Saturday, October 28

Healing in the Hall of Bones


It's the Wordsmiths Unlimited October challenge! Can you hear the creaking? Can you hear the whispers? Can you hear the scurrying in the shadows? No? Then you're not listening...

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2006 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Healing in the Hall of Bones

"Beware the masters of this place," says the groundskeeper on your first visit. He shoulders his shovel and walks away, ignoring questions unasked.

It is the sixteenth day of your convalescence in these cold and green isles, exploring heath and hill. Wandering is good. It helps calm the mind and stretch the body. In cafes and bookshops near the hospital you learn of a hundred wonderful places within a day's walk. Of the few you have found so far, this is your favorite.

It is a great hall, or was hundreds of years in the past. Through ages and neglect it has opened its raftered roof to the sky, shed its ornate windows to the winds. Only the thick sturdy walls painted with lichen remain. There is a weight to the air, a sense of time and testing. It wraps you in a cool cloak of tranquil familiarity. Absent are the fluttering noises, nests, and stains of birds. The stone walls impart serenity and strength. Abundant ferns surround you, peaceful and patient.

The groundskeeper’s warning leaves you confused. Why beware? Who are the masters? It cannot matter. The hall is overgrown. The groundskeeper must not be a capable caretaker. Perhaps the masters prefer the ancient place be kept as it is, steadfast and noble, crumbling with dignity back into the earth.

In the following weeks you regain parts of what you have lost. Prescriptions and therapists occupy the mornings. Fields and copses take up the afternoons. Township parks and public houses fill the evenings. Each day brings conversations with new people, renewing your confidence and stamina. Every day you stroll along hedgerows, amble over countryside. Every day you visit the old hall. And every day you are alone there, except for the stone walls, the open sky, and the low forest of ferns that greet you with quiet acceptance.

On this day you arrive at the hall in the morning earlier than usual. The sky above the open roof portends rain. The mossy pocked walls promise security. The ferns beckon you to rest. You lay down on soft soil that smells of living things. The green stalks are a protective bower. Contentment and sleep come unbidden.

A pinprick of pain wakes you. Bewildered, you stand on unsteady legs and peer at your hand. From your wrist a point of red seeps, running down your forearm, dripping on the ground.

"I told you to beware." You stumble toward a voice. The world slows. The edges of your sight blur into grey. The groundskeeper stands there, his voice as flat as the stone walls, his face as impassive as the ferns. He stands among the fronds, caressing them. They bend toward his touch, quiver around his boots.

"The masters are always grateful for their bone meal.” In a rush of horror, you understand the absence of birds. The groundskeeper speaks the last words you hear.

“What is left of you will be delicious.”

Sunday, October 22

Kingfisher Days

9:00 a.m. - Ask HR when my final check will be ready. Says she forgot it was my last day.
9:10 a.m. - First expected visit of well-wishing by a co-worker hasn't happened.
9:12 a.m. - Nothing to do. Ask boss if he needs anything. He says "Oh, yeah. Last day, huh?"
9:55 a.m. - Finish the Excel file formulas and links for the boss that he asked be completed by the end of the day.
9:57 a.m. - First co-worker visit. It's the boss's boss, commanding me to let him know when the Excel file is finished. Tell him it's already done and e-mailed to boss. He looks surprised. No well wishing.

10:00 a.m. - Bored bored bored. Spend an hour playing games on the internet.
11:00 a.m. - Boss doesn't know where check is. Still no well wishers.
12:00 p.m. - Still playing games. Still no check. Still no well-wishers.
12:30 p.m. - Boss delivers check. No handshake. Still no well wishers.
12:32 p.m. - Leave a scrolling screen saver in big bright red letters "Welcome To The Clique - - - No Men Allowed"

12:35 p.m. - Check deposited, wallet full of money.
1:15 p.m. - Sipping the first ice cold beer of freedom at Buffalo Wild Wings.
7:00 p.m. - Finish nth ice cold beer of freedom after lurking on the web, watching sports, playing trivia and accepting congratulations from drinking acquaintances, and bartender friends who give me free beer.
7:15 p.m. - At home lounging on the bed.
7:30 p.m. - The Simpsons is on!
8:00 p.m. - Spongebob Squarepants is on!
8:30 p.m. - Brother in law arrives from California for visit.
10:30 p.m. - Futurama is on!

