Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guest Writer: Nicole E. Hirschi

The Battle for Time

Tick… Tick…
Tock…
The music’s stopped.
Eerie silence
Haunts-
Frozen in time,
Where circles abound
My heart beat,
In my ears
Pound.
Their voices
Once prolific,
But up until now
Only silence
Was to whom
I’ve been bound.

Tick…Tick…
Tock…
Writer’s block.
Great wonders hidden
In small packages
Unlock the door
With missing key.
Unleashed,
The Muse purrs
“Pandora’s Box
Open it, its yours.”
The missing world,
Once-silenced Voices,
Rush back
And time is
Mine again.

© Nicole E. Hirschi 2010

Nicole E. Hirschi writes when Muse and Time agree with her. Also known as Coraline J. Thompson, her short flashes can be found splashed acoss the net and in a few books as well. Read more of her work at http://WordVamp.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Guest Writer: Michael D. Brown

Timepiece

There are verdant woods and a river
In the mountains where I dream,
Though perhaps it’s not a river
But just a sun-drenched stream.

There are faces on the rocks and trees.
Oh, I know it’s a trick of light
And shadows and my perception
That they have thoughts and sight,
But I like to think they’ve watched the women
Wash clothes and children play –
Standing to ponder eternity
As generations pass away.

Through gaps in the leaves on the ridge,
I see boys and girls aglow,
Practicing their dance-steps,
Unaware of this ¨life¨ below.
When these children are men and women
And have children of their own,
The ancient rocks and trees will stand
And know what they have known.

There are verdant woods and rivered rocks
In the mountains to the east
And perhaps they will be standing there
When all the dancing’s ceased.

© Michael D. Brown 2010

Michael Brown is from New York and resides now in southern Mexico where he teaches ESL to teenagers. He is also the maintenance man on MuDJoB and loves to read and write.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Guest Writer: Harris Tobias

Time Traveler

The future hasn’t happened yet
And the past has come and gone
There isn’t much a man can do
To mess around with time
You can’t go back and alter
A single word you said
You can’t undo the things you did
You can’t speak to the dead
You can wish that things were different
You can wish upon a star
But time is locked and shuttered
That’s just the way things are

So how do you explain this thing
I built inside my room
From bits of old computers
And a cell phone from my mom
I hooked the thing together then
I plugged the damn thing in
I thought that nothing happened
So I switched it on again

It flashed and popped and chattered
Then smoked and made a spark
I thought I’d popped a breaker
Cause everything went dark
I started down to check the fuse
To see what I had caused
But halfway down the staircase
I turned around and paused

Nothing looked the same
As it did an hour ago
It looked more like a house
A century old or so
What lamps there were were kerosene
Or maybe they were whale
The whole room looked like it came
From grandma’s garage sale

I went back upstairs and looked inside
Another room instead
Two people I had never seen
Were in my parent’s bed
I didn’t dare to wake them
there was nothing they could do
I was starting to get worried and
As my apprehension grew
I went back into my room
And quietly closed my door
I saw the lifeless pieces
Of my machine upon the floor
Without electric power,
I knew my goose was cooked
I’d never find an outlet
No matter how I looked
I guessed that I was stranded
A century in the past
I wanted to get out of there
And I had to get out fast
Before the household woke up
And forced me to explain
Exactly what I was doing there
They’d think I was insane
Even then they knew
Time travel was a dream
And who ever thought a kid
Could build a working time machine
The only thing that came to me
It popped into my mind
Was to gather up the pieces
And leave the house behind

I was leaving through the kitchen
When I noticed on the door
A calendar that gave the date
As 1894
I shut the door behind me
As quiet as a mouse
And walked through foggy streets
Until I could not see the house
I walked until I noticed that
The streets I walked down
Were not the streets of Philly
But of foggy London Town
Talk about a pickle
What was I to do
Lost a hundred years ago
In a place I never knew
I wracked my brains
I walked the streets
I didn’t have a clue
Then I had a bright idea
That rang some mental bells
There was one man in London then
His name was HG Wells
I’d read a lot about him
He wrote The Time Machine
He knew about time travel
He might have a scheme
To get me back to Philly
Back to mom and dad
I was getting desperate
Perhaps a little mad
I wandered aimless through the streets
How long I could not tell
I stopped and asked a bobby
If he knew of Mr. Wells
He didn’t but he helped me
Find the address in a book
He gave me directions, then
Walked off without a look
I don’t know if you understand
My predicament was strange
I dare not tamper with the past
Or the future might be changed
Just by talking to that Bobby
The fabric might be torn
And the future could be altered
So that I were never born

