Thursday, January 14, 2010


Recently, the perils of art have visited my thoughts often. I have noticed a dangerous trend in people concerning art. This trend seems quite large, but mostly strikes me as a widespread personal trend, and as such, seems all the more dreadful. I believe art resides as a toolbox comprised of human communication power tools. In this box rests language arts, visual arts, and the physical arts.

I've heard more than once that "the purpose of art is self expression, or just expression". I think this is a dangerous stance to take on art, and a harmful one to proselytize people with. Art is not an end, but rather a means to an end, an exercise. The exercise of art consists of communicating something unknown into the known, the unseen to the seen, unheard to the heard, and unfelt to the felt.

When people paint, write, act, or sculpt they adorn spiritual things with physical elements, baptizing the unseen in the tactile mediums. this process does not gather meaning from its mere exercise, much like confession does little if the confessor lays his deeds on the deaf ear of a stone wall. One could argue its therapeutic merits such as painting or gardening to relax, but much like the pleasant feelings which accompany charitable actions these pleasant side effects do not comprise the main goal. Much like venting ones grievances at their own reflection in a mirror such practice may offer some momentary solace, but inevitably leads to an endless repetition of such habits, never bearing such a person in the end to healing, understanding, or reconciliation.

I believe the design and creation of people by a benevolent, interested, and loving God. Along with people God designed and created the arts, and no design is arbitrary. Art has a design purpose and use. Of course free will might lead to misuse, but this alone does not negate a preeminent intention and a Godly exercise of artistic tools. Using any powerful thing outside of its intended design heralds danger. Abusing or mishandling art plagues people with a gloomy, perilous state of mind.

The creative impulse comes from the Lord; one aspect of how we reflect His image. I believe art's most profound service to people resides in its communicative capacity. The danger I now see comes from how humanity has grown to regard art's purpose, and ignore its scope of function. The purpose of art has become solely to express, a selfish use of art. Furthermore, the goodness of art is now judged on aesthetics. Songs on their beauty of sound and structure. Paintings on their form, color, and stroke. Drawings on the relationship of lines and form.

Perhaps I decide to follow these rules strictly, seeking only ever to exercise my language arts with my utmost ability and aesthetic skill; only ever speaking for self expression. I would use only beautiful words, stringing them together with rhythm and melody. I would have no care for the content or meaning, as long as it pleases the ear, as long as it entertains mentally and physically. I would be a selfish, noisy gong. And only one convinced that this was good language art could praise it.

Art facilitates intimate communication better than any other medium, creating a forum for the voices of the deep. When it becomes nothing more than fashion show it no longer performs its most meaningful function. When the end of Art is to impress instead of to communicate we neuter it, rob it of its color and potency.

This is certainly no black and white matter. However, I contend that there exists greater and lesser shades of grey concerning many subjects, including this one. Art has an appropriate use and an appropriate scale. More on this later...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Schindler's List

I recently watched Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List". Somehow I had manage to mentally miscategorize this film. I was a little too young to appreciate when it first came out. The people I knew who had seen said, "Oh my gosh, it's so sad and long. You probably won't like it." I said, "Alright, I don't like it".

Well now I've seen it and I love it! I watched the ending twice. I cried both times. I watched all the extras the DVD had to offer and cried some more. I disagree about it being a sad movie. Let me explain.

The story is certainly set in a tragic time period and circumstances: WWII and the Holocaust. "Schindler's List" isn't about that though. It's an incredibly heroic tale of people persevering, and one man sacrificing almost everything to save a great many people.

This isn't a "look at all the murdered Jews and cry story." That is an element, but not the main plot. This movie offered two powerful stories. First of all, the perseverance of the Jews on Schindler's list is incredible. The heroic actions of so many, together, in the face of such awful hate could inspire a brick to grow flowers and drop fruit.

As great as that story is, the best story in the movie is of Schindler himself. I say this because it illustrates one of the greatest promises of the Lord. That he would leave the flock to find the one missing sheep. Schindler is self admittedly an adulterous party animal Nazi crook profiteer. However, he orchestrates an incredible scam on the Nazis by hiding almost 1200 Jews in manufacturing plants supposedly supporting the Nazi armies. These Jews, who witnessed a constant massacre of their fellow hebrews, had to wonder "why us? why have we been spared?". I think the Lord brought Schindler to them for their preservation, even more though the Lord brought them to Schindler.

The Lord always preserves His remnant. The Old Testament has countless stories of a remnant surviving...everything. So these Jews, this remnant, surviving is just one more example of the Lord fulfilling His promise and doing what He always does. That's just the way the Lord rolls. What the Lord does with Schindler though is much more powerful. These jews were already faithful, Schindler though was the prodigal son and the Lord wanted to feast at his return.

The closing scene's of Schindler's list are worth watching twice. In particular, after the German forces have surrendered and the factory has been closed, Schindler is fleeing just after midnight. He's trying to make it to the American lines. If he gets caught by the Russians he will assuredly be shot. The Jews he had working for him sent him off with a beautiful ring they fashioned for him out of the gold from someone's denture work. They wrote and signed an affidavit explaining Schindler's actions hoping to exonerate him from the punishments his crime might require. As he's getting into the car Oskar Schindler breaks down completely. He cries, and falls down, and rants about how he could have and should have done more. At this point he is a penniless war crimes fugitive and his overwhelming desire is that he could have done more. He could have given up more for the sake of these people. Certainly the Lord was there that night killing the fattened calf! That's the scene I had to watch twice.

Other than being a technically fantastic movie, the story itself screams of the Lord's goodness. Watch it and love it people!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pale Horse

When storm clouds rolled in from the North Hassle always lost his nerve to drink. He never lost his nerve to kill. Killing is an exercise of his power over others, while drinking merely sapped his control in an all round fashion. Dark clouds rolling in always made him feel like a helpless dead man with his casket closing over him only able to watch the last remnants of light wink out.

He stumbled in the dark over the step in front of his cottage. Northwest Arkansas gets dark and misty when cool air comes rolling over the mountains from the North. Some folks recently began likening it to the aggression of the Yankees into the South.

Hassle is an evil man. Not born that way, but nurtured evil by despicable parents. He had been named Matthew Dobbs, but shortly after his parents realized they didn’t want children and resented him they began calling him Hassle. They felt it appropriate.

Hassle, when he was twelve, watched his father beat his mother to death one night in a drunken rage. His father cried for days after burying her. When his father quit crying, Hassle shot him early in the morning as he was walking into the barn, ever since Hassle had lived as an evil man.

He wasn’t the flashy kind of evil that ends up on the front page of the paper in some big city back east. Hassle’s evil was like a deep dark pool in a bog with something just under the surface waiting to take any passerby. He mostly waited for people to fall into his evil and then he would take them mercilessly. Perhaps the only other person in these parts of Arkansas more evil than Hassle is his wife Matti.

Hassle entered his cottage on the edge of town and took off his boots. As he entered the small parlor to the left of the front door he looked up to see his wife sitting upright in her rocker stone dead with a gaping hole in her chest and pieces of her heart on the wall and floor behind her. Her knitting lay in her lap with her hands still clutching the needles.

