Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sign (Viking invaders, no.1)


She hears his laughter as he kicks down the front door of the house she's grown to hate, a strangely musical sing song heard clearly over the din of the invasion. The miserable, cold little merchant who had beaten her back sore just an hour before shoves her off her feet with considerable effort, into the pathway of the skulking marauder's wolf fur covered boots. She notices the Viking's eyes first, dancing with musical intensity; then the joy leaves them, when her husband hisses, "take the little witch! Have your way with her...but leave me be!"

She'd expected no great defense on their behalf, but knowing she'd given herself to a coward so base, these many months, makes her feel as low as any slave. Her hands tremble; fortunate, indeed, to be able to squeeze them shut after he'd gripped them in panic and anger, upon the sighting of the longship.

The great behemoth stoops, unthreatened by her husband, his long dark braids sweeping down from his face, drawn to her scuffed cheek. For one wielding such a man-cleaving axe, his calloused hands yield a gentleness of surprising portions, as he touches her. She looks him straight in the eye. "You've no fear," he said, "to meet your maker, do you?" She shakes her head, no. He turns to a piece of pottery she hand crafted, a blue vessel, painted with the story of her trek to this strange place at the side of her cruel husband. As with her many heirlooms, he hated the tedious amount of detail she painted into everything, the way each face bore some expression, the way every tree bore leaves, the way the river seemed to bear the labors of days. Its glaze lights before the burning fire that begins to fall from the timbers.

"You made this?" asks the Viking, turning the vase over in his hands.
She nods. He reaches his hand into a sack of gold brought home from the most recent of her husband's drunken expeditions. "I'll wager I've never seen such craftsmanship in all my travels," says the brute admiringly.

At the sight of the gold, her husband's eyes leap with madness; he takes a broken chair leg and tries to blindside the invader. The Viking notes the wife's eyes, then turns with a dagger and spears the screaming merchant. "For what you've done to this raven haired creature," says the warrior, hefting him overhead, "may Hela take you without mercy!" He slams the man into the table, where so many meals she had fixed began and ended with his scorn over each perceived imperfection. The table shatters from the force.

As the smoke begins to strangle the air, the Viking offers his hand to her. "Can you walk?" he asks. She tries to stand on her sore ankle. "I have a poltice, in the hands of our healer," he says. "If you will let me call you 'Sign', I will take you as mine. No other name you have known shall matter, if you agree to walk my way. I am a trickster as well as a shrewd warrior; these things will not spare me death in battle some day. But before I see Valhalla, I should hope to return to my land, and live with the finer things in my life, however long it may last. Do you want any of these things?" he says, gesturing to the room.

"Let ...let me take a few clothes," she says, taking the sack offered to her. Soon, the two have cleared the kicked-in doorway and found their way out into the early, frosty morning.

"Come with me, " he says, as they walk a path up from the burning remains of the town where she'd spent so many dread days. "You are not for my fellows to have as they please. Come, lead me down this pathway to the clover..."

Some distance now from the chaos, he takes her behind a copse of trees, and rips open her skirt. For all his ardor, he lays her gently down to avoid hurting her. He kisses her neck, and she feels a (feeling) such as she had never known.

As the smoke fills the sky in the distance, she feels his hands massage her through her top, and hears his labored breathing. She feels his touch at the lips <>...she moans, and runs her hand down his now-exposed belly, winter flesh carved with muscles from the labors of his farm. He kisses her with his tongue,< > while her knees caress his bearskin shirt, laid on the ground above the morning dew.

<> lay low the gates of a wicked city. He then grabs her waist, <> stopping only to glance his hand over her buttocks softly, before slapping them. As she coos from the stinging, she hears the thrush stir in the bush. She relaxes <>, his finger playing delicately <> on her bare back. The first rays of the dawn begin to banish the haze of morning.

She rises, embracing him, with a strength she has never in her adult life known.

"Come then," he says. "Let us start down the path of what remains of life together. Make for me your fine things, and I shall bear you my sweat, as a builder of wheels. Tell my stories, tell of my family's courage with the magic of your fingers, share my mead, taste from my horn and see it is good...and my shield will hang forever more above your sleeping head."

With a tear, the newly-christened Sign walks towards the long ship, her companion again laughing, squeezing her shoulders with the length of his bear-like arm. The drums of victory resound; they leave that trail behind for the beckoning cold of the Norse seas.

*Sign was the name of Loki's compassionate wife, in Nordic myth.---C Lue

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Glad I Came Back "

painting George Grosz, 1943 Glad I Came Back thanks Lyne
Optional: music by Schubert, "Death and the Maiden in D minor"
She parts the curtain, shedding light sweet and true upon her frame. Having already died so much inside, she can't say she is surprised to find herself an animated corpse. The delicious decay is her secret, in a world where she watches others, helplessly dying themselves, as was the way of things.">

Her view out the window reveals many who had yet to be honest about their appointment with death, busy on their way: dealers carrying their drugs, mothers carrying their babies, business men carrying their suitcases, an insurance salesman with his drink, a woman, dressed in shorts as a postal worker, carrying a box,teenagers carrying their iPhones, elderly people carrying on their conversations. Perhaps without talking, they can avoid discussing their inevitable transformations. Perhaps their talks incorporate some scheme for day to day survival; perhaps their talks could ring with some energy left over from their births, their accelerations towards what she has already become.

And yet, the contentedness of living beckons...a steady beat.

She takes off her robe, to lie turned golden in the approaching sun. She faces the bed where she dreams or dies, one, depending. Now, a choice: answer the knock at the door, and let herself be discovered in her true form, or return to the business of being dead.

"Let them deal with me, as I am," she decides. But perhaps, if she reveals her state, they will take her away from this room?

She feels the presence on the other side of the door. Is this Eternity? Is this where she finds herself becoming part of that sunshine forever? Do she now leave the luxury of her bed for the silence beneath feet of Earth?

She takes the door handle, lit by the ripped open self of the outside world.
She finds a young man, and inside his skeleton lies peace, an acceptance of the grave, before the grave accepts him. He embraces her, as if to reconcile their chests, as if to make the specters that they are, whole, by some connection at the belly. He takes her in his arms, puts her head to his shoulder, pats her back, holds them together as he sighs deeply.

His cheek brushes her's, revealing flesh upon the bone; she sees, in a way only seen with eyes. Scent reveals the ocean, dirty with life, honest, a hint of sweat and musk, and she finds her lungs expand with air. Her filling abdomen touches his, as he holds her at arm's length. He quite unintentionally steps on her foot, now covered with flesh, with little painted toe nails...he apologizes with an modestly embarrassed chuckle, and she parts lips, found again, to laugh as well...

She discovers her hair, lilting above her brow, blown by a light puff from his lips, and then moved to life by the opened window...

"I'm glad I came back."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"With this strike, a better world!" Vikings, super beings, and the ordinary folks caught in the way

from an alternative world of our own...

Confronted with the emerald behemoth, still towering over the Mountie, the soldiers quickly alleviate the tension when asked: "Soldiers want to shoot Hulk? Soldiers always hound Hulk! The Mountie suggests: Far from it, big guy! My green friend, if you would be so kind as to direct your might towards helping us combat this conflagration!" Private Holt turns to him and says, "Dave, you're nervous." "I know, Steve," he replies. Corporal Dayly steps up and says, "Fire bad? Hulk help with fire?" "Why?" he snarls. Mountie Dave speaks: "the animals in the forest can't survive this wildfire without your help!" The Hulk nods and says, "Yes! Hulk help Bambi!"