I walked through crooked streets
Gaslights relieved the dark
Several times I blundered
But I arrived at Regent’s Park
I found Hanover Terrace
And I knocked upon his door
It was late and he was angry
At least that is what I saw
I hurriedly explained my plight
He seemed to understand
He asked me in and offered tea
And made his one demand
“I want to see what brought you here
This device of yours
It’s hard to credit how it works
All the science it ignores.”
I showed him all the pieces
And how I thought it worked
When I mentioned electricity
I noticed that he jerked
To attention. Electricity it seems
Was something he was toying with
To power his machines.
It was something new he said
And was gratified to learn
That the future held such promise
Then he said that in return
For helping me get back home
I’d have to tell him tales
About my life in the future
And leave out no details
We talked all night, I told him
Of a world that was to come
He filled his notebook up with notes
And when we were done
He took me downstairs to his lab
And what a shock to see
So many strange devices
To produce electricity
I saw a Tesla coil
And some other things he had
I couldn’t name but I’d seen
In my High School physics lab
He hooked things up and turned things on
It stood my hair on end
He shook my hand and waved goodbye
I felt I’d made a friend
There was a mighty crackle
Then a flash and I was glad
To be back inside my Philly house
With dear old mom and dad
I couldn’t ever make it work again
No matter how I tried
The original would never work again
All the pieces had been fried.

It wasn’t till years later
When I was reading Wells
I marveled at how accurate
A future he foretells
I knew the reason he could see
A future so sublime
He had the notes he made that night
When I traveled back in time.
The future hasn’t happened yet
And the past is done and gone
There isn’t much a man can do
To mess around with time
You can’t go back and alter
A single word you said
You can’t undo the things you did
You can’t speak to the dead
You can wish that things were different
You can wish upon a star
But time is locked and shuttered
That’s just the way things are

© Harris Tobias 2010

Harris Tobias was raised by robots disguised as New Yorkers. Despite an awkward childhood he learned to read and write. To date Mr. Tobias has published two detective novels, The Greer Agency and A Felony of Birds, to critical acclaim. In addition he has published short stories in Down in the Dirt Magazine, Literal Translations, Electric Flash and Ray Gun Revival. He currently lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Guest Writer: Paul de Denus

Going to Find Out on Christmas Morning

Late Christmas morning, Nick slid from his crumpled bed. His head was afire, his cider-filled brain shouting and pounding like an aching old tooth. He sat with his feet barely touching the floor and scratched his belly. He wondered if he was going to puke, and then decided against it. “Always too much,” he thought. It was always this way. Downstairs in the kitchen, he could hear his wife frantically preparing hot pots of coffee, working up “the perfect breakfast feast” just to please him and the guests. He stood and tottered to the window. A carved coo-coo clock ticked loudly next to him on the wall, its monotonous tocking hammering a spike through his swollen brain. His eyes, thin as dimes stayed locked on the horizon as he raised one large craggy hand and with a full powerful grasp, crushed the clock to dust. “That… will be… enough… of that,” he growled.

A white fog had settled over the barren snow-covered fields, leaving them flat like white canvas awaiting lines to be drawn. Below, the trees in the yard hung heavy with snow and ice, their branches bent, about to break. “They will break,” he said softly. “Everything breaks. Eventually.’ Last night during all the festivities, he had seen many things broken: hearts, dreams, homes, bodies, promises. Yes, promises. Every year it was the same. It wore him down and there would be a steep price to pay.

As he rubbed his head, he caught his reflection in the pane. It painted him a ghost, almost transparent, his white hair exploding up, his long johns pewter gray and as thin as his thoughts. His weathered face was heavily lined with what his wife called ‘smile’ lines. “Not for long,” he scowled and turned away quickly, grabbing for his boots. “Take care of the dear ones first,” he muttered, his body aching, his back cracking as he straightened up.