2:17 a.m. - Dumb kitty scratches at the bedroom window to be let in. When did I fall asleep?
2:32 a.m. - Insane kitty starts a spit fight with dumb kitty.
2:45 a.m. - Girl kitty meows at the door to be let in.
2:46 a.m. - Dumb kitty meows at the door to be let out.
2:47 a.m. - I hate cats.
3:00 a.m. - Anime Title I Can't Remember is on!
6:30 a.m. - Wife and kids get up for school. Turn over and go back to sleep.
7:10 a.m. - Sun peeks throught the window. Notice I left the lights on in the 125 gallon aquarium. 8 shiny silver fishies begin swimming back and forth.
silver dollar
8:50 a.m. - Kiss from the wife wakes me up. She's off to work.
9:30 a.m. - Wake up again. Still 8 fishies.
10:00 a.m. - Crummy Western Movie is on!
10:03 a.m. - Meow.
1:00 p.m. - Thirsty.
1:15 p.m. - Buy a box of Macanudo cigarillos.
1:30 p.m. - Sipping nth+1 ice cold beer of freedom at Buffalo Wild Wings.
1:31 p.m. - Light up first incense cigar of freedom.
6:30 p.m. - Pack up laptop. Done with catching up with blog friends, planning future vacations, and working on budget with new job. Take last gulp of nth+n ice cold beer of freedom.
7:00 p.m. - Hello to family, talk with bro-in-law, plan tomorrow with wife. Simpsons, Spongebob, Discovery Channel, Futurama, and zzzzzzzzz.