Private Holt picks up the conversation, with a sweeping gesture of his arm: "Hulk knocks down trees before they burn! Keep fire from jumping onto trees!" Without another word, the gamma-spawned goliath busies himself with the closest trees directly behind the soldiers, relieved, who rush back to the company of their units.

Prince Nicola Dragonavayne:
(I continue integrating impressions, concepts come to aid the basis of my analytical facilities) Through Song’s power---song, keeping together the material of myself---an aperture appears, creating a heavenly border of transfiguration upon the mountain, emanating like a gate made of stars (superimposed?) with runes, within Ray as he stands vigilant. I am reminded for a second how our brother dear did deride us in the scornful morning after his sister and I were subsumed in magic love making with the priestess Wanda. Wanda had travelled with us as we escorted the exiled Christians from the village where we last set eyes upon the Temple of Inguz, slaying its intruders.

The feelings were too deep to quickly evaporate, and before we could talk, we were committed first to completing our doomed mission, the disposal of the Box before it fell into marauding hands. I wondered that dawn: by what chink in Ray’s armor, by what incivility in intimacy, did Slay Box inculcate its influence? We already understand the deranged manner of those who possessed the Box of Fafnir (as we also called it) We rejected superstitious folly, the skeptics who had seen objects of faith fall with their culture. We accelerated our efforts---there was danger from foes glimpsed, those unseen, and the ominous melting of the ice itself. Whatever fervent beliefs surrounded the object, we knew Nature would have its due course.
Before the break through…the shattered crystalline floor beneath our feet, the plummet into the dark.

Then, within the starry doorframe, I see a scene in the deeper past: Ray, much younger, frightened, worried by the immense occult forces threatening his …adolescent sister, Abril, upon the time of her initiation as the Marc Kane…

I touch the fury and confusion, as I peer into the deep recesses of his heart---for here, emotions and dreams reform the appearance of things, empathy becomes a tactile sense, much as we see through the eyes to a person, as they are fashioned from their source. He is that person inside, and he is like Death personified outside. He raises his weapon high, then brings forward a wicked arc; my face bashes the dirt beside its fall. A new instinct tells me to take the soil of the mountain and thrust it into his eyes, even as I deliver a kick inside his stride.
The earth…

I make myself one with the earth, the energetic communication inside the planet; a future self pours knowledge, nearly to overwhelm my understanding like a vessel’s mouth, with knowledge of chemicals, names from the Greeks, forms of bonds on a level too fine for the naked eye.

I reach into the cycling rage, I channel it downward along with my sinking consciousness, through the bonding point at which we two shadow men are the same. And now I understand that primal combative streak, a response from nature to defend, to attain his needs and those of his offspring. Children, it seems, he could never have now with Wanda. I share with him, too, the awful moment when he believed his sister’s salvation would depend on her sexual initiation, a moment buried until he was led to discover the Marc, Wanda and I.

Never had we been driven apart by such things before, yet under the subtle curse of the box, Ray decided to speak no more…

Or are there no curses, no blessings, from beyond our understanding? It is one thing to touch the minds of brightened modern man; but the shadows of the heart also must open, unfold, received before the torch of the Marc Kane, whose power inside me illuminates my perceptions in this lucid dream made real.

I see the quest for knowledge, to ferret out facts of the mechanisms of the natural world, by which I best knew Ray; his most hard-bitten battle savagery was behind him when he came to the court of my father, the Dragonvayne chieftain, and became my royal scout to explore the kingdom, rather than lord over the territory someday in ignorance; for leaders ever squander what is not personally their own.

“Before it ends,” says the ebon golem of Awen of Argos, Ray’s eyes seeming mostly human, with granite pupils of blindness. “Before it ends, will…I know…what we’ve managed…to do?”

The Hulk has begun smashing a fire break, crushing trees on the edges of the enormous wall of flame threatening to cause another Southern California wildfire catastrophe.

Suddenly two of the Four Armed Men are upon him, punching and grappling with him, while another opens fire with a type of bazooka. While they attempt to subdue him, the conflagration builds, as the regrouping soldiers prepare to fight the blaze until reinforcements arrive; fortunately they have been equipped for fire-fighting exercises, as they have been training to augment the efforts of the fire fighters.

However, the soldiers start to suffer phantasms: Trans Rupture is coming.

Remus Sharptooth’s form is translucently merged with the form of Captain Ray Awen on the ghostly plane, which is like a darkened stage transfixed with one spotlight. He stands poised with his huge battle-axe above the seated, meditating form of Prince Nicola.

“With this strike,” he thinks, “I herald a better world; a more magical world; a world where the feelings of these creatures shall shine without obscurity, revealed to one another!” By the power of Sulinar Vix, he gathers the power to create an essence of time upon that plane, so that he might achieve a medium for action: the act of execution.

To the side, transfixed in a cage of green luminescence, the Marc Kane sits imprisoned, reaching out magically for aid. She summons a rune, shaped like this: < to her hand, and projects that rune, for opening, a symbol for torch light, which drifts up from the subconscious of the nearby Hellcat. She beckons Valkyrie to follow her towards a cave opening, Now the Valkyrie sees it, too: she declares the symbol’s meaning, and hastens forward, causing it to burn brighter in her mind’s eye. With her sword Dragon Fang, she cleaves out the side of the wall, pulverizing it with her might, and drops below into the throne room, where the wolf sorcerer awakens from his trance, startled. On the astral plane, Nicola’s awareness shifts; he begins to sense the mingled nature of the being who strikes, and rolls out of the way of the blow in the nick of time. Corpse Flower and Remus Sharptooth begin to physically combat Hellcat and Valkyrie.

Outside, the Hulk continues his fierce battle against the Four Armed Men. Meanwhile, Gnoll the Trome emerges at last from the smoldering hutch, forgotten; he decides to salvage his rickety yet formidable armor of scraps, bolts and bailing wire, complete with its furnace-driven engine, belching smoke from its chest. He sallies forth, prepared to win honor and glory as a knight of the new coming kingdom.

From the skies, the red-winged Defender known as Nighthawk arrives at last, punching one of the Four Armed Men that attacks the Hulk from the back.

He hails the Hulk and jests and cheers him on; Machine Man also comes onto the scene, extending a fist on a telescoping arm while blasting another foe with his flame-throwing other fist, and the route of the Four Armed Men is on. However, one of them leaps onto the hillside, scales quickly, and from his vantage point tackles Nighthawk, sending them both careening wildly.

Utilizing the essence of the viking captain to augment his skills, Remus skillfully parries the attacking Valkyrie. Remus tells her she is mad for trying to stop the change of the world; she replies that she does not understand his ends, but the manner in which they are accomplished---endangering innocent lives, imprisonment without proven cause---call her in the present moment to challenge him. Her skill with Dragonfang is nearly insurmountable; to escape, Remus chooses to summon a bolt of power to pulverize the ledge behind Valkyrie. Yet, at this moment when he can press his advantage, Remus Sharptooth is seized with the urge to reach down to help her back up; then he levitates himself out of reach and away.
Using the imminent danger of the wildfire, the soldiers and mounties succeed in uniting for their original purpose: training as an auxillary firefighting unit in a moment of great peril. Meanwhile, the Hulk and Machine Man have knocked the Four Armed Men unconscious in spectacular fashion; Nighthawk’s foe takes the worst of their crash, and though dazed, he becomes aware of the recovering attacker. The being, whose head resembles an anthropomorphized snapping turtle’s, points out that because he is not of their world, he is not affected by the Trans Rupture, “which seems to bring upon a transformation accelerated beyond your ability to cope!” as he puts it. Kyle/ Nighthawk does find the emotional confluence a terrible distraction, yet he cites the control of emotions that the soldiers and Mounties display, and times a jetpack-powered thrust to lift the Four Armed Man off his feet, and into the “loving graces” of the Hulk.

