And The Earth Lay Upon Them

To a casual observer, it was the stereotypical Parisian scene. Museums, bookstores, and sidewalk cafes lined the wide Napoleonic streets. Enchanted visitors encircled vendors selling maps to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Their hawkish cries rung out over the murmur of the crowd, annoying the natives and enticing adventurous and wealthy tourists. A nearby group of laughing children managed to disturb a flock of doves, sending a beautiful crescendo of feather and freedom into the burnt orange of a dying sky.

Occupying a prominent corner lot on the street was one of the more upscale eateries in the vicinity. Due to the wonderful weather, the section outside was filled to capacity. The air constantly exploded with babbling conversations about topics ranging from politics to designer fashion. Waiters buzzed around the umbrella-shaded tables, armed with a veritable arsenal of mercis and s’il vous plaits.

The customers ranged from the well-to-do American traveler to the young couple sharing words meant only for them. Mothers navigating the menu with their children made little effort to hide their glances, envious of the openly emotional display. Two men sat at a corner table. They spoke in soft whispers, and the noisy crowd gladly drowned out the sound of their voices.

“I want you to kill me.” He spoke the words slowly and deliberately as he nurtured the dark-brown ripples of his cafe mocha.

The large bearded man across from him did not immediately stir. His life had long ago forced him to grow accustomed to outrageous things. After a moment, he leaned back in his seat and lit an imported cigarette. The words that finally climbed from his mouth were aimed as much to the crowd as to the man sitting across from him.

“Why do we pay for these drinks? I order alcohol and I receive nothing but colored water. They are never worth the money.”

He pushed the drink away slowly, measuring the man’s response across from him. Then he leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table.

“Why is it, Alex, that young men speak of death and old men speak of life? My father used to tell me war stories that left me lying in bed awake all night. And I myself have seen enough of death to know that it is not something men should desire.” He returned the cigarette to his lips in one smooth motion.

“You are more right than you know, Ivan. For I wish for you to kill me when I am old.” Alex lingered for a second, his pale knuckles rubbing across the tabletop nervously. He looked at Ivan, hoping to read something in his friend’s face. He found nothing etched in the deep lines, so he continued cautiously.

“I know that my morality is one of necessity and convenience, nothing more. I suppose my life would be much simpler if I could walk around blindly committing horrendous acts and never reflecting on the eventual consequences. But that is not the life I was allowed to live.” His gaze turned to the tourists in the street before quickly changing the subject. “You spoke of your father- did he influence you to a great extent?”

Ivan pulled the cigarette out again just enough to speak. The smoke rose and curled about his face, creating a slightly demonic effect that only lent credence to his words.

“My father was the meanest bastard I ever met. When my brothers and I were young, he would make us chop wood for the fire until our arms ached. If we complained that we were tired, he simply added more wood. He never said a word. Just added more wood.” The end of the cigarette grew bright red as he inhaled deeply.

“So you didn’t like him?” Alex ventured.

“On the contrary, we all loved him. Perhaps it is hard for an American to understand. In Russia, food is often scarce. If you are not somewhat mean, you don’t eat. It is not pretty, but it is a necessary part of life. He taught me discipline, and for that I am forever thankful.” Ivan slammed his fist down forcefully as he pronounced the word “discipline”, the the extent that the nearby couple stopped whispering long enough to notice the intrusion. Ivan cast them a grumbling glance and they quickly returned to their own affairs.

“Well then, my friend, we share a connection. My father taught me discipline of a spiritual nature. Practically every Sunday found me in a church pew. If there’s a hymn I don’t know, I’d be surprised. I’ve heard more sermons than I would care to remember. And here’s the thing- I never truly grew to believe it.”

At this Ivan seemed genuinely surprised. “If what you say is true, why do you wish to die? You have plenty of time to find your faith in God.” Ivan crossed his arms defiantly. “Me, I do not care either way. I will die being true to myself.”

“It’s not that simple, I’m afraid. I wish to die a Christian, but I am not yet ready to make the necessary commitment. I believe that once my indiscriminate youth has left me, I might be willing to seek God. But for now I am happy drinking and talking about sin with people like you.”

This drew a smile from Ivan’s face.

“So you wish to harvest the crop without tending the field?”

“Not exactly. I want you to kill me in thirty years. By that time, I hope to be a Christian. Then, when I am murdered, I will…”

“Go to heaven.” Ivan finished the thought for him while shaking his head in disbelief. “Unbelievable. Only an American could find a way to cheat God.”

With this last statement Ivan signaled the waiter over and ordered another drink. “Forgive me, Alex, but I think I need some more watered down alcohol to hear this plan.”

