Sunday, October 31, 2010

Guest Writer: Bill Floyd

Horror Novels and Real Terror
A Halloween Special

Bill committed to posting one piece per day on the Six Sentence Social Network throughout the month of October, all related to subjects associated with Halloween or autumn in general. All the archetypes made an appearance: monsters, ghosts, haunted houses, unstoppable slashers; there was a mix of fiction and essay and memoir, nostalgic evocations of his youth with its toxic costumes and wanton juvenile delinquency; and there were recurring themes and characters, all adding up to some ghoulish good fun in the spirt of whistling past the graveyard, which is what the season is all about.
[The preceding is adapted from his introduction to the series, and the following posted on 11 and 12 October, and 23 October, nicely sum up his influences and inspiration. –MDJB]

Paperback Horror Novels, Part 1
By the time I left for college, I must have accumulated hundreds of titles, all of them crammed into the bookshelves of my bedroom: books by John Farris, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Charles L. Grant, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Harlan Ellison, Edgar A. Poe, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury. A boy's club for sure, and most likely marketed directly at my lonely, alienated teen-aged ass, but they did their duty, seeing me through innumerable solitary afternoons and nights, at first because I had no choice in the matter and then maybe a bit obsessively and unhealthily later on when I'd made some flesh-and-blood friends. My own nascent forays into writing were poorly disguised rip-offs of Jaws and The Shining, at first handwritten and then pounded out (and I do mean pounded) on my grandmother's old manual typewriter, one of those cast-iron beasts with a carriage that would shift the entire desk to one side when you palmed the lever to return it. Most of my work was derivative and hackneyed (and some would say not much has changed!) but I was learning to be the very thing I wanted to be, at least if I couldn't actually inhabit all those stories as a vampire-vanquishing hero. I hadn't yet realized that all those ghosts and monsters were just stand-ins for the really scary things in life. But those books helped me navigate nonetheless, they kept me from channeling the anguish and helplessness I felt into real-world violence or perversion, so seriously guys (many of whom I now realize probably did not make much money off this stuff at all) THANK YOU for pretty much saving my life.

Paperback Horror Novels, Part 2
It felt like autumn just opening one of those books, whose covers ranged from the lurid to the abstract. A company named TOR published a lot of them, although at the time even mainstream publishers were not afraid to sully themselves with a title here and there, given Stephen King's ascendency. (Another offshoot of the "King Effect" was that every other novel was entitled The ______, as in The Wolfen, The Glow, The Tribe, The Fury, The Manitou, The Cipher, The Nesting, etc.)
As for the quality of the work, well, in my memory John Farris's Son of the Endless Night and Peter Straub's Shadowland still thrill (although the less said about Straub's most recent work, A Dark Matter, the better) along with a few books by Kathe Koja and Clive Barker.
I mostly outgrew the genre in my early 20's, but without these novels to instill in me the love of prose and character and imagination, I would never have discovered the likes of Pynchon, DeLillo, Atwood, Wallace, Gaddis, McCarthy, Morrison, or Updike.
Autumn is forever calling to me, autumn echoes down the years, every night when I open whatever book I am currently reading and offer up a prayer for the mid-list and the genre aficionados whose hunger carries the rest of the industry through its troughs and then they stand fuming on the sidelines, relegated yet again to the literary ghetto when the market rebounds.

Real Terror
Of course we all know it's only cartoons. None of these movies or novels or sixes is anywhere near as frightening as what is right outside the door, or just beneath the skin.
Car crashes; cowards with guns or missiles or suicide vests and the whole world coming down around them; the tumor blotting the x-ray like a misshapen egg floating in the dark sea of the surrounding tissue.
Our cartoons help us manage the real fear so it's not so damned insurmountable and debilitating; our cathartic diversions prompt the development of tools that assist us in confronting the day-to-day world in all its dire reality. Otherwise we would be paralyzed, reduced to shambling shock-sufferers drowning in our own thousand-yard stares, because every living thing has been due its own judgment day since the Big went Bang.
Autumn calls us each in turn, and sometimes the only way to sustain the fading light is by throwing shadows.

