Sunday, August 20, 2017

Mom Would Be Proud of Me

What great fools we are! 'He has spent his life in idleness,' we say. 'I haven't done a thing today.' - What! Have you not lived? That is not only the most basic of your employments, it is the most glorious. - 'I would have shown them what I can do, if they had set me to manage some great affair.' - If you have been able to examine and manage your own life you have achieved the greatest task of all. Nature, to display and show her powers, needs no great destiny: she reveals herself equally at any level of life, both behind curtains or without them. Our duty is to bring order to our morals not to the materials of a book: not to win provinces in battle but order and tranquility for the conduct of our life. Our most great glorious achievement is to live our life fittingly. Everything else—reigning, building, laying up treasure—are at most tiny props and small accessories.


I passed a monumental milestone in my life this past Tuesday. On that day I was exactly the age my mother was when she died.

As far as milestones go, it was almost certainly the most significant of my existence. There really isn't anything, as far as I can tell, that compares, or that will compare. If I become a bazillion-selling author, it still will not compare. If I live to 110, it still will not compare. This was the Everest of milestones. There are none higher.

Standing over her grave just after her funeral, I promised her that if I got the opportunity to outlive her--if I got to live beyond her age when she died--that I hoped I would be by that point still worthy to be called her son.

Well, I passed that point this last Tuesday. Am I still worthy to be called her son?

I'm not a rich man; in fact, I am utterly penniless. But she wouldn't have cared about that.

I'm not a man of status or power. That wouldn't have mattered to her either.

With a few glitches, I still have my health. That would have mattered to her.

With a few glitches, I have held to what she taught me, and what the example of her own life taught me. That would have mattered a great deal to her.


In 1998 I decided to change my name to Shawn Michel de Montaigne. I did it because my family, the Helberts, disowned me in 1990. I gave them two more chances to get things right, one in 1995, the last in 1998. Two more chances out of tens of thousands that they had prior to 1990, and which they absolutely did not deserve.

I didn't go through all the legal channels to have my name "officially" changed. I didn't feel the need. What a piece of paper may or may not say has no bearing in comparison to what I feel in my heart. Besides, changing your name, if you are a man, is very difficult to do in this country (America). Difficult--and expensive. And that's assuming the name-change is approved by the court. Oftentimes, it isn't. And you're still out of all that cash.

Fuck that.

I was disowned in 1990 because I demanded the family Christmas party I was expected to attend be free of alcohol. My siblings and my father and his new wife were (and are still) alcoholics.

It was no contest. Alcohol wins every time.

Mom had died six years earlier. My siblings used to smoke pot around her--even though doing so would make her very sick. They stole from her to support their habits. They puked in the halls and bathrooms and would not clean it up. And when she protested, they'd berate and abuse her, often to the point that she'd need hospitalization afterward.

I resisted changing my name not because of them, but because of her. I struggled enormously with what she would think of me if I did such a thing. She was buried, after all, with her married name--Kathleen C. Helbert. But in every relevant sense she was no Helbert, who rank, even to this day, as the nastiest people I have ever known--and that includes the extended monsters--the cousins and uncles and aunts and stepmothers and whatnot.

I don't think of myself as a Helbert, and haven't for almost twenty years. I think of myself as a Montaigne. If I am forced to use my legal name, say, at a health clinic or dealing with the government, I use Helbert, but it feels foreign to me, and when it rolls off my tongue, I feel sullied. I'm not a Helbert. I stopped being one October 25, 1984--the day Mom died. It took fourteen more years for me to have the courage to see that, and what that implied, and call myself Montaigne, and move on.

I chose Montaigne because Michel Eyquem de Montaigne I consider my spiritual father. I have read his Essays numerous times, cover to cover, and have been transcribing them now for almost eighteen years. He was a profoundly moral and decent man, a great and original thinker who has influenced millions, and whose quote above I consider the cornerstone quote of my life. He wrote it while dying of "the stone," which were kidney stones, and which didn't have a treatment back in the sixteenth century.

His words have been a far greater influence on me than the hateful, drunken bully and lout that was my adopted father; and as for my birth father, he doesn't even know I exist. I was the result of a one-night stand.

(He may not even be alive anymore. I don't know; and I don't care to know.)

My birth mother would have made a perfect Helbert, if you're wondering. I met her in 1991. She's cruel, willfully ignorant, manipulative, a slave to her passions and the worst of culture, a moronic and self-absorbed fundamentalist, a shrew, a nag, and a hag.

And those are her good qualities.

As I said, a perfect Helbert.

Mom, despite her flaws, the worst of which was a continuing, blind, blanket denial of the rottenness of four of her five children and her ex-husband, was no Helbert. She was too much of a rebel. For that my siblings and her ex-husband called her "crazy."

I'm certain that's how they view me today.

I'm good with that.


The starlight is now older to me than it was for her. I've seen more of it. The days are without signposts. The highway ended Tuesday. The way ahead is wild and uncharted.

Wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age. I know this because I've seen far too many examples of total foolishness from too many people my age and older, many of whom hold themselves up as very wise. They aren't.

No, wisdom comes from soulfulness--from the uncompromising courage it takes to become, more and more, who you were meant to be on this Earth. And the truth is, few people bother. I've been around long enough to know that for a fact.

Montaigne's cornerstone quote is my reminder to always seek that soulfulness, to bring order to my morals and tranquility in the conduct of my life. It isn't nearly as easy or as common as it sounds. Please believe me on this one point if you believe me at all anywhere else in this essay. In this day and age especially, the trite, the shallow, the moronic, the selfish, and the rotten hold almost absolute power in almost every aspect and avenue of our common lives. Montaigne, I am certain, did not write that passage with any notion that it would someday become revolutionary, either on a personal or a societal scale. But it has.

I am a Montaigne. And this is my revolution.

Dad would be proud of me.

I know Mom would.


Sinking, Sinking Peacefully, Blissfully ...--"At the Bottom is Deep Sleep"

At the Bottom is Deep Sleep


Saturday, August 19, 2017

It's Time, Once Again, to Ball Our Fists and Smash Fascists in the Kisser!

I wrote the essay below shortly after the illegitimate election of Donald Trump to the presidency. I wrote it while the media was furiously working at normalizing his evil, and while people everywhere were screaming that he wasn't that bad, that he wasn't a racist, fascist pig, and that we should all just give him a chance.

The events of the last week have, once and for all, proven me right in my judgment of this vile, conscienceless, pathetic little man.

We in this nation, and indeed around the world, are faced with a stark choice. Carl Sagan called it "the bottleneck." It's the choice between our ultimate extinction or our ultimate survival.

Donald Trump and his supporters, the Nazis, the totalitarian, the hateful, the greedy, the indifferent, the uninformed Bernie Bros., the powermongers, the herd animals of unthinking suburbanism are the choice of destruction.

