BLUE LEAVES

WHAT IT IS

He was not always broken. His gimpy walk a sad reminder of an athletic adolescence and a strong adulthood where a leg up from his old man twisted him into a businessman in which risk and success were measured and secured by his father’s generosity. This entrepreneurial veil not only concealed the blemishes of his life but served to dislocate him from the realities of the business world, leaving dominance over others, disrespect of colleagues and a pathetic fantasy of superiority to occupy his path as he staggered from one marginal enterprise to the next. For Clive Clifford it was position within situation, a feeling of belonging where a measure of authority coupled with inconsequential freedoms gave rise to a satisfaction that only he had to recognize and only he could drive down the street or bring into a mall or gaze at blue leaves in a park.

A trinket retailer, a seller of knock off running shoes, an insurance broker, an ice cream vendor, used car salesman, and a host of other vocations dotted Clive’s resume. It was the last dot on his resume that proved most momentous. Missouri was enjoying an unusual warm spell as October days were pulled from the calendar and November’s fresh face awaited Veteran’s Day celebration on the eleventh. Clive didn’t pay much attention to his hot air balloon business; he had a high school buddy run the day to day and Clive pocketed a bit of cash at the end of the week. Two days before Veteran’s Day, eight war vets climbed aboard Clive’s balloon and before they reached sixty feet the propane tanks exploded, and all eight veterans and Clive’s high school buddy died in the tragedy. His entrepreneurial veil could not hide him from the lapsed insurance coverage and costly lawsuits which took down Clive and his father within a year. The father took off for the great beyond, the stain of humiliation being too much, and Clive took off to Pennsylvania to start over again.

WHAT IT IS NOT

On a privately owned left handed dirt track some eight and a half furlongs long, just outside Greensburg Indiana the red dragonfly examined the blue leaf the translucent man had told him about. It was the ordinariness, which was bypassed, leaving the extraordinary washed away to be trodden under hikers boots as they marveled at what the tour guide pointed out. To pursue and capture the meager, find out why and how it fits in, then shatter it into manageable pieces of observation and dissection will allow us to decide if we like what we see and if we don’t like what we see, rejection will always be a fall back position. The translucent man wanted a symbol  of simplicity, a symbol easily overlooked by confidence men, politicians, and captains of collateral with their repayment schemes of zero percent and zero interest. A symbol to brush up against them, scratch their armor plate and leave nothing more than a confused feeling rising from there own propaganda. The vision of a stance, its flag quivering  before the onslaught was the translucent man’s daily routine, and, truth be told, he took some pleasure when the captains looked but could not see what tangible was, when chaplains preached and moral misfits cheered for something else, anything else.

With great care, the red dragonfly rolled up the blue leaf and stashed it beneath his wing. As symbols go, you couldn’t get much more ordinary than this, even as its extraordinary gifts were transmitted to those simple enough to hear it.

FRAGMENTS OF FOREVER

WHAT IT IS

Hobbson looked past the trail of Missouri dust kicked up by Slim’s SUV to see his old friend Adnan sitting in the passenger seat. He wondered why this break with Adnan did not occur sooner, as their two worlds had been drifting apart over the past few months. The burden of unmeshed gears grinding on to a dystopia drained Adnan into a state where liberation from oneself had to be fought on a level of commonality, perhaps even triviality. Years of optimistic invention, exuberant aspiration, and architecturally exact schemes to provide pathways of enlightenment led to dingy hallways of race and rancor where battles, replayed over and over, are meant to cripple spirit, and eradicate hope. Adnan, and others, speculated the fragments of forever were born of dissatisfaction and that the grand scheme was to sow the seeds of discontent and then wait a few generations to see what rots on the vine, and what bears fruit. The road is forever, when the prod of racism is relentless, seamless, and abiding, striking its tentacles maniacally and sharpening its intent to ensure survival from one generation to the next…from one propped up pillar to the next. The busines of picking up the banner, holding it high for all to see has always been better suited for the young, but Adnan now felt a certain betrayal inside himself as his lights of enlightenment began to flicker and shadows of uncertain destines clouded his vision. He needed what no one could give and what he gave belonged to no one, just slivers of incoherent memories to a cause where fragments of forever just kept piling up.

Hobbson’s attempts to settle Adnan’s soul was a mis-firing canon, an alien rattling around in a brown man’s house where commonality and trivia described a drab day at the office. Hobbson simply could not reach to Adnan’s depth, as Adnan’s lifeline kept missing the mark it was intended for. Hobbson still possessed his mission and it was squeezed unconsciously into his fist and his fate, bring him forward to a place futile and fatal. As the last spec of dust disappeared, Hobbson turned to the west, looked at his watch and counted down the seconds until his spirit appeared at the road’s edge.

At first he didn’t recognize the horse, it was older, somewhat unkempt, and slow on its feet. But who among us, after twenty years, remains intact?

WHAT IT IS NOT

The gift, transformed into a curse, then rode on an indigent horse from tragic teenage trials through to early adulthood, never stopping long enough to see the cracked bricks below the feet or notice the domino effect of real possibilities collapsing around him, became a type of mantra that hung around his neck, like a medallion given to him by…a friend…a girl friend. Jack Sampson’s gift was music, and his curse was the highwire act the Coyote Apples lived on while on their way to shady tunnels where what you asked for was paid with promises unkept and dreams unfulfilled. The dream followed, is best pronounced by the accomplished so there can be no doubt to its authenticity, but the root of the dream escapes scrutiny, shuns publicity, and is pasted into the back ground as an afterthought, or no thought at all. The host, a sometimes hostile and negative conveyance of the dream, fails to mention the virtue of the common, those who build the roads or fix the plumbing. Sacrilegious to some, the daydream of unbridled environmentalism or global harmony or just enough food and shelter slapped on the TV tray as they watch Musk’s rocket reach for the stars, will mean singular dreams of individuals might be placed in jeopardy. If you can not dream a difficult dream, you can always run a marathon, launch a rocket, or hang a picture, so to speak.