© William Floyd 2010

Bill Floyd is a writer from North Carolina who is feeling his way around the on-line world of micro-fiction. He blogs occasionally at Six Sentences, and you can check out the rest of his terrific October Series by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Guest Writer: Bolton Carley

Crazy Is As Crazy Does

Seriously, everybody’s got one. No matter how hard you try to hide it, people find out. Accept it. There’s a whack-job in your family, and you better consider yourself lucky if it’s not you. The only thing worse than dealing with crazy is realizing that you exist in a whole family of fruitcakes. Oh, how little my husband and I knew when we united two sets of freak-shows. But wow! We got more than we bargained for! All I can tell you is that there’s been plenty of praying in our house since our families collided. Sometimes we thank Him for seeing us through and sometimes we wonder how He created us from the same loins.

“Normal” is not a term fit for our household. There are only “typical” days in our world. Quite frankly, I think Tony and I agree that we’d jump at “normal” anytime. But alas, our days are one giant cluster after another. Like today, I made the mistake of answering the phone. Why’d I do it? Yeah, I’m still asking myself that same question. I guess I was feeling guilt from the last five calls I conveniently “missed”. After all, I’m not a rude person by nature, and it is his mother. Or as he prefers to refer to her: my mother-in-law. (he quit claiming her the day he could start passing her off on to me.) Anyway, I picked up the phone to the sound of a cuckoo-cachoo, and I ain’t talkin’ about no bird, unless you guessed a loon. She was already blathering before I could get hello out of my mouth. Boy, sometimes I wonder if the crazy fairies just actively swarm around her with the brilliant ideas she bestows upon us. Discussions with her leave me wondering if Tony was mixed up at birth. Sometimes, I bemoan my interactions with her, but I know it doesn’t hold a candle to the way Tone reacts when I share the conversations with him. I think he cringes when he hears her name.

I figured I’d better break the news ASAP. “Hey Tone, your mom called today.”

As my poor husband rolled his eyes, he said, “You handled it, didn’t you?”

“No, I told her you’d be home by eight. She’s all yours.”

“Thanks a lot. I see how it is. No loyalty. She is your mother-in-law, you know. You could take one for the team.”

I didn’t have the heart to make him think he’d have to chat with her tonight so I coughed up the dirt. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I did take care of it, even though I should have left you hung out to dry. She was in rare form.”

“Dare I ask?” came with a “I’d-rather-be-hit-by-a-herd-of-wild-buffalo” look.

“You know your mother. She’s decided to sell her house because she can buy a big fancy-shmancy house for practically nothing in this economy. Never mind that she has to sell her house first.”

Tony’s cheeks puffed like a squirrel, his fists clinched involuntarily, and a raised voice responded, “She’s selling our house?”

“That’s what she said. But, don’t worry honey, it gets better!”

“What?” his exasperation exploding like a balloon pop. I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to ask, but it was scarier to not know the rest.

“She’s decided that to sell her house, it needs to look different than everybody else’s. In her infinite wisdom, she thinks that painting the house lavender and having an artist paint flowers all over it like a work of art will make her house the best one on the block.”

I got a blank stare, followed by, “You’re kidding, right?”

“This is your mother. Do you really think I’m kidding? Do you think I’d come up with that on my own?” Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have been quite so harsh. But seriously, what mother would think to do that????

“Okay, but you said you handled it. What exactly did you say?” Calm seemed to be restored again on my husband’s face. I like to think it was his false sense of confidence in me.

“I told her it would probably cost a lot of time and money to get somebody to paint all those flowers and that maybe she could just have one really special painting done that we could frame and put on the porch, next to the door.”

My husband looked at me funny. “And she agreed to that?”

“Well, it took some convincing, but when I agreed to get the house paint picked up and find a painter, she bit on it like a pit bull. You know her – if she can get us to take care of the real work, she’ll agree to almost anything.” Again, I might have been a little mean, but obviously, it was the truth.

“Did you really agree to paint the house lavender?” Skepticism oozed from Tony.

