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.

WATER WORRIES

WHAT IT IS

It is when water meets an unintended consequence, its use bastardized for warped motives that divorces it from the core and commodifies the place it holds, this is when the foundations are rocked. When we politicize the trust it has, alter its spirit, kill it half to death before stomping it down just in case…dare we say…we could be in trouble now! If the ancients had it right and the myths and mysteries were that of givers of life, preservers of harmony and healers unfamiliar with intolerance, it begs the question of what have we done to this simple chemical? Going beyond distortion to altered to blurry, the place this fluid inhabits is as dark as a dungeon and as transient as a fashionista, but it still grasps its own purpose and is master over its spectacular gifts. That we rearranged motive, misunderstood reason, and completely collapsed meaning for water is yet one more simple gesture on the way along a path were enlightenment is dragged onto the auction block…just to see what we might get for it. The cost we extract will be cushioned by providence and natural brawn, but the durability of these traits cannot be endless, and exploration of their expiry dates may show them already passed.

Hammer finally finished. His task was to hollow out an acorn nut, fill it with water from a fast moving river and have it delivered, via carrier pigeon, to his ailing Polacka where it was said on good authority, by those officials who issue such notifications, that his Polacka would fully recover.

WHAT IT IS NOT

He would vanish for days at a time, usually before sunrise. Secretly stirring around the campsite, looking in on those sleeping and finally checking his look in a piece off broken mirror used to start the campfire. Little Mr. Deakins, being a rooster after all, bore witness to this ritual in the early hours and often shook his comb in polite approval as the duck became airborne.

Flight was the elixir that would not intoxicate, would not weave threads of fantasy into shimmering wings to lift unfortunate terrestrials like Little Mr. Deakins into lands of awe and seasons of unbridled possibility. Head down, shoulders square and heart centered in civilization, this brigade of the incapable, with all their blandness and folly, wake daily and march to where no accolades are bestowed,  and no grandiose contribution acknowledged. They do not look to the future with its cloudy proclamations of evil decrees ordering what must be done, by who and at what cost. They know the cost is theirs to bear, a pragmatic lot they are and a pragmatic lot they will remain. When all this navel-gazing is behind us and the historians deliver their brand of the truth, the brigade will collectively roll their eyes, scratch their heads,  and cry out in unison…REALLY!

Where did the duck go for days at a time? Little Mr. Deakins knew, and he was OK with it. To some, water is hope that keeps it all going and represents the little bit more, while to others water is a tasteless, odorless ,etc., etc., etc., etc.

A LEAF HOLDS ON

WHAT IT IS

A strong wind can push you around, not like a storm chaser practising sanctioned voyeurism, but more like the commands and the denials that we square off against in our day to day lives. Winds of persuasion, gusts of inspiration mix with crystal clear caution and jostle to marshal the forces that influence what we become and what we leave behind. These breezes are diminutive by nature, but the ability to morph them into weather balloon size and status is just another exceptional hallmark of the human experience. Whether riding on the updrafts of anxiety or the lows and highs of immaculate pressures, it may be wise to turn inward once in a while, look away from the storms and check the ledger to confirm the pluses and minuses of our lives.

That was what Ned Doucet was attempting to do, or so he thought. The life of a Pennsylvania patrolman’s weather patterns was defined and succinct, with little variation, but now in retirement Ned was propelled to look past the nightly forecasts and seven day guesses and attempt to see the invisible air columns that toggle between despair and disbelief. Ned did not carry around despair, nor did he shock easily, but he knew something was amiss when he seen it.

On this boisterous day, as Ned stood on an old wooden bridge waiting for Justine Flagstaff, all the leaves…all the leaves…had been swept away, except for one and no matter how strong the gusts blew, the leaf remained.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Sapphire was fixated on the cards she received from Aquena, she trusted her intuition and Cricket trusted her, so the pair quickly changed their vacation plans on Nevis and were biding their time in Indianapolis waiting for Slim to return from a trip to Missouri.

Ellie should have been sentient by now, but she sat lifeless on top of Slim’s file cabinet. So, with little to do but wait around, Sapphire grabbed Ellie, asked Cricket to bring the car around and soon the trio were cruising the quiet roads of Brown County, where teddy bear rumours told the story of super wasps whose venom could wake a teddy bear from the deepest of comas.

A covered bridge made of aged wood and skillful hands, stood as a stoic entrance to the other side and the symbolism was not lost on Sapphire as it was the same bridge see seen on one of Aquena’s cards. We meander often to the other side, to the other side to test resolve or relationships or partnerships. We look for what the other has, what the other does and what manner of palace or peace we have been denied or bestowed. It is true that this materialism has been beaten hard into the ground, but it is also true that messages of faith, community and altruism dance around in pockets of privilege that compete with the coins of consumption occupying the same pockets. The give and take live in the same house, but they don’t hold the same currency with some of the bills going directly to a deity in exchange for good fortune while the remaining bills are weighted down by the misfortune of events and discriminations found on the scales of justice and scales of life.

