Halloween 2019 The Flood Part Four

“That man was drawn to where we were,” Ana told Paula once they returned.

“It wasn’t that he followed us; he was sent, or compelled,” Bella added.

“Michael?” Paula asked.

“No, Michael has always gone out of his way to protect us both, he always has, and he’s sworn to life his life in our defense. When our father split the family up, Michael took it hardest. It was one thing for us to be apart from one another, but it was another issue for Michael to be bereft of fulfilling his oath to us. When we were children he was like a guard dog. Michael’s dedication to us was one of the things that allowed us to draw closer together,” Ana said.

“So there is an outside force trying to keep the three of you apart?” Paula asked as she looked at the deck of cards in front of her. “And you believe your reading in the graveyard triggered some force to be sent after you?”

“Yes,” Ana said, “and the mark on the door might well be some sort of device to let those who will do us harm find the two of us. As long as we aren’t using our energy here to fight back I suspect we cannot be found. This is a very personal thing for someone. My father may now have some ally who is more in tune to the Earth than he ever was before.”

“But is he Michael’s biological father?” Paula asked. “You and Bella both refer to both sets of parents as your own. It’s hard for me to keep up with who is who, if you two are not really blood sisters.”

“It’s sometimes hard for us to sort out ourselves.” Ana replied. “We spent a lot of time in a refugee camp after the flood. All of us lived under the same roof in the same trailer.  But the reality of it is that Michael and Bella share a last name. Mine is different. There’s nothing we know for certain past that fact. We both have suspected that my father actually is the blood father of all three of us, or my mother is the blood mother of all three of us. Or both.  Our memories are the same, as if we were the same person. That’s something that is really hard to explain.”

“The University left me an email,” Ana continued, “as we suspected, there isn’t a crime they can charge us with, but they’re kicking me out of the dorm, which will cut off Dad’s overview of me. He will have to act to regain control, but as long as you allow us sanctuary here, there’s nothing he can do about it. Legally, at seventeen, he can’t force my return.”

“If he’s a part of this,” Bella said seamlessly, “he will try to extort Ana’s return in some way, and if he can coax Michael to return with him then we have to follow. But Michael has been through very much in the last for years. He may not have adapted the power yet, but that does not make our brother defenseless. Michael is known for violence.”

“Would he harm your father?” Paula asked.

“Yes,” both answered as one.

“Michael once hacked into my high school’s computer system to find one of the teachers who was trying to force her religion on me.” Ana said. “We created a police file that implicated her in a child porn ring. None of it was true, and none of the charges stuck, but the woman was suspended for well over a year. I was well on my way of ridding myself of her in a way that would not have required such dramatic action, but the point was made.”

“You think Michael might have hacked into the University’s security system to hide his mark on the door?” Paula asked.

“No,” said Bella, “that would have, I think, been over his head, and it would have eventually led back to us. I think that symbol was not from Michael. I think it has something to do with our father.”

“So, I suspect the two of you have an idea of sorts for resolution to all of this already?” Paula wondered what it might be, and wondered if she had seen only the tip of the iceberg in what might happen.

“We have to return to the site of the flood that happened in 2005. There we’ll be able to tap into some of the original energy that gave us our power. There’s something there that we have to find, and maybe something there will find us. If we go, Michael when sense that we are there,” Ana said.

“Michael will join us, and for once and for all, we three will be at ground zero of our joining. We have to return to New Orleans, to the site where we were all joined as one in the flood.”

 

End part four.

 

 

Halloween 2019 The Flood Part Thee

“Apparently little Miss Cheerleader decided to try Bella’s advice,” Ana began, “and when she took the Black Cohosh, she took about ten times as much as recommended on the label and got sick as a dog. That may or may not have caused the miscarriage, but she was only three weeks in so there’s no way to tell.”

“That’s going to be a difficult charge to get you kicked out of school for, certainly,” Paula said, “so I feel like there’s more. I’ll get tea, this is going to take a while, isn’t it?”

“Yep!” the sisters said in unison.

“Someone burned a symbol into the door my dorm room, Paula,” Ana said as she sipped the tea.

“It’s a symbol that isn’t well known, and only three people know what it means,” Bella said, “four now that we’re telling you.”

“And we have always wondered why Michael choose it.” Ana said.

“Yes, but what is it?” Paula asked.

“It’s the symbol for the Quaternary knot.” Bella told her. “Michael said that when we three were together we began one, which meant there were really four of us, but now we’re wondering if somehow you’ve been pulled into this.”

“You think Michael put the symbol on the door?” Paula asked.

“If he didn’t there wouldn’t be anyone who knew its meaning to us, a random act of vandalism seems unlikely,” Ana replied.

“But there’s nothing on the security feed.” Bella said, “And they’ve got security on 24/7 in that place. Someone smelled smoke and they found the symbol on the door a few minutes after that.”

“You two were here,” Paula said, “and we can prove it!” She announced this with no small amount of authority.  They all laughed, but the idea that someone had burned the symbol into the door without being seen bothered each of them.  Paula headed to bed after tea and left the sisters to themselves.

“You dad will hear about this, and he might decide to come get you.” Bella finally said. “Let’s get the rest of your stuff and leave.”

“And abandon school?” Ana shook her head. “Get jobs waiting tables and scaring the fuck out of the locals until one or both of us winds up in jail? No thanks. We have to stay. No matter what else happens we still have to operate in this world.”

“Do you think your dad might have done it?” Bella asked. “He might have seen Michael use the symbol before.”

