Tag Archives: prose

Excerpt from “Crumb’s Plan”

The man in black strode to the table.  A small handkerchief appeared from a fold within is shirt, and the man swabbed the inside of each of the mugs.  He took a small blade from his belt and sliced a wax seal from the cork of the bottle.  Then he carefully poured some liquid into each cup and set the bottle down on the table.

Eck sensed a command in the posture of the man, and made his way to the table.  The man nodded and smiled, and handed a cup to Eck.  He then turned and took the other back to the small candle against the far wall.

“I am called Pak.  This is not who I am, only how I am called here.”  He said in a clear voice.  He looked down at his cup and took a small sip.  With his face still down, he looked up at Eck from behind his eyebrows and nodded.  “We have our drink, now,” he said in command.  Even the hint of his smile had evaporated.

Eck bent his head and sniffed at the dark liquid in the mug.  He smelled the bite of alcohol, tempered with a slight tone of honey, and some herbs he couldn’t place.  Gingerly, he took a sip from the mug.  The drink burned as he swallowed, lighting his throat with a fire.  Eck sputtered and coughing, bringing derisive laughter from Jeb and Bill.  Eck’s tongue and teeth had a strange feeling to them, as if they were coated with a numbing substance.  The sides of his tongue tingled, and he could feel his sinuses open.  He blinked several times and gathered his breath.  Eck took another sip, as much to ease his tension in the silence as to appease Pak.

With on a slight turn of his head, Pak addressed the two thugs sitting at the table, “The time is now that the two should not be here.  I will to be speaking with this man alone now.”

“Oy,” began Jeb before Bill could stop him.  “You said we’s gonna get our turn at ‘im.”  Jeb rose to face the dark figure lurking near the back wall.  His shoulders swayed noticeably – he had obviously been drinking for some time.  Bill reached out and grabbed Jeb by the forearm.  With a twist, Jeb threw off Bill’s steadying hand and took a few steps towards Pak.

Pak tilted his head like an animal examining an unfamiliar plant.  His face showed no sign of anger, no sign of emotion at all.  With a slight furrowing of his brow, he made a small sign with the fingers of his left hand.

Jeb fell to his knees, the blow shaking the small table before Bill.  He arched his back and threw his head back in agony.  With his arms held out near either side of his thighs, Jeb screamed a silent scream.  Pak took another sip from his mug and walked over towards Bill and Jeb.

Bill tried to stand, but only succeeded in clumsily falling backwards from his chair towards Eck and the fireplace.  The bottle on the table fell, and the drink inside spilled onto the floor, covering Jeb’s knees.

Flight exerpt

Scott drew in a long, slow breath, drinking in the icy air like a thin, black dew. His nose was numb from the cold. He closed his eyes against the looming darkness, and let his mind run loose over his calculations. Scott tossed and spun figures in his mind, creating, destroying, and recreating landscapes of possible speeds and trajectories for his small ship. In this local valley of spacetime, days out from the Arturu Gate, only a halo of cool starlight reached the ship from the pinpoints spread across the static blanket of strange, dark energy. The Edge coasted through a smooth river of darkness nearly as deep outside its hull as inside.

White runner scene etude

Rain pattered in the dark outside the small building.  Islands of frightened humanity shone from the light of a handful of flickering candles.  The flames licked at the eyes of the children, and accentuated the dark circles under the eyes of their parents.  Dom handed the stub of a candle to his wife, and kissed his sleeping daughter on her head.  He looked at his wife and looked for words to pass comfort.  She was frightened – frightened for her husband, and her flock, but mostly for her children.  Dom could not think of the words to say.  He knew that if he tried, he would break and end with an awkward sob.

Instead he stood and began to make his way to the front of the church.  He navigated his steps, working hard not to wake the huddled forms in the dark.  The small children and their mothers had been moved into the smaller rooms at the back of the building.  It was quieter back here, and the children were more at home.

Dom passed the small cooking area.  He nodded at the casual guard installed to preserve their provision for as long as they could  At least until Joe arrived with more supplies.  As it was, there was not much more – even on tight rations.  Fifty people ate much more than he would have believed possible.  And, when people eat – well, the rooms set aside as latrines were overflowing already.  Someone had hung spare blankets across the entry in a poor attempt at blocking the odors.

A flash of light shone through the gap in the barricades set up against the windows in the front of the building.  Dom flinched as a peal of thunder followed the lightning.  Thunderstorms were rare in late winter, though this winter had been anything but usual.  The smell of ozone flowed into the building, and Dom pulled his collar closer to his neck against the chill.


