Come Alive (34.4.5)

come alive magma art-1.2

Three pieces of music today, a triptych of the soul. Nourishment, like a gentle rain. I Never Thought I’d Live To Be A HundredI Never Thought I’d Live To Be A Million, and finally, Watching and Waiting, which takes us right up to the edge.

.A short bit today.

Chapter 34.4.5

They made it through the line with plenty of time to spare; Dina’s eyes kept darting about like a cornered animals, and the closer they got to the boarding area the more they darted – yet by the time they stepped into the front row of the little boat she could hardly breathe…

“Dina?” Tracy asked. “Are you alright?”

Dina shook her head. “Something’s not right. Something is going to happen.”

“Grandma-ma? What do you mean?”

“Can’t you feel it?” Dina hissed. “Like a black place…gravity is pulling and stretching us…” she just managed to say as she began weeping. “Time blowing up all around us…slipping away…we’re slipping away…like the wind, the wind all around us…” she said as the little boat took off into the twilit bayou – with moss draped trees on one side and a restaurant full of happy revelers on the other…and they drifted along, on the threshold of forever, just before they fell into a maelstrom of dancing fireflies lost inside the wind…

“What the hell is going on?” Tracy cried. “There’s something going on alright, and something is most definitely not right…” she whispered as their little boat began falling away through windblown fireflies into complete darkness…

Then in an instant the sensation of speed, of an immense stretch of time passing in the blink of an eye, inflated as new, discordant feelings grew beyond gut-wrenching – but by that point Dina had been screaming for hours.

+++++

He was aware of them, of course. How the chill waters of the Pacific grew warm as they surrounded him. How, with his head just out of the water, their huge black faces seemed to tower over his own. Yet – he was just barely aware of their presence – as music seemed to be flooding through the fabric of the universe – pushing everything else aside. A strange piece, classical, almost a dirge, and as he bobbed on the waves he felt an endless sorrow unfolding around them all – this pod of orcas and himself.

Then…a new feeling, and this latest impression was unmistakable…that the music was coming from…his orca…this new friend of his.

The orca came close and leaned-in to meet Henry halfway, and instinctively Henry turned to meet his friend. He placed the side of his face on the orca’s, right beside the whale’s huge brown eye, and the music exploded – literally exploded into his mind.

Then the visions came. Of strangers. Of people he had never known. Yet. 

‘How do I know that?’ he asked the orca.

‘Listen. See with your heart.’

Then he saw Edith with two men, men he must’ve known once, or would know someday.

And then that music again…the dirge…surrounding him, filling his soul with despair.

Then another explosion of light.

A boy. The eyes of a child. Seeing the world again, through the eyes of a child…

Sitting between two women? ‘Why? Do I know them? Is that his mother? His grandmother? Who are these people?’

Then the orca pulled away, contact broken. Images like sand falling to the bottom of an hourglass, because his life was passing too quickly now, the last sands slipping through his fingers. 

He opened his eyes and looked around.

The orcas were gone. Nowhere to be seen.

But the boat was gone, too. Rupert. Pete. All of them. Everything gone.

Then…another orca. A female. Very old, almost ancient.

A grandmother. The real leader of the pod.

She came up to him and looked him in the eye.

Understanding. Empathy. 

No…that’s sympathy I see, isn’t it? 

“Why do you feel sorry for me?” he asked.

She leaned close, her meaning clear. He leaned into her.

“Come with me. It is time.”

“Time? What do you mean?”

“Your time. It is at an end. Come with me.”

She moved away and began to swim off, then he saw she was turning, circling him, waiting for him to join her, but only when he was ready. 

Henry Taggart went to her, he reached out to her, and when he had hold of her she started down into the darkness.

‘This is so easy,’ he thought as his mind gave up on the idea of taking another breath.

Pinpricks. Like starshine on his naked soul. Pinpricks and light. Cold light. Light wiping away the darkness. Then that vision again, of the boy with two women by his side.

And music. 

‘I know that music,’ Henry Taggart sighed. ‘How many times was I there? Yo-ho, yo-ho…’

He thought he felt Edith just before he felt Claire standing there inside the blinding light – and now she was like the wind, the wind with her arms all around him.

Come Alive is at an end, and I hope you have enjoyed the trip. In the not too distant future look for a coda, and look to The Eighty-Eighth Key for all your unanswered questions. This work © 2020-21 adrian leverkühn | abw | this was a work of fiction, pure and simple. All music herein quoted under the Creative Commons, including lines from Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me) © 1967 by the Walt Disney Music Co. Ltd., music by George Bruns, lyrics by Xavier Atencio.

One last piece, one last fragment of music to carry you on your way. Hope you enjoy.

 

 

 

Come Alive (34.4.4)

Come Alive Sirens art

Oh so close! I thought I could wrap the story up with this bit, but we’re not there yet. So sorry! Still, a little music might help see you on your way.

Chapter 34.4.4

He was holding onto the orca’s dorsal fin now, trying to streamline his body as they sliced through the sea, but seemingly within minutes they were in the debris field, surrounded by thrashing bodies and shredded tatters of sail. They surfaced next to a pale girl in a yellow jacket and Henry reached for her; too stunned to comprehend the sight of a man riding a killer whale, she grabbed his hand and they turned to the next closest human.

And then he noticed that his orca’s pod was with them, too. And that without being told a thing all the other orcas were swimming up to the humans in the sea and offering their dorsals. Too stunned to know what else to do, the drowning sailors clung to the whales while Henry’s orca appeared to orchestrate the pod’s movements, and when Rupert drove the Swan into the scene, everyone – in the sea and on the Swan – seemed to realize what was going on out there in this dark madness.

“Don’t just stand there, goddammit!” Henry screamed to the people on deck. “Get back to the swim platform and start getting people out of the water!”

There were eleven humans in all, but with their help it didn’t take all that long to get everyone safe and situated. Soon all the survivors of the doomed boat were below, drying off and being fed warm soup, while Henry returned to the cockpit. A friend of Ruperts along for the race, a retired emergency room physician, started IVs on the sickest, while Pete made contact with the Coast Guard and informed them that there there were eleven survivors aboard and everyone was accounted for. The Coast Guard advised that a cutter was outbound from Pearl Harbor to take the survivors from them, and to keep them updated with position fixes.

“You wanna tell me what the fuck just happened out there?” Rupert said as he handed Henry an oversized beach towel to wrap himself in.

“If I knew, Amigo, I’d be happy to tell you.”

“Henry? Has that whale been following us?”

“Yup.”

“For how long?”

“Since we left The Empress, I think.”

“Henry…this is insane…”

“Like you’re telling me something I don’t already know, Rupert? Look, you tell me what the fuck’s going on, ‘cause really, man, I got no clue!”

“But Henry! You dove in like you knew exactly what you were doing!”

Henry looked down at the wheel, then he looked back into the sea, into the orca’s eyes. “It was you, wasn’t it?” he said quietly a moment later. “You were telling me what to do, weren’t you? Just like you were telling all the other members of your pod…”

“Henry? Do you know what you’re saying?”

But Henry wasn’t listening now. His eyes were locked on the orca’s – and Rupert thought it looked just like they were communing again – until Henry threw off his towel and dove back into the sea. 

Only now it didn’t take long before everyone on deck was standing at the rails, gaping in disbelief – and then all the sailors on the Swan gathered and watched a pod of killer whales surround their friend in the sea, at least until they saw what happened next. 

+++++

As he settled into the little boat-like ride, and now with Edith by his side and Mike just climbing in, the incessantly playing music kept rattling through Anton’s mind –

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.

We pillage and plunder, we rifle and loot.

Stand up me hearties, yo ho.

Sitting in the front row of the little boat, the ride launched them into a twilit bayou, with fireflies dancing among drooping Spanish moss off to their left and a restaurant to their right, and yet still the music played –

We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot.

Stand up me hearties, yo ho.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.

Then they were plunging down a darkened chute, water roaring all around them – until they were adrift once again, floating through another world…

+++++

Rolf looked at the envelope once again; it was tucked inside the front cover of the three-ringed binder Henry had left on his bunk, and it was marked “do not open until noon on 28 December” in handwriting that was clearly NOT Henry’s.

Only – now it was time.

“Granma-ma? Tracy? Could you come here please?” he called out, and when they had joined him he showed them the envelope, and read aloud the instructions as well, taking time to note that the handwriting on the envelope was not, as best he could remember, Henry’s.

“Well? Go ahead. Open it,” his grandmother sighed, now even more exasperated with Henry Taggart’s never-ending and nonsensical dramas…

Rolf pulled the envelope free of the binder and opened it.

There was a letter inside. Typed. And three passes – to Disneyland Paris – but Rolf handed these to Tracy while he started reading the letter aloud.

“Hi all,” the writer of this missive began, “sorry to drag you out of the boat on such a warm winter’s day, but I need you to head out to Disneyland now, and make sure you board the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at exactly six this evening. Thanks, Henry.”

“What?” Dina cried. “Are you kidding me, Rolf?”

But Rolf shook his head as he passed over the letter, and as she yanked the paper from his hand Tracy held up the three Annual Passes and read aloud “Disneyland Paris, Pass Begins on Date Indicated Below.” And there at the bottom of the ticket was the date: 28.12.24. She scanned the ticket for more clues and found the tickets had been purchased more than a month ago by one Taggart, H. at the concierge desk inside the Hotel Crillon, and right away she knew Henry was behind all this.

“It’s legit,” she said as she read off the last four digits of the credit card he’d used. “He bought the passes almost a month ago, too.”

“Alright,” Rolf said, “let’s get our coats and go.”

“You do so if you want, but I’ll not be joining you,” Dina hissed.

“There are three passes, Granma-ma. Henry wanted all of us to go or else he wouldn’t have…”

“And I don’t give a damn what Henry Taggart wants – or wanted! I’m done with all his endless games, and so I’ll be flying back to Bergen tonight.”

Tracy clinched her jaw and ground her teeth, and after both Dina and Rolf took note of the change that had come over her, Dina backed away a little.

“Actually,” Tracy growled, “you’re coming with us right now. Grab a coat if you like, but we’re leaving now; you can get back on your fucking broomstick and go wherever the hell you like after we get back…”

+++++

The orcas surrounded Henry, forming a perfect circle around him while he tread water in the space between them, in the center of this new circle…

+++++

 They were sitting in some kind of Captain Jack Sparrow themed restaurant, spooning little mouthfuls of fish soup while they looked at people floating by on this peculiarly French version of Pirates of the Caribbean. Rolf looked at his phone and saw they still had almost a half hour before they needed to board the ride, but already he was a little excited about the ride, because, he hated to admit, he’d always wanted to come here. Still, his mother had told him a gazillion times that they just didn’t have enough money for a trip like this.