She gazed at him with glazed eyes and a shocked but mocking sort of smile, the sort of smile that always creeped into her mouth when she foresaw his folly before it happened to him. To her right, sitting in his chair, is a young man named Craig Patterson dressed in Confederate grays loosely holding a carbine. Hassle looked at his wife one more time in contempt.

You bitch.

As if reading his thoughts Craig briefly glanced over at the woman he had shot two hours ago and then leveled his gaze back on Hassle. Hassle sighed deeply and leaned against the doorway.

“You fightin for the Confederacy huh?”

“Yes sir, riding in the cavalry till couple of weeks ago.”

“Oh yeah, did ya lose your nerve an run off? Come to get your due while all the fighin’s goin on?”

“No sir, not at all.”

Hassle studied his face again trying to recognize him.

“We met before?”


“I cause you some kinda trouble?”


“Then what the hell are you doin in my house?”

“I came for the reckoning.”

Hassle thought this over for a moment.

“If your trouble’s with my wife you done blown her heart out already. An if all’s well for you, well, you can just walk on outa here if you want.” Wouldn’t that just kill her if she wasn’t already dead. For her to think she saw his imminent death only to have the reaper walk out the door in front of her cold dead body with him watchin the whole thing.

“No, sir, it’s not just your wife I came for you too.”

“Well shit son what the hell you waitin for I’m standin right here.”

“Your days are up, but you still got some words left so I’ll just let you say whatever you need to till you run out.”

“What you mean like confession or somethin?” Hassle was getting annoyed at this point.

“Somethin like that.”

Hassle thought for a long time. He had always wondered what he’d think about when his time came, now it was here all he could think about was how ugly his life had been.

“Well, I don’t suppose its much use for me huh? I magine I done used up Jesus’s mercy and worked him right into a spittin rage huh?”

Craig pursed his lips in thought for a moment.

“I don’t suppose it ever really runs out.”

Hassle looked around the room at all the things his lying and stealing had gotten him. None seemed so valuable anymore, not that he ever really enjoyed things anyway. He just liked stealing and killing.

“What are you talking about a reckoning? Are you with the law?”

“You could say that. I was in a special cavalry dispatch in the army. We were crossing into the union and raiding their supply lines and trying to kill officers in their camps. One night it got real hot and everything went to chaos. I sprang upon a union officer. I took him off his horse and he hit the ground laughing. I was so shocked to hear anyone laughing in the middle of a gunfight I just stared at him stunned like. He looked at me and said, ‘Son, you’re the only man to ever touch me an live.’ He just kept laughing real loud slapping the ground on his hands and knees. He said ‘Hell, you took me clean off my horse. I’m sorry, you don’t understand do you? I’m death son. You just knocked death off his pale horse!” He laughed and laughed at that. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to do. Somehow I just knew he wasn’t lyin. This whole time bullets are flying all around us and he’s just laughin, watchin me waitin to see what I do. Then He finally stops laughing and says ‘Well what are you gonna do now that you’ve wrestled death off his horse?’

I thought about it for a moment, and then I said “Well if I can’t kill you…

‘No you can’t do that’

Well if I can’t kill you I’m gonna at least take your horse and your guns.

‘Alright, you can take them. But I’m telling you that horse is on a mission, a reckoning until the apocalypse. If you ride him, you’re on his mission.’

Then I was really shocked. You see this wasn’t just death’s horse, this was the pale horse form the apocalypse, straight out of revelations. I said,

Alright, how do I do that?

He said, ‘Well son, you’ll need one of my eyes in order to recognize the harvest.’
Then quick as a bullet he sprung up and tackled me. He held me down and ripped out my right eye, my shootin eye, and then ripped out one of his and put his eye where my eye used to be. I screamed out in terrible pain but before I knew it, it was over and I could see, only different than before.

He was still on top of me smiling with one of his eyes missing and dripping blood all on my coat. He let me up and said, ‘Well, you better be on your way. There is a great harvest and now you are the sole sower.’

Then I got on that pale horse and started ridin. Ended up here. I knew when I saw you and your wife I’s gonna rid the earth of yalls wicked ways.”
Hassle had spent his life being unimpressed by the things he encountered but this story profoundly struck him.

“You know, I’ve never much liked this life, and its never really…”

The sound of the carbine firing cut Hassle’s words off abruptly. Hassles fell back into the hall way against the wall clutching his chest gasping for air. He couldn’t yell, and didn’t really want to anyway. He slid to the floor and fell over as Craig rose from the chair and walked into the hallway to stand over him.

“Your words were up Hassle.”

Craig pointed the carbine at Hassle’s head.

“Now your time is up too.”

Friday, December 05, 2008

Spilled Out

This spilled out after a group meeting some time ago. I happened upon it today. I tried explaining this one night but didn’t feel satisfied at my own efforts to illustrate what was going on in my soul. I wrote this hoping to clear it up. I think I meant to bring it back up the next week but never got to it. I came across it today and rehashed it.

The desert, and my time there, visits me constantly. A theme that seems to walk hand and hand with my time there is the desert’s apparent indifference to my presence there. What’s strange is I found the indifference comforting and peaceful. It didn’t need me there, yet my presence made the desert that day unique.

Also, being such a desolate place the presence of life may only be described as hopeful. Hopeful everyday for sustenance.

However the world I live in daily is devoid of much hope. There is too much sustenance readily available. So what do we do with ourselves in light of such “provision”. The world tells us to make more of ourselves so that we could make the world better for more people. We owe it to everyone who longs for our blessings to make the most of ourselves. Most of what meets my eye and ear everyday is focused on me. It’s a hopelessness that is constantly calling my name.

Be this, says a picture that has been digitally “enhanced” beyond what is real. Be more educated, fit, cultured, well read, tolerant, emotional, in control, affluent, important. The desert is a comforting antagonist to such cancerous focus. Live says the desert, if you can.

Why did Jesus retreat to the desert? I think it was to be in the midst of place which so overwhelmingly lacks the world. The fasting even exacerbates that worldlessness, which I believe leads to focus on the things that are not of this world. And how did the devil tempt Him, with what did he tempt him with? With the world, with greatness in the world. And what is it that tempts us from the billboards and T.V. and magazines? Ambition of greatness, but that ambition is a hopeless one. We are all on our way down. We are all aging. Growing slower mentally and physically. Losing our youthful glean. Our world has been so infatuated with being great and the worldly aspects of greatness that its focus has intensified on youth and achievement and merit. The world has learned that only so much is humanly possible in one lifetime, and hoping to avoid alerting people of their inhuman possibilities in the Lord, it has refocused its distractive efforts to feeding our hopes in a fabricated potential. The potential of a fake youth, full of maturity, brilliance, and knowledge.

It’s no coincidence that with age comes the realization of the closeness of Jesus. When the world abandons us to wrinkles and aching joints what are we left with? Hopefully Jesus. For those who do not know Jesus they are merely left with the Hopelessness of lost potential.

I think such an environment leaves us with a certain affinity for distinct types of depression and desperation. Such as my desperation with rest. I feel like I shouldn’t. When I hear that God has prepared good works for me in advance I assume it means every waking moment that I am not working to better myself should be filled with His good works unfolding before me for completion. How I despair when I spend the day doing, as I put it “nothing”. Nothing? Nothing worldly yes, but what is transpiring spiritually when I am doing nothing? Much I should think. Is it not the Lord that calls us to stillness?

