The Third Perspective

The Third Perspective

Pulling the messenger bag from his shoulder, Ted threw the every-pocket-filled bag onto the orange velvet living room couch. Bouncing high, the bags magnetic closing flap fell open and all the papers, pens, and books slid out and onto the smooth wooden floor below. With a not well directed kick, Ted smashed the toe of his shoe against the square leg of the couch. The hammer-to-nail like experience shot waves of crushing pain up his foot.

“Piece of shit! Just like today!” he wailed as he landed upon the cushion and gripped his foot, “Fuck today, fuck everyone, and FUCK everything! God damn it all! I fucking hate everything!”

Leaning her head out the arched kitchen doorway Kristy asked, “Bad day, huh?”

“Well, of fucking course; every day is a bad day it seems… Lately! I can’t stand this bull shit anymore. I work with morons; everyone around me are morons, and no one knows what they are doing. I swear, I would just be better off jumping out that window… Well, not that one, since if I land from this height I might not fully die, and those paramedics… Well, I can’t put much stock in them either.” Placing both feet onto the dark wood flooring, he fell back into the uneven cushions embrace. Resting his head upon the flat wide frame of the couch’s headboard, Ted closed eyes and muttered, “I also hate this fucking ugly couch…”

Coming into the living room with a dish she was drying she said, “I am sorry you feel that way today, Ted.” Laying down the dish upon a side table, she began to pick at the edges of a patch where the velvet had been pulled away, leaving the rough woven material beneath open, “I rather like the couch… Anyways; can I get you anything to help you relax a bit?”

Placing the flats of his hands against his face he sarcastically giggled, “How do you like this couch? I mean, seriously? If anything, it is a perfect symbol of all the bullshit around here in our lives.”

Picking up the dish with a sigh, she asked, “In what way is this many hand-me-down couch symbolic of all the annoyances you experience?”

Rolling his eyes, he said, “Really? You don’t see all the bullshit that is surrounding us?” Hunching over with each elbow against a knee he continued, “I mean, hell, I feel I am suffocating in the annoyance of all these idiots. They fill, like, every space of our existence.

I really feel we should have the option to use force against others that are too stupid to be alive. What we need is to have one of those days to correct stupid; kind of like that movie we saw that lets everyone be lawless for a full day – no crime considered.”

A shiver ran up her back, “I remember that movie, and I don’t like that you made us watch it. Marsh didn’t really enjoy it either, I am sure of it. He was scared for days that the government would see the movie and then move to implement a similar idea.” With fist pressed to her hip she eyed him, “You weren’t much help either! Fueling his fear. It took me so much time to just calm him down and convince him otherwise.”

“I am not sure why you didn’t allow him to just go about living that dream. If I were dating him, since he is clearly a smart person, I would work with him to figure out the truth and see if he is onto something. You never know; and, he probably should of contacted his representation in congress to express his concern. Now, that is what I would have done.” With a sigh he said, “You really got to let that boy have some creativity, Kristy.”

Leaning back into the cushions he stared at the cream painted ceiling and sighed, “In all reality, we should just motivate people to do it; I mean, really make it happen. It would solve a lot of issues, I think…”

Sighing, Kristy picked up the wet dish and dried it more with the cloth in her hand. Turning around and making her way back to the kitchen she spoke over her shoulder, “I understand how you feel about me, Ted, and that I stifle your fun with Marsh, but my intentions are pure and purposeful… not so sure of yours.”

Returning both palms upon his face he muffled through his hands, “So dumb… so weak… so dumb…”

“I am sorry, I can hardly hear you, Ted.” she said calmly as she disappeared around the corner of the door frame.

His voice growing as he stood, “You always think, Kristy, that you are doing the ‘right’ thing for Marsh, but seriously – you are just holding him back. Every time I wake him to the world, you put water upon that blaze that I worked so hard to stir within him! It is just so stupid!”

“What is stupid, Ted?”

“Well… like, when you tell him opposite of what I tell him. I am trying to teach him to be awake while you are trying to keep him as a tool; easily used up and when broken thrown away.”

“Hmmmm…” she answered as she picked another dish to dry from the soapy water.

“Seriously… that is all you have to say?” he shouted.

WIth the click of the unlatching bolt lock, Ted upturned his wrinkled brow and cheered, “Marsh!” before the door even fully opened. “I am glad you have finally gotten home. Christy is being… annoying – like everyone else in my day, thus far.” Turning from the kitchen, Ted stretched his step into the living room to meet Marsh with outstretched arms.

Entering the room, Marsh gave a simple nod towards Ted and turned to hang his keys on the three key holder. Two screws made it simple enough to install, but the obnoxious bronze capital lettering of the word KEYS always reminded him how he needed to replace it soon. Kristy always complemented the gift from Marsh’s mother, but Ted gave it many different descriptions and even promised to tear it off the wall one day.

“Well…,” Marsh said with a smile as he turned to face Ted, “I am sorry to hear that, but Kristy is pretty much always right; so, what happened?” Meeting in the doorway to the kitchen, Marsh leaned down and kissed Kristy upon her cheek. Stomping closing behind, Ted followed them into the kitchen.

The glow of the white fridge light casted across his face as Marsh reached into the fridge for his cake he bought the night before at the diner. With an ear to ear grin pulled tight across his face as he said, “Man, I am serious when I say – I have been thinking of this triple layered super dark chocolate cake all day at work.”

Arms pulled against his chest, Ted leaned a shoulder against the fridge’s closed door and huffed, “Well, I am glad you had an easy enough day and could simply think about cake, but for me… Well, for me, it was a usual shit day with shitty people dealing with a shitty job that I hate – every – single – day!” Pounding double fist upon the pressed wood kitchen counter with its cheap plastic overlay to give it that real wood faux look he gritted in frustration.

“Hey, hey,” Marsh muffled through a mouth full of charcoal colored cake. Swallowing hard he reminded Ted, “You remember what Jenny said, ‘You break anymore of this apartment and you will pay for the repairs – even if they are accidental…’ so please don’t break more stuff around here, I can’t afford it.”

 

Rolling his eyes, “Just more bullshit! That landlord is an ass, just like our neighbors who complain any time I voice my opinion to all the bullshit in this world. Assholes! They just want to hold me back and hold me down!”

Forking the last piece Marsh said, “Yup, man, I get it. I too get frustrated at my job, but I am not sure everyone is always bad by nat…”

“Fuck this,” Ted cut him off, and then stormed out the kitchen like a tornado tearing across the plains.

“I agree with you, Marsh honey,” Kristy said while licking her thumb and wiping a line of chocolate off of Marsh’s chin, “not everyone is that bad. While some are difficult, sometimes they just have a bad day too,” eyeing over her shoulder towards the child-like stomping of Ted as he made for his room.

Taking his chocolate finger painted plate, Kristy placed it under the grey water and scrubbed its porcelain surface, “I know he feels the need to vent to everyone about his views, but I wish he wouldn’t be so affected by his environment. Too bad we couldn’t find him another apartment to live at.”

 

Slamming a fist into the faux wood countertop, Marsh pinched his eyes closed and gritted through his teeth, “I said, Kristy, that we can’t ask him to find another place. Him and I have been friends with since we were kids, and no one else will care for him like I do. We are best friends! I don’t like arguing about this, you know that!”

His shirt darkened under her wet hands as she worked to massage his peaked shoulders. Pressing upon her toes, Kristy gave a kiss to the back of his neck and then rested flat against his back, “I know, I get it. You guys have been with each other for a long time; it is just… you and I have been together longer and I would like us to have our lives together, alone, is all. Plus… Ted and I just don’t get on very well, but I will keep trying; for you.”

Lowering his hilly shoulders, Marsh exhaled and turned to face her. With a tight embrace, he snuggled into her neck; making her giggle as he blew burst of air against her collar. Holding her tighter, he bent lower to press deeper into her shoulder. As they entered the living room, they could hear Ted, again, spouting off rants about the world and its problems behind his bedroom door. Resting on their couch, Kristy and Marsh wrapped around each other into a relaxing cuddle and rested for the night.

With the approach of morning, Marsh looked around a winter morning lit apartment with its washed over walls in greys and blues. Sleeping with a hand lying upon his chest, Marsh lifted her arm and then lowered her slowly to the soft velvet cushions. Placing a pillow below her face, he kissed her cheek and made his way towards the kitchen to start preparing their breakfast.

“My god, it feels as if the heat never turned on at all last night…” Ted’s echoing voice sounded muffled as he spoke while taking a swig of coffee from his ceramic mug. Lowering the cup, he swirled around the remaining black coffee within and continued, “Man, even this coffee is cold… we should consider replacing that coffee pot.”

Marsh gave Ted a half smirking nod. Tucking his head under the cabinet where they kept their pots and pans he searched for his favorite black cast iron skillet. The skillet was an absolute in the process of making his famous blueberry and walnut pancakes. After moving some disorganized mess around, he found it and asked, “I plan to make pancakes today, want some?”

“I am not sure… I mean, I am hungry, like super hungry, but I am not sure what I want to eat right now.” Falling into a slumped position against the wall, Ted placed his coffee mug on the floor and rested both hands against his forehead, “I just feel like crap today. I mean, you know: yelling at Kristy, I believe I am fired, and I just feel so low right now…”

Whisking the milk with the vinegar, Marsh sighed and nodded in agreement, “I know, man, I know… life is kind of a hard place to live in sometimes. I too can’t feel so joyful all the time; it is just so… tough at times. I just wish things were easier, but sometimes they just suck.”

The clicking of the burner hit multiple times before the fire ignited. Prue blue flames with a few cast of orange danced along the skillet’s bottom. As the cool pancake mixture flattened upon the hot cast iron surface, sizzles echoed off the blank kitchen walls.

Soft vapors of steam rose from the stacked body of pancakes that rested like a pile of corpses below the maroon kitchen cloth. Hearing Ted’s voice murmuring in the corner, Marsh looked over and saw Ted with one of the kitchen knives. As he lifted and lowered it to his wrist, he whimpered inaudible words. With quick hands, Marsh pulled the knife away from Ted and stepped back.