2:17 a.m. - Stupid cats.
2:18 a.m. - Goddamn cats.
2:19 a.m. - Fucking cats.
2:30 a.m. - Anime.
6:20 a.m. - Wife wakes us all up. Kids prepare for school. Wife, bro-in-law, oldest son, and I prepare for Annual Big Mondo Church Rummage Sale.
7:00 a.m. - Waiting in line for rummage sale. Wife didn't tell me it opens at 8:00. No coffee being served.
7:10 a.m. - Joking with son and BIL. We giggle because Christ and a dove in the stained glass looks like he's choking a chicken. Ponder my first minute in Hell.
7:15 a.m. - Beautiful autumn small town morning. Except no coffee.
7:30 a.m. - Daughter calls. Missed the bus. Again. Can't get to her in time, so she stays home awaiting our return and her impending doom.
7:45 a.m. - Where's the friggin' coffee?
8:00 a.m. - Cattle call. Church grounds are flooded with greedy collectors and yard salers.
8:15 a.m. - The desk I saw isn't what I want. The chest I want has a sold sign on it. The toys are crap.
8:16 a.m. - Want to yell "Jesus Christ, Where the hell is the goddamn coffee!?" Remember it is a church rummage sale. Ponder my second minute in hell.
8:33 a.m. - Load up the car with our meager plunder. Son eyes my $2.00 grey wool blanket with envy. Says it will make a great cloak for Ren Faires. Invoke the Finders Keepers rule.
8:34 a.m. - Give son the blanket.
9:00 a.m. - Wife's awesome direction skills causes multiple u-turns and lane changes finding the first yard sale of the day.
9:10 a.m. - First yard sale has nothing. Tease son I wish I could find a nice wool blanket for my studio. He offers to give it back. Assure him I'm just kidding.
9:11 a.m. - Announce my wish to find a nice wool blanket at the next yard sale. They're hard to find y'know. Son looks guilty.
9:30 a.m. - Second yard sale has not much.
9:40 a.m. - Third yard sale. Drive by.
9:50 a.m. - Bingo! Fourth yard sale scores a cute dining table and four chairs for $40. Assorted other trinkets seal the deal. Ask loudly if they have any wool blankets.
9:51 a.m. - Back in the car. Son offers to give blanket back. Wife says "ignore your father."
10:50 a.m. - Back home. Parents scold daughter and confine her to her room. Daughter dons the "You always hated me!" expression of a 13-year-old girl.
10:52 a.m. - Set up table and chairs. Say how good it would look with a wool blanket table cloth. Son says "Shutup, Dad." Offer him $5.00 for the blanket.
10:58 a.m. - Coffee!
11:00 a.m. - In the back yard. Cool warm sunshine. Lots of flowers. A hummingbird. Stand in recently completed studio. Smells like fresh-cut wood.
11:15 a.m. - Four hours of video games, conversation, and lunch.
3:45 p.m. - In the bedroom to change for evening with brother S. Still 8 fishies.
4:00 p.m. - Take first sip of 2n+1 ice cold beer of freedom at Buffalo Wild Wings.
4:01 p.m. - Light up 8th and last incense cigar of freedom.
4:30 p.m. - Brother S arrives.
4:31 p.m. - Begin guy talk of new girlfriend, new job, and the rack on the girl at the end of the bar.
6:00 p.m. - Trivia sucks. Only we are playing. Bar change!
6:30 p.m. - $&!#%*F road construction. Finally arrive at Bar 2. Brother already got a beer and trivia box.
6: 32 p.m. - Beer tastes funny. Drink it anyway.
6:33 p.m. - Guy talk about family, future plans, and the rack on the girl at the end of the bar.
7:15 p.m. - Trivia, customers, and beer sucks. Bar change!
7:30 p.m. - Bar 3. Better beer, but no trivia.
7:31 p.m. - Bartender recognizes us. I haven't recognized her because the low cut of her shirt allows her cleavage to create its own gravity well.
7:32 p.m. - She worked at Bar 2 bar before it changed owners. Great bartender. We found the right place.
7:33 p.m. - We ponder shooting pool.
8:01 p.m. - We forget about pondering shooting pool.
8:30 p.m. - Guy talk about, um, stuff and other stuff, and the rack on the bartender.
9:00 p.m. - Think we've had enough. Finish 2n+? ice cold beer of freedom.
9:30 p.m. - Home and hungry. Score leftover meatloaf and potatoes. Mmmmmm.
9:45 p.m. - Get into t-shirt and lounge pants for bed. Still 8 fishies. I think. Maybe 10. 12?
10:00 p.m. - Wife comes home from outing with BIL. "You're home early." Yup.
10:01 p.m. - zzzzzzzzzz.

2:17 a.m. - I really hate cats.
2:18 a.m. - Yes, there really are 8 fishies.
2:45 a.m. - Stomach hurts. Knew that one beer was bad.
3:00 a.m. - Please no food poisoning...
3:15 a.m. - Force myself to sleep.
7:00 p.m. - Sun peeks through the window. Wow, I feel better.
7:01 p.m. - Enjoy the early morning quiet and the wife's closeness.
7:30 a.m. - Wife and I play our favorite game, Hide the Hot Dog. We both win.
weiner mobile
8:00 a.m. - Everybody gets ready for Saturday outings.
8:01 a.m. - Go back to sleep.
8:29 a.m. - Blaze the greyhound jumps into bed to cuddle with Daddy.
8:30 a.m. - Crummy Western Movie is on!
10:00 a.m. - Semi-Crummy Western Movie is on!
12:00 p.m. - Blaze jumps off the bed and stretches. Time to get up.
12:30 p.m. - Score 2 meatloaf sandwiches. Enjoy the flavor of home, love, and happiness.
1:30 p.m. - Sip 3n+1 ice cold beer of freedom at Buffalo Wild Wings.
4:30 p.m. - Good day of writing, and goofing on the internet. Finish 3n+6 ice cold beer of freedom.
4:45 p.m. - Younger son shows off almost-finished Halloween costume, Mario from Nintendo. It's perfect and freaking funny.
5:20 p.m. - Yum! Dinner of tacos on our new table and chairs!
5:55 p.m. - Where's the antacid?
9:58 p.m. - A whole buncha nuthin. TV, talk, video games, cold autumn seeping in.
9:59 p.m. - Inform son that it sure would be nice to have a warm wool blanket.
10:00 p.m. - Futurama is on.
10:30 p.m. - Futurama is on again!
11:00 p.m. - Snooze through two hours of cartoons.