“Well, that’s what I agreed to. But you and I both know that she’s half color-blind. I figure I’ll find a shade of gray that looks lavender in the right light and make sure the painter refers to it as lavender, and we’re all good.” It seemed the best plan of attack to me.

There was almost a half-smile when he sucked up with, “I knew I was smart to marry you.”

“Yeah, you married me so that your family would look sane!” We have to laugh in our house about these things even though if we really thought about it, we’d be more likely to cry and drink heavily.

“Speaking of your family…” Tony gave me “the look” reserved for the supremely outlandish family faux pas.

Apparently, it was my turn. “Uh-oh. What else happened today?” I already had thousands of scenarios popping into my head. None of them good.

“Your brother stopped by. His company is sending him to Arizona to work for a month.”

“Woo-hoo! That’s something to be excited about! Can you even imagine how nice it will be without all of Peter’s drama for a month?” I can see it now. We might actually be able to visit my dad without one of my brother’s many lady-callers moaning in the basement.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself.” Believe me, I know that expression of doom.

“Why? What’s the problem?” horror, anticipation, and panic were setting in on me like vultures to a dead animal.

“There’s a little matter of the boys.”

“What do you mean ‘little matter’? He isn’t taking them with him?” Now my voice was sky-rocketing upward.

“They’re in school, honey. It’s not like he can take them out for a month without anybody noticing.” Oh, they’d notice. They’d probably be thrilled, but this can only mean one thing…

“So let me guess: we’re taking care of the boys while Peter’s gone, huh?”

“Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Give the lady a prize!” Sarcasm might be one of husband’s strongest assets, but also his most annoying quality in a situation like this. I glared at him.

“When does he leave?” I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

“Oh, baby. When did you think? He’s leaving tomorrow, of course.”

Shrieking, I replied, “WHAT?” My husband had the good sense to just not respond at this point. I wasn’t kidding. There’s an insane one in every group, except in our family where every single one is half-cocked. I’d like to tell you that it hasn’t always been that way, but I can’t. The funny part is, well, there isn’t really a funny part.

Luckily, my husband and I have come to the logical conclusion that we will do our best to survive in any given family catastrophe, make fun of them at nauseam, and then hide in our own house until the crisis is over. We’d also like to figure out how to bucket up sanity, but that’s one of those things on the to-do list that just never quite gets done. And there was no use discussing this any further, I simply sighed and said, “So, I better get the guest bedrooms ready, huh? Did you buy some extra cereal?”

A teddy bear grin shown my way, as Tony held up a box and a bottle. “Fruit Loops and Jack Daniels. I think we’re all set.” Boy, do I love my husband.

It takes a brave man to walk into the face of disaster every day, day in and day out, and that’s why at times like these, I can only bow down to my knees on a cold tile kitchen floor and pray,
“Dear Lord, thank you for giving us this house 15 miles away, our marriage of sound minds (although I’m not sure how long that will last at this rate), and the ability to find humor in freight-train wrecks. Please look after our families. Help us to have good health, safety, and happiness. Grant us the strength to survive our family dilemmas, the money to afford all their debacles, and the patience to not kill them. Amen.”

© Bolton Carley 2010

Bolton Carley mostly writes young adult books like her verse novel, Hello, Summer Vacay! which can be purchased on Amazon, but she has branched out to flash fiction and blogging at www.boltoncarley.wordpress.com.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guest Writer: Bill Lapham

Any Second

“…uncommon valor was a common virtue...”
           – Adm. Chester A. Nimitz, of the Marines who fought at Iwo Jima

Whether a man be judged extraordinary or not depends less upon his physical stature than upon the content of his character. In the normal flow of events, opportunities to demonstrate the content of anyone’s character are few, but when they present themselves as obstacles to good outcomes, how they are surmounted is the best indicator of it. Quite often the action of ordinary people in extraordinary situations leads us to elevate the status of some to heroes, and devalue others to, well, cowards. The difference can be attributed to something as mundane as training, preparation, readiness, study habits or physical fitness, or it could be attributed to something as essential as the quality of family and peer relationships, teacher involvement or heredity.