Jack Sampson’s marathon was in its infancy when the other Coyote Apples exploded into a cauldron of drug abuse, laziness, and other forms of self destruction. Eventually lives were sorted out, dreams put on hold or altered or denied or laughed at. Jack joined the army and dreamt of a small farm, a few animals and was satisfied that Musk’s rockets would never touch him.

RANDOM IN LEGEND

WHAT IT IS

In some circles, in some very small circles, she had become some what of a legend after her dust up with INSECT’s prototype nano mechanical pollinator that left the robot at the bottom of a water filled mud hole at the edge of a Missouri corn field. The wasp did not ask for this random event to be thrust upon her and she did not relish in the retelling of the story. Those who are infused with courage when fear is the weight at the end of the outstretched arm are compelled to practice fulfillments to the fearful, so their courage towers as a statement to worthiness. That fear could overtake them, that randomness could collapse their world and dissolve a cloak of attained integrity, was not a realistic story line given the rarely mentioned reasons why some are chosen and why randomness is never the invited guest. Once we have given back, performed service, and laid out the appropriate illusion, we place the politics of the facts on a back burner so far from reality that even the likes of a Kelly Clarkson would never find it, or her way back.

The wasp can be anything if it fits into the confines of a contour where the dictates of the natural world are both predictable and trustworthy and randomness does not get to glance through the window where invited guests are not. This wasp, summoned by No.1, had greatness flowing from every body hair along her exoskeleton but her desire to exist among the wild plants was a randomness she could not control, and her fate was sealed by a chance encounter with a mechanical robot.

WHAT IT IS NOT

He was on the top rung of an eight foot ladder, both feet firmly covering the THIS IS NOT A STEP label meant to discourage such individuals from a debilitating fall. The object of his mission was a cracked fuel pump on his crop duster that dripped small amounts of the precious liquid whenever he reached heights greater than a thousand feet. A small crescent wrench in his back pocket, a #2 Philips screwdriver in his left hand, a tube of Hysol patch-all wedged between his teeth, and a soft rubber mallet were the initial weapons enlisted for this most critical assignment. As all reasonable generals will attest, the first attacks are often tweaked to accommodate circumstance, some things added, others taken away, and it was no different with the pilot/mechanic as the screwdriver was ditched, the rubber mallet replaced with a ball-peen hammer and more fortifying tubes of patching compound was hauled up the ladder. As the fifteen minute repair mutated into an afternoon ordeal, the top of the ladder and nearby engine compartment became infested with more and more tools, deemed necessary to effect the repair. Now on his third tube, the mechanic had to reach a particularly difficult spot at the bottom of the fuel pump, and to accomplish this, he braced himself along the edge of the engine compartment, rose up on his toes on the top rung of the ladder and reached deep inside the engine compartment to apply the patch on the precise spot on the fuel pump. Predictably, the strenuous pressure the toes placed on the top of the ladder caused it to topple over leaving the mechanic dangling off the side of the aircraft.

As he sized up his predicament and noodled scenarios of escape, a wasp landed on a spent tube of patching compound, then casually walked across the tools spread throughout the engine compartment. At some point the two locked eyes, the hunter, and the hunted and at some point the mechanic had to let go and fell to the ground. The wasp too, let go, but did not fall to the ground.

JUNGLE MISDIAGNOSED

WHAT IT IS

An affluent group of thugs occupied the best smoking spot, wore the coolest ripped jeans, and spoke with confident authority on all things sports and girls. Their obnoxious behavior and callous disregard were Brown’s microcosm into his future after high school, a future that dissected the mutilated memories of high school but failed to reconstruct the tragedy into anything resembling common sense. Brown was anointed The Turtle by this group of boys, mainly because he was slow and methodical, but also because quick and fast lived in a place of privilege and prestige, dogma passed on from fathers so their sons could meet the challenges of the jungle, the same jungle where they were scared witless, a generation before. That the foundation shook from machismo, was then misdiagnosed as a grand and purposeful orchestration, did led both generations to a place were analysis of anything was thought best to be avoided. This perpetuation was the mud caking the tires, causing them to spin wildly and making certain that forward was backward and backward was a constant state of incomprehension. Brown believed it was some crazy combination of knee-jerk reflexes, accommodating submissions, and polite coalesces that kept his jungle from swallowing him whole, then puking him back up for gawkers to examine. Would history have anything to say to Brown or the turtle he was named after? Not likely, as history is seldom read.

WHAT IT IS NOT

He was very much use it; the world rushing ahead of him in an excited fashion, proclaiming the significance of their task, the reasons for their decisions, and the triumph of their truth and grit. He knew ambition was the crutch that helped win the race of accomplishment by keeping mania locked away at a safe distance, and should mania appear at the edges, an afternoon at the gym or a fresh coat of paint or an evening of small talk would wrestle the beast to the ground. Distracted and determined is not an altered state into the window of our lives, it is a survival malaise that keeps us from asking the crazy questions of universe and quantum and quarks. Even if we were to ask the questions, the answer would float so far into the cosmos that most of us looking up would wonder why gravity could not keep these answers simpler…suited more to what’s in our simple toolbox.