Why do I agree with the hopeless pressure to better myself and struggle against the hope found in the stillness of the Lord? In the garden, I assume there was not so much focus on us from the rest of the Lord’s creation as there is from our own. What monuments we build of ourselves with our billboards and T.V. and self improvement tapes and charity tax write offs.

At first I stated that the desert’s indifference depressed me. But I was wrong. I feel depressed when I am still because the world tells me to achieve and be meritous, most of all with the Lord. And it is mostly only when I try to apply that meritous drive to the Lord that I become depressed. Because I know it’s something with no hope. I can’t do that. I’m not supposed to do that.

I feel some hope in my drive for fitness and mental quickness, but that will fade with age and with it’s fading will come a similar desperation of losing something I thought I had the potential for. That’s what I’ve heard all my life. I grew up thinking that if I tried hard enough my name would be in the history books.

The book of life has no such qualifications. But I feel desperate sometimes for it to have some sort of merit base. Thank God it doesn’t.

The desert is indifferent to many things. My beauty and mental agility falls short of impressing the desert. The desert will quickly destroy them. My very life is unimpressive. But that’s the comfort, it’s appropriate to the desert for me to be unimpressive. Nothing I can do out there is impressive. Nothing that is outside of the works of Jesus at least. Making the rain come and go, moving mountains, giving life in a place that is so good at taking it; those things are impressive.

The world I live in though, specifically at my age and my current profession, is mounting an enormous assault on the peace of such indifference to the world that the desert illustrates so well. This attack was launched so furiously, and with a banner of evangelism and spiritual greatness that we found ourselves beyond the front line and deep into enemy territory.

Most of the past 500 years has seen the greatest assault on the peace of the Lord. The segmenting of life, and specifically the spiritual life and “everyday life”, the industrial revolution is guilty, the protestant work ethic is guilty, the very American spirit of American independence is guilty, the information age is guilty.

We have idols of beauty, intelligence, youth, and conspicuous kindness. Why else are our old left in Old Folks depositories to die alone and unheeded? Why do Christian missionaries long for the wildernesses of South America and Africa? They think it’s because that’s where their potential will show itself most apparently. Their greatness among the lowly. What numbers would come to the Lord in light of our advanced greatness and knowledge! In reality third world countries are a retreat from the blistering spiritual attacks of the “advanced” countries. Young Christians today yearn for the simple life and death struggles that they leave America in search of potential hunger and lack of shelter.

My depression on days when I don’t do much is this world applying its meritocracy to my faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s nothing more than the hopelessness of the world’s ways tainting the promises of the Lord.

The amassing of government and cities and concentrations seems to take us further and further away from the wild life in the garden that we were intended for. With the amassing of people comes culture, and society, and the rules of being high society. Beauty becomes more important than goodness. Fashion, which has no place in nature, begins to consume people.

The assault by the evil one has been so ferocious that fashion has even begun to infiltrate the wilderness. REI, green peace, conservation and preservation issues, eco tourism and the organic craze are evidence of such an assault. Merit has infiltrated our rest as well. Who rests the best? Who has the most eco friendly, cultured, physically fit, enlightening vacations? Traveling is chic, and the “wilder” the places traveled to the better.

The desert has no time for such trivialities and offers no hope for those who long to hold on to such things. The beautiful dies just as quickly if not faster than the ordinary. Fashionable gear won’t help you find water when you need it, and it won’t make the rains come.

Our fight is not in the world, but with the world. What does the world have to show us? The places in ourselves where the world reigns indicates the casualties that we are taking because of its assault. The condition of the church in America, which has more sects than any nation in history, is a blatant prognosis of the wounds we have sustained.

The hope comes with the pain in those wounds. The pain forcing us to look for remedies, and that search is quickly wearing out the hopeless facilities of the billboards and magazine covers. How much harder this fight must be for the beautiful and rich.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Persuing Front Continued

This picks up right after the last sentence of the first post. The grammar may be awful, I didn't edit much. Hope the story isn't awful.

Rob lay there for sometime weeping. He lay in the somber reality of a tangible cost his life had taken out of the world. He had cost Amanda everything. He had cost Anna Amanda and probably more. He shortly became exhausted and slept again.

When he woke Anna was sitting on the left side of his bed looking over his legs out the window. Evening was in full swing and the light was clean and clear coming through the window. He moved his fingers to let her know he was awake. She noticed and leaned back in her chair as she turned to him.

“When I left I made it to the side exit and realized I couldn’t go home. I live with Amanda’s husband and child.” Tears began to come slowly down her face but her body had finished with crying.

“Her husband was informed of what happened when I was getting my leg casted. He waited for me in the waiting room, but I couldn’t go to him, not then. I waited until he left and then went as far as the exit, and I still can’t go to them. I came back here because you were there when everything happened. You are the only other person alive who was there. I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve slept here for the past three nights.”
Not knowing what else to say Rob whispered “I’m sorry”.

“I know. I’m sorry too”

“Are you doing any better?”

Anna shook her head no. “I can’t stop shaking, my hands shake off and on all the time. I can’t sleep. I cry a lot.”

They sat in each other’s company for a few minutes when Anna continued, “We wanted to get a hold of your wife but you didn’t have any info on you, and we can’t find you in our computers and the police are too busy to check theirs.”

Rob’s face became tense and he began to worry about Rachel. Noticing his tension Anna leaned forward and said, “Do you know where we might try to reach her? Do you have family nearby that we could contact? With all the shootings that took place there is no telling where anyone might be. Everything in the city has been locked down. The police and investigators are looking for people who were involved. There is National Guard in all the streets. It is hard to get anywhere or a hold of anyone.”

Rob’s face tensed into more worry, “How many shootings was there that day?”

“There were six outbreaks of shooting. Four of them were quite large. Over five hundred reported casualties. The one we were involved in was the biggest. They were targeting an old storage warehouse around the corner from where we were. You were just in a bad spot that morning.”

As frantic as his voice could be Rob asked, “What about the people in the warehouse, did any of them survive?”

“People? That warehouse was storage for imports from Asia. All of the outbreaks were centered around similar warehouses. They think it was some terrorist group from Texas trying to make a point about the U.S.’s foreign relations.”
Rob shook his head and grabbed her hand.

“You don’t understand. That warehouse around the corner was a housing unit for refugees from Texas, political refugees. All of those people were on a death list compiled and issued by the militias in Texas. There were a number of them around the city, five or six, and more in other U.S. cities. It’s important…” Rob’s voice gave out and he began to cough. His felt ripped to shreds and he started coughing up blood.

Anna rose and held one of his shoulders down to steady him and a rag to his mouth.

“You shouldn’t talk so much. You’ve had two operations on your throat and one of your vocal chords is gone. You really can’t handle talking this much. They were just warehouses, you must be confused.”

Rob pushed her hands away and started to speak again. “No, those warehouses were full of people. Think about it. I was shot by a sniper. Why would there be snipers if all they wanted was to blow up a building full of imported goods? Were people shot in the streets at the other attacks? Or at any other…” Rob started coughing again and couldn’t finish.