On a bench in the kitchen near the cellar door, a group of elfin figures much like young boys huddled and waited nervously. Through a window, they watched Nick stomp past on his way to the shed carrying two buckets, one of fresh hot gruel, the other warm flavored milk, the way the reindeer liked it. The ground under his boots crunched loud and firm like crisp cornflakes. The missus was busy cutting up loaves of bread for her guests. She hummed a familiar Christmas jingle, “he knows when you are sleeping… he knows when you’re awake… he knows when you’ve been bad or good… lada-deeda-lada-dee!” One of the elves leaned and whispered. “I watched old Nick last night…he had that list again… longer than last year’s. He took his time going over it. He checked it twice.” His small voice shook and cracked. “He’ll show no mercy. He never does.”
Then the kitchen door flew open and Old Nick was upon them, flying past, bellowing:
“OHH I KNOW WHO’S BEEN NAUGHTY!… OH YES I DO!!!”
His face was a red blaze and he swung a heavy switch in his trembling hand as he roared like a fire down into the cellar.

Along the frozen basement floor, thousands of burlap sacks tied with heavy rope writhed and squirmed like boiling serpents. From within, soft moans and child-like pleading hung suspended, frozen in the frigid air. Old Nick glowered over them, his dark switch racking stiff against his knee. “So many promises broken. Now a price to pay.” He moved slowly among them tapping his switch along the bags. “Everything breaks eventually,” he said lovingly. “Everything.”


© Paul de Denus 2010

Paul de Denus is a graphic artist by day, writer by night. He has been published at Six Sentences (the Love Book, Word of Mouth & 6Svol3), Smith Magazine, Fictionaut and Espresso Stories.
Going to Find Out on Christmas Morning and other writings, and self published books appear at his blogspot: metheothertwin.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guest Writer: Bill Lapham

Stonehenge

Truth be told, the stones of Stonehenge have always been here in this configuration. They were waiting here when man arrived. The stones are mass, gray mass, and they cannot be dated, nor can they be moved. They have achieved a balance in the universe that man can only dream of achieving. They are immortal as forever; always have been.
Theories abound as to their origin and placement, about how they were brought here. They seem to beg for an explanation, how they were carved out of some English mountain with some mythical power and rolled here on a carpet of logs and hoisted into place with sand pits and rudimentary cranes made of posts and hemp lines, manipulated by brawn, muscle and sinew.
None of that is true, but the truth is what we seek. Our theory is that the stones have always been here. Always. Since before the Earth was formed, by the power of whatever god you choose to believe in, they were here. All that is the earth formed under them.
I am Professor Joe Jackson (yes, some of my friends call me “Shoeless,” but usually only after a pint and a shot) and I am accompanied by my (beautiful) graduate assistant Michelle Champion. When we got here yesterday, we found green grass in the surrounding fields; each blade offering its chlorophyll face to the sun for its blessing. We saw a blue sky; some would call it azure, but I would say blue. There were wispy clouds thousands of feet overhead, but no chance of rain.
And there were the stones, elephantine in their mass, they are mass itself. Moss grows on the north sides and looking at them from that angle makes them look ancient, ponderous, heavy, like any one of them could crush a man if it toppled over on him. They won’t, though. The ground is bedrock around here, solid. These stones have been here forever. They were here even before the earth was here.
We are at Stonehenge, in the south of England. Winter is approaching and we’ve been planning for an observation on the day the season changes – at Stonehenge, in Stonehenge, with Stonehenge. We think a universal constant—a fundamental number—is hidden in the arrangement of these stones and will be revealed to us on December 21, 2012.
We are standing at the center of the circle waiting for the moment the sun rises on the shortest day of the year – the Winter Solstice. We’ll mark the spot on the stone where the sun appears and measure the distance from that spot to the center of the circle and divide that distance by the height of the stone and multiply the dividend by the volume of air displaced by that stone, record that figure in our notebooks and then search for other relationships. We think there are many—perhaps all things, all physical formulae—rely on this constant for stability in this chaotic milieu we call the universe. We think this ratio may be the number upon which all other relationships can be described.
Unlike many of the other people present for this occasion, we do not believe this is the day the world will come to an abrupt end. It is, however, the day when our equator points directly at the sun and we find ourselves in alignment with the equator of the Milky Way galaxy – our galaxy. That makes it a special day; a good day to take measurements, test hypotheses, and observe natural phenomena for the sake of observation alone, because we will see things no other human being has ever seen before, or ever will again.
We are here with many other people. We are not alone. They touch the stones in the same place and with the same tenderness and consideration, with the same sense of awe, as every other human being who has ever touched them. How many people is that? How many humans have touched the stones of Stonehenge and wondered at their origin? How many languages have they spoken? How many different gods have they summoned to explain these massive forms and their arrangement? How many of those gods remain?
Maybe none.
There are many other people here today, each with their own story, their own reasons, their own theories. There are scientists with fantastical mathematical formulae and mystics with fantastical mathematical formulae and faith and there are priests from many different churches and religions, each with their own idea about the key to the entry into life everlasting. But they all believe, or want to believe, that the object of their personal search for a clue to the hereafter is to be found here, in the present tense, and the present place, Stonehenge.
The sky lightens in the East and it’s almost time to take our measurements. We prepare for our test just as the others prepare for theirs. Everybody’s got a theory to test and you’d think the place would be abuzz with conversations regarding various hypotheses, but there is no talking at all. The place is quiet, as if the beauty of the place has penetrated our shells and become part of us. We are in it, a part of it. We are integral.
We are ready at the precise moment the sun tips over the horizon. There it is. Michelle fires a laser at the spot where the sun appears above the stone. She takes the measurement and records it in her notebook. It is the measurement that we think will lead to the key of understanding: the fundamental number, the universal number, the number that will unlock all the mysteries mankind has conjured over the millennia. We have it.
We pack up our equipment and take a seat on camp chairs while other scientists and charlatans continue following their logical and illogical whims. We watch them with some amusement, I must admit. Why is it that we each think we are right about our assumptions and everyone else is wrong. Perhaps it is human nature to play zero-sum games: for one of us to be right, every other one of us has to be wrong. Think of it: how much time and effort will be spent on seemingly fruitless efforts?
“Professor?”
“Hmm?”
“Do you think there is any value in wasting time and energy on fruitless efforts?”
“Certainly,” I reply. “How could anyone make a conclusion before they conduct the experiment? Perhaps we only know the right answers by eliminating all the wrong ones. Somebody has to discover all the dead ends. We just don’t recognize those efforts with awards like the Nobel Prize. Maybe we should.”
“Do you think we might have wasted all this time and energy we’ve put into this experiment?”
“Absolutely not, dear. If nothing else, we will have discovered that there is no relationship between these stones and the rest of the universe. It might very well be that these stones were cut out of a mountainside and placed here with haphazard abandon. They have no significance to offer at all.”
“If that is true, will you be disappointed then?”
“If that is true, I will be happy we discovered a piece of the truth.”
Actually, I tremble at the thought. We will have expended a lot of time and energy, not to mention university resources, on a wayward scheme for little return. But not yet. We’re not done.
Then I hear a low rumble, like a heavily loaded freight train straining against the leash of inertia.
“Do you feel that?” Michelle asked. “The ground, it’s moving.”