As Dom made his way to the front of the church, he paused to take in the beauty of the scene before him.  Slumped against the door were the forms of a newly wed couple.  Matt had his arm around his bride, her head nestled against his chest.  She was asleep, breathing softly while her husband looked at her face in the dim light of a still candle flame.  He stroked her hair, examining each piece as if for the first time.  Dom noted the beauty of the scene.  Even here, in the midst of this tragedy and darkness, the Mother afforded peace to her children.  He murmured a small prayer of thanksgiving.

Matt looked up at Dom.  Their eyes met, small twinkling spaces in a vast darkness.  Before all of this, Dom and Matt had not been close.  Their paths had never really crossed in a significant way.  They had been acquaintances and nothing more.  But darkness has a way of uniting people.  Through the flames of their suffering, they had become brothers.

Joe had been gone for at least a day when the first had died.  The next was not long in coming.  Dom had stepped in – a reluctant leader in the absence of a true shepherd.  Matt was the first and strongest support for Dom that first day.  Their bond started there.  It had continued as duties rose to claim more and more of Dom’s attention.

For a second time, Dom was at a loss for words.  He looked to Matt, wishing for a way to thank him, to express gratitude.  More than that, Dom wanted to be comforted himself.  He was no leader, and was as frightened as the rest of the believers huddled against the fear.

Matt and Jaime leapt to their feet as a jolt rattled the barricade across the front door.  Dom took a step in front of the couple as the door rattled again.  A weak voice from the toerh side cried out,

“For the sake of the Mother, open the doors”.

Dom looked at Matt.  His pulse beat hard against his neck.  He stroked his beard, his breath fast.  Matt and Jaime stared at the door.  Jaime rubbed the sleep from her eyes.  She look as if she was trying to figure where she was, and what his noise was.  Dom wondered himself.

Matt grabbed a leg broken from one of the tables used in the barricade.  He brandished it as a club and took a step in front of Jaime and Dom.

The voice cried out again. “Please” it sobbed, “please, open the door.  Open the fucking door!”

Dom looked from the door to Matt again, but both Matt and Jaime were focusing their attention on the door.

“It’s Bren.  Let me in, damn it.  Let me in”

Now Matt looked at Dom.  Dom tasted the name Bren.  Somewhere in his mind that meant something.  The fear was so tight, so strong that Dom could not place the name.  He couldn’t think at all.   Another flash of lightning painted the scene with white hot confusion.  The thunder sounded outside as the person outside threw themselves against the door.  The door and barricade rocked from the impact.

Clarity pierced the fear and the darkness.  Dom leaped past Matt and reach for the door.  Matt grabbed his arm, restraining Dom at the last moment.

“No, Dom.  No.”  Matt said.

“It’s Bren.”  Dom said, “It’s Bren.  We’ve got to let him in.”

“What if he’s one of them?”  MAtt asked.

Dom’s stomach clenched in fear.  He swallowed hard.  His heart raced and his palms were clammy.  What if the rumors were true?

The door shook again with less force than before.  The voice outside was barely audible.


“Please,” it sobbed, “please let me in”

Dom moved to the door again, pushing Matt aside.  “We have to let him in”

“But,” MAtt began.

“Butt nothing,” Dom turned and looked into Matt’s eyes “The Mother will protect us.  We act in love, and the Mother will protect us.  There is no but”.

Matt’s eyes dropped down, his features lost in the darkness outside the reach of the candle.  Dom threw aside a brace and began to slide the door open.  A wet cold rain raced in through the gap as a dark form spilled onto the floor of the foyer.  The wet wind blew out the single candle and plunged them into darkness complete.

Matt and Jaime moved and slid the door shut again.  Jaime slid the brac into place as Matt piled furniture back against the door.


“Jaime, go light the candle again,” Dom said.  Jaime left as Dom crouched down to the man on the floor.  “Bren.  Bren, are you ok?  Where’s Joe?  Bren?”  Dom shook Bren’s shoulder.

“He’s gone.  They’re all gone.  Everyone.” Bren began.  Jaime returned with the candle.  Bren was staring into space, his mind far away.  His gaze flicked back to Dom, “Joe’s dead.  I killed him”  Bren turned his head away and sobbed.

Matt looked at Dom, the fear in his eyes contagious.  Dom saw Matt’s chest rise, saw the club raise.