“I just can’t take all of this bullshit anymore; day in and day out, it is always the same thing everywhere I go. I just want to stop this from happening…” Ted sobbed. His face reddened with swollen bulges below his eyes.

Tightening his grip into a fist over the hilt of the knife, Marsh loomed over Ted. A cold void felt as if it were placed upon his chest and began to sink in. Observing, Marsh began to see the robotic nature of his own life: expectations to perform properly, do as he is told, and comply without question. Pulling down his cheeks, a hot line of a tear escaped and rested at his chin.

Twisting the knife, Marsh pressed the tip to the skin just below his palm. Without much pressure, he guided the nose of the boat down the river lines to the soft location where his forearm met his bicep. Looking down, a straight red line lead from start to finish.

Fireworks burst forth from his stomach up into his chest. The explosive warmth replacing the cold void’s damaging effect. Sharpening the blade’s edge against his skin, Marsh rotated his arm like a rotisserie chicken being carved and served to guest.

His moment in time froze when Kristy rushed into the kitchen and shouted, “Marsh, what in the hell are you doing?” Pulling the knife from his hand, she placed it down behind the sink’s faucet and grabbed the maroon towel from the pancake stack, “Oh my god, Marsh; I need to wrap up this arm; you are bleeding so much.” As the pressure from the wrapped cloth pulled tight against his skin, the first feeling of pain became true and his mind awoke to see his raised hand painted red.

“I was in here to make you and I pancakes… and then Ted and I were talking about something,” but as he looked to the wall Ted was gone. Pulling him over to the sink, Kristy turned the water on high and pumped out multiple pools of liquid soap into her hand. He sucked in with a wince as she lathered his cuts.

Wrapping his arm in a new kitchen towel, Kristy rushed Marsh into the bathroom. Dragging with her a chair, Kristy sat Marsh down in front of the long mirror. Looking on, Marsh saw the mess he had created for them. His arm was covered in many fine cuts from his wrist to elbow; each moving around the arm in shapes of frowns and smiles. Using her teeth to tear open gauze bags, she placed squares of cotton against his skin and pressed a hand against them as she wrapped his arm with medical tape. Looking down at her he said, “I am sorry, Kristy…” Glancing to his eyes only for a second, she returned her focus and worked in a frantic pace with each bandage.

Stepping away to gather more supplies from the bathroom’s cabinet, Ted replaced her image in the mirror; noticing him just over Marsh’s shoulder. Leaning with arms resting against his chest and a head tilted back against the doorframe Ted said, “Really, Marsh, it isn’t that bad; a few simple cuts is not a big deal. I have seen worse…”

Turning upon a swivel in her neck that was in much need of oil, Kristy bared her teeth and said, “Look here – Ted!, I know Marsh protects you, but I am absolutely sick and tired of all your shit. You are a flake. You are not a friend. You are dangerous. Just leave! Leave us alone and I will clean up your mess – again.”

Peeling off to one side, Ted rolled his eyes and lumbered his way back to his room. Mumbling to herself about Ted’s arrogant personality, Kristy set to work on setting up the healing process once more. Seeing her bobbing around in the mirror, Marsh felt warmed by her focused determination to always care for him. Peering over his shoulder, he noticed Ted’s bedroom door was open by a crack; the room was completely dark. Looking down at Kristy once more, he felt deeply apologetic.

Pulling Marsh from the chair, the pain was becoming more of a realization as they made their way to their bedroom. Kristy pulled at his opposite hip to her and pulled him in tight. Helping him lower onto the bed, Kristy laid him back and rested her head against his chest, listening to the rhythm of his heart.

Though not wanting to pain Marsh more, Kristy let out a sigh and revealed to Marsh the hurt that Ted puts them both through; and that though they have been friends long enough to be considered a brotherhood, the effects of Ted upon Marsh verge on dangerous to his health. With a lifting inhale of his chest, Marsh closed his eyes and nodded in agreement, “I know… I know, and you are always right.”

With their eyes dried and their breathing tempered, they drifted into soft dreams filled of love, care, and shared memories. The bed took them in like a mother caring for her children, and they rested well for a few days.

Waking to find the room illuminated again and the trees outside full of blooming blossoms, Marsh rose to his seat and stretched wide. Kristy was already up, he suspected, as he noticed she was no longer taking her place next to him. Making his way around the apartment, no one stirred. Noticing the velvet orange couch, it too was empty. To his delight, Kristy must have just made him coffee before she left as the pot was still very warm and provided wafts of soft white vapors as he poured himself a cup.

Preparing for his shower and the day ahead, Marsh saw in the mirror the multiple slicing wounds that tattooed his skin from wrist to elbow. Gliding his fingers over the closed wounds, they felt like small speed bumps as he slowed his approach from wrist to the elbow. Deciding best attire for the day, he walked over to his bedroom and pulled from the closet a salmon colored formal button up shirt over his usual short sleeve polo variety.

Swallowing down the last mouthful of his yogurt parfait breakfast with a swig of coffee, he got up from the kitchen table and rushed to grab his keys. Excitement pulled at his breathing as he looked forward to a normal day at work with his friends: Kristy and Ted. After locking the door, Marsh pulled from his messanger bag a book he was absorbed in. The plot was based on a protagonist who lived a life without purpose, until one day: he quit his job, closed his apartment’s lease, and took all of his savings and went backpacking around the world; leaving behind only his fears.

Without missing a step below his feet, his eyes darted across the pages. The world created was just for him; a private universe he could share with only himself. Living a vicarious life through someone else. At the most thrilling parts, Marsh would sigh, look out at his life, and wonder if he would be as courageous one day too…

“Good morning Marsh,” Ted said with an excited smile, “What are you reading?” Behind Ted, Kristy was in near pursuit with a smile and arms wide waiting for her hug.

Boy and Girl

Boy and Girl

Staring up its mammoth frame, the Boy fell back upon his heels in stunned amazement. The top was beyond his sight, and he assumed it must reach all the way into the sky and nearly touch the sun itself. At its base, he figured it would take twenty of him hand in hand to encircle the entire girth of the massive giant. As he walked around the wide body he inspected the engineering feat that would be required of him if he were to climb to the top.

Jumping as high as he could, his hand barely slapped below an outstretched arm of the tree. It was the closest he could possibly reach but still it was a few lengths higher than he was tall. Standing in the shadows, a chill rose up his back and took flight from his hairs at the back of his neck. Slapping against his waist, the tall brittle grass waved back and forth as it danced in the soft blowing wind.

Searching for assistance, he came upon a stick that was three times his height. As he walked back to gather space for his run, the stick bounced with each step. Pressed against his side like the Olympian pole vaulters he saw on TV, he grasped the stick with both hands and darted for the tree with the point of the stick focused at the base.

Excitement grabbed him with each pounding step forward. But soon, it too fell with him as the stick gripped at the exposed roots, bent, and then snapped as he leapt with full weight into the air. Landing flat upon the floor, his lungs felt like two bellows being pressed out. His feet resting long against the tree, he winced as he rubbed the middle of his sensitive back.

Overhead, the clouds swam in the blue ocean and then were eaten up by the outstretching arms of the tree. Above, the sturdy tangled arms of the tree’s many limbs, he thought, would provide a perfect vantage point for him; once he figured out how to get up there…

Straining to see through to the very top, he wondered what he would see from up there. To be above the leafy canopy and see across to the next city, perhaps? Or, the even entire world! As he stared longer, he vibrated with determined confidence which warmed his stunned body and restored his vigor to his sore back.

Pulling himself up, he inspected his faulty pole vault stick. Just a few hand lengths above where the stick gripped into the roots it shattered in half. Disappointed in its lack of truth, he tossed the pieces a side. With fist at his hips, he took a long inspection of the closest limb within reach, again. Though still to high for him to out right grasp, he contemplated his options for scaling the upward bent elephant trunk shaped limb.

“Hi,” a small squeaky voice said. With soft unspoiled features, her crystal ocean blue eyes stared at him with a spacious pearl smile, “My name is Ruby. Want to help me climb this tree? I can’t reach that thick branch either.”

With a wide smile he said, “Hi, my name is Jeremiah. Me too; I have been trying to climb this tree. And, I think that if I get to the very top I can see across the world and to the next city!”

“That is funny; if you could see across the whole world wouldn’t you see beyond the next city?,” she asked through double palmed giggles. Crow’s feet branching out at her eyes, she hunched over in laughter.

“Hmmmm…” he answered, “I am not sure what is beyond the next city; I haven’t gone that far before.”

Eyes peeled back, she gaped at him. “Many things,” she replied, “a whole world of things. Animals, parks, zoos, museums, people, and many other fun stuff.”

Looking up the length to the canopy above he said, “Well, I want to see those things, and from up there I believe I will be able to see those.” Placing both closed fist upon his hips he questioned, “I just don’t know how we are going to get up there… I tried to jump, run and jump, and even use that stick – and it broke.”

“Ok,” she said, “you are bigger than me, so why don’t we do this: you use your height and muscles to push me up and then I will jump when you reach as high as you can and then I will leap to that crook there,” she pointed to where the branch extended out from the tree’s main frame; an opening just wide enough for both her shoulders.

With an inspecting eye at the solution being proposed, he took a few steps back to take in more of the picture. Fist at his hips he agreed, “Ok, I think you have a good idea.” Hunching down with interlaced fingers in cupped hands he said, “Hop on and I will shoot you up there. Do you think you will be able to pull me up after?”

Shrugging at the question, she planted a foot into the provided holster. Hunching down to his shoulder, she placed one hand down and the other hand against the tree trunk for balance. With her tongue curled at the corner of her mouth, she honed in on her challenge above.

Grunting as he rocketed her high above, she flew with her hands outstretched; but, with the tips of her fingers waving freely just below the promised location, she returned to earth with him, “It’s no good… But, I am just barely out of reach.”

Lowering her upon the ground, he said, “I have another idea. This one will work, I am sure of it!” A wide smile pulled up from side to side as he dramatized the movements, “I will hunch down, you will place both feet onto my shoulders; next, you will move each foot onto my hands and I will skyrocket you up! Like a spring! What do you think?”