Yet, now, here he was. But while he had some vague idea where his mother was, she was so inaccessible now as to be…what? Gone. Like Henry, perhaps? Now dead and gone? Because if she really was living fifteen million years in the future…

“I detest this music,” Dina groused. “Over and over…yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirates life for me. How nauseatingly American! Such mindless barbarism masquerading as hedonistic materialism!”

Tracy shook her head. “Gee. Ever here of just cutting loose and having a little fun with your grandson, Dina? Or is that simply beneath you?”

Yet Dina ignored the question and turned to Rolf. “What about you? Have you ever wanted to come here?”

“Only all my life!”

“What? Why on earth…?”

“Because, Granma-ma, this is a playground of the imagination, and I grew up with these movies. This place is very special to me…”

“And that,” Tracy added, “is why we’re here, Dina. But I can understand why you’d be upset that a total stranger knew more about your grandson than you do…”

“Do you know what is worse?” Rolf asked. “Listening to you two bickering at one another. God! Look around you! Let your mind run free for a while but please, please, let go of all this hate for just one stinking, miserable minute!”

Then Rolf threw back his chair and walked away.

“Nicely said,” Tracy muttered.

“I had no idea…” Dina sighed, wiping away a tear – but she caught herself and sat upright as she sucked in a deep breath. “For his sake, we must find a truce between us,” Dina added, her voice just barely above a whisper.

“Oh really? Why?”

“You are insufferable, you do know that, don’t you?”

“Listen close, Dina. I don’t know why you’re here, other than to get some work done on Rolf’s boats while we’re away…”

“Away? Away? What does this even mean, this away? First there is this vanishing priest, then all these mysteries surrounding my daughter and that other girl…”

“You can’t even say her name, can you? Henry loved her and yet you can’t even…”

But Dina broke out in laughter. “Oh, you poor fool! Haven’t you figured out yet that our dear Henry loved absolutely everyone? – but that when you love everyone, you in effect love no one at all?”

Tracy sat back and sighed, now more than angry. “You were with him, what? Five months, or was it six? And in that time, in all that vast amount of time,” she continued, her voice suddenly dripping with overwrought sarcasm, “you never once saw past your own worldview. Your own take on love. You never once, Dina, saw into Henry’s heart, saw just how much love was waiting in there, just waiting to reach out. Waiting – maybe even for you. For you to reach out and embrace what he had to offer?”

Dina nodded. “And what did he have to offer us, Tracy? Nothing more than an illusion, just like this place…all an illusion. Worse, really; his love was more like a delusion, a blind alley…a place that felt oh so comfortable until you discovered that his love was leading us nowhere…”

“Love is love, Dina. Love doesn’t take you places, it won’t lead you to bliss or nirvana. Love simply allows us to find what is locked away in our own hearts, and then, and maybe only then, can we share our gifts with others.”

“You speak the language of delusions, Tracy.”

“I speak the language of empathy, Dina. A language you know nothing about.”

“Maybe that’s why he was attracted to you.”

“God, I hope so.”

Rolf walked up to the table, his hands stuffed inside his coat pockets. “I have paid the bill. It is time. We must go get in the line to be there at the correct time.”

Dina growled then, her patience at an end. “That infernal music! Won’t someone please make it stop?!”

© 2020-21 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates. Bits of music quoted under the Creative Commons: Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me) © 1967 by the Walt Disney Music Co. Ltd., music by George Bruns, lyrics by Xavier Atencio. The original work can be heard here.

Come Alive (34.4.3)

Come Alive Sirens art

Okay, so if you missed it there was a major addition to the flow, and if you haven’t already, head back to the previous chapter (34.4.1 & 34.4.2) to get caught up. Again, sorry for the snafu.

And a little music to lead the way through this very short snippet.

Chapter 34.4.3

The wind tore into the Swan, pushing her bow to port despite Henry’s trying to keep her dead into the wind. Yet even as she fell off the wind he began to feel her rolling – and he saw that sudden, all-consuming panic in Rupert’s eyes. He ignored all fear now as he looked at the apparent wind speed gauge – which was pegged at 110 knots, the maximum the gauge could display, and his intuition said to turn back into the wind, yet he knew that as the boat rolled the rudder would become less and less effective, so he turned to port, hard to the left, and the Swan began to settle down on her lines again – and to pick up boat speed, too.

Fifteen seconds later the wind speed dropped to 30 knots, then to 25, and he pinched up as best he could, turning back to their baseline course – and into a very confused sea…

…the he saw the other boat, still about a half mile away…

Her keel had snapped off and she was sinking, her crew was flailing in the water surrounded by debris.

It was against race rules to use the engine for anything but battery charging, but right now the rules didn’t matter. He reached for the ignition switch and preheated the engine, then hit the starter.

“Henry!” Rupert cried. “What the hell are you doing!”

“Pete!” Henry called out, ignoring Rupert. “Get on the SSB and put out a Mayday, advise we are coming to the aid of a sinking vessel and that their are people in the water!”

“Got it, Hank.”

“Sheesh. Test pilots. Nothing seems to excite them,” Henry muttered. “Rupert, stand-by the Life-Slings and get somebody on the bow to point out people in the water.”

“Right!”

He waited for the engine to warm a little then pushed it to the redline, but even so he guesstimated it would take the Swan about 20 minutes to get to the debris field…and to all the people there.

“Rupert! Get the main up, one reef, and the high-clewed yankee…get that up too…!”

“Got it! Come on, people! Let’s MOVE!”

Henry saw the other boat’s hull slip under the waves and he checked his boat speed against the ten foot waves she was powering through, and he immediately realized it was gonna be a close thing…probably too close.

Then he saw a tall black dorsal fin slicing through the water, and then the eye of his friend looking up at him from the sea right beneath the cockpit.

“Rupert! Get back here and take the wheel!” Henry called out to the foredeck – just before he set the autopilot and jumped into the sea…

+++++

Edith met them in the lobby of the Grand Californian and they walked directly into the park from the hotel, then she took them over to the 33 Club for lunch – Monte Cristo sandwiches and mint juleps were the order of the day – and Mike was astonished by the change that had come over this fire-breathing hell-bitch. Unabashedly genteel and genuinely helpful now, she now apparently wanted nothing more than to see to it that Anton had the time of his life.

And Anton, for his part, was more than happy to go right along for the ride.

It hadn’t even been four months since he’d been piloting a Sukhoi over the North Sea, locked in mortal combat with an American F-15…and then, in an instant…his entire world had disappeared…vanishing inside the heartbeat of the last world war the earth would ever know.

Then he’d been drifting towards the sea, a little boat fleeing Rotterdam below his dangling feet, then a surreal rescue by Henry Taggart – and that whale of his.

And now here he was, inside one of the most exclusive reserves of the American über-wealthy, with a most attractive American female while enjoying food that had heretofore been something beyond his wildest imaginings. And because of Henry Taggart, he was himself now more than a little wealthy, too.

“What strange world,” Anton sighed as his mind roamed.

“Oh?” Edith said. “How so?”

“I think of Genry. How he save me with whale, how whale was friend. And now here with most amazing beautiful American girl, in place where grandchildren dream of come – of coming to. I am sad, but happy also. Sad for grandchildren. All the grandchildren who never know this place. Happy see this with own eyes so tell when see in heaven.”

“They call this the happiest place on earth,” Edith added. “Maybe there’s a reason for that happiness, Anton?”

Anton nodded. Mike, however, looked out over New Orleans Square and tried to imagine the cash flow.

“When was the last time you and Henry came here, Edith?” Mike asked.

She fell into the trap, she was quite helpless not to, really. “Henry and I? Oh, that was many, many years ago – so many I can’t remember when exactly,” she lied – but despite the evasion she thought back to the last time they’d sat up here in this very dining room, her emotions now, as then, framed by the very same elegant French hardwood paneling on the walls, and all the doors open to the same square below…to that afternoon when she had told him about all her little murders – and how he had run away from her then…and how he had never really stopped running from her, not once – and certainly not even now.

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Come Alive ( 34.4.1 & 34.4.2)

Come Alive Sirens art

Okay, a major issue yesterday, because it turns out I screwed the pooch big time. I posted 34.5 before 34.4 so now nothing makes sense, or at least less sense than is usual for me. Typical behavior for old farts, I nevertheless apologize. So, after the music selection below you’ll find yourself reading 34.4, but 34.5 is now incorporated into this snippet. Again, endless apologies, and I hope you understand. So, once again, a little music – for the storm in the story ahead. Going to draw this out a little, probably two more snippets after all is said and done…but gee, didn’t I say that last time?

Chapter 34.4.1

The big, blue Swan 65 was berthed in Victoria, British Columbia, at a small marina located deep inside the inner harbor a stone’s throw from The Empress Hotel, and Henry Taggart had just finished stowing supplies for three weeks down below. They’d probably only need ten days for the crossing to Maui, but better safe than sorry, right? At least his dad had always said that, and the idea still made perfect sense today.

This was the second time Rupert and Henry were taking the Swan on the Victoria to Maui Race, and they were taking this second effort more seriously than the first time they’d made the run. They’d placed tenth in class on that first effort and Rupert had been pissed – because there’d only been ten boats in their class, but now that he and Henry understood this would be their last race, period, they’d both decided to take the whole thing more seriously this time out.

So…it had been decided early on that they’d bring only one case of rum on this race, instead of the three cases they’d carried on the first race. Sacrifices had to be made, right? Racing while shit-faced tended to lead to predictable outcomes.

And this time Rupert had insisted on a proper crew, and besides Henry all were from Boeing. Test pilots, including a retired shuttle pilot, were making this trip, and as they’d been practicing together for several weeks now everyone was hopped up and ready to go. Visions of trophies danced in Rupert’s mind…

“What say we take a break and head up to the hotel for tea?” Rupert said as he came up the aft companionway.

“Tea?” Henry sighed. “We’re going to be locked up on a boat for ten days with a bunch of pilots – and you want to go get tea?”

Rupert shrugged. “Ain’t no decent hookers in this town far as I can tell,” he snarled, “and anyway, I ain’t real sure I’d like to get down with one of those hairy legged Canadian girls.”