The turtle was simple. He carried a simple message from Buck-jimmy to No.1 and on his five hundred and sixty first day of walking from Lake Tomiko to the state of Missouri, he was caught in a trap set by INSECT agent Brown. As Brown looked at the turtle he did not feel the machismo of a gifted trapper who orchestrated some grand event of cunning, nor did he feel apart of a superior species chosen by others to wreak a particular brand of havoc. Brown’s tools did not explain the cosmos and the turtle’s tools did not explain Brown.

INTRINSICS & EXPENDABLES

WHAT IT IS

There is a covenant of sorts between sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, partners of all persuasions and it runs along the rails of fierce loyalty, etching memories, real and otherwise, into the intellect of the participants. Incidents of human folly, gestures of judgement and jealousy, and the creeping character of envy can often fail to shake the covenant when the bonds are strong. It is anyone’s guess why these obligatory traits do not unfurl across the range of humanity, but the sheer size of the territory coupled with our diminutive compassion compass may allow us only so much coffee in the cup. Of course, the maniacs of misery can flip this whole thing around where brothers torture sister, husbands abandon wives and partners disappear into the tyranny of their history and lives are spent in a sea of turmoil or in convalescence or in rehabilitation.

Jared Deakins rode this rainbow of dysfunction, but a recent visit to see his sister Jill began to reveal his covenant still possessed tenets buried somewhere within both of them and it revealed a promise of a future together. The hope was a plodding hope that sustained him until he caught up with Little Mr. Deakins, the duck, and the others where after weeks of separation Jared was glad to be back among his comrades. It made him think of that which was precious. Not the insincerity of gold or platinum platitudes of market place wizards, but rather intimacies and connections of soulmates, of creatures…dragonflies and blue skies.

WHAT IT IS NOT

The monarch imprinted the contents of Miller’s envelope into its antenna, then passed it on to No. 1’s first lieutenant, the red dragonfly, who immediately understood that the blank pieces of paper inside was the canvas that INSECT would use to portray to the world their quest to display superiority in a war between the intrinsics and the expendables. Falling all over themselves in a sprint to declare why their hard work, devotion and dedication has elevated themselves past others who work hard, share devotion and practise dedication, only seems to amplify the habitual drone of the of this most common wisdom. Boasting about themselves as they attempt to fortify an odd justification of the apples they eat or the estates they occupy, can only lead to some nauseating moments as the self-congratulatory machine grinds into high gear and we sit dumbfounded, knowing not only have we seen this blurb before, but the creative minds behind it will force us to endure it many more times in the future. Underpinning all this commotion are the expendables, left to experience child-like explanations of a world in order for the intrinsics to feel safe in their beds at night. INSECT’s blank canvas would not be passed on to evening newscasts for announcers to enunciate victory and surrender as described by Graham and his cohorts because the red dragonfly had already begun the story of loss and losers, and although victory and surrender would not be their celebration, neither would be being expendable.

AUGUST SUSANS

WHAT IT IS

The August Susans swung in the afternoon breeze like they did for years, taking delight in the warm sun that they fancied was a second cousin because of their kindred color and generous presence. The Susans, ragged, wild, and spindly , never spent time with the orchid family but instead were assigned the gravelly ditches and the precious clumps of soil between barren rocks where resilience took root and practical matters of survival and sustenance prevailed. Showiness is the drug of extravagance that needs a hit often enough to jolt us out of the belief we may already be in a zone of contentment. The swirl of desire connecting us to the objects we cherish, with its brother and sister appendages, serve up a powerful chunk of peer pressure, perceived entitlement and a seat on the bullet train heading straight toward what insight and introspection might deny us. The denial, more often than not, is whimsy let loose to flutter about with no intention of deciding something meaningful but rather entertain duty and direction with the sole purpose of pretending insight and feigning introspection.

Bella and Dizzy  were no fools to the lure of extravagance and their zone of contentment, often misunderstood and misjudged, was robust enough to ignore the decorated agitators and strike a pose they could live with. The dreamy Susans reminded them they had come full circle, starting out years ago when Plot 82 was established and now back as Plot 82 was about to be destroyed.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Cinder Willoughby rifled through the desk drawers, first the top right, then the bottom left and back to the top right again. The drawers were on a rail and roller system causing them to open quickly and with too much gusto, creating far too much racket when the roller hit the end of the rail. He pined for his old rolltop desk where wooden drawers running along wooden rails gave a measure of predictability when the hunt was on for a special pen or a particular piece of paper. Willoughby’s long time assistant insisted an office upgrade was in order after Willoughby won the Dickson Prize in Medicine. On the fourth visit to the top right drawer, Willoughby found the old photograph of what appeared to be black eyed Susans he came across in the high Arctic nearly twenty years ago.

On a scarlet morning with Willoughby dragging a sled full of gear, he struggled across thick muskeg heading to a large rock outcrop where still pond water was the object of his research, thanks to a puny grant from the Canadian government. Cresting the top of the outcrop, Willoughby saw a massive trench scored into the ground and thousands of what looked like black eyed Susans lining the unusual formation. Over the twenty years hence, Willoughby and a handful of fellow scientists synthesized, dissected, extracted, and reproduced the plant in the hope it may prove useful in the medical field, and it did. An extract from the root when combined with ancient water found over ten kilometers below the earth surface, proved to occasionally restore blindness in some individuals.

