughter likes, either, even if it’s you.” Cal said suddenly. I sipped my beer and counted to ten before taking another sip. Cal was hitting his pretty hard and if I couldn’t talk to the son of a bitch I sure as hell could get drunk with him.
“You’re a,” and Cal paused as if he was searching for a way to say it nicely, “you’re a writer? You just sit around and write? That’s it? That’s what you do?” He drained his beer and tossed the can back into the cooler. I drained mine, too. I reached for another.
“Get me one too, if you cando that.” Cal said as if I might fumble the can or lose my way.
“And you were an,” and I paused in the same matter, “an accountant? You just sat there and counted all day?”
“Was a time I would’a dragged your ass out there in the open and made you bleed til I was tired of the color red.” He said this without a bit of arrogance in his voice and I nodded because I felt like he might still try it. “I did that, did she tell you I did that once? Her first boyfriend in High School, did’she tell you about that?”
“Yeah, she did.” I lied hoping he wouldn’t tell me anyway,
“Fine young man, quarterback on the football team, good family, all that stuff, but I knew if I messed up that pretty face I wouldn’t have no trouble with the rest of’em. Brought her home after midnight smelling of beer and cigarettes and was just going to drop her off and drive off. Pulled the sum bitch out of the window of his daddy’s car.” Cal killed his beer in three gulps and so I did too. I got us both another one.

“Like to went to jail over it.” Call sighed. “Made him bleed plenty but didn’t hurt him, really. I went to a lot of trouble not to hurt his arm.” Call laughed hard and suddenly. “And I sure as hell didn’t hurt his fists any!”
I raised my beer to salute him and then we drank together. I finished first and got us another one.

“Kris,” Cal said, “she took her time getting over that one. Rebellious type. Started bringing home flute players and mama’s boys and video game experts. Flute player! How’s a man wake up one day and wanna play a damn flute? But she never latched onto nobody until now. Went through eight years of college bringing up that what couldn’t make it through a week of boot camp but never the same one twice.”
Cal stopped talking and he must have realized what it sounded like when he said what he had. We drank in silence for a while and when he was done he got me one too. I killed mine and realized that I was nearing my limit if I was going to drive. Or walk.

“Kris tell you about the Boann?” Cal asked but his voice was lower now. He killed his beer very quickly and I struggled to drain mine. He got us both another one and I took a gulp of it, trying to get it down in case he chugged his right off the bat, but he leaned forward and looked out over the water. “She wasn’t a large boat, just something for me to have after I retired and I thought about renting her out, being a fishing guide, but I don’t know shit about fish and I can’t stand fishing people. But it was fun to get out on the water, and I fell in love. I started navigating with a sextant and a compass, I wasn’t a whole lot good with it but I loved it. I started keep charts and trying to figure out how the tides and currents worked. Live and breathed it as much as I could while Kris was trying to get her Pee- Ache- Dee and when she finally graduated she wanted to go out on the Boann and celebrate. Had that damn vet she dated for a while, specialized in poodles or some such as that. Beautiful day, spectacular day, and the Poodle Boy ruined it all because he couldn’t shut the hell up. I was ready to kill him and Kris just kept laughing at me every time she could see I was about to explode. It was his fault, really, and I wish’a Kris had brought that damn flute player instead. I should have listened to the water, and the wind, but I didn’t, and I knew I hadn’t done right, and that damn storm caught us out in the open before I could make a run.”
Cal stopped and rubbed his hands through his hair and then put his cap back on. He got us both a beer and didn’t say anything at all for a while. We both drank in silence and I had just finished one beer and started on the next. If I was going to marry Kris I was going to have to learn to drink. I was getting intoxicated and it was getting hot. The heat waves rose like the water and crashed into me. The sea breeze seemed to have died.
“I knew the storm was coming but we were already in when I realized we weren’t getting around it. Whadda you do? I mean whadda you do? The wind picked up from nothing to damn near gale and suddenly there was me and the boat and there was the sea and the wind, and God Almighty had taken real boat from real sailors and left nothing but a slick spot on the surface afterwards. I fought that storm. I fought her like I was fightin’ for  my family’s life, but truth is I fought it because I had always wanted it. I wanted to know. I would have never took Kris and her mama out there for that but it was better they were there, you see? With them there I couldn’t give up or back down. I had to take everything that storm had and I had to push the Boann as far as she would go. Poodle Boy was screaming like a little girl and my wife made a mess of herself screaming with him, but Kris hung in there.
Finally, the wind backed down, just a little and the rain slacked off. I still fought it but the storm was dying and then it was gone. Just like that, the sun came out and you could see it walking out over the water to try to kill somebody else for the rest of the day. We got in and that damn old geezer, not far from my age now, looked at me like I was somebody. Them guys that was there all year round knew what I had done and they looked at me like one of their own and I was.
Cal stopped and then he laughed. It was a sound devoid of humor or humanity. “Kris looked at me different, too. She was proud of me in a way that made me feel good. I started looking for another boat, the Boann had taken a beating, and then that damn fern. The god damn fern.”
“Fern? I filled my mouth with beer and swallowed hard. I got another and handed Cal one, too.