Anna held the rag back to his mouth and sat down on the edge of his bed.

“Yes there were. Actually, once it started there were shootings all over town. Everyone has said it was just people panicking and things getting out of control. The bombs stopped after an hour or so, but there were shootings up until the National Guard showed up eight hours after it all started. Why were they shooting people in the streets though if the refugees were in the warehouses?”

When Rob could speak he continued.

“Some targets are higher profile than others. They would have wanted to make sure those targets were taken out.” Rob barely got the last word out before his throat seized up and he started coughing again.

Anna paused for a moment and then looked at Rob as if he were morphing into someone else before her eyes.

“You were one of the targets weren’t you? And the woman the street next to you.”
Rob shook his head no, but he couldn’t speak.

“The woman wasn’t a target?”

Rob shook his head no.

“But you are a target on these death lists.”

Rob slowly shook his head yes.

Anna slowly sat down staring at him. She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes to think, to try and take it all in.

Rob reached out and grabbed her hand firmly. She opened her eyes to find him intently looking at her.

Rob croaked out the last words he had in him.

“My wife is on that list too. Please find her.”

Anna started to get up but paused to look at him a moment longer. She nodded her head as if she had just come to some conclusion about everything she had just learned and got up and started towards the door. As she reached the door she looked over her shoulder and said.

“I’ll try again to see if I can find your wife.”

He wanted to warn her to be careful, but his voice failed him, and she left the room.

The next day Rob began choking. He choked for an insufferable ten minutes before Anna happened to walk into his room and find him feebly gasping for air.
He saw her enter the room from what seemed a long distance. He saw her pause and then rush to his side. He met her eyes once briefly as she surveyed his throat and chest wounds. He was comforted that there was no panic in her eyes, not even frustration. He calmed down even though he was still choking. Her hands and presence were enough for the moment.

A moment was really all he had left. He blacked out very quickly after Anna arrived. He was rushed into surgery where the surgeons found a tiny piece of bone fragment in his throat that had become infected and swollen, restricting his already compromised trachea. The surgeons successfully removed the fragment but the stress put further stress on his vocal chords.
Rob woke two days later. One of the regular nurses was leaning over him replacing and empty IV bag. She noticed he was awake and explained some things to him.

“Well, hello Mr. Carter. You had a little bit of a complication the other day but we fixed you up pretty quick. You had a bone chip in your throat that the surgeons missed in the first surgeries. They followed the infection to the source though and removed it. You’ll recover but it’s very important that you don’t speak for a while at all.”

The nurse kept speaking until she finished her duties and then headed for the door. As she turned to leave she finished.

“You won’t be able to make a sound anyway for at least a couple of days, but don’t push it anyway ok.”

How many times am I going to almost die?

Rob lay there unable to think about anything else and eventually fell to sleep.

Sometime late that night Rob woke to a full moon peeping through his window. He stare at the moon for a minute and then surveyed his room. In the bed next to him, which had previously been empty, Anna lay sleeping. She was facing him and could see a strand of hair that had fallen across her face stir with her breathing.

What a mess we are.

As his eyes drifted they settled on a pair of boots sticking out from behind the privacy curtain between the two beds. Black military boots resting casually crossed on the end of two legs covered in course green wool pants. The legs disappeared behind the curtain into a chair usually empty except when Anna would pull it up to his bedside and sit with him.

He strained to see an outline or shadow through the curtain. There was no light coming from the other side to help his eyes. He looked down where the bottom of the curtain floats a foot and a half above the floor. Coming from the curtain to rest on the floor was the butt end of a rifle. He could see the butt, the bolt, the trigger, and the beginning of a high power scope.

Rob began to silently cry. He helplessly cried out with no effect. He lay there crying and terrified. Angry that all the suffering should end like this, and with Anna here too. The silence he lay in deafening in his own head.

From the other side of the curtain a sharp in-take of breath startled Rob. He heard the boots slowly slide across the floor towards the chair. A moment later the curtain moved as someone stood and the butt of the rifle disappeared up into the curtain.

A young man took a few steps out from behind the curtain with the rifle slung over his shoulder rubbing his eyes and yawning. He looked over and stopped when he saw Rob staring at him terrified. They stared at each other for a minute surprised to see each other.
The young man was not tall and had long straight heavy blond hair, thin lips, and steady blue eyes. He had a strong bone structure to his face and a sturdy build. He cast a pleasant smile with perfect white teeth at Rob.

The young man raised his finger to his lips and motioned towards Anna closing his eyes and laying his head down on his hands. Rob looked at Anna quickly and looked back at the young man. When the young man thought Rob understood to be quiet he smiled again and with exaggerated sneak, like a kid playing at sneaking, he moved the chair he had been napping in to the opposite side of Rob’s bed from Anna.

Rob was confused by this young man, and completely terrified. He wanted to run, but he could barely move, He craved to scream but he could feel blood trickling down his throat from his crying and knew it would be useless.

The young man sat down in the chair next to him carefully leaning his rifle against the wall behind him. He leaned in to talk quietly.

“Rob hi, I’m Kevin. I know ya can’t talk, I read yur chart, but I just wonted to introduce myself as if we was just meeting like normal folks at a bar or somethin.”
He smiled and nodded his head to some pleasantry he imagined Rob responding with. He scrunched his face up and squinted at Robs wounds lifting himself out of his chair to survey his throat and chest closely. Rob flinched in fear as Kevin leaned over him, but Kevin didn’t seem to notice. He sat down in the chair shaking his head.

“That’s bad shootin man. I heard he hit a bystander too, a young woman. Tragic. She wasn’t marked or nothing for killin.”

He saw Rob’s face distort into a deeper terror and disgust. He slid in closer and touched Rob’s arm comfortingly.

“I’m not here to finish you off, don’t you worry bout that, and I’m definitely not the one who did this to you. I passed it off once I scouted you out, shame whoever got it wasn’t a better shot. Not that it matters for you none, you’d a survived anyhow, but that poor young woman got her head shot out all over your coat might still be alive. I saw the whole thing, wanted to see how you’d make it.”

Kevin leaned back in the chair and shook his head thinking about the tragedies of poor shooting,

“Poor shooting, man.”

“I aint ever miss, God has steadied my hand when there’s a painted person in my sights. I used to git scared as a kitten when I’d go huntin.”

He picked his rifle up and brought it to his eye and started casting about the room hunting in his childhood again. He got to Anna and stopped to sight her in. Everything in Rob’s body froze.

“As soon as I’d zero in on some kinda game I’d start shakin like a earthquake”.
At this he started to tremble with his rifle and looked to Rob smiling to see if he was getting the joke. He stopped smiling when he saw Rob’s face. Kevin leaned back gritting his teeth and shrugging his shoulders as if he had caught himself committing and embarrassing faux pa. As he slowly put the rifle against the wall again he turned to Rob and said, “I am so sorry. Guns probably make you nervous as hell after bein all shot up and stuff huh? It’ll stay against the wall as long as I’m here.”

Rob was now certain that this young man was crazy.

Kevin leaned in looking thoughtful and continued, “Rob, I shot your wife.”