“No, dad is more direct,” Ana replied as she got up to pace. “He’d use a hammer not a scalpel.”

Without talking about they rose and left Paula’s house and went to the dorm. There other girls were already whispering about the sisters but they were accustomed to that. No matter where they had lived, who they were or what they were was always the subject of debate. They looked at the symbol on the door; it looks like someone had taken a very hot piece of metal and pushed it deep into the wood, branding it.

“Looks like Michael’s work,” Ana said.

“Still, does he know enough to come and go without being seen?” Bella asked, “he’s always respected power but he’s never used it.”

“He knows we’re here,” Ana said. “He’ll find us. We have to be ready for whatever condition his mind is in.”

“Or not in,” Bella smiled grimly, as she traced the scorched wood with one finger.

“Let’s go,” Ana said.

The walk back to Paula’s led them past a graveyard, so they went in, without a word. Ana pulled her cover out, and spread it over the ground, while Bella lit four small candles. They shuffled the deck of cards, passing the cards back and forth between one another, and finally laying the ten cards out, and waiting. Somewhere in the night, a bird flew, an owl or some other creature that hid from the day.

“The Protector,” Ana said, as she turned over the card, “we’re being watched, but we’re being watched over.”

“Good, very good sign,” Bella added.

They waited, and finally they heard the sound of a branch falling, and Bella turned over the next card.

“Heath passing, from someone near, but not death,” Bella said.

“The card is influenced by the next two,” Ana said, “but we must stop now. Someone is coming.”

Bella blew the candles out and they heard a man’s voice cursing. “Fucking witches!” he called out. “Where are you?’

The man stumbled in the dark and hurt his leg, “I better not lose a scholarship because of you two cunts!” he yelled.

He saw a brief flash of light, and then saw a candle being lit. He charged towards the light.

“Oh there you . . .” he stopped when he saw the candle resting on a tombstone, with an empty glass jar lying next to it.

“Your mind is that jar,” Bella called from darkness. “You will forget things. You will not remember things as you should. “

“Fucking whores,” the man shouting, “I got something for you both. Bev says you told her she was pregnant and gave her poison to kill my kid.” The man laughed. “Maybe I ought to pay you for that one, but I can’t have people saying witches killed my kid.”

“What you hold most dear will now leave you, and it will go slowly, like water evaporating in that jar. When the time comes for you to calm your anger, and accept your role in this, then you will be allowed to apologize to us, and we will lift the curse. I should warn you that if you wait too long, some of it may longer for a very long time.”

“What in the fuck is that supposed to mean?” the man asked, but he sounded less sure of himself.

“Look up the phases of the moon,” Ana said. “when the same phase is active again, in 28 days, return here. You will bring an offering. We may release you.”

“I’m the backup quarterback for the team,” the man shouted, “I’ll find you can I’ll share you with my friends!” But there was no one there to answer him. On his way back to the dorm he forgot where he lived, but it came back to him, eventually.

 

End part three

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween 2019: The Flood Part Two

 

 

The sisters went about their business of attending classes, and in the spaces in between, met in the dorm room to study.  Then went home to work in the garden, and it gauge if Paula could be trusted, and to what extent that trust might run deep, or not at all. Finally, after a week of using the internet to gather what information they could, and using time in the garden to seek out Paula’s mind and spirit, the sisters sat down to have dinner with her one night,

“You haven’t asked us anything that you want to know, Paula,” Ana began, “but we need your help. I think it’s time we exchanged information.”

“I hate to sound self-absorbed, Young One,” Paula began, “but I do sense there is peril in this for me. You two are trying to track someone down who very well might want to be left alone, and in trying to find this person, you might well anger him, or her. Could this not be something that you simply left be as it is? Sometimes we have to do that, you know.”

“We, Bella and I, do not completely understand what has happened or why it has happened.” Ana said.  “We lived next door to one another, in New Orleans. In September of 2005, a hurricane hit and the city was flooded. We were both very young, only three years old. Yet something happened during that flood. Our parents have hidden the truth from us. We have a brother, I have a brother, actually. Michael. Something happened in the flood that affected his soul and spirit very deeply. We seek to find him, and if we can, heal his wounds.”

“How is it Michael is hidden from you?” Paula asked suddenly. “You both seem very intuitive.”

“Our brother was our protector and our guardian, Paula,” answered Belle, “and as we grew up together he was always at our sides. But our parents began to worry that the three of us were too close, and that we were unnatural. When we turned fourteen, they separated us, my parents moved to Savannah, while Ana and Michael stayed in New Orleans. It was a given we could communicate without any device known to our parents, but Michael considered our separation to be a personal failure. He was three years older than we, and he left one day, and no one had seen him since. Ana’s parents had the ways and means to get her into any college on earth, but I had to work hard to get into Florida State. There, we knew we could learn more about how to navigate the laws that hid the past from us. The natural laws we already knew, but there is much to fear from the canons that man has set to guard the past.”

Paula seemed preoccupied with her salads and the sisters let time pass without hurry.  Finally, Paula asked, “Your parents, do they know you are together again?”

“My mother’s mind has left her,” Ana said, “but my father still tries to control me.”

“My parents will go to any length to keep us apart,” Bella replied, “we would like to discover why.”

“Do you have any memories of your early youth?” Paula asked.

“More than you could ever realize,” Ana said.

“More than we should,” said Bella.

Ana’s cell phone chirped and all three women startled. “It’s from the University!” Ana said, “They want me to report to the Dean’s Office today, as soon as possible!”