2:17 a.m. - I am gonna kill me some cats.
6:30 a.m. - Wake up to the sound of wife banging dishes in the kitchen.
6:31 a.m. - Still 8 fishies. Go back to sleep.
8:00 a.m. - Wife wakes me up.
8:01 a.m. - Round 2 of Hide the Hot Dog. Score still tied.
8:30 a.m. - Coffee with the wife on the couch. Watch gardening shows.
9:30 a.m. - BIL and kids shuffle out one by one. Mornings are funny.
9:31 a.m. - Son crunches on Corn Flakes. Tell him I was really cold last night. Could've used a wool blanket.
9:31:30 a.m. - Son's eyes give me the finger.
10:00 a.m. - Wife, BIL and kids go out for the day. Halloween costumes need to be finished.
10:15 a.m. - Hot coffee of freedom at Buffalo Wild Wings.
10:30 a.m. - Remember that the 49ers have a bye week. Realize they will probably lose anyway.
12:00 p.m. - First of the last ice cold beers of freedom.
1:00 p.m. - Start of afternoon football games.
Now O'clock: Looking forward to starting new job tomorrow. Not sure what's in store for the rest of today. But I'm pretty sure I'd like to play Hide the Hot Dog again.


Friday, October 13


Those of you who have put up with my nonsense for a while may remember this post, in which I reflected on signs of change or omens not yet deciphered. I identified "some unnamable span." I think I have reached the end of that span. Life has many detours, some expected, but most not. Almost none are seen with the rare insight the Great All cares to give on accasion.

My eldest son approaches the important adulthood marker of 21, with the attendant perceptions of military, voting, drinking, gambling, etc. He has a serious girlfriend. He is dependable in a job he has had for two years. He is smart, honest, helpful, and kind, readily returning the hugs of his old man. He made an undefinable change this year, the crossing into adulthood. I still remember him as a toddler. Once, when running errands at Christmas time, he asked if I would buy him a toy. I said maybe, because Santa was coming. I didn't have much money, so maybe something a little bit cheap. All day he held my hand, helped push carts and carry bags, amiable and sweet. About dinnertime he asked, "Now Dad will you buy me something maybe a little bit cheap?" When I look at him now, I am torn between busting my buttons and squeezing tears.

My second son will soon be 16, and has his sights on the DMV. As a freshman, his academic career was far less than stellar. Now, as a sophomore, he seems to have found his rhythm and confidence. He has a quick wit and a a comic philospher's ability to amuse with an insightful observation or perplexing non-sequitor. With algebra, or biology, or politics, he asks questions and offers solutions. I feel stupid when my answer or opinion only supports what he thought in the first place. On Thanksgiving vacation last year, we took a trip, just Dad and Son. We hiked in the rain, crunched through the snow at Lake Tahoe, ate in diners, and purchased balsa wood gliders to play with. At the end of the trip, when I asked if he had a good time, he flashed a sarcastic grin and said "Not really. The tree ate my airplane." When I look at him now, I am torn between pride of a son and jealousy of a younger rival.