Alex ignored his request, plowing ahead with unfettered enthusiasm. He had spoken calmly throughout the conversation, but now that he had admitted his purpose the floodgates opened and it seemed as if nothing could stop the words from fumbling quickly out of his mouth. Ivan appeared annoyed, but Alex knew from experience that he was listening. He knew that Ivan’s great and terrible mind was coldly calculating his next response.

“I want you to kill me thirty years from now. It would be best if the timing were not exact. You may wait a few years if you like, but do not do it sooner. Give me my thirty years. I must not know exactly how or when I am going to die. I only ask you because I know that you are the man for the job. Pledge to me now that you will do this thing for me. Doing so will help me sleep tonight.”

“It is a strange man who sleeps better after planning his own murder.” Ivan’s awkward attempt at a joke brought no emotion to Alex’s face. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” His gaze lifted to the tables around him and the crowd milling about on the sidewalks. “So many signs of life around us, and yet you persist in talking about death.” He set his gaze on his dining companion. His voice grew firm and unrelenting, and all expression drained from his face. “I will not take part in this.”

“My friend, I did not want to mention this, but…”

“But what? Go ahead and say what you came here to say.” Ivan’s face had started to take on a red tint fueled both by anger and alcohol. Alex knew that he would have to tread carefully.

“Do you remember how I saved your life?”

“Of course.”

“Do you remember what you told me that day?”

Ivan leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes.

“Yes. I told you that I would repay you anyway I could.”

“That’s right. So pay me back and do this thing that I ask.”

Ivan opened his eyes and stared across the table at his friend.

“When I said those words before, I meant them. But not for this. Like I said before, I will not take part. I will not sacrifice my soul for yours. Find another lamb, my friend.”

At this Ivan rose to leave.

Alex quickly rose and placed his hand on Ivan’s arm, pleading with his eyes. At the sudden display, the customer near them fell silent, but all eyes were drawn to them. Alex lowered his voice to a feverish whisper, but he continued to talk.

“There is no one else. If you do not promise to do this, I will let your government know how you have helped mine. You may escape, but your wife…”

“A threat?” Ivan responded, bloodshot eyes wide.

“It is a course I did not want to take, my friend.”

“You are not a friend of mine,” whispered Ivan fiercely, the stench of vodka heavy on his breath. “I do not know about the customs of your country, but in mine we do not threaten the wives of our friends. If a choice must be made, I would gladly kill you to protect my wife.”

“That’s what I was counting on. Now pledge to me that you will do this thing.”

They were still standing, and the nearby patrons made only a weak effort to hide their interest. An attentive waiter took notice and began to count silently in his head. Ivan saw all of this and slowly sank to his seat. He forced himself to speak normally, but the words escaped through thin lips.

“What good is a pledge? I am half-drunk and will probably forget everything by morning.”

“I told you earlier that there was no one else. I have known you for five years, and I have never seen you break a promise. Like it or not, Ivan, you are a good person. Since I am the kind of man who breaks a promise anytime it is convenient, it is the sort of thing I notice. I know that if you promise me today that you will follow through.”

“You are right again, I’m afraid. A certain morality has always plagued my being and held me back. I see that you have given this some thought. Well, I guess I have been checkmated. But…it is not my fault. After all, I never knew we were playing a game.”

The smile that followed was a very weary one, and it held no trace of happiness.

“I assure you that this is no game.”

“Perhaps not. But rest well tonight. I promise I will kill you.”

Perhaps it was his own disbelief at the words he was speaking, but this time the smile was genuine.

“Good,” replied the overjoyed American. “I never would have endangered you or your wife’s life. Forgive me. I had to say it to get you to agree.”

“I know,” said Ivan, “But it was a chance I was unwilling to take.” Then he thought for a moment before grinning broadly. “All along your government has been warning you that the Russians are treacherous villains who will stab you in the back at a moment’s notice. I guess now I have a chance to prove them right.”

“Good night, my friend.”

“Good night. Will I see you for fishing tomorrow in Marseilles?”

“Of course. Until then.”

They paid their respective bills and parted ways. Before long they disappeared into the growing darkness and shrinking crowds.

The doves did not return until morning.

Album Revue

The song pounded its beat in my mind, daring to crush out any other salient thought I may have ever hoped to have.  The rhythm destroyed me, the meter ravaged me, the lyrics held my battered corpse for ransom.  Inflection had no right to work that well, but it did.