Knocking the Four Armed Man unconscious, Hulk feels a twinge of remorse beneath his battle fury. “Hulk is glad fighting is over!” he says, shaking his head. With the Tranz Rupture swirling the thoughts of individuals into the conscious mind of each person present, Hulk feels the urgency of stopping the fire, the physical threat to everyone. He sees a fire fighter, who calls himself Smoky Dean, beckon him back to stopping the inferno. The Hulk slams together his hands to create a massive wind, blowing down the flaming trees directly in front of him.
Smoky Dean runs the other direction, shouting the Hulk’s praises. As he plunges into another side of the inferno, however, he finds firefighters fallen, and feels their misery. He walks up to one to make sure he is not suffocating or falling prey to heat exhaustion; he immediately feels the grasp of the Voidons upon the emotions of his fellows. “All they need is to revive enough to fight back!” he thinks, but he does not know what to do for them, individually. “Then I’m just going to have to stay strong, myself!” he decides. In setting his intention, Smoky Dean calls upon inner reserves: the love for his wife and child he wants to see again, and his own self-taught determination.
He remembers training for his pack test last month: a walk of three miles in forty-five minutes,

wearing a vest weighing 45 pounds. Running would disqualify him. Only endurance and a steady

certainty could see him through. This emotion begins to spread among his desperately rallying


Aching, Nighthawk takes flight again, overhead. “Interesting how you can lose track of what county you're in in the middle of a huge fire, “ he thinks; “the soot must be unbelievable, gets down into your hair’s going to smell like fire a long time!” He begins diving in, taking up fire fighters for air above the smoke. “They can’t even wear a mask---too dangerous!” he reasons.

He also becomes aware of the emotional confluence, you might say, as he whisks fire fighters upwards from the psychically feeding Voidons. “The time I spent conscious without my body, thanks to the Headmen, has given me sort of vantage point of detachment,” he intuits. “I perceive whatever energy field is opening us to one another, and I see it reaching my mind, but also, my choice beneath the miasma of emotions. If the field will take my projection, of my thoughts, into the mix, perhaps it help make the firefighters deal with the physical element of these feeling-void attacks! As it is---I only hope Val and Patsy have got some angle on how to bring this down at its source, or a massive wildfire might be the SMALL problem!”

Hellcat reaches for her cell phone once again, as she swings out of reach of the she-wolf, Corpse Flower. “I don’t know where in the universe Doctor Strange is, but we need him---or Clea---to find the key to whatever’s going on here. Okay, Clea, it’s ringing...pick up before this kitty becomes wolf chow on the hoof!”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Why Brood? or, Hulk is glad fighting is over

Now, I have a best friend, who was listening to me while I waxed tiredly about fruitless situations I want to keep my heart out of...forgive the shite grammar. Still shot out from last night's gym trip and still not yet stirring beyond a bit of drawing I sent along to cheer up an old friend, knowing I have this epic piece of writing I've been plotting and complicating---I'd rather use the term "complexifying" if you will indulge me the neo-logism---and I didn't feel I could move on to my happy music side fully until I had this prototypical little giant of drawing and writing out of the way, however much I may wish I could hang around indulging in thoughts of it, indefinitely. (Moving on: a theme, here.)

Anyway, she's my wife, though our nom-de-plume personas are pledged to wed in a big, gaudy ceremony someday should we achieve the quality of fandom which used to haunt so many dreams.
And all I wanted was for her to stop playing her game on her break and read my mind and cuddle up with me and spoil me, when, after all, I really just needed to blow off some steam primal scream style and maybe bounce around the room acting out the story I've been drawing for and plotting so much of the past two weeks.

We really, really don't like to be cross with one another, but with the shitty economy and the need for continuing development of our triple-threat long term projects, I sometimes yearn too much for a different status quo, wherein we are working in the arts making enough of a living to where we could drive each other absolutely up the wall in each others' omnipresence. That yearning, when one aches and feels somewhat dormant, can manifest in a testiness that is just plain rude. We promised to keep in touch, though, talking just moments after she departed for her job, and before the afternoon was halfway through, I'd sent a text based on a line established early on in today's writing that doubled for my true sentiments: "Hulk is glad the fighting is over."

Her answer: "So am I, Hulk. She Hulk is sorry."

Oh, never mind they're really cousins; we ALL know that! We're from Georgia; we're likely about fourth cousins, ourselves!

When she came home, I took a break as soon as possible from my eager narrating voice to make some coffee and invite her out onto the fire escape to see the blue of the skyline. We commented on its difference from the bright blue we love so well here in California: really, it was much the same, it just lacked, at that point, the suffusion of broad daylight.

I did some yoga and took copious notes, organizing story bits and polishing scenes while she played on facebook, and came back swinging before the night was through. I let her go to the gym by herself this time, where she got her best ever five minute run time, much better than I can yet do, meself!

Meanwhile, I continued doggedly in pursuit of a story that had an overwhelming unchecked zeal to be told, at the expense of all other pursuits. You know, I added two installments, about 2000 more typed words, and STILL had the climax left to finish, as it continued to suggest scenes that, were we editing for an actual comic, might have to fall to the way side.

If I was more concerned about readers' reluctance to pursue reading a lengthier short story, I might have backed away, but something said, "you've got to illustrate this in its fullness, let every bit character that wants have their say!" Best yet, before she left, she drew some runes for me, just as one character does in the story---the core original characters are intensely personal iterations of our fantasy life, many years in the making. And STILL, I couldn't close the deal on THAT scene for all the interim material, so when she came back, we discussed how each of the five characters in the spell may have drawn each particular rune and its significance. So, together, reading, sharing, discussing, we agreed to how the interpretations via Ralph Blum's excellent book on runemal fit w/ the five characters in the situation, and I wrote right UP to that scene, which waits for me still tomorrow, or whenever I'm done sleeping today.

We'd already had a lot of fun, and then we went out to Subway, where the cutie-pie favorite---oh yeah, earlier, the lady asked how we were, and I said "oh, inspired!" and she asked, "by your girlfriend?" and why correct her, that's exactly the feeling I miserably stated I want to have with my wife, where it's safe, wonderful, and sane to have it. Oh, well, Estrela gave us her big smile as she made our sandwiches, and found out how long we've been together, while wonderful bEatles blasted much too loudly over the speakers.

After I eventually called Estrela from the back to get our cup and the three customers who'd walked in (closing by yourself is TOUGH!), we settled down for her first read of the conclusion of the last Claremont Brood saga, drawn by the incomparable Marc Silvestri and Dan Green team, thrilling to every page, really, laughing and chattering and just best-friending like soul mates. I can't remember which part she pointed out was a tad weak---it was her only complaint besides how easily Psylocke was turned in an earlier chapter by the mind controlling member of the Brood (shades of H.R. Giger) via a pheromone-controlled Rogue. She loved seeing Wolvie's healin' factor take care of that brood egg while the pastor thought he was exorcising a demon, Havok's near-fatal hesitation about taking a life again, Colossus giving the Brood hell as a one man car wreck, and Maddy's dark spiritual journey---really, she loved the comic as thoroughly as I did back in '88, maybe more.

We have another wonderful thing in common that is as tempting to write about as those first 2000 words I was considering...but safe to say, that was in private, later, and I don't know what the forum rules are for such revelations and let's say it was the kind of thing that proves how united we are in our tastes, hopes and dreams.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Execution at the edge of existence! Defenders/TRANZ (2 of 3) Remus Sharptooth story pt. 1

Within all things lies the information---other forms, willing generously into Intention, every necessity for realization! I feel like standing, trembling with control, extremities poised to the generation of powers, welling up inside my nature. What I knew as blood is called magma, roiling in patterns deeply, surging to declare the changes to the surface world.