My youngest, my darling daughter, is 13, familiar and enigmatic. She is on the entrance ramp to womanhood, not quite up to speed, but not quite willing to yield either. At times uncertain in her maturation , there is a "JUST TRY IT" fire behind her eyes. She has discovered a love of writing, far surpassing any maudlin pukisms I wrote at her age. She is in drama class. She loves the Beatles and medical procedures. She snuggles during an old movie and dares to throw a football at my head. Not so long ago, she had simple and routine surgery. When I visited her in recovery, she was asleep, breathing with discomfort. Thin hospital blankets revealed curves of the woman she will become. I stroked her hair and cried because my heart couldn't contain all the stuff that was in it. When I look at her now, I can see the grandchildren I might have. Why I see this more in her than the boys, I don't know. But I do know there is much I cannot explain, mysteries of the universe that I am lucky enough to share, and one perfect adorable female that is mine to protect and learn from. Some things are not knowable.

My parents divorced after 23 years of marriage. My wife and I celebrated that milestone, minus one, this year. When I was in high school, I remember reading something like "the flush of young romantic love is eventually replaced with the constancy of adult love." Yuck, I thought, I hope I never get that old. Now I look at my wife, and words fail. She is better than me. She is far from perfect, but closer to it than I, and perfect for me. Prior to this year, I really didn't care if I died before 60. Now I want to live a long life, so I can spend as much time as possible with her. Love is the obsession of poets and artists, defying mere description. One look at her and I know what love is.

Fathers and sons are always a tricky business. My father and I were never close. Why, I am not sure. We are too different from each other. Perhaps it is me, or him, or both, but neither of us understands the other. We have parted ways. Permanently. It brands my soul, scorches my brain, salts the acre of identity. They say that forgiveness heals the soul. I'm not sure I believe it. Some things cannot be forgiven. Sometimes, no matter the cost, scars, and desires to the contrary, it is best to sever a limb than live with a disease. There is no lesson here. Only a huge vacant lot filled with questions and what-ifs, covered over with the bulldozer of moving forward. Only pain and self hatred endure. I have no answers.

This disconnect applies to brothers as well. I'd like to think sisters are better. In fact, I know they are.

I enjoy writing. In 1st grade I wrote about a frog. In 2nd grade I wrote about a pony. In 4th grade I wrote about my dog. In 8th grade I wrote a Star Trek script. In 10th grade I wrote a one act play. I wrote poetry in high school. I wrote dozens of short stories from junior high through college. With few exceptions, it sucked, although there were glimpses of talent. I never gave up until I became a father, when other concerns were paramount. (An aside: People who complain about parenting vs. career vs. avocation should be shot. If you decide, or happen, to be a parent, that is your first responsibility. Shoulder that most important of of all responsibilities to the best of your ability. There is plenty of time for your selfish interests after your children grow up.) This year I revisited my passion with a vengeance. It took a while to oil old rusty tools and relearn their uses. The wonderful surprise was that my ability had matured, despite years of disuse. I can set a piece aside, see it for the crap that it is, and not love it just because it came from my fingers. I can edit like a ninja. Strangely, my life long desire to write science fiction has morphed into a serious work about an adolescent girl (!), a plot that straddles 90 years, and addresses personal growth, an artist's sensibilities, defiance, and ideas that reveal themselves as work progresses. I have never been happier with my creative self.

I will, in a week or so, have a new job. I will be Business Manager of four radio stations broadcasting rock and sports. In a way, it is a revisiting of my roots. I was happiest working in the days of television before the explosion of cable, when creativity and business sense lived side by side. When I honed my ability to work with all sorts of people. When I discovered accounting is a language of numbers. In the years since those heady days, I earned a degree, learned management skills, studied strategy and flow. Now I am the elder mentor, abilities at their peak, applied to a cause I have loved since I was a pre-teen. I am not naive enough to think it's perfect, but it does feel like a return home, a closing of a circle. Not THE circle, but a mini-cycle within the greater circle.

The "unnamable span" is named. It is called Now. Another span will come, but for the present Now is sufficient.


Thursday, October 5

Girls 0, Boys -28

Modern western culture demeans women.
Modern depictions of women are detrimental to a girl's psychological growth.
Models, Hollywood stars, and cheerleaders erode a girls self-esteem.