FOLLOWING IN FOOTPRINTS

WHAT IT IS

The target, both exceptional and intense, was the mission Miles Hobbson chose for himself. Knowing complete failure was a strong possibility, this result did not completely deter Hobbson from the task of tacitly altering pieces of  human direction, but it did offer moments of self doubt, that he, and many others experience. A younger Hobbson imagined notches on a leather belt, a Colt six shooter his vehicle of persuasion, dirt covered Olathe cowboy boots a testament to his mission and a herd of mustangs ready to tame only to be released back into the congregation to disseminate the message.

The truth of it was, Hobbson named his piece of miraculous hardware the Jesus drive after the person who’s path he believed he could both follow and dislodge. The older Hobbson, of course, knew the deep scares of a Messiah would not be dislodged and following an imaginary path into someone’s constructed vision of the world might not be the wisest maneuver. The only logical thing for Hobbson to do, was to slice his ambition into wafer thin pieces and execute these resolutions, dispensing the word like a priest from a pulpit.

Knowing nothing for sure, gambling on uncertain outcomes and puzzling over possibilities, Hobbson was left to watch No. 1 and a billion insects hold up in a stand of white ash trees. A bustling gravel airport nearby hosted three crop dusters and a slew of INSECT agents mulled about the place. Seemingly random people walked down neighbouring roads, some with ducks, roosters, and horses, all converging on a piece of land near the airport. Hobbson looked down at a deep lobed plant at his feet and wondered if it was sarsaparilla, then more importantly, wondered if it would survive.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Wild plants with edible roots and leaves, mushrooms for gourmet feasts, berries to create tempting deserts and all this sniffed out by Jackson and then magically created by Mrs. B.  over an open fire as the translucent man salivated in anticipation of the evening meal. The translucent man had done well since the arrival of Jackson and Mrs. B. With improved strength and vigor, most days saw him rise early, walk strong and allocate nuggets of advise to those around him. He was unconcerned that this artificial bubble of foraged foods, local harvests and unsolicited fates of fortune could not be sustained in the real world where real people suffered and slogged through a predicament much different from his own, because he was, after all, a messenger of doom not the purveyor. He admired these tiny bubbles of idealists and wishful thinkers and believed that in a different place and time their views might hold specs of truth, not enough to slay the drive of industrial creation and consumption, but at least offer a meaningful alternative that up to this point only existed in the catacombs of our dreary expectations. The translucent man knew well the banner of the just cause and the unjust consequence that walked in its footprint, allowing him the latitude to embrace and digest the endless parade of causes from the dethroned king to the triumphant peasant story.

The doomsday clock that was the translucent man, now burdened down by extra hefty issues and fools dressed in presidential garb, rattled him greatly, to the point where they began to slip from his grasp, leaving him to float in a quagmire resembling apathy until he saw the simple offerings from Mrs. B. and the looks of humility from the others; the translucent man knew his way forward was possible.

UNFOCUSED

WHAT IT IS

It was a crawl that seemed never ending, a loop going on forever, past the same birch trees and bracken fern, over the same lichen covered rocks and through soggy peat moss until he reached his final destination, an army surplus tent, its roof dotted with tears and holes offering little protection from the Pennsylvania rain. If he could twist his narrow life path so it formed a horseshoe, allowing him to see the direction he was taking, he might put aside the booze and drugs and opt for a less destructive path, but these horseshoes are given out infrequently and when they are, a large dose of smirk, arrogance and ego are encased within the gift. But youth or spirit or pieces of unspent logic would not allow him to examine his horseshoe, either because the stakes were constantly shifting making a ringer impossible or the stakes were too high and failure the dead ringer. His life, characterized by himself to see himself, was more suited  to the boomerang philosophy where the out going returned as the incoming, sometimes bring a providence, sometimes not.

While two of the Coyote Apples slept in the van, Brent sat in the tent, eyes fixed on the roof waiting for an accumulating rain drop to grow to a sufficient size as to drop straight down and strike the banjo skin producing a sound he was sure he could use at his next gig. The rains increased, the banjo thuds grew louder and Brent drifted into a peaceful sleep where his boomerang finally settled the Coyote Apple dust of fame and notoriety. In his departure, there would be no crawling or apologies or regrets, just a tall standing man still on the lookout for stray boomerangs or bent horseshoes…vet school perhaps.

WHAT IT IS NOT

It hit Little Mr. Deakins that if this was true, what other great wonders might be slipping past him. It all began when the duck and him were sitting on a log waiting for Mrs. B., Jackson, the horse, and the translucent man to catch up. The duck was describing what he saw in front of him and it wasn’t at all what he was seeing. Two interpretations of the same thing…profound, but in his own defense, he was a farm rooster and only now coming to grips with a much larger world.

When you tease out all the special interests, the entrenched positions, and the shrouded agenda you may very well be left with a ball that holds no air, no bounce, no elasticity. The interpretations are left to meander the ballfield where first base is reserved for the righteous, second base for the delinquent, third the opportunist until the field is full and diatribes are pronounced, positions fortified and the whole world goes home with their smug satisfaction tucked neatly under their arms, all the while wondering if they may have heard something said. Contained within these forts of certainties, the Leninists and Trotskyists have altered their name and purpose and are now a modern version of themselves, but the sheer madness and magnitude of the cause scares the hell out of the rest of us. And who are the rest of us? Little Mr. Deakins and duck might very well raise their hands at this point, but of course they have no hands.