“What do you mean you killed him?  Bren.  Bren, what happened out there?  What did you see?”  But Bren was gone again.  His eyes had glazed over.  He mumbled to himself.  Dom could not hear what he said.

Dom needed information.  Bren and Joe had left days ago.  The went to look for food, and to find out what was happening.  Joe was hoping to find help, and to give help – shepherd that he was.  Bren had gone along as muscle, and, Dom suspected, to avoid the aggravation of waiting in the silent dark.  Bren had a family – a wife and a daughter.  There were so many daughters in the church.


“Bren, your family needs you,” Dom said, keeping his tone pleading.  He spoke as he would speak to a child – gentle yet firm.  “Bren, come back to us”

Moments passed.  Bren blinked several times in the dim light of the candle. He licked his lips and turned to look at Dom as if he had decided something.

“They’re ok, my family?”  Bren began.  Dom nodded.  “They took Joe.” he continued “It’s dark how they do it.  I had to kill him.  It’s the only way to stop them.  Joe wanted me to do it.  Joe begged me to do it.  And I did it.  I killed him.  MOther help me, I held his hand as he went. “

“I was alone.  It’s dark out there.  They’re smart, smarter than we are.  They waited.  I think they enjoyed the hunt.  They pushed me where they wanted me to go.  I think they followed me”  Bren looked at Dom, tears in his eyes.  “I think they wanted me to come here.” He spoke in a whisper.  “They’re coming here”


White Runners _ 1

Joah crested another hill, his feet crunching the fallen leaves – dried husks of burgundy and gold.  There was a scent to the air here, Joah felt more than smelled it – a thick patch of must.  He paused atop the hill, panting to allow his old lungs to catch their breath.

To his left, at the bottom of a small gully, Joah saw a massive slab of rock.  The boulder was moist, caked with fresh brown soil.  Up the slope to the rear of the gully was cut a fresh track of destruction from the wake of the stone’s tumultuous descent to the valley floor.  The source of the trail was lost to a curve in the hills.

Joah made his way carefully down the slope to the monolith.  He tested each step with his staff.  The tempestuous summer had left many loose stones uncovered from tremor or flood.  Joah had no intention of adding his name to the list of those who had fallen to their death from misplaced trust in old paths.

As he approached, Joah found that the stone was far larger than it had appeared.  The oblong behemoth was roughly three times Joah’s height, and half as thick.  During the fall, one end of the massive white stone had cracked off, revealing a deep blue-black slate beneath.  The severed portion had landed flat side up just beyond the stone itself.  A ray of sunlight decorated the rough surface, immaculate as the altar of any village chapel.  The fractured blacked surface was like a rough sea, frozen mid-storm.

As if  compelled by the rays of sun, Joah turned his gaze to trace the path of the stone’s descent.  He was blinded by the early morning sun as it leapt from behind low clouds, bath the stone in a blaze of fire.   He fell to his knees in rapture at the base of the stone.  Surely this was a sign from God, this was the place to be prepared.

For a long time Joah remained kneeling reverently at the altar, lost in prayers of thanksgiving.  Finally, as he started to rise, his ancient knees failed him.  Joah shot out his hand reflexively to steady his fall.  His palm slid across the edge of the altar.  The flesh was shorn nearly to the bone on the razor edge of the flint.  Joah clutched the wounded hand to his chest, watching as the blood seeped into the white shell of the altar.  The blood that spilled onto the black face of the altar was lost, its deep color a perfect match for the dark luster of the cloven stone.  This was not a frozen sea, but rather a churning roil of frozen blood.

Joah pressed a broad plantain leaf to his wound and bound it clumsily with a rage from his pack.  Swooning, he turned back to the source of the ravine.  The sun had been masked again with cloud, and no longer dazzled the eye.  Now he could see that the rim of the surrounding hill had fallen.  A shear crown as tall as a man wound around the rim of the gully.  At the head of the scree pile gaped a deep blackness – a dark portal beneath the hills.

As carefully as he could, Joah picked his way through the loose dirt and small stone up to the cave entrance.  The long walk from the village, the spiritual discovery, and the loss of blood had taken a toll.  A wave of nausea overtook him, just shy of the cavern’s mouth.  The world spun in his eyes, and Joah collapsed, his wounded hand reaching out to the darkness.