It is waaaaay past time to to call utter BULLSHIT on this bunch of wussing out.

If your daughter is bulimic or anorexic or cutting herself or in a perpetual state of depression, get her to a medical professional. If a regimen of depression medication and counseling doesn't work, quit blaming the rest of us. You, the parents, have fucked up royally by not hugging her, playing with her, teasing her, generally making her feel special, disciplining her, and imparting that most important of all lessons: Life is not fair. I feel very sorry for your girl. Not because she has self-esteem issues, but because she has REALLY CRAPPY PARENTS. You have made her ripe for the picking by the dickhead lurking in her future.

I can hear it: "Kingfisher, you are an insensitive prick." No, I am not. I am the eldest of four brothers. I have two sons and one daughter. I have a nephew and two nieces. I have a brother-in-law and two sisters-in law. I have more qualifications to discuss this than a fleet of New York psychologists teamed up with a panel of Los Angeles fat camp counselors. Why? Because I, my wife, parents, siblings, and children have been living in the real world. That's why.

Quick. Name four female superheroines. "Wonder Woman. Uh...Storm. Uh........Supergirl. Uh....."

Quick. Name four male superheroes. "Superman. Batman. Spiderman. The Flash. Wolverine. The Hulk. Green Lantern. ....." That proves males are better represented to children aren't they?

WRONG. Notice how they are all incredibly smart, unbelievably strong, muscles bulging, saving the world, never wrong, subjugating themselves for the greater good. What does that teach a boy? You must be strong, you must be dependable, responsible, loyal, available on demand, willing to sacrifice yourself for any reason. At all times and in all conditions. If you are not uber-successful, and infinitley manly, you are a failure.

I could go and on and on with examples like athletes, James Bond, rappers, Donald Trump, marines, and cowboys, as counter-productive raised-consciousness feminazi PETA wymmyn nitwits are prone to do, but I'm a reasonable person. I don't need to beat you over the head. Unless you care to argue ad infinitum because you are an "everybody in the contest gets a prize!" hippie; then I need to beat you over the head with a shovel until your skull caves in.

Girls aren't the only ones having a hard time growing up. To treat them like the opening sentences of this stupid rant is paternalistic, sexist, short-sighted, and destructive. Females are smart. Females are tough. Females have stamina. Females are the future of humanity.

But do you also see boys have a hard time growing up? To treat them like the examples in the rest of this stupid rant is unfair, unreasonable, sexist, demeaning, and destructive. Males are smart. Males are tough. Males are not disposable. Males are the future of humanity.

I dream of a day when our children are recognized for the humans they will become, and treated equally. I dream of the day when the differences between girls and boys are recognized, and those differences are reflected in school curricula. I dream of the day when our children are parented as individual humans with individaul needs, not strictly boy or girl, without argument over left brain/right brain, girl brain/boy brain, but the recognition that they are simply different. I dream of the day when boys and girls are segregated sometimes, to learn in their own way with each other, and integrated at other times, so they learn to grow together with each other. I dream of the day when we realize the company of our gender without the other is recognized as important and necessary, not exclusionary. I dream of the day when a Men's Club is not assaulted by women, when Ladies Drink Free isn't reverse discrimination. I DREAM OF THE DAY WHEN THE SEXES ARE EQUAL, YET DIFFERENT. If you invoke the Supreme Court racism decision at this point, you have completely missed my intent, and need to get off my planet.

Until that day of which I dream, the rest of you please shut up. You aren't helping. We are different. We are the same. We need to laugh at each other, criticize each other, love each other, roll our eyes at each other, grit our teeth at each other, talk to one another, accept each other. We need to help each other when life is unfair, supporting but not coddling, giving a well-deserved smack to the head and a "Get Over It" when necessary. Only then will we grow up and evolve as homo sapiens: "wise man." If you take exception to that name/taxonomic term/symantic expedient, your are focusing on "man" and not "wise."

Tell me to go to hell if you wish. I'll gladly oblige, because heaven has got to be full of you pussies.