To think is to shudder. Stability now in waves, while tremors in our darkness declare:
we do indeed, grow.
Prince Nicola, Dragonvayne, flows as a consciousness on the fifth dimension, coalescing into a form, an embodiment of the metaphor of his present existence, which seems ghost-like from our remove.

Emergence’s sea, drift in antipathy, the low end vibes, surrendering my good vessel to the urgencies at the shadowed heart of intentions, those seeming to fail misguided, interrupted---frustrated! Where in this lost land wait the creations of foreboding, haunting our tribes with fallen states?

Mark! Where stands the heaven that here will give me strength? We raid this dominating fortress, sack its gloom, we seek its prisoners, chained awaiting after life liberty!

Steady, my Kane---inspired by a moment, in the passion of long sacrifice, to provide a forgiving glimpse into the reaches of frightfulness.

Before the black hole fixed beyond Valhalla into Ragnarok, shines a sickening pale of the many fears of many deaths before the unreasoning slayers, in a shade that shuns life, rolling across the lightless heavens to contain the gait of my destroyer, the death angel graced with the visage of my beloved friend…

So, at last.

I tell myself, surrender to death: the gateway to an integrated understanding must lie here at the culmination---the termination---the harvest of my being. And because I choose not to fear the end of all I knew in this form, for this reason, I believe, is the grace: my executioner wears my friend’s face.

Rayford Awen Mycearyn---perhaps, you are not he, but some hooded shade of his essence---or perhaps, you are Ray, but only his urge to slay, or his merciful spirit’s duty-bound form, here to deliver me to the next plane.

I sit then upon the foot of the ebony bridge in the unlit heavens, facing away, blessing all, observing all, releasing all.

Remus: Snargh...woof! By the Zavox, what a dream! A wolf chases a my trance, I prepared to dispatch the male, alternate identity of the Viking witch...

Corpse Flower: Sharptooth! Rawr-rawrr! We are besieged! Snarrrll...!
We must dispatch these spirits attached to the Box...the time of the Five Dragons is upon this world, praise Sulinar Vix's name!

Explosion in a mountainous valley in Southern California exposes a great flaming beast. Bali, Hillie, Oakie and Teddy have rushed up in a 2004 Dodge Ram truck in time to see from about a quarter mile away. Concerned for their friends, they decide to get as close as possible to the conflagration, with a sinking feeling in general, but some optimism that Patsy and Val are capable of survival. Teddy turns to Oakie and tells him he has his feelings in check as though a cloud has lifted; the danger, and the bizarre happenings at the Castles Made of Sand Bar have sharpened his awareness, provided an opening to dispelling his remorse, his survivor’s guilt. Oakie is befuddled that his headache was somehow used to render everyone unconscious in the middle of psychological freak-out shared by the entirety of the bar’s patrons. Hillie cannot believe he’s looking at texts from his girlfriend at a time like this and hopes that Patsy and her friend are all right. Bali comments on attending a soap opera in the middle of an action movie; he is pleased his night has not been dull, and after such unsettling events, looks forward to curling up with a good read with no further complaint of boredom.

The soldiers have survived the explosion of the Gnoblin hutch; Holt looks on bruised but alive and rather excited from his perch in the tree, wondering if the beautiful woman who thrust him clear of the explosion is okay, and stumbles as quickly as possible closer to the site to see if he can help anyone.

First he sees Hellcat (Patsy) and Valkyrie emerge from the smoke alive. However, shadowy beings, called Voidons, also emerge; at their touch, their emotional attacks weaken and slow the heroines. Fortunately, Machine Man, though somewhat charred, also emerges and begins to battle the barely substantial beings, who seem to have no effect on his mechanical, rather than biological, body.

Pvt. Holt then sees the Hulk thrust aside debris from the hutch, with his friend Mountie Dave Blanc alive and laughing nervously beneath him. The man the mountie had been checking for injury had been Doctor Banner, whose change into the Hulk began as soon as the sargeant on patrol had pistol whipped him for disobeying his order to clear the area. The flaming dragon flies over head, seeming to dissipate into thin air, but its flames have begun spreading through the woods. Holt, Blanc, and Corporal Dayly together convince the Hulk to act to arresting the spread of the flames.

From his stronghold nearby in a cave, Remus Sharptooth upon his makeshift throne watches the mystically conjured tableau of Prince Nicola Dragonvayne, believing his conscious, sentient existence in his present ghost form to be drawn to an end, preparing to surrender to his symbolic execution at the hands of his old friend, Captain Awen.

The semblance of this viking wizard, from the perspective of Remus, is merely a facade for himself, the same disguise he used previously to capture the prince’s mystic consort and partner, the Marc Kane, who is apparently held in stasis in an adjoining extra-dimensional plane. This execution is not administered with much intentional benevolence, but rather, is the magical method for doing away with the two magical beings whose intentions and knowledge might lead to his plans thwarted.

Narr, the known surviving Gnomlin from the hutch, plays foolishly, for his own amusement as much as that of the “court.” As he dances and sings about the impending change of the world, the she-wolf that speaks telepathically and calls herself Corpse Flower ignores him. She concentrates instead upon messages in an alien tongue from a futuristic science sorcerer she calls Sulinar Vix. She calls upon the power of the Zavox, a mighty entity that drains the energies of a futuristic utopian planet Earth called Kolpar.

The emergence of the Zavox Force transformed the life of Sulinar Vix of Kolpar. He was the first soul denied the Ascendancy, the transformation which marks the point in Kolparian evolution where a person can change their body into an energy form capable of interstellar travel, as well access to other dimensions. Vix now provides power to his agents on present Earth, who use the Slave Box to conjure the transformation of the world, its conversion driven by the Five Dragons, great elemental forces.

Massive terraformation and the dissolution of psychic barriers that shape individuals are the mark of this Trans-Rupture. The walls between individuals’ conscious minds are already permeating with the thoughts of one another, as well as their subconscious fears and desires.

The shadowy beings conveyed here by the Zavox, the Voidons, already work to siphon vibrational energies from the people of Earth. The other agents, the gnomlins and the Trome, were provided through the agency of Sulinar Vix; their machinations served as a distraction to prevent the discovery of the actual emanation point of this extra-dimensional invasion.

Meanwhile Remus praises the better world soon to be wrought by his magics; he relishes, he says, the challenge of conquering this strange new plane, and unleashing inherent forces. He then calls for the Four Armed Men, whose silhouettes dreadfully fill the glare flooding from the next room, and sends them to patrol the area and crush unwanted visitors near the site of the exploded hutch. Then the wolf man resumes his merged control with his bizarre astral projection’s execution of Prince Nicola, kneeling in meditation, awaiting his transformation to the next plane of existence, trusting his friend.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras out my window

It's only a Samsung BL 1050 camera in video mode, but happy Mardi Gras from my window.
2 brief clips.

Blogspot's not processing this under-four-minute video, so how about some links:

is also on MySpace.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Celebrate Your Fake Holiday with True Love

American culture's as driven to group us off in mating pairs as any prospective dog breeder ever could be. Nonetheless, this Valentine's Day I find myself remembering a masked man, stalking a riverside bar and grill patio with a secretive purpose...

You know, frankly, people inspired by romance don't need a designated day, moreso than anyone should need a day for thanks or one for giving (though harvest and Yule have perfectly poetic meanings, in days gone by). What can I say? I'm very contrary about being told when to feel what, much less what to do. (Ask the poor manager of said bar & grill). Be sure, those who've found their truth in a solitary lot don't need the Hallmark "holiday," however little they may begrudge others their pookie-poo.