Those of us who stand for democracy, inclusiveness, education, science, informed and considered faith, the commonweal, peace, the melting pot and diversity, accountability, involvement, individuality, liberalism, simplicity, justice, and love are the choice of ultimate survival.

It is an existential battle--and you don't have a choice but to pick a side. Sitting on the face is to be complicit with evil and destruction. Being indifferent is, too. Pretending nothing is wrong is just as bad as being a loudmouthed Trump supporter, if, indeed, you aren't already one.

We're here--the bottleneck. That's just the way it is.

Time to choose.



WHAT IS the appropriate response to evil? I think it's clear that the answer must vary given the circumstances. Sometimes running and hiding are the best options. But sometimes, like this rock, standing one's ground is what one should do.

A racist, bigot, homophobe, sexual predator, liar, waster, oligarch, tax evader, fascist, and unrepentant fan of dictators worldwide, including Adolf Hitler, is going to be sworn in as President of the United States this Friday. If ever there was a clear-cut case of unabashed malevolence, Donald J. Trump is it.

His cabinet is comprised of similar men and women. The nuclear codes will be in his possession—a man who once rued their non-use.

Do we run and hide, or stand and resist?

Jane Austen once wrote: “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

I was abused as a child. My father, who would've absolutely loved Donald Trump, took great delight in bullying everyone. He could get away with it, too: he was 6'2" and three hundred pounds, and had lots of money and power.

He beat me and my brother, as well as my three sisters. He'd make my brother drink until he'd pass out—for fun, at parties. Mark wasn't even five years old.

It wasn't until I was a teenager that I stood up to him. He had divorced my mother a few years earlier, but on this day drove up in his new eighty-thousand-dollar BMW and demanded to be let in so he could scream at her. I refused. I threatened to kill him. He must have believed me, because he didn't get out of range of his car door, or anywhere within striking distance of me. He finally left.

I think that's what's needed now in this country: to stand and resist the malevolence that this incoming administration represents and will surely act upon. We must not run and hide. We must not turn away.

It's time to say "Hell no!" to the rising tide of fascism around the world.

It's time to fight for our Muslim and Mexican brothers and sisters, and for immigrants of all stripes, and for our LGBTQ+ citizens, and for our very Earth, under siege by global climate change, and for the sick, poor, and infirm.

The bullies want us to go away and just accept their dictates.

I say no! I say: Let's smash them in the kisser!

My Rogue Mile is coming this fall!


Demonkillers Are Trained In This Art. It's the One Melody Must Learn to Defeat Necrolius.



The aecxis for this highest of martial arts is carved in the great double doors leading into the training facilities deep inside the Kathlin Rory Carrick Castle.

Like all aecxes, the Daen-Cer-Tain evolves, changes, moves. This is just one representation of it. If you successfully complete the training, known as the Daen-Cer-Dain (with a d), you become a member of the super-elite XVI Angeli Magna Coronados, otherwise known as the Kumiyaay, and may have this aecxis tattooed upon your person if you so wish, and will receive two swords with it inscribed in the blades.

Above the great doors themselves is another inscription, this one written in the warrior dialect of Pyrrho:

Eld’ana è Tale Ror Honőry Vilylvye

which translates to:

There are no guards posted here.

Carcaryn Gellantara, one of Melody's teachers, is a Kumiyaay warrior. She's featured below. As a warrior, she's tasked with slaughtering thousand-pound killer demons. If you were such a demon, and she were this close to you, the other nine-tenths of the remaining second after seeing her would be spent collapsing into a lifeless heap.

A Jeweled Glimmer--"At First Light"

At First Light


For Actual Poetry Lovers--Not Those Who Say They Love Poetry Like They Say They Love Moby Dick, But In Truth Haven't Read the Latter and Don't Bother With the Former

Poetry is one of those things people claim they love but no one bothers to read. It's like classical literature like Moby Dick. The only people who actually read Moby Dick are college freshmen, and then even they don't read it, really, only getting through enough to marginally pass the exam.

Even so, it's a form of expression that I can't help but write. It resides in a deeper place in my spirit than the prose that longs to be organized into sentences that take up the entire width of the page.

Most of it is spiritual scar tissue that demands expression. And so I let it express itself. As a result, I've now got five volumes of it waiting for you to not give two dried dog turds about.

Not all of it is pain and anguish--the poetry, not the turds. Plenty of it is protest: at the state of our world, at the state of the ostensibly most intelligent species currently working feverishly to destroy it, at the dismal state of our politics, at the soullessness of so many, and how that soullessness is upheld as the gold standard for living and being.

Still other poems are more like prayers. One actually is. (That one, by the way, is the only strictly structured poem I've ever written.) They touch on my love of nature, spirit, and God, and the various aspects of each that move me each and every day, especially here in southwestern Oregon.

I don't hold back in their writing, just as I don't hold back with my fiction. I don't feel I owe anybody anything; and I don't feel obliged to make nice. In that sense obscurity is a pleasant reality for me. I mean, no one gives, well, two dried dog turds anyway, so what the hell!

I am one of those rare geeks who actually reads poetry, by the way. I have an omnibus of sorts, a thick tome of poetry written through the twentieth century. I take the time regularly to pick a few of them and study (and enjoy) them. When it's my turn to sit down and write poetry, I very much prefer free-verse because ... well, that's just how my soul rolls.

In about three months I'll release Fractalverse: Volume 4, which I just finished writing this week. Even more than the other volumes, this one is brimming with protest and outrage. I'll give you three guesses as to why. If it takes you more than one, you really haven't been reading this blog much, have you?

Feeling helpless isn't something I do well with. I really don't. Writing is my way of trying to change my little corner of the world. Words are the most powerful weapon against things like fascism that exist, even more so than guns, invading armies, even nuclear weapons. Fascists like Trump, more than anything else, fear the power of words. Which is why he has declared war upon the press and those who question or attack him via the written or spoken word.

The five volumes above are FREE at Smashwords and associated retailers for the next three months until the next volume's release, and then probably for another month after that. If I get a total of even ten downloads in that time, I'll consider my little promotion a huge success. Because what people say they love (poetry, democracy, virtue, brotherhood, connection, community, peace) and what they truly love are almost always completely different, if not totally opposite.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Do You Remember Your First Love?

When I was ten, I fell in love with a classmate named Connie. Our "puppy love" relationship would change me forever. She would change me forever.

For the next month, Reflections of Connie: Memories of a Sundered Love is FREE at Smashwords and associated retailers like iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

Below is the chapter "The Cloud of Mystery." Enjoy!