Paula waited for the two young women to return and wondered what she was getting into. For years, she had rented out the upstairs apartment to serious students and even a musician or two. Now these two, and Paula grinned. They were twins, certainly. Both had that strong jawbone, high cheeks, jet black hair, pale skin that spoke of genetics rather than the lack of sunlight, and both were exactly the same height. Not twins? Paula wondered why two sets of parents had told these two they were not related. Did the father of one bed the mother of the other? That might explain it.

“Brody come down and speak with me about our guests!” Paula called out, but she knew Brody would take his time. Eventually, there was a thump as he landed and a moment later Brody sat in her lap, purring.

“But what if they are not actually sisters but still related?” Paula asked Brody. “They might share a grandmother, that would explain a few things, yes, more likely but not altogether the whole picture. Who is their brother? I’ll bet you a can of tuna he looks like neither of the girls in any way at all. I’ll bet you two more than he’s been keeping up with them from a distance.” Paula waited an hour or so and then scooted Brody to the floor. She might be over sixty but she knew her way around Google as well as any of these young creatures these days. Later, perhaps, she would dig her cards out, she hadn’t done that in decades. But these two had been brought to her for a reason, and she would be better served to know by whom and why, before it landed on her.

There was a knock on the door, loud and frantic, Paula pulled up the feed on her hidden camera and saw the sisters. She let them in and they rushed past her and went to the kitchen table without a word.

“They want me kicked out of Florida State,” Ana said.

“My Dog why?” Paula asked.

“Witchcraft,” grinned Bella.

 

End part two.

 

Halloween Story 2019 The Flood. Part One

Bella rode the elevator to the sixth floor of the dorm, where her sister was staying. There was a temporary visitor’s pass in Bella’s back pocket that had a chip in it that would track her movements, but Bella didn’t need any devices like that to know where Ana was at any given moment; she knew. They both knew. They had always known and they would always know. The fact they had been separated for four years didn’t change anything at all.

“Room six-oh-one, first door on the right from the end of the green hallway,” the smiling woman at the desk had told her, and Bella smiled back. “Are you her sister? You look just like her. I live next door.”

“Yes. Thank you,” Bella had said, and headed to the elevator.

The door was green, and Bella waited until the lock clicked. Ana had known Bella was there, without a knock or a phone call or a text or anything else. But Ana hesitated, stood there and tried to catch her breath, Bella knew that, too. The lock clicked, finally, and Bella opened the door, and embraced her sister.

Four years, three months, a handful of days, a few hours and some minutes, a lifetime now. “Where is he?” Bella asked.

“If you can’t see him you know I can’t either,” Ana replied, not breaking the hug. “He’s gone from us. There’s hope he will return now we’re together again, but you know they aren’t going to leave us alone.”

“We’re adults, we’re both living out of state and away from all of them,” Bella stepped back gently and admired her sister. “You’ve been working out, eating well, and sleeping on a regular basis.”

“You have not been doing any of these things but you look beautiful,” Ana replied with a laugh.

“Your parents?” asked Belle.

“Mom has early onset dementia.” Ana looked away. “Dad is well, but he has the University’s wifi plan that allows him to monitor me in this room to a degree. Yours?”

“Still alive and still angry.” Belle said.

“I’m sorry.”

“I have a place,” Belle replied.

“Yes, above a bar? Next door to a strip joint? Under a bowling alley?” Ana laughed again.

“No, it’s an old house with an apartment,” Belle said, “it’s secure. The woman who rents it is one of us, kinda. She knows who I am.”

“Does she know the consequences?” Ana asked. “Have you got a car? We need to move me out, mostly, but I’ll study here, to keep the internet thing going.”

“No, I think Mrs. Gerard is a latent without any training. Paula, that’s her first name, is one of those older people, I think she’s in her sixties now, who has retreated from what is, and years for what could be.” Belle sat on the bed and leaned back. “This thing is not comfortable.”

“Better than the floor,” Ana replied.

“Not as I remember it. But yes I have a car.”

 

They stepped into the elevator and as the door closed three giggling young women entered with them. Ana smiled and she knew Belle was looking at their reflection in the mirrored door as they rode down.

“You two are twins!” One of the girls, maybe she was stoned, thought being in an elevator with twins was hysterical.

“You’re pregnant,” Belle told the girl, “from a week ago Saturday. You don’t love the man but you aren’t willing to let him go yet. Take Black Cohosh, as a tea for three weeks, fast three days before you begin, and start before another week has passed, if you want to lessen the side effects.”

“Wha-what?” the girl stopped laughed and the other two fell silent.

“My sister does this as a kindness,” Ana said, “and if you do as she says then you’ll suffer less than if you do not. Ignore her manner and mind her wisdom in this, please.”

The doors opened and Bella took Ana’s hand and led her out. The girls hesitated and followed them.

“Are you a witch or something?” One of them called out.

“You were last time but they hung you for it, and it frightens you,” Ana said, “but there is still time.”

Paula took an instant liking to Ana and Ana appreciated the fact there was no awkwardness that existed with some older people. Paula kept a garden, which Ana was delighted to inspect, and found herbs and vegetables growing in neat rows. The apartment was attached to the house, but in the upstairs part, and there was a stairway outside that would eliminate Paula knowing when they came and went. Paula also kept a huge black cat named Brody in the house, and Brody wasn’t sure about either of the young women yet. He lay on the top of a bookshelf, flipping his tail and ignoring them both.