Caving – pt1

Scott had gotten it into his head to go explore some of the more promising of the many West Virginia caves that he had seen in an old book.  I was not sure how he found the book with maps, locations, and surveys of so many local caves.  It was apparently buried somewhere in the vastness of Newman Library.  The GPS location of each of the caves was listen, along with a brief description of the prominent features of each cave, and a caricatured sketch of the layout.

To me, GPS coordinates would have been as useful as a bicycle to a fish.  In the days before the internet and cell phones, I had no earthly idea as to how one would navigate the wilderness of the Unmarked Interstate,  Scott had no problem with navigation, and both Kevin and Ian shared a complete trust in Scott’s ability.  Of course,we all trusted Scott’s dumb luck.  Not a one of us had been even the least bit surprised when, almost from thin air, Scott produced a detailed topographical map of the West Virginia mountains, complete with full GPS coordinates.

Showing all the bravado and foresight of second-year college students, we pile into Scott’s unwieldy maroon boat of an Oldsmobile at dusk on a cold winter’s day.  We headed for the limestone hills of eastern West Virginia with a complete lack of provision, and without so much as a not of explanation, should we all go missing.

I got sick.  Under the best circumstances, for example a calm driver on flat roads, I could handle short trips by car.  Scott had never been a calm driver, and anyone who has traveled West Virginia knows that the roads snaking up and down those mountains are as crooked as the Devil’s own heart.  The tires of the Olds squealed as we flew around the switchbacks at a full twenty mile per hour over the posted speed limit.  I alternated between terror of careening to my death in a ravine, and the most sincere hope that an oncoming pickup would end my tortuous journey with a compassionate head-on collision.  Oblivious to my obscene discomfort, and with no though to consult his maps, Scott thrust on adventurously to our destination.

In hindsight, Kevin and Ian were slightly generous in their estimation of Scott’s navigational prowess.  It was well after dark, and snowing steadily as we made our third pass through the small mountaintop collection of homesteads in search of any sight remotely like a limestone sinkhole.

“Let’s stop fo directions,” Scott said and swerved into the first driveway he saw.

Kevin voiced his dissent, his cheek twitching with a tick characteristic of his mood.  Ian was utterly silent, as usual, belying no sign of his true thoughts but radiating a simple bemused contention with the whole situation.  I was riding shotgun, and so I was quickly and silently volunteered as a member of the two-man informational expedition.  I was only too happy for any excuse to quit the rolling maroon death machine.

Scott dropped his keys into his pocket as I followed him along a snow-dusted concrete walkway to the house.  The fat snowflakes floated gently through the night air to rest on the dropping branches of the yews lining the walk.  Thew full moon painted everything a deep purplish blue when it happened to glance out from behind the drifting, gray clouds.  Everything was so silent and peaceful, as if the world on that mountain-top community had just stopped for a while to rest, taking time to ponder life under an early-season snow.

Warm yellow light spilled out from chinks in the curtains inside the windows.  The air smelled cold, but the scent of wood smoke hinted at a hidden warmth within.  Without slowing, without a thought as to what lay on the other side of that door, Scott reached up a gloved hand and rapped out a quick, muffled knock.  After just enough time had passed for me to begin to imagine the Friday night habits of the homeowner, the door opened.

A warm drought of air and an even warmer “good evening!” rushed out over the threshold and caressed out cheeks.

“Hello,” began Scott, “we’re looking for the Old Bent Tooth cave.  We know it’s around here, and we were wondering if you could tell us how to find it.”

“Oh, do come in,” said the forty-something year-old woman.  Opening the door fully to a pair of complete strangers, “come in out of the cold.”

The doorway opened into a cozy living room.  A beige sofa rested along the front wall of the house, just below the window through which the tiny sliver of light streaked onto the porch.  A plush easy chair sat opposite the sofa, with a commanding view of the front door and an 80’s model, 20 inch color TV.  Between the sofa and the chaise was an off-white shag rug, protecting the hardwood floor from the rough feet of an old coffee table.

“Please, sit down,” our hostess said.  She seemed to have nothing better to do at 9 pm on a Friday night than to accommodate the chill and thirst of a couple of disoriented young men.

Down in the Depths — pt1

The stench was overwhelming.  The small bubble of light cast by the torch could not illuminate the far reaches of the cell’s corners — perhaps thankfully so.  Dadju wretched onto the floor near the entrance to once of the countless voids, each a rent in the world through which any form of torment could be be birthed.  This far into the prison, the rough-hewn floors had not been exposed to the polishing tread of countless feet.  This place was rarely visited.  Most journeys here were single-ended.  This was the Oubliette.