“Oh, really? Well, after a week at sea, Rupert, those hairy legs are gonna start to look real good.”

Rupert shook his head and shivered. “Never!”

“Well, anyway, I’m glad we have those rooms up there. I’m going to get in that shower tonight and stand under the water for an hour – just so I don’t forget what it feels like.”

“Taggart…you’re a wuss.”

“Damn straight,” Henry said as he hopped down to the dock. Once Rupert was down they started the short walk up to the hotel and, as no shorts and t-shirts were allowed in the Lobby Lounge, where tea was being served this afternoon, they needed to hit the showers and change first. They paused at the crosswalk and waited for traffic, then made their way up to the main lobby.

“I’ll meet you back here,” Rupert said as they waited for an elevator.

“Right,” Henry replied. 

And so Henry went on to his room, not at all expecting to find Pinky already there and waiting impatiently for him.

“Well, this is a surprise,” he said as he walked into his room. “To what do I owe…”

“Henry! I am with child!”

“Excuse me?”

“I am with child. You are the father.”

“And you’re not funny. In fact…”

“I am not trying to be funny, Henry. I am with child.”

“But how is this even possible? I’m no geneticist, but the last time I checked the DNA from two distinct species couldn’t…” 

But then it hit him and Henry stopped talking; now he looked at Pinky once again, only like he was looking at her for the very first time. Five fingers, horizontally opposed thumb. Bilateral symmetry. Structural anatomy of her arms and legs – all identical to our own, from her toes to her nose, and so what was the chance her species had developed just like us – in some faraway galaxy?

So when he looked her now she turned and looked away, and for the first time now he knew, he really knew, that she was being well and truly evasive. ‘Human after all,’ he sighed.

“Do you want to tell me what’s going on?” he said.

She turned back to face him once again, only now she spoke softly. “We were from earth. The earth of your distant past.”

“Distant? Like…how distant?”

She shrugged. “That is not important.”

“Okay. So, what is important?”

“This child. This is important.”

“What can I do to help?”

“I do not know. My – superiors – are not at all pleased.”

“Well, I’m not too sure I’m all that happy about this myself.”

Which caused Pinky to fall to the bed – in tears.

“Ah, estrogen,” Henry sighed. “Can’t live with it…can’t live without it.”

“What?”

“Oh…nothing, dear.”

“I don’t know what to do!”

“You…and about 42,000 other teenage girls.”

“What?”

“Nothing. So tell me, what are your options?”

“I have none. I am to report to our laboratory for observation and monitoring of fetal development.”

“You won’t be able to visit me while this is going on?”

“I do not know.”

“How long will you…”

“I do not know.”

“Right.” He went to the bed and laid down next to her, then he caressed her face as he looked into her eyes. 

“Is this the love you spoke of, Henry? This thing I see in your eyes?”

“I don’t know? What do you see?”

“It is almost like sadness, but not quite. It is more like a willingness to share good things as well as bad. Is that it?”

“Maybe a part of it, but there’s more to it than that.”

“When this race is over, will you come visit me?”

“Of course.”

“I love what I see in your eyes right now, Henry Taggart.”

He smiled. A little smile at first, but soon it grew and grew…

“What is so funny, Henry?”

“Did you hear to what you just said? You said ‘I love what I see…’ Don’t you get it? You’re there, Pink. You’re feeling love!”

Her eyes went wide just before she sat up on the bed, then she winked out and was gone.

“Damn. Must’ve been something I said,” Henry said as he ambled into the bathroom. Then, as he scrambled out of his clothes, he looked at the shower and sighed.

+++++

Rolf was shaking with rage; Tracy helped the boy stand and brushed snow off his jacket, and when they turned to go back to Time Bandits she saw Dina standing under the cockpit dodger, scowling – as if the weight of all the world’s problems had suddenly landed squarely on her shoulders.

Yet Dina came to the rail and helped them back aboard, and she held Rolf’s hand as she led him to the cockpit. “What is it?” she asked when she saw the anger on her grandson’s face. “What has happened?”

“Nothing,” Tracy said.

“Oh, right,” Dina snarled. “Just like nothing happened when you got yourself shot in the shoulder! When are you going to start trusting me, Tracy! I loved him too, you know!”

“And you left him, Dina,” Tracy sighed. “You left him when he was at his most vulnerable.”

“So that’s it, is it? I am never to be trusted again? One mistake and…”

But then Rolf stood, his eyes clear, his mood resilient. “Granma-ma,” he began, “I need you to stay here, with the boat. Henry has left directions and contacts for all the work he thought might need to be completed before we can go to sea again, and it is most important that these things be done while we are away…”

“Away!” Dina cried. “You’re going away again?”

“As soon as Anton returns next week, yes, we will leave. I will be counting on you to get both boats ready to leave at a moments notice…”

“That’s preposterous!” Dina growled, her hands slashing about like a bouquet of rusty scalpels. “Where will you be? When will you return? How am I to function without knowing even the basics of where you are, or even who you are with…?”

“Granma-ma? If you want to see Britt again, or even Eva, you must trust me.”

“Trust you? My God, Rolf! You are just a boy!”

“And that,” Tracy whispered, her words trailing away on a snow-filled breeze, “is why we can’t trust you…”

+++++

With two minutes to go before the start, Henry held the Swan back a little, hoping to maneuver behind an ultra-lightweight design and slip into a better, or windward, position when the starting gun sounded. He checked the apparent wind angle and the apparent wind speed indicators as he tried to read eddies on the almost calm surface of the sea off Victoria, then he turned and looked over his right shoulder – and saw another boat now had the same idea and was going to slide in and push his Swan down towards the ultralight, at the same time blanketing his sails and stalling his start.  He pushed the Swan closer to the wind, hoping to stall the overtaking boat while maintaining his momentum towards the starting line, but he was beginning to doubt this updated Frers design had the upwind chops to hold his line in this light air.

Rupert had their lightest, biggest genoa up, and they was making almost 4 knots over the ground, but the overtaking boat was doing just a little better. Still, if he could push the other boat too far into the wind he might still just pull this off. He looked at the telltales up and down the gennie and sighed…

“Let her out a little, Dave,” Henry said to Dave Mason, a Boeing test pilot along for the ride.

“Got it.”

Henry watched their boat speed pick up two tenths of a knot before he fell off the wind a little, looking for the perfect ‘slot’ of airflow between the main and genoa, then he saw another eddy on the water and began to time his next turn into the wind.

“Okay Dave, get ready to bring her in again on three – two – one…now!”

Henry caught the header and the Swan’s speed jumped to five knots, then five point two, and the overtaking boat began to fall behind with only fifty yards – or less than fifteen-seconds – to go to the start. He looked at his countdown timer and then at the imaginary line between the committee boat and an inflatable marker buoy set out a hundred yards or so from the power boat, and he grinned. Rupert gave him a fist-pump as the cannon fired, as the Swan crossed the start – in the lead!

Now, one by one, boats started falling off as tacticians on each boat began maneuvering for the next tactical advantage, their job to exploit long range weather forecasts, not just the local winds and current. Knowing exactly where the North Pacific High was located would become the most important bit of information each skipper had as they neared the halfway point to Maui, but first they’d have to clear Race Rocks and then set a course for Tatoosh Island, all while each boats skipper kept close eyes on the other boats in their class.

Alston, their tactician, called up a new course and Henry turned to starboard 30 degrees; Dave let out the gennie while Karen Grimes, another Boeing test pilot, handled the main – both without being told to do so, always a good sign they were paying attention. The big gennie was pulling well in this light air so Rupert came back to the cockpit and settled down next to Henry.

“Man, I thought I was gonna stroke out when Pyewacket began squeezing us…” Rupert snarled.

“So that’s who that was,” Henry said. “Aggressive move. Too bad for them.”

“You did great, Henry. That was a bad-ass move. I bet Roy is cussing you out right about now.”

Henry smiled, if only because his dad would have been proud. If you lost tactical awareness in the start you were doomed, and as many skippers never recover from a botched start a lot of practical emphasis is placed on winning the race at the very beginning. Crew morale can rise or crash depending on the outcome at the starting line, so Henry had given his strategy a lot of thought. Now he wanted to beat as many boats as he could to Tatoosh, though the bigger boats had the decided advantage of greater boat speed. Still, there were only three boats bigger than the Swan, so Henry knew they had a shot a Class honors on corrected time.

The wind piped up a little and Henry looked at Rupert. 

“One point five knots and we’ll have to drop that light air sail. Better rig the twin-stay and get ready.”

Rupert nodded and went forward, then a shadow off to port caught his eye.

It was an orca – his orca – he saw, dancing down there beneath the sun dappled surface of the sea. Shadowing the Swan, playing with him out here under the dome of the sky.

+++++

“So,” Rupert said, “you’re really gonna do it? Sell out and sail away?”

It was 0200 and they were in the middle of their watch, and tonight, their third night at sea, the Swan was more than a third of the way to Maui.

Henry nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, since dad died, anyway.”

“Yeah, I miss the old guy. Helluva sailor, too. He made a difference on our first race, ya know?”

“I miss him too,” Henry said, looking away for a while.

“The man did love his rum,” Rupert added.

“That he did. I think it kept him running.”

“So? What are you gonna do?”

“Not really sure yet. I ran across a bunch of books when I was packing up the house, books about cruising the canals in Sweden and the Netherlands, and I think he wanted to do that. I guess, what is that saying? He ran out the clock?”

“Don’t we all,” Rupert sighed. “No one complains about having too much time, do they?”

“Probably not.”

“You got anyone in mind to go with you?”

“No, not really, but I was halfway thinking I’d like to make the crossing by myself.”

“Oh,” Rupert said, but Henry could hear the disappointment in his friend’s voice.

“So what are you going to do?”

“Watch Madeline curl her hair, for all I know,” the retired general snarled. “Hell, I don’t know, Taggart. This whole retirement thing has me beat.”

“Why don’t you load up the Swan when we get to Maui and just keep on going. Go to Tahiti, New Zealand, stop when you get tired…”

“Or have to go home to sign the divorce papers.”

“There is that.”

“Interesting idea, but I can’t handle a tub like this by myself.”

“You won’t have any problem finding a couple of wahinis to make that trip with you. Not with a boat like this.” 

“You think?”

“I know.”

“My boy would shit a brick…”

“So invite him along. Get to know him. Might be the only chance you get, ya know?”