And they call it puppy love
Oh, I guess they’ll never know
How a young heart feels
And why I love her so
In 1972 I wanted to be just like Donny Osmond. He was this very good-looking, popular, well-dressed young celebrity the girls screamed for. Connie really liked him, too. That made me very jealous, of course. Being but ten years old, I couldn’t understand or cope with such a strong emotion as jealousy. To that point I’d never really felt anything even remotely like it before. Here was this really pretty girl who didn’t seem to mind talking to me (unlike every other girl in my class, pretty or not); that fact by itself inspired all sorts of protectiveness inside me. The green monster reared its ugly head from the virgin depths of my childhood soul and roared; it roared louder still when Connie announced her undying love for Michael Jackson as well, who could not only sing well—really well—but could dance lights out, too. I took it personally: it was war between me and Donny and Michael for this pretty girl’s affection—and there was no way I could win.
Or maybe there was. After all, Donny and Michael were thousands of miles away, and were each surrounded by truckloads of fawning, sighing, screaming girls. I was right here, by Connie’s side. And while I had no illusions I was anywhere near as good-looking or interesting as Donny Osmond or Michael Jackson, I did for some reason merit her undivided attention almost every day of our fourth-grade year.
How I first got there, by her side, is a total mystery. I’m not saying I don’t remember: forty-five years ago[1] I couldn’t have told you how it happened, either. The cloud of mystery surrounding our coming together has both plagued and pleased me in the vast span of time following: plagued for the obvious reason of wanting to recall everything about her and our short time together; pleased because, even today, as the brittle and cynical rationality of adulthood has made steady forays into my spirit, that mystery remains an untouchable one, a mystery that has by its very nature rejuvenated and renewed my soul. I cannot grow up with it present, as it will be with me the rest of my days. The brittleness and cynicism cannot claim me whole. The war was lost nearly five decades ago.
Adults downplay young love because ... well, for many reasons, some of which I’ll touch on here. “Puppy love” they call it just before smiling in an Isn’t it sweet? manner to their same-aged friends while the young smitten ones looks on, not understanding. As I did. As I’m sure Connie did. When you’re but ten years old, adults thoroughly elude you: their behavior, their mannerisms, their flighty, unpredictable, sometimes terrifying extremes.
“Puppy love.” I was directed by the many adults in my life at the time to minimize my feelings because, after all, I was only ten years old and ten-year-old boys couldn’t possibly have a clue as to what real love is. I was warned many times and in many ways: Don’t take it so seriously, Shawn, violating everything I felt inside at the time. Everything I feel now. Nothing’s changed. They were wrong; I was, and still am, right.
In the decades following I have learned that very few adults themselves know what genuine love is, for it requires the truest, most steadfast, most daring courage possible in this universe—and they don’t have it. Knowing this, it becomes trivially obvious why young love is minimized with the label “puppy love,” and why all love worthy of being called such is, ultimately, fled from.
She wore a brown long coat with a belt she’d cinch up during blustery autumn or winter days. The coat came with deep pockets, one to a side, into which she’d stuff her mittened hands. On her head was a cute red ski cap with fluffy white button; she’d pull the cap down over her ears and give me a playful smile and I’d totally forget that I was immersed in biting cold and swirling snow. For Connie’s smile was the brightest, the most endearing one I’d ever seen.
“Where do you want to go?” she asked brightly as we met one frozen day just outside her homeroom door. I’d hurried there to catch her, afraid if I didn’t she’d troop off with friends, as she did on rare occasion. But here she was, waiting for me. She caught me gaping at her and smiled even more sweetly. “Well?”
“Want to go on the swings?” I suggested meekly, hoping it would meet with her approval. But she shook her head.
“Nah,” she said, “it’s too cold. Let’s just walk around.”
And so we walked around the playground, kids flying all around us, yelling and screaming and laughing, Connie with her long brown coat on and her mittened hands stuffed warmly into the side pockets, me sporting my inadequate down coat and my freckled nose bright red from the chill.
My nose was an embarrassment. In any temperature less than 50 degrees it’d get red and stay that way for hours. Not my cheeks, not my forehead, not even my chin. Those would stay a perfectly normal whitish-pink, suitable for kissing. But my nose? Classic Irish drunk.
“You’re at least partially Irish,” Mom told me after one particularly frigid day. “The proof is right ... here.” She playfully poked my nose.
My adoption papers made very little mention of my heritage. I’d take the occasional look at them: “SCOTCH-IRISH” was the only information available. There wasn’t more to go on. Many years later, after meeting my birth mother, I received almost no additional information.
“I don’t know,” she snarled, which she often did. “I think my side is mainly English. I don’t know what your father was. I never asked him.”
She never asked him because (as it came reluctantly to light) I was the result of her one-night stand with him, and they didn’t get around to sharing family backgrounds. From her general description of him—tall, with blonde hair and blue eyes—I’d go more for the Teutonic end of the gene pool. But who knows? It’s certain I never will: my birth mother remembered nothing beyond his name—Bob Meyers—and (of course) his physical attributes.
Bob Meyers, my biological father, doesn’t even know I’m alive.[2]
Was one of dear ol’ Dad’s attributes “Irish drunk nose”? Did his nose get all red and silly the night he and my mother conceived me that night up Boulder Canyon in the spring of 1961? I asked.
“What a silly question,” she said, grimacing. “Why would I remember a thing like that?”
She never told me if she herself ever suffered from “Irish drunk nose.”[3]
It’s those recess walks I remember most about Connie. It was the closeness of her. She’d not walk far away, but would meander happily right next to me, her shoulder occasionally brushing my arm. She smiled a lot. It was a full smile, offered without evasion or intent to manipulate, but nonetheless struck with a deep sadness, which only endeared her to me more. She was human, that sadness told me; were I unable to detect anything but pure angelic joy inside her she’d have been unapproachable and unreachable. But there was something behind her brown eyes that brought her spirit low enough that I could reach up to it in fellowship and love, which I did.
“Let’s sit,” she suggested, and we made our way to a low brick wall which enclosed a large square sandbox full of playing kids. Mom’s[4]  etiquette lessons kicked in then: Never sit until the lady has been seated. So I’d wait until Connie was comfortably seated before taking my place next to her. I gave her plenty of room to move around: there was at least a good foot of space between us.
Connie scooched closer, until our thighs barely touched. She always did this. She never looked at me as she did so, but out, innocently, at the other kids playing and running around.
What was I to make of this—I, a ten-year-old boy? Something was awakening inside me, and I felt confused and elated. I wanted to hold her hand. I wanted to kiss her.
Holding hands? Kissing? I’d never wanted to do such things with a girl before. Girls were grody. Girls were uck. Girls were good for things like taking a half-inflated basketball minding its own business in the tall, unmown grass in our back yard and launching it full force in a surprise attack upon my younger sister, who was riding far too gleefully around on her new Schwinn bike with sparkly-pink banana seat. As I recall, my aim was glorious: the basketball slammed into her shoulder, spilling her sideways off the bike into an area of the yard rife with land mines.[5] That’s what you did with girls.
Holding hands? Kissing? I had no idea how to go about doing either. Surely one didn’t just reach out and grab that enticing mittened hand as it rested serenely on her thigh, surely! There had to be some elaborate grown-up ritual to go with it. And kissing—it was so far beyond my comprehension as to how to go about getting that going that puckering up seemed no less complex than launching an Apollo rocket to the moon! Surely there were procedures to be followed, checks to be done:
“Kisser 1, this is Houston.”
“Roger, Houston, this is Kisser 1.”
“Kisser 1, check your coolant systems. They a ‘go’?”
“Coolant systems are reading ‘strained,’ Houston.”
“Roger that, Kisser 1. We’re showing the same. Primary independent puckering manifolds?”
“Uh ...”
“We’re reading ‘frozen,’ Kisser 1.”
“Roger that, Houston. Attempting to override vocal programming—it keeps blathering total jibberish. I’m now manually maneuvering the left quintuple grip assemblage closer to hers ...”
“Coolant system reading ‘critical,’ Kisser 1. The wind and snow don’t seem to be helping—”
“Attempting a bypass of the automatic tactical forehead/eyebrow circuitry, Houston. Can’t seem to get the viewer cover units to blink—”
“Kisser 1, your oxygen intake units have completed red-shifted. And we believe the mucous storage tanks are leaking! ABORT MISSION! REPEAT, ABORT MISSION!”
“She’s looking at me strangely, Houston—”
“Oh, the humanity!”
“My God, I see ... stars.”
I never did kiss Connie. Nor did I ever hold her hand. It would be a gross understatement to say I thought often about doing both. It wasn’t because they sounded “cool” to do, or because my few male friends kept challenging me to do both, which they did, but because I desperately, achingly wanted to be closer to her, to show her how I felt. Her cheeks were like brown porcelain, her hands too. Her lips ... I had no language for them, and wouldn’t for many years after. I dreamed about her lips—the way she’d bite the lower one while she thought of something to say, the way she’d lick them after eating something sweet, the way they pulled back when she smiled: the remarkable way they didn’t seem to thin as she did so, but remained full and reddish-pink and pure. One time, while talking about the new plush puppy she’d gotten for Christmas,[6] she pretended the little guy was in her arms and she cuddled them in and shook back and forth and lavished the nonexistent—and incredibly lucky—canine with all sorts of kisses.
Houston, we’re on fire! Repeat: WE’RE ON FIRE!”
Holding hands? Kissing? The desire to do both was amplified hugely by Connie’s mesmerizing brown eyes.
Many beautiful girls and women have since crossed my life path,[7] some truly stunning to behold. Women with eyes like sapphires, others like emeralds, others still with eyes like deepest night, coal-black and mysterious. It was impossible for me through the long years following that magical fourth-grade year not to compare them all to the brown beauties that occasionally locked my gaze like an electromagnet as we sat there on that wall, or when I got on the bus in the morning and saw her sitting there, smiling in my direction, the seat next to hers open (as it always was), or when we came together after another day at the school’s entrance, where we would run and hop on the bus and find a seat together. Her eyes were so alive and expressive that I didn’t need to ask her permission to be by her side: the permission was obvious and complete within them, and offered without apology or shame. It came with a smile simple as morning sunshine, and as quiet.
Looking back, I recall entire conversations I had with Connie, but ones where we shared no words. Conversations that seemed to take place outside time, so that the days passed indistinctly one from another, the honey-golden sky of morning and the perfumed blues and whites of mid-day and the sumptuous purples of dusk quickened, formless, into familiar and welcome stages by which we could immerse ourselves and our unspoken love, while the audiences passed by, convinced it wasn’t real, or oblivious to us, forgettable bit players that we were to them.
To this day, whenever I pull out Connie’s photo and look at it, at her eyes, I am transported instantly back in time. I can smell the sweet tinge of diesel fumes from the school bus we sat in mornings and afternoons; I can feel the slick vinyl of its olive-green seats and its engine rumbling expectantly beneath me; I can smell winter on her brown coat and I can feel the tight heat in my cheeks as she smiled at me. I can smell the pink pencil erasers in the bright homeroom; I can hear the other children in the gym during lunch, which doubled as the cafeteria; I can feel the thrill of seeing her name on the list taped to the wall of the classroom opposite mine. These are the gifts Connie gave me, anchored forever in her young eyes, the incessant corruptions of time and adult experience unable to grasp them and claim them for their own.
We had ten months together; that was all we would get. Unspoken volumes, gestures answered, smiles returned, footsteps echoed: somehow the dash of time that granted us company together also granted me light and sound and smell and taste and touch.... But they were granted so purely, so innocently, that there was no way to fully take hold of any of them, as though they weren’t offered to my physical being, but to my spirit, to my soul. It was there and only there that they could be appreciated in the season of their fullness: the gross and grubbing matter that contained my essence could never comprehend, let alone appreciate to the degree that they deserved, light that illuminated light, sound to grace sound, smell to spice smell, taste to savor taste, touch that glanced touch:
Eternity was manifest in the light of day, and something infinite behind everything appeared: which talked of my expectation and moved my desire.[8]
Connie would meander into my shoulder, innocent as the snowflakes that drifted down on us, and something inside me ached for that touch as though my very being depended on it, which, as the decades since have shown time and time again, it did.


