It wasn’t as if Ivan was a lazy man. Indeed, he was as hard working as anyone else in his village. It was just that where he worked couldn’t been seen by other men, women or even his imaginary friends. His official job was to ride from one village to the next with the mail. His services had been very much valued by those dwellings not yet connected by the iron horse. But to Ivan’s added frustrations, those settlements were in no great hurry to get news about anywhere else except the hear and now.
Today, Ivan’s job was to carry a letter to Tasha Rusmenski. It smelled of cologne, and he smelled like mare’s sweat. There were other letters in the satchel Ivan rode into town with of course, but the letter to Tasha seemed most important to him. By its feel it was not about who owed what money to who, or what land belonged to what business, but about someone who cared a lot about her. Ten miles and two adjustments of horse shoes back he gave into the temptation of reading the letter by the golden glow of sunlight that shone through the page. It illuminated some words that seemed fresh. Some that were warm. And some that were loving, in a language he didn’t recognize. A tongue more expressive than his Native Russian. Maybe Georgian, maybe Polish or maybe a mysterious tongue from the East. Indeed, Ivan felt like he imagined his ancestors did. Riding the steppes and delivering the mail that kept the Great Mongol empire unified. So many people forgot about the Mongols. Horsemen who rode before they could walk, and who could always see beyond the horizon.
Now, the horizons had fences to them. Some you could see, some you felt. Indeed, for a postal worker in the mounted division of the Czar’s mail delivery service, one failed delivery away from being fired and sent to the Poorhouse, the only horizons left for Ivan were those between the ears.
Ivan dismounted in front of the Mayor’s Office and delivered his goods. Good mornings all around, delivered to ‘important’ people with his eyes downward. His head bowed. But such suited Ivan, as he prefered to be left alone. He knew that the worlds he could create with a pen were far more important than the people who had the power to write his checks, or the world they made possible by their administrative organization.
He looked over the horizon, to the East. The once-vast grasslands now beaten into pastoral submission by the plow, the green creatures coming up from the earth selected by man, forced to grow in straight lines, not knowing that their job was to be slaughtered by the roots, and pulled out. The land that once said ‘open’ to anyone bold enough to feel beyond to horizon. The plot of agricultural earth that separated him from the cottage bearing Tasha’s address.
Stealing a ride over whatever wild grassland was not yet desecrated by the plow, Ivan galloped his horse between the fields of planted crops. The house seemed to take on a different form with each layer of sunlight that hit it as the sun began to set. Tasha’s abode first seemed like a solidly-built Russian-built house, then a Tater hut, then a Mongolian yurt. He smiled as a tall woman with slanted blue eyes, wide open, emerged. The sun blinded his view of the house and the goddess emerging. Mindful of the task at hand, he bowed to the Divinity and Humanity within her and handed her the letter.
“Tasha Rusmenski?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied, taking the letter. “Yes indeed,” she continued as she opened it and read the first line. “No, definitely not,” her final indignant reply, taking the letter and crumbling it. She threw the letter into the air, leaving the wind to take it away. She entered her dwelling and closed the door, the harsh sound of which reminded Ivan very painfully that he was in modern Russia, and that his Princess was a spoiled brat who had the misfortune of growing up rich and unchallenged. Another burdon to society, more miserable than any of the abused serfs tilling her fields.
Ivan chased after the letter. He had to know who was writing to her, and why she so affirmatively rejected the news that Ivan had rode so long to deliver to her. The wind decided to challenge him, swooping the letter up and down ten fields, around three ponds and finally settling into a vat of cow manure.
He had come this far with the news, and perhaps the letter was for Ivan’s eyes, not Lady Tasha’s. He opened it up, and discovered that he could read it. Enough of it anyway. Particularly when his inquisitive mind was opened up by a manure collector who, miraculously enough, could read it. The toothless old man laughed with gentle amusement. Ivan raged in agonizing frustration.
“What the hell does it say?” he asked the man. “Tell me!” Ivan demanded, offering him whatever coins he could spare, and a few he couldn’t.
The old man rolled up his sleeves, revealing burnt numbers on his arm. From a penal institution of one sort or another. “We had a special time in Macedonia, and you have become special to me,” he said with a Greek accent. “As a publisher, I value talent, particularly from romantics who live in times more noble than ours. And you, Tasha, are the most noble dreamer living in past centuries, that I have ever met.”
Ivan pondered the issue. Was this a Sign from a God who was more interested in testing than rewarding him? A voice from the past? The final test that he passed. “Continue, please,” Ivan begged the Greek refugee as he imagined the stories in his head on the page, being delivered by so many riders to so many people. Perhaps the words he didn’t know could be put into print with the rite spellink by this poet-peasant, or by perhaps the writer of the letter. “Continue, please,” Ivan repeated again feeling that this letter was being written to him.
“I want to meet you, and see the Ancient stories in your mind, and heart. I love you, and know that somehow, something great will come of you getting this. Will you join me, and join our hearts together, in Saint Petersburg?”
“Yes!” Ivan proclaimed to the North, South, East and Western horizons. “Yes!” he asserted, giving the Greek a pencil and scrap of paper. “Tell him I say yes!”
“Him?” The Greek mused, showing Ivan the letter.
Ivan couldn’t believe it. A proposition of marriage for the Great Lady Tasha from…another Lady?
“Maybe some of my horizons are still limited,” Ivan commented, finding himself overcome with the kind of propriety he sought to abolish as part of his life Dream.
The Greek said something in Ukranian understood only in that language. Remembering his Native tongue from his days as a carefree Cossack in Kiev, Ivan translated. “Coincidences are God’s way of telling you that your wildest dreams are you ordained destiny,” he recalled.
The Greek noded in approval, got on his wagon, and drove the cowshit away. Ivan looked at the letter, then at his assigned routes as mail deliver for the next day.
The Postal Service lost one more rider to ‘bandits’ the next day. The literary world aquired one more new writer the month afterward. Such was how it was written in Ivan’s head as the wheel broke on the wagon, crushing his skull open. But, for that moment which lasted an eternity, Ivan was…Alive. More than what could be said of Tasha, her lover, or anyone else in the village. Except, perhaps, for the Old Greek.
The building had to be strong, cost-effective, and of course pleasing to the inner eye of the person who would live in it. Yes, “Utopia Mansion” had to be perfect. Harrold would not accept anything less. Most people in his present world called him Harry, though he hated the name. Almost as much as he hated losing the cohabitant of ‘Utopia’ to the pyschosis of greed as administered in healthy doses by divorce attorneys.
“The front wall ain’t straight, Harry”, a hunchbacked old Sagess called Norma by everyone else in the Community commented as Harrold pushed the pre-fabricated interface pushed upright, allowing its designer to see it for the first time. “The winda’s is also crooked,” she continued, spitting tobacco on the lot he claimed as his own, and would let NO bank, or divorce attorney, take from him.
“I designed it!” Harrold protested. “Measured it with my own tools!” he continued with a rooster-like boast. “Built it with the best materials available under the sun!” he asserted. “It has to be straight!”
“Cept when slanty rain hits straight cardboard, it comes unstraightened”, Norma sneared through a weatherbeaten wrinkled eight decade old face. She unleashed a wad of chewing tabacco and fresh saliva onto the left side of the ‘straight wall’, and smirked as ‘Harry’ saw it fall down to the ground of the abandoned railway depot with a snake like pattern that laughed at him with each twist and turn. Then, the wall came tumbling down.