“Kris’ mama put in I stay ashore while the Bo’ was getting dry docked.” Cal laughed again. “I was on a step ladder trying to hang one of those ferns that people hang up,”
“Hanging baskets” I offered. My head was spinning.
“…yeah, whatever, but I went backwards over the porch rail. Damn near broke my spine. I couldn’t stay on a boat more than a couple of hours if the wind picked up at all. It was over and I knew it. I sold the Harpy and this is as close to the water as I can get.”
“Whoa” it was all I could think to say.
“You know, we went on one of them cruises but it was like being at Wal Mart for a week. Folks push and shoving try to get to food that runs right through you. Boat was so damn big we couldn’t really feel the water. It was like being in a small town where everybody wants to do the same thing at the same time. It was as fun as having a pocketful of hornets on a trampoline.” Cal stopped talking again and I let him. I had drank nearly six beer, or was it five? But it was more than I was used to drinking that fast.
“So you aim to marry Kris?” Cal asked suddenly and I felt the buzz of the beer bleed away. I still had a can of pepper spray on my keychain and two years of self-defense classes.
“Yes sir, I do.” I managed to say.
“And you think it’s proper for you two women to act like man and wife?”
“I do.” I had never been through this before but I knew it was coming.
“Well then” Cal said, “you go right ahead. But you got to write something for me.”
“Yeah” I felt he was toying with me. “I’ll do it.”
“You write that I wanted to take a swim one day, and you write that I got too far and couldn’t make it back in.” Cal suddenly sounded very sober. “I’m going for a swim. You get to writing.”

And I watched him stumble towards the surf. Cal made to the water, dove over a breaker, and headed out to sea.



end

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I, Icarus




So for the last week, yes, an entire week, there has been a housefly in my truck. I’ve entertained the idea that it’s not the same one and maybe it isn’t but there isn’t a housefly DNA testing kit available right now so I just have to guess. I’ve opened my window to shoo him out and I’ve drove at seventy miles an hour with both windows open, but the critter keep reappearing at odd times as I’m going down the road. So today I named him. Icarus. Sooner or later, if he doesn’t accept my invite to depart the sun is going to cook him.

Of course, Icarus is a name that’s going to get me thinking about all sorts of things and all sorts of things have brought the name Icarus to me but something is bugging me, no pun intended. I think we’re older than we think. There’s a couple of digs in Turkey and there’s the way things in Peru were built, and there’s the Antikythera mechanism, and really, Microsoft, “Antikythera” is a word you should know, isn’t it? But doesn’t it just seem a little unlikely that we can trace back to the beginning of civilization, back in Babylon, Ur, Sumer, and Ugarit, and think we didn’t fail totally before those city/states were formed? I ask Icarus about this and he stops buzzing around long enough to sit for a spell, and listen.