“I’d have to leave Boeing,” Rupert muttered, but Henry could already see the wheels turning. Add a little imagination and Rupert would be off on the adventure of a lifetime…

Pete Mitchell came halfway up the companionway steps and passed up some iced tea and tuna salad sandwiches before he came fully out into the cockpit.

“Thanks, Pete,” Rupert said. “I was getting hungry.”

“Me too,” Henry said as he snagged a sandwich and took a bite.

“Hank, there’s a band on the radar when I set the range out to 48…”

Henry nodded. “I thought I saw a little flicker a few minutes back. Little to the right of our current heading, right?”

“Yeah, but I think it’s headed our way.”

“Got a velocity vector?”

“Yeah, if my math is right it’ll be here in an hour, maybe fifty minutes.”

“Pete,” Rupert asked, “has your math ever been wrong?”

“I made a mistake once,” Pete replied, “back in 1973, I think.”

“Good sandwiches, Pete,” Henry groaned, though smiling calmly. “Better go below and wake everyone up. Better tell ‘em we’re gonna be in for a little shit-show.”

Rupert looked at Henry when he heard that, and right then and there he knew he couldn’t sail anywhere without Taggart. It was plain as day now, and just as simple as that. He caught a flicker of lightning on the horizon and as his stomach tightened he turned and looked at Henry Taggart.

He was standing behind the wheel now, and smiling like some kind of possessed fiend – like he was getting ready to spit in Satan’s eye – because to Rupert it seemed that Henry Taggart was finding the prospect of a big storm more than a little amusing.

Chapter 34.4.2

Sitting next to Edith for ten hours hadn’t been the worst thing he’d ever endured, but Anton thought the experience would make his top ten list of most uncomfortable times. First she wanted the window seat, then the aisle, and when their flight attendant brought champagne it was too warm. Their was too much salt on her salmon, her salad dressing too much vinegar and on and on it went.

Mike Lacy was sitting across the aisle from them so was spared most of her irritating display, but every now and then he leaned over and made eye contact with Anton. They’d share a brief nod – a kind of soggy commiseration, given the circumstances – before Mike would lean back again and try to refocus on the in-flight entertainment screen. ‘What a wicked wretch,’ he thought as he tried to ignore her nonstop screeching litany of misery, and more than once he thought everyone would have been better served if they’d just dumped her face down in a ditch somewhere out in the sticks.

She got up to go to the head about every half hour, too, and Mike handled these chores, following her up to the entry/cockpit alcove up front and making sure she didn’t try to bang on the cockpit door or otherwise try to create some kind of a stink with airline personnel. She’d glower at Mike as she came out of the little toilet compartment, then he’d follow her back to her seat and make sure she got buckled-in, again, then sit down and wait for the next trip.

So when the fasten seat belt lights chimed and the pilots announced their flight was on final approach into LAX, Mike was more than a little relieved. So was Anton. But Mike had just noticed a little quirk on their tickets, and though he had to assume Henry had done this on purpose, he was a little surprised. Henry had scheduled a five day layover for them. Five days in LA, and vouchers for a four-night stay at the Grand Californian at Disneyland, and when Mike leaned over and pointed this out to Anton, the Russian had gone ballistic – and just about out of his mind.

“Mountains of Space?” Anton shouted. “Really! Caribbean Pirates? Oh my God! Thanks you, Genry!”

“So,” Mike sighed, “I take it this means you want to go to Disneyland?”

“YES, I want wery much go Disneylands.”

“Well, shit,” Mike sighed – just under his breath, “this will be real fun.”

But Edith heard this exchange and leaned over to speak to Mike. “Would you two like me to join you? I’d be happy to show you around.”

And just like that…like someone had flipped a switch…Edith became the genteel hostess once again, but Mike simply couldn’t resist the impulse to see how far she’d take this latest ploy to get back to Time Bandits, and what her ultimate motive might be. Besides money, he sighed.

“Why certainly, Edith. That would be just lovely,” Mike said, smiling as sincerely as he dared.

“Wonderful,” she said as she clapped her hands excitedly, kind of like a five year old might.

“You go Disneyland with Genry many times. This right?” Anton asked.

“Many times, Anton. Many, many times.”

“My grandchildren dream to ride Caribbean Pirates, so this I must do.”

“And I’d love to go with you, Anton,” Edith cooed, now putting on her best prom queen aires.

‘And I’d love to go pick some lint out of my belly button,’ Mike sighed – as he leaned back and closed his eyes…

+++++

Rolf and Dina were sitting at the big table in the saloon, each reading through the dense notes that Henry had left each of them on their laptops. There were three-ring-binders too, crammed with warranty data and other vital papers necessary for an easy transfer of ownership to Rolf. Tracy sat at the chart table reading her notebook, and as these were Henry’s last words to her she was taking everything kind of hard.

Then, a ping from a timer in the galley and Dina’s cinnamon rolls were finally ready; she iced them then fixed coffee, carrying bowls of fresh melon to the table when everything was ready. And there sat little Clyde, beside Rolf now – as he always was since Christmas day, sitting close to Rolf while quietly taking everything in.

Yet the funny thing about this quiet attentiveness was that, if Rolf or Dina, or even Tracy had cared enough to look over this strange little pup, to look him over a little more closely than they had, perhaps one of them might have noticed the pinkish tinge deep within the pups eyes. 

+++++

“Pete?” Henry said to his tactician as he muscled the Swan over another eight foot growler. “I think I see a steaming light between us and that squall line. Pull up the radar and see if you can get a range and bearing for me, would you?”

“Got it, Hank.”

“Rupert,” Henry added, “where’d my binoculars run off to?”

“Oh, sorry, I’ll get ‘em.”

Once Henry had his Steiner’s up to his eyes he scanned the flickering horizon but quickly spotted the other sailboat’s mid-mast steaming light, the single light casting a feeble glow on the other boat’s spinnaker. He pushed a button and illuminated the binos internal compass and took a bearing, then waited for Pete…

“Intermittent contact at 243 degrees, range 3.2 miles, but it’s a sketchy contact at best, like they aren’t flying a radar reflector…”

Henry nodded. “Some idiots take ‘em down after the start to decrease windage. You got a distance to the leading edge of the squall line?”

“It’s indistinct, Hank, but call it 12 to 15 miles, so call it 20 minutes max until contact.”

“Okay. Rupert, rig the little storm trysail in the slot, and let’s get ready to douse the main, at least until we know how deep this cell is, but tie in a deep reef for now…”

“Right!” Rupert got his deck-apes forward and it took four of them to bring in the heavy air gennie, but they wrestled it down below while Rupert and another ape reefed the main. Then Rupert looked ahead and now he could just see the sailboat up ahead – and he saw they were still flying a huge tri-radial spinnaker, one designed for sailing on a close reach…but if that squall line hit them while flying such a huge sail, well, he wasn’t a pro at this whole sailing thing but he knew there would be some real trouble on that boat tonight. “Henry? See that spinnaker?” he yelled back to Taggart.

“Everyone must be asleep,” Henry replied, shaking his head. “Pete? Give ‘em a shout on VHF and see if anyone’s awake over there?” He looked at their own boat speed, falling rapidly now that the sails were changed, then he looked at their apparent wind speed – 24 to 28 knots while still on this close reach – but the seas were still modest – and he guessed wave heights were four to seven or eight feet – but that would change fast if this was a deep cell…

He flipped on the loud-hailer and hit five short blasts, then he looked through his Steiner’s to see if there was any reaction…

Nothing. At all…

He hit the horn again, and five short blasts of the sharp piercing sound split the night, but still he saw no reaction, so he altered course a little to starboard to close on the other sailboat…

Rupert came down into the aft cockpit, while the other deck apes huddled in the midships cockpit. “Okay, I checked everyone has got their harness on and everyone’s hooked-in…”

Henry nodded. “They must be on autopilot. That sail is luffing like crazy now, too, but if the wind hits while that fucker is up they’re gonna lose their mast when they roll…”

“Hank!” Pete yelled up from the chart table. “I got someone. Everyone’s racked-out below, some kind of dysentery, everyone’s sick as shit…”

“Tell ‘em to get their sails down – NOW,” Henry cried, “or they’re going to end up swimming the rest of the way to Maui!”

“Jesus, Henry…what the fuck…” Rupert began saying…

…just as lightning slammed into the sea a few hundred yards ahead of the other sailboat.

“Pete!” Henry said, still calmly. “Lightning ahead! Isolate the electronics – and do it right NOW!”

He could see two people on the other boat now, running forward to get the spinnaker down, one of them stopping suddenly before falling to the deck and getting sick, and then lightning slammed into the sea again – but this time between his Swan and the other boat…

“Oh fucking hell,” he moaned inwardly. There was nothing, nothing at all more terrifying than being on a sailboat at sea during a lightning storm, and that bolt had been close…

Then the thunder hit – a sharp splitting of the air within the scudding clouds just overhead, and everyone instinctively ducked…

And now Rupert looked at Henry, still amazed that his friend was showing no outward signs of fear – at all. Well, Henry was the de facto captain on this trip, and like any well trained pilot understands after one day of training, showing outward signs of panic just burns energy and keeps you from focusing on all the things that need attention…

“FUCK!” someone screamed, just after lightning slammed into the water a hundred yards off their starboard beam, and a couple of the deck apes ducked down the forward companionway and slammed the hatch shut behind them. Then – CRACK! – as another ripping wave of thunder tore through the scudding clouds…

“You know all that shit you were saying about sailing to Tahiti?” Rupert growled. “Well, fuck that shit, Amigo. Once this fucking tub gets to Maui I’m getting on an airplane and as far away from this goddamn death-trap as I can get! We’re in the middle of the goddamn ocean, Henry, riding on a fucking lightning rod!”

Henry grinned. “Yeah, ain’t life grand?”

“You mean…you’re enjoying this shit?”

Henry nodded. “We’re alive, Rupert, out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a sailboat. Would you really rather be sitting at a desk in an air conditioned office somewhere? Really?”

Rupert nodded. “I hear you, but…”

“Oh, fuck-a-doodle-do…” Henry sighed, now looking at a wall of white spume engulfing the sailboat ahead of them, still about a mile away, and still with their spinnaker flying.

As Rupert turned to see what had captured Taggart’s attention, he too saw the other boat swallowed up by the advancing storm. “Oh dear God in Heaven,” he mumbled. 