I thought to myself this is truth.  There may be other truths, no doubt, but this is truth.  Some things are true despite our insistence that they’re false, or our hope that we’re greater than the idea itself.  The truth doesn’t care- it can’t care, any more than a song or rhyme or metronome casually swinging back and forth can care.  Because that’s the nature of truth.  Gravity doesn’t need us to believe in it, nor is it impressed that we happened to find it.

The next song is slower, more melodic and burnt orange in its incantations.  Words like syrup covered golf balls clattered from the singer’s month onto dated linoleum in a heartbeat shape for three straight minutes, causing a mess.  Truth doesn’t care if it makes a mess either.  In fact, the more we try to clean it, scrub it, sanitize it, make it go away, the harder it is to ignore.  Piso mojado.  Danger.  Caution.  Wet floor.  You’ve been warned.

The next selection is infused with something akin to soul, with blues chords twirling with tobacco smoke and oak.  I picture a ramshackle building just east of Shreveport that I’ve never seen or heard of but I’m as sure it exists as the gravity mentioned above.  This is the song it would play- that it would emanate from the knotted wood wall planks and pictures on those walls.  Even when lesser lights played on the stage, this is the song it would play.  And those who were attuned to the truth would find a way to hear it.  Because those who are meant to hear the truth always do, even if its messy.

The next to last song is brash.  It simply is.  It’s not lukewarm- there’s no ignoring it.  It’s either hated or loved in an instant; no coming around to it or growing into it or thinking it over or mulling it by and by while walking down country roads; no, this song is the fork that leads two ways.  No one loiters here.  It’s short and doesn’t last long, but it’s catchy.  It too holds truth, but the truth is different for each person in the way one approaches it.  Some reject it outright, but even in the rejection is a knowledge of the truth.  No one denies that it is a song; the argument is over its impact. Some swear it is the most perfect song ever made; that this song, and this song alone, contains a key, a key, that if used, would open every door ever made worth entering.  Others swear it’s rubbish.

The last song?  Well, I actually haven’t heard it yet, but I hear it’s a doozy- a real show stopper.

Bright Spot

I know a girl we’ll call her Alice dresses does she wear her hair is fortunate a crown upon which birds nest and coo and cluck in the springtime after the rains before the sun is spent in urging little left to know but the ribbons captivating the strained strands from bursting as she twirls kaleidoscope like across meadows filled with posies and flowers and hope until light fades and the shadows dance betwixt the pines and ancient oaks at the edge of the meadow where the posies and flowers and hope have turned to napping until the next day when it all begins again, and then the parade of natural wonders never cease spinning and tumbling and spiriting themselves this way and that- the dragonflies dragoning, the lilypads lilying, the frogs frogging, and the ladybugs ladying create a cacophony to which the girl we’ll call Alice spins around wondering if she’ll ever stop but then why would one stop spinning in such a field as this, with the posies and flowers and hope upon which the whole world stands in awe, destroyed by the earnest way the grass grows and fights the shadows so bent on invading the parade of natural wonders where the birds nest and coo and cluck until the fall when they fly north nowhere but north no map could find them no compass dare track them, they are black dots against a slate gray chunk of sky that day, casting shadows over the meadow where the birds used to nest and coo and cluck in the hair of the girl we’ll call Alice, with ribbons captivating the strained strands from bursting as she twirls kaleidoscope until light fades and the shadows dance betwixt the pines and ancient oaks at the edge of the meadow where the posies and flowers and hope have turned to napping until the next day, when it all begins again, and then the parade of natural wonders never cease spinning and tumbling and spiriting themselves this way and that- the dragonflies dragoning, the lilypads lilying, the frogs frogging, and the ladybugs ladying create a cacophony to which the girl we’ll call Alice spins around wondering if she’ll ever stop but then why would one stop spinning in such a field as this, with the posies and flowers and hope upon which the whole world stands in awe, destroyed by the earnest way the grass grows and fights the shadows again and again and again and again until everything blurs together, her dresses, her hair, her crown, the birds, the posies, the hope, the meadow, the pines, the ancient oaks, the parade of natural wonders, the dragonflies, lilypads, frogs, ladybugs, the shadows, the black dots, the map, the compass, the spring, the autumn, turn into the kaleidoscope which the girl we’ll call Alice twirls and spins it all out again every spring, every autumn, every cacophony, every straining, every dare, every light fading, every hope, every earnest way.

I lied.  We’ll call her Sarah.