Dadju’s back ached from the journey spent hunched forward.  A dull ache between his shoulder blades had begun to creep into the muscles of his neck.  The ceiling of the corridors at this depth of the dungeon were noticeably lower than in the airy upper levels.  It was as though the men who had carved them were so bent with their toil that they could not straighten to manage a height greater than four feet.

How long had he stared at the bent back of this silent jailer?  With no view of the sun, and scarcely enough light to keep his footing, Dadju had no manner of tracking the hours.  The darkness was nothing new, and he had practiced techniques for concentration the allowed his mind to wander meditatively as his body toiled in the dark.  His footsteps became mechanical, his feet plodding thoughtlessly behind the hunched form of the jail keeper.

A change brought Dadju out of his reverie.  The air had become different, cleaner almost.  Although still stale, there was now a strong scent of powdered limestone blending with the ranker vapors permeating the dark.  It was quieter here as well.  No longer were the sounds of the human occupants of the dungeon audible.

Nothing – pt1 – warning, fairly dark.

This one is a bit dark — an exercise in shock.  Be careful.


The soles of his boots made no noise – not a whisper – as he walked slowly across the room.  He paused at each pillar, marveling at the newness of the stone, as if marble were something newly sprung into being.  He stopped at the edge of a pool of sunlight spreading across the polished floor, and watched the dust settled – a miniature snowstorm.

Finally, as if suddenly remembering other pressing duties, the man floated to a trio of steps leading to a low, flat dais.  He lighted the steps, and sank to a thick black cloth spread on the floor, crossing his knees as he sat.

With a glance to the unlit corners of the vast hall, and a slight tug at his jet-black goatee, he signaled with a purposeful nod.

“Now we come to it,” he said as two hooded figures dragged a limp form before their master.  The captive collapsed in a heap in front of the dais, dumped like an offering to an angry, foreign god.

“Refresh him,” said the man on the black cloth.

From the shadows, a fat man approached carrying a wooden bucket and a pewter goblet.  The goblet tinkled musically as he set it on the tiled floor.  The dark man listened, amused, as the sound echoed across the space of the room.  The fat man gripped the base of the bucket, cocked his arms back, and launched a torrent of water onto the bound man on the floor.  Binding chains rattled at his manacled wrists as he started, jolted by the frigid shock.

“You are afraid,” said the man with the goatee.  “You think I will kill you?”

The prisoner hung his head, his chin resting in defeat on his heaving chest.  A slight gesture from the bearded man brought back the hooded guards.  They forced the captive’s head back as the fat man poured the contents of the goblet down the man’s throat.

“It’s wine,” explained the voice from the dais.  The dark man was staring at his opened hand, slowly rotating and flexing his fingers with obvious curiosity.  “It is good wine, in fact.  Very good wine.”

“I have the best of many things, you see.  The best food.  The best clothes.  The best spices.  The best men.”  He began to stroke his mustaches, caressing his chin as he gazed at the prisoner.

The wine was good.  It was a strong, full-bodied red.  The captive man straightened his back and stared defiantly at the dais.  His expression was fierce and terrible.  Fear and desperation were there as well, only barely concealed.  Barely concealed.  To the man on the dais, the black mustached figure, the despair was as obvious as if the prisoner were screaming his fear aloud.

“I have had you tortured.  It gives me no pleasure.  But, that is not its purpose,” said the man on the platform.  He tilted his head and twisted it, popping one of the joints in his neck.  He sighed pleasurably.  “No, not for pleasure.  Nor to punish.”

“Who are you?  Some lord?  A farmhand?” he continued.  “To you and I, it is all the same.  You are here now, with me, in this situation.  What you do, or what you did, who your parents were – these things will not change where you are.  Nor can they affect what will ultimately happen to you.”

“We are alike, you and I.”  He examined his legs against the cloth of the dais, plucking a piece of lint from the black fabric.  He held it to the light, squinting to examine it further.  “We are made of the same stuff – meat and bone and thought.  Yes, we are alike.  But, we are so VERY different.”

At this point, the man arose, dropping the lint to the ground.  “For you see, you are only flesh.  You do not understand how to escape.  How to BE.  Perfection lies in BEING.  If you could let go, and see beyond yourself, beyond your shell, you could know what I know.  That vastness of what IS.  The pain that you feel?  That is not real.  The aching bones in your arms?  They are not real.  You have no concept of being.”  The man closed his eyes and leaned back against one of the marble columns.  He rested his head back onto a patched lit by a single column of light.