© William Lapham 2010

Bill Lapham is a retired U.S. Navy submarine veteran (Chief of the Boat) and a recent graduate of the MLS program at The University of Michigan, Rackham Grad School, for which he thanks the GI Bill. He’s been published at Six Sentences and the U.S. Army NCO Journal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Guest Writer: Harris Tobias

The Bay It Buzz

I knew they were lying.
"Don burry Bill, ebry thing bill be all bright," in that crazy accent of theirs with their "B's" and "W's" crossed.
The house was a horrible mess. The furniture was dirty and old. What pictures there were were crooked and not of anything anyone in their right mind would hang on a wall--a photo of a toilet seat, a painting of a crumpled sheet of paper. The yard was littered with trash; the lawn was some sickly tufts of wiry grass; the gate was hanging by a single hinge.
"Ebry thing bill be just the bay it buzz," he had said.
But it buzzn’t…er, wasn’t..
It wasn't just that the house was a mess, it's what lay beyond the gate that really stunned me. Desert. There were a few forlorn little houses like mine and then nothing but scrub and dust and tumbleweed as far as the eye could see.
"You call this the way it was?" I said to Bork. The alien stood a full seven feet tall and grinned down at me with its idiotic grin and its shiny suit. It looked human but you could tell he wasn't really.
"Bell, it buzz harder den be thought. Wut, all in all, not too wad."
I could only groan for what was once a lovely Midwestern town in the corn-belt. Put through Bork's analyzer it was supposed to be digitized and reassembled exactly the way it was. But it didn't take a genius to see that the reality that went in wasn't what came out. In went my gorgeous sofa with the art deco arms and the fabric I searched all over Chicago for; and out came this dumpy Sears hide-a-bed I wouldn't even sit on. In went my little dog, Muffy, and out came this cat-like fur beast.
"Stop" I yelled. "You're getting it all wrong."
"Don burry," Bork said and squirted me with something that knocked me out for a week. When I came to, things were pretty strange and Bork and his pals were gone. He paid me though, just as he promised. I have a stack of hundred dollar bills in the basement. Every one has a picture of George Bush on it.