“About two minutes!” Henry called out to everyone left on deck. “Double check your harnesses and grab onto to something solid like a grab rail before this thing hits!” Henry looked at Rupert before he spoke next. “Come over here and clip onto the binnacle, get ready to help with the wheel in case something happens to me.”

“Something happens?” Rupert cried. “Like what?!”

“Get the main all the way down now!” Henry called out to the last two deck apes standing-by at the mast, and they wrestled the remaining sail down and got it lashed to the boom just as Henry turned the Swan almost directly into the wind.

Thirty seconds after the last deck ape jumped back down into the midship’s cockpit, the white squall hit.

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Gnews (25.7.21)

Bloom buddies

Back in the day, at least as the case may be concerning yours truly, the Sunday Dallas Morning News was where it was at, and while some folks went straight to the Classifieds or to the Real Estate sections, I – being an intellectual of the highest order (cough-cough) – went right to the Comics section. Or, as we called them those days – to the “funnies…”

And yeah, I’ll admit it, I went straight to Peanuts, and if Schulz was still around I’d still be reading about Chuck and Linus and Snoopy. Yet my most secret pleasure was located on or near the last page of the ‘funnies,’ and that would be Berke Breathed’s Bloom County. There are more than a few anthologies that cover Bloom County’s run, which, by and large, was limited to Ronald Reagan’s years in office, as well as Bush 41’s first year, so yeah, the 80s.

And yup, that’s the crew in the image up top. If this motley crew is unfamiliar to you, well, you have my sympathy, because the irony and caustic empathy found in Bloom County is in perilously short supply these days. I have heard that there is some sort of reboot to be found on Facebook, but as I am morally disinclined to even open a link from FB this reincarnation will remain my loss. Maybe a print anthology of the FB years will make it to a bookstore someday. And yes, I recognize the irony inherent in that last sentence and I apologize sincerely, yet my hope remains the same. It’s time to revisit Bloom County, and I hope you’ll give it a try.

First it was seat belts…now it’s vaccines…

I have tried to make the case recently that roughly 18 percent of Americans suffer from an undiagnosed schizo-affective disorder, and if you’ve been reading along you understand why. First and foremost, please understand that the APA (American Psychological Association) came up with those stats years ago, so cut me some slack, please; I ain’t just makin’ up this crap as I go, or at least I haven’t been…up to now.

But now, I feel it’s finally time to make up some shit, because I am beginning to think that a really large number of people in the United States are morons. Large – as in 50% or more of the population. Large, as in all those people who still think the Republican Party is, well, you know, somehow interested in good governance. Is that polite enough for you? Hell, everyone knows the Republican Party is all about the money these days. They worship the dollar – not some feeble-minded God, and now believe that the quest for excess wealth is somehow the defining characteristic of all morally superior men. They have become Ayn Rand fanatics, through and through. But first, let’s get some definitions out of the way.

This, from Wikipedia: “Moron” was coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard[4] from the Ancient Greek word μωρός (moros), which meant “dull”[5] and used to describe a person with a mental age in adulthood of between 7 and 10 on the Binet scale.[6] It was once applied to people with an IQ of 51–70, being superior in one degree to “imbecile” (IQ of 26–50) and superior in two degrees to “idiot” (IQ of 0–25). The word moron, along with others including, “idiotic”, “imbecilic”, “stupid”, and “feeble-minded“, was formerly considered a valid descriptor in the psychological community, but it is now deprecated in use by psychologists.

And let me be clear. I’m in no way stating that you can only find such high percentages of morons only in the USA. No…they are everywhere, they breed like rabbits and they all vote. When Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos say they want to get the fuck out of Dodge, what they’re really saying is they want to get away from all the morons.

Well, Texas, Florida, and Mississippi each have Republican governors, and while the case can be made that all three of these politicians is a moron, the State of Alabama has a governor that requires special mention, as she is now headed straight for the Morons Hall of Fame, otherwise known as the 2024 Republican National Convention.

Kay Ellen Ivey is a class act, a Republican through and through. Refusing to take federal funds to expand Medicaid (which provides medical insurance and other assistance to the poor), she worked hard to make sure that even the disabled making less than 200 bucks a month have to work at least a part time job to get any form of public assistance. She’s worked equally hard to speed up executions in her state while making it almost impossible for a woman to choose to have an abortion – a dichotomy I have never been able to wrap my head around. And up until late last week, Ms. Ivey was a first class peddler of vaccine disinformation, not to mention the architect of a whole bunch of laws that prohibited mask mandates and other “common sense” measures to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Well, at a presser on Friday, Governor Ivey stated that the Covid-19 pandemic is now a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” which means what, exactly?

Well, it means that the State of Alabama has one of the lowest rates of vaccination in the US, and that almost all the hospitals in the state are reaching, or have reached, their breaking point. Their ICUs are full – of Covid-19 patients. And asked why this was so, Governor Ivey said she just didn’t know. And asked what people ought to do, she said that the Citizens of the Great State of Alabama should exercise a little “common sense” – and get vaccinated.

Truly, in a sane world you just can’t make up shit like this and get away with it, but Ivey is on MsNBC and on FOX saying this stuff with a straight face. And I’m here to tell ya, ladies and germs, that this woman has exactly what it takes to be the next Republican nominee for President of the United States.

You heard it here first.

Deoxygenation

Several years ago I wrote here about PPO2 studies (also referred to as PatO2) aka: atmospheric partial pressure of oxygen, which in the realm of climate change science this is the real doom and gloom branch. The last paper I read on the subject came out on 2016 and it’s a real page turner (not) though worth reading (LOL) titled The human physiological impact of global deoxygenation. Obviously, with a title like this, this work is a complete fabrication and just one more twisted maze of clever disinformation put out by the Fake News Network – in this case The Journal of Physiological Sciences as made available through the National Institute of Health (US).

If you are a SCUBA diver you learned all about Dalton’s Law and partial pressures in your Basic Class. If you are not a SCUBA diver about all I can say is “Why not?” Anyway…the basics: the amount of oxygen in the air we breathe is roughly 20.95% (or 209,460 ppm), and if this partial pressure of oxygen in our atmosphere falls just far enough I want you to visualize one thing for me. Imagine pulling a fish from your favorite lake or river. Now, imagine this fish trying desperately to remain alive, flapping around as it tries to get enough oxygen to flow over its gills. The fish is flapping around because the partial pressure of oxygen in water is quite different from the PPO2 in air, and after a brief struggle the fish is either returned to the water before it dies or is taken home to be fried up for dinner.

Or take another example: If you travel to someplace at a very high elevation the reason you might experience “altitude sickness” is because the PPO2 is quite different at sea level than it is at, say, 14,000 feet above sea level. The good thing about this effect is that if you can remain at that altitude your body will slowly adapt to the new conditions, assuming you live long enough, that is.

Well, now, the good news. The PPO2 is falling, and greenhouse gases are the culprit, but earth’s atmosphere won’t be completely deoxygenated for approximately 3500 years. The not so good news is that the process is already well underway, and sometime in the not so distant future life at sea level will be similar to what life is like at 15,000 feet above sea level today. And, oh yes, the human fetus cannot, generally speaking, reach viable maturity under such conditions.

Well, enough of that. If you want to read the article, here it is.

The limits of growth

That’s the title of a book that’s sold more than any other – in the climate change pantheon, anyway. And the publisher, such as it is, is an organization called The Club of Rome, and if you are unfamiliar with this group you should read up on them. The original paper was, however, authored by a group of scientists at MIT – the Club of Rome simply published the work.

Now, in new work reported in today’s Guardian (Yep, it’s bleak, says expert who tested 1970s end-of-the-world prediction, by Edward Helmore, The Guardian, 25 July 2021) states that a major new study has validated much of the work in The Limits of Growth, and that civilization as we know it will collapse by 2040.

In what I would call a companion piece, after reading this essay in The Atlantic (After 11 Minutes in America, I Got Hit by the Crime Wave, by Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, 22 July 2021) I was left reeling, breathless and reeling, and in the most horrible way imaginable I was transported deep within the tortured landscapes of this song.

Y’all be careful out there, and thanks, Bill, for being there when I needed you most.

bill-the-cat

BILL THE CAT – FROM BLOOM COUNTY

 

Gnews (22.7.21)

Red Dawn

“I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

That’s what ER docs are telling Covid-19 patients who present in the hospital with the debilitating respiratory collapse that accompanies many patients. It used to be just the elderly and the immune compromised, but now the infection is showing up in middle aged patients, those in their 30s and 40s. And this despite the almost unprecedented push by President Biden to get the population vaccinated.

So? What went wrong?

Well, in a word or two, this is what went wrong”

Vaccine disinformation, part of a growing Republican dominated propaganda matrix, has characterized almost all recent opinion pieces on Fox’s evening prime-time programming. And why, you might ask, would they do this? Well, one obvious reason is that fear sells, and stoking the fires of division helps keep their base energized, and fearful.

But these vast echo chambers are killing people even with Trump out of office, and these organs of Republican propaganda are utilizing the public’s airwaves to do so. Where is the FCC in all this? Why can’t they just yank Fox’s operating permits?

Well, because our First Amendment enshrines everyone’s right to disseminate information – at least until it can be shown to a court that a challenged media enterprise is no longer operating in the public good.

And guess what? Suits are being filed, two so far this week, to shut down Fox due to their heavily biased presentation of the vaccine’s risks. Will the courts act fast enough to prevent even more carnage? And anyway, just why is Fox really doing this? What on earth is the Murdoch clans real objective here? Tear down America? If so, they’re doing a splendid job of it.

Ever since Richard Nixon stood in front of the cameras pronouncing “I am not a crook” – while most assuredly being a crook of the highest order – Republicans have embraced deceit as the best way to get and maintain power. Obviously, a situation like this can not endure.

+++++

“I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

It’s not hard to imagine climate scientists not saying something along those lines right about now.

Tipping points? What tipping points? Seen the film Climate Emergency?

Let’s see, just in case you missed it, there’s over four million acres of forest on fire in northeast Siberia, almost two hundred wildfires are torching the western U.S. – including fifty fires classified as large and not contained, and Oregon’s first 400,000 acre wildfire. Smoke from these fires has spread across North America, by the way, with nasty air quality blanketing cities from the Midwest to New England. Northern Finland is roasting, but so too is Ireland, and our air quality is plummeting, our oceans are turning to acid, while arctic permafrost is releasing gigatons of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2.