Stuart was lucky. Did I mention that? He came from a strong, hard-working, lower middle-class family, had great childhood friends, wonderful teachers and, if the dates on the tombstones in the family plot were any indication, came from a line of healthy family members who lived long lives. He was a good student, not a natural leader, but a loyal friend, motivated student and fun-loving boy. Stuart was your average small town chap from middle-America.

And this morning he was scared to death.

He was standing in a rocking and rolling Higgins boat, a troop landing barge, approaching a small island in the Pacific Ocean. Frankie had vomited on him he was so seasick. Seawater sprayed over the top of the boat. Machine gunners were firing at machine gunners onshore. Bullets were pinging off the exterior of the hull. Mortar and artillery shells landing in the water nearby exploded with a deafening roar. And Stuart wished he was playing baseball in the field back home in Kansas, say, or stuck in a church listening to the pastor drone on about salvation on a blistering hot summer day, anything, anything would be better than this!

But, no, he was here and there was no turning back. He was a Marine invading a tiny sulfuric island within flying distance of Japan and he wasn’t going anywhere but down that ramp when it fell. He was here to kill Japanese soldiers.

“Doesn’t sound good, does it, Stuey?” Frankie asked rhetorically, more or less. Stuart would never see Frankie after this little boat ride. Frankie was a Marine who was about to die, anybody could see that, but Stuart didn’t tell him, that’s just what he thought. Standing next to him, he could feel Frankie vibrating so hard he thought parts of him might come off. Frankie looked like he didn’t have any blood in his face.

Stuart just looked at him and shook his head. He didn’t say anything because it felt like his throat had seized, like a motor that plum run outta oil. He brushed his face with the sleeve of his uniform. God, I hope I’m not crying, he thought to himself. This is the big game. I gotta be ready! He had been in big games before. This was like that; only these butterflies were bigger, fatter, flying in faster and thumping into his stomach lining without remorse.

Overwhelmed with curiosity, Stuart, who was standing next to the hull, stuck his head up to look over the side just when the boat next to his took a direct hit. He felt the concussion right through the hull and his ears were ringing just like that time he got hit in the head with that other guy’s football helmet.

He stuck his head back down at the same time as the coxswain, the boat’s driver, yelled, “Git yer fuckin’ head down, gal-dammit! Wanna git yersef kilt?”

People think soldiers are told to spread out in order that one shell or one bullet doesn’t take out more than one soldier. That’s only part of it. The rest of it is the further away soldiers are from each other, the less likely they are to see what it looks like when their friends get ripped to pieces. That just leads to problems – shocks them. The horror of it causes men to freeze. It makes it harder for them to keep functioning effectively on the battlefield.

But sometimes massing troops in tight formation is not only unavoidable, it’s crucial to bringing the greatest amount of combat power to bear on the weakest part of the enemy defense. What Stuart wanted to know was, if this was the weakest part of the enemy defense, what was the strongest part like for chrissake?

The diesels slowed. All their training told him when the diesels slow it’s time for the ramp to come down. What he didn’t know was that when the ramp came down he would face an inferno.

Anyone standing there alone would have been immobilized by fear, wouldn’t be able to summon the courage to move against such violence. The enemy had figured, correctly, that aiming one shot or twenty shots at the beach was not as effective as firing 20,000 rounds down range all at once.

Stuart’s group was greeted by a wall of steel, but they moved, something about the power of a group. No matter how scared an individual may be training and mass action can overcome any solitary effort to balk or run away. Stuart ran through the water and onto the beach just like everybody else. The difference was he was lucky enough to make it. Or unlucky enough to make it depending on how you looked at the glass, half full or half empty. All empty today.

He didn’t run for long, though. He dove right into the bloody pulp of a dead Marine and tried to submerge in the sand, tried to bury himself in its blackness. Claw his way to China, anywhere but here! Anywhere but here! Anywhere but here! Tell my mother I love her, goddamit!

Bullets whizzing over his head electrified the air, shook it with extreme prejudice. He turned his head to get a view of the beach. A man’s gold wedding ring was sitting there just as pretty as you please in the black sand. Like it had been sitting there since the island formed out of a volcanic eruption eons ago. He grabbed it and stuffed in his pants pocket.