A Fish Story

It was a dream come true for Geraldine Fisher. All her girlhood fantasies, her dreams of a fairy tale romance had happened. She met Hans. She’ll never know what made her answer that classified ad but the fate that led her to it was a strong force and made the impossible happen.
On their first meeting, when Hans rolled his wheelchair to her door she would be he first to say that her heart sank. But he was so beautiful and charming and funny and quirky that his disability was soon forgotten. After ten minutes she was thinking “keeper” and after a half an hour they were confessing their love for one another.
Hans had a curious accent and always kept a blanket on his lap to cover what Geraldine assumed were his withered legs. He was very reticent about his past and avoided direct questions about his family and where he grew up. But he was so kind and good natured about it that Geraldine suspected nothing.
They saw each other very often that first year. Hans was always a gentleman. He took her to the most fabulous places and bought her more and more lavish gifts. Slowly his mysterious past was revealed
He was, he explained, not really of her world.
“You’re an alien?” she asked.
“I’m not from another planet, silly,” Hans replied. “I’m from Earth but I’m what your people would call a merman. You know, the male equivalent of a mermaid.” Hans explained to Geraldine’s incredulous gaze.
To prove what he was saying was true, Hans lifted his blanket and let Geraldine see for herself his magnificent fishy body beneath the robe. Geraldine gasped and almost fainted. When she regained control of herself, Hans went on to reveal his secret past.
“I am a prince in my world and I am not crippled. It is only here in the air that I cannot walk. As you can see, I have no legs but beneath the sea I assure you I am both agile and graceful.”
“But how can I be with you my love? I cannot live underwater,” said Geraldine, her eyes already welling with tears.
“I have given it much thought since first we met,” said Hans, “And I have a solution. If you will consent, there is an operation that will supply you with gills and with a bit of practice, you can feel quite at home beneath the waves.”
Geraldine had never heard of such an operation but so great was her love for Hans that she trusted him entirely. He told her he would be paying for the whole thing and that it was really quite safe. That night they talked for hours. Hans told her of his home and the wonders that awaited her. Geraldine was entranced. It sounded more grand, more wonderful than she ever hoped. A man like Hans would have been enough but a castle under the sea was beyond her imagining. She agreed to have the operation.
Everything went well and Geraldine was pleased to see that the gills did not detract from her appearance. Two small slits behind her ears were hardly visible. The best thing was how well they worked. It took practice and patience but Geraldine mastered her innate fear of breathing underwater and got comfortable with her new organs. Hans was thrilled that he could soon take her home to meet his parents. He’d already proposed and given Geraldine an enormous diamond. Geraldine was a little sad that she wouldn’t have any of her friends or family at the wedding but Hans assured her that he would make a second one just for her. He seemed fabulously wealthy. He promised they would spend half a year in his world and half in hers. He was so agreeable and kind, Geraldine could not refuse.
Now Geraldine was a modern girl. The idea of sex, even pre-marital sex was not foreign to her; but Hans would have none of it. “Call me old fashioned,” he said “but I would much prefer to save all that for our wedding night.” Even that became a part of the charm and mystery of Geraldine’s new life.
The day came when Geraldine had to say goodbye to this world. She quit her job and kissed her girlfriends and family goodbye. Then she set out on a boat with Hans. The boat took them far out to sea. When it reached a certain spot, Hans and Geraldine clasped hands and jumped together into the deep warm sea.
Down they swam into an underwater world that was more beautiful and marvelous than anything any mortal had ever seen. Hans introduced her to his parents. There was much jubilation, music, dancing and elaborate dinners. Everyone loved Geraldine and she loved them back. Geraldine was given an enormous suite of rooms and several mermaid servants to wait on her. She was thinking how wonderful it all was.
The days flew by and before long it was time for the wedding. The castle was lavishly decorated. It seemed like the entire population of the city was in attendance. Geraldine’s heart was in a giddy whirl. The wedding ceremony was something out of a storybook. She and Hans danced the night away.
Tipsy and deeply in love, the two newlyweds found their way to Hans’ bed chamber. This was the moment when their love would be consummated. Geraldine had dreamed of this night since she first confessed her love to Hans over a year before. She disrobed and slid naked beneath the covers. Hans swam over and took off his wedding finery revealing his muscular body for her examination. He truly was a beautiful specimen. As they moved together beneath the sheets, Geraldine arrived at an awkward realization. Hans had no erection. He was not impotent, he simply did not have normal male equipment. Just as this troubling truth struck her, Hans let out a groan of pleasure and the chamber filled with a milky fluid. Hans had spawned.
“How was that for you,” Hans asked, considerate gentleman that he was.