And while the American southeast is catching one storm after another, leading to epic flooding, these storms are roaming right up the Atlantic seaboard and drenching cities from North Carolina to Maine. Not to be outdone, the worst flooding in a thousand years hit southwest Germany last weekend, and now, today, more epic flooding is hitting southeast China – just one more “thousand-year” event in a year full of thousand year events. But why all the rain? Because a warming atmosphere simply holds more moisture, so when a heat dome sucks all the ground water out of the western US the jet stream comes along and pushes all that moisture to Alabama and Mississippi. It ain’t rocket science, y’all. Been predicted for 70 years, by ExxonMobil scientists.

+++++

And our billionaires are at it again! Branson and Bezos have their astronaut wings now and yeah, sure, their accomplishments are real and in a way quite praiseworthy. I mean, well, it IS an accomplishment to start from scratch and build an entire launch ecosystem that actually works, but let’s hope these efforts lead to more than a handful of joyrides for the well-to-do and their mistresses. Bezos envisions moving all of our polluting enterprises to orbit and trying to keep earth pristine, yet energy is energy and moving gigatons of heavy machinery into even a low earth orbit would require gigatons of launch energy, said exhaust getting dumped into our atmosphere. One space shuttle launch dumped almost as much crap into the atmosphere as all the world’s automobiles in a day. How many such launches can the atmosphere take before it simply ceases to function in a way that supports life here on the surface?

Or is that the missing piece of the puzzle?

Elon and his Boring Company are rapidly developing the means to bore tunnels quickly and affordably into just about any material, so is it a stretch to imagine moving Los Angeles moving under the Santa Monica Mountains as the surface becomes uninhabitable (I know, that would make for an interesting problem in earthquake resilience, ya know…)?

+++++

Not unexpectedly, life expectancy in the United States is falling like a rock, with Covid-19 a leading measure in the latest increase. But do you have any idea what the leading entry was in our latest increase? How does ‘Deaths of Despair’ sound.

Deaths of Depair. Let that one roll around in your head for a day or two – as you tune into Fox News for your daily dose of fear. What? Me worry?

strange-3

So, when does all this reach critical mass? When will Millennials and the so-called Gen-Z exercise their Second Amendment rights? When will the 99% go after the 1%?

See the problem? Time waits for no one, not even Marie Antoinette, or Tucker Carlson.

Come Alive (34.3)

come alive magma art-1.2

Come Alive is rapidly winding down now. Just this fragment and perhaps two more, maybe one if I can economize a bit.

Music? Two songs rattled around in my mind as I wrote about Henry last night. Obvious stuff, really. Try this one first, then this one.

Chapter 34.3

Henry looked out over the space station, for that was exactly what this colossal thing was, and he felt a little in awe of the sheer scale of everything he had seen. If, as Bob had told him, the station was 1500 kilometers long, he was looking at a ship that was close to a thousand miles long, and that just seemed outrageous to him. He and Pinky were in a tower near the docking platforms at one end of the station, and though the tower appeared to be hundreds of meters tall he couldn’t even begin to see the far end of the station. What was weird, however, was the spinning cylinder below.

The tower they were in was decoupled from the main body of the station and from up here the station was moving and they were standing still. Yet just a few minutes ago, while in the station and looking up at the tower, it had felt as if the station was standing still and the tower was rotating away from them. And now he and Pinky were up in the very same tower floating around in complete weightlessness – and while Henry thought the sensation was exhilarating he couldn’t get over the scale of everything up here. Had it been built here, or had Pinky and her people traveled here from…

“Man, what a blast! I could do this forever!” he said to Pinky as he somersaulted and ricocheted off a wall.

“I thought you might enjoy it up here,” she said, casually smiling at him. “This is a good place to escape the effects of our gravity, is it not?”

He caught something in the tone of her voice and reached for a handhold, but his momentum was simply too great and he bounced along the wall until he finally grabbed hold of a handhold and stopped. Then he looked at her, trying to get a read of the expression he saw on her face.

“You okay?” he asked when he came up blank.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, are you feeling alright?” The question seemed odd to her, at least to him it did – if he was reading her reaction correctly, so he pushed himself away from the wall and on a trajectory back to her.

Then the look on her face turned to one of growing alarm – as she made a quick calculation of his mass and velocity – yet she was wearing a belt that appeared to allow her to move about the space with ease. “What are you doing?” she asked as Henry approached – and as she maneuvered away from a colossal impact… 

“I wanted to talk without shouting,” he said as he sailed past her, suddenly aware that the next wall he might grab hold of was well over a hundred meters away. “Well…fuck-a-doodle-doo…” he sighed as he sailed past – as Pinky receded into the distance. “That was real fucking smart, Taggart.”

Yet Pinky sailed past him a moment later and met him at the far wall; when he arrived she helped him stop and grab a wall anchor. “You want to talk? To me?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Why?”

“I told you…”

“Ah, yes, you told me that you love me. Don’t you find such talk a little silly?”

“Silly? I haven’t heard that word in years.”

“Well then, how about impetuous?”

“Not to me. Is that what you felt? That I was being impetuous?”

“No, not really, but I have no frame of reference, Henry. We do not pair bond they way you do, and our associations are more – structured – than yours appear to be. When you tell me that you love me it is as though I understand the words, yet the importance is lost to me.”

“You don’t – love anyone?”

“Not in the way you are speaking of.”

“Well, in what way, then?”

Pinky shrugged. “I am more interested in why you felt it important to tell me this.”

“Because I do.”

“But we cannot pair bond. We cannot produce offspring. We cannot cohabitate.”

Henry laughed. “Pinky, you may not know it, but you’re describing the perfect marriage to me. Love, without all the messy complications…”

“Messy complications? Do you not mean responsibilities?”

Henry scowled and looked towards his feet. “Yeah. I guess I do.”

“So, do you feel any sense of responsibility to me…or is it for me?”

“Both maybe, but I’m not really talking about that kind of love…”

“Really? So, do you mean to say that there are different kinds of love?”

“Certainly. Like…you can love some friends and not others, or you can even love a car or a painting…”

“Truly?”

“Oh, yeah, sure. Happens all the time.”

“So, in what way do you love me?” Pinky asked.

“You’re a friend, and I started to like you as soon as I got to spend some real time with you.”

“You don’t find me…unattractive?”

“No, not at all. You’re just different, but different isn’t a bad thing.”

“I have found myself wondering, since you first said you loved me, what it would be like to love someone.”

“I take it you mean you haven’t?” Henry said, a little sympathy creeping into his voice.

“No. Never.”

“No friends, then?”

“None,” she said – matter-of-factly.

“But…you’re an empath, right? I mean, you find it easy to feel what other people are feeling?”

“To a degree, yes, that is true.”

“Have you ever had sexual relations with anyone?”

“No, never,” she said again, and very matter-of factly – again, and yet completely without embarrassment.

“How do you reproduce?”

“You would call the process…artificial.”

“No shit. What a drag.”

“A drag?”

“Yeah. You know…a bummer.”

Pinky shrugged. “Sorry, you’ve lost me.”

Henry shrugged. “I guess, to me anyway, it feels like you’d be missing out on something important by not experiencing something so elemental as love.”

She nodded. “Perhaps because physical interactions are no longer of interest to us, or even what you would call a biological imperative. Also, have you ever considered just how much violence is associated with such acts?”

“Of course, but I think you’re missing a bigger point here.”

“And that is?” Pinky sighed.

“Why would love produce such a wild variety of calamitous reactions unless it was a pretty big deal…?”

She turned and looked at him, something like an alluring smile growing on her fine-featured face. “Henry Taggart?” she whispered.

“Yes?”

“I have a vagina. Could you show me this thing?”

Henry’s eyes started the whole semaphore thing again, and when he realized what he was doing he wondered if he was sending out an S.O.S., but then he saw something in her eyes that hit him in just the right place. Something vaguely human, and something truly lovely.

He nodded, and she came to him.

+++++

The Old Man and the Young Boy stood on the quay, looking at Rolf as he walked over to the boarding gate.

“Can I help you?” Rolf asked.

“Is Henry here?” the Young Boy said.

“No,” Rolf sighed. “Did you know him well?”

“Has something happened to him?” the Old Man in the Cape said.

And while he really didn’t understand why, Rolf felt ill-at-ease with the expression on the Young Boy’s face – as if there was something almost malevolent in the way he was looking around the deck of the boat. “He passed away yesterday,” Rolf said, still not taking his eyes off the Young Boy. 

“Oh?” the Old Man replied. “I’m so sorry to hear that…”

Now, as Rolf looked at the boy, he felt an overwhelming impulse to flee – or to fight.

“…We had only recently met, and we had a ripping good conversation a few days ago…”

And just then the Young Boy turned and looked right into Rolf’s eyes, and the sensation of evil he felt became palpable…

“…and I was hoping to continue our talk,” the Old Man concluded.

Rolf shifted his gaze and realized Tracy was standing beside him now, and again, without quite understanding why, he felt more at-ease.

“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?” Tracy said to the Young Boy.

And now the Young Boy’s eyes drifted to Tracy’s, and a soul crushing smile drifted across his face. “I think you know the answer to that question, Tracy,” the Young Boy hissed –

And again, without knowing why or even understanding the feelings flooding through his mind, Rolf launched himself from Time Bandit’s deck, and he realized his intent was to attack the Young Boy with all his might.

Yet before he could cross the space between them, the Young Boy simply disappeared and Rolf careened onto the snow covered grass.

The Old Man held up his Cane, then apparently had second thoughts before he too disappeared, and Tracy came to him, helped Rolf to his feet.

“Aren’t those the people that shot you?” Rolf asked.

“I’m not sure, Rolf. I think so, but the last thing I remember seeing was a police officer drawing his pistol and taking aim…”

“At me.”

Tracy nodded. “Yes. At you.”

“And you pushed me out of the way. The bullets hit you.”

She pulled the boy close and held him tight, running her fingers through his hair.

“We should leave now,” Rolf said, his voice trembling.

“I don’t think that will matter, Rolf. I think they’ll be able to find us no matter where we go.”

“So what do we do now?”

“We finish reading Henry’s notebooks, Rolf. All of them. Everything he knew is in those things, and everything he thought we’d need to take them on is in there, too.”

He turned and faced her. “You’re not sick, are you? I mean, you’re not going to leave me too, are you?”

“No, I’m not sick, Rolf, and we’re going to get through this. You and me, together.”

“And Anton…right?”