“How the hell could it come to this!” Harrold screamed out, looking at the rest of the used cardboard boxes he had constructed into pre-fab walls for the other sides of the ‘house’ that would be his illegal residence on Hobo Island before the Cops came around. “I was an archetect! I was careful with my investments! I was honorable in my business dealings! And I told my ex-wife everything she wanted and needed to hear! What happened?”
Norma looked over the rest of the houses in this suburb of “New Hooverville”, a rowboat of new residents slithering across the river under the cover of the late afternoon winter fog. “One too many goddamn Republican Presidents” she stated. “That’s what happened to you, and the rest of us.”
“But I’m a Republican!” Harrold asserted, showing off his American Flag on the lapel of what used to be a $400 dollar suit jacket, the buttons on it now all off, giving way to holes big enough to put his third finger through.
“You WAS a Republican,” Norma smiled warmly, looking at ‘town’ across the small river. A fascade of vast buildings that were now mostly vacated now, having gone through several owners each within the last year, the rats and roaches its occupants now. “Everyplace is Buffalo now,” she proclaimed somberly regarding the ‘forever on its last broken legs’ city that she seemed to regard as ‘home’.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Harry grunted as the first drops of another rain came down. A trickle now, but soon a downpour that would drench his house, or anyone who wasn’t protected by some kind of shelter. He quickly reassessed the mathematics of the archetectural task at hand, the tools and building supplies he had scrounged, and put his mind to the task of re-building a new provisional empire from the old empire’s garbage.
Meanwhile, Norma recalled the ‘good old days’ of being broke in the pocket in Hoovervilles just like Hobo Island, and the ‘bad old days’ of being broke in Spirit living with ‘money men’ who took her in because she had great legs, and big hooters. The many men who neglected to see that her real beauty was between her ears, not between her legs. How she pitied those young men with old and defective minds. How she spoke of them in the present tense as she began to live in the past, thanks to the ‘mad cow disease’ that came and went like the sun, moon and rain.
That rain progressed from ‘Irish mist’ to ‘Detroit sprinkles’, on its way to ‘Seattle downpour.’ Harrold had seen all of those states of weather when he was on his business trips. He recalled rain clouds from the view of the top, from his window in First Class, and the economic rationalization for how they were constructed. “Did you know that rain clouds from the top are pure gold when the sun shines on them. Gold the color of…Jennifer’s hair. And white, clouds pure as my Jenna’s Soul. The Soul I fell in love with,” he said. The rain clouds above became blacker from Harrold’s very earth-bound perspective, blocking out any view of white clouds, golden sun of blue sky.
“Trickle down economics, Comrade Harry,” Norma commented. “The rich fucks on top whip out their big dicks and the urine falls down on us.”
“And who rules the rich fucks on top?” Harrold asked, as Harry. “Justice, maybe? God? The Golden Rule? The Rule of Survival of the fittest? The Rule of What, or Who?” He looked down at the ground. A metal ting rolling along the cracked concrete that had once been polished concrete, on its way to a sewer from which there was no return. “My wedding ring,” he said noting the now naked fingers on his now narrowed left hand, taking stock of the ‘fat cat’ belly which his ‘Hobo’s Delight Diet Plan’ had reduced three belt sizes over the last three months. He coughed, noting blood in the phelgm this time. He felt God and Jennifer laughing at him from the knot of congestion in his lungs which got tighter every time he remembered who both parties really were, and what he calculated that they had in store for him.
“Heaven watches, Earth works, Comrade Harry.” Norma prophephazied, smiling at Harrold, offering him a generous view of her gams and boobs, and a seductive rendition of the Socialist ‘Internationale’ through a voice that didn’t know it was supposed to be old, or defeated.
The view of it all wasn’t so bad for ‘Comrade Harry’. And bore proof of its legitimacy. Norma had taken Harry’s prefab straight rectangular ‘house’ and reshaped it into a circular tent. “You rebuilt my house into a teepee” he smiled.
“Our Palace, King Harrold,” she proclaimed proudly, inviting Harry into the cardboard walled mansion that looked, somehow, bigger than its actual dimensions.
The night was long, and Harry was scared. And angry. But he felt, somehow, less alone.
Cynthia McCarthy did everything in her life early, on time and with minimal disruption for those around her. Including her birth. She popped out of her mother’s womb on the exact due date, providing for her life-giver only 15 minutes of discomfort which the charts called ‘labor’. Perfect attendance at school, Bs or better in every subject. Her first period, her first bulging of the breasts and her first orgasms using that anatomy came at the ‘average’ time for a girl with an average name, and above average professional expectations. No surprise that she got into medical school with early admission, read and completed her assignments ahead of time, and came to labs before anyone else did, even the Lab Instructors.
The first day of Gross Anatomy brought the very white skinned, very blonde haired and very red-lipsticked Cynthia into room where she would begin to become a doctor. Where she would face life and death, and champion those caught in between those two extremes. Those waiting for her in the room had already lost that battle. The cadavors lay there, still covered, the only identification to any human life they once carried on a tag tied with a twist tie to the big toe. They reeked of formalin, an odor which kept ‘civilians’ away from the room but which drew in Cynthia. Instead of closing up the nostrils and opening up the mouth for vomitous ejection, the formaldyhe fumes brought back fond memories which both stirred the mind and opened the carnal passions.
Cynthia remembered disecting bugs frogs and mice in her High School biology, along with lab partner Jimmy Manheim opening up the top buttons on his shirt to show off his newly developed hair and muscular chest. She recalled College Anatomy courses where cold cats and dogs carcasses bearing some similarities to her own pets at home were the object of study, along with hot Latin Lab Instructor Jose Gonzales who somehow had cajoled Cynthia to unbutton her blouse for private study sessions.
Cynthia enjoyed ‘living’ anatomy as well. She observed as many surgeries as she could, and looked at every body part with intense fascination. Everything up from the distal phalanges of the toes to the meningeal surface of the parietal cerebral cortex just below the surface of a carved out skull. But she never looked at the face. Of either surgical patients, or those who took a one way ticket to the morgue after the surgeon’s scalpel failed to thwart the inevitable delivery of death.
“Well,” Cynthia said to corpse 237, her assigned formaldyhye-infused companion for the next 6 months. “It’s just you and me, kid,” she said to the corpse, the face still covered by the Navy Blue body bag marked ‘Property of the Department of Anatomy’. She glanced over the sylabus for the course. The extremities would be first, followed by the abdomen, then the thorax, then the head. “Saving the best for last,” she smiled.
She looked at her watch, always set five minutes fast. Then down the hallway. No one there, and no one in the room. Did she miss something? Was there another class somewhere she had forgot about? Why were all of her fellow doctors to be somewhere else? A glance at the wall revealed the answer, just behind the skeleton once owned by a woman, code named ‘Fredricka’. By the looks of her now very naked calcified ‘inner Core’, she died, most likely, from a blow to her temporal bone and dislocation of the atlas-cervical junction. “Special Seminar” it read, with guest speaker whose name eluded her from a TV show she had seen once, she recalled.
“For the kids,” she said to herself preparing for a walk down to the library to catch up on the latest articles in JAMA, the Harvard Medical Journal and International Journal of Biomedical Chemistry. But ‘Fredricka’ had other ideas. Her arm fell upon Cynthia’s shoulder, pushing onto the floor, her hand unzipping 237’s body bag as he protected herself from abrasions on her pelvic girdle and left acentabulem.