A force lifted him just then. He didn’t want to rise but he was rising up out of his private little beach-womb. A voice pierced his eardrum and smashed into his brain.

“Move your ass, Marine!” It was Sergeant Craft, his platoon sergeant.

Stuart regained his senses, reclaimed his perch on the earth, snatched up his rifle and followed his sergeant, just like he’d been taught to do. He never looked back. He couldn’t. The fight was raging all around them but they moved forward, firing and running. Shoot and scoot.

They pressed ahead until Craft dove into an old shell crater. How old? Seconds, maybe minutes. Stuart flung himself in after Craft. They were below the ground and out of breath.

The sergeant grinned. Could it be he was having fun? What does it take to grin out here? Stuart said to himself. Sick bastard.

“Cartwright?” Sergeants only used last names.

“Yes, sergeant?” Stuart replied.

“Are we having fun yet?”

“Yes, sergeant!”

“Good! Follow me!” Sergeant Craft yelled as he churned up the face of the crater before Stuart was ready. He was still reloading.

Sergeant Craft no sooner lifted his head above the rim of the crater when he took a bullet right between the eyes and slumped back down into the hole. Stuart looked at the dead man’s face. It seemed – what ? Peaceful? At ease? Undisturbed?

In that instant, Stuart was relieved. He realized death waited just above the rim and there was nothing he could do to change that fact. He realized there was no sense worrying about it. If he died, he died. He’d go to sleep. Rest. Sergeant Craft had showed him in the time it takes to check your watch you could be dead out here. Any minute, hell, any second could be the second you die. It was Iwo Jima, 1945. Lots of Marines were dying all around him. Death is what happened here.

So Stuart decided. It was simple, lift your head, force your body to follow your eyes and quit worrying. Kill, die or move; you never know what’s going to happen next.

So he charged up the face of the crater and ran smack into the face of the fight.

© William Lapham 2010

Bill Lapham is a semi-professional student and retired U.S. Navy submarine veteran. He attends grad school at the University of Michigan – Flint, and he’s been published at Six Sentences and the U.S. Army NCO Journal.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Static

I first heard it when I woke at six, a hollow moaning rising from the dry patch beyond the yard. Figured I’d make a move to investigate when Annie rose at half-past, but then was deeply involved in cooking eggs for her.
“It’s been a long time since you made breakfast for me,” she said. She seemed reluctant to throw off the comforter. “Did you leave the kettle whistling on the stove?”
I said I hadn’t but I’d check to make sure, and went back out to the kitchen. I sat and rolled myself a cigarette.
I had only smoked half when she hollered, “What’s that?”
“Nothing, love.”
A couple minutes later she came out, tying the cloth belt of her terry robe. “It’s coming from outside,” she said.
“Yes,” I agreed.
“Won’t you see about it?”
For a moment or two I thought I might, but when Annie turned on the radio and all it produced was sputtering static, my resolve faltered.
“Why don’t you get dressed?” I said instead. And where’s your breakfast plate?”
“Coward,” she said. She turned off the useless radio and headed back toward the bedroom.
“It doesn’t sound like a human in pain,” I said to the closed door.
“All the same,” she said, “I thought you were my protection.”
“What if it’s carrying something?”
“Well, if it dies, it could be just as dangerous later as now.”
We had already desexed whoever or whatever was making that awful noise.

I sat at the table thinking, but concentrating was difficult. When we’d first bought the farm, I sat that way for hours on end, marveling at the quiet. We were so glad to leave the city behind us. Annie would play solitaire in the parlor, and I’d sit and smoke and think.
Around noon she came out with the dish. It still had most of the eggs on it and she hadn’t touched the toast, either.