“Yes. And Anton will be with us, too.”

Rolf nodded and was still holding on tight…when Dina walked up and out of the companionway. She saw Tracy and her grandson standing together in the snow and she cursed the day Henry Taggart had drifted into her life.

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Gnews (7.17.21)

CCTanker

Oh, what a week. What a world we’re living in. Could it possibly be any more fun?

A little NightMusic, perhaps? Ooh yeah, baby…listen to the music.

Here in America (or is it Amerika these days?) revelations over the past couple of days and nights concerning our illustrious ex-president’s penchant for all things Hitler have come roaring back into the light of day, all of which begs a simple question. Hasn’t all this has been “out there” for years, decades even, and if so, please, what’s the big deal? So okay, yeah, Trump kept Mein Kampf on his bedside table, along with a book of Hitler’s Collected Speeches, because, you know, every aspiring dictator needs a little inspiration before hitting the sack. Again, so what? The pundit class seems to be falling all over itself concerning these revelations, with all its various practitioners rushing about in breathless angst while relating “how close we came to a coup!”

Really? Well, pardon my French, but WTF! That is SO ‘five years ago…’

Anyone with half a brain (and yes, I know, this almost entirely precludes anyone in California born after 1990) could see dozens of emerging parallels between Weimar and the Obama years on the one hand, and Trump’s ascendence as an echo of Hitler’s rise. So, yeah, Santayana’s Maxim applies and we were doomed to repeat our past from the get-go. Doomed by ignorance and a stultifying political malaise much worse than anything Jimmy Carter ever bemoaned, but let’s not digress that far. Not yet, anyway.

A brief sidebar here. Have you ever watched Jay Leno walking around the San Fernando Valley asking mallrats basic US Citizenship questions? Instructive, to say the least. Ask a college student which came first, the War in Vietnam or the Civil War? Fail. Hold up a map and ask a housewife to point out Europe? Fail. Watch a few of these and a general sense of helplessness falls over you, and soon the experience feels like watching a python devouring a small fawn…you don’t want to watch but you can’t turn away, either. Until its too late.

Bloom buddies

And so now, here we are. Neo-fascism ascendant everywhere. The western one third of North America is on fire, while water reservoirs are at record low levels and power grids have been stretched to the breaking point, and often beyond. Yet New England, and even New Jack City, appear to be drowning, victims of the same sort of record floods that have been plaguing the Southeast United States for almost a month. Oh, and please, just ignore that hurricane that rolled through one month early…

So all the Neo-fascist climate change deniers are having a tough time denying things these days, but that sure won’t stop them from trying. Just turn on Fox News and cringe for yourself. But see, the thing is, this whole “hot weather thing” is happening elsewhere. Like Lapland (that’s in northern Finland, Valley Girl, and not that new strip joint over on Sepulveda Blvd.), and even in Siberia, where hundreds of thousands of acres of coniferous forest and arctic permafrost are on fire. Or talk to people in southwest Germany about rain and flooding this weekend and you’ll probably learn a thing or two about climate change denialism. And gee, just for grins, did you see the one about the Gulf of Mexico being on fire? I mean, really, can it get more fun than that? Oceans on fire? Whoddathunkit?

Sure it can get more fun, because it seems we have an endless supply of populist neo-fascists out there just waiting in the wings to supply us with endless mirth and merriment. From Brexiteers in the UK to AfD lurkers in Germany, our MAGAesque brethren are lining up everywhere to provide us one and all with more good times than any of us can handle. A van-load of heavily armed pranksters headed to Boston for the 4th of July gets stopped – accidentally – by troopers and they scatter into the woods, while another group of merry marauders gets arrested before they can plant pipe bombs at Democratic Party Headquarters in California. The MAGA faithful have been sending death threats to anyone who hasn’t fallen in line and preached the Gospel According to Trump, so surely you aren’t surprised when…?

A lot of breathless reporting on the left assumes that right wing media pundits are simple grifters, but I’m not so sure. Voices on the right are a little too strident and, to me, anyway, acting like veritable models of singleminded purposefulness to be a chorus line of simpleminded hucksters. Something just feels a little too “off” right now. Like the left is being used and they aren’t even aware of it. Yet.

So, think about it – the name of the game is chess. You got to look not one or two moves ahead, but ten or twelve. You’ve got to be able to see beyond the horizon, and while an understanding of the past is certainly a necessary precondition to succeeding at this game, to win you really need to be able to ignore the past. To understand the lessons of the past, but to not let those lessons keep you from seeing what’s happening right under your nose.

So, what happens if Trump finds himself indicted and doing the perp walk into a federal pen out in Kansas? Trump, in an orange jumpsuit, if you will.

Sound good? Too good to be true?

Well, ever hear of the Horst Wessel Song? Or Hitler’s arrest and incarceration? How Hitler monetized and radicalized huge segments of the German population as a result of his conviction and incarceration? If you are inclined to see Trump’s arrest as the end of this affair, you just ain’t looking far enough ahead. You ain’t paying attention to the music in the background. You know, the line that goes “all for freedom and for pleasure,
nothing ever lasts forever…”

Ever since the French Revolution, every time liberals have gotten a little taste of power they’ve soon splintered, breaking up into factions that ultimately went to war with one another. They’ve lost sight of their objectives in the process, in the end dooming their efforts – and the cause they’ve claimed to best represent. Right now, today, a Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, is headed to a fundraiser given to him by his Republican opponents down in Texas. The reasons why are a lesson worth learning, because they illustrate the failure of liberal policymakers generally over the past 240 years, but the last time liberals stuck together and got the job done was in 1776, in Philadelphia. Without the bomb, maybe Truman would’ve lost his way, but who knows…?

And yet, amidst all this clatter I recently heard a voice. “Buildings don’t collapse like that! This is America!”

Stay tuned. More to come.

Bro love

Come Alive (34.2)

come alive magma art-1.2

A little music, perhaps? Beware of…?

Chapter 34.2

Rupert was deep into The Godfather, Part III, his eyes glued to Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone as he held onto Mary, his dying daughter – Michael’s silent howl of pure anguish a furious echo of all the infidelity and murder he has just celebrated inside Palermo’s Teatro Massimo. Maybe, Henry thought, Rupert was unaware of the converging arcs Coppola had presented in the final moments of his trilogy; if so…too bad. He watched the coda with an eye on Rupert’s reaction, with Michael sitting in a chair and passing away in utter loneliness, and again he wondered if Rupert made the connection – to Don Vito Corleone’s passing in the quiet loneliness of the garden in the backyard of his home. If so, Rupert gave no outward sign…he simply picked up the remote and turned the television off before the credits began rolling.

“You know, that’s the first time I’ve seen Part III,” Rupert said.

“Really?”

“Yeah. You know, the first one made sense to me. Even the second I could see, well, I don’t know, maybe what the writers were trying to get at. But not this one.”

“Oh?”

“Well, yeah, I mean the point of the first story is to establish the hierarchy of the Family in Sicilian life, and how that structure spread to Little Italy…you know, after the whole Ellis Island thing. To me the point of the whole thing is when Michael tells Kay she’s being naive, you know? That the Family is just another form of government, I guess, with a system of justice all its own. What more is there to say, I guess? To me, Part II was almost unnecessary.”

Henry nodded. “Ever read Buddenbrooks?”

“Budden-who?”

Henry shrugged. “Another novel about the decline of a family. A patrician merchant-banking family in Lübeck, Germany. A lot of stories like The Godfather and Buddenbrooks focus on the path of a family’s decline, usually as a metaphor of civilizational or cultural decay or collapse.”

“And you think that’s what’s going on in The Godfather?”

Henry nodded. “Yup.”

“What about your family, Henry? You never talk about them much…”

“Not a whole lot to say, Rupert. I’m the end of the line, which – as metaphors go – pretty much sums up this point in time…for me, at least.”

“No cousins, aunts or uncles or that kind of thing?”

“Oh, there might be someone in France, but if so they’re a complete unknown – at least as far as I know.”

“France? What’s the connection?”

“Oh, the usual, almost a cliché. My dad flew B-17s in the war. His aircraft got shot up pretty bad but he nursed it back to French airspace; he was the last to bail-out and resistance fighters picked him up and hid him for a while. He met my mom then and went back after the war and found her, and that was that.”

“Jesus, Henry! And you haven’t kept in touch with all that family?”

“My mom was an orphan, Rupert. The story she passed on, that she lived with, was that her dad was a physician and her mom a nurse. She had no trouble getting into med school, by the by. Guess that was in her DNA too,.”

“Too? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“She was dutiful, a good mom I guess you could say, but all I remember is she was never around when I needed her. Always at the hospital, nights, weekends. I have to struggle to remember her, ya know?”

“Your dad didn’t have family anywhere?”

“Nope. Only child, no known relatives, so I am what I am…the end of the line.”

Rupert sighed. “You know, I might as well be. My son is little more than a proverbial dilettante – like right out of the Old Testament, so I’m pretty much guaranteed there are no kids in my future. That’s the end of my line, too, I suppose?”

Henry shrugged. “You never can tell, Rupert. Anyway…you look like you’re feeling a little better today.”

“I am. A lot better, actually. Do you know what happened?”

“What happened? What do you mean?”

“Well, weren’t they having trouble coming up with some kind of treatment?”

Henry nodded. “Yeah, well, turns out they’ve been having trouble synthesizing certain types of proteins they needed to work out a treatment. Another scientist who’s been studying us told them where they could find a supply of the stuff…”

“Which is?” Rupert asked.

“Orcas.”

“No kidding?”

“Yup. Pinky and I went back to Friday Harbor and harvested some. Brought it back and here you are, feeling fit as a fiddle.”

“You…harvested some? Just what exactly does that mean…you harvested some…what?”

“It’s a liver protein found in their digestive system, in their bile, gall bladders, that kind of shit.”

“So, you mean you killed an orca?”

“No, no, not at all. Remember the one I swam with off the back of the Swan, that night we were anchored south of Friday Harbor, in North Bay?”

“You mean…you found the same whale?”

“Not exactly. Pinky asked him to meet us there.”

Rupert shook his head. “Shit, man, you gotta stop pullin’ my leg like…”

“Yeah? Well, anyway, she made me ask him, ya know, for permission to give it an injection, and that made him sick. One of the Blues with me, a guy called Bob, collected the specimens and we brought it back to their lab.”

“Wait one. You’re sayin’ you asked this whale for permission?”

“Yup?”