They stared at each other. Rob had stopped crying and trembling. He lay still silently watching suddenly completely removed from the room. Far beyond his world he sat watching the whole scene no longer able to grasp it as real.

“It was good shootin I promise. She’s dead before she hit the ground. Got her walkin out yalls little hide out apartment. I was eighteen floors up and two hundred yards away but was dead on. Went down through her heart and right lung. She died before she had time to realize what happened, before she could feel any pain or fear.”

Still leaning forward Kevin was speaking to Rob like a surgeon explaining the death of a loved one that was expected to die despite treatment. Still leaning close to Rob and whispering Kevin continued.

“Originally I’s sposed to come after you. I got my assignment and came on up. I scouted you for a week, but you wasn’t painted. You were on the death list alright, but death wouldn’t gonna find you no matter how good a shot you are. Rachel was painted though,” at the sound of his wife’s name Rob could see his body shudder at the repulsive nature of this boy saying her name so intimately.

“She had the fog of death comin out her nose and mouth the first time I saw her.” Kevin leaned back in his chair and began to speak softly staring at nothing next to Rob’s legs.

“Once you breathin in death like that there aint no stoppin what’s comin. There’s no stoppin it anyhow. I used to get scared when all the fightin was going on. Bullets suddenly flying around buzzing your ears, whippin off the pavement at your feet. I’d run so fast from those buzzers and whippers, and I’d always make it. The boys next to me though, they weren’t makin it like I was. I was hidin one night in a bombed out city building in Port Arthur, when a man walked right into the room with me. Unarmed and strangely clean he walked right up to me. He said ‘Why you hidin?’

“I said, ‘I’m scared’. He shook his head and said. You have no right to be afraid. I have told you before if you live like this you will die like this. Your days are numbered, you can’t hide from that. He helped me up and walked out. I aint never seen him again. Ever since then though I’ve seen death on those I kill. I figured if they was saturated with that much death they wasn’t gonna live much longer anyway. I aint missed yet shooting at those who been marked, and I won’t shoot at no others.”

Kevin’s eyes began to refocus into the room. He smiled at Rob and leaned in again. “Anyway, I originally just wanted to make sure you were ok, but when I walked in you’ll never guess it but that very man who picked me up off the ground in Port Arthur was sitting in this very chair, watching the two of yall sleep like babes. When I walked in he got up and he walked up to me and said, ‘Your numbers are coming to an end, but before you die you will return to him everything that was taken’, then he walked on out the door”.

By his last word Kevin had become so excited he was shaking and holding Robs arm. “I aint never thought I’d do nothin good like that ever. I never been particularly mean or nothin, but I aint no angel either you know. Now I’m gonna do something good for you sometime before I die.”

Robs lack of reaction put Rob back in his seat reaching for his rifle. Uncomfortable with Rob’s lack of excitement he got up to leave.

“Anyway, I just thought you might want to know. See ya Rob”, came over Kevin’s shoulder as he shuffled quietly towards the door.

Ten years later the last American owned harbor on the main land United States was sold to the European Union. The United States of Texas had vehemently protested the pending sale. When the sale went through the reaction was bloody.

Rob was now living in Vancouver. He had begun to write books about the nature of the spirit of rebellion in political revolutions. Unintentionally, and unknowingly he was back on a death list at the urging of Texas Baptist preachers, notoriously connected with the far right Liberty Party.
Canada was in summer when Rob was walking home with his wife and five year old daughter from a lunch with friends from the magazine he was writing a periodical for. As he would pass a store front he would look in the reflection at his family and wonder how life could be so different from one moment to another.

Commotion broke out down the street. Skittish from a life of avoiding threats Rob instantly brought his daughter under him and his wife close. As he turned them to walk the other way he was met with an almost empty street with only to older gentlemen sharing the sidewalk and walking towards the commotion. He began to walk away when someone yelling his name behind him brought his attention back over his shoulder. Running up behind them frantically was a smiling, excited young man waving a pistol in the air and yelling out is name.

“Mr. Robert Sullivan! Rob Sullivan!”

Rob turned to see that blond boyish demon from his hospital room sprinting towards him.
He reached for his wife and found her desperately reaching for him. He turned to her as she turned to him. She had not been watching what he had but she looked terrified. He turned to find her terror. The two older gentlemen had raised pistols in their hands and for coming for his family.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

By the last shot Rob had been pushed with his wife and daughter through a storefront door and somehow found himself huddled in the corner with them clinging to him. He was clutching them both finding blood on both of them. Everyone had blood on them. Rob suddenly couldn’t speak.

“Rob are you ok? Rob! Baby!? Are you ok?!”

His wife was feeling all over him for wounds. Rob could see very little over her. He could feel his daughter crying and trembling in his arms. The scene was just now playing is Rob’s mind. As he turned to find the two gentlemen facing him with raised pistols he heard the first two shots.

Bang! Bang!

He heard the discharge just behind him before he saw the flash at his face. Then the second discharge hit him loudly and with force. A rushing wind went by his ear so violently that his left ear felt turned inside out. The man in front of him to the left caved in at the chest and fell back to the pavement with flapping useless hands.

He was struck from behind as the next two shots sounded.

Bang! Bang!

As he was falling through the door he saw the man in front of him to the right fire at Kevin falling through the store front door on top of him. His wife frantically helped him crawl out from under Kevin as the man fired at Kevin. Immediately the second shot sounded and the man stranger’s throat split down the middle like a dilating pupil, erupted with blood just outside the store front.
Kevin slid up to the door and checked his pistol. He looked up and found Rob staring at him,

“Hey there man, surprising aint it. Best keep them wife and kid away from the door. I can promise you they aint in any danger, but they are scared. Man you look good; it’s been a long time huh.” Kevin shook his head and went to pull a mirror out his pocket and began to study the street outside the store front.

“Robert look at me!”

He turned to his wife to see her hysterical and crying. He looked down at his daughter, she was crying too. He looked back to his wife to see her flinch at more gun shots.
Kevin jumped back from the doorway. The last gunshot was followed by a sharp snap in the pavement by Kevin’s leg. Kevin jumped, startled by the impact. He clutched his chest and looked at Rob stunned.

“Well aint that something! I woke up this morning breathing death. Breathing it so thick it was fogging up my mirror as I shaved and I thought for sure one of those to men were gonna shoot me dead point blank. Bullets been missin me by millimeters for years, comin so close to give me wind burn. Thought I cheated death there for a moment, you know a little grace for me. But don’t you know the one that misses me by a good ten inches hits the concrete and jumps backwards right up to git me. That’s irony right? I read your book you know, first book I ever read in ten years, I like it.”

He looked down as he pulled his hand away from his chest. Cupped in his palm was a little pool of pink bubbly blood. Kevin turned back to Rob.

“Man, right in the lung.”

Kevin took on an introspective look and tried to take a deep breath but winced and ceased at the effort. Now dazed and wobbly he mumbled to Rob, “Yep, I can feel em filling up as I breath”, he chuckled frightened, “guess the fog on my mirror was death after all huh?”

He looked over the Kevin’s wife and waved with his pistol, “Howdy, Mrs Sullivan I’m Kevin. Rob’s probably told you all about me, we’re friends from way back. I’d shake your hand but I been shot.”