When evening fell and we discovered there was no light by which to read, we decided to go to sleep early.
Annie lay far off on her side of the bed and there was more than the usual space between us.
I awoke around 11:30 to see a beam of light coming through the closed window, then I realized it had grown silent. I rose and walked quietly to the window and pulled down the top pane to let in a little air. There was no sound at all. Not even the owl, nor the crickets. The beam flickered and faded. I couldn’t see the stars. The only thing visible then was the hard white moon against an empty black sky.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Guest Writer: Mike Handley

Time to Go

It had been five years since Katrina drove Auguste Babineaux from his bayou home near Lafitte, La., to neighboring Mississippi. His only possessions packed into his then-new, crew-cab Ford -- bought outright with cash earned from skinning alligators in September and redfish and speckled trout the other 11 months -- he drove north to Meridian. There, he toiled alongside teenagers 20 years his junior, bagging groceries and selling 99-cent tacos.

His coworkers’ smooth faces bore no resemblance to the topographical map encircling Auguste’s tired eyes. They spent their paychecks on the accoutrements of youth, while his were cashed, the $20 bills stashed in a metal box under his F-150’s front seat, awaiting the day he could go back home.
Late in December 2009, sick of living amongst people who couldn’t understand his Cajun dialect, he drove south to Biloxi, figuring he’d find a job easily with the hordes of contractors still rebuilding the coastal city. That didn’t work out so well. Cooyons couldn’t even pronounce his name; called him R.G. (instead of Auggie). And they were constantly poking fun at his white rubber boots.

Auguste wound up with the perfect job, though, as a security guard -- a role without a language barrier. At night, he slept in his truck, which he could park at the job site next to the Isle of Capri Casino on U.S. 90, the main drag. By day, he sat in a dingy guard shack barely 18 inches wider and longer than the fluorescent green Port-a-John 10 yards away.

The little shack was okay, though. It had an air conditioner about the size of small Igloo cooler, an even smaller television and a book shelf full of paperbacks by John Lee Burke. He liked to pretend he knew the protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, because he’d poached ducks on Barataria Bay with cousins sharing that surname. He’d also spent time in New Iberia, where Burke’s Robicheaux was a detective.

The guardhouse sat at the gated entrance -- think chain-link fencing, not lions atop pillars -- to a 5-acre cement slab abutting the Isle’s westernmost parking lot, used mainly by brown-skinned staff. It was difficult for hotel guests to decipher whether they were looking at a casino cemetery or nursery because the half-built or half-destroyed buildings’ exposed steel beams were rusty, as if they’d been squeezed out of the Gulf of Mexico’s colon.

Auguste hadn’t intended to stay in Biloxi. After barely a week on the job, he’d wanted badly to keep driving to Lafitte. He held no illusion that his camp, accessible only by boat, had survived Katrina, Rita or Ike. Far lesser storms were capable of burying the highest and most well built homes there, even those stilted ones on the mainland.

Yessir, he wanted to go back, perhaps return to his former life as a gator and fish skinner. Maybe find that spit of land and rebuild his cabin, one boatload at a time. But the BP oil rig blew that spring, and the leak had poisoned Louisiana’s marshes.

Fishermen were leaving. Shrimp nets were rotting. Restaurants were closing. TV people were moving in, and residents were again moving out.

But they’d stopped the gusher a month ago, and no more oil was coming out of the hole in the bottom of the sea. Fishing bans had been rescinded. Television news folk were no longer showing clips of pelicans covered in what looked like milk chocolate.

Just as Auguste stepped out of his air conditioned vault and stared at the water, a lone shrimp boat glided past, blue wings folded, heading out to the Gulf. He flipped his Marlboro into the stout breeze and decided right then it was time to go home. No more shitting inside a green ammonia bottle for him, mon cher. Besides, it was September, and Louisiana’s month-long gator season had opened.

© Mike Handley 2010

Mike Handley of Montgomery, Ala., is a career journalist and artist. His musings can be seen at handlets.blogspot.com, his artwork at www.mikehandleyart.com, and he's a frequent contributor at the 6S and ThinkingTen websites.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Guest Writer: Brian Michael Barbeito

Osho Rajneesh: Some feet of clay are okay

In the late nineteen seventies, when Mohan Rajneesh, later also known as Bhagwan Rajneesh, and now known as Osho, was at his oratory heights he spoke to thousands about ideas and experiences ranging from enlightenment to sex and plenty of topics in between. There have been books written on Osho and the movement has waxed and waned throughout the years and decades. Information can be gathered instantly, from the internet to libraries and other places on this strange and paradoxical man and his movement, a duo that sought to change the world through changing consciousness. Here I will only relate my part, part of my own impression, and by stating the subjective musings of one, I will be somehow or another following an Osho directive, though he’d be the first to tell you he had none. Nevertheless, anything both highly individualistic and infused with at least a try at awareness should be welcome in the world of Osho.