“So…now you can talk to whales?”

“Not whales in general, but to this pod of orcas, yes.”

“Taggart…you’re so full of shit your eyes are turning brown.”

“Well guess what, Rupert…you’re alive right now. And here’s another news flash for you… without that whale’s help you’d be in an urn over your son’s fireplace.”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?”

Henry nodded. “Yup. As a heart attack.”

“You’ll pardon me if I don’t believe you?”

“No skin off my nose, Rupert. I know the score, I know what happened, because I was there, and I saw it go down. And you weren’t, which is fun, ’cause basically whale vomit saved our asses.”

Rupert turned away and thought about that for a few minutes, then he turned back to Henry. “So…this cure? It works – in general, I take it?”

“Yup, they’ve already started distributing this new protein via domestic water supplies in Siberia and northeast China. Pinky thinks within a few years the mutation will burn itself out.”

“So…end of problem?”

“Probably. But not for us.”

“The radiation exposure? Alpha particles?”

“Yup. There’s nothing Pinky and her team can do about that.”

Rupert sighed. “You said ‘probably?’ What the hell does that mean?”

“It means there are some bad apples out there, Rupert. Other – beings – that aren’t so benevolent where things like us are concerned.”

“You mean…beings other than Pinky’s people?”

“Yup.”

“Henry, you’ll excuse the fuck out of me, but all this is getting a little…”

“Complicated, Rupert, is the word you’re looking for.”

“Not really, but it’ll do…for now.”

+++++

“If I make a big enough scene they won’t let me on the airplane,” Edith snarled – just after the Air France announcer made the final call for boarding the flight to LAX.

Mike looked at her, taking the measure of the moment, before he spoke. “You know, I don’t know you from Adam but I’m here right now because this is something Henry asked me to do. And guess what? Here you are claiming to be one of Henry’s closest friends yet you’ve been acting like anything but…so tell me? Just what am I supposed to make of someone like you?”

“Frankly, I don’t care what you make of me.”

“Okay. Fair enough. So, let me be equally clear. If you fuck this up, if you make a scene or make a run for it, let me tell you what I’m going to do…”

“Again,” Edith growled, “I don’t give a flying fuck what you do…”

“Oh? Okay, well, just for the sake of clarity then, here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to get you in a taxi and head out into the countryside, and in a few weeks the police will find your body face down in a ditch somewhere out there. Got it? We clear enough for a flying fuck, maybe?”

Edith looked at this Captain Lacy for a moment, then she pulled out her boarding pass and walked to the gate.

Anton didn’t know what to think right about then, not after his own less than friendly encounter with Mike’s friends in the local intelligence services, so he walked along quietly and boarded the flight, not quite sure if this was the right thing to do, or not.… 

‘But anyway,’ he thought, ‘I’ve never been to America, and California has always like a kind of dream to me.’ Then he thought of Disneyland and smiled as he walked out the Jetway.

+++++

Pinky came in their room with several Blues and a Green. Henry thought she looked a little upset.

“Hey!” Henry said, with a little more enthusiasm than he felt. “It’s the Mod Squad! What’s up, guys?”

The Blue called Bob came closer and spoke first. “Protein synthesis is complicated but our distribution models are accurate, yet simulations indicate that we will simply slow progression of the mutagen…by perhaps two hundred years.”

“Okay. So…maybe we’ll teach the horse to sing by then.”

“What?” Bob cried, bug-eyed again. Pinky leaned over and whispered in Bob’s ear, and he nodded understanding. “Oh, really? Okay,” he said.

“Well, Bob, you look like you just took a bite out of a shit sandwich, so why don’t you tell us the good news now.”

Bob looked at Pinky – who simply shrugged – before he resumed. “We estimate the development of fatal tumors within two years.”

Rupert looked at Bob when he heard that: “Come again?”

“Three years,” Bob repeated. “You have a life expectancy of two years before onset, so a normative life span of, again, possibly three years. Our modeling indicates a 98 percent certainty for that figure, and a less than one percent chance of longer duration. I am sorry.”

Henry Taggart looked at Bob, then at Pinky, his eyes blinking like semaphores. “Well fuck me in the ass,” he said at last, perhaps a bit more merrily than he felt. “Ain’t you full of all kinds of good news this morning?”

“This is good news?” Bob asked. 

“Hell, yes, it’s good news!” Henry grinned. “That’s twenty, maybe thirty years I’m not going to have to deal with my fucking hemorrhoids – or buy Christmas cards, for that matter! Hallelujah Jesus!”

Rupert Collins was not, however, as amused, so he picked up the little black Sony remote and found his way back into The Godfather, Part I – and there he disappeared inside the snuggly warmth of the moral relativism it offered.

+++++

Rolf watched Anton and Mike escort Edith away from Time Bandits from behind the wheel, sitting in the cockpit while his grandmother cleared away the remains of the day down in the galley. Tracy had kept to herself most of the day, yet everyone had noticed how out of it she seemed. She’d lost Henry, and while that obviously had a lot to do with her growing funk there was more to it than that, and even Rolf could see that much – despite his youth.

The chartplotter started chirping, and because Henry’s phone was still synced to it Rolf wasn’t too surprised to see it was Henry’s phone ringing. Not knowing what else to do, he leaned over and answered the call…

 “Hello?” Rolf said, yet the first thing he heard was music playing in the background.

“Yes. Hello. Is Henry there?”

“No, he’s not. May I ask who’s calling, please?” 

“Is this Rolf?”

“Yes it is. And you are?”

“An old friend. Rupert Collins, over in America. I just wanted to wish Henry a Merry Christmas.”

“I see.”

“Tell me, Rolf, is he gone?”

“He passed last night, sir.”

“Yes. I think I knew that. Some kind of disturbance while I was asleep last night. Are you doing alright, young man?”

“Yessir. Fine.”

“Well okay. I’m sure you have a lot on your mind, but Henry and I became somewhat close over the last few years and I was just hoping to speak to him one more time.”

“I understand, sir.”

“There’s a lesson there, son. Don’t put the important things off, because time gets away from us in the end. We leave too many things undone, and important things left unsaid.”

“Yessir.”

“Well, goodbye Rolf. Take care.”

“Yessir. Goodbye to you as well.”

He broke the connection, but Rolf smiled when he finally recognized the music he’d heard playing in the background. Henry’s old friend had been watching The Godfather – and he thought that was a strange film to watch on Christmas Day. And it was then that he saw an Old Man in a Cape, along with a boy, walking up to the boat. The Old Man had a very strange looking cane, too…

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Gnews 12.7.21

Trump finger

You know, once upon a time the world was a simpler place, then it was like there was this colossal rip in the space-time continuum and out popped Trump – and the world just hasn’t been the same since. Hell, it’s not even his fault, not really. He is what he is and it’s not like people weren’t out there warning us. You know, like Mein Kampf on his bedside table? Really? Anyway, a few hours after the election in 2016 I churned out that dismal short story I titled Blood and as a result a bunch of the stuff I’d posted here over the years, anything with even the slightest hint of political overtones, I summarily trashed. I mean, really, what was the point? I don’t do Hate. It’s a black hole, and that’s no place to dance.

But I’m still kind of wandering in that desert, like many of us, I suspect. The whole Big Lie thing has left me feeling strangely empty, almost defeated, and in an ‘inmates running the asylum’ kind of way. The election was supposed to wipe all that crap out of existence, wasn’t it? But Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.

Back in 2015 I liked to posit that there is, roughly speaking, a statistic (from the American Psychological Association) that claims something like 18-19% of the population of the United States could legitimately be classified as having an undiagnosed schizo-affective disorder. So go ahead. Do the math. Roughly 330 million people in the US and let’s go with 18% (just to be nice) and what do you get? Well, 59.4 million undiagnosed schizophrenics. How many of these folks voted for Trump is anyone’s guess but as far as I’m concerned I’d say about a hundred and two percent went for him – in both ’16 and in ’20…and there you go…the inmates are making a play for the asylum. When you look at things like Q-Anon and all the unfiltered propaganda being broadcast these days, disinformation that just about any sane human being ought to be able to see through, this little statistical anomaly begins to feel a little too weird for comfort. And these polite folk want to strip voting rights from a whole bunch of people, too.

But I’m no political pundit, nor do I have any desire to be so engaged. There are already too many illiterates out there spewing nonsense, so there’s no need to add my voice to the noise. Because…all you need is love, right?

arw-4

Yeah. Yes. Awaken. An image I took of them in concert in Denver in 2016 (above), right after the election. Someone in the audience was asking Jon Anderson what he thought about things now that Trump was (then) the president-elect. In typical Anderson fashion he said the best thing would be to just “surround yourself with Love” … uh-huh, that’s what he said.

Yeah, so after four years of Trump here’s the new Jon Anderson.

I mean really…what can you say?

bill-the-cat

So, lot’s of exciting stuff about voting rights in the news these days, right? But wait…go ahead and admit it, you’re a Doobie Brothers fan, aren’t you? Everyone is, right? Well, fresh off the press this morning was a new Doobies vid on the tube, and it’s worth a watch in a timely kind of way. Another blast from the past, ya know? The truth hurts, don’t it? Because every picture tells a story. At least when you open your eyes…

But maybe things feel so weird because, well, maybe we just need to reconnect with our past, ya know? I mean, right about now the past is looking pretty damn good…what with 1.4 million acres of forests on fire out west and with temperature records falling like dominoes day after day in cities like Portland and Seattle. And 89% of Republicans still think climate change is a hoax. Just like vaccines are a government mind control plot of the new Democratic Party SS.

So what’s next? Disco, perhaps, will make a comeback?

So, does anyone remember the Bee Gees? The Crown Princes of Disco? Well, apparently the Foo Fighters remember them, and the more comfortable times of disco too, because, well, hell, you just got to click this link and go see for yourself. And mark your calendars, please, ’cause they’re releasing a new album of this stuff on the 17th.

Really, you just can’t make this shit up fast enough. Reading the news these days is called Doomscrolling. Any wonder why?

So here we are. Is reading fiction our last refuge of hope? Is that why I’m writing, and why you’re reading?

Well, if you’ve read this far why not try something new, if you haven’t already. Michael Edwards is a reader here, but he’s also putting out some interesting stories you might find worth your while, so try this link and have a look around.

I’m not sure how many of you will take to this kind of post, but the last time I posted stuff like this I got an earful. But please, spare me the Hate, ’cause I’m dancin’ as fast as I can.