Considering his plan, she reviewed the distance and then applied the idea. Assured by inner confidence, she nodded and placed one foot at a time onto his shoulders. Though nervous with wobbly balance, she moved each foot into a resting hand.

As her height grew with the tree, she lifted off at the same moment he leaped. With cold excitement, her hands slid up the bark and found themselves in the niche of where they needed to be placed. Pulling herself forward, she adjusted and then turned to see below her the ant of a boy Jeremiah far below.

Stabilizing herself, she took a long look around in her new environment. Taking notice of something, she shouted as loud as she could, “Wait right there,” and then disappeared from his sight. Falling into a slouch, he brushed back and forth his feet at the ground. Though, she did return and with a very long stick, “Here, grab onto this; I will pull you up.”

Spitting onto one hand and then the other, he rubbed them together and bent like a frog about to spring forward. Launching off the ground, he lunged both hands out before him and reached for the artificial hand; sadly, he was able to only grab a small portion of the stick, but it slipped from his grip. Imagining he had springs within his legs, he crouched lower. With his knees near his ears, he sprung upwards and took flight once more; but, as before, same sad results.

“Ok, one sec,” she said, “Behind you is a wide opening – I can see for miles! Why don’t you go back really far, run really fast, and then jump?”

Nodding to this logic, Of course this would be the best idea! he thought. With one foot firmly pressed behind him like the Olympian runners seen on TV, he lifted his angled neck up, focused on the lengthy target, and then with a gunshot burst sounding in his head – he was off. The breeze parted around his teeth clenching face and when he reached the tree he scaled it like a cat clawing its way up carpeted tower.

As he grabbed the branch, she nearly fell forward out of the tree not reacting fast enough. Luckily for the instinct to maintain balance, she pulled backwards and helped lift him further up the tree. Landing into a puddle of old water that pooled between the tree’s massive arm like limb and its body, she made a disappointed whimper. Lifting himself over the side, he towered above with arms out and shouts of his triumph.

As he towered, he looked down and saw her red cheeks and cotton puffy eyes developing; “I am so sorry! What happen?!”

Trying to lift herself from the watery mess below her, she heaved with deep breaths, “I was trying to help you get up and feel backwards; landing in this gross water…” Feeling his excitement abate, he braced himself against the branch and the tree’s center and hoisted her up by her armpits. With a tight cheek to cheek hug, she sniffed a few more times and then released him. Though the pool left a dark coloration against her jeans, he said nothing. Looking up the tree, they set their goals higher.

Tangled and bent arms jettisoned away from the tree’s frame and gripped for the sky. Starring with their mouths gaping, they looked on with questions in their minds of how high, what they would see when they reached the top, how far they could see from the very top, and what lived up there. But, never did they question how dangerous it all was.

Luckily for them, the branches sprouted from the tree’s like closely spaced rungs in a latter. However, after a while their muscles began to burn with each pull higher up the tree. Though through their determination they never stopped their ascent; she lead the way and he followed.

As he rose, he noticed notches within the body of the tree and upon sprouted branches. Shaped like tiny eyes with wrinkled eyelids, some still held dead branches that came forth but never made it into maturity. Circling the rippled textures, he wondered to himself why they had not made it, and if they had survived to today where would they extend to?

“Hey, don’t get lost down there; keep following!” she said as she looked down the many branch steps below her, “We still got some ways to go up.” Throwing her arm around the neck of the next highest branch, she hoisted herself sideways and used her left leg to act like an extra hand, “This spot will be a bit tough when you get up here,” she said through clenched teeth.

Focusing back to their goal, he scaled his way further up. The bark’s skin smoothed the further he rose. At some points, he had to strain as he leaned upon his tippy-toes to reach the next branch. Wobbling, at times, he felt nervous with each branch he accomplished.

Shoulders aching, he looked down and noticed he was nearly halfway to the top, but he couldn’t really be certain. But, everything below looked so much smaller; even the massive elephant trunk they scaled first gave an image much slimmer than before.

Through labored breathing he said, “I really can’t wait to see what we see from up there. I think we will see further than the next city, actually!” Smiling to inwards, he hoisted himself into the same sideways position she warned him about a few minutes previous. Forcing himself up between the two branches, he rested back against the fingers of the palm like tree branches. Closing his eyes, he let his feet and hands dangle.

As her white shoe disappeared with the rest of her around the other side of the tree, she shouted, “Come on you lazy bum!” As if reaching a further distance than she was, he strained to hear her yell next, “Oh! And – also, the tree branches seem to spiral as you get higher up, so be careful.”

Waking his eyes, he raced to catch up. As he labored further up the spiral tree staircase, he shouted, “Wait for me, ok? I can’t catch up to you. You are too fast.” As he rose, the thickening shade of the canopy darkened his reach and steps.

The wind gradually grew in strength, and it felt as if the gust were manhandling the tree. Frogs leaped from his stomach into his mouth and his limbs filled with icy water, “Hey, I am not sure if I can go any higher…” though she did not respond back. “Hey! I said I am too scared to go any higher, can you come back down for me?” The rustling of leaves in the strong gust were the only things responding back.

The world below swirled right then left, and then right again. Bracing himself close to the tree to help gain equilibrium, he began to inhale deep breaths and clenched his eyes shut. Within his head birds fluttered their wings while butterflies swirled in his stomach, “…I am really scared.” he stammered in a low cry.

As if the words were wrapped in soft silk he heard, “Don’t be, Jeremiah; you are safe, I will hold you.” The tree began to sway less and the leaves rustling became uniformed into a tempered musical performance. Breaking through the sea of green, sunlight danced across his face and illuminated his sight behind his tightly bound eyelids.

“But… I can’t go any higher; please don’t make me go higher…”

A soft hand nestled against his cheek, “You have gone far enough; you are not ready to reach to the apex of this tree yet, Jeremiah. That is fine, don’t feel rushed; you will get there soon enough.”

Opening his wrung tight eyes, he saw the leaves of green moving in waves all around him; as if the tree was breathing in and then out. Looking up through the many more branch steps to venture, he breathed a sigh. Pressing his soft face against the tree’s body, he hugged it and rested. The central spire was grounded, and through it grounded him.

His shirt was bathed in a warm lake around the collar that pooled into the chest. Looking up higher through the many steps, he decided it best to make his way back down. Each branch below his feet returned a feeling of wholeness to his weakened heart. The descent felt less exhaustive than the rise. Looking up one more time, the leaves danced in their calming wave.

Reaching the elbow of the massive branch he first started, he wrapped his body around the wide arm and swung himself around. Dangling there, he prayed the ground was not as far below him as he imagined it to be. With optimistic hope, he released his grip. Landing in a croched position, flows of electricity spread down from his shins and out the feet. Unable to maintain balance, he feel back upon his backside and then laid staring up through the journey just taken.

The tree swayed above. Closing his eyes, he imagined each branch reaching down, pulling him to his feet, and kissing his skin with its leaves. Snuggling his face into the leaves, they would absorb each tear from him. His heart fluttered and felt warmed at the thinking.

Rising to his feet, he stood firm like the tree. Imagining roots sprouting out into the ground and interlocking with the tree’s roots, he warmly gave thanks for its love and support.

“Thank you,” he whispered aloud; wiping at his cheeks. Leaving the outskirts of the tree’s wide shade, the sun bathed and warmed his skin. Trodding through the waist high dry grass, he made his way back home. Turning to the tree, it leaves danced in the wind. Waving back, he returned to the distant walk ahead, “Thank you…”

Wolf at the Door (Poem)

Wolf at the Door

Knock, Knock all you want –
Wolf –
I will not let you in.

I know your tricks –
Your trade.
You are a deceiver.

Though you whisper softly –
I know your play.
Knock, knock all you want.

I have locked all doors
and all windows –
you can’t get in.

Your tongue is silver
like your coat –
No, no you can’t get in.

Yes, I do fear you;
though, I too am smart.
I control this door.

Knock, knock all you want –
Wolf –
I will not let you in.

Visit someone else –
I know you do –
But here is my home.

And, you can’t get in.

Poems

typewriter-1580800

Adulthood

Releasing his sailboat,
no chain attached,
We stand together watching.

I wonder: will it return?
He wonders: how far will it go?

At times…

At times…
I become the King;
Ruler over the Kingdom of Man.
Everyone becomes my subjects.

At times…
I become the Artist;
The holder of creation
and great provider to man.

At times…
I become the lowest peasant;
Living at the end of the sea.
Their filth channeling to the sea.

Way Home

Upon the docks I stand,
Feet pointing to the white tips.

The ship has sailed once again;
ticket in hand, I missed my ride…
once again.

It will return to dock,
It always has…

Polar Opposites

Sometimes, it is me standing by the hole
Staring into the hole.

Sometimes, it is me standing by the hole
Staring into the sun.

All the While…

All the while…
While you festered over the anxiety of your present times:
The trees still moved.

All the while…
While you fretted about your public image:
The clouds still moved.

All the while…
While you obsessed over the things not done:
Those other things still wait to be finished.

All the while…
The trees still moved below the clouds,
All the while…

Pond Monsters

What I don’t understand is: why I think I can tame you.
Tempted by your siren call, I blankly walk into the depths were you claim.
Always, I keep returning to this place with you.

Water to my ankles, I wade deeper into your territory.
Your black shapes swirl beneath the surface.
My approach gives you no fear; only within me.

There between my legs you dance like two coy fish.
The soft flows of your bodies gliding around mine,
I drift with you both into a stupor.
Open, once again, to your poison.

Which will bite? I do not know.
Soon, a poison will enter my blood.
Soon, my sight will change.
Soon, I will know which bit me.

One day, the poison will win.
Over the years, repeated wounds.
I have not developed an immunity.

Each year, I become further addicted to your poison.
They dance within; replacing my blood.

Those on shore only see but do not know.
They are the observers. Hearts in hand.

Laying down into the water, my resting place is with you – both.