“So you two are twins?” Paula asked then laughed, “I’m sorry, I bet you’ve heard that all your lives, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” Ana replied, “but we aren’t twins, we’re not really sisters at all, not in the way most people think of it. We look very much alike, but at the same time, that doesn’t have anything to do with genetics.”

“Sounds very, uh, mysterious,” Paula said. “You both have referred to the other as ‘sister” tonight.”

“We consider ourselves to be sister of a union much stronger than blood.” Bella said, “it’s very unusual. We’ll have to talk more about it later, but right now, is it okay if Ana moves in? She’s the quieter of the two of us. You know I don’t have much money, and Ana less.”

“I could use an extra hand in the garden,” Paula laughed. “And you looked very interested in what I had planted, Ana, will you garden for rent money?”

“Yes ma’am, I will.” Ana smiled at the thought.

 

Later, they lay in bed, both naked, but nothing sexual about the embrace. They had been sleeping like this since they could remember, and they could remember many things. Ana sat up and said, “You disagree with me telling Paula.”

“I disagree with you not telling me first,” Bella said, “but it doesn’t matter. Your judgment was always better than mine.”

“You have what we need to begin?’ Ana asked. “We should soon.”

“Almost.” Bella said. “First, we need to make contact, and see if anyone is there. If not, we search.”

“And if someone is there?” Ana asked.

“We wait until we find Michael, and we bring him in.”

 

end part one.Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 7.38.04 PM

The Woman on Treadmill #8

 

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“I fell asleep during sex once,” she said in the dark, “and when I woke up I realized he hadn’t noticed.”

After twenty years of marriage, three kids, and seeing one of them off to college and the other two in High School, she and her husband sat down on night and divided the assets. She got the house, the place where the kids would all return to, like ghosts with growing pains, who were the first to notice their family was dying. She had been an eighteen year old, right out of high school and he was the boy she fell in love with. They spent four years in poverty with two kids until he graduated from college with a degree in business and he did well for her, and the kids. She wanted the big house by the man made lake with the man made cookie cutter subdivision, the soccer mom thing, and that was exactly what she got. It was perfect. Or at least it looked perfect, and that was, after all, enough.

They both agreed, no dating until everything was final, and no bringing home one night stands around the kids. It was a surreal conversation she told me, because it had been nearly twenty years since anyone but her husband had seen her naked. After three kids and twenty years of going to the gym a few times a year, she realized there was a lot of work to be done before she could think about a lover that didn’t have a wall charger.

 

He was cheating, had a girlfriend, she was certain of it, but he was discreet as hell, and never brought it home with him in any way. He was a good father, and a good person. They still went to church together, still socialized with the same people, still attended school functions as one, but that was going to end, and this was his way of telling her he would be taking someone else to those events. She wanted to care. She wanted to be hurt by being replaced. She wanted to feel something, rage, anger, sorrow, anything, by losing this man, but there was nothing there at all.

She had cried, silently, alone, while sitting in the minivan. It had been their first family car, twenty years ago, and it had lasted five years, but it was time for an upgrade. But this vehicle had been solid and reliable transportation for all the kids, even the newborn, her last, she knew, and this car bore witness to her transformation from a young woman to a mom. He never noticed the tears or if he did, knew better to ask unless he wanted to hear about it, and he didn’t.

 

They approached child raising as two people committed to crisis management. The constant pressure of food, clothing, waste, entertainment, training, education, and the limited amount of time in each day left them both seeing the other as a co-worker, or wait staff, someone friendly only because that was part of the job. It wasn’t always like that, she said, her voice catching on words she had never spoken aloud before, but it sank, slowly, no matter how hard they bailed the water out of the boat. Bills, school programs, sleep overs, the never ending need for more stuff and more room, and suddenly, he was sleeping on the bean bag in his office a couple of times a week, and to her this was glorious. She had her tubes tied after the last child, and he had a vasectomy. She knew what it meant, but she didn’t care anymore. Tying her tubes mean she would never have to go through this again, after this kid was old enough, her time as a mom to little kids would end. That was something she looked forward to, with glee, and dreaded.

 

Emily, the youngest child, a strange creature who entered high school with perfect grades and a love for Saturday morning cartoons, was a year younger than her classmates, jumped two grades, but light years ahead of everyone. She was the one who sat her parents down and said, “Fix it or fuck it, but don’t fucking rot for it.”

 

But it was already gone, and it had been. They sat down one rare night with all the kids gone and drank two bottles of wine. They split up assets and decided he would leave, take his truck, take the guns, except her pistol, leave the two dogs and the cat, take the boat, please for the love of God take the fucking boat, and then it was a question of small things, who got the good cooler, and who would get the nice plates. He was a nice person. He would get a place of his own, big enough for the kids to come and go, and he wouldn’t take anything she needed, he would get new stuff, and she was good with that. The old stuff comforted her. She didn’t like change, and realized that was part of the reason he was still in the same house as she was but then suddenly he was gone.

Her friends threw a party for her. It was fun. She had forgotten fun. She laughed and drank too much, and listened to women who had gone through this process describe what sex was like the first time after the marriage was gone. After everyone had left she looked at the woman standing naked in front of the mirror and wondered if she could get a man drunk enough to sleep with her. It was time to start training her body to do more than drive a taxi for the kids.