Of course, there’s China and Southeast Asia to consider in all this, and a couple of continents here and there where humans happened to be at the same time. There’s Atlantis and the Sea People, and we may never know if they were one in the same or if Atlantis was always fictional. But it’s like having a small stone in a shoe. I can’t help but think this is actually Us VER 2.0, and whatever happened before, however long Before happens to be, was a bitch, and it was global. Icarus, I assume by his silence, agrees with my theory and I am encouraged by this.

Of course, global is a point of view. I have no idea how advanced anyone was Before, but I’m pretty sure there were some good starts, at least, in Asia Minor. Of course, the scientist in me says aloud, and that startles Icarus, “Where is your evidence?” and, of course, I have none. This is pure fiction but I like pure fiction.

Whatever was here Before, didn’t leave a surfeit of artifacts behind to guide us. But assured in our knowledge that we already know what the past looks like, would we be able to make that intellectual leap and realize that sitting in a pile of pottery was the story of how we can to almost be? Is there something out there we’ve assigned to this part of the past that belong deeper in the well? Icarus takes off and lands closer to me, captivated by my ability to destroy centuries of careful study with nothing more than a conversation with a flying insect.

But I’ve already formed a storyline. Before there was a civilization and it was populated by the people who would once define Turkey and Syria and Greece. But there was some event, naturally occurring, that crumbled buildings and scattered the people. They dug in, at first, but realized they had to go, and there were too few metal tools and no way to preserve the writings. Another couple of thousand years would pass before we would or even could try again, and by that time, spoken word legends and myths, and a few dwellings carved into solid rock, were all that were left of our cousins’ attempts at becoming us.

Icarus is delighted with the story. He sits and cocks his head to one side, and he asks what happened to the people, where did they go, and why. I have to think about this. Maybe, and I’m just talking to a housefly here, no offense, Icarus, (none taken, continue) Before happened to a certain region. We know that humans more or less came Out Of African, but suppose they settled in Asia Minor, but After they began to migrate? Or maybe some of them migrated before the event which is why we would have places like Angkor Wat way before anything happened in places much closer to Africa. But then again, what happened to that city? A million people could have lived there but no one knows how.

Icarus mildly suggests that I brush up on my archeology and I have to admit that I have more questions and ignorance than I do knowledge and answers. Maybe, I suggest aloud, fiction writers are merely failed scholars.  Icarus nods in agreement.

Yet even today, in our most enlightened form yet, (that’s pretty good sarcasm, Icarus notes) we have religious zealots destroying artifacts from the past. Who is to say that some culture took what was left of Before and razed it to the ground or simply took the pieces away to build pig pens and goat fences, like some people in Egypt did with stones taken from the Pyramids? We have never been kind to the past for very long.

The earth Herself has never cared for the past either. The jungle devours civilizations much more quickly than we have built there. The sands of the deserts erode carved stone one grain of sand at a time and time is something the desert has as much of as sand. Anything built near the sea will be enveloped by it. Mountains shake and the plains quake. Rivers leave their banks and become tourists in places where humans have made a desperate stand for permanence. As forests are downed by our kind for homes those very homes are prone to fire and decay.

Icarus reminds me that he’s spent most of his life in my truck and a good portion of it speaking to me today. I open the windows once again but I cannot tell if he’s hiding in the back somewhere or if he’s finally free. I let the windows up and I know Icarus will not survive the sun.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

To Dig In Time.




Lucas dug up a ceramic electrical insulator, one of those brown screw in deals that were prevalent fifty or so years ago. He brought the thing to me and it freaked me out because he could have been seriously cut had he chewed on it but he didn’t so he wasn’t. I did take it away from him and half an hour later he showed up with another just like it. It took me a minute or two to find the first one and realize there was two and not just one. I have both of these employed as part of the electric fence and they’ll never wear out. After I’m gone maybe someone else’s dog will dig them up again.