The Hidden Person

The Hidden Person

In the middle of the floor, the candle dripped along its sides. The pooling below gave the only evidence that it once was tall. Standing near to her only sunlight, she chewed at her index fingernail; grinding between her teeth with peeled back eyes. Shuffling at the floor, she wondered and wondered if the Handler would be generous enough to give her just one more stick; this time, she swore, she would take better care of it; she swore she loved it, and did not mean for it to disappear once more. Closer to the floor, the wick burned and the flame dimmed.

In the pitch black room with the pitch black walls, everything was cold and alone. No windows for light nor a door for an exit; Sliding a pressed shoulder against the walls, she shuffled around the room.

With each shoulder block found in a corner, she would stretch out her hands wide into the expansive shadows and follow the continuing lenght of her confinement. At times, she would wonder if the lengths of each wall were longer on two sides or even amongst each.

Though she would discover with her feet again, she lost the bed. It was a game of hide and seek that they played. Giggling with arms outstretched, though much below the height of each hand, she seeked her friendly place of rest and security.

The one place she knew to hide in a specific location was the waste bin; held in the middle of the floor. It was the only other private location she owned in a sea of complete shadow.

As she toured the walls on another familiar round trip, the sliding of the metal lock was pulled from its rest. The metal flap lifted and brief slit of illumination blinded her eyes. With a shove, The Handler gifted the timely food and drink mixture. Without complaint, she graciously appreciated her Handler and host, “Thank you, oh, thank you so much kind Handler. Your gifts are well received, yes they certainly are!” As usual, the metal window closed without acknowledgment.

Shuffling toe by toe, she approached the bucket. A daily gift; but, seriously, she could never be truly certain since she was never truly certain when a new day had started or ended. Within her shelter, she was safe; held in place like a hidden prized animal. If only the Handler would allow her to cook again. To roam for a few hours. She wouldn’t do it again. She’d stay hidden in the open; she could promise this.

Returning to her nest, she laid and stared into the nothing. It was all so pleasant, really; nothing was making sounds, nothing was to be belonging to her, and the Handler sought after all of her needs. She had nothing, and nothing was peaceful. Yup, she was finally at peace. She was cared for.

Feeling the frayed strands of what she remembered to be short golden flowing hair were now worn, thick, and matty. Each smooth layer replaced by clumps of ratty mess. Her pure bathed skin of oils and lotions replaced by scars and filth.

“If only the Handler would let me roam the world again…” she said into the blackness.

#

The wind’s frigid breeze bit at the brittle tight skin of his cheeks. Eager to be rescued, he leaned to peer down the street; the bus was late… again. A drunken path of hot water drew down his face and then froze against his cheeks.

Looking back towards the false-one story ranch, the long driveway curved and bent twice before reaching the two car garage. Built upon a hill in the back, the upper level was at sublevel, but the next two went following the slope of the hill. The house always gave him the creeps.

“Hey Bobby; it sure is chilli this morning, right?!” he said as Bobby slump-walked towards the bus stop. “My eyeballs are about to shatter! It is too cold today! – I think they should cancel school out of kindness to us.” Shrugging, “Of course they wouldn’t… I wish they had to stand out here for just five minutes! Man, we must stand out here freezing our butts off and then ride that cold bus for like an hour! School would be closed for all of winter they had to do this trip for one day, I am sure!”

Saying nothing in return, Bobby just stared at his feet. Unwavering in his obsessive view even when the bus arrived. Honking the horn, the driver announced to Bobby that she was to leave soon if he did not get on the bus, “It is freezing, kid; get on the bus so we can all go to school!” Each step felt as if he were lifting cemented feet. Pulling his way up the three high steps, he took a spot in the first empty seat at the front of the bus.

Looking back in the wide rear view mirror, the driver saw Bobby. Alone. All the other kids sat together in the back, but he didn’t anymore. His cheeks burned red and just below his eyes were puffy with stuffed cotton. Radioing in, she whispered their expected arrival time. Ms. Thorasin would meet them at the dropoff location.

Prideful for her credentials, Ms. Thorasin’s wall was decorated with frames that showed esteemed educational expertise and recognition of achievements in Child Psychology. She accomplished much in her short forty years of life. Of course, at parties she would discuss her recognitions, but only after discussing the other person’s first; she did not want to seem to showy.

Placing Bobby down at the round table in the middle of her office she asked, “How was your morning today, Bobby? It was pretty cold out there, huh?” Taking her seat in the red plastic chair across the table, she hunched over with a pulled smile and lifted eyes.

Hands clasped under the table together in tight fist, his gaze never left from the simple white pine glazed top table, “I am not sure…” The toes of his shoes wrestled each other for the top position; over and over again.

“No? How are you not sure, Bobby? I needed to warm my car this morning for what felt like an hour! I can’t stand cold seats; were the bus seats cold?” She said.

“I am not sure…”

A half frown weighted down her lips. Wheeling her chair over to the cabinet, she rummaged through the contents and said, “How about you draw me a picture, huh? I would like a picture, Bobby.” The introductory white light painted her face with clean snow sheen. Before dropping the tablet off for him, she opened the Paint program. It only required fingers for conducting. “Can you draw me something? Anything that is super important to you, Bobby?”

Shrugging, he slumped over the tablet, and got to work on his picture. Each stroke of his fingers across the glass screen felt meditative. The color choices, having choices, it was all invigorating for him. Sliding, brushing, marking the edges. His heart turned end over end.

“Let’s see what you have created us, shall we?” Ms. Thorsin said as he hovered over his image. Looking on, Ms. Thorsin curled her lip and bit at the dried skin. It was dark. What she feared most in a young child. A box; a pure black box, “Now, what have you created here, Bobby?”

Shrugging, he did not say anything particular about the picture. Instead, he said, “I just miss her…”

“You miss her, Bobby? Who is her, Bobby?”

“Someone I know. My friend.”

“Do I know her, Bobby? Can I meet her? Maybe, you could introduce us to each other?”

Shrugging, he returned to his hunched position. “No; I was told no. She is not to be my friend. I was told, she can’t come out anymore.”

Beyond a Grey Day

Beyond a Grey Day

Upon this morning, the house felt as if the heater decided never to kick on all night. The morning clouds filtered the previously glowing rays; pulling out the oranges, reds, and yellows and replacing them with greys, whites, and a soft blue. To his right, the bed laid empty, bare of another’s existence. Rolling over, John felt the empty section and the missing warmth of a body residing within. Pulling the shades back over his eyes, he fell into sleep with hopes of waking to a better morning.

The breeze outside pushed the witch-like-thin-finger branches against the window pane; smacks and screeches reverberated around the room. Waking to the fright, he grabbed the sheets in a twisted bunch within his fists. Still the place laid cold. Peering around the room, the walls and ceiling were painted in a thick grey mash. Willing each leg over the bedside, the floor felt as a cold slab beneath each foot. Stretching his back high to conduct his legs forward, each bone and muscle crunched and cracked into proper place.

“Ah, I see you made it down here and let me get some much needed rest, huh?” John asked to his wife who was sitting in her chair at the small square two seater kitchen table. Perfectly square, its appearance was dominated by a dull yellow that was speckled throughout with white glittering flakes. Though cheap by design, and aged over time, it was their first purchase as homeowners.

Their home was basic. Awarded more than needed for a home loan, John opted that they purchase a home they could live in comfortably rather than overly spacious. This fit their needs.

Reaching the plug-in percolator, he felt the cool metal siding; not even a trace of warmth. Picking up the pot, he swung it around in circles; hearing only a small amount of coffee containing within. Giggling he said, “I don’t believe that this is even microwave worthy…” Looking over, she sat. Staring out the window, both hands grasping around her small white mug, white steam vapors wafted to the air and disappeared.

Deciding that he would make his own, John got out the coffee tin from the revolving lazy-susan and begun the process. The previous contents still rested within the holder; damp but verging on soon becoming dry. With the familiar sounds of the water popping, he stepped back and enjoyed the musical notes and smells of brewing coffee.

The world outside the window provided an empty stage of entertainment. Each blade of grass bathed in grey; each tree waved gently in the wind’s breeze. Though present above the clouds, the sun too was having a morning of grey. Between her hands, her cup rested and she enjoyed her plain viewing show.

Taking in the aging fragrances of their drying roses that lined the walls of their home, John said, “You know, I can still smell the sweetness of these beautiful flowers. It was so very generous for all of those people to drop off so many flowers for us.” As he took in the many flowers around their kitchen and adjacent dining room he continued, “There were so many gifted to us that I had to place them in any spot I could find a vase to sit without tipping over,” he chuckled. With a childlike amusement for being creative he pointed outside, “I even planted a few stems in the ground, hoping they would grow – since I ran out of vases!”

Hands still clasped around the only thing giving warmth in the room besides his conversations, she stared longingly out the wide single pane window. The steam of her coffee continued to dance. Approaching the back of her chair, John rested each hand upon worn smooth wooden knobs that capped the outstretching limbs of the chair. Though they contrasted with the plastic and metal yellow table, the wooden chairs were an encouragement gift from John’s mother. Frustrated to the point, she decided to buy the couple two ornate chairs after seeing them stand at their yellow table while eating food. For his mother, the chairs held a hope that the couple would replace their ugly yellow table with white glittering flakes; to be replaced with one made of wood and for an adult couple.

Still, they never bought a new table that better matched those beautiful chairs.

“I think today,” John said, looking outside as well, “I will start our garden that we have always wanted. Though I am a bit nervous, not being the best with tools; but, I really want those garden boxes stood up so I don’t have to bend so far to reach our harvest. This should save us a lot of money, but only over time.”

The percolator completed its job, so he left her remaining in her silence. Pouring himself his own warm cup of coffee, he shot back the first cup without letting the coffee maker down for a moment. The hot contents filled his stomach and burst through to each limb. Pouring himself another cup, he rested his cup across the table from hers and took his seat.

Looking with her, the day outside was the same. Being grey painted, everything look in between. Not cold enough to give snow but not warm enough to bloom flowers of spring upon the trees. No birds flew and no critters skittered across the expansive lawns.

“Days like today,” he calmly said, “are a bit of a mess for me to understand, you know? While I could simply just step out the backdoor to inspect the weather, I just don’t feel like going out there at all.” Eyes blank, they stared out the window.