Cynthia’s eyes came face to face with 237. The first corpse she had seen in such a manner, even in ‘civilian’ life. She took note of the shape of 237’s mandible, the sharp angles revealing very much a masculine jaw, complimented by follicles covering the frendulum and skin lateral to it which ‘civilians’ would call a rather colorfully large Einstein mustache. The margins of the lips were upright, fixed in a sort of smile. The ocular portholes, otherwise known as eyes, she kept her glance away from. But they demanded a look see, from above.
“So,” she said to 237, allowing her clammy hand to gently feel of his rock hard, cold neck, and the lump below the Adam’s apple. “You have….had an goiter. Hyperthyroidism, I suspect. But by the size of your pupils, and the lack of exopthalmus in your NON-buldging eyes, it probably wasn’t the primary reason for your expiration.”
Cynthia considered the word ‘expiration’. The term you use when a jug of milk or a piece of meat had outlived its usefulness. Was such the same with 237? Hardly, she firmly asserted to herself as she stroked the skin under his jaw, examining the size of the parotid and submandibular lymph nodes when they ‘collided’ into her shaking fingers.
“Immune system…okay, so it seems,” she reported to 237. “Oral cavity,” she continues sticking her hand into his mouth, ignoring the mandate to wear rubber gloves as she claimed it interfered with her ability to ‘see’ with her fingers. “All okay there, except for those bumps on the gums,” she said.
Cynthia caught herself falling into a hole. How in the name of Jonas Salk could she ever allow herself to use such a common and inaccurate word such as ‘bumps’. There were a thousand medical terms which were more accurate for the red, raised lesions that had a petichial nature to their distribution, but all she could think of was ‘bumps’.
She looked at the 237, and stroked the cheeks, along the course of the facial nerve. A tear came down her left lacrimal gland from the corner of her eye and dripped onto her chin. “I didn’t know you were still alive, or where you were Daddy,” she wept. “And NO one told me you died.” Cynthia remembered the last days with her biological father. He suffered from numerous ‘nuisance’ ailments, some of them exacerbated by alcohol. But primary in his symptoms was regret, and the knowledge that he had grown up to become a failure in a country where being number one was everything, and being number two was number nothing, or worse.
“Look,” Cynthia continued, showing him her name tag. “I made it! Your daughter is going to be a Doctor!…A Doctor who is going to find out what killed you, and see that it doesn’t kill anyone else…So fucking, goddamn help me—“
Before Cynthia could address ‘the Man upstairs’ to make the pledge final, and binding, the door to the lab opened. In poured her fellow students in hip long white lab jackets, the lab demonstrators in their knee length smocks, then the Professor, in a long freshly pressed lab coat bearing stern paternal eyes behind his ‘welcome Freshman’ smile.
“Anatomy 101” he wrote on the board. Cynthia stole one more glance at ‘237’ and closed him up. She promised him that the next time she glanced at his formalin-fixed grin, it would be having accomplished more than just getting an “A” for the course. Indeed, Cynthia had another Master, and Friend, to have to impress, and serve, with higher standards than any Professor in any White Lab Coat, anywhere else in the world of the living.
DEATH OF THE SIMPLE LOVE STORY
The tale about Romeo the Cat was based in real life fact, told in simple words that everyone could understand, a tear jerking story with a happy ending. . Cat meets boy, boy loses cat, cat finds boy as a distrurbed man and cures him of a broken heart and defeated soul A feel good story that made you feel good for the Right reasons. Such was its major problem…
“It’s too, ya know…” Jennifer LeRue-Wilson said with tight lips as she leaned back on the thinsulate cushioned chair behind her large, imitation oakwood desk.
“Too what?” Joe asked, not knowing what the hell ‘Ms. LeRue-Wilson’ meant.
“You know,” she replied with a condescending smile, her eyes once again noting Joe’s well-scoffed work boots, his paint-stained jeans and his hands, blistered from banging nails into rich people’s houses as well as worn down between the digits from countless hours he spent writing ‘Romeo the Cat’. “It’s too…”
“Too what!” Joe asserted. The life-experienced carpenter who spent most of his hard earned money rescuing real animals in distress and less-than-real people from problems of their own making had not grown tired of being disrepected by those who he thought he could and should respect when he took on the task of writing the book. He had been given the runaround by enough publishers. Enough ‘Ms’s’ with hyphenated names. Enough Starbuck’s drinking 20-something eggheads who were well read but who never wrote anything in their lives except ‘colorful’ digs about struggling people’s manuscripts. Enough being looked at like he was a defective or useless piece of meat, good enough to build the houses these superior bitches lived in but never good enough to be invited in for dinner. “Too what?” Joe asked again, sensing that perhaps a gentle asking was the way to get a real answer for yet another rejection of his manuscipt.
Ms. LeRue-Wilson sat back, and seemed to think about it. Joe tried to read what was in her head. Part of the game she seemed to want to play, but a game he needed to get a lot better at if he was going to leave behind, in print anyway, his life-earned views on how people and animals should get along with each other, and why.
“The words…are they not college material?” he offered.
“No…that’s not the problem,” the reply, as ‘Ms. Jennifer’ looked over the manuscript again. “It’s a children’s book, and you really did write it in the language of a child.”
It felt like a compliment, or so Joe wanted to think so. It started out as a book for adults but felt more like writing for a kid as he had gotten into it. Joe’s kids. His brother’s kids. And everyone else’s kids.
“It’s a real story,” Joe answered. “I added some stuff to it from other real stories, but it’s all real. Really”.
“Really, I understand that,” Jennifer answered. “And like it because of that, but…” She tightened her lips up again. Looked over the manuscript and took out her red pen. She held it close to the pages, scanning the lines like a computer ‘processing’ the pages that represented Joe’s best efforts at describing the way things are in the animal world, and the way they should be.
“But what?” Joe pleaded. “I made some spelling mistakes, I know.”
“Which jars the reader, and almost disqualified it from being assessed,” the reply from behind glasses poised at the tip of Jennifer’s perky Preppy nose.
“I tawked too rough about Romeo’s life on the streets?” he ‘aksed’.
“Actually, we liked that. Entertaining and fascinating, and it brought a tear to two junior reader’s eyes.”
“Then what?” Joe persisted, leaning over the desk. Staring Jennifer in the eyes, which she kept from his. Until now, when he MADE her look at him for the first time during the ‘face to face’ meeting he was promised over the phone. “What’s wrong with this love story?”
The hypenated Ms. put down the manuscipt and stared in front of her, at thin air, so it seemed. Unsure of herself, perhaps for the first time in a long while, which made her feel very uncomfortable, and scared. “There is an interesting problem with this story that will never allow it to be published today, by anyone. It’s got heart. It’s based in reality. It talks about real life experiences. But it’s…”
“It’s what?” Joe asked, working his way into her mind, and perhaps heart. “My love, real life story that’s making even YOU feel something is too what?”
“Lies,” Joe surmized. “What about the truth? Real truth.”
“Ms” had to think about it. Another mirror pushed into her face. Joe felt accomplished, on an individual level and a global one. The high school drop out had finally outwitted the college critics who made him feel like shit most of his life. Yet, he couldn’t throw the crap back in their faces. And not into ‘Ms’ either, who seemed to resemble his own daughters somehow. Daughters who he loved, almost as much as he loved Romeo the Cat, the real cat and the cat in the story. “The truth…” he said warmly. “The truth, said from the heart, is…”
“Boring,” smiled ‘Ms’ from her superior attitude place. “Simple love is boring,” she repeated from a cold and heartless place inside of her. “Real relationships are, ya know, complicated,” she continued from her innermost sanctum, which reeked of loneliness.