“Did you love?  You might have had a wife, a family.  You no longer do, of that I am certain.  My men tore them apart before your very eyes.  I instructed them to do so.”  The captive man crumbled at these words, and the dark man opened his eyes and glared at the prisoner.

“Did you love them?  Who were they?  They were parts of what IS.  Just as are your chains, or this building, or a random stone.  Those people are no longer what they were.  Their roles in the vastness of Everything has changed, just as yours will soon.”

“Make no mistake.  I am going to kill you,” said the dark man as walked slowly down the steps.

“Why?  Well, I have been given a gift.  I understand that everything is a part of the Whole.  We are all of us caught in a web of what IS.  Living, breathing, being — this is all a joyous, impossible miracle!”  He fondled the tasseled end of his tasseled belt, as if delighting in the feel for the first time.  “The fact that this exists,” he dangled the tassel for accent.  “the fact that it exists at all is a pure joy.  It resonates through every part of Everything, like a thousand thousand children singing together.”

He dropped the rope, and his face momentarily distorted into a rage.  “This is what I have been given — the gift of understanding, the ability to recognize the Joy that exists.  Always.  Everywhere.”  He dropped his chin to his chest and closed his eyes.  He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly several times.

Slowly he raised his head and continued speaking.  Almost whispering, he said, “And I hate it all.”  He opened his eyes.  “I serve a power that is opposed to what IS.  To all of what IS.”  His breathing quickened as he kneeled before the terrified prisoner.  “And what does this have to do with you?  Why am I telling you any of this?  I am NOT telling you.  I am telling the world.  I am telling those in this room – spies and fanatics and schemers and fools.  I am showing that I will oppose what IS.  I will corrupt and pervert and torture Being until It surrenders to the Void!”  He punctuated the last word with a quick flick of a blade across the captive’s throat, and he watched the light fade from the dying eyes.

Feed the cats

As I was heading from the living room to the kitchen, it occurred to me that I had not yet fed the cats.

“Goddammit!” I thought.  It had been a trying day already.  Nothing particularly difficult had happened.  In fact, I had made quite a bit of progress earlier on one of my pet projects.  Still, I did not relish the idea of venturing into the cold to feed the needy animals.  It was late.  I did not want to smell the foul aroma of wet cat food in the can — it clings to one’s clothes and lingers in the air for hours.  No, I did not want to feed the cats.

I gathered the feeding supplies – a cup of water, a can of the wet stink, a bowl of crunchy dry, and a fresh bowl – and loaded them onto the little red and white checkered tray that used to be my daughter’s.  My good, heavy faux wool coat hung sloppily from the back of one of our dining room chairs.  It was conveniently handy, but I was worried about soiling it with the stink of the cat food, God forbid I spilled any.  There was no way I would be able to maneuver the feeding supplies and my shoes to the front door and still manage to worm myself into a different, less precious jacket.  Besides, I was angry, stubborn, and beginning to feel a bit guilty for neglecting the poor beasts recently banished to the bitter cold winter outside.

“fuck it,” I muttered and slid my already cold feet into my slippers.  I snatched the tray and shuffled to the front door.  The cold air pouring in around the door did nothing to improve my mood.  “Fucking Bughs!” – the usual litany for any and all disrepair in the house rolled out easily, comfortably.  It felt good to unload some of today’s anger and guilt onto the incompetent bastards that sold us the house.  That always felt good.

I hit the storm door lever with my free hand and start to push it open as the wind galed against it.  I had to drop my shoulder and bear into the glass to get the door to move.  With no hat, and sporting only a pair of pajama pants and soccer sandals, I stepped out into the frigid night air as a particularly feral gust of wind sheared across the front of the house.  The winter wind stirred up dried leaves, and whipped at the old blanket we used to insulate the rickety cat house.  The air was so clean and crisp that it tore the breath from my lungs, leaving me gasping.  The needles of pain storming my naked toes proved that my feet were not yet completely numb, but well on the way.

“Babies,” I cried.  Before my teeth could close to sibbilate the word, a minuscule gray and white blur melted across the porch to my feet.  Smitty moved like a snake – low and quick and quiet.  He was always hungry at meal time, and I was late tonight.