Well, if you're going to put up with a romantic tale may as well have a comedy.

Cease met a girl, who we'll call "Angela Dawn", at that very bar&grill where his roomie & sis worked, one Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday (the teens were on the prowl, free from school). I picture as though it happened to me! Oh, yeah, it did. Cue first person narration:

She waits on me and my roomie; I have a Heinekin, the beer of choice for celebrating black holidays, of course. With my new license still in flux, she decides to be cute and card me. She lets me slide with my temporary permit. She also neglects to tell a rather obnoxious girl, who "worked" as the hostess, that I'm present, blissfully unaware of our sordid past, celebrated by said girl in gushing terms of friendship.

Our Angela Dawn waitress turns out to be great friends with Sis & Roomie. One day, as classic rock ---was it Neil Young's first solo record? He was even counter-culture trendy, right about then---played out of my adjoining bedroom, we realize she's sitting in my lap while my sister & all of us are playing in the living room. We were pushing each other off the back of the couch, which we treated as a place to stand, and in the rotation of shoving, we end up in said position, holding hands. We like it. "I've been waiting for you...and you've been coming to me...for such a long time now..." Neil sang. But's casual!

It must've been around that time, about a week after we met, that I was walking from the riverside bar & grill to one of my last shifts at Red Lobster. I'd already served my notice; with my meager savings, I was going to throw my life to the winds and take a bus ride to Colorado, maybe Boulder, work some crappy landscaping job and write songs on my guitar. Change was in the air. Unfortunately, so was my sister's generously-loaned Corsica, which I promptly, in a fit of oblivious day dreaming, drove over the parking stop outside, suspending the front wheels just out of reach of the precious traction needed to back up. With everyone coming out during the slow afternoon shift to admire my handiwork, including my fuming sis, Angela Dawn comes up and throws her arms around the back of me, cajoling: "he's JUST a man..."

A week more passes, and we're back at the shared apartment, fresh off a breezy trip including my mysterious errand alone into the Kroger grocery store, where, Angela and my sister speculated, I was purchasing Preparation H. When we return, we discover we're locked out, with the keys located with our roomie at, yes, the bar & grill. (Geez, I just realized this whole thing should be an extended apology to my little sister!) Apparently this was just too much for my groove: I kicked open the door without hesitation. At the top of the stairs, I turn to Angela and hand her a carnation, press my finger to my lips, and walk into my room and shut the door. I had just sensed a deep need to bring some cheer to the girl, who, despite her friendliness, exuded a sadness, a lack of appetite, that I simply found unjust. If I cared to cheer anyone up, perhaps it would've been my sister, who in response to her newly-broken front door, decimated a Pepto Bismol bottle in the bathroom, rather than her erratic older brother.

Angela Dawn's sister simply wanted to cheer the poor girl up, too; she would sneak chicken into her salad at work in a ploy to keep some meat on her bones. She knew her sis well--they were practically twins---and while the sisters (mine included) went out bowling the next night, her older sis grabbed Angela softly by the arms and chanted my name three times, just to see her smile. Of course, falling for a guy who was leaving town held little promise; it was just an unhappiness, so profound as to cloud the very hope of tomorrow. What drove that sadness, only she could say, and eventually, she would, the first time we were truly alone. Thanks to my sister, who blabbed my importance to the forlorn girl, that happened the very next night.

It's nine o'clock; Angela Dawn's the first cut on a slow night, cleaning up her section. My sister called me to come up and join everyone. Shortly after arriving, I put a couple of songs on the jukebox, and while sharing a sip of Honey Brown Lager, I ask her to dance with me while "Crazy" by Patsy Cline of all things plays. I take her for a walk, leading us over the lighted bridge to a one-eyed black man who asks if we're married. "Not yet!" I reply, cheekily. Of course, he's locked out of the house that night, but he keeps us company by the gazebo for a while, then hits me up for a buck.

We improvise a piggy-back ride down the bank, and turn down Broad Street on our winding way back to the bar & grill. In the middle of an old backstage passage quaintly dubbed "Opera Alley" by the tourist bureau, I look up, say I'm looking for a sign. She begins looking for a billboard of some kind, but whatever she imagined I wanted her to find ended up in our first kiss.

Soon, her sister has us sitting in their shared Mercury Topaz, running down the plot of JOB by Robert A. Heinlein, a story about two people whose affair is constantly interrupted by shifting alternate Earth dimensions, wherein they must survive and find each other, again and again. Reality led us all back to their house, where I serendipitously found the first family to ever sit up entertaining an unexpected guest with unreserved friendliness into the wee hours of the morning. On that couch Angela Dawn unburdened herself to me, and by the morning light, when they gave me a lift back into town, I told her we'd simply take things one day at a time, always with free choice. If some providence might shine, or we're really, really good, dedicated and true and open-minded, we will know what it is to form a bond with someone else, so life-changing as the one forged that day. To love someone so much as we would love, from that friendship, is to know a love for all creation.

Free choice led me to pop the unconventional question "come West with me" maybe three days later, and hey, while we're at it, on the next I simply asked her to marry me. We then had a very special next day that will not here be narrated, and to the extreme surprise of every one, we set a day for her ordained minister father to tie our knot with the rest of the world as our witness, six weeks after we first met.

Oh, there's a couple of good stories connected to that date setting, too...but for now, let me tell you the next week found her scrawling her new married name on her styrofoam cup at work, still wondering exactly how to spell that strange new appellation. It's on this Valentine's Day that a young man in a bandanna stealthily entered the side door from the patio with her first rose---he'd just learned, that pink carnation was her first Flower---left on the podium, seen only by a heartily laughing waitress friend of ours, who soon afterwards expressed a certain pang of envy, that her own true love might need to step on it and pop the question. Well, the joke was on her---he did that night, I believe. So it's likely a Valentine's Day none of us will forget.

I hope this one, in its own way, will be memorable to you, as well, my friends.

by the Shiz-Nite
Preview to new story below

Friday, February 12, 2010

Words that will serve: Inspired by a witty friend

to all my friends

I laugh at how little I really knew of your lives back there. I've become comfortable with remaining in the dark? Sometimes, it's worth noting the atmosphere of being near enough to glimpse that which will remain remote to one's experience (hence the choice of picture following: it just has this emotional quality I wish to express that says more than a few clumsy words).

But my, it's quite a compliment to been seen as radical, creative and different (qualities that belong to, and go right back into, my creations) it just helps to take it as that and not need anything else. I've really been told some pretty damn nice things this week which were also humbling. Let's face it, who wouldn't prefer to be humbled by graciousness as opposed to the many other methods?

I certainly look forward to an infusion of will, here---greater curiosity, experimentation, figuring out the recorder I have and taking its results along with me as I meet and network. I'd be disappointed to do nothing with this opportunity; much like yourself, I'm coming to terms with what that opportunity actually looks like.
Today was one of two this week where sitting blankly seemed part of the plan, much as I'd prefer otherwise; that is just impatience talking. Still, how can you let your opportunity to grow lie fallow, right? At least I reached out a bit to people with my time; it's not like I was hospitalized or attending funerals.

Especially not my own. Though I've found that thought somehow cheery (!), I'm not close to finished with the body of experiences and work I feel compelled to have and make. Heck, I haven't even been as kind or sharing as I feel I should be yet; there still seems to be more trips round the sun that call for more selfless and brave ways of life. I mean, peace with death is a nice idea, but don't you, too, feel like there's surely more ahead in this world?

But, a saying I picked up studying a book on Runes is "What beckons is the creative power of the unknown" and that's as good a way to describe the slow stumble into the dark necessary to find a non-ordinary way to live one's ordinary life, right?