 

The younger women had perfect bodies and merciless souls. All of them were molded from the purest clay, and some of them, even those who were still in their late teens, had implants. Or at least they looked like they did. Most of them shaved their pubic hair, and she still looked like she was giving birth to a wooly mammoth. There was spin classes, and boot camp classes, and Yoga classes, and she threw herself into fitness as an escape from her life, which still required her to be the mom, but now with one kid who had his own car, and another who was independent of all things human, she had time. But she didn’t know what to do with those hours that occurred when she was alone.

 

“I think you have my keys,” she said to me. I was on treadmill # 8 and she was standing here beside it, looking a little embarrassed.

“I have your keys?” I asked, slowing the machine down to a walk. “Did you leave them at my house last night?”

“God no, I mean I think they’re in the cup holder of the machine,” she laughed and blushed.

I looked in the cup holders. No keys.

“You have beautiful eyes,” I told her, “and a good laugh.”

“Thank you, may I have my keys?” she said, but she was smiling.

“They aren’t here,” I told her.

“You’re messing with me,” she laughed, “come on, I have to pick my daughter up.”

“Here,” I said, and I cut the machine off and stepped to the other side. She got on the treadmill and picked my keys up but hers was not to be found.

“Are you married?” I asked.

“No,” she said, looking at her left hand. The smiling stopped. “I have to go.”

 

“I’m pushing forty,” she said the first time we were alone. “I’ve had three kids, eaten junk food for dinner three times a week for twenty years. There’s a dozen women in that building who are my age that look a lot better. You’re going to get scared off once you see me nude.”

“So you’re telling me I’m going to see you nude?” I leered at her, and she laughed hard. More than anything else, she told me later that night, she missed someone who could make her laugh.

 

“I met my husband’s girlfriend at his place one day,” she said, the flickering candle the only light in the room. “She wasn’t the young bimbo type at all. I feared that. I was afraid he’s go out and find someone who would take him for a ride. But she was about my age, and had been around the block once or twice. It was a little awkward, to see the two of them sitting together on the new sofa, and I could tell she had spent the night. She was really civil to me, very well mannered, but this was her turf, and that was her man now. She asked me if it was okay if she got Emily a leather bound set of Harry Potter for Emily’s birthday, and I told her I thought it was perfect. That was when I decided to start looking for someone, too. If he could do that well, hell, there was no telling who I might find.” She put her hand on my shoulder and kissed me.

“I’m moving,” she told me a few months later.  “My oldest got a job in New Mexico, and his wife is pregnant. Emily is going to stay. It’s time for me to get out of this part of the world.”  We went out for dinner one night and then went back to her place, which was filled with chaos and packing boxes. Her ex had gotten married, and finally, she felt something, something akin to loss, something that was a sharp stick, and it hurt.

 

Take Care,

Mike

The Great Rattlesnake Caper of 1994

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Back in 1994, I was working surveying for a living, and it was quite surprising the lengths other surveyors went to in order to avoid snake bite. And I was also interested in all the stories those guys who had done it for decades told the new guys. Every snake found within a mile of a mud puddle was a moccasin and every snake not a moccasin was a copperhead. I pointed out every chance I could that no one in the building had ever been bitten, and no one who had ever worked there had either. But that didn’t stop these people from putting on snake chaps, snake proof boots, and using powered sulfur like a ten dollar hooker uses perfume.

About that time, a friend of mine and her roommate moved into an old farm house in Brooks County. The irony was one day I would buy a house not five miles from there because I would change jobs and work nearby. But her fourteen year old son, who was an insufferable know- it -all, claimed he saw a five foot long rattlesnake slither under the house. She called me and told me the story and I was assured of a few things. The first was her son didn’t take time to measure the snake so there was no way he knew it was five feet long. Most people who call me and tell me they’ve killed a six foot long rattlesnake discover about half their snake was stolen from them by the time I get there with a measuring tape. “They shrink after you kill them,” I’ve been told more than once. The next thing I was sure of is the son in question didn’t know a donkey from a hole in the ground, much less snake identification. And last, but not least, he was a lad prone to being a stranger to the truth. I saw an opportunity to impress a couple of women with my fearlessness and skill at snake extraction. At worst, there would be a free home cooked meal.

The house is an old 1850’s wood frame thing made of real wood and long iron nails. The foundation is a good two feet off the ground and they’ve nailed sheets of tin up as underpinning. For reasons I cannot explain, the sheets of tin have been overlapped so getting one of them disconnected means another has to be unattached. There is one piece used as an entrance, and it’s on the opposite side of the house where the alleged snake, excuse me, the alleged five feet long Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake was seen along with a unicorn. So I go under the house armed with a garden hoe, a flashlight, and my trusty snake bag, which I assume will contain a rat snake or a water snake before the end of the day.

The crawlspace of this house is, in and of itself, worthy of some tale. The foundation consists of columns of red bricks, likely fired from local clay, and even likely laid by slaves in the 1850’s. The bottom support beams are massive creatures, rough hewn and long, some of them single pieces of thick wooden timbers that are over fifty feet long. There’s ancient cloth insulation, and newer plastic wiring, as well as old metal pipes and newer PVC plumbing. There’s AC ducts to climb over or slither under, and for a few minutes I forget about the snake. I pick up a nail that’s the size of my thumb, and easily a foot long, but its rusted and brittle. This might have been lost the day the house was built, and uncovered while the ductwork was installed. Who knows how this nail was made, and by whom?

There is no snake. I make my way to where the serpent was supposed to have made his way under the tin, and damn. There’s a piece of tin with a small gap at the bottom and it looks like someone dragged an oak tree through that gap. In the soft and dry dirt under the house is a track that I can lay my hand in and not touch the sides with my pinky and thumb. My mind scrolls through the likely candidates of who could have made a track like that in South Georgia and none of them make me feel good about being under a house with a flashlight and a garden hoe.