Fractal Art Inspired by Melody and the Pier to Forever--"As He Sees Us"

As He Sees Us


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Once Upon a Time Fans: Are You Interested in Another Snippet from My Fan-Fic About Zelena? Here It Is!

One of the great things about writing fan fiction is the challenge of getting into the creators' heads to see if I can produce anything original from there.

Once Upon a Time provides ample opportunity for that challenge. It's a TV series that has held great promise, but has consistently backed away from it over its run. It's about to launch into a seventh season, despite my strong objections, of which at one time I had posted a good thousand words right here on this blog. (I curate my blog so that I'm not stuck going over Google's bandwidth requirements.)

Despite my objections, and the show's failed promise, Kye and I still love it, and occasionally binge-watch it. One of the reasons we do is that several characters are played brilliantly by some top-shelf actors: Robert Carlyle, for instance, and Lana Parrilla, just to mention two. A third would be Rebecca Mader, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, pictured above.

(She's the spitting image of Aubrey Sintaur from Sole Survivor: The Story of Kaza of Theseus, if any Melody fans out there are wondering. [Aubrey, however, isn't green.])

Mader was given serious short-shrift in the series, which, whenever I watch her, I angrily and inevitably end up thinking. She brings great emotional range and a gleeful wickedness to Zelena.

It doesn't hurt either that she's drop-dead gorgeous.