Add New Post

Read this.  Or don’t.  Who cares?  The words surely don’t.  They sit here, emotionless, and could give one damn less if someone were to read them, roll them around in their mind, question them, repeat them, memorize them, agonize over them.  They don’t need you.  They don’t even need me.  They’ll outlive me, that’s for sure.  They’ll also outlive you.  When I am less than dirt, my gravestone cobbled down by time, they will be.  Maybe in this order, maybe not.  But they will be.  That’s pretty tough- to make it even tougher, it’s words I use to describe my angst over their permanence and my singularly defined fleeting existence.  I have to console myself with the tissues I bitch about.  There is no other choice, really.

I had to dig some holes recently in order to set posts to build a fence.  Nineteen holes eighteen inches deep.  Should have been deeper, I suppose, but the earth was like fired brick and it hadn’t rained in two months’ time, so I thought the depth was enough.  Even then, it was backbreaking work.  I even rented a one-man auger, which looks like something the Acme Corporation would sell- it had two handles, a gasoline engine, and a giant screw boring into the earth inches from your feet.  It looks like it would slice through the ground like butter.  It didn’t- every time it caught more than a tiny root it would stop, threatening to jerk my hands with it when the top began to spin.

They were finished with a small drain shovel.  I learned to both respect and loathe roots.  Hours were spent covered in sweat, pounding downward with unholy force in an attempt to vanquish roots just about an inch in diameter.  Worse yet, after your removed one, you’d find another just below it.  How long had those roots sat, totally undisturbed.  And then- light from above prior to being destroyed.

After a while, I thought about things.  What if I dug holes in other areas of my life?  I complain about being distant from God in my head- how often do I dig for Him?  I want to write more- I never write.  I want to run a 5K in under twenty minutes, yet I never go out for a jog.  I’m too busy.  It’s two hot out.  I’ll probably fail anyway.  This is what I’ve always known- I’m comfortable here on the flat ground.

I didn’t dig those nineteen holes and give up countless hours and afternoons after working all day because I wanted nineteen holes.  I did it because I wanted a fence.  It’s time I figured out what I really want and start to dig toward that- otherwise I’ll stay where I am- content, but with nothing to lean against when the wind blows in my life.

Whatever choice I end up making, the words will be.  They don’t care whether I succeed or fail, for success or failure is not within them.  They are above it.  I am certainly below it- but at least now I’m digging deeper.

Water Aerobics

He walked down the street.

———————-

The man walked clumsily down the street, splashing through the puddles.

———————-

God I need a drink he slurred to himself, stumbling headway, his feet slapping on the wet asphalt and trouncing through the puddles.

———————

The puddles, slick with oil and detritus from the roadway, gleamed innocently as his feet plunged in with wild abandon; his head pounded as a rough mental slurry of gins and vodkas and oh God I need a drinks stumbled about confusingly in his mind.

———————

The street light on the puddles caused a Swiss cheese effect, dappled orbs floating on the asphalt, their iridescent oil rings bobbing ever so gently from the rumble of distant traffic; his feet like AWOL soldiers stumbling frantically in a reckless precision, landing bombs in the puddles and sending casualties, trembling, running for cover- God my head he thought just shut up and move he thought trying to sidestep the intense bombardment of thoughts that crashed in his brain, made all the worse due to the fact that there was no cover.

——————–

Splash splash splash splash SPLASH!!! went the rant said the jack cheese Oh God attack! watch the awnings drip with wet stuff hilarious at first but wetter and stuffer as time passed splash splash roar cold sober up wake up make it home in one piece.

——————–

Where did two years go?  How do I lose something so precious, so much a part of my being, for two years?  What tempest blew it away?  Did I cause it?  Am I responsible- but even before I think the words, I know the answer.  Such a question is never asked unless the truth be already known- the voicing of it is but a prelude to the chorus, bearing robes.  I am out of the rain now, but the water still drenches my clothes and my shivers are cold comfort indeed.  I am acutely aware that I have walked this path on too many occasions, far from where I intended to be when I awoke each morning.  But that’s the thing- you take one misstep here- a wandering path there- and before you know it, you’re on the wrong side of town.  The side where the awnings are torn and the rain finds sinister ways to hit you, even when you should be dry.

Some things mean nothing- some things mean everything.  Knowing which is which is the key thing.  It is an all too human thing to make a mistake- nothing is a greater sign of our freedom.  What is unforgivable, in the end, is allowing ourselves to be tricked into thinking that we haven’t made a mistake.  Such is the provenance of fools, not of men.

———————

I pull my coat about me and walk back out into the maelstrom, heading back the way I came.  It is the only way, after all, to get back to where I began.  Were there an easier way, I would take it.  I know that now.  All measure of glory has died.

Drip.