‘Ms’ handed Joe back his manuscript, gave him the usual limp ‘professional’ good luck handshake. But Joe felt something very unusual. Pity for the ‘professionals’ who thought themselves superior in ways of the 21st century mind and ‘modern’ heart. The gatekeepers who were minions of the new devil. A demon who found a way to sterilize the public by making them more in love with figuring out a ‘brain puzzle’ than connecting to pure expressions of genuine love.
Joe felt like telling all of this to ‘Ms. Jennifer’, to perhaps save her life, but she was already dead. Perhaps he would ressurect her with the sequel to Romeo the Cat, the first chapter of which was being written by a Higher Paw in his freshly inspired Mind, Brain and Spirit.
FOURTH DOWN AND INFINITY TO GO
The Lord proclaimed that one must honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. Such was the Law in the Old World, and the Custom on the East Coast in the New One. As to how one must keep it Holy when one moves further West, escaping the comfort of one’s roots, that requires adjustments that are verified in the Scripture written between the lines in the Good Books.
So, on the afternoon of the seventh day when the Workahollic in the sky was getting antsy about lingering about, God created football. Eleven men whose assigned job is to move a ball on a field that can be grassy, muddy, snowy, ice and, for fun, a thin layer of blood over the crust of it. Gridlock for offense and defense which at any time can be broken by ONE man doing a heroic and/or smart thing, or screwing up and letting a small hole turn into a gushing waterfall that brings down the rest of his team. A relaxing event which the crowd gets into. The Crowd watching the crowd at home is wooed into the calming frenzy by the montra of the crowd noises. The soothing voices from the commentators who sound nothing like what they look like. And the vicarious thrill of picking, for no rationale reason, an idealogy to root for in the form of a city, a player or the color of the uniforms, watching the events of the Universe transpire and actually imagining that by wishing a play to go one way or another, you can make it so…
At least is it played for real. It isn’t made up. No Computer Generated ‘game’ where the Master is a program constructed by a man or woman in a comfortable basement somewhere possessed by the alure of technology, not aware of what is or could be outside the windows upstairs.
No, God created football and it has served to be the common launchpoint of discourse between estranged family members, business associates, and in rare but valued cases, inter-gender relations. A way to see one’s plans and inner strategies for the week to come played out by real players on real dirt for real stakes. In a game that is so real, and unreal. But without that illusion…Reality would be far less accessible.
The preceeding was NOT a message from the NFL and is intended to be used by EVERYONE without having to obtain written permission from the NFL and whatever teams are involved in the game at hand…
TO CALL OR NOT TO CALL—THIS WAS THE QUESTION
Another late night on the road for Ron. Another 14 hour shift on the rigs. Another day his 23 year old back felt like his Old Man’s. But another day of $35 bucks an hour in thirty below Fort McMurry on the rigs instead of eight dollars an hour slinging burgers back in cosy cosmopolatan Kamloops. One day closer to the plasma screen tv. A truck to take it home with. And a home he could BUY. And another day of calling back home to see if there was a home to go back to in this eighth week of what was supposed to be a three and a half week gig.
Ron thought about Susan a lot on the road. He complained about her neatnick habits to the hotel clerk. Confided his disappointment about her not understanding his need to be a rock star to the Country-music bar maid. Missed her microwaved pop tarts and frozen fries every time he partook of the homecooked meals of turkey, roast beef and tuna casserole at the hotel. The best hotel a Texas funded Canadian rigging company could afford. The best beds. The best bar maid dream babes as well. And the best cable available. With a tv that was all his. As much Wrestling, grindhouse road movies and porno as he could keep his eyes away to enjoy.
Ron looked at the phone and thought about calling Susan. Every third day seemed about right. Their relationship worked best when they were apart anyway. He dialed the number, as was his habit. Asked how she was doing, as was his responsibility. Heard that all was alright, as was his relief. But something was wrong, and even Susan knew it.
She asked him, in the way that he feared most. “You okay?” the question, demanding a straight and as honest an answer as Ron’s confused mind was capable of giving.
“Yeah…Everything’s good, Suz”, he sighed.
“I asked you if YOU were okay!” she continued in voice raised in volume, and condescention.
“I fucking told you! Everything’s okay!” Ron yelled back. “Just leave me alone.”
“You were the one who called me, Ron,” Susan pleaded.
“Like I always do,” he affirmed, gazing at the bar across the parking lot, filled with happy people or at least those who seemed so in front of other people.
“You’re not drinking again,” Susan asked.
“No,” Ron affirmed.
“Dope?” she continued.
“A little weed, low grade shit with no kick to it, to take the buzz off, which it didn’t, but…” he remained silent.
Susan waited on the line. “Ron” she said five times, the last one at a volume of a terrified scream, expanding the name to ‘Ronald’.
“Suz…Don’t call me Ronald, okay? You’re not my mother.”
“Then what am I?” she inquired, this time allowing him to answer any way he wanted or had to.
Ron, and Ronald, thought about it. Pondered the issue. Tried to come up with an answer that was accurate and appropriate. Was he ‘in it’ with Susan for her, for him, for the dogs they both called ‘kids’, or for the reason he feared most of all. Being ‘with’ Susan in Kamloops was his ‘get out of moving to Toronto to make it as a rock star’ card. He could blame his failure to launch his career on her. Rationalize his inability to write songs or lyrics that had any life to them on being a responsible ‘mate’ to her, and ‘father’ to the canines he needed to come home to from wherever he was.
He looked at his guitar, still in the case. The stacks of music paper, still blank. The others crumbled up in the hotel waste basket.
“What am I to you?” Susan demanded. “What are we to each other?” she pleaded.
Ron looked at his frostbitten fingertips on his oil-stained hands, his aging eyes in the hotel mirror, and the picture of Susan on the guitar case. She was entitled to an answer. He couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t give her one.
The answer came out in a song. More music than lyric. More flow than form. Susan thanked him for being honest with her, and himself. She said ‘goodnight’ to a Ronald she finally got to find out about. He said ‘sweet dreams’ to a woman he imagined, and hoped was real. An understanding was reached that night for both of them. With rewards and hardships well beyond their cummative 46 years of living.
Sally worked hard to get where she was in the Dodge City. She wrote back home to her mother in Baltimore every month about how well she was doing as a school teacher. How many students she taught to read, write and do arithmetic that wouldn’t get them cheated when they came into town to trade their hard earned goods for badly needed money. She wrote her grandmother about what was really going on.
“Dear Granny”, the letter began, the ‘dear’ actually meant the way the word was originally intended. “I’m doing really good here. Bringing in good money. And teaching boys how to be men. And what handsome boys come to me to be their ‘first’. The other girls at this social club say a girl works her way UP from teaching 15 year old cowhands how to shoot the pistol between their legs so it aims straight and true, but I take it as a challenge, and educational opportunity. They’re a whole lot more grateful than the cattle bosses, and a whole lot less dangerous too. Besides, I know that’s how you and Grandpa met. A secret I know you never told Mother, and that you can bet your bottom dollar I won’t tell her about either.”