Ah, what a strange hour here on the coast for writing, though. You can tell I'm a veteran of many letters. You're a compelling enough listener, as well. Cheers! Be chill, Cease ill

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bent Gender Commercial memes

Driver Danica Patrick's ubiquitous commercials for bolster her celebrity profile, and they also spark a conversation about gender, sexuality, and a gradual progression in social mores that could augur a revolution in romance in Western storytelling. As romance is integral to the storytelling engines of popular culture, we're talking significant opportunities for very controversial social change.

As Patrick starts her first Daytona 500 stock car event this week, she's arguably as visible as any female sports figure in America. Few sports intersect so thoroughly with socially conservative culture as auto racing. Her playful commercial always depicts a set piece lending a tongue-in-cheek conclusion of either her female conversation partner or herself beginning to shed clothing. Simple enough?

Well, let's take a look at Patrick herself: a woman, famous for competing in a male-dominated sport. Her counterparts in these commercials are depicted as police, attorneys, and business people: women, in professions traditionally dominated by men. The comedic, if objectifying, purpose of the strip tease commercial suggests a sexual aggression that is also traditionally , though again, not exclusively, associated with men.

So: at once, the women choose to become sexualized, fetish objects, but also in a context where they initially play roles depicted by men a generation ago, and also, with a suggestion of a taboo-breaking inter-relation. The sex-positive culture's existence outside of religious-based taboo is covered in depth by my fellow blog-roller, Dialogic. What is the significance of gender-bending memes, reaching the mainstream?

Claremont historian Jason Powell, on the Remarkable blog, addresses the characterization of the female superheroes popularized in the Uncanny X-Men of the 1980s as "men with breasts", where women take on aggressive, occasionally violent traits in a manner traditionally portrayed through male superheroes. The issue he pushes back against is this notion that it's somehow a "cheat" to make female characters more powerful. Conversely, he points out, isn't it more sexist to imply the females cannot be portrayed as physically potent, of greater prowess? Are we to pretend women haven't always had an innate confidence, however much a male-dominated society protests?

Particularly in commercials, depictions of women as fantasy stand-ins or actors for male desires are often derided as disguising, dismissing, or confusing sexual roles as they occur in real life--- though that definition wouldn't encompass some same-sex desires, which I've found in life sometimes don't differ so much in matters of taste. However, let's confront this material for exactly what it suggests: an innocuously-implied same-sex intrigue (which, when depicting men, is almost certainly played for laughs without titillation). Why is it a woman, showing "I have what it takes!" to a fellow woman? Does that make the commercial, perhaps, less sexist? Why do they play coyly with the square mention of censorship (of which they obviously have no fear) in their content?

As such ideas move beyond meaningless late-night commercial debauchery, the door begins to open for a modernization, if not a desertion, of taboos. Alternative views of relationships and bisexuality have spent the decade progressing past "I Kissed A Girl" flirtations. While same-sex equality continues its civil-rights controversy, narratives of same-sex relationships have gradually arrived on cable television, even daytime soaps, where they can reach mainstream audiences.

Life needs less TV-cardboard reality; people benefit from a genuine commitment to uncovering a true sense of identity. Recognizing who you are, how you should relate to a specific person, and which capacity will benefit each of you, requires an adaptable approach. Any group of people can complement one another's strengths, with attention, acceptance, and honesty. If that involves acknowledging a woman's overt sexual expression or confidence, as opposed to the manipulative or even deceptive expression so often taken for granted in the hand-me-down mars/venus dichotomy---so be it. Pop culture can open new conversations that relate a more profound experience. Those narratives shape their audience;
a collaboration takes place, between narrative and viewer, that empowers both.

The discord behind the picket fences that leads to a near fifty-percent divorce rate lends to adherence to more traditional religious values, but also to experimentation and examination of the human personality.

Commercials, honestly, take as few risks as necessary in alienating their target demographics; they are a barometer of conservatism, not ground-breaking social statements. The exploration of gender roles and personal identity will shape our expectations of celebrities or role models, and in the long-run, what is socially acceptable.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Never Thought You Knew" A story of two women

There are 4 other parts on this blog, but this stands alone fine, too

After a whirlwind of activities with Molly---street singing-in the New Year, a shopping adventure with Molly’s neighbor Janice, her own delicious birthday dinner at the Spaghetti Factory, a ferry trip out onto the bay with her favorite place to shop on the West Coast, the forest-like bird sanctuary you could walk through at the Zoo, with all its bird calls from Africa and pictures of tiny brightness, and a long visit winding around the halls of the reptile house before closing---at last, the day came around when Molly was off all day and they could sail off the coast to see the grey whales, rushing to mating grounds across the splendidly warm waters of the Pacific.

The pains of her once-fractured leg---when would this injury ever leave? Her husband's Aunt Anne, who heals people out of her home, says an emotional connection exists with every lingering injury. Funny she should think of this now. The horse threw her as a girl, what did the fender-bender on the way home this summer have to do with that?---still hobble her walk, but the sunshine, the fresh air, the seaside setting call her to try.

“If I listened to ‘em back there,” Sarah says to Molly of some less adventurous friends, ”Huh! Why, they would have me be an invalid! I’d never go do anything, if I were so careful as everyone back there insists I should be!”

Molly recognizes a German accent from a pretty traveler as they wait for the whale expedition boat to dock. With warm rays and sea breezes, Sarah's travels through heartache and snow drifts leads her to her destination with the great behemoths of the sea.

They pass the naval base from nine o’clock position; a number of houses you could very quickly count inform the cliff, coming up at two.

At ten o’clock they actually spot a Los Angeles class submarine surfacing. The small submarine’s sonar will not shy away the multitude to come, starting in the very next mile. That mile surpasses the distance out of the bay, and contains some few hundred yards from their eyes the lighthouse that had guided so many vessels safely into the bay, stately upon the hill overlooking the Baja Peninsula horizon.

How will the whales appear? The guide relates the whales' journey---predicated by the females, either, mating or returning the next year to give birth near this location---from arctic climates to the coast of California and Mexico. The yearling whales travel alongside adults; along the way, the females find many courtship rituals. Everyone is asked to look for spouts, as the whales came to surface to breath. The whales take in a fresh breath, and with a whip of their tail---the fluke---break the surface, prepare to dive again.

The desert beckons...the desert calls Meaghan's spirit home.
So lost, in the promises of love, in the striving to make some mark upon this world, here she seeks a proper relationship with her own self. As the winds stir the sandy surface, Meaghan thinks about the winter storm further north, once her home for a time: how one sees the effects from causes past or distant. The way she fell for Collin---obsessed over him---in the absence of satisfaction with her hometown life, somehow long since shed of an illusions of home---her brightest source of energy, her sexual fire, her fellow adventure spirit, filled with thoughts of future enterprise, learning French, learning to ballroom dance---everything had hinged upon those brief shining weeks together, not just in spirit or online or via text, but holding hands, talking, loving, breathing shared air. The air seemed to run out in the space of his life; he feared the intoxication of complacency, while remaining stranded, shirking responsibility for the rush of affection. One night, things couldn't be resolved, and then...nothing.

Only: there could be no "nothing," however angry and confused she felt. The winds promise to pull over like a tumbleweed; the time for quiet contemplation seems determined to forsake the cactus-speckled landscape.

There could be no “nothing,” and if she couldn’t carry on with her mother or find a job or even overcome the fear of employment’s futility, with a couple of guaranteed days of excruciating pain destined to be hers, to clash with expectations...promises to help her heal, almost laid right into her clutching fingers, flew away in jeopardy, like the shifting, stalking dunes, removed from their complacency in the sun. Fight or flight: the stress had been there, every day, with maybe the escapism of songs, a drive, a party, ardent yet ill-advised would-be paramours, or a friendship she felt she should keep at an arm’s length, despite what had been.