I follow the track about ten feet and it goes under a duct, and if I want to see what’s on the other side, I have to crawl over the duct. I shine the flashlight over the duct and just like in the horror movies, the flashlight dims suddenly, and threatens to die.

In my mind I can see me going over that duct and meeting the snake who left that track. “What’cha doing with that hoe…boy?”

 

It is time to get the hell out from under that house. I bang on the nearest piece of time and very calmly yell that I need to exit, forthwith.

“Why?” asks one of the women.

“Because there is a damn big snake under this house!” I very calmly yell.

“You knew that, didn’t you?” The other woman replies, “And wwe’ll have to take down two pieces!”

“We will discuss it later,” I say, with verve and no hint of cardiac arrest.

Now at this point, I may relate to you their version of this story is vastly different than my own. I was not scared, just concerned, but they claim, dubiously, that my voice rose with each sentence and I threated to kick my way out from under the house and went through a religious conversion, twice.

It may have been a snake, even a big snake, possibly a very large rattlesnake, but it was still just a snake. And I’m not under the house with it as I write. That helps.

 

I got the home cooked meal and more crow than I cared to eat. I also informed them that I was ill equipped to hunt a snake that big, yet I would give it thought, and come up with a plan, which meant I was not going after the snake under the house, ever.

The snake was never seen again, of course, but the legend of the hunt lives on. The Great Rattlesnake Episode has been repeated many times in front of many bonfires over the years, and now, at least you have heard the truth, in as much as such a thing exists.

 

Take Care,

Mike

I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won.

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Last year, we had that damn hurricane late in the Summer, and I never really got around to picking the yard up so I could mow again. Then it rained every other day for nine five months, and mowing just wasn’t possible. And then I discovered my mower was dead, and of course, that made it impossible. How long this might have gone up is subject to debate, but Mom moved in with me about three months ago, and her concerns about the height of the grass began to turn into concerns about the altitude of the grass, and whether or not we might lose a dog in the jungle.

 

And so it came to pass I rented a push mower and on one of the hottest days of the year, stepped out into the bushland, and cranked it up. Let’s face it, even on the very best days, mowing is tedious and mind numbing work. With the mercury rising steadily and the yellow flies attacking, it was pretty hellish just walking off the porch. Yet what is is what must be, and the task at hand, however hard, was just merely hard, not impossible.

 

Even though it flooded here from last September until two weeks ago, there was more dust than I could believe possible. The grass was tall, but it didn’t seem overly tough. The last week or so saw temps in the upper 90’s for most of every day, and triple digit heat for three days in a row. Even though I got started before seven in the morning, the dew was all dried up, and blown away. It was like mowing dead grass things were so dry.

 

The yellow flies seemed oblivious to the cloud of dust. Normally aggressive to the extreme, they were even worse yesterday. I actually plucked two of them off my face as I was mowing. They tried to dig in and bite even as they were crushed to death. I took a couple of hits on my neck as well. I look like an anti-vaxxer in a measles epidemic.

 

Yet in this world of back and forth motion, reasonless harvest of grass tops, my mind begins to wander. If the world ended, yet there was a need for shorter grass, by what method might this be achieved? In the story of the Stubs, livestock is extinct, and gasoline isn’t far from it. Someone might reinvent the scythe or perhaps some other device. The story takes front and center in my mind; what would will we have to reinvent when the lights go out for the last time?

Humans lived for thousands of years without air conditioning or any sort of heating, and they likely could continue to do so. Yet with children today staying inside more than outside, I wonder if a generation raised on video games and screen could survive a world where the inside and outside temperatures were nearly the same. Of course, the return to a more natural world would be a return to a world more closely associated with natural law; those who do not adapt will die.

With the leftovers from civilization, those who remain can mimic the past for a while but what happens when something needed, and made of metal, breaks? Certainly, there would be enough steel to forge a new part but who would have the skill? How long would it take to develop this skill? Where would the tools be found to hone the craft?

The mower bogs and I back away, move forward again, back away, ironing the lawn until it is flat. The yellow flies are like being shot at with pellet gun and the sun begins to crank up. I can feel real heat very early in the day. I need to get a mower with a bag so all this stuff can be composted.

The colony at Pine View, would have to garden, compost, find ways to store food, and keep seed for the next year’s planting. The lonely survivors would fish in streams and rivers that would be, in time, clean enough to drink from. Could they reinvent smoked or salted fish? Here in Brooks County, could they eventually bring enough salt in from the coast, seventy miles away, to make the trip worth it? How many people, given success and time, would have to break off and form another camp? But first they have to survive themselves.

 

There’s a very short list of wildlife that survived the Stubs; alligators, fish, turtles, small birds, and beavers. All livestock animas are extinct. Deer, raccoons, opossums, and turkey are all gone. Snakes survived, and so did rats. There are a few hawks, and crows, but they are scare. Cats and dogs didn’t make it.

I’m halfway through the front part of the yard when I realize that the one hundred or so people I have might not survive after the first generation Post Stub. Maybe the second generation, for the first would still had enough of the time that was to make it, perhaps. Maybe it would be a slow enough transition. Deep in the forests where there are no people, and therefore no Stubs, some wildlife would survive, and thrive. The world of humans is confined to a small camp in what was once the Southeastern United States, and they are few.