A CELEBRATED BOYCOTT

WHAT IT IS

A tranquil day, sitting on a branch listening to insect insinuation, frog dialogue, leaf laughter, chipmunk chatter and a world heavy with commuting flyers, cumbersome crawlers and creatures too numerous to catalogue or contemplate was the considerable consideration on the mind of this small bird as she rested near Plot 82. It has been said that order exists where havoc, imposed by stalwarts of religion or state or commerce, rules in the absence of community or a single mindedness and it doles out a type of uniform all are willing to wear and all are anxious to see how it looks on the other. The uniform, in of itself, need not be boycotted or celebrated because as symbols go, it is the conveyor who decided how the nuance will look. Although the breezes of convention dominate the storms of protest, these universal uniforms of stagnation do inch in a civil direction. If we had a time-lapse of this, we’d have some proof to hold up to generations that all was not lost and with patience and determination a puzzle-piece future may be avoided. We rise and fall on outcomes outside our earthly grasp, and the frustration of a fist pounding the air can be too loud to bare as the shockwaves of the smug recoil around us. There is more at stake here than a songbird’s evening scrutiny, but some simple attention paid to simple truths might allow the uniforms to fit everyone.

WHAT IT IS NOT

He was no ambulance chaser, nor did he possess the gene that dictates the necessity to stop at a house inferno to impede fire fighters or gawk across yellow police tape during takedowns, but Mutt felt certain the emergency crew just off I-44 needed some assistance. Mutt parked the big rig a month ago and set out on a road trip in the general direction of Missouri and found himself near the Mark Twain National Forest trying to calm down the translucent man, miserable at the sight of a songbird he believed ill.

The songbird was just fine, it was the translucent man’s years of living in a portrait of an unwise design, framed with predictable inclination and displayed in a gallery of sloth on a street where those who came either left quickly or stayed too long, as if lost, but still possessing the dream they’d find the way out. Mutt knew of the translucent man, the tortured path, the unending despair, the glimpse of euphoria, as we all know translucent men, bent over and twisted with the blank stare to conjure up sufficient guilt in the intended and create crazy thoughts and deeds of redemption, forgiveness and enormous acts of generosity to keep the slate, if not even, at least less skewed. The guilt only flows one way, and this is as it should be, and while the guilt is directionless and most likely meaningless, it serves as a thin patch of gauze from the medicine cabinet ready to make us all fell better. The translucent man was attended to, preached to, and gently scolded by paramedics, passersby, and Little Mr. Deakins but in the end he rose to his feet and sampled a small piece of the euphoria. Mutt offered him a ride to wherever but today the translucent heard what he wanted to hear, so, he assembled the small horse, the duck, a few stragglers gathered along the way and the trek to Plot 82 continued.  

UNCERTAINTIES/Winter & Weather

WHAT IT IS

The night shift has a certain kind of longevity that extends outwardly and inwardly at the same time. It suffocates an amicable state of mind and replaces it with a thin cloak vacillating between certitude and doubt. Stealing glances into the night’s domain shows a cauldron of thick smoke, sour soup, and faint assurances that a more satisfying presence will ride in on the morning horse. Jaden’s night shift stumbled and plodded through the New Orleans dampness, leaving tiny droplets over the car, the street and the lump of clothing piled up in the corner of the roofless bus shelter.

Leo Barnard was  the lump of clothes and by virtue of a hot breakfast, an automatic hand dryer and some fresh clothes from goodwill, the man sitting across from Jaclyn and Jaden looked completely at ease, sipping his third cup of coffee. The morning light was soft, soft like the light photographers smile at when they reach in their camera bag to get that perfect shot or soft like the excited scream a partially blind person utters when their sight begins to return and the truth of it was Leo’s vision was once again returning.

Leo lost himself in the first thing he saw, visualizing the robin as a central and a vital character in the theatre of his undiagnosed condition. He beamed at its beauty and saluted it ordinariness while he marveled at the lengths people go through to crown lions as kings, pay exalted tribute to eagle flight or drone on about the might of the Grizzly Bear, when the crux of what could be creation danced before their eyes, eyes seemingly worse off than Leo’s. Who designates the majesty of the seldom seen, elevates it into an ambitious tower then dictates to the lackeys what they must stand in awe of? They are a restless bunch and perhaps a soulless bunch, tormented by the ticks of a clock as it counts down  their end before they see the last white rhino or blue arctic iceberg. Leo studied the robin…hell, good enough for him.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Winter used its full arsenal as it started the assault in early October and kept up the drama until late April flexed a flimsy muscle and May finally delivered the knock blow. The freezing rain of November clobbered and bent the trees, copious amounts of December snow buried anything below four feet and the sub zero temperatures of January created a spectacular silence where nothing moved. Everything and everyone kept vigil through February waiting for the hostage takers to disperse, tolerating wintery jabs throughout the month of March.

The assumption was that Melina Schulz perished during the harsh winter, with no food or shelter her end was said to be inevitable. Massive search parties led by expert trackers and their cadaver dogs turned up nothing, and as the May blackflies gave way to the June mosquitoes the authorities all but declared Schulz deceased. The police budget had room to hire an internationally renowned tracker for seven days, so, the call was put out to Bulldog Snipes to put Melina Schulz’s story to rest.