When the sixth season concluded, and the producers made it clear that Zelena was no longer part of the story, I decided to write a fan-fic about her. I'm approaching 13K words at the time of this post. It's formatted as a short story, one I figure has another 8K words or so before the finish.

Below is an unedited snippet. Here we meet the story's protagonist, a young man named Nathan Vach. He's been having bad dreams. One day he decides to travel to Munchkinland to visit a highly regarded metaphysician to help him figure out what's going on.



The metaphysician was named Dr. Dunk. We had to meet outside his home (his Munchkin one was too small to accommodate me). He told me to sit on a lacquered myrtle stump out back and brought me a cup of tea after shaking my hand. A human-sized cup, no less. I took a sip and waited for him to stop walking around me, sizing me up, or whatever he was doing.

   “Put the cup down for a minute,” he ordered.

   I did. He began poking and prodding me with both middle fingers, then picked up an odd, twisty bit of black metal and eyed it critically.

   “Damn thing’s not tuned right. Be right back.”

   He hurried into his home, metal firmly in his grip, then came back out with another one. This one was twisty and black too, but had what looked like veins of gold running through it. It was also larger.

   He pressed the flat end of it into my shoulders, then, gently, into my sternum. He closed his eyes.

   “Hmm,” he said, his brow furrowing more.

   I waited.

   Eyes still closed, he said, “Stay silent, if you would, and extend your right hand.”

   I did. He opened his eyes and took the instrument and laid it across the back of my hand.

   He let it go. It remained, balanced.

   He snatched it back. “Your left hand, if you would, please. And please close your eyes.”

   I felt him balance the twisted metal on the back of it. He snatched the instrument away, grunted twice, told me I could open my eyes, then turned and sipped his tea with some agitation, which he’d set on a small circular table nearby. He watched me curiously, almost suspiciously.

   “Is there something wrong?” I demanded.

   He held up his hand. “Please remain silent. Do not speak unless I say so.”

   I nodded, flummoxed.

   “Please remove your shirt.”

   I blinked.

   “Now, if you would, Mr. Vach.”

   I was about to say, “Sure, sure,” but remembered that he wanted me to keep silent. I pulled my shirt off. He took it and laid it over the table’s top next to his cup, and turned to study me more.

   He nodded. “Please close your eyes again.”

   I did.

   I heard him take his cup off the table and take a large, loud sip.

   He spat on my chest. The tea was still quite hot.

   I couldn’t help it. I blinked my eyes opened and flinched at the same time while saying something like, “Yi!”

   “No! No!” he yelled. “Stay perfectly still!”

   I waited, quickly closing my eyes once more. I didn’t hear him move or even breathe for a long, uncomfortable moment.

   “You may open your eyes now.”

   I did, gawking. Rivulets of cooling tea ran down my bare chest onto my pants. The slight breeze gave me a quick shiver.

   Doctor Dunk came up close, studying the rivulets closely. He eventually took the twisty instrument and rubbed it against my wet chest, then pushed the flat end of it against the bridge of my nose. I couldn’t keep my mouth closed.

   “Holy crap!”

   For the instrument, like it had on the backs of my hands, was balanced perfectly—on nothing but air. It looked like a horn jutting out of my head.

   He snatched the instrument, smiled for the first time, and said lightly:

   “More tea? How about a blueberry scone? My wife just pulled them out of the oven!”

He returned with a damp towel, more tea, and the promised scone. I wiped myself off as he scribbled notes. He closed the book and sat facing me.

   He nodded as I bit uncertainly into the scone. It was delicious and warm, but not nearly enough to distract my attention from what just happened, or his face, which held a studious smile.

   “What does it feel like?” he asked.

   “What does what feel like?” I demanded after swallowing.

   “You told me your mother was a Seer ...”

   I nodded.

   “A very imperfect Gift,” he remarked. “As it would be, I suppose. As it must be.”

   “She didn’t foresee her own death,” I said glumly.

   “Or perhaps she did and didn’t tell you.”

   I stared.

   He shrugged. “You were a child. What mother would share such news with her child?”

   I hadn’t thought of that. It was a very depressing consideration, so I pushed it out of my mind.

   “You aren’t strictly a Seer, Mr. Vach. My tests strongly suggest you are something related, but also quite a bit rarer. You are what metaphysicians call a Vision Bearer.”

   I’d never heard the term before. Naturally, since it apparently described me, I waited with bated breath.

   “I could give you the clinical definition,” said the good doctor, “but I think I’ll err on the side of loose verbiage in order to help you understand more easily. Would that be acceptable?”

   “Sure. Sure,” I said.

   “A Vision Bearer bears a vision that isn’t his or her own.”

   “I’m confused,” I said. “I have someone else’s visions?”

   “Strictly speaking, they aren’t visions,” he answered. “Well,” he held up a hand, “not always, perhaps not even most of the time. Visions or premonitions are a dime a dozen, really. They occur much more often than people realize. They really aren’t that remarkable. Nor are they accurate. Not usually. Your mother was probably more gifted than the typical Seer, meaning she had greater clarity than most.”

   I waited. The scone was so tasty that I quickly finished it. He glanced at my empty plate and without asking picked it up, disappeared inside once again, and returned with a fresh one. I bit into it as he collected his thoughts.

   “Vision Bearers are ... well, think of them more as Soul Givers. Your spirit ‘houses,’ if you will, an essential ‘component’ of spirit meant to go to someone else, someone you’ll meet at an undetermined future time. It has germinated inside you, has grown inside you, and is waiting for the moment to flower. But it isn’t yours—again, strictly speaking. It’s meant for someone else, someone you may not have met yet but will. Follow?”

   “A bit of someone else’s ... soul ... somehow got mixed up with mine?” I asked, dumbfounded.

   He impatiently shook his head. “It’s a bit of your soul that you ‘grew’ that ultimately belongs to someone else. The recipient’s spirit didn’t lose a piece of itself and you somehow picked it up, no. You grew a bit of spirit inside your own meant for that person. You bear it for them until such time that they need it. When they do, you will give it to them. The ‘growth’ of that flower, if you will, bears the ‘soil’ and ‘nutrients’ of your spirit, so what you give them is truly a gift, is unique, and will serve them. It’s a Seeing ability since it foretells of future events. Like I said, it’s quite rare. But I am certain you possess it.”

   I needed time to collect my thoughts. He gave the moment to me, waiting, arms crossed, as I nibbled absentmindedly on the scone.

   I swallowed, wiped my mouth with my shirt, still off my person, and said, “I haven’t met this person yet?”

   Dr. Dunk shrugged. “Don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. In any case, what brought you to me was the Vision or, more accurately, Gift, which means you haven’t given it to the individual. If you had, you’d know it.”