 

It takes a while to finish but at last the task is done. The heat and dust are unbearable, and I wonder at what point we human could endure a new world, especially if there was no other choice. Speculation and a mower is all I have, and some time to think about it. I just hope I never have to put any of it to the test if the lights go out for good.

 

Take Care,

Mike

Brightness

I was in a bar, and the weird thing about the bar was how bright the sun was outside. It was like one of those washout photos where the exposure is so high there’s barely any images left, just outlines and shadows that barely exist. “This is a dream,” I said out loud and the bartender, a really cute young woman who was bored to tears looked up from her phone, as if the idea of conversation was repugnant to her. I finished the Scotch in the glass in front of me and thought, hell if this is a dream, at least I’m drinking the good stuff.

“I was kidnapped, once,” a man sits down beside me at the bar as starts talking, and why would you throw the word “once” in there, as if I might get confused over which time you were kidnapped. He’s shedding light, brilliant pieces of brightness fall off his clothing, like water might drip off someone caught in the rain. I look back towards the window and it’s brighter than it was before.

“There’s a trail in the forest of a national park close to where I live,” the man continues after waiting for me to ask, and I didn’t, “and this guy walks up to me and demands my wallet, and I handed it over. Then he handcuffs me and I knew he was going to kill me, I mean, why else would he take me? But you’d be surprised how much a gun effects your ability to resist. He leads me off the trail about fifteen minutes worth of walking and know it will be a while before anyone misses me, or looks for me.

“I’ll be back in three days, okay?” the man tells me as he handcuffs by hands, with this small tree at my back. With a hatchet and five minutes I could have cut it down, but there I am, sitting in the woods, handcuffed, with this tree there I can’t do a damn thing with.”

The waitress looks over at my empty glass and arches a brow so I nod. The man pays for my drink, gets a beer, and keeps talking.

“The first few hours were pretty bad,” he says, “because I kept thinking that guy would come back and shoot me. Then, after a while, I noticed that I couldn’t hear anything but birds and stuff, and I began to worry about bears, or maybe coyotes. I could stand up, move around the tree, and see that if I could have gotten up the truck about three feet, I might have been able to catch that first sizable with a foot, and pulled the tree over. That gave me something to do, but it wore me out and made me thirsty. I decided to wait a bit, and waiting was something I was going to do a lot of.”

A couple comes into the bar laughing and hanging onto one another, and shedding bits and pieces of light. The pain in the face of the waitress is obvious. She has better things to do than to wait tables in this sort of weather. But she sticks a smile on her face and goes over to the table where the young couple laughs while shaking the light off their clothes.

“Sundown was like watching the Titanic sink from a lifeboat.” The man says while watching the couple order. “I knew if I had a chance to die it would come in the darkness. It was kind of hot that day, and I hoped the coolness of the night would make the mosquitoes go away, but they still drifted in, in pairs and one at a time, just enough to mess with me. It wasn’t bad, not horrible, but still not good at all. The darkness killed my sense of time and not being able to see made me hallucinate things coming at me in the dark. Finally, I fell asleep, for a little while, but that made it worse; I had no idea what time it was at all.”

“Dawn came slow, like watching paint dry, and I listened carefully for the sound of voices. I knew better than to just start screaming my ass off, and thirst was already working on me. I peed on myself because I knew I would have to sooner or later, but it was in the middle of the afternoon before a bowel movement forced itself out. That’s when I started feeling screwed. There was no more water going into my system or food, and after one day, I was already feeling weaker and less sane. I tried to keep still and conserve my strength. There were times I stood up and looked around, but there were trees, and more trees, and I even tried to cut the trees down behind me with the chains of the handcuffs but it was more work than I could manage. Sundown came again with my wrists hurting like hell, my shoulders killing me, and thirst.”

“Glass of water, here,” he said to the waitress who had stopped playing on her phone and was eying the couple. I looked back over at them and they were leaning in, whispering, touching one another on the hands.  The waitress and I grinned.

“Sundown felt like a death sentence,” the man said. “I knew I had a better chance of dying if even a small animal attacked me. I was getting weaker and knew it. Breakfast the day before seemed a long time away, and I wished I had drank more water before the hike than I did. My pack was still were that guy made me drop it, and I hoped someone would find it, but I knew no one would that night. By now, there should be a couple of people missing me, but no one knew where I was. I saw things that night. Bears and cats and a river of dogs flowed out of the total darkness to attack me. Maybe I screamed. Maybe I was just in and out and didn’t know what reality was anymore. I woke up after sunrise and had to fight to stand up. My shoulders were on fire and I felt my hands had swollen. The day was long, terribly long, infinitely long, and I got too weak to stand. I felt bugs crawling on me and couldn’t go anything about it. I hear voices, music, songs, but none of it sounded real. I was dying, and I knew it.”

“You need another?” the waitress asked and I nodded. The man got another beer and paid for it again. I lifted my glass as if in toast and he smiled.

“The third night I saw things,” the man continued, “it was like a Disney movie on acid. I knew this was what dying was like, and the pain didn’t seem as bad. But there were lights, people looking for me, helicopters, and as soon as I yelled it all went away and left me in the darkness. People found me, cut me loose, took me to a hospital, then I would come to and be chained to the tree. It was heartbreaking how real the visions were, and how horrible it was to be back in reality. I knew this was my mind’s way of trying to escape, but it was also a sign I was dying.”

 

I had to go, and almost said so, but it was so incredibly bright outside. The couple was looking out of the window and all I could see was their silhouettes.