© Harris Tobias 2010

Harris Tobias was raised by robots disguised as New Yorkers. Despite an awkward childhood he learned to read and write. To date Mr. Tobias has published two detective novels, The Greer Agency and A Felony of Birds, to critical acclaim. In addition he has published short stories in Down in the Dirt Magazine, Literal Translations, Electric Flash and Ray Gun Revival. He currently lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Guest Writer: Brad Rose

Clown Art

I’d been driving around LA all day, the better part of Friday, aimless as a misfired starting pistol. Who wouldn’t? After the near-beating I took at Doogie’s, that Irish bar that’s so crowded on weeknights, nobody goes there anymore, not even Casey Stengel. I don’t like to drink and I can’t stand darts, but my buddy, Toby, enticed me into a “friendly” game there, last night. So I took him up on it. Hey, as it turns out, I have a talent for throwing sharply pointed metal objects, which, by the way, makes me really good at my job at Ringling Brothers. (I get paid a lot of money by ‘RingBros’, although I hate to wear that damn costume with the fuzzy orange hair and two-foot long clown shoes. The former is itchy and hurts my head, and the latter, hurt my feet—so, basically, I hurt at both ends whenever I’m dressed for work. But that’s another story)

Anyway, I threw those darts--one, two, three--and I’ll be damned if all of them didn’t land right in the middle of the bulls-eye. Toby said, “You are a cheater---nobody gets three bulls-eyes in one round. Nobody!” To which I replied, “Toby, I’m not just some nameless ‘nobody,’ I am ‘Blopo the Clown’, lest you forget.”

Toby is a dear friend, but I hate him, and his memory is not so good, so I sometimes have to remind him that I am not just your average, run-of-the-mill clown. I am “Blopo.” With or without the fright wig.

“Where did you learn to throw darts, like that?” Toby accused.

“I didn’t ‘learn’ to throw darts, it just comes naturally. It’s a talent”

“You expect me to believe that bunch of cowplop?”

“Well, yeah, it’s the truth”

“Everybody has to practice their art, even clowns—even fancy schmancy ‘famous’ clowns-- if they want to get good.”

“Oh, Toby, what do you know about art?”

“I’ve been to the MOMA once or twice. I saw a bunch of the modern masters there.”

“That doesn’t mean you know anything about art.”

“Well, I know what I like. And I don’t like that you just threw three bulls-eyes in a row, on your first try.”

It wasn’t a pretty picture. There we were, an off-duty clown and his inebriated friend, debating the necessity of artists perfecting their art through practice. Practice vs. raw, untrained talent. Chicken or egg, argument if you ask me. But don’t ask me, because you know what I’ll say. It’s talent, natural born talent. Pure and simple.

Anyway, Toby got so mad he picked up an unopened bottle of Guinness and started to charge at me like some kind of drunken matador, which is precisely when I realized that art and friendship are diametrically opposed to darts. I ducked and pivoted---just in time, I might add--and fled in an elegant canter toward Doogie’s exit. Toby was a little bit tipsy, so he was unable to keep up with my highly practiced clown pace. I ducked out the door, faster than 10 clowns can pile out of a little compact car, and before Toby could even dream of catching-up with me, I was out of there, like a shot out of a cannon. Which is why I started driving, aimlessly, all over LA. For the better part of Friday. I don’t know where I’m headed now in this white Bronco, but I sure as hell know I ain’t going back to that bar again. That place is a complete circus.