So today Tanya the Destroyer shows up with an old blue bottle in her mouth. Lucaseque in her gift giving, Tanya brings me something that freaks me out because she might have been hurt if she chewed it but she didn’t so she wasn’t. I’ve searched for where the Blue Bottle might have originated from and there are three dig sites that Tanya has shown a lot of interest in. One of them is near where Loki found the insulators and I wonder what else might be lurking down there and why the dogs dig this place.

There was a pile of junk in one spot neat where I started a Firepit and I assume it was all pushed off the current parcel of land or somewhere near. There’s bricks and stuff that I’ve unearthed, but that tells me little; the European invaders arrived here over four hundred years ago and many, many people have come and gone since the first invasion. Many homes may have been built here, burned or decayed away, maybe even moved, but there is only what the dogs have given me to remind me that I am not the first here.

I’m thinking about getting one of those small concrete crypts and burying it out here, deep and unmarked, so that one day someone might find it and have some clue as to who lived out where and what has happened since I’ve arrived. I would include digital storage devices, certainly but also hard copies of photos and things I’ve written and maybe voice recordings.
“Hi! My name is Mike Firesmith and I died a long time ago. This is what you will find in this box and these are my reasons for leaving these items for you to find.”

I would bury it deep enough so that someone digging for worms couldn’t find it but someone looking to discover why their dog had been digging in the area might.

Let’s say I buried it two meters deep. I think if I put a layer of glass bottles from this era under a sheet of thin metal just 75 centimeters deep someone might find it while digging. In each of the bottles would be the message, “Keep digging” but that’s predicated on the knowledge of English. Well, I do have to start somewhere. About at the one point five meter mark there would be another layer of bottles with more of the same messages but with a map of how far to go as opposed to how  far gone so far.


I wonder if I could get someone to keep a map of where the box is and then they pass it on to someone else and finally, one hundred year from now, it is opened again. Or maybe the map would be lost and the box might stay underground for two hundred or three hundred years. I would like that. I would like to think that someone who just got a ground penetrating radar device for their sixteen birthday would upload the data from their drone and discover I left them something  a couple of meters down there.

Now that I have had that thought I realize where both Lucas and Tanya the Destroyer were digging was near an Oak tree that had been long dead when I arrived. The top part of the tree had already fallen but there was a stump, a monolith really, about three meters tall. I pulled it down after it started leaning and left it to decay back into the earth. I wonder if someone left somewhere near that tree, and it lies there now, waiting to be discovered by more than just mutts?

More than any other generation, we have the ways and means to preserve something of our lives and leave it hidden for others for a very long time. I never realized it until this very moment but there are companies who will do all the work for you in this. But I was looking for someone a little more personal. I want to take the risk of it never being found and if it is found, for it to be a personal experience. I want it to be something someone who lives here can sink their fingers into the earth to discover, if people still do that when I’m very long gone. Yes, that is the way I will go; I will build it myself and bury it myself and leave nothing but clues in the earth to guide the future Hermit to find it again.

Tanya is a digger in the same class of excavators as Bert was. I think I’m just going to kick back and see what this baby girl brings forth out of the ground. In the meantime I’m going to build a small concrete box and make sure that it’s buried near an Oak tree. I may even plant one in front of it, or behind it, and clear the area around the tree, not that there’s any guarantee the tree will survive. But life isn’t about guarantees, is it?

I just realized I compared Tanya with Bert and Lucas in the same day. I’ve been telling myself she has to go because she doesn’t get along with the Lilith or Tyger Linn as much as I would like. There’s no guarantee she ever will.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Adoption Event Four!



Tanya wasn’t about to let me sleep in this morning and I wasn’t trying. I got her up and wore her out so she would be easier to handle at the Adoption Event. This would be my fourth try in finding Tanya The Destroyer a new home. For breakfast she had kibble, a roll of toilet paper, and a small mirror I got out of her mouth at the last moment. Keep the bathroom door closed, Mike, keep the bathroom door closed. It’s not rocket science, it’s a door, with a knob, and it swings towards you when pulled.