As the coffee reawoke his sleeping mind, John rose and strode over to the mantle above the fireplace. Picking up the photoframe that rested upon its glass surface, he saw a man in a handsome suit and the slender body of a woman’s glittering beauty within a white dress. The event was beautiful. They saved up and paid all expenses themselves. They were overjoyed by just having a day that celebrated their hard won accomplishments. A day that bound them together as one person. From that day forward, John saw her as his only true universal personal; all things did revolve around her.

Remembering back to last time she was sick, he cared for her day to night and into the next day with food, drinks, bedding, and constant love. Brushing her hair, bathing her skin, and changing the sheets daily. The truest love was the love you gave through action not through purchases, his heart believed.

When they first started dating, he would remark on how her presence had become a pillar supporting his existence; how, without her he was but a shell of himself, a lost boy in a sea of people. Never feeling alone, he loved her with all his heart. Within the picture, her wide smile and gorgeous eyes radiated an abundant beauty that produced naturally from within.

Resting the frame back upon its legs, he placed one of the dried roses at its base, gave the photo a loving kiss, and turned. Swallowing within his wrung dry throat, he rubbed his sternum to help lead the movement down. Each eye felt tired, worn… covered in dust.

There she was, still holding her warm cup of coffee. Staring out among their beginning to green landscape; the trees swayed in the breeze with the birth of budding flowers. Soon, their buds would produce a gift of beautiful aromas to the world outside. Above, the clouds were soon loosening their blanket hold upon the sun. Freeing from its bondage, the sun bathed the grass below in a shower of golden fire; each blade rose to standing in joyous rapture.

Lowering himself down, he kissed the cool air that shaped the top of her head. The coffee had no smell; providing a warmth only to her hands. To her ear he whispered, “I will always love and remember you; your soul is mine; where you go I will soon travel. No place I will be without you and you without me. In this existence and in others, I am with you and you with me. I love you my sweet love. Forever… we are bound as one.”

The mudroom was empty except for his boots that were dry and waiting for his arrival. They stood tall, side by side. Pulling at the top lips, each rubber boot was placed upon a foot. The rubber noise they made as they returned to the linoleum flooring echoed throughout the home.

Against his palm, the handle of the oval shaped door handle turned with a squeak and then a click as it unlatched from the door frame. Opening to the outside, the room filled with the illumination of an orange burning glow.

Remembering how to place his foot at each step, he made his way down the two step staircase to the soft unmanaged grass. Each blade reached as high as his ankles. The light was both warm to his skin and assaulting to his eyes. Squeenting, John raised his right hand to provide shade to his unadjusted sight. Around him, life occurred. Dancing from place to place, nothing stopped for his time in hibernation.

When he felt his distance was far enough, he turned to see their two story white house. Beneath a grey shadow, the structure appeared displaced as it hovered over the green hued grass that encircled it. Just beyond the wide window he saw their table. Her chair empty, the coffee mug missing.

Gentle to his back, the hands of the wind pushed him further towards the open hills beyond. With each foot step moving forward, his heart floated free like a hot air balloon. But… a piece would always be anchored back there; left within the house he onced shared. Her presence, in this life and in the next, would be with him forever. Their love was one; sharing one body, one heart.

Punching in the Wind

Punching in the Wind

                As the tape began its clockwise rotation around his wrist, Henry Jesus “The Flyer” Jorge felt the usual adhesive side pull against the hairs. Wrapping the tape from wrist to hands, The Flyer closed his eyes and imagined the fight ahead. The jabs, the stances and gliding of feet, and the physical pressures required as he fought his way to the championship. When he was younger in Little Puerto Rico, he was taught that job security was insecure and that he would need to fight for everything gained. In alleys, him and his friends, as well as rivals, would prepare for their future; bareknuckle boxing each other for hours after school and on weekends. By the age of seven, Henry had broken two fingers, dislocated his middle knuckle on the right hand, and fractured one rib on the left.

Him and his closest friends would hold sleep overs at different homes throughout the weeks and weekends; rotation was based on which parents were approving of the lot of them to stay or which were too stone drunk to object. Most usual pick was Henry’s house. Being the safest choice, some of his friends would sleep over even during nights that they weren’t holding a group sleepover.

Henry’s father was an honorable man of many morals. Sadly, by the age of twelve, Henry’s father had been killed in a workplace accident. Steel Works and Factory, the place where Jesus Ramirez Jorge, Henry’s father, worked was regularly cited for varying workplace hazards. Being that Steel Works and Factory hired many minority and poor community members from Little Puerto Rico and being well connected with many politicians most of their citations were reduced, forgiven, or overlooked. However, these overlooks and lowered repercussions had caused the Jorge family their husband, father, and friend.

With Mr. Jorge’s death, Steel Works and Factory was never charged harshly. Additionally, being that Jesus was still in the process of becoming a full United States citizen the respect for his case had low expectations. Given a simple stipend for the loss of life to his family, a fine paid that was reduced through bribes, and a simple apology the company was let off without any lessons learned.

Jesus and Henry’s mother, Dalia Jorge, met while Dalia bussed and waited on tables at the Pit Stop Diner, which was the closest restaurant to the mill. Being of Puerto Rican decent, Dalia had full US citizenship, and through marriage and his stable career, Jesus was protected as he went through the immigration process.

Flickering above his head, Henry could see the shadows around the room disappear and then reappear from under his hood that rested around his face. With little other opportunity, Henry hoped to make his rise to prominence in boxing. His father taught him the importance of guarding, jabbing when open, and patience. His coach, Rollie “Fingers” Vasquez, took Henry under his ownership and guidance before his father lost his life in the mill. When Jesus had died, Rollie stepped in to fill the father vacancy role for Henry. They would train each day after school and into the late night; as well, being that Dalia was hyper focused on school achievement over ring achievement, Rollie also tutored Henry in his school work. However, being that Rollie never passed the eighth grade, he learned as much as Henry did in each lesson.

Smacking his shoulders and voicing prays before the match, Rollie pushed his forehead against Henrys. Pre-punches were a ritual for the team. When he first started training Henry, Rollie would say, “It will toughen your skin, boy, and remember those fist in the ring will be a lot tougher!” Pulling on Henry’s gloves and checking the tape job at the wrist, Rollie prepared Henry like he was to go into battle. The checkup was so usual that it became as normal as walking for Henry. Though he nearly felt none of it, if not preformed everything proceeding would feel incorrect.

Coming from a family of six and placed in the middle, Henry was usually the least noticed. But, as The Flyer, he was the pinnacle of the family’s pride now. The income from fighting paid well enough; but, he was still considered an amateur fighter and was in the range of lightweight. When he was adolescent and teen, he would try and bulk up but never gained enough to be a larger man like his father Jesus and two other brothers. So, he learned to perfect his position and strength of agility instead.

The room rumbled with the collective noise of the crowd as they stomped and chanted for the fight to come. Most of the viewers were from Little Puerto Rico and filled the crowd with fanatical excitement for their hero – The Flyer. Known for his slick feet and flying fist, Henry fought with passion and focus.

The money he collected from each match went to his family and the first place winner of each match night got a bonus of two hundred and fifty dollars. The last place would only garner their entrance payment of fifty dollars. As the matches dwindled down, he was now in the final match against the other top ranked fighters and the bonus for first place was much needed for his family.

The flutters of anxiety flowed up from his stomach and into his throat. Melting in cold streaks, the anxiety returned back down like ice water. Though favored to succeed, Henry was not a person who based future outcomes on faith of confidence. Rather, success was achieved through focus, patience, and perseverance. This was the final match for his local tri-city league, and beyond were the opportunities at regionals. The pay was better for each qualified contender at regionals, and the better funds would be used for repairs at the mother’s home.

Without many options, Henry found work at the same mill his father had been fatally killed. As he walked through the metal security gates each day, he would say a loving and forgiveness request pray to this father. Much to his mother’s heavy disappointment, Henry worked at the mill based on desperation to support his large family than anything else. Beginning in the janitorial services division, he had worked his way up the divisional ladders and now reached the position of machinery operator. The position was a step lower than the one his father held, which was machinery repairs and operations.

Palming his face left and right, Rollie proceeded with his regular words of encouragements, “Ya got this! Ya know, you are a good kid! Your dad would be proud. Damn that mill!” Spitting upon the floor, the expected words and ritual movements proceeded, “An’ you’ve gotten yourself this far – kid! You have helped community and family, and you will soon be onto further heights!” Lifting himself up from crouched eye level, Rollie placed his fist against his hips. Wearing the chosen colors of satin blood red and white stripes, Henry always wondered who chose the color scheme. The way the colors mixed looked similar to a cotton ball being pulled from his nose after a match…

Smacking his plain fist against Henry’s red gloves, Rollie said, “I know you are anxious, son but remember what you are fighting for. You have the speed of a humming bird, the power of the bull, and the determination of a mother bear. I am proud of you, and tonight you will go farther than you have ever before.” Pulling at Henry’s base of his neck, Rollie collided their foreheads together again and prayed for God’s protection, love, and strength. Nodding in agreement, Henry knew what was at stake and was focused on the match ahead.

Proceeding down the white painted cement hall, his feet felt as if they were trudging through swampy mud. Joyfully massaging his shoulders and slapping at his back, Rollie spoke words of encouragement but all his words sounded muffled like he was talking through a pillow. His mind was in the steps, rolls, pulls, and punches he would be throwing. The match was in place in his head already. Feeling the crowd’s excitement in their roars, his anxiety fluttered even heavier in his chest.

As if waking from a deep sleep to the bright flash of a Maglite in the eyes, Henry entered the main floor with the spotlights all on him. Their boisterous roars rolled through the stadium as their champion was made viewable. Everyone stood, even some upon their seats to see him. Those close enough reached out to touch his shoulders or pat him on the back with encouraging words for the upcoming fight. Entering the ring, he modestly took in the excitement and waved with one hand as he turned to face everyone.

Anxiety peaking, Henry didn’t even hear the voice of the announcer shout in the microphone, “In this corner – local hero Henry ‘The Flyer” Jorge! Weighting in at 135 pounds, he is known for his speed and punches – not just his size!” The crowd roared and stomped at the introduction and began shouting “Fly away!” with each pause between the stomps.