He truly looked apologetic about the hand shake. Rob began to him change into this helpless child slumped there in the doorway still holding his pistol, waiting to drown in his own blood. Kevin face suddenly distorted with pain and he began to cry.

“It’s startin to hurt Rob, real bad.”

He looked to Rob pleadingly.

“Does it keep hurting worse when you get shot Rob? I aint never been shot before.”
He groaned and brought his knees to his chest, blood started to trickle out of his mouth.
He looked to Rob as he slid over on his side weeping as he died.

“I aint got no one to tell me they love me as I die. Alls I got is Jesus to say I love you to. All I have for years. Rob I liked you a lot man, I wanted to be friends with you so bad.”
Kevin was blubbering at this point and coughing up pink bubbles of blood gurgling his words.

“Do you think we might have been friends Rob, you know after some time? I woulda like that so much…We could have been friends right?”

Kevin screamed in pain curled up tighter. He lay there wheezing, looking at Rob and his wife. Rob could see him trying to form words with his mouth but nothing came out. Rob and his wife watched him die alone by the door.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Persuing Front

The building continued to creak as the sun began to creep through the cracks in the boarded up windows, the sunlight silently protesting the cold. This year’s winter had been nothing impressive to the locals of Chicago, but for anyone from Texas the cold was depressing and heavy. Brick walls and tall steel rimmed windows housed a small population of refugees from Texas. Political prisoners targeted for assassination by the militias. Rob massaged his forehead with one hand, not putting down his pen. His brow had a permanent tension that had settled in over the past three years. He looked up to see James walking away with his wiry frame shrugging on an old surplus coat, headed up to the second floor to light up the fires for breakfast.
Rob put his pen down and leaned back in his chair “There’s nothing else to do tonight, but I have an appointment this morning” he thought. His smile was genuine but he could not wipe the tension out of his brow. He slapped the desk proclaiming his business of the night finished and rose to meet James upstairs for breakfast.

James was always pleasant in the morning. What Rob appreciated most about James was that his pleasantness was mostly quiet and peaceful, not the loud cheeriness that hinders some morning people from fitting in with those who are not. Rob sat down in the kitchen and waited for James to make his way over with his breakfast.

“The radio said that the Texas Investigation Agency has stricken the first names from the official murder lists last night. Over five hundred names have been erased from the list, and those people are welcome back into the country. Do you want coffee?”

“Yes I do, thank you James. Did they list any of the names? “

“Yeah some, neither one of us will be welcomed back. But I recognized a few from this building.”

“Well that’s good, maybe sometime soon we’ll get the welcome back huh?”

James had a long narrow face with thick dark facial hair that rarely stayed clean shaven. His face is to bony to be beautiful but he had a smile that was infectious and a great cheerful laugh. He smiled at rob and turned to get his coffee.

After eating a small greasy breakfast and a cup of coffee Rob began to make his way to the large double doors at the front of the old warehouse. The guards would stop him to chat as usual.
He stood just inside the door and chatted about whether or not some of the people in building 110 would be heading back to Texas. Rob stood stamping his feet and stuffing his hands as far down into his coat pockets as they would go. After about five minutes he told them he had to meet his wife and headed out into the cold morning at 7:23 in the morning February 20th.

He turned left out of the front doors and headed towards a local bakery he and his wife had been visiting since they arrived in Chicago. The owners were friendly locals who had both lived in Chicago their entire lives. They were both beautiful and pleasant. Both of their families had lived in Chicago for generations and they spoke everyday about how blessed they were to have no connections with the troubles. They also treated Rob and Rachel incredibly nice and gave them free coffee when they ordered pastries.

Rob had walked thirty yards when a cab pulled past him from behind and stopped next to the curb in front him to let the fare out. The door opened and a beautiful young woman stepped out with a number of bags. Rob smiled as he passed her and she flashed and incredible smile back at him and said, “Good Morning”.

“Good Morning.”

Rob passed her but as soon as she gathered all her bags she quickly caught up to Rob and began to pass him. He could hear her approaching; her heels struck the sidewalk with a rhythm that Rob had always found pleasant. Other people were beginning to crowd the street. He heard the rhythm of her heels change as she weave around people making their way to work. Her heels were sounding right behind him as he rounded the corner fifty yards from building 110. As he rounded the corner the beautiful woman hurried around him on his right. As she passed him her long brown hair flew back in his face. He closed his eyes, but he could smell whatever expensive product she used. It reminded him of Rachel, and that he hadn’t bathed in a while. He opened his eyes to find the young woman speeding by him.

Suddenly, the world grew silent and slow. He saw the back of the young woman’s head, just behind her left ear begin to blossom into a terrible rose of red and grey. Her beautiful hair disappeared as the rose bloomed fuller and fuller. He felt the rose cover his face and dampen his coat and shirt. As the rose fell out of view to his right he felt his neck constrict in sickening tightness and simultaneously open up. He saw street scene begin to ascend to the sky in front of him. A blinding light flashed as he felt his chest cave in below his coat. The world jolted to a halt as his knees hit the ground.

I think I’ve been shot he thought. The first thought in long moments woke his mind to the situation. The world still moved as if through deep water, but his mind progressed with a steady clarity he felt should be strange. I’m not going to make it to breakfast. My wife won’t know that I couldn’t help me. I won’t see her again. No one will see the poor beautiful woman again. He look over to see her laying on the ground next him, her head now a destroyed empty shell with all of its life spilled on the ground all about them. He reached out the move one of her bags closer to her body, but he felt himself lean against the building next to him. His back hit the frame of a door way and he began to notice the people in the streets running away from him.

I guess this is the last?

I don’t know if this is it, but it must be close.

How unfair for her, glancing at the body next to him

And for Rachel he thought.

“I should cry for her”, these were his last thoughts as he slowly blacked out.

Sometime later Rob began to hear gunshots. He heard them intermixed with two female voices. He could still feel himself slouched against the side of the building. He thought he opened his eyes, but still couldn’t see anything right away. As he kept trying to blink his vision slowly returned like a windshield losing its frost from a heater.

He could see one young woman kneeling down in front of him looking down at him. She was covered in blood and holding something over his neck. He could see her face. She had blue eyes and brown hair. She kept looking from his neck to his eyes as if she were looking for something she couldn’t quite see in them. He moved his eyes to other girl who was kneeling by his feet and was holding something tight around his abdomen. All he could see were her strong looking arms and the black curly hair on top of her head.

Rob felt a hand press against his cheek and heard the other woman’s voice grow louder. He slowly moved his eyes to look up at her. She was looking at him, looking for something from him but he didn’t know what. He felt disappointed in himself that he couldn’t help her. He didn’t think he could speak and strangely he didn’t want to try.

The gunshots were growing louder. The two women became frenzied and began to speak more quickly. He still couldn’t make out what they were saying, they sounded as if they were speaking with a towel stuffed in their mouths. The brown haired girl moved around to his back and keeping pressure on his neck positioned her arms under his. The black hair girl tied something down around his chest and moved to pick up his ankles.

They began to move him into the nearest storefront door. From what he could see it was some kind of electronics store, a cell phone store maybe. As his body straightened out he could feel his shoulder tighten and his neck open up. The pain was incredible but he still couldn’t make a sound. He could only endure as he body stiffened in silent protest.