I set the tray on the little gray patio table and Smitty materialized.  He did not move from the ground, but appeared at his food bowl instantly.  He was a gray hunger, fully prepared to gnaw through the steel cat food can to get to his dinner.

“Frieda,” I called.  The cat blanket mounted perceptibly, and birthed a tangle of calico fur.  Frieda threw out her front paws and gave a good, long, big cat stretch as I poured the dry food into their cast iron food bowl, tinkling.  The food dish was a cat iron cat, with a pair of stainless steel bowls nestled in her back, like some ancient Egyptian shrine to the Gods of Cat Food.  But Smitty and Frieda are cats, and cats are incapable of worship.

Frieda got to work on the dry food while I popped the tab to the wet food can.  My eyes ran over the warning label twice: Pull lid back slowly.  The fine black type contrasted sharply with the yellow label of the can.  I remember wondering that such a warning was necessary, presumably to protect some simpleton from a lid-inflicted laceration.  After this evening, I knew that the warning was against something far more dire than a simple flesh wound.  Cut fingers eventually heal, but nothing in this world can remove the reek of cat food from a warm winter jacket.  Nothing.

As per our usual dance, Smitty began to eat from the can as soon as the stench escaped its protective plastic inner lining.  I shooed him away while trying to spoon the foulness into the one of a pair of Garfield-adorned plastic food bowls.  I enjoyed the thought that these cats had no idea who he was each time I looked at Garfield’s smiling face on those cheap, dollar store bowls.  By this point, my feet had gone completely numb — not only the toes, but straight back to my heels.  My fingers and ears had taken over the duty of flooding my thoughts with frozen pain.  The wind was stabbing through my fleece, and the night’s icy fingers were stating to squeeze the muscles of my chest and back, suffocating me with their chill.

Hastily, I slapped the food bowls down as close as I could to the cat house, hoping for even the slightest protection from the wind.  Smitty was left pacing the table top, disappointedly examining the empty cat food cat.   Frieda, on the other hand, shifted mid-chew from the plain dry food to the apparently more appetizing slop now endorsed by Mr. Garfield.  I scooped Smitty up with one hand, surprised again at how light he had become since moving outdoors, and dropped him a bit urgently onto the porch by the food.  I dropped the clean water bowl onto a frozen-over patch of ice and sloshed in a fresh dose of dinking water.  It was so cold out here that the water would probably freeze solid before I made it back to the front door.  As if in evidence, the morning’s water bowl clunked solidly as I dropped it into the food tray.

Truth v2

In the eye of the cat

(Photo credit: hartp)

I have one green eye and one brown eye.  The green eye sees only the truth — the other sees much, much more.  From the day I took my first scalp in a war party, “the shaman is not, nor never was, a warrior.  That needs to be evident.” to the day I first walked in the spirit world, they all knew I was something differentnot looking for this degree of isolation.  There is not a they and I here, but a larger, family-style community identity.  They is the wrong concept here“.  A shaman of the plains People “there are no people other than the People.  don’t identify with indians or locale.” has many children, but he has no friends.

With my one green eye I can see the truth etched on the face of the distant peaks by the voice of the wind.  I can see the sad fate of a small child as he coughs blood and clings to a frightened young mother.  Yes, with my one eye I can see the truth of the all-father in every blade of grass dancing on the plain. “fill in this area — more detail of what truth can be seen

But it is with my right eye, the brown one, that I see that I am alone.  It is through this eye that I see that alone I entered this world, and in a few short years, alone I will leave it.  It is with my brown eye that I see my seed blown as dust across the plains.  Forgotten. “this foreshadows the ultimate tragedy coming down the line.  this is the desperation growing from the pain of the upcoming tale to be recounted.  this is a voice hopeless in its despair

Truth v1

I have one green eye and one brown eye.  The green eye sees only the truth — the other sees much, much more.  From the day I took my first scalp in a war party, to the day I first walked in the spirit world, they all knew I was something different.  A shaman of the plains people has many children, but he has no friends.

With my one green eye I can see the truth etched on the face og the distant peaks by the voice of the wind.  I can see the sad fate of a small child as he coughs blood and clings to a frightened young mother.  Yes, with my one eye I can see the truth of the all-father in every blade of grass dancing on the plain.

But it is with my right eye, the brown one, that I see that I am alone.  It is through this eye that I see that alone I entered this world, and in a few short years, alone I will leave it.  It is with my brown eye that I see my seed blown as dust across the plains.  Forgotten.

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