Sally looked out the window, at a stage coming pulling into town. A four horse with extra suspension on the wheels, and a load of luggage on top that said ‘high roller’ all over it. Marshall Jackson greeted the stage personally and let the visitor out. Sally couldn’t see the visitor’s face, but only Marshall Jackson’s hand, pointing up to her window. Mister Rawlings bowed to the visitor, snapped his fingers, and summoned his cleanest Chinese coolies to bring in the bags.
Sally folded up the letter and prepared herself to be part of the greeting party. The table with English tea, Injun-recipe bisquits and canned peaches. The chairs with pillows made of New Orleans silk coverings and Kansas grown chicken feathers. The body in the mirror with a sprinkle of perfume between the breasts and just the right amount of almost-see-through lace clothing over it. As Granny taught her, ‘a present always looks best and is tastefully enjoyed when it’s tastefully wrapped’.
Granny was well past her days of providing private lessons to men in want or need of ‘education’, but she kept Grandpa well satisfied in ALL ways till he died one day as an old man, in their bed, very much NOT alone.
Sally wondered if the same thing would happen to her next student, or if something worse would happen. She was already on thin ice with Mister Rawlings. When asked a question from a ‘student’, she’d give an honest answer. The richer the student, the more corrupt he usually was, and the more he didn’t like the answer from ‘schoolteacher Sally’. It didn’t matter if the question had to do with the issues of politics, religion or what kind of wife makes the best kind of mother. Sally’s answers kept being right, and the more she was right, the more clients said was a disappointment. One more disappointed client, and Mister Rawlings would ‘let her go’, or if he pissed off the wrong client, sell her to the Indians.
Sally prepared all of her questions and answers, remembering how she screwed up last times. THIS time, she’d find a way to give the gentleman caller the kind of conversation he wanted, instead of what he asked for, or needed. THIS time she’s greet him with a smile of submission instead of strength. THIS time, she opened the door when the caller knocked with eyes downward and head bowed. THIS time, the visitor’s feet were quite what she didn’t expect.
“So you notice that I have great looking legs,” the client said, opening her skirt to give Sally at her calves then up her thighs. “Look at me, eyes open, please,” she continued as she gently pulled Sally’s head upward and kissed her on the mouth.
Sally didn’t know what to make of the woman in front of her disbelieving eyes who paid a curious Mister Rawlings three times the normal rate, dismissed him with a flick of her highly ‘in charge’ slender fingers, and closed the door behind her.
“I don’t know if I…ya know,” Sally confessed once her lips were freed from the locked embrace that moved her in ways Granny never told her about.
“I do know,” the lady client smiled as she stared through Sally’s eyes, straight into her Soul. “My name is Rachel,” she smiled. “And yours is…”
“Whatever you want it to be?” Sally replied, setting the tea kettle onto the table, preparing to pour it.
“No,” Rachel asserted, taking the kettle and pouring it into Sally’s cup first. “You are whoever YOU want and need to be.”
A scary and assuring client, Sally pondered. And her most important ‘student’. One who would do more to teach her than even Granny.
After the Battle of Hasty Puddinks was won, Bernard the Brave stood tall over the heads of his victims, until he slipped on a wet rock and busted his own head. Witness to the fact that had to be kept from the scribes who were to be known later as historians was Norman, Bernard’s brother, known as ‘Norman the Anything I get paid to say about him’.
Norman was neither big like his father nor brave like his brother, and knew he was stupider than any of the grobbling subjects who kept the economy of the Franklonian Empire going. Big problems were afoot indeed, particularly as rebellion seemed to swell in the ranks. Not so much as to who would sit on the throne of the now-transcontinental Franklonian Empire, but who would control it.
“Any idiot can be a king,” Cheynovich the bald Slavic Sage whispered to Norman as the brother who never wanted to rule stood to inherit the crown. “But you are the smartest idiot in the family now.”
“The ONLY idiot,” Norman wisely replied as his name was being chanted. His presence was demanded at the top of the hill to give the ‘how will we deal with the booty’ speech.
En route to his new position of responsibility, he noted, again, intelligence in the faces of the subjects who bowed to him. Particularly the scholars, artists and musicians. These people were unarmed, but could change the way armed people thought. If they thought at all. “No,” Norman told himself. “Everyone is capable of thinking. Anyone can be a brilliant man or an imbicillic idiot. Just like anyone can be king of an Empire he never even wanted, but that has to be…”
“…maintained,” Cheynovich said, completing the words that were forming in Norman’s head. And which, upon further examination, Norman figured out he was speaking out loud.
Norman looked at Cheynovich with pleading eyes. Like he did when he was growing up and needed someone to tell his secrets to. Someone he could trust. Someone who was kind, and strong, and tender and brave and…and…everything.
“Gee Double You’d,” Cheynovich said to Norman as he swung his arm around his shaking shoulders, addressing the man as he did when he as a lad, or perhaps as some suspected, a lassie-lad. “You want to and have to be the smartest and most creative man in the Empire now, aside from your advisors of course.”
“Sure, I know that…I think.” Norman slurred from his lips as he waved confidently to the crowd, kept even further away from him. “But how do I become smarter and more creative than I am?” An idea occurred to Norman. “No!” he protested. “I can’t kill the smart and creative people.”
“You can,” Cheynovich said. “But there is an easier way to make them more useful to…”
“To us?” Norman asked.
“To everyone! Including themselves!” Cheynovich smiled. “So that the people on top stay on the top. And everyone is obedient, and happy.”
“I order people to be less smart and less creative!” Norman said, remembering those episodes as a child when his head hurt and Cheynovich said it was because he was thinking too hard. “Yes I can do that! I am the king! I don’t have to ask permission from anyone to do anything! Do I?”
Norman looked over the booty collected from the battle. The conquered cities carted in more gold and silver than he had ever seen. According to the contract made with the soldiers who actually did the fighting, they would get half of it. And they had families who were scholars, artists and musicians. Soon, they would be richer than Norman. Because, as his arithmetic now told him, they knew how to use that gold to get more gold. “What happens when the creative and smart people have more gold and silver than I do!?” Gee-Double You’d gasped, clenching Cheynovich’s strong shoulders.
Cheynovich smiled, and pulled out of his pocket a black, hairy onion. “A one of a kind plant that grows only in places that I know about,” he said. “Very good to eat. Very good to smell. And very rare. Even rarer than gold and silver, and if gold and silver were to become not so valuable and black, hairy onions were be needed for the writers to buy paper, the musicians to buy instruments, and the artists to buy paints?”
It made sense now…King Gee-Double You’d Norman got it. Norman took the new currency in his hand. “If the artists can’t make art, and we’re the only ones who can buy paints, paper or instruments. And if we train the public who will view this ‘art’ to only like or be able to understand what WE pre-approve of….”
“Then we, or you, would be the smartest and creative man in the Empire.” Chenyovick took the onion back and placed it into his very deep pocket. He bowed to his new ruler and strolled down the row of worshopers waiting to kiss the hand of the New King. Norman followed, walking his way into history…sort of.
The archeological dig atop the rubble that had once been the great Franklonian Empire’s greatest city contained one stone tablet with writing on it. Scratched on by the crudest of impliments, its red hue undoubtedly from the blood of the writer. “When art stops becoming possible, all else does.” Such was the epitath, and professy, as the archeology team resumed reading their newspapers about the vertically intergrated world of the present where One Artist, Ydo Bon stood above all others, in all media. Easier that way. More economical. A meritocracy….except for the fact that whoever chose to look in a mirror saw that the man, or woman, on top of such a ‘civilization’ is…Nobody.