How she longs to make a stand; create a time for which she could reminisce, instead of rumination of what went wrong. "There's only the future for knowing which road I've chosen---or gotten off on---by the sight of it coming beneath my wheels before me," she thinks. "I can't look back upon what I have yet and know which thing---what love, what preoccupation, what OCC-upation, what interest, what loss, will endure...and which ones were just...happenstance...or...whatever the word is..."

"Oh, it's fluke! I got its fluke that time, really good!" exclaims her Pacific coasting sister, unaware by the whimsy of space of her deserting sister's observations. Molly leaps in place, accenting her success: "they're going to LOVE this back there!"

Sarah eagerly shuffles over from one side of the boat to the next, following the migration. For a time, there is no way to miss activity, no matter which side one chooses. Not one person aboard the expedition remains seated, nonetheless.

Her beautiful, strong husband, her contrary yet loving sister---Meaghan, in need of her own way, however much safety and freedom to be herself she offered her---all those losses, which can only be regained in spirit, are set aside this afternoon for a new memory. At least, though they travel apart, still they share the world, and where there is love, there is room for mothers and daughters to each find their own discoveries, and share across the space of a heart. For a moment, she forsakes thought for the embrace of nature on every side, her first day ever upon the Pacific.

The abundance of whales, the narrator remarks, is surprisingly high at this point in the season; one after the next, ships ahead call, captains divvy up sightings, and the expedition runs careful rings around the courting, the travelers, the unexpected blowholes appearing in the California sun, warming the day with little trace of winter.

Molly takes picture after picture in triumph, sometimes unsure if what she sees is captured, knowing the sea breeze and arcs of birds and atmosphere can only be hinted, only conveyed by understanding. She and her mother find themselves sharing a pack a sun dried fruit, as two whales twist around each other, a funneling tidal pull of their shared tryst so near beside them, the captain must respectfully move aside for their safety.

Meaghan’s natural response to head for the protection of her car brings with her another call of instinct. Casually, she looks down at her feet; the stones she has stepped over contain a visiting Banded Rock Rattle Snake, directly beneath the step she pulls back from gravity. Its mottled colors, tinged with lavender, suit the striped serpent, leaving its basking place.

Memories of an hour watching Jeff Corwin reward knowledge of the poison before her. It seemed he'd been using the terrain in a challenge to guess the state he was in--"nice irony, Life!" she thinks, smiling.

"You're going to have to find some other little reptile or rodent, my friend," she says aloud with a laugh. "I need my life!"
The dimming light between her and her car seems enough to see her way out of the sandstorm.

Meaghan finds it strange: by the time she's put on Mike Cooley again in her car, the sandstorm subsides considerably, setting a restful ambiance---perfect for slowing her pulse, in the wake of her serpentine encounter.

She relishes that moment: a kind of joy in her uncertainty, so different than the changeless mire that had marked her days since Collin...

Perhaps there’d been some noble intention in the parting; though she protested greatly that she would not need him so, could live separately, independently of his procrastinated business concerns. Perhaps he’d felt it was not fair to ask her to wait, and take whatever he could spare, when she tended to be tightly involved, giving and needing, she admits, attention. Were that her ideal life bustled already, rather than the dead-end promise of her hometown, perhaps she would have had the control, the need to stand separately. Indeed, for the first time ever, it had been the MAN who initiated the break-up, not Meaghan, adding to her sense of powerlessness.

But was that the life she wanted...anyway? Could she really live separately, central yet off to the side of his life, and he, to hers---especially when her own needed a fundamental fulfillment? She thought she could wait forever, at least the few months minimum until his plans came together...but is that commitment fair, to either of them? Strange are promises for Love.

Photo courtesy Sabrina Lam Hall

In absence of the winter rain, now shines an apparition of surpassing beauty: a rainbow, with the reflection of its being on the other side, crosses the sky above. Meaghan sheds a tear, cool, trickling across a lightly dusted cheek.

Sarah finds herself, absorbed in the elusive moment; in her heart, in the presence of these gentle behemoths, everyone she loves is with her. The joy, the curiosity, the captivated imagination conspired with Southern California welcome her to accept a full range of emotional experience. The dolphins, in their nearby school, leap in the boat's wake. Amidst all this excitement, Sarah takes an essence with her, with which she might practice a kind of stillness and calm.

In her mind, now, are peaceful waters, on a day of the sort one might imagine in Heaven itself.

Meaghan celebrates her epiphanies by working with Santos to put together a few pieces of wood saved for a cold day's contemplation.

She lights a fire from the old years' growth to light the promise of a new spring, decorated with heaven horizons.

Photo courtesy Sabrina Lam Hall

She considers the bonfire, as though it is a pyre for her father, descended from Viking blood, nurtured in Normandy ( a lineage discovery that had come relatively recently in life). Her cares, her way of life, all the past, she places upon it, to ascend the sky in transforming light. A distant coyote howl bids the smoke fare-thee-well. Now is a time for a new creature, a phoenix to rise.

Molly sits down beside Sarah below deck, as the departing sun shines across sea lions, gathered by the dozens on the buoys that warden the harbor. She watches the naturalist volunteers demonstrate baleen and whale feeding, while glistening divers hop with only a little grace from their floating perches in the window.

A need to be artistic, a grip on something in the chaos, leads Meaghan to unpack her pad, her pencils, her charcoal, her inspiration, for the first time in many a moon. Now she draws her father, reminded he is with her in some way resonant in her feelings, beyond the need for her sympathies or grief. His presence comes closely, as sure as the fire burning before her, or the light from the porch, tilted thoughtfully over her shoulder.

Next she makes a picture of Kaya, based on a photograph in her wallet---"this'll serve as a nice present to Brian, too." She places Molly beside Kaya, from memory, a feat she's not attempted in longer than she can remember. She has to re-center the line several times in her sketching, and then, give the eyes the perfect distance apart. She remembers the happiness that came with recognition of her late-blooming talent in high school, and recalls her artistic friend, Debra, a painter in her own right. She cracks open her fortune cookie gift. "Don't be afraid to fail; try new experiences," it reads. "In bed!" she exclaims, laughing and passing the cookie to Tanija.

Sarah opts for a pedicab ride to ease her aching feat, as she rolls away from the embarcadero smelling the ocean, feeling the twilight breeze through her long sleeves. She notices the shooting leg pains seem like a memory, like the pains of someone else. She realizes she wants to see Anne when she gets back to her side of Lookout Mountain, ponders something Anne said over the phone, surprised by the lucidity of her recall:

Just for today I will give thanks for my many blessings.

Just for today I will not worry.

Just for today I will not be angry.

Just for today I will do my work honestly.

Just for today I will be kind to my neighbor and every living thing

Maybe together they can take something from the gift of this time: the whales and their children, their journey, its incredible length...and the mother's milk, gallons of it made beneath the blubber of the sea travelers, to nourish the pups along the way.

The lucent windshield of Meaghan's faithful car bears the reflection of the last fires' embers. She thinks of hitting a junkyard and replacing the cracked little rear view mirror--will it outlast her poor Plymouth? Another reason to live within the bus routes. Her Jack Russell, Feather, yawns contentedly at her feet. "I can live with that one being cracked," she says to Santos, "I mostly need my view ahead; I tend to look for myself, anyway. She holds her newly minted sketches at arms' length, still toying with a correction or two later.