© Brad Rose 2010

Brad Rose was raised in southern California, and lives in Boston. His work has appeared in Third Wednesday, Off the Coast, Boston Literary Magazine, Tattoo Highway, Imagination and Place, Right Hand Pointing, SleetMagagazine.com, Six Sentences, Espresso Stories, Fiction at Work, Monkeybicycle, Staccato Fiction, Six Little Things, and other publications. Links to his poetry and fiction can be found at: http://bradrosepoetry.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Guest Writer: Leviathan

The God Tree

As a kid, my brother Danny had a little too much faith in legends, and he always ended up devising his own meaning out of them. He was the kind of kid who would believe that dubious little shepherd boy every time he heard him crying wolf. And who would never for all of his life’s worth suspect that trickster in sheepskin clothing of lying. Probably because when it came to big bad wolves chasing scared little tykes down in the deep forest, Danny had his own share of cries, and tears to shed. Because, in his story, the wolf was real and because, unlike the shepherd boy, Danny would always fail to get back in town in the nick of time, no matter how hard he tried to run away from the snarling beast on all fours, chasing Danny down with his bloodshot eyes never leaving him.

In the end, Danny always ended up dying, no matter how hard he tried. But he always came back, if only to die better. In short, Danny should have died for good so many times in the whole of his life. But he continued to show up around us, wounded and healed, like a worn out dream that we could never shrug off from our lives for good.

A lot about my brother Danny was make-believe, or so I thought back then. And one of the earliest legends in his life, the one that I think he believed in the most and which had the greatest effect on him, was that old Oak Tree in the town’s old Central Park.

Danny even had a name for that ancient tree; he called it the God Tree. Though it wasn’t because Danny thought the God Tree represented God in a way or something, but because he believed it to be a good tree.

For me it was all too puzzling back then, because why call that tree a God when there ain’t no God in it. I wondered, and especially with that tree probably being at the fag end of its life, dying out a little more with each day that went by.

In those days, we were just a couple of small town kids who would every now and then, on the way home from school, hunker down on the bench and look at the God Tree for as long as we could afford to without getting into trouble with our parents back home. And it didn’t take much kid-sense on my part to figure out that mother wouldn’t like Danny’s favorite God Tree one bit; because as a human being my mother has missed out on a lot of qualities, including that of imagination; which is why I believe Danny had never been able to forgive her for the rest of his life, though I don’t really blame him for that.

Because Danny was a magnet to weirdness, a force inside of him driving him towards all forms of craziness that he could reach out to in this world. It was as if he could look beyond the exterior of every person he ever came across, searching for a little bit of craziness inside of him or her that he could relate to, and feed on. It was almost as if Danny needed it for his own self to stay alive, and gladly there was enough of that craziness around the place he grew up in, in order to make a living.

And when he found none of that in his mother, he spent most of his childhood and the grown up days running away from her, aggrieved and disappointed.

In those days we spent most of our afternoons at the old Central Park, on our usual bench, which looked awfully rusty and made a creaking sound from the hinges gone loose, and with little Danny tucked up, staring up at his favorite God Tree that he saw standing a few yards from the bench, while I would take my place next to him, waiting for us to get home.

I remember the first time when I asked him. “Why do you call it the God Tree”?

“Why?” Danny wondered. “I dunno, maybe because it’s so old looking, and quiet. Or could be because most people fail to notice it, they walk all around it, and never even realize how close they are to it, to something special, not even for once, which is amazing to see. But I am not sure, though I do like watching this tree a lot, probably because it is a good one.”

“What’s so good about this one?” I asked.

“Because it feels good to be watching it,” Danny said and took a pause, now looking back at me. Then, looking somber. “And because Grandpa loved it too, when he was a kid. He believed it wasn’t from this world, he knew it to be special. But then he grew up, and the love thing stopped, which was sad. Because he had a lot of faith in that tree, and in the place it came from. He used to believe in those things so strongly that he probably was responsible for making them happen.”

“What do you mean”? I asked. “Grandpa made them happen? You mean he made those places and the trees up, that they weren’t real?”

“Something like that,” Danny replied. “But it’s not like they aren’t real. It’s like he made them to be what they are. He made them real enough with what he believed in. But sometimes I think he had a little too much of it, the believing stuff that is. And it wore him out eventually.”

“Why?” I asked. “What happened?”

“I guess it was because Grandpa finally decided to grow up.” Danny spoke, his eyes distant as if in deep thought. “I’m not sure, because it’s all so complicated. But it could be because when you grow up, you tend to lose faith in trees and all”.

I remembered the sad old figure of Grandpa, stuck in a wheel chair day in and out. Not moving, but watching all with his eyes open, not missing a thing. Only refusing to talk, or move. Just like what mom had told us, that Grandpa was gonna stay the way he was, and we’d better not say a nasty word while around him, because he was listening. And because mom said that’s all you can do when you grow old, you stop moving and start listening. Picking up on things you have missed out when young.