THE MOST PUNISHABLE OFFENSE AND CRIME
Sheriff Chapmann had three laws to his town to which there was no negotiation. First, anyone caught killing anyone would be shot down instantly. Second, anyone caught torturing an animal would be hung, slowly. Third, anyone caught carrying ‘the disease’ would be put in jail, strapped to a horse and taken over the line to Canada, or taken to the Doc for a brain replacement. The latter usually didn’t work, and as Canada was 400 miles away, jail usually was the place where the diseased were quarenteened until Chapmann could figure out what to do with them.
The latest prisoner, as all the others, didn’t know he committed the offense. “Why am I imprisoned like this?” the accountant who didn’t have the talent or balls to be a banker protested. “What did I do?”
“It’s what you didn’t do, and didn’t become,” Chapmann slurred from the side of his mouth while he read through yet another dime novel, trying to figure out how to make himself famous for being wrote about, or writing about someone else. “You’re dangerous, to yourself and others,” he continued. “You violated the Beyond God’s primal commandment, godsdamn you.”
The accountant seemed baffled by the remark. Puzzled. Confused but not curious. All the more reason for him to be confined.
Chapmann looked at the other poor unfortunates in his jail. A long line of them. Most from big cities ruled by manipulative bosses behind desks during the week, and self-deceived ones behind pulpits on Sunday. Was it there fault that they had ‘the disease’? Yes, and no. Their plain faces, kept flush by all the food they could eat, all the sleep they could get and all the small talk they could generated between themselves gave testimony to both sides of the argument.
“What was my crime?” the accountant inquired. “I would like to know.”
Chapmann considered relating the truth of the matter to him. But would he understand it? Would he realize how diseased he really was and would he fully appreciate how deadly it was, particularly as the ‘open’ Wild West was being pushed aside by the ‘comfortable’ New One. Fences everywhere. Around the wild grasslands, in preparation for their spirits to be broken by the plow. Around the minds of the schoolteachers, wives and laundresses who now outnumbered the whores. Around the Indians who knew that owning land was not only a curse, but a ridiculously sacraligeous concept. Around the Beyond God in every human Soul who was potentially alive, but who in practice was one of the living dead.
“What is my crime, Sir?” the accountant asked, once again. “What is this disease that makes me a criminal in this world you have created here, Sheriff.”
Chapmann looked in the mirror. May he wasn’t cured. Maybe he was as diseased as all the others. Maybe he also suffered from being dull, boring and lifeless, and was a carrier of such an affliction. He had never taken a wife, or a mistress. Had not laughed, shouted or cried in the last three years, except in his dreams. Had not danced a lady into blissful delight. Had not punched a man bloody. Had not even rode his horse at a flat out gallop, preferring a controlled lope to connect him to that concept he thought he was defending…Freedom and Vitality.
“Physician heal thyself’, he heard from a prisoner in the back of the room, or perhaps a ghost, or perhaps the Beyond God his mind asserted HAD to be Real, and beyond the brain and mind. “Physician, heal thyself,” the ghost repeated, echoing its voice against all the walls around Chapmann, then against the walls of his skull that encapsulated and held prisoner his own brain, and persepectives.
The only escape from the storm was to ride straight into it, its porthole through a mirror. In it, Chapmann saw the naked face that was hiding behind his overgrown mustache and patchy beard. He saw the physician he once was. The doctor who took care of everyone’s else’s ills. Who calmed the fire of ‘excessive’ diseases and ‘heated up’ those afflicted with ‘deficiency’ disorders. Always a matter of balance. Always treating the body when it was getting too much of one thing or afflicted with too little of something else. A master of treating the body, he was, and even the brain, on occasion when he dealt with manias and melancholy disorders. But never the Soul. Never did he learn or figure out HOW to make people Alive, big A. He had made more patients than he could remember get out of their sickbed, but never could he get them to dance. Loosen their lungs of sputum but never was he able to make them laugh, or sing. He was a mechanic. Making movement possible, but stagnant as….death.
“Physician heal thyself”, he heard from the prisoners now as he allowed the mind to see what his brain was pre-conditioned to ignor. All of them begged him to cure himself, and them. From the demon who lingered above them all. Who had a name, and a face now…finally. On both sides of him now.
“Dull out demon, otherwise known as the god of Boredom,” Chapmann called out to the White faced ‘angel’ sitting to his left. “We experienced long periods of you during the War between the States,” he commented. “You are looking very White today.”
The angel noded politely. Time went by slowly, each second seeming like years to Chapmann until the angel’s companion next to him blasted out a loud scream, terrifying the otherwise and pathologically stable Sheriff and former physician.
“Terror,” he said as he finally identified the demon next to the angel, its face nearly identical to its heavenly ‘partner’ except for the red hue on its face, the bloodshot sclera, and the horns that had replaced wings.
“Neither of you two exist, you know,” Chapmann said. “You are the products of our imagination.”
“And experience,” the opposing ‘gods’ of boredom and terror said, in unison. In perfect harmony.
“Something else exists,” Chapmann asserted. “Between you,” he continued while trying to smell his way beyond those two opposing dualities which he knew as illusion but which still plagued himself and humanity. “Between you is…”
“You humans,” the angel of boredom and the demon of terror laughed. “Between both of us is—“
“Challenge!” Chapmann allowed to spring up from his gut. A place reached only by utmost urgency, made knowable by intuition rather than logic. “Challenge is the zone between boredom and terror which…”
Before Chapmann could define his victory of intellect and Passion, the demon and angel disappeared. He found himself in another jail, wearing another badge, in another town. A transformation between his ears that appeared in front of his eyes. But still, it was a jail…with the jailer behind his own bars. Yet, a brighter and Purer Light shone through the windows and the bars. Forward progress for…at least today.
GRANNIE’S BAKED PRESERVES
Millie always called men who were not family ‘Sir’, even if they didn’t deserve the title. Most of the male visitors to her country cottage were younger than her now, as were all of the men and women in town, where people lived in houses. Every year seemed to bring more people in houses closer to her country cottage until now, when the only country left for her was a patch of dirt she called a garden and a three foot expanse of brush that buffered her from the shops across the road.
“All those shops seem to be selling the same thing, Sir,” she said to the landlord while her shaking hands brought the hundred year old teacup to her nearly century old mouth. “Not a good thing, Sir,” she continued in a New England accent that was more England than new. “All those shops inside, with no display windows and nothing interesting to sell inside. No, Sir, not a good thing at all.”
“It’s a mall, Mrs. McMillan,” the landlord slurred back in slobbish Bronx diction, a tinge of Boston to its timber. “And everyone there works for a living,” he continued, looking at the unpaid bills on the floor. “Including me!” he blasted at her, hammer in hand, tool belt pressed outward past his overfed beer belly.
“The rent will be paid by my estate, Sir,” Millie stated, calmly.
“The rent is due next week, Mrs. McMillan,” the landlord whose name Millie had forgotten or not taken the time to remember noted.
“So then I must make measures to have my estate take care of it, Sir.” she smiled. “I suppose that it will take them three days to process my Will. A day for the checks to clear, perhaps two for the mortician to find my body which I suppose should be properly attired while sitting, no, lying down on that couch. A tad messy if the blood hits the carpet, but a spot of hydrogen peroxide should make short measure of that when—”
“—I can’t collect rent from dead people!” the landlord said. “I got kids, and a kid who’s gonna give me grandkids, goddamn and bless her.”