At first the two young women were moving cautiously slow. Suddenly gunshots began to ring out as if they were right outside. Rob could hear them echoing hollowly down the street and fade away underneath the el train. He could see the dust and cement fragments on the ground begin to skip and dance with bullets. The young women abandoned caution and began to lunge with his stiff body into the store front.

Suddenly all the sound was sucked out of the air. Rob could feel the suction trying to rip out his ear drums. He felt the vacuum lift his body, and the two young women through the store front window. He didn’t feel the window shatter around him, but as he traveled through the window frame he could see the shards of glass slowly rotating in the air next to his face like asteroids in a suspended orbit around his face.

Sound returned to him with a roaring attack. Three more explosions rocked the building around them immediately after the first one. As loud as the roar of the explosions were, the silence that followed was so intense he could feel it weighing down on his body crushing his chest. He was lying on his back behind the counter of the store. The brown hair woman was stirring three feet away from him. She was lying on her stomach and trying to pull her splayed out arms and legs into her body like a frightened turtle. He saw her raise her head and look at him. When she saw him looking at her he lifted his hand to wave, as soon as he tried his chest exploded with pain and his body went rigid again.

He saw her begin to stretch out her limbs, her left hand pressed to the glass littered floor of the store and her right hand with a bloody torn shirt began to extend towards him. Her right knee drew up to push her in his direction. Her terrified unblinking eyes never left his as she slithered across the floor in his direction. When she reached him she lifted his torso into her lap and leaning against the wall behind the counter she began to put pressure on the wound in his neck again.

His head against her chest he could hear her heart beat, quick and rhythmic. He lay there listening. The gun shots were still ringing through the streets but the sounded different. They had a reciprocal quality to them, not just a massacre anymore.

He could hear more rustling debris in the store on the other side of the counter. He could feel the young woman’s chest vibrate with urgent cries.

“Amanda! Amanda! Are you ok!? Where are you!? Come behind the counter!?”

Amanda’s voice returned to her from the other side of the counter each word tracking her progress towards the wall opposite where Rob and Anna were sitting, “I need you to stay where you are Anna ok, just stay with the patient alright.”

“Are you ok, are you hurt!?”

A pause accentuated by rustling debris stretched out before Amanda began to answer.

“Anna, sweet heart I’m gonna get to where I can see you and help you as long as I can alright, but I need you to promise…

Rob could feel Anna’s heart rate begin to grow heavier and frantic, “Amanda! Get over here! What’s wrong? Why won’t you come to me, I need you right now! Amanda!” He could feel her tears begin to fall on his temple and streak down his cheeks.

He saw a face appear around the corner of the counter and smile at them both. Her black curly hair was frazzled and she had blood trickling out of her nose, ears, and mouth. She had a strong square face with short black curly hair, dark eyes, and a comforting smile had she not had two of her teeth knocked out and blood stained teeth. She continued over Anna’s screaming, “I need you to promise that you will stay with the patient Anna”.

Anna was struggling to speak through her sobs and her words sounded stained and drawn out. “Don’t say that! What are you saying!? Why won’t you come over here?”

“Anna I can see that your leg is broken just below the knee from here, ok. You need to stay there, and he needs you to stay there.” As she spoke Amanda began to push herself away from them towards the opposite wall. She had sat up and was pushing herself backwards on her bottom continuing to face them as she slowly slid through the rubble.

“Anna your doing so good darling, you’re doing fine, you just stay with him and keep your leg immobilized until help arrives.”

Anna’s voice had fallen to a strained whisper, “Why do you keep saying these things, why won’t you come to me?” As Amanda kept sliding away from them her legs came into view. He could feel Anna’s heart stop for a moment through her chest. He felt her chest heave as she threw her head back against the wall. Her chest was jumping sporadically gasping for air. Her hand clinched his shift on his chest so hard that two buttons ripped off and he could feel the stress in his chest wound, the hand on his neck wound remained extraordinarily calm with consistent pressure.

He still couldn’t move or speak but he could see what was left of Amanda’s legs. Her left leg was missing from mid thigh down and was grossly charred. The right leg was severely mangled below the knee and was being useless dragged across the floor by a slight remnant of skin. The left leg was swelling noticeable and the right leg was bleeding freely leaving large paint brush streaks across the floor.

Anna’s head came back down and he could hear her voice reverberate in his ear a deep primal groan of despair.

Amanda made it the far wall and propped herself up facing them. “Anna darling, you need to stay with him. He’s the only one here you can do anything for.” Amanda smiled and continued, “I don’t feel anything Anna, there’s no pain.”

Anna’s voice caught and she choked on words she couldn’t get out. Rob couldn’t get anything to work in his head, he saw everything but couldn’t react, he just lay watching Amanda feeling Anna.

“You’re going to be fine Anna, help will come soon and you’re gonna be alright, you’ll need to look after him for a while ok.” Amanda’s voice began grow softer and her eyes more distant.

“You’ll be needed around here after this ok, you’ve got to keep going, keep helping people”.

Anna’s sobs were now consistent and heavy, rocking his head back and forth on her chest.

Amanda’s smile began to waver and her stare fixated on something just to the right of their heads and on the other side of the store wall.

“I don’t feel nothing, I’m fine…you’ll be fine…I love you Anna, and you need to keep…stay with him, and keep…you’ll be…” Amanda’s head to the left against the wall but her body stayed upright, her star now far off past anything Rob could think of.

Anna groaned and cried heavily soaking his hair and face in her tears. He could feel her heart steady into a long enduring pace for mourning. He lay in her arms staring at Amanda and wondering where his wife was. The slow rocking of Anna’s heaving body was calming. His thought’s lost all sequence as he lay there and he slowly lost conscious again.

Rob woke slowly. Although he couldn’t tell how he arrived he knew immediately that he was in a hospital bed. He thought,” This is where I would be after what happened. How did I survive? How close was I to dying?”

He lay there as the memories began to order themselves into a chain of events. Once they started he wished they hadn’t. The young woman’s head exploding on to his face. Shot in the neck, then again in the chest. Waking up to the women kneeling over him. The explosions. Watching Amanda die. Feeling Anna’s stress and anguish through the back of his neck and head. He was surprised at how much he remembered. The events, and the two women’s’ names.

It was day outside his window and all he could see were two trees and a little bit of blue sky. He wanted to know what happened. “Where is my wife?” he thought. “How long have I been here?”

He was going to continue with the self questioning when the door to his room slowly opened.
Slowly around the door a young woman peered in. Anna, he recognized her hair and eyes. They looked at each other for a moment. It was the first time they had looked each other coherently in the eyes. They were awkward. Like walking in on a relative’s friend dressing and then meeting them later. Their experience together had been to intimate to allow for common introductions now.

Rob spoke and found his voice strained and barely more than a whisper. She saw his mouth move but couldn’t hear him and waited for him to motion her in before she fully entered the room. She limped across the room with crutches and a cast on her foot. She leaned her crutches against his bed and stood by his feet facing him propped up on number of pillows looking at her. She was plain in most of her features, altogether unremarkable, except for the shape of her eyes. Their color was an ordinary blue, but they were beautifully shaped like slender almonds. For the first time he considered what he must look like to her.