   “How can I know it’s a gift?” I demanded. “What if it’s a curse? What if it harms the recipient? How do I ‘give’ it to them?”

   “One question at a time,” he reproached. “Thank you.”

   “Yeah. Sure. Sorry,” I murmured.

   “It’s one of the greater mysteries in Metaphysics,” said Dr. Dunk. “Vision Bearers have never, as far as recorded history is concerned, given curses. Their gifts are always profound blessings. Admittedly, your kind is very rare, and so records are far from complete or comprehensive. I must admit that I can’t be sure that what you’ve got growing inside your spirit is benign. It may not be.”

   I nodded.

   “As far as giving them the Gift, there are probably an infinite number of ways such an exchange can occur. I can be as simple as a kiss or a hug. Or it can be very complex and involve many other individuals. You can relax about it in any case, since you won’t have any say in the process of giving aside from your conscious comings and goings through your life. You just be you, and the Gift will, at the appropriate time, give itself.”

   I nodded, trying to absorb the information and hoping I’d remember it when I got home.

   “At the risk of being too personal,” he asked, “would you share what you are ‘seeing’? I assume you have these ‘visions’ in the early morning, typically, as you emerge from deep sleep?”

   “Wow ... yes. That’s right. How did you know?”

   “I’m a trained metaphysician, my boy.”

   “Yes, of course.”

   I collected my thoughts. The scone was gone. I put the plate on the table behind me and turned back around.

   “I see ...” I began “... I see ... it always starts with my initials.”

   “N.V.?” he asked.

   I nodded. “Yes.”

   “Go on ...”

   “I see ... no, I feel ... great bitterness. Anger. Jealousy. A desire for revenge. I mean, a burning, smoldering craving for it. And then ... green. A bright flash of green lightning. It’s sudden and overwhelming and it startles me, and I wake up right after that. I’m always sweating, my heart jumping in my chest like a jack rabbit. It’s ... it’s so powerful. When it happens, I spend the rest of the day furious, angry, jealous of nothing at all, it seems. It’s hard to understand, and very scary.”

   Dr. Dunk nodded contemplatively and rubbed his chin.

   “The last time it happened, I saw a face. A woman’s face. Beautiful. She had black hair and wore ... I don’t know. She had her hair up and what looked like ... like a tiara in it. She was laughing. But not with joy. With great malice.”

   I had to calm myself. Just talking about it got my heart racing again.

   “Is she ... is she the one I’m to give my Soul Gift to?” I asked, inwardly praying she wasn’t.

   Dr. Dunk held up. “I’m going to venture a guess and say no, she isn’t.”


   “You originally described great bitterness, anger, and jealousy. Then you mentioned revenge. But you didn’t mention malice until later. That’s an entirely different thing. My guess is that the impending recipient of your Soul Gift is bitter, angry, and jealous towards the person with the face you saw. If I may also venture a guess, I think I may have a name to match the face based on your description. You said she wore a tiara. Did it look genuine?”

   I nodded immediately. “Yeah. Very real. Actual diamonds and rubies and emeralds. Like only royalty could possess it. So ... who do you think it is?”

   “I’ll be right back,” said the doctor, who stood and hurried inside his home.

   He was gone a long time—maybe twenty minutes or more. When he came back out, he was carrying what appeared to be an ornate wood carving. He handed it to me.

   “Is this she?” he asked, sitting once more.

   I stared, my jaw dropping. It was!

   My expression adequately conveyed my answer.

   “This is a carving a general’s son who served in the Third Ogre’s War made,” he explained. “He was there when Rumpelstiltskin destroyed them and brought an end to the conflict. On his travels through Misthaven—the Enchanted Forest, as it is commonly known—he encountered this woman. He survived the War but damn near didn’t survive her. Her name is Regina. Most call her the Evil Queen.”

   I’d heard of her. Everyone had heard of her. Even people like me who didn’t even live in her universe!

   She was the epitome of evil. She reveled in it. She wiped out whole villages—for sport. Her Black Knights were cruel and brutal. Like her, they were without mercy or compassion.

   Dr. Dunk reiterated that my Soul Gift wasn’t intended for the Evil Queen, but for someone else who felt very strongly about her. That person I was destined to meet, apparently.

   I thanked him, put my shirt back on, paid him, and left.

   It seemed entirely likely that I would like this mystery person. He or she despised the Evil Queen. Didn’t that mean that he or she had at least a modicum of decency and sanity?

   I wished I knew which it was—a he or a she. I decided that it would be a she, and that I would be her steadfast knight should she need it. I imagined myself as her defender as she stood up to and vanquished the Evil Queen using my Soul Gift, and then returned to me and showered me with deep, soulful kisses in eternal gratitude.

   I went back to the inn. Brynn was waiting behind the counter. I approached, and she smiled.

   “I’d like to pay for one more night,” I said.

   “Certainly,” she replied, taking my coins. “I’ll send up fresh towels and freshen up the basin for you.”

   Had her father “conveyed” my compliments on her prettiness yet? I couldn’t tell.

   “Thanks,” I said, and made for the stairs.

   What if the Soul Gift goes to her? I wondered. How would I give it to her? Or ... perhaps I just did!

   I got to my room, opened the door, and sat heavily at the edge of my bed. I had a lot to think about.


Fractal Art Inspired by Melody and the Pier to Forever--"Aquanian Moonrise"

Aquanian Moonrise


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Do You Like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory? If So, I Think You'll Like My New Project! Read On!

Willy Wonka &the Chocolate Factory is one of the greatest films ever made.

You're likely laughing at that, aren't you? After all, it's a children's movie! Right?

If that's what you believe, then I'm going to lay it out for you: you're an ignoramus.

It's clear that most adults never took the lessons offered in this "children's movie" to heart. Look at Donald Trump. He is Augustus Gloop. He is Violet Beauregarde. He is Veruca Salt. He is Mike Teavee.

Since he's "president," it follows that those who put him into office--tens of millions of Americans, including those who didn't vote or who voted third-party--are those things too. Because those things are what they ultimately value. It's what they wanted, or didn't care made it in the Oval Office; therefore, it's what they uphold as acceptable or worthy of such a high station.

Charlie Bucket represents a true rarity: a person with an active and growing conscience. The Golden Ticket is his way to wake further into greater and greater integrity and therefore character. It's a Ticket, in reality, that is available to every one of us every single day of our lives, but one that most reject every single day.

Why? The values of suburbanism are what people truly value. We can call those Gloopism, Beauregarde-ism, Saltism, and Teavee-ism. What suburbanism most definitely detests is Bucketism. That's so obvious to me that I'm tempted to say it is self-evident.

If it isn't obvious to you, well, I'm also tempted to say that Gloop, Beauregarde, Salt, and Teavee are much greater heroes to you, in reality, than perhaps you're willing to admit, even to yourself. Wake up. And grow up.