Bulldog tracked like no other, he communed with ideas and observations that should be and took seriously the natural occurring fractures laid out in the path before him. He did not place himself in the center, but along the edges where reason and precision plant ideas and their growth and direction disclose anomalies that made tracking an inclusive pursuit that pitted him not against something, but apart of something. Bulldog’s seven days belonged to someone else’s ledger because he came to serve a purpose, that to him, ended when the particles of dust settled into the story he could tell was real and could stand the test of time and scrutiny. A simple tale of a robin’s nest disturbed by someone who shouldn’t be there, saw an emaciated Melena Schulz foraging for berries on the forest.

HALLUCINATION STRONG

WHAT IT IS

Kitty-cat’s one good eye, a relative term at best,  scrutinized Tiny as the black bear ruptured his new found freedom by stomping on the Louisiana phlox before vanishing onto the forest. Kitty-cat’s demeanor could be shoved into a bullhorn, broadcast into the coliseums of empty seats and exuberant silence, and his contempt would still rise above the clouds unnoticed by those thinking their feet were meant for standing still. Complicating matters, Kitty-kitty’s make over by the celebrity vet pledged an arrival of approval, a Hollywood accomplishment born of hallucination with sufficient gravitas to allow the winner to hold the key, open the door and walk inside to a room with no walls, just promises the walls would someday be built. If this was once an hallucination, it is now a way of life, with the empty seats filled mostly with covenants of possibilities  and the coliseum’s grand spaces now used as spaces to wander, as we look for autographs from the unknown and phone calls and texts from the unreachable.

Kitty-cat, the battered one eyed feline, was not about to let the platitude dispensers categorize her into the narratives of a history that was not her own. Magnification of her plight, overstating her achievements and showering her with the laurels of positive reinforcement was not the medicine this chewed up piece of rubbish wanted to here. The veracity of her existence belonged to her and she wasn’t about to turn it over to the documentarians and their fragmented pieces of drivel that passed for education or entertainment.

Kitty-cat looked long and hard at Kitty-kitty, damn that city vet did a pretty good job, but not as good as a new opening willow bud or a plate of room temperature tuna.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Hammer sheathed his sword in small increments, pulled it out again to check the edge, then slowly inched it away again. He did this repeatedly, unaware on the monotony as he grappled with the idea that a second Polacka may exist. A new beginning or a fresh start may well be someone else’s hackneyed vision of principles and procedures worn out to the point that some smooth talking huckster stages a near death revival and through trickery and showmanship rises these beliefs from the dark and the deep, casting a new light upon old shadows. Like a Ferris Wheel whose bearings are engulfed in succulent white grease, new beginnings will reinvent themselves as shady slices of aspiration, high on top one minute, falling predictably the next. The mundane and the familiar do not hold tickets to the same concert, they do not wait backstage in the wings ready to go on because their shtick is the brand from the past and any lessons lingering are condemned to a circular future.

These two would find one another. Hammer’s decision to allow two Polacks to procreate was a new beginning like no other. It was not mere pollen from a willow, or another child enlisting into the human horde but if it played out unwisely, the concept of what a new beginning was and who was entitled to it would be splashed around in the weeping pond of aspiration, ripples coming, ripples going.

FAD & INFATUATION

WHAT IT IS

Somewhere between Springfield and the Mark Twain National Forest, CO Micheals started thinking about why his black bear ventured so far from its own range. Twisting scenarios over in his mind, kept bringing him back to the same conclusion; the encounter the bear and the Polacka had, must be the source of the bear’s behavior.

Micheals’ GPS receiver showed the bear off the highway about four miles east of his position, so he stopped the car, loaded up his gear and readied himself for a difficult trek over rough terrain. Dense bush was like the cloud and cover that wrapped people in comforters of silent and authentic acceptance. With no trickery in their stride, their diary of fixations could be laid out on slabs of achievement for co-conspirators to scrutinize. Indeed, nervousness was the inevitable eruption when such a soul revealed a disinterest in what the mob chased down the road, cornering what ever fad or infatuation tempted their emaciated imaginations. The introverts are not leading the charge anytime soon, with their soulful stares, stacks of books and impressions, not to mention the bewildering ruminations…and while they are at it, they would well advised to jump off the teeter totter before the inescapable occurs. If what goes up must come down, then how long is the wait for the weight of equitability to hit the ground, supposing that gravity can have such an effect and supposing we can recognize the effect when it occurs. With all these imperfections wrapped up in a match called social discourse, those condemned to walk, by choice or circumstance, their path alone, most likely will survive to see another day, despite any protests from the puppet masters.

Micheals watched the Polacka, knowing it must truly be alone or something very close to it. His tracking skills did not find the black bear, but rather a Polacka. This switch, was it transformative or unconnected, intertwined or disengaged? Micheals approached the animal, but fad or infatuation caused it to disappear out of his sight.

WHAT IT IS NOT  

It started off as a dull murmur, the direction indistinguishable but its effect mildly disorienting and disturbing as strange noises of any kind this far north was unusual. Emma paused over the dishwashing bowl, put down her sudsy coffee mug and walked out of the cabin into the treeless landscape. The sunrises here were often streaked with brilliant oranges, yellows and reds colliding over kilometers of green vegetation, grey rock outcrops and thousands of ponds ready to steal from the sky and keep the treasures locked in their watery depths. Today was no different. Emma walked through a small flower garden, along a path outlined with fist size stones she found in the area, to a wooden gate where she remembered to lift and open as one of the hinges was nearly broken and a replacement would be hard to find in such an isolated place.