“What’s her name, Sir?” Millie smiled back, teakettle filled with hot water in her shaking left hand, a cup in her for-the-moment-NOT-shaking right.
The landlord grabbed the kettle from Millie’s shaking hand, sat her down, and refilled her cup. She insisted on him filling his, which he did promptly, properly enough, given the fact that ‘Sir Landlord’ this year was more portly than the last, his breath and body a tad more odorous than his other three predicessors.
“Mrs. McMillian,” he informed her, holding back his anger. “You are two months behind on the rent.”
“And you, Sire, are I would hazard to guess, two years late in having that talk about the pain and pleasures of having a man’s cock stuck into your hungry vagina with your daughter,” she proclaimed, adjusting the Catholic Cross hanging on his sweaty neck.
“Sir’s” jaw dropped, revealing a mouthful of unbrushed teeth, which Mrs. McMillian quickly chasticed him for allowing to go untidied. Noticing that Sir had no ring on his fourth digit on either hand, she warned Sir that improper hygeine would result in him losing any prospects of courting a new wife, and that he would die very alone. “You must remember that he or she who you love most wants to see you smiling, with bright white teeth,” she continued to the grumbling landlord who hid his teeth even futher inside his beet-red mouth. “And in the end, my dear Sir, St. Peter is most pleased by someone who greets him with a wide smile with the pearly whites that the Creator entrusted to us.”
Mrs. McMillian smiled, showing off her teeth. From the corner of her eye she noticed the denture holders in the bathroom. But Sir’s attention was on the matter at hand, as was proper.
“Okay,” the landlord conceeded. “I’ll brush my teeth tonight.”
“And every night.”
“And every night!” he fumed.
“And you will chew on one of my special herbal tooth cleaner busquits,” she continued, offering him a freshly baked cookie.
“Yeah…sure”, he said, swallowing it whole. “Now, can I please have the rent money, Mrs. McMillan?”
She smiled again, and opened a catalogue, requesting his expertise in the aesthetics of the manner. “You look like you know wood very well,” she said, noting the toolkit on his belt. “Yes, Sir. You are indeed a wood man.”
“Yeah…I guess I’m a—“
“Splendid!” Millie proclaimed, opening up the cover to the the marked pages. “What do you think of these homes? Be honest with me now,” she insisted. “I’d expect nothing less of you. I’m looking into moving into one of these retirement homes quite soon.”
“They’re—” Sir uttered from quivering lips.
“Yes, yes,..a bit small, I know.”
“Quite, Sir,” Millie continued, turning the pages on the funeral catalogue, revealing something she had inserted quite on her own.
“They, like, got your picture pasted into ‘em!” Sir noted with a face as white as a ghost. He turned the pages and saw pictures of others he knew. From somewhere. Smiling, and comfortable. “Who are these guys?” he said. “I know..I think I know these guys.”
“Alas, they used to work for the same Real Estate company that you did, Sir,” she said.
“DID?” Sir asked as Millie showed him more ‘homes’ in the coffin catalogue, one of them featuring a man who looked very much like Sir, decked out in a Norweigan suit on the Deluxe ‘Valkurie’ line with a golden sword in his hand. She sang a few verses of ‘Nearer My God to Thee’, summoning a black cat to walk across Sir’s path. Causing Sir to back up under a ladder. Causing him to break a mirror. Causing the chain on his good luck crucifix to break and fall down. Causing him to see a demonic face within the jam stains on the floor smiling back at him. Causing him to drop his paperwork. Causing him to run out the door. Causing Millie to enquire. “Sir, the rent check you requested. I can write it out straight away.”
“That’s okay…Whenever,” Sir said as he rushed out the door, to his car and down the street to a screeching left turn then away from view of Millie and all his other FORMER tenants.
Millie set out another pitcher of tea. She poured two cups, one with extra milk. A black figure came to the table, sat down and sipped from it. She stroked his cheeks and kissed him on the head. “There, now, as long as you and me work together like this, we will both be alright, in the end. No rent is to be paid to anyone who won’t accept you AND me here, yes?”
The visitor agreed with a ‘meow’. Millie looked at her rental agreement, noting the ‘no pets’ clause. Then at the eviction notices from the previous landlords that were never put into effect. Perhaps it was stealing to make them quit their jobs so abruptly, but, as she told her feline companion. “It’s a living,” the nearly century old Old English hold out concluded as to the reason and rationalization for it all.
THE “GOOD” DOCTOR
Tim saw it all in front of his bloody hands, the guts and brains of his mark, mentor and patron in front of his sweat-soaked eyes. He could here his mother’s voice telling him, ‘Timothy’, do your job, like the nice boy and good man that I worked so hard for you to become. From his father, ‘any man who does an ordinary job without making an extra-ordinary impact in the world is no man, and certainly no son of mine, ‘Timmy’”. From Jennifer, the nurse whose hot tongue could receccistate any man killed of boredom, disuse or disease back to life, “Doctor Tim, the patient is preped, and we’re ready to go.”
Tim wiggled his nose under his surgical mask and looked at the face of the man whose life was now in his hands. Lance Rabinowitz had been a success story from day one. A ‘cool kid’ from the playground days when it was all about whose baseball cards were most valuable to being professional adults. Lance was a natural actor, showman and had one of those bodies that said ‘winner’ in every endeavor possible for a boy, man and everything in between. Tim…aside from working his way up the ladder to become Neurosurgeon at Bellingham General, he was always B plus material at best. And smart enough to know that not being number one was being number nothing. Maybe if he was C plus material, he would have been happy being a commoner. Or if C minus, ectatic. The kind of guy who lived for bowling with his buds, porking his wife at home, and reaping the grand reward of a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving for busting his ass for the company every other day of the year on the factory line.
Nurse Jennifer handed Tim the scalpel. Her eyes looked squarely at the line dotted out on the skin overlying Lance’s left parietal lobe.
“Guess Mister ‘don’t touch my cool hair, you uncool loser’ let the razor slip a bit when he was shaving last night,” Tim commented as he made the first incision into the scalp, concecrating the events to happen with a snide grin.
“Your orders were to shave his WHOLE head, Doc,” Jennifer threw back at him. “Are you sure this operation will get rid of those seizures, and those hallucinations and delusions.”
“That he’s the most innovative, reliaable, sensitive, cuthroat, sexy, gentlemanly stud in Hollywood or the ‘cool to be cruel and manipulative’ Sundance festival?” Doctor Tim continued, relishing in the moment. Realizing that the witicism was both colorful and right, and if it got to the right publisher, insightful for generations to come.
No comment from Nurse Jennifer, the other handmaidens, or even the residents. Nothing from their mouths, or even their eyes. All just kept doing their job, as assigned. With the occupational hazard that comes to those who dare to play God. To take power over life and death, and divert disease from its designated victims.
“Smells like DOV in the airducts today,” Doctor Tim commented as he lifted the skull off the dura matter under it. “DOV…know what that is?” he asked his residents, whose stare remained on the monitors connected to the cameras filming the operation rahter than the real life tissue itself. “Dull out virus attacks brains, and souls, that are under-expressive, overly-submissive and/or under-utilized,” Tim continued as he cut a slit in the dura matter, exposing a lumpy cerebral cortex that seemed pathological under the surface. Said surface having to be cut into to verify his intuition on the matter. “If affects this area here most.”