“And in this corner,” the announcer proceeded, “the man known for his fist, towering frame, and determination to give no space for his opponent – George ‘No Quarters’ Wright! Weighing in at a powerful strength of 145 pounds, he stands at five-six but brings down a tower of fury!” While the crowd was filled with the fanatical followers for Henry, the seats also housed large support groups for George “No Quarters” Wright, and with his official announcement the peppered through supports stomped, clamped, cheered, and whistled for their guy.

Being encouraged forward to the middle, the two opponents faced one another with folded brows and twitchy muscles. Their eyes burned into one another’s and sweat streamed down their faces. No Quarters anxiously pressed back upon his heels and forward upon the toes tempting the space between them while The Flyer stood firm. Fixed on his opponent, Henry kept concentration on No Quarter’s anxious movements. While larger in frame and strength, Henry worked out detailed plans in his mind for the coming collide.

Knocking each other’s gloves, the lightweight contenders nodded at one another and the announcer pointed each back to their home corners. Rollie shouted encouragements and instructions into Henry’s ear but it sounded like whispers as he competed with the audience. Henry’s arms felt like they were full of feathers but his torso was weighted down by moving water. Remembering the glare of anxiety in No Quarter’s eyes, Henry mapped out the multiple opportunities and mistakes that he would make in the fight. The bell sounded throughout the entire stadium above all other noise. On their feet, they glided to the center of the ring. Gloves up and teeth clamping down.

Eye to eye, the two opponents bumped their gloves together, the referee worded the expected fairness of a clean fight, and the two fighters adjusted their mouth pieces to comfortable position. Stepping back, the referee lifted and then brought down his hand and shouted for the fight to begin. Bringing their fists to eye level, the two fighters closed the in upon the imaginary boarder between them.

As if circling a disputed kill in the middle of the ring, the two made their mental preparations and looked for openings. Trying their best to use their peripheral vision, each did not want to give clues to where the other was seeking their first opening. Twisting at the middle and bringing up a fake punch to The Flyer’s right, No Quarters leaned in with a right forcing The Flyer to defend. With a lighting fast change in position, No Quarters brought up on the left and landed a left hook to The Flyer’s cheek. The slam was weaker than his right hook, but the force of the blow brought spots into The Flyer’s eyes. Countering, The Flyer released an automatic shoulder into the chest of No Quarters to give him space and then a right hook into No Quarter’s side. Anticipating, No Quarter’s withdrew from the blow and reduced the damage levied.

Stepping in, the referee broke them up, gave a few seconds for a slight pause, and then allowed the fighters to proceed once more.

Collecting themselves back to the middle, they began their circling dance once more. Knowing the requirements and pressures of family, community, and the need for his success the flutters that swirled around in his stomach felt as if they were trying to escape through his mouth. Lines of sweat ran down No Quarter’s forehead; his posture was tight but hunched just a little at the shoulders. His fist looked like the heads of hammers. Within a quick blink, No Quarters was shooting fists at The Flyer’s face, torso, and sides in a fury. As if this was a life or death, No Quarters rained down upon The Flyer.

Breathing heavy with dazed memory, Henry rested upon a stool in his corner. No Quarters was being slapped on the shoulders with smiles on his team’s face, he was leading the fight. Henry was pained and puffy from eye to jaw. His body reddened around his shoulders, stomach, and sides; worse hit along his right side. Tears and sweat streamed down his face and rested at the chin. With the ring of the bell, he pulled himself up upon his weakened legs and inched back to the center. The fight was back on. Blow upon blow, he felt as if he was going to shatter like glass.

Smelling the sweat and blood stained floor, Henry felt the strength leave him as he exhaled. Nearly unable to roll upon either of his sides, he laid there as the counts moved down from ten. His mind was numb and his body and limbs were sore to the tips. As the referee counted down, he heard each number in slow decent. Shouts from his community pleaded for him to rise and not give up. Willing himself forward, he pressed upon his elbows and gloves and he rose from the bedding below. The lights bright above, he rose himself to full standing.

Staggering, he fell to each side upon liquid feet. Holding him straight, the referee asked him health concerning questions. Waving him off, The Flyer moved back to the center. Holding his lead weighted gloves he saw lights break his vision again and then again. Each blow felt as if he was getting hit by sand bags. With difficulty breathing, he fell again to the floor.

All sounds were filtered through ears plugged of cotton. At the distant sound of a high pitched buzz the match was over. Without strength, he fell into the darkness of a deep sleep.

Reaching second place in the local finals, many others were proud of him but for Henry the title was a representation that he was close to the top but just not good enough. While the body would heal, his soul was fractured.

Within a few weeks, he was standing firm again on stable earth below his feet. While still bruised and swollen, Henry had returned to his regular training schedule to prepare for the next attempt of reaching finals. Each punch in the leather lined sand punching bag felt as if he was going shatter, but he kept on.

The reward money received for his placement in the local finals was used to help pay some repairs at his mother’s home. The money nearly paid for the full repairs, and it stung to know that the first place reward money would have been able to pay for the entire first repair and then a portion of the next repair still needing attention. Working an extra shift at the mill, he put in the hours to make up the gap of money still needed to help his family, and the few other free hours he had left were used to keep practicing boxing. Rollie stayed persistent in Henry’s training. Being both Henry’s physical and emotional support, he explained that Henry’s loss in the match was due more to his inability to anticipate an opponent of higher or equal quality than himself and not due to his physical preparedness.

Rollie was right. Henry’s over confidence in his fighting skills were inconsistent to when he was matched against a more experienced fighter like No Quarters. The previous fights Henry faced were against local enthusiast who practiced much less in comparison. Now, through his defeat, it had shown that these previous matches made him too arrogant and assuming. He had failed. He had failed himself, his family, his community, and who he wished to impress most – his father.

With each wrist breaking blow to the bag, Henry kept these thoughts in the forefront of his mind. He knew who was responsible for his failure. Henry was not one to blame others for his mistakes. Still stinging from his match, he would progress again and have another match against No Quarters. Henry, like No Quarters, would progress to Regionals too and finish in the higher rankings such as No Quarters had. In the final matches of the Regionals, No Quarters reached placement of fourth. While disappointing for No Quarters, it was still higher than what Henry had achieved.

When Henry was younger, his father taught him to, “Learn from your mistakes, learn from others who teach you best, and learn without judgement. This will make you a good man and person one day, son.” Taking this lesson as a personal mantra, when No Quarters returned from Regionals Henry sought him out and requested to train with him.

When the door opened to the gym, all shadows scattered away as the explosive sunlight entered in. The silhouette frames were all that was visible as they stood in the door way. Proceeding forward, George “No Quarters” Wright and his coach Jim Stuart walked into Punching Bag gym with their bags in hand and excitement in their steps. Nodding to Henry, they approached the sore man and said, “Flyer, are you ready?”

 

Without Wings

Without Wings

                Just before the door slammed into the frame, she was out the door and stomping down the cement square path heading to her beat up Chevy car. Being a teenager, Richard thought to himself, she was easily roused to a fury; as his wife warned, “With a few words she can be moved to tears, fits, or laughter. She ain’t your little baby-girl anymore, Rich…” Flipping the paper to expand the fold, it made a loud crackle noise as it moved outwards. Though he was gifted a wonderful tablet by his children last Christmas, he was traditional and preferred the smell, feel, and look of a regular New York Times in his hands every morning. Yes, they were correct that it was wasteful and at times frustrating to fold but, looking at the front door, he had dealt with worse.

Running down the stairs at a speed that sounded like he was falling, his son and youngest of his kids made his way for the door but stopped when Richard asked, “Kevin… In a rush?”

 

Losing his balance as he tried to simultaneously tie his shoe while putting it on, he landing his back hard against the wood tiled wall. Rubbing at his lower back he mouthed the pain and winced at the touch. Getting up from the chair, Richard helped his son up and sat him down upon the first stair; helping him tie and put on the shoes correctly, since Kevin was putting the shoe on the wrong foot the first try. “Son,” Richard sighed, “you are a good kid, but you need to think a bit more and really – slow down. Those stairs are all wood and you could have slid down them to the floor here and gotten hurt worse.”

Nodding in agreement, Kevin said, “Yeah, I know Dad. I will try… I just; well, I slept through my alarm again and Stephanie didn’t wake me up though she easily saw that I was sleeping in my room when she went to the bathroom to get ready today!” Shock on his face and grabbing for his backpack, Kevin stood straight up with the last shoe nearly tied and shouted, “OH MY GOD! Wait! Has Stephanie left yet? She is my ride to school!”

Pulling tight on the double knot, Kevin so distracted by the panic rising his chest he ran past his father and out the door. Though Richard tried to flag him down before he ran out the door to give him some breakfast, Kevin was a blur as he ran pass the dinning room window and across the grass to the end of the driveway where his sister Stephanie was pretending she was to leave him by attempting to back out into the street. Pounding on the hood, Richard could hear Kevin shouting at his sister in an attempt to stop her from leaving him behind.

Looking into the mirror with her hands as her right ear, Jackie, his wife, was adjusting the new silver small looped earrings she purchased for herself the day before, “You know, honey, Kevin acts like you when you were younger.” With great detail, she adjusted her executive suit and skirt; being the head of information for the company HR On Call was a pressing position but Jackie was the type of person who handled stress well; much better than Richard.

Looking over his shoulder he questioned, “…How would you know how I was at Kevin’s age?”

Without much pause, she responded, “Your mother.” Laughing, she pulled Richard up from the floor and hugged him, “Honey, if he is anything like you are as a kid then it is a good sign; since, it tells both of us that he will become like you are now. A very community respected individual, a great father, and a charming husband.” After a soft pressing kiss, she released him and held his hands at their waist. “Now, I too must rush; they get that quality from me.” Snickering, she grabbed her purse and too darted out the door to the garage. Her white S-class Mercedes was shining in the rising summer sun. She kept it smoothed, buffed, and without clutter inside or out of the car. While her car was of higher power and class status, Richard always felt comfortable in his simple Hyundai station wagon, which he jokingly called the family’s “War Wagon.”