I started a new novel almost a year ago that basically features Charlie Bucket as an adult. I wrote the first chapter, which is posted below (it isn't edited, so please forgive its roughness), and then got involved with a bunch of other projects and put it on the back burner. Just a few days ago I completed the writing of chapter two.

The protagonist in my novel isn't named Charlie Bucket, and he isn't after chocolate. His name is Ronan Sutton. He lives in Ireland. And he and his wife, Lee, are about to lose their home to foreclosure. And that's where I'll leave you for now.



(Working Title)
The Blessings of Mr. Watson
Shawn Michel de Montaigne

Chapter One
Job Interview
Started October 3, 2016

Several miles south of Carlingford, Ireland

He spotted the vehicle in the fog. It was parked on the side of the road, perilously close to the ditch, its right rear tire flat, its hazard lights blinking.

   The fog wasn’t so thick, nor the dusk so deep, that he happened upon it suddenly, which he gave silent thanks for. He was already well above the speed limit, and the car was jet black. He was quite late for home and a video call, one that might very well help get him a decent job and a way out of the debt he and his wife were drowning under.

   Still, perhaps he could help this poor bugger quickly and be on his way. Employers were always late when it came to interviews anyway. He pulled over and slowed as he came up behind the other car.

   The job was at Belfast’s finest hotel, and would pay him more than he’d ever made before in his life—which, truthfully, wasn’t all that much. He wasn’t quite qualified for it (not really), and he certainly didn’t relish living in Belfast. But he had applied anyway, mostly out of desperation. Neither he nor Lee wanted to move, but at this point, they really didn’t have a choice.

   He was shocked when he got a call back.

   He watched as cars swerved impatiently around him and the other vehicle. One behind him honked at as he slowed, then zoomed by, horn continuing to blare.

   “Fuckin’ Belfast,” he grumbled to no one as he flipped the driver off.

   He really shouldn’t stop, he thought. He could very well miss the call, and he damn well couldn’t afford to do that.

   “Fuck it,” he grumbled, and kicked on his hazards.

   A light rain began falling the moment he opened his door.

   “Yeah, okay, pile it on,” he groused. “Just pile it the fuck on, why don’t you?”

   He spied the driver, who sat next to the flat. He was an older man, with a fedora and rain coat to match his car. He held a tire wrench and a jack and was trying, unsuccessfully, to get them under it.

   A Rolls Royce no less!

   “I’ll be damned ...”

   He closed his door and approached. “Need some help?”

   The man looked up. He had a sharp gaze, broad cheekbones, and worn smile, offered briefly, that seemed best suited to a doctor or lawyer. He looked vaguely familiar.

   “You’re the first person to stop,” he said, still trying to work the jack under. “I don’t think I’m going to get this.”

   “Let me try.”

   The man gazed up at him, then nodded and scooched on his butt to give him room after handing him the lug wrench. The rain had thickened and a gusty breeze had kicked up.

   He knelt while thinking what he was going to say to Lee when he got home. It wasn’t that job offers were pouring in; in all likelihood, they were going to have to sell their home and get on a government debt program of some kind to keep the creditors off their back.

   Fuck it. Just fuck it!

   He gruffly sat in the dirt-turning-quickly-to-mud and angrily jammed the jack under the bumper. He managed to get it under, but not without scratching the paint. He glanced sideways at the man, who saw what happened.

   The man shrugged. (Was that the hint of a smile?) “Do what you have to do.”

   People zoomed by. The rain was becoming a downpour.

   “Didn’t keep up on your auto club membership?”

   The man chuckled. “I guess not.”

   “Why don’t you get inside your vehicle and stay dry? No need for both of us to get wet!”

   The man studied him. “What’s your name?”

   “Ronan! Yours?”

   “Good to meet you, Ronan. I’m Karl.”

   “Karl, you’re gonna catch a right cold if you don’t get in your car!”

   “It’s not mine. A friend loaned it to me. I couldn’t find his auto club membership in the glove compartment, and wouldn’t you know it, my cell phone needs charging. Don’t worry about me, Ronan, and don’t worry about the car. He’s got plenty of insurance. Good Irish name, Ronan.”

   The jack was at its maximum, just high enough to get the tire off the road, which was now a small stream. Karl opened the trunk, and together they got the spare out. Ronan got it on and tightened the lugs as quickly as he could. He was soaked through and shivering, despite wearing a thick woolen jacket. Another couple of minutes and the jack was off. He tossed it and the wrench back in the trunk, which he slammed down as Karl watched.

   “I’ll be off then!” yelled Ronan through the downpour.

   “Please let me pay you!” said Karl, reaching for his wallet.

   “No need!” said Ronan. Can you pay me thirty-thousand quid? Fuck it, then! Go get dry, old man!

   “Do you live nearby, Ronan? Will you get home safely?”

   “I’m just up the road!” Ronan yelled as he hurried for his car. “I’ll be fine! Take care of yourself, Karl!”

   Ronan got in and turned his car over, turned the defroster and windshield wipers to maximum, and pulled back onto the road. Karl waved as he passed. Ronan waved back.


Awesome Brazilian Inspiration--"Angra Highway"

Angra Highway


Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Plot

Inspired by "With Respect to You," which I wrote a few days ago, and which will appear in
my next poetry Volume,
Fractalverse: Volume 4.


If I grow a garden and nobody but me notices it, is that garden a waste of time?

Your answer will likely be, "No, of course not!" And it's right there that I'm going to warn you to shut your mouth and not be a trite suburban and think about it. Because for most of you, the answer should be, judging by your actions and the example of your life, "Yes."

Taking the time to do anything like grow a garden or a blog or a YouTube channel or a writing career without the promise of even a single soul giving a damn that you're doing such a thing holds most people off from doing those things. Oh, the effort might be made initially, but will in all likelihood be given up in short order. The seeds are never bought, let alone planted; the blog is abandoned after a handful of posts; likewise for the YouTube channel; and the writing career is found two years later in a shoebox under the bed.

Next come the rationalizations for the choice to abandon it--whatever "it" is. You've heard them all, I'm sure; and I'm sure you've come up with them yourself. I can say without hesitation that not so long ago I made my fair share of them.

I won't belabor the point by posting the more popular of them here. You've got a brain, ostensibly; I'm sure a couple of them are rattling around in the wide open spaces in it right now.

I'm pretty sure that as far as the RV park we live in goes, I'm seen as the local eccentric or even lunatic. I take care of the local wild birds here by providing hummingbird feeders, water, a regular seed feeder, and a finch feeder. And for the third year in a row, I have grown a garden.