The sound was louder now, and she was certain it was coming from the east. She ran to a height of land a half kilometer from the cabin, careful to avoid the round, slippery stones common in the area. Shielding her eyes from the rising sun, she searched the horizon for what she thought must be an airplane. The cool morning air pulsated like it was being squeezed and released, the dull murmur screamed anger now flooding any ears in its way and reaching the soul of even the soulless.

When Emma come to, she felt the large lump on the back of her head where her fall caused her to strike her head. The sky was blue now, all the color washed away replaced by cotton clouds dotting the sky and seemingly unsure which way they wanted to go. More mentally than physically, Emma checked her body; feet could wiggle, knees could bend, arms could stretch, head could turn…Emma rose to her feet, nearly fell over, steadied herself, then looked around.  Something enormous had fallen out of the sky, leaving a long and deep crater over a kilometer in length. A pungent electrical odor filled the air and a thick grey smoke waited for a strong breeze to shrink its presence. A large thick furred animal walked along the edge of the crater, grazing on lichen and grasses, unaware of the large gash across its hind leg.

Several months passed, Emma’s patience and persistence saw the animal’s wound heal nicely and the two often walked the tundra together, exploring the ponds, the beautiful wildflowers and sunbathing on rocky ridges. On one such outing, a man appeared on the horizon, sitting straight and high on a magnificent horse and when Emma’s animal saw him, he galloped off in their direction, stopping briefly to look back at her, but soon disappearing from her sight.

A MONARCH’S LAMENT

WHAT IT IS

After Miller handed off the envelope to the woman, No. 1 had a monarch butterfly follow her, more as an escort than an object of surveillance. The fate of Plot 82 in part hinged on the envelope’s contents, but the more important destiny, that which was mirrored in INSECT’s resolve, would ultimately be a more significant factor. Magnets of fear and aspiration collide to drive the agenda forward and fracture the emotion into unlikely shards of finger pointers, avoiders, aggressors, and desensitized ones who just want to be left alone, having excluded themselves from the agenda of bedlam. We do have lives to live, cups to fill with slices of time and plates on which to carve out unfamiliar eats, some to our families, a bit to the neighbours, pieces to the restless and the remainder wrapped tightly in plastic and stuffed deep into the freezer in the off chance we might use it again.

It is with some trepidation that the totality that makes up Plot 82 will simply vanish, with no records on file, no history recorded and no lasting imprint of any kind. It will have been, it will have not. Sad to some, indifferent to most…we do all have lives to live. Even as the woman walked a straight path, the butterfly’s flight was chaotic, with investigations and interruptions a constant feature of its journey, and yet they ended up in the same place, living their same lives.

WHAT IT IS NOT

She was a relative of a relative of a relative, the product of the tourist thing in Michoacan, Mexico where hanging around in oyamel fir trees and dreaming of the long flight back to Illinois was a popular butterfly pastime. Keeping warm in the cool mountain air by crawling over and under one another and disregarding the other’s world of social distancing was the ingredient time and history granted for their survival.

Now, away from the Mexican wintering grounds, the day started when the sun rose high enough and was strong enough to persuade the butterfly that a search for nectar would be the first task of the day. Wings ridged, but becoming more flexible with each temperature tic, a face washing using nearby dew and leg stretches befitting Golds Gym, she began to stir from beneath the fir sapling that sheltered her warming stone, the night’s comfy inn. Clear blue skies encouraged her awakening and the sweet smell of a billion specs of pollen confirmed it was time to start the day.

Flight, unwieldy at the best of times, started out like an amateur comedian trying to loosen up a room full of accountants, but eventually she hit her stride and the accountants indulged in a few martinis, and the morning progressed as it should. A patch of cultivated asters, not as sweet as the wild stuff, swayed in the breeze catching her attention and being ready for one of her frequent breaks from flight, the monarch descended cautiously. Her soft proboscis penetrated and sucked, leaving an odd but satisfying taste in her mouth as she fluttered from blossom to blossom until landing on an orangish teddy bear being held tight by a little girl, sleeping. What a strange creature she thought, no warmth, a fuzzy texture but still exuding a calming quality to anyone or anything close by. She pierced the teddy bear with her proboscis and that which was the teddy bear was now the butterfly.

TEAM SPORTS

WHAT IT IS

They looked like members of the same sports team, uniforms clean and distinct, helmets affixed and identical as they executed complex plays on the field with precise interactions and decided purpose. There was no time for the hoopla that constructs the shrine for the headliner and there was certainly no time to tease out nibbles of wisdom on subjects that towered up to the windows of practising philosophers, busy plumbers, rehabilitated dock workers or academics looking for reason, but finding the jars sometimes empty. They played ball, sang songs, and wrote books but it was not their place to fill the chambers of desire with the knowledge of science or the science of certainty but instead they paddled in their own murky waters and presented it as human insight and indelible truth. Undaunted, customers placed these perils of wisdom in there own attitudes, adapted them as their own and dispensed them like pollen in the month of May. Questions too thick, examinations too broad or statements too deep were not allowed. The grist poured out of the taps of social media and piled upon the mezzanine, allowing most to play with it, some to ignore it and a few others to wonder where all this advice come from and why it weighed so much. As cumbersome as all this is, what of the coaches, investors and owners who take the team out of the arena and stuff them into closets of mesmerization where gems of lifestyle are set out in a fashion, so the picking and choosing are made easier. It is a confused mash-up of truth, lies and be-as-I-am’s, but in its own way and in its own time, this may be the only thing left floating around in the either.