————–&————–

His heart leaped into his throat; cold rushing blood ran down from the back of his head and into his limbs. Everything was a panic, but he just floated and then sank further down…

————–&————–

Life in the suburbs had all the thrills of an expected life. Typical home security in the neighborhoods, proud school districts, and common social services for the community such as recycling and trash at the curb pick up with street and sidewalk snow removal in the winters. Their home was a typical 2,500 sq. ft home in suburbia with a two car garage, and four car driveway. When Jackie and Richard married, they agreed that they would live in the surrounding neighborhoods and move away from the city life to have less noise, less danger, and more time to relax as a family. Naïve in thinking as new parents, they didn’t realize that when a child grew up all parents would be pushed away and forgotten; similarly as they did when they were that age too.

However, they never knew the social maintenance cost to be associated in such environments; such as, suburban workplace etiquette, keeping a home with aesthetic glamor, buzz cut flat lawn – no hills, flower blooming circulation, and community involvement. Each day while he worked in his four walled cubical home away from home, he would wonder if he would be better suited and if the children would have adapted successfully even further outside of the city; such as in the rural communities where the closes neighbor might be no nearer than a mile.

————–&————–

The clouds split just above and below the hanging sun giving the look of eyelids to an eye. At the edges, they rolled back like a bed comforter being pulled to reveal the under sheet’s colors. The storm would be nice when it fell over the valley…

————–&————–

Always part of the team, Richard would help provide assistance coaching at all the events of his kids. He cared that they participated at their fullest, and his intention was to provide that fatherly support as a father at home, coach in their activities, and support team as they excelled or faltered. While Jackie, being the CIO of HR On Call, equally cared about the family and the children’s wellbeing, Richard took on the part of the more active parent. At each event, he would paint his face the school’s colors and, at times embarrassingly for his kids, be the human mascot for the children’s sporting events; even at events like chess club.

Within the next year, though, Stephanie was going to be leaving for State and this would take a set of activities off of his already pilled high plate. Though he had felt selfish at times, relaxing at work he would lean back in his chair and just imagine the things he would be freed up to do when those slots of time where given back to him. With his son Kevin, the activities were much less interactive for Richard as an assistance coach. Taking the more aggressive side of his mother, he gravitated to school sports like: wrestling, football, and lacrosse. Usually, to the excitement of Richard, he could just blend into the crowd like the many other parents; but, unlike most the of the other parents, he paid attention to the games progression.

————–&————–

Weightlessness. Reaching the point of float, the frame descended towards the earth below. Wide eyed and grasping the wheel, everything was exercised in hope to slow the decent of the fall and glide to safety.

————–&————–

Not being an argumentative type, Richard’s take on conflict resolution with his kids was to passively engage in the hope the tempers would burn themselves out. Much to his disappointment, he had found after eighteen years of marriage and sixteen years of child raising… he was the only one who practiced calm discussions in disagreements. While he adored his wife, he had hoped that his qualities would have been more nurtured in their children’s upbringing; unfortunately, the loudest one is usually noticed and then mimicked.

Jackie had always played the dominate role in their relationship. First, she pursued him, when they got engaged she proposed to him, and while small framed she even lifted him after they kissed at the altar. When she was giving birth to their first, she directed the nurses on what she needed, told Richard where to sit, and before they left for the hospital she was at work until she was nearer to the last stage of labor. She even drove herself to the hospital but only after Richard arrived at her work and forced her, as best he could, to leave the office.

————–&————–

The wind whistled through the partially opened window on the driver side. The speed of the fall pulled hard against his body; walking back along his cheeks to the elbows of his jaw, his tears made darks spots on his dark purple polo. Clutching his teeth, he frantically pressed the break but there was no turf to hold the wheels in place against the open falling.

————–&————–

Though Richard had always played a positive role in his community and family, he was not motivated by religious beliefs such as karma. Rather, Richard believed that positive health and life benefits were consequences of his generosity being noticed and respected by those he touched. Having a healthy family and enough wealth to support them was all he wished to have. Each morning, he would wake up before his family and sneak in a peak to see his wife and children sleeping. He was full of love for what he had.

 

Forever focused on his family, starting at the birth of their first, Stephanie, him and his wife decided to opening a college tuition fund for her. As she was fast approaching her final days in high school, she would not go to college with worry like most families and freshmen who feared how they would finance their education. Though he was a little nervous about her beginning in State, being that Stephanie would be much younger than most starting college, at age sixteen during her first semester, he was confident in her adaptability. Stephanie started school at the expected age of five like all other children in her age group, but by second grade she progressed well enough and it was recommended she leap a year. Socially, it was challenging at first but her persistence in needing to be respected by her peers and intellectually recognized by her teachers helped her adapt to the changing environment soon after starting her first semester.

With their second, Kevin, equally stubborn and persistent, his focuses have not been as high as Stephanie’s. Kevin never rushed grades, didn’t feel the need to be praised for brains; rather his bran, and was more focused on contact sports than the books. However, it would be important to note that though more physically focused Kevin still finished all his work on time and completed each course with passing grades higher than average scores of his classmates. No matter what, Richard was always going to be proud of both his children.

————–&————–

“…He restores my soul;

He guides me in the paths of righteousness

For his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for you are with me;

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me…”

— Psalm 23

————–&————–

As the weight and momentum of the car finally came to a rest at the valley floor, the front end of the car made contact first. The sheer weight and drop broke the frame of the car and pushed the engine compartment and components into the driver and passenger seating. Being the only person in the car, Richard died immediately upon impact. The driver and passenger seating were forced into the middle of the car with him pressed between the crumpled front and the driver seat.

 

The groceries he was returning home with were scattered in all directions around the car and across the hill side. Car pieces were smashed and split along with the groceries. Though the force was great, the car never ignited. A Highway Patrolwoman would later find the beginning pieces of the tragedy at the top of the elevation.  Scattered pieces of his front lights laid strewn before the folded back guard rail. Below, the crumbled hunk of Richard’s Hyundai Elantra Touring would be seen as a small heap of metal at the bottom. Within their home, the family would learn of their loss on the couch in the living room just steps from the stairs Kevin flew down that morning, the front door that was slammed by Stephanie, and the mirror Jackie prepared herself for her day. The words of the police officers would sound muffled. Their busy minds would halt into a slow crawl for the first time.

The next morning, the New York Times would be delivered. Folded in half, it would rest upon the welcome waiting for the reader.

Day Dreamers

Day Dreams

                The golden sun light fell upon the hilly fields of dry grass through the thick white clouds above. Looking like fluffy snow mounds weightless in the sky, the clouds drifted towards the open waters to her left.  Laying comfortably upon his back, John rested with his eyes closed but was not asleep; while, Jenn rested upon her elbows and shoulders hunched looking out across the open ocean of grass and wild flowers dancing in the slow wind. The flannel blanket below them laid flat upon the ground, pushed up above the ground through the pressed grass below. Ants, spiders, and other insects ran under their laying bodies and sheet exploring the early night in their homes.

Below the shade of the cherry tree they laid near, the couple enjoyed the peace and quiet that was rarely found in their lives anymore. Getting their careers in full swing, having children, and being the only members of both sides of their families to be having children made their privacy and peaceful moments alone or together nonexistent. Watching as the tall grass blades waved in the wind, Jenn breathed in a full inhale and felt her body sink further into the Earth.

The wind gracing her face, she felt refreshed. The sounds of nature, the soft light of the high sun, and the lack of others gave freedom to the couple. Pulling herself up from the floor, she sat in a cross legged position. Turning to John, she rested her hand upon John’s mountain peaked leg she asked, “Sweetie… do you worry about laying on the ground and having an insect crawl into your ear?”

Pulling his arm over his eyes and attempting to block his ears from the tiny explorers, he exhaled in a deep sigh and said, “Well, I didn’t until now…” Laughing lightly, he stayed plastered to the floor and did not move further.

“Sweetie?” Jenn said in a soft questioning voice.

“Yes, Honey?” he replied.

Inhaling, Jenn relaxed and asked, “Is it terrible of me, as a mother, if… I just wish we could stay here and never see anyone again? It is so… peaceful here. No screaming, not visitors; it is just us. …I just feel awful.”

Pulling his arm from his sight, he looked at the back of his wife and half frowned, “Why do you feel awful? If it makes you feel better, I have been laying here thinking the same exact thing.” Giggling, he rested his arm back over his eyes.

Feeling nervous about her answer, she pulled her legs to her chest and rested upon the knees, her chin pressed deep into her arms. “It is just…” she muttered, “that I feel we should not want to have this. We have children, and shouldn’t they be the reason why we suffer through the lack of our freedoms. Like, the sacrifices we make to support them gives them a chance for better than we had when we were young… right?”

Without hesitation, John answered, “No, I don’t think either of us are bad for wanting our freedoms back. Also, you carried each of the little boogers for a little over nine months. Hell, that is nine months in your body!” Snickering he expanded, “Also, in the end, by the time they reach college they will have a whole load of friends to support them in their needs and listen to how terrible their parents were to them when they were young. All of them will collectively agree that they too will do better for their children. Honey, just remember, we will always be a failure to our children like our parents were for us.”

While his advice had always been blunt and dripping in sarcasm, Jenn understood his meaning. After being with each other since they met in high school, she learned to adapt to his unique way of providing perspective on life. Usually metaphorical, most found his advice to be aggressive and confusing; though, usually John was right. He just had very little patience, so he tried to provide perspective in a way that reduced his time needed to talk to you, or how he said it “I am trying to make them think… so I don’t have to for them.”

With a slight curl to her question, Jenn asked, “Do you ever wonder what our lives would be like if we never got together?”

Pulling his neck up, he curled his smile with knitted eyebrows. “Like… alternate realities, kind of question?”

Her chin rubbed against the bones in her forearms as she nodded, “Yes, exactly. What if we never met, where would we be? Have you ever thought about that? Like, would I still have had children? Would I have graduated college; been as distant to my family as I am now? Or!, moved out of the country and became a great CEO of some large company?”