“How do I look?” his voice softly grated.

She immediately looked away with a smile and starting to cry she turned back to him and said,
“You shouldn’t try to speak.”

“I shouldn’t be alive”

“No you shouldn’t. The wound in your neck missed your carotid artery by a hair, and the wound in your chest nicked your heart. You had a lot of internal bleeding, you should have died. We also pulled about a pound of shrapnel and glass out your legs and ass too. No one here knows how you survived, you shouldn’t have.” Her voice shook and lost some of its pleasantness.

“Huh. Are you ok, are you being treated here?”

“Yes, I also work here, I’m a paramedic”

They paused for a few minutes and just considered each other.

“You saved my life, you and your friend.” She looked away and wiped fresh tears from her face. When she turned back to him her chin was crumpled and quivering.

“Thank you”, he finished.

She looked at him sternly for a minute. Her face contorted almost to anger and her body became rigid and posture distant. She asked as she started to weep, “Are you a good man?”

She stood there facing him, trembling, openly hurting and gripping the foot of his bed. He was struck for the first time since being shot with overwhelming emotion. He felt sad and guilty for her, guilty to be alive.

“I try to be.”
She choked for a minute then wiped her face again. Still looking at him sternly she said, “You had better try real hard to be a good man.”

“I will. I’m sorry”, he whispered.

She stood there and watched him melt into crying motionlessly.

“It’s better for you not to talk too much, I should go.”

She quickly turned and headed for the door. He tried to ask if she knew anything about his wife, but whether she heard him or not, she walked out the door and closed it behind her.

*This isn't finished but I thought I'd post what I had.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

This was hard to write, it's probably the most abstract idea I've ever tried to put on paper. I just tried to illustrate a place I find myself in often and don't completely understand.

My pen starts to fly through my note book, bleeding my rants in smooth black ink. The pen races, fingers flexing and jiving with the letters, but my mind is furious on the gas pedal and has lost the brakes. My hand concedes, my pen exhausted, and I lean back in my seat brooding, brow furrowed, waiting for my mind to wear itself out and come back to me. What is this confounding paradox? That which controls my entire body so often loses control of itself.

Approaching half an hour ago I took my seat and smoothed the clean blank pages in my notebook, and readied my steel parker jotter pen. I was ready for the truth, ready to hear it how it is, ready to get it. Then the lies. Palpable lies as if they had walked in the room through the same door I had, walked up the aisle commandeered the podium and has since been vomiting forth through a puppet words that grate my spine. Every bitter word saturated with illusion and a pseudo wisdom that somehow scratches my throat like an allergic reaction. I ask myself, “What is this that it turns my soul hysterical? Why does my soul panic and run to exhaustion? Where is it running to? Or what is it running from?”

Then I was answered. I was answered by a great deepness whispering low in my ear like a sweet lover. I could feel it breathing on me and calling me inward. I began to intravenously break down into myself like origami on fire. I broke down clear out of the room and onto a shore.

I became a spectator. I could see my soul, my mind and emotions and thoughts, wearing a shroud of my body. He was sitting on the shoreline of an island taunting the breakers of a growing sea and staring the sun down fire for fire. That shoreline and its inner expanses were my flesh. The growing see was His kingdom come, the very breath of God, and the voice from the deep was His living song.

Of myself sitting on the shore I could see his history, a content childhood in the bosom of the island ruptured by a natural wonderment that teased him from the island’s embrace out to the borders of land and sea. Along these borders he first heard the voice from the deep. The deep called out a booming whisper that turned his head and closed his eyes, brought him to his seat, and sparked the fire to face the sun. The arbitrary redundant nature of island life became clear and grew more unbearable daily. The deep awoke in my soul a most fundamental longing with no satisfaction to be found on the island. The deep has beckoned him ever since, and he has yearned for its embrace unceasingly, and for its death and satisfaction with mounting hysteria.

Spontaneously he charges the sea with a burning passion so intense the stars turn and cover their lights with their hands and hide it away in shame. He breaks the breakers and joy raptures with the shock of the cold water. Swimming out beyond sight of his island surrounded by horizon and a giant blue sky he begins to dive. He dives to the deep, reluctantly surfaces for air, and then dives to the deeper. Every dive brings him closer to the deepest. Deeper and deeper until his lungs begin to hemorrhage and his skull starts to creak with the deep bearing down on his body. He rejoices is the crushing pressure of the the songs of the deep, a teasing lullaby on shore has taken on the intensity of a choir with voices as loud as the brightness of the sun and clear as the senses saturated in adrenaline.

He stops diving and begins to float, bobbing with the undulating tides. The waves move him with the rhythm and melody of a song born from the throat of the deep. Contentment finally alights on my soul while lying face up upon the songs of the deep, having dived to exhaustion through the crescendos of the roaring abyss.

It never lasts though; my soul begins to cower in the growing presence of the voice and the promise of death in the deep. If he should stay too long the deep will take him completely. He would never return to his diminishing shores, lifeless from the swim, tossed forth by the breakers onto the sand like a piece of gristle falling from the jowls of a feasting lion. From somewhere tainted in his own dark deep his feet begin to desire the firm resistance of standing on his island. The arbitrary redundancy of island life becomes tantalizing and shamefully attractive. He longs to be dry, to wallow in the familiarity and immediacy of residing on the island. His hands yearn to hold matter, to grasp it and mold it into something else. He craves the satisfaction of wielding something solid, sculpting it into a permanent form that he could step back from and appreciate; a form that he could walk away from only to return later to appreciate it again.

He thrashes the surface of the deep in frustration, only heightening his sense of being wet and suspended. The seas grasp on his form further elucidating his own inability to grasp anything of his own in the deep. Shamefully, angrily he sets out on a desperate defeated swim towards shore. Like countless times before, faithful as the tide rolling in, my soul loses consciousness just in sight of the shore and briefly loses himself to the sea only to have the breakers and efforts of his own longing and desire to survive deliver him tumbling listlessly onto the shore.

My soul awakes cathartic with exhaustion and satisfied with coming yet closer to the deep and disappointed that he never really touched it. Immediately he finds his island smaller, blander, slowly being swallowed by the growing deep. Exuberantly he begins to do. He begins to take with his hands and work. At first harvesting that phantom satisfaction that tormented him at sea, reaping its yield repeatedly, growing less satisfied with each season. The calling of the deep never leaves and slowly files away the longings of the island. The island itself also works towards its own destruction, consistently falling short of satisfying my soul’s deepest yearnings, my yearnings for the deep.

Someday, not far off, the sea will completely overcome my island and the deep will rise up on my shores to consume me. My soul will be helpless to avoid its own death in the crushing deep. The deep will extinguish the sun and take my breath. There will be no island to distract me, and no temporal satisfaction to swim back to. I will have only the deepest to finally attain. The rhythm of the sea will take me, and the song of the deep will consume me and break me. Death will meet me at the deepest and clothe me with rapture and fulfillment. My feet will once and for all stand on a new ground salted with the deadly life of the deep's embrace. My hands will be content. My soul at last will be at rest, serenaded everlasting in the bosom of the deep.