When I first picked up the book Unknown Man by a writer named Yatri, a book that tried (and succeeded very well) at marrying the theories of science and mysticism (think Fritjof Capra only more fun and with more neat pictures), I saw a photo of Osho and definitely felt some interesting connection. In the years to come I would explore his teachings and life intensively (think Ken Wiber looking into Adi Da and his people) and would become perhaps one of the few in the entire world that would be so sympathetic to the work yet never become an Osho sannyasan (renunciate).

I remember in the early days of this research going into a three story bookstore, the largest of a modern metropolis, and asking one of the workers if they had any books by him (Osho never actually wrote anything but many books were and are available in the way of transcribed discourses). I thought, now I am really on the path to enlightement because I am going to read these great words I have heard so much about. The worker lashed out at me and actually yelled ‘We do not carry books by cults!’ And that would not be my last in such tongue lashings; verbal hatred that came from certain apexes and establishments that I thought would be sympathetic. I was receiving darshan from a Mother Indian guru by the name of Devi at the University of Toronto’s congregation hall and I asked her people afterwards about Osho. One of her representatives barked at me that Osho did more harm to people’s energy systems and lives than anyone else and that I’d better watch myself!

So how was it that this man with the great words and beautiful eyes, that spoke about awareness and compassion and love stirred so much emotion and polemic against himself, and why did this man receive the status of persona non grata in so many countries while he was alive? It was probably because he had, as they say in the guru business, feet of clay, meaning, for the uninitiated, that he was not a god, and very human indeed, indulging in activities we don’t want our gods to indulge in. But that is okay here for two reasons. One is that Osho always stated that he was ordinary, that ordinariness was blessed, and that, for instance, he had been trying to part the waters in his bathtub for twenty years and nothing had happened yet! But the second reason is the more important one, and that is that it is the message and words that count. As we enter a new world, or try to transform this one, his words can act as a guide and reminder to follow our innate wisdom and awareness. These are trying times, and Osho knew they would come, not because of the gift of prophesy- probably just because he was reading the newspapers and saw the writing on the wall- it doesn’t take much if you have even a modicum of knowledge. But I believe that Osho had something to offer and that any seeker, artist, light-worker, poet, baker or even candle stick maker should give his words a chance as we try to transition into yes, a new age of sorts. Now it is precisely because it is hard work that Osho can help. Osho was fond of speaking out against people, and even spoke against the idea of Sri Aurobindo’s claim that humanity would naturally evolve to higher states. Mr. Osho Rajneesh said it was a nice idea, but what would it be worth to the individual if he or she hadn’t worked for it? Osho’s message still remains, and more than ever. He claimed that he was only a finger pointing to the moon, and that people should look at the message, at what he was indicating, and not get caught up in the messenger. This is among the greatest of Zen messages, thus the saying- if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him! Well Osho is dead, but the finger remains, and the moon definitely remains. As for the bookstores, I see the major chains now carry his books, beautiful books with life altering messages of hope, creativity, awareness, and transformation through a difficult birthing process into a new time and temperament. Osho is okay with me, even if he did have dirty feet.

© Brian Michael Barbeito 2010

Brian Michael Barbeito writes fictional vignettes in a style of his own making with a view to exploring questions of the psyche and the spirit. His work has appeared at Glossolalia, A Million Stories, Our Echo, Crimson Highway, and Useless Knowledge magazines. His first novel is an experimental work called Postprandial, and a second novel in the same vein, titled The Electric Light Queen, is under way. Brian is self taught and short fiction is a favored form. This is because he feels it has the tendencies to describe ‘places in between’ that are highly subjective and idiosyncratic.

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