Falling back into his bed of pressed grass, he looked through the shaded side of the cherry leaves above him where the sun was blocked from getting fully to the ground below. With a sigh, he rolled his bent arm back over his eyes and said, “Honey, I am not sure what you ‘would’ have become but I do know who you have become right now. It is hard to try and connect such questions to a definitive reality, but I do feel that if you hadn’t of met me I would not have been the person I am, which, for me, is an existence I have enjoyed and am happy to have had thus far. I hope you would feel the same too,” ending his point with an edge to questioning in his voice.

Looking back at his resting body in the shade of the large cherry tree blossoming above them, she felt a pull against her throat. She did not want to hurt him, but secretly she had always hoped to of had a different and more adventurous life. In her younger early teen years, she held the ambition to travel to ever continent and visit the various other world cultures. Most nights, she would fantasize about leaving a footprint of hers on every shoreline in the world. While likely an impossible task, now the obligations of their family and career lives made such travels near impossible.

The wind picked up across the hilly landscape. Flowing with the motion, the fluffy white clouds merged and overlapped one another shading more of the tall grassy and wild flower fields. Changing the entire landscape to duller colors, Jen felt the sinking feeling that she would be returning to her modern life soon; in only a few days, her liberation would be shown temporary.

As John laid there with his knees peaked like tiny mountains above the ground rattled with life scurrying all around them, his chest felt pressed in with each breath. Though his eyes ached, he held back his pain. Knowing Jen for so many years, they had talked many times about the exciting opportunities that laid for them in the world; though, all those hopes and wishes had been removed for her now. Settling down with careers and then children, the doors to those adventures had now been shut and locked for them. They had shared their observations with their friends and family but most were unsympathetic. Worse, even some thought they were trying to get the approval to put their children in foster care so they could go enjoy immature lifestyles of travel and leisure!

Rubbing her hunched back, he felt her soft cotton shirt against his palm. Her body was warm and her inhales were heavy. Sighing, Jen pressed her chin further into her forearms and grasped her knees tighter. Questioning, she asked, “Why is it that we are considered odd or monster like when we talk about these feelings to others?”

“It is because, Honey, most others give up on dreams at an early age; we just… simply, we just never grew out of the idea that we could still explore, learn, and be creative.” Rising to sit next to her, he leaned in and pressed his firm lips against the side of her head. Playfully pressing his forehead against her soft hair he said, “Come on, let’s go for a walk. We can’t just lay here all day, can we? Because of you, I am scared of having an ant call into my ear now…” Chuckling, John rose to his feet and extended an open hand to her.

Looking up into his long jawed smile and shaded face, Jen felt her heart sink. Though she had thought some nights about simply packing a few things and fleeing from her personally made sentenced life, her loyal obligations to John were more important than her own desires. Lying to herself during the hardest moments, she would repeat to herself that her and John would travel one day… when they were old, hopefully.

Together they walked down the matted down grass path that had a few large patches that no grass could birth threw; just dry tannish brown dirt. The clouds detaching again, allowed for the sun to stretch down again and help guide their path back to the adults only bed and breakfast. The weather was pleasant and dry, but Jen held hope that the chance for a light rain would still produce later that day. As a small chipmunk scurried just a few steps in front of them, he turned to face them and then darted back to the shelter of the tall blade of grass that waved at the couple as they left the hilly cherry tree orchard.

As the stones crunched beneath their shoes, she focused her mental thoughts to make memories of the sounds; remembering the last time she was at peace before returning home to chaos. A short moment in life that her and John were back to a place of peace.

Back where they laid and pressed the grass down the insects made their way along on their many legs, the spiders pursued them, and the grass blades bent their bodies back to the sky. The clouds drifted and the sun pushed through further. Everything was simple in the hilly valley of the cherry tree fields. Without sounds but for nature, everything was at peace.

Burning Pit of Desire

Burning Pit of Desire

               The black ocean sky pulled from edge to edge of the horizons, like a bed sheet tight across each corner. The pyre, roaring in fury, reached out in greedy grabs for more fuel to consume. Heaved from the hands of the participants, the books flew in arch motions towards the outstretched arms. Pages flapping against one another gave them the look of rectangular flightless birds attempting to escape from their impending doom below. Reaching higher, the flames glowed bright in the milky white eyes of the Preacher. Rolling with laughter as the books kept being thrown, he waved in more of his community to join in upon the festivity like a ring leader at a circus. The crowd grew thicker; shoulder to shoulder, they looked upon the massive blaze. Curling as they burned away, the books glowed amber and then crumbled to ash.

“Yes, everyone, yes! Righteous justice against sin has been called upon God’s people! Send this abomination of writing to the fires of Hell!” Pointing to the flaming rise, Preacher Smith threw another novel of “I Came from Somewhere, But Became Someone” by Joseph Gilbson. Landing into the pile, flecks of embers broke away and danced into night the sky.

The celebration was held on the front lawn of First Baptist Community Church of God. Located in the middle of the small town called Somewhere, the fire’s light touched nearly all corners of the no stop light town. Living a tortured existence within Somewhere, Joseph Glibson ran away at the age of sixteen. Finding no salvation at home or within his community, he hoped to find it elsewhere beyond the town of Somewhere. And, with his book, Joseph felt it to be an open letter to his community notifying them that he has succeeded and was now safe and happy beyond their aggression and torture.

At the early age of six years, Joseph found he held strong affections for other boys within his peer group that was beyond simple friendships. His first attraction was to the fair haired and freckled faced boy Jim Barrons. Of similar age, Jim lived only three houses down on the same side of the street as Joseph’s family. Admiring from Joseph’s bedroom window Jim in his backyard fighting imaginative enemies with sticks and shields, he would watch the other boy play hero until Jim was called in for dinner. In Somewhere, the Barrons’ family held most of the respected and leadership roles for the community, such as mayor, community representatives, and even some held office in the state’s legislator.

While his affection for Jim was warm and caring, many within Somewhere would not understand the odd attraction a boy would have for another boy. For those in the community, such held affections were simply illogical and went against all forms of natural processes and God’s work. Especially within his own family, Jim found how little he would be understood or respected. After confiding in his mother that he would ask the boy Jim to be his Valentine that year, he was marked red across his lower back and buttocks by a wooden spoon. His father, learning of Joseph’s disturbing desires when he returned home, beat Joseph with the back of his hand; leaving the little boy purple and bloody upon his bedroom floor.

Curled in the corner of his bed, he pressed his bruised frame against his shaking knees. Warm streaks of tears rolled down upon his face and darkened the purple comfortable he sat upon. He did not understand why his parents, who he trusted and thought loved him, treated him with such vigorous hatred; however, he committed at that moment that he would escape from them. He would escape from Somewhere. His eyes were open, and could not be closed again.

In small towns, word does travel faster than anything else. In Somewhere, Joseph found that his existence from that moment forward would be forever tortured and demoralizing. There were no safe spaces in town or in home. For the next ten years, he endured all the harsh treatment at the hands of his peers and elders. Still, never given reason for his treatment or the hatred that was bathed upon him, he endured through it. Each day, he repeated a mantra focused on leaving Somewhere.

Though Joseph had left Somewhere at the age of sixteen, he returned in a manner that the community least expected: his novel “I Came from Somewhere, but Became Someone.” As his book burned, the conservative community rejoiced. The flames of hell would return the things they viewed as harmful for their holy community’s wellbeing. Again, ironically, they would be the creators of Hell on Earth within their own community.

——————— & ———————

The rubber soles of her white glossy leather Sunday school shoes crunched the drying grass down as she made her steps closer to the blazing fire. Holding the novel close to her chest, the small petite girl named, Patty, awed at the towering flames in front of her. The arms of the massive beast pulled at the edges and waved in the air begging for more books. Looking in the first few pages to the dedication page, she read “To that person out there that must hide in the shadows, please know you are loved and freedom might not be where you are now but it is out there. You are not alone; come join us in freedom. Be strong.”

Playing the Shepard over his flock, the Preacher ushered the crowd closer to the burn to bask in the warmth of the flames. Each of the participants welcomed the encouragements, and with joy they collectively threw more fuel upon the fire. Stunned by their enthusiasm, Patty watched with unblinking eyes as the embers broke free and climbed high above. Cool water rushed down her legs as and into her dense feet as the ice that filled her chest melted. Clenching the book to her chest tighter, she felt cemented in place as the crowd gathered closer to the fire.

Being so fixed upon their instructor, none noticed as Patty began backing away; still holding tight, the book was pressed firm against her flat chest. Shouldering her way between the moths, she made her way back home through the night streets. Turning the front door’s knob, her nerves were tense and she ran up the wooden stairs leading to her room. Sliding into the corner of her bed, she felt the edges of the soft book’s pages roll down her fingers. The paper was fresh; the binding creaked as she opened the book full spread. Returning the book back against her chest, she promised Joseph she would keep the novel safe from harm.

——————— & ———————

Watching as the little girl walk with heavy feet down the street, Farmer John felt the weight of the book that hung at his side pull upon his grip further. He too had reservations, and wondered if him leaving would be without protest as it had for her. Shoulders tight, he turned from the crowd and made his way through the thick line of full eyed converts. Though few gave side glances, no one protested his access to leave. Carrying the book firm against his side, Farmer John made for home.

Laying the book flat upon his kitchen table, Farmer John turned on the light overhead and then took his seat at the table. Opening the book, he read aloud its entirety to an empty home. Not until morning did he finish the reading the book cover to cover. As the light of morning broke over the horizon, he moved himself to his mudroom and slipped on his work boots.

The morning dew was fresh across his lands and his animals were waking within their stables. Rustled by his presence, most joyfully called as he approached their pens.

His work was harder; his heart twisted. Though his hands were clean of it, he felt the blood and bruises that were wiped across his skin when he was teaching Joseph the lesson of being a man, tips to wrists. Looking back at his tall white farm house, no lights were on; no one but him lived there now. Remembering his son, he pained more. Feeling he had abandoned Joseph when he needed him most. Now, ironically, he felt he had also abandoned the only other person in Somewhere that would understand him as well…