Tanya is a work in progress. The first adoption event went poorly because she was so vocal. The Back In Black Event was even worse because it was crowded and Tanya was really vocal. The advent of the squirt bottle brought a lot of the vocalizations to a complete stop and now she’s pretty laid back, maybe too laid back, when she’s at an event. Tanya does not like being there. I think she realizes I do not like being there either. It is very noisy. It is very crowded. And that’s out of my zone.

On the upside, there are some people in dog rescue that are just this side of superheroes. Some of them have so many fosters they aren’t sure how many they have at any given moment. Some have entire litters of puppies. But all of these people are burning away their weekend trying to help get dogs into homes and honestly, it’s humbling to watch so many handle so much when I’ve got my hands full with this one little girl dog.

There was puppy hit by a car and his owner took him to the vet. The vet told the guy what it would cost and it would include amputating the dog’s leg. The guy simply walked away from his dog and left him there. The Dog People stepped up and stepped in and rescued that puppy. I watched today as someone came in and fell in love with him. Tonight he’ll sleep in his new home with his new family and he will live happily ever after. That’s what we do. We take companion animals who been throw away, discarded, abandoned, abused neglected and we take them out of hell and find people who can make their lives heaven.

The little Dachshund mix, Gabby, had been around forever. I tried to get a friend of mine to adopt her. Gabby was a sweet girl but no one had offered her their heart. She went today. I saw Gabby with her new people and I know how hard it is for her foster family to let go. But this is what we do.

You should go to an event. Just help out, put crates together, walkthe dogs once an hour, help make sure they have water, and just get into a conversation with some of these rescue people. It’s like talking to a war vet or someone who has ran the Appalachian Trail at night, or someone who has spent a great deal of their spare time saving a lot of dogs. They are awesome people.

Tanya is getting better at telling me when she’s just cranky at having to be there and when she has to urinate. There’s a tone of voice she uses that tell me that I better get her paws on some grass soon or there’s going to be a wet crate bottom. She went twice today and both times it seemed as if she really had to go. We also reached the milestone of Tanya having a bowel movement while on the leash. Unfortunately, she did it in front of the Old Navy store right next to PetSmart. Oh, hi everyone, we’re just talking a dump here, never mind us, ha ha. I didn’t have any baggies with me because Tanya never goes except at home so I had to take her back into PetSmart, get her settled in, find some bags, and go back out and clean up the mess before some stepped in it. A woman pushing a baby stroller headed for the mess and all I could do is stand there and watch in horror. Against all odd, all the wheels and both her shoes totally missed the pile, which was, by the way, quite impressive as far as these things go.

There were some interested parties and some people who just want to see dogs. We get a lot of people who are looking for a dog but they are looking for that dog and will know when they find it. Someone came in with a Weimaraner and it broke my heart all over again. That face and those eyes that look as if we had met before. But they were only passing through. I would have adopted that dog on the spot and left and never looked back. I had to step back and get a grip on myself and nearly did not.


The morning came and went, I felt comfortable getting out for a few moments to go get something to eat and Tanya was good while I was gone. (Thanks Hayley!) She’s getting used to the events and she’s getting used to there being strange people and strange dog around her. Most of the people are very nice and most of the dogs aren’t reactive. Tanya didn’t growl or lunge at any other dogs today and she was quiet, well, mostly she was anyway.

After the event, Tanya seemed really glad to get away from the place and I was, too. It wears me out being there but I am getting better at dealing with it. The people help, the Dog People help, it’s a nonstop conversation as to who was adopted, who is pregnant, who found what dog where, and most of all, how everyone, dogs and fosters, are doing. People come, dogs are adopted, but there are always more than we can handle. We need more fosters, we need people to spay and neuter, and we need people to stop abusing the animals who love them.

Take Care,

Mike