Sapphire, Ellie cupped in her arms, got out of the car and placed Ellie on the bridge’s top rail next to a greying leaf. The wasp, examining the leaf, eyed up the teddy bear then landed on Ellie’s leg. The sharp stinger gently plunged into her leg and Ellie twitched slightly then telekinesed into the back seat, ready to go.

WHEN A WASP DANCES

WHAT IT IS

Mutt had the puzzled look of a puppy trying to understand his first command. The mechanic hit the air brake, swung open the cab door and climbed down from the rig all the while praising the condition of Mutt’s truck and its mechanical worthiness. If there had been a problem, the combined forces of mechanical engineers and the vessels their spirits moved on, solved Mutt’s transportation problems. At first light, Mutt would be back on the I95 wheeling toward Boston.

Mutt’s encounter with No.1 was a lesson in the art of the muddle where the seemingly apathetic are anointed and notified that inactions are the excuses that create the perforated bags in which the water is carried. Spilling time into an ocean of misappropriated wisdom, gave observers the opportunity to heckle what they did not hear, chastise what they could not see and, best of all, relish in the warmth of their own bathwater. Mutt was not part of this cohort, but he knew of the possibility of their hypnotic effect and often searched his soul to see if the tentacles of supremacy had claimed him.

Mutt broke off a tiny bit of his peanut butter and jam sandwich and placed it on the leaf next to the insect. The wasp ignored the offering at first, but after several minutes he tentatively shuffled toward it. Rubbing his legs together and staring at Mutt. Tthe creature neither heckled nor chastised and if he wore a hat, Mutt thought, he would have doffed it.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Pickles sat in a wicker basket surrounded by potions, lotions, scented soaps and mini chocolates from around the world. She had been fondled and touched by many of the town’s quasi-sophisticated who were undecided if their money would better be spent in the caverns of the big city or over the Wi-Fi waves of the internet. Small town chic waged a perpetual war on itself, inflecting scars of inadequacy that only itself, and a small cadre of keen observers, could recognize, while most everything else just floated down the river to a lake of practicality. The complete irrelevance of this egomaniacal army is not lost on all, bit those that embrace it, walk a line so thin and so corrupt that the human conditions becomes altered in way that shatter not only the truth that is us, but bends our spirits in hideous pursuits of vanity.

Pickles languished in the store front window for weeks and no amount of stings from the local bees, wasps and hornets could restore her sentientism. Finally, after a plea from Leo, No.1 sent his first lieutenant to free Pickles from her coma.

WHAT AN IRIS SEES

WHAT IT IS

Hammer failed to mention it, Mary never realized it and the Polacka just went ahead and did it…ate the wild iris. It is a common misconception that the Polacka is the result of an unlikely union between a Polar Bear and an Alpaca, when it fact the Polacka is a common pet from Mizar that reacts poorly when it consumes bloodroot, indigo, iris and other earthly plants.

After eating copious amounts of iris while Mary was off picking blueberries, the Polacka collapsed on the edge of the wetland and bellowed out a pitiful sound akin to that of a tomcat in the throes of passion. Mary did something a blind person shouldn’t, she came running, slipped on a patch of moss and fell head first on to the moaning beast…her sight slowly coming back into focus. This time her vision wasn’t just ocular and although she couldn’t exactly see on a cellular level, she could observe connections and interactions of the world around her that few others will ever see. The timidity of time, the dissolution of lifespan and the forfeiture of ones self to the splendid existence saw the entire ethos merge and submerge for the simple purpose that life deserves life. The boundaries that Mary saw were not boundaries in the ordinary sense, just stations along the way, some, portals to other planes, some obligations to oblivion and still others a fight to the death. It all seemed like a sea of acceptable chaos, with nothing getting ahead and nothing getting left behind as it was both agreeable and tragic and as hard as hell to understand. Mary wished for her unfamiliar vision, something tangible and understandable and over time she’d get her wish and more.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Deep inside a scruffy piece of wetland on the edge of the Mark Twain National Forest, No.1 rested on a wild iris flower after a long day of infecting insects and birds with the enzyme he believed would provide immunity from INSECT’s deadly insecticide 1,4 Dichloropropene. Worry and weary, not traits ascribed to those in this Kingdom, permeated No.1’s habitual natural selections. His ascension to the status of No.1 was by appointment, a directive given by a scrupulous awareness of the coming eradication. Trying to create normalcy in a time of unheard of edicts, No.1 went about his business as a bearer of responsibility and a teller of truth. His march onward would be his end, but nothing he could do was going to change that fact because the forces of someone else’s justice would find him, pass sentence and give the final order. Like his predecessor, No.1 found solaces and turmoils in the deep ravines of the long history of his kind and his fear did not lie in the fortunes of the executed, but in that of the executioners. They were the sheep destined to survive and left to watch the rising sun reveal the madness left behind.

No.1’s sleep was restful and when he woke, he saw Feather at the edge of the swamp, beckoning him to continue their journey.