"For a change," she muses, "time evaporated, but it left me with something to take to my future." Meaghan feels a plentiful ease, and wonders: has she tapped within herself to begin teaching her body a new way? She feels a certainty, she will be healed; perhaps that end result, that cure, finds its foundation in this moment. Her cell beeps with an incoming call the minute she calls her mother.

watching video!

Never Thought You Knew, part four of five

For Barbara Moore, her healing story as promised.

Tanij and Santos’ generous offer of a place to stay a while warms Meaghan’s heart, though her restlessness drives her outside, with intimations of her journey remaining. She stops at a strip mall for a bite; it would give them some space, and, she reasons, the urge to take over the kitchen is great.

Would she take Roderick up on his request to share a place here, as his plans in Texas meant nothing without her? Her restlessness and his grew with unanswered dreams, and when Collin finally spoke up about his attraction, she felt refreshed to consider a world of new possibilities, travel, more energetic plans---and once again, romance, of the sort that seemed to fade every couple of years. A friend, still, fun sometimes...but such sense of destiny: overwhelming. Meaghan feels sometimes as though she is sinking in people she loves.

She calls Daniela, an old carpentry friend she ran into upon visiting her old haunt, the theater; how pleasant, to meet for tea or a re-visit a time of increasing, steady optimism, maybe bring it again to life. She sees a lingering piece of decoration from the holidays, and thinks of the pig-tailed girl in pink lemonade overalls she saw, excited to go see Santa Claus.

She watches a beige clad woman, almost her mother’s age, keeping a patient pace with a man who almost certainly had to be her father, conversing just out of the range of clarity, moving by like another dream. She thinks of her aunt Willow, accompanying her grandfather Huff to the cemeteries and jotting down notes for the family tree project. “She shared my birthday,” she thinks with a sigh. “She was slaving away without vacation at Mr. Jurley’s, and she breathed her last in the middle of a nap. “For years, she keeps the elderly company...but no old age for her. She never should have listened to that stupid neighbor telling her she’d just gain the diet weight back...never a man, never a three times a week...the most awful singer in the choir, oh, God, haha!”

For all this, the two bring to mind her father, holistic remedies and advice pouring from her over the phone while he spent half his days on oxygen, a word he always pronounced his own he did “optimism.” “Opkimistic...I think that was it.”

The house where he died seemed the worst place to decorate for a holiday that left her bereft, in a town where she could hardly muster energy to care about a job serving sniping, repressed people, where one’s kids and gossip constituted the haunted husk of conversation.

What she’d looked for in her sister was the approach like a therapist: listen, help her through, as Molly had so many times before. This time, her own irritability and frustration seemed to only push Molly’s buttons; was she trying to say this was Meaghan’s fault?

Though she clearly enjoyed his wife Kaya, she had never been too close to her ambitious but amiable brother; Molly had been like a second Mom once, tending her lovingly. Molly had praised Collin to the stars; birthdays and travel plans seemed ready to align, and sure enough her exotic time with him.

A visit to Hallman’s bookstore turns up a happy surprise: her old friend Debra, cheerfully loading up on second hand fantasy novels. She overhears her sing a Native American church song she’d learned in their happier times together. The church had fallen into many troubles with those who refused to understand the sacredness of its medicine. Debra seems like a photograph that lets you time travel, unforgotten overnight teepee sweats. She offers her take on sharing a house with six people, paying to couch surf, and so much, always more to say, taken with life, smitten with three hundred years of books to read. "Here, doll," Debra offers, "I had an extra fortune cookie from lunch. Don't forget to add "in bed" to the end when you read it!"

Debra reminds Meaghan of their trips to the desert, wishes she could join her, tells her of a lead cooking Mediterranean cuisine, gushes over her chihuahua’s impending litter, promises to take her to a movie, hugs her, and barrels away in a battered Buick, all in a whirlwind of life that takes her friend's breath.

How Meaghan longs to dive into activity, without needing to understand. “Think so much of what could happen,” she muses hazily, “what should happen.”

So long as she can afford gas, she commits herself to her surest therapy: she drives. Perhaps the desert can afford her the emptiness she needs to mirror herself, her spiritual wars and searchings laid bare by perspective.

When they began to talk, Meaghan discovered she and Collin both had experienced having to fight for the right to be ourselves, growing up, clicked on so many levels. It seemed an answer for everyone, a romance that drew together so many mutual friends with its sweetness.

That ending seemed so abrupt; awful as it was not to have another chance to
discuss it, the fall-out was worse, as though Molly blamed her. She knew they’d talked it over,

but always, this trapped feeling, languidness, and Molly’s insistence that seemed to discard

Meaghan’s own experience with pulling herself together. Each strike of retaliation seemed to

rip a coat of warm intentions, stitched too small. Ingratitude, self-centeredness---muscles

knot from the flailing of arms. Every time it seemed resolved, blam! Aiee. Temples throbbed

with unholy terror; personal space suffered intrusion, like a capsizing boat; the more she

fought to right it, the colder and wetter the result. Enough.

The need for someone to listen---maybe back her up, too--- made her miss Dad more. He never went far in school, but he’d paid attention in the class of Hard Knocks. Dad eased his wild spirit eventually as she’d first come of age. He was no licensed therapist, but he would listen, and give the most practical advice possible, no matter the hour of night. Strange how much she’d resented them butting in when she lived nearby, stir-crazy visits without warning to the house they’d financed to help her buy when she came to town and found a really good job. Yet whenever her wanderings took her to lost places, Dad would never judge.

She missed his various concocted plans, always to try and go into business for himself again. He always reached for life’s steering wheel, and Mom, ever his partner, seemed kind of rudderless boat without him. How she wished her remedies and advice could’ve spared him his painful ending; his breathless days, his yearning so great he’d take oxygen with him just to escape sitting at home, haunt her as often as his attacks haunted him.

That was the nice thing about being a guest with Ned’s aunt and family over Christmas, work up fresh people skills, give her time to recover self---just not able to be there and play family, while her life continues on hold.
Mother would sit right there and then respond like she hadn’t heard a word, with something she’s repeated twenty times about someone or ask about something she’d just explained an hour before. Mom meant well, but, knowing her family, she never seemed empowered to express herself.

Beneath the crisp California sun, Sarah misses the whale expedition; Molly had waited in the wrong line, holding their place while Sarah got the tickets. Sarah knew she should’ve spoken up, said what she’d been told, but Molly had asked around, would have to wait. They could take the ferry to the island, walk the beach, maybe shop. Compared to the struggle of getting here...! At least Meaghan returns her call.

She’s just turned down Roderick’s suggestion they could find a place together, perhaps with his father. This poor man---who for all their many friendly exchanges had been an s.o.b. to her, knowing he shouldn’t drink--- embodied everything Meaghan felt was out of control in her own life. He’d come back from war with post traumatic stress disorder long before such things were diagnosed. Too scared to kill himself, too scared to live. Perhaps if she had all the best of her serenity of old, she would tap the energy to aid in restoring him. Where had this gone?

This was the liberation of the road, the way from the security she should take towards the uncertain road she wants. She can’t continue, saddened by lack of control using her intelligence and memories to create a kind of quicksand for her spirits.

"Sometimes," Meaghan decides, "going up again is a matter of knowing where the bottom is. From this point in my evolution, I can never go down some of the lost paths again, with sadly addicted people for my company." She turns up the radio for the smooth, driving thrum of a Spoon song; Brett Daniel cooly declares, "I've got nothin' to lose...but darkness and shadow." She likes the serendipity of this soundtrack to her resolve. Far south of the winter storms rocking the American Southwest, a traveler heads back to the library to prepare her resume, with every intention of returning to this desert tomorrow, to surrender to nature and quietude so long as her journey takes. This vision will be her friend as she drifts into the night's sleep.