“The supra-visual/musical association cortex?” resident Patel commented on the region of Hollywood legend and New York role model Lance Rabinowitz’s parietal lobe. “Wasn’t it identified as a seat of multi-modality creativity in Brain Research last month?” the East Indian wonderchild on his way to being top dog in still very White Bellingham commented.
“Depends on how you look at the data, and if your ocular portholes are driven by hot curry or rose colored glasses, or ” Tim knew the joke would not get a laugh, and if it did, it was forced. Flattery for the man who could make or break a career for any intern, resident or, after a few phone calls, nurse.
Sensing the escalation of embarrasment, Doctor Tim did what he did best, or what the world said he did best. Once again he chanelled his brains into his fingers, his emotions into the tips of those apendages, and felt inside the ‘lump’ that was either a tumor, region of infarction or perhaps an overdeveloped region of highly functional neuronal tissue. Some said that Doctor Tim could ‘feel’ brains think with his fingers. The legend seemed to be true, as his fingers were always proved correct by the EEG monitors, deoxy-glucose CAT scans and even the most ‘impersonal’ of MRIs.
But this time, Tim’s medical knowledge was hampered by something else. The lump was just a lump. It didn’t speak to him.
“You okay, Doctor Tim?” Jennifer asked with her Southern twanged voice, emanating the respect and sincerity of that combined title..
“Yeah, sure.” Tim replied, feeling something very course and crude emerging from a place in his Soul he never acknowledged, a nucleous in his brain he never studied or read about.
“You and HIM okay?” Jennifer inquired delivering the solution straight between the eyes, bypassing all thalamic and precortical filtering systems in Tim’s troubled mind.
“Yeah…sure. He’s my patient. I’m his doctor,” Doctor Tim replied with assertiveness and sincerity. “The hippocratic oath. Above all do no harm,” he continued.
Under his surgical mask, another dialogue was taking place between the angels and demons who were playing high stakes poker with Tim’s soul. “Above all things do no harm. Be a healer to your patient, place his life above your own,” he recalled from vows he privately and publically took when becoming a Healer of flesh, big H. A pledge that made his mother feel proud of him, despite the fact that she died of cancer a year later. Then from another part of his Mind, and Soul, “Make an impact in the world. Make your Mark. Make a difference, for the Global Good, goddamn you!” from his father. He remembered a discourse he had with his father once about if he were Hitler’s doctor in WWII. Young Tim claimed that is was a doctor’s duty to care for his patient, no matter who that patient was. His father’s rebuttal was “a brave doctor would have killed Old Adolf with strichnyine. A smarter one would have injected him with estogen and turned him into an even bigger fag than he was so that he’d be laughed out of power.”
Tim contemplated the matter at hand now. To most of the world, Lance Rabinowitz was a Hollywood success story. Producer and director extradenoair. But producer and director of WHAT? Movies that made money, and that became popular. But popular for the wrong reasons. No, not smut of the body or of the mind, but smut of the Soul. Every one of Lance’s movies championed the ‘cool to be cruel’ credo, and his ever-so-fashionable anti-war films did more to recruit young men into becoming soldiers with urges to kill people than they did to stop or explain any war. And as for the deals Lance made to get those movies made…The deals would make Tony Soprano look like Mother Teresa. The details revealed to Tim as ‘Doctor Tim’, in confidence. Something Lance perhaps intentionally did to further torture Tim for being kind rather than practical, brainy rather than balsy.
Patel prepared the cautery to burn out the suspected lobe. Its red hot tip glowed brightly as the anesthetist motioned for the team to proceed onward, and FAST . CAT scans and all other manner of diagnoses had all been ambigious, and reactivation of them made their assessments all the more muddy.
“To burn or not to burn?” Jennifer asked in Shaesperaing manner, giving voice to the question from Tim’s silent lips.
Tim needed answers, and fast. What was this unusual mass in this most unusual man? This patient with whom Tim had a personal score to settle with. The man who forced, or rather intimidated Tim into going into medicine rather than the arts, or perhaps even politics. All those one way conversations with Lance echoed in Doctor Tim’s brain. The phrases. The opinions which carried the power of proclamations from Lance’s know-it-all (and can convince everyone else that it was true also) big mouth. “You’re a wise dude, but not a colorful one.” “You’re good at making people think, but don’t even try to make them laugh.” “Let us artists and politicians change the world. You’re a doctor. We need you to keep us healthy.” “We’re good at what we do…You’re nice at…well, you’re just nice, ya know?”
Nurse Jennifer cleared her throat. She threw that ‘get on with it or I’ll call in the real powers that be at this hospital’ stare at Tim.
Just then, in the nicke of time, Patel said something in Hindi. Probably nothing he learned in medical school, far more expressive than a passage from the Gita. But something from that book, or perhaps others like it, rang true to Tim. The demons inside of Tim stood naked, exposed, and identified. “Anger, jealousy and greed”, he called them by name, identifying the sources of where they came from, and the consequences of obeying there mandates. Then, a breakthrough. “Hate the disease, not the patient,” he said to himself, loud enough to come out in a whisper. Audable, thankfully, to Jennifer alone.
“Amen,” she asserted.
“Amen indeed,” Tim continued, feeling the Divine Eyes seeing again through his fingers, sensing the uses and limitations of the devises in the operating room better than the manufacturers did.
The lump under the multi-modality creativity association cortex was partially malignant, and partially benign. Doctor Tim removed what he had to, leaving the rest to Lance to do what he had to with it. Lance returned to work in two weeks. Tim turned on his television set two months later to watch the results of his work. The same old crap, said the reviewers who were paid to hate Rabinowitz productions. The same brilliant genius, proclaimed the minions in his company who sought advancement. “Something…different between the lines,” Tim noted from what he felt was a very objective place. “It’s a start,” his conclusion as he was called out of the TV room in the doctor’s lounge and back to work.
The story was about things, principles, and ideas. Not people. Though the two legged intruder was theoretically the most advanced life form in the forest, the inner Truth of the matter said quite otherwise. Still, he watched the first real snowfall of the ground that softened the ground. Indeed, it had been a long time between the first ground freeze and the fall of snow which was to follow. “Rock hard dirt” season was a month or more. Difficult for the horses to gallop upon. But easy for prey to run over and not be seen, or smelled, by predator. Everyone had to eat. The rule of the woods that fed everyone, somehow. Even the two legged observer who thought himself so superior. Was it more advanced to be able to describe life, or was it higher in evolution to experience it? Only the lines on paper would say…as long as someone else could read them. So many words that seemed to only repeat what was written in other woods, and other words. No, maybe the silence was enough now, the final word and summary statement, which was made possible BY the effort to feel and channel the words to some kind of print. Such was the feeling of the advanced two legged life form who…made himself immortal, and part of the world he tried to understand, and cured…We are dead and wandering ghosts when we are separated from our Purpose, and activities relating to it. How sadistic the world or its creator(s) are that the roadmap to Purpose contains ink that always runs on the page, in directions that no laws of physics or principles of Nature seem to determine, at least to those who must take the journey, or die in the gutters of stagnation, helplessness and surrender.
People competition…the ‘love’ of interaction between humans. Such seems irrelvant and painful now…So painful. Yet such is the means by which the writer today and in other lost times must lead people to the isolated Soul and universal ‘self’ within. Waiting for…delivery from a land of words. Thoughts are far more intimate. Ideas everlasting. Ideals remain the end that we serve and merge with.
MJ Politis, Ph.D., D.V.M., H.B.A.R.P. (human being, aspiring Rennaisance person)