“Sunrise came and I could barely see it,” the man said. “I was so incredibly thirsty. I remember looking up at the sky and praying a cloud would drop rain on me, or strike me with lightning, whatever. I just wanted it to end. Then there he was. The guy with the gun. He brought my pack with him, uncuffed me, and propped me up. He gave me a gallon of water and told me my cell phone was in my car. I drank water, puked, drank more water, and ate some energy bars. I couldn’t walk, but I managed to get to my car after about an hour, and called 911. I kept waiting to wake up and discover it was a dream. When the ambulance got there I knew I was going to wake up chained to that damn tree.”

 

I woke up. The man was there, and he uncuffed my hands. “Your cell phone is in your car.” He told me. “Here’s some water. I survived it and now you have, too.”

 

Take Care,

Mike611qUr6copL._SX425_

Church

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Back in the mid-1990’s, a friend of mine emailed me an incredibly ridiculous and obviously fabricated story about an “atheist college professor” and a student. I can’t remember the story, and I refuse to look it up, but gist of it was the college professor was challenging the faith of the student, a miracle occurred and everyone fell to their knees and prayed.

The story listed no names, no dates, no facts at all, and was vague in all regards to anything at all that might have defined more clearly when and where and who. But it was my first encounter with the the “atheist college professor” stories. There’s quite a few now.

Yesterday, I took Mama to church, and I went in hoping that for some sort of social contact for Mom. About ten minutes deep into the sermon, the preacher said, “how are we going to send children to face the ‘atheist college professors’?” and I nearly walked out.

My hostility towards religion in general, and towards Christianity in particular, is certainly a function of my personal disdain for the systemic methods of the used car salesman techniques employed by those who practice Christianity. But used cars are sold each day. It’s an effective practice, and because religion is a very profitable business, it is to be expected to find such. That my grandmother’s religion, my mother’s mother, has been turned into a commercial enterprise for men and women who have repackaged it and sold it, as a commodity, and turned churches into spiritual Wal-Marts, is more than enough for me to treat the religion itself, and the people who pretend to practice it with utter contempt.
But this goes much deeper than that. We live in a time where people openly believe the world is flat! A thousand years or so has passed since that issue was settled, yet even as we speak there’s a professional basketball player who goes in front of a national audience on social media and espouses the deepest sort of nonsense and people believe him.
Growing in popularity, is the concept that ignorance is a virtue, and belief, in and of itself, when taken to heart without substantiation or the slightest hint of evidence to bolster it, is a virtue. Worse, infinitely worse, there’s a disdain for anything educational. It’s as if the process of education itself, at any level, for any reason, is somehow heretical, or blasphemous.
This is dangerous to the extreme when dealing with people who, because they read something on the internet, believe vaccines cause a variety of maladies, including autism on children, even though there is a wealth of evidence to the contrary. Now, in the year 2019, measles, a disease all but eradicated through the use of vaccines, is spreading again. The “my beliefs are sacred even to the detriment of society” movement is gaining strength, even as it sickens and kills.
In 2006, a woman accused members of a sports team of rape. It was an easy thing to believe, that a group of young, privileged, white men, drank themselves into attacking a woman. But the DNA evidence said otherwise. The woman’s story unraveled further when one of the young men she positively identified was shown to be absent from the scene of the crime entirely. Yet when interviewing other students at Duke, this response was recorded, “That DNA stuff is just crazy, who believes it?”

We are training our citizens to choose their reality based on belief, and belief alone. What feels good, what sounds right, and what we have always thought was true, is, simply because we think it is so. Those who teach, instruct, and offer systems of thinking that counter or contradict are messengers of evil and are to be distrusted. Volume, yelling, screaming, drowning out an opponent with obscenities or untruths, intentional or not, is considered a proper method of debate. Any source, regardless of its content or origin, is considered doctrine, as long as it agrees with a beloved assertion.

Were there a simple fix, some national realization of peril even, there might be hope. But the money to be made off of the ignorant drives the desire to make sure it continues. If a man has no idea how a car operates, then by looks and how it makes him feel alone are selling points. He’ll shell out hard earned money for transportation regardless of its quality. Likewise, if you can convince a populace that education, critical thinking, facts, evidence, and peer reviewed research, all of it, is equal to belief, then you can sell them any other idea, at a premium.

We aren’t going to send our children to face “atheist college professors”. Increasingly, higher education is for those who can afford it. The rich can buy their way in, and you have to think, buy their way through, universities. This is a cycle which circles; only those who can afford college can go. Those who can go make more money than those who cannot. We’re left with less educated citizens, and worse, citizens who distrust education. I shouldn’t have to tell you what it means to have an electorate whose means of selection has nothing at all to do with how educated they are.

There isn’t a way out of this. We can’t simply wake up one day and start valuing education and critical thinking and hope people are going to flock to it because it’s a good idea. Ignorance has become a sellable condition. People will pay to become less knowledgeable. They will give money to other people who tell them education is wrong and thinking is dangerous. Our society is being sown with ideas that are unprovable, and even if they are disproved, evidence can simply be labeled as “fake news” and ignored. Go with what feels good. Believe what makes you happy. Read only from sources that agree with you. Listen to only what you’ve learn before, like your favorite music, because you like it.

What I heard in church yesterday was passive aggressive hate speech wrapped in fear mongering, by a used car salesman who told a willing audience his beliefs were what they needed to buy. The number of people willing to pay for this sort of thing will teach him to repeat it.

Take Care,
Mike