It was Adnan who started naming the white crown sparrows. Ruth scratched the ground relentlessly, Aaron found plenty to eat, Robinson was quick on his feet, Greinke used his wings more than most, DiMaggio…Slim’s booming voice startled Adnan and Hobbson from their little game when he returned and told them their piece of Missouri paradise was just down the road.

WHAT IT IS NOT

On a privately owned left handed dirt track some eight and a half furlongs long, just outside of Greensburg Indiana, Miles Hobbson sat on a rickety fold out chair, his fingers feeling around deep inside a canvas bag filled with raisins and dates from his native island of Nevis, given to him by his old friend Aquena. The two horses in front of him relished in his offerings, as did a small flock of white crowns that scurried around his chair. It was Miles’ intention to ride these horses into dark reaches, rip out what little light he could find then exile these wastelands to the asteroids between Mizar and Myrtle Beach. But the human psyche was silly putty and Hobbson could not get a decent grip as what made the clock tick, let alone predict an accurate time. Dodging the fantasy of cause and cure, ignoring fact, and embracing fiction, Hobbson stood as a testament to the hopeful, seeing himself as a child soldier prepared to slay the idea of hopeless, as adult children often do. His optimism lapped the shoreline in the endless pursuit of the perfection that was his world, not a world he occupied or a world he was familiar with, but rather a retreat from rancor who’s steel sword now lay rusting down the shoreline from Myrtle Beach or some other such place. Adrift on this earth, Hobbson was well aware of the conflicts and harmonies and the unwillingness to solve the simple and caress the complex as a show of the difficulties our society faces and our abilities to do little about them.

Essentially a stiff, Hobbson needed to parlay a strength into a weakness and to that end these two horses in front of him, in the hands of the right person, could turn copper into gold, wealth into substance, hostility into euphoria. He reached into the bag and pulled out a handful of raisins and dates, treats like no one on earth had seen before.  

The Bison in Us

WHAT IT IS

The translucent man took off his thick sunglasses and squinted into the harsh sunlight at the Bison standing in a field. He looked closely, moved a couple of steps in its direction before deciding it was not the mechanical bull.

Johnny sat on a wooden milk crate, turned over and used as a seat while he replaced the B string on his Yamaha guitar. Molly had seen better days, too many days forgotten out in the rain, too many nights close to the fire made her warped, pock-marked, and peeling veneer. Still, in Johnny’s deft hands, Molly could strum out a melodious tune, full bodied and generous to most people’s ears. He slipped the guitar over his shoulder, shifted it around to his back, picked up an empty gas jerry can and walked to the highway, occasionally fingering Slim’s two hundred dollars in the front pocket of his jeans.

Across the street from the Shell gas station, Hombre’s Little Texas Bar & Grill enticed Johnny inside for just one beer. The bar was dark but had a warm, friendly vibe and as he spun a barstool around, Johnny noticed a mechanical bull in the far corner chewing up dandies and throwing them to the floor. He was only on his second sip of Coors when a silver tongued gent in a cream colored suit and black Stetson rolled up to the stool beside him. He introduced himself as Big Hank, and while eying up Johnny’s old Yamaha, boosted that he was a country and western concert promoter out of Pittsburgh doing a show in Ellwood City and looking for an opening act for the Dixie Twins, his top performing group in his vast stable of artists, his words. If he drank only one beer, if he got a can full of gas from across the street and if the old van would turn over, he promised Big Hank the Coyote Apples would be in Ellwood City the following night.

Johnny polished off his beer and was heading for the exit when he overheard a rowdy conversation between a couple of real estate agents extolling the virtues of a land deal they were setting up in the state of Missouri. For two hundred bucks, a twenty acre parcel of ranch land waited for those with the guts and  grit to go for it. The agents had ten parcels of land, deeds and titles were sitting upstairs in a strong box in their room.

Steve stayed in the bar for another beer, while Johnny and Mike went upstairs to finalize the deal. It seemed like a long time to be in the washroom, so Johnny knocked tentatively on the door and it squeaked open a bit and he looked inside at the open window. Mike and Johnny’s two hundred dollars were in the front seat of a white Continental, its suicide doors flailing uncontrollably as it sped down the gravel laneway leaving a thick plume of dust as it headed out of town.

WHAT IT IS NOT

How he came to this place was a tale only twisted strands of debauchery could reveal, as this and many more have been divulged over treachery and time. How does this breed coalesce over brutality and convert the repulsive into the ordinary and the bland? Perhaps it is the scattered march of a directionless world unencumbered by its own trivial contemplations that does not see any sketches on the wall, any documents in the desk or pronouncements of any kind.

Bison skulls piled fifty feet high and a hundred sorrows to the east and west can not compete with other tragedies because the scales we have created have criteria of significance, measurable accounts of misery and estimations of how we center ourselves along the line of the equation. In the shortness of our geologic time, whether in help or hindrance, a hierarchy of milestones dominates the passage between the ancient and the modern, but the elasticity that binds the two gives rise to confusion of who is ahead, who will dominate and will anything or anyone come out on top. Unfortunately, the repetition of history is more complex than we have been led to believe because the cause and effect are driven by both the devious and the favorable, with the ends and the means lining up very differently.

Today this Bison stands on a piece of land a mile from Plot 82. There is no fence, no herd…just this lone creature with the purpose in his eyes to participate in a new piece of history and if he is lucky, influence the criteria.