“Even in good ones like the God Tree?” I asked.

“Yes,” Danny replied. “Even the ones which are good. Or maybe especially in the ones that are good. I … I think so. But I am not too sure.”

“Do all grown ups end up like Grandpa?” I asked. “Surely not all of them lose faith like Grandpa did.”

“I believe they do,” Danny said. “But I guess it happens all too slowly, so much so that they don’t get to realize it at first.”

But I didn’t believe him, like I never believed most of what Danny said or did back then or later, even when we were much older. The world around me was full of evidence that everything Danny said was not true. Because I remember that mother always went to church, even when she grew old, old enough to just drop flat on her face and die out. Because you don’t need an excuse to die once you are old enough.

But even when old, mother didn’t lose her faith. With or without imagination, she never missed a Sunday congregation, not that I could remember. Something must have driven her to do what she did. And it could only be faith.

Danny continued. “They don’t really see it happening, for a while anyway. Losing faith is a bit like what you’ve seen in the movies. A guy getting shot in noisy background music, and for a while he wouldn’t have it figured, till someone points it out to him, and that’s how he ends up dying. He wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been told he was shot.”

“Why do you think that happens?” I asked.

“Why?” Danny gave me that you-are-so-dumb look of his. The kind of look I hated, because it made me feel small. “It’s because the background’s too noisy.”

“But that’s all in the movies,” I protested. “It’s all made up.”

“Now don’t start talking like grown ups, Jimmy,” Danny scolded me. “Movies are real! How many times have I told you that?”

“No, they are not.” I didn’t want to believe him. “Movies get shot by a camera, with a bunch of people pretending to be somebody else.”

A curve of a smile appeared on Danny’s face. It was a smile of satisfaction. “Yes, they do. Because that’s what grownups do, when they stop believing in the God Tree. They go around pretending to be somebody else.”

I looked away and didn’t say a word for the rest of the afternoon. Not because I had nothing else to say, but because it was almost as if we spoke in different languages, and no matter how long we would argue, me and Danny, we would never make any sense to each other.

Couple of months after that afternoon, Grandpa passed away. And when he did, Danny locked himself up in his room and cried for three days.

When I went to him upstairs, followed by my mother, and asked if he was all right, that’s when we found out the real reason behind his prolonged grief.

“The God Tree,” Danny sobbed. “It’s gone too.”

“What do you mean, gone?” I asked.

“It’s gone. Somebody took it,” Danny said. “Somebody took it as soon as Grandpa passed away. Or maybe Grandpa took it with him. I’m not sure. Maybe he thought he would need it where he went.”

Mother looked puzzled. “What God Tree, Danny?”

“The God Tree,” Danny shrilled. “That old one in the park, mommy.”

Mother looked puzzled and looked my way. I shrugged and said. “He’s referring to that old Oak Tree in the central park. He thinks it’s gone, since Grandpa has died.”

A look of understanding dawned on mother’s face. I felt relieved. She looked back at Danny, now allowing herself a smile. The smile that said, oh I should have known, Danny.

And her voice, firm as always, remained neutral as she spoke. “Danny, you listen to me now, and listen well. Don’t make me repeat it, son. There ain’t no Oak Tree in that central park, Danny. You listenin’? That park’s been there since the day I first went to school, and there ain’t ever been an Oak Tree in that place.”

I saw my brother shrinking, becoming smaller with each word thrown at him. Getting small enough to fit into that invisible shell he would carve out for himself whenever forced to face the convincing lies and the deceitful attempts that the rest of the world brought against him, hoping to deprive Danny of his faith, hoping to lead him astray like the rest of the lost souls Danny saw around him and pitied.

Danny didn’t say a word to mother that day, and he never once mentioned to her about the God Tree. But in secret he remained true to his faith, staying firm to his sense of otherworldliness against the raw hardcore reality of the world, against the raging wolf chasing him down in the woods.

© Leviathan 2010

Leviathan, a recent NaNoWriMo winner, writes out of love for all things that await us in the dark. He writes to serve the demons that haunt us all. His favorite quote is (here paraphrased from Nietsche), “When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”
You can read some of his short stories and serialized fiction on his blog at http://moresulphurthanclay.blogspot.com/

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