It isn't a "practical" garden. I don't grow fruits or vegetables. I grow wildflowers. As I write during the day, I take many breaks to look at them, and to watch the birds, of which probably two dozen different species throughout the year visit, including blue jays, finches, robins, sparrows, quail, hummingbirds, grosbeaks, blackbirds, crows, pigeons, towhees, and many others. I've begun to notice how each species reacts to others of its species and to those that are not, how each eats, argues, approaches the feeders, bathes, flies, etc. I've begun to notice their migration patterns as well.

But the humans who walk by either don't notice the splash of sudden color or the constant goings-on; or, if they do, they glance disdainfully for half a moment in the general direction of what caught their attention. Which is to say, they didn't actually notice anything.


Growing a garden ... or growing a writing career. The shoebox under the bed gathers dust. It's doubtful that when you eventually get around to looking at it again, you'll even bother opening the lid before chucking it all.


The only resource you can genuinely claim as your own is time. It is measured by the clock on the wall or on the bedstand or the perfectly synchronized digital display on your smartphone, but much more accurately between one beat of your heart and the next. It is finite. And someday it will run out.

Want to scare the shit out of people? I just wrote the scariest plot possible of any story for any sentient being anywhere in the universe. It's so terrifying that your mind, in all likelihood, has already shunted it into the Yeah, Whatever file you've got for just such occasions. It's so terrifying that even though you read the words, you short-circuited the path to full comprehension of those words directly into that file, which you store in the darkest, hardest-to-reach recesses of your mind, and which you strongly resent having to fetch whenever assholes like me bring it up again.

Popular media does its part to brainwash you that keeping that file, keeping it hidden, and laughing derisively at the Plot, which I call it, is normal, healthy, and functional. It's the "practical" thing to do. It's the "moral" thing to do. It's the "sane" thing to do.

Thump-thump ... thump-thump ... thump-thump ...

Dust gathers on the shoebox, and in your spirit. The garden isn't grown. Nobody would give a shit about your writing or some stupid fucking flowers anyway, so what's the point?


Have you ever watched a person you loved more than life itself die a slow death from a terminal disease? I have.

Thump-thump ... thump-thump ... thump-thump ...

The Plot is so terrifying that our society is specifically structured to ignore it and punish those who refuse to file it away. Our educational system avoids it almost entirely. We don't share the Plot with children. We consider it grossly inappropriate. We don't share it with our family. If we do, we're either totally drunk or high or suffering what is popularly termed a "mid-life crisis." In any case, doing so isn't appreciated; we're shunned very quickly, or yelled at, or laughed at. If we persist, we will lose those friends or urged by them to get into therapy. That's just before we get dumped anyway. After all, we've already crossed the line.

We don't even share the Plot with the dying, with those not long for this world. We trot out platitudes instead about the afterlife, about Heaven, about going on when the final heartbeat is felt, when the interval following is eternal and the chest is clutched and the face goes blue before that final exhalation.

They are cleaning out your bedroom. They discover the shoebox. Someone opens it--let's say your daughter.

"I didn't know Dad wrote anything!" she remarks, blowing off the dust and shaking the earwigs off an unbound sheaf of papers. She sits at your desk, which now belongs to her as stipulated in the will, and begins to read through some of it while her brother looks on.

"Who cares?" he demands, glancing impatiently around. "We've got to move all this shit out of here by next Thursday!"

She shakes her head. "It's not too bad, really. Whenever he got drunk, he'd go on and on about wanting to be a novelist. Remember?"

Her brother snorts. "Unfortunately, yes. Thank fuck he didn't follow through! It's not exactly a practical choice, now is it?"

She reads a couple of paragraphs more, laughing at the clunky narrative and descriptions. She jams the papers back in, thoughtlessly wrinkling them, closes the box, and sets it in a corner. Later that day she picks it up without another thought and stuffs it into the big black trash bag already almost too full to take any more garbage--which is exactly what she thinks of it and its contents.


Against eternity, every single heartbeat that dad had during his life was worth infinite value. Each and every one. That's the bottom-line truth of the Plot. That's the bottom-line fact of existence itself. It's as true for you as it was for him.

To avoid it, people appeal to the afterlife. To Heaven. To eternal life.

But this man denied his infinitely valuable heartbeats every single day in an effort to fit in, in the name of "practicality," in the pursuit of false idols--cash, property, status, a home in the 'burbs, a mortgage, a cubicle, a late-model car, a flat-screen TV. And on and on.

He was a Christian, titularly, and so his surviving kin insist at his funeral that he was "saved," which means he got a pass from death, from oblivion. He got a ticket to Heaven. To eternal life. To more

thump-thump ... thump-thump ... thump-thump ...

If he was a particularly bad man, some might think he went to Hell. But that too is eternal life, and so isn't nearly as terrifying as oblivion, as nonexistence. I'm fairly confident it doesn't exist.


I don't consider myself a Christian. Not, at least, what most people today think of when they think, "He's a Christian!"

I believe Jesus lived, yes. I believe he died (of course). He was a revolutionary and a healer. He spoke truth to power, and for that he was tortured and killed. His philosophy, where it wasn't corrupted by later editors and the early Church, and by the used-car salesmen posing as preachers today, is astonishing and beautiful.

Beyond that, I need nothing else from the man. I don't need the Resurrection, for example. I don't need the miracles. I don't need the bluster and bullshit. Most of all, I don't need the rules, morals, taboos, and the glittering, corporate, high-rent-for-heavily-indebted-suburban-suckers consumer outlets called "churches" that they flock to Sundays in order to hide from the Plot.

I'm a son of God. So are you, if you too are male. If you are female, you are a daughter of God. It doesn't matter what culture you're from. It doesn't matter what you believe, or how you were raised. It is what it is.

Jesus himself talked about the Plot. But he didn't call it the Plot. He wasn't a writer.

He was, however, a walker. He walked all over the place. And so he didn't call it the Plot; he called it the Gate and the difficult path that lies beyond it. Here is what he said:

Enter by the narrow gate.
For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leadeth to suffering,
and those who go through it are many.
But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leadeth to true life,
and those who find it are few.

People who hide from the Plot believe he was talking about being a Christian. Choosing to be a Christian means going through the "narrow gate." Except, demonstrably and provably, it doesn't. Walking the difficult path means walking the "difficult path" of being a Christian.

Except--obviously--it doesn't.

It refers to the Plot. It refers to following one's calling, one's purpose, no matter what; and that most won't in the name of "practicality" and a million other excuses. Most go through the wide gate and take the easy way. It is a wide, wide highway, flat, endless, gray, choked with roadkill and populated with billions, all comfortably numb as they slope their way from one tired heartbeat to the next.

The narrow gate and the difficult way after?

There is an afterlife, yes. There is a Heaven. That much I am certain of after more than half a century of life.

What I'm also certain of is that the dad mentioned above is not in it, no matter how devoutly he clung to whatever religion he believed in between one heartbeat and the next.