Something Clever

Can you believe the latest piece by Wadworth? I can’t believe the magazine would publish such rubbish.  The man paused at his self-professed delightful rhyme as he spread some marjoram on a piece of perfectly toasted bread.  Give me documentaries any old day- the real world is so much better than the mental playthings in some men’s minds.  Did you see the one featuring baseball?  It was wonderful, simply wonderful.

I, for one, can’t believe the author would use such a blase and trite character to make a point, his companion offered, pouring himself a cup of Earl Grey tea. 

I dare say he used a hammer when a feather would have been more fitting- and the metaphor, Good Lord the metaphor.  The only thing he extended was my patience.  At this, both fell into the Cambridge laughter esteemed world-wide for its haughtiness.

A figure appeared in the doorway.  More tea, sir? the complacent yet tired voice echoed across the large room.

Why yes, Williford, that would be resplendent.  The butler approached and began to place the piping hot tea on the table.  No, Williford, not like that- do it like the butlers do it in Oxford.  Must I show you everything?  Then, to his companion’s great delight, the man stood up and held the tea, bending over perfectly while placing it on the table.  Remember not to make eye contact, Williford- it’s quite rude to stare at your master during a public gathering.

Yes, sir, the butler said, before disappearing to scrub the kitchen.

Help is so difficult to find these days the man apologized, I dare think I’m clever enough to survive on my own without any help.  Wouldn’t that be scandalous? 

If any man could do it, it would be you his companion stated before attempting to sip his tea in the most clever fashion possible.

Words that meant nothing continued to float throughout the room for the better part of an hour- criticisms of artists long dead, remarks made about Shakespeare’s tragedies- too sad by half– and a defense of the camera as being far superior to any painter’s brush- give me realism any day- these paintings that amuse a handful of people are worthless- burn them all and take a picture of it and I would hang it in my chateau!  This continued until the man clunched his paunch– are you feeling ill- why I’ll kill that Williford the man can’t cook eggs to save his life.

Williford! the man shouted Williford.  A figure quickly- perhaps too quick- appeared in the doorway.

Yes, sir. 

Fetch the physician at once- I don’t feel right at all!    

I don’t think that will help, sir- you’ll be dead within five minutes, due to the poison in your system.

Poison?

You poured it yourself, sir?  Remember?  A grin spread across the butler’s face. 

Ye Gods what have you done the man said, fumbling around on the ground now, his face in his hands.

Oh don’t worry, the butler said, I’m sure you’ll think of something clever.

Truth Be Told

Why do we come here every six months? she said, staring out the car window at the dilapidated tin building.  Every time we visit there’s less and less people selling weirder and weirder things.

I think it’s neat he said, one day this place will be gone and we’ll be able to tell our kids about it.

That would be the worst story ever she said, but I guess we have to have some awful stories if we’re going to be parents.

They entered the building- an old manufacturing plant that had been abandoned years before before being saved by trinkets and elderly people hawking God knows what- and wandered down the hall into a large room that still smelled of industry.  There were a handful of old people standing behind old jewelry cases or sitting in lawn chairs, desiccating in the stagnant air.  Box fans from his childhood whirred unapologetically and stung the silence.

They browsed as best they could, trying not to make eye contact unless forced.  Old coins, magazines and jewelry crowded the display cases; vases and larger items sat on top, gathering dust.

Let me know if I can help you, one ancient woman said, staring down at the cement floor.

Within ten minutes they had come to the last booth- a rail thin man sat on a folding chair.  Cardboard box after cardboard box sat upon table next to him.

You’ve sure got a lot of records, he said.

Ain’t no records here, the man said, I got pictures.  Hand-drawn.

He began to leaf through the boxes.  The man in the chair just stared blankly ahead.  Hey look he said, this is one of the swinging bridge.

Not bad she said, peering over his shoulder.

How much is it? he asked.

The man’s head turned as if on a stile, his expression unchanging.  That one?  Two dollars.

Two dollars he thought, that’s crazy.  How’s this old man making any money selling pictures for two dollars?

You could frame it she said, still picking through the boxes.  It’d be nice in your office with the right frame.

Hey look at this one she said she looks just like me.  He tore his eyes from the man and looked at the picture she had practically thrust in his face.  It was of an older woman who bore a striking similarity to his wife.  The nose… the eyes… the only real difference was that age had touched her face, making her ten years older.

The sick feeling in his stomach didn’t occur until he realized that the woman was posing in a hallway, with a smaller picture behind her.  It can’t be he thought, taking the drawing from her hand and bringing it inches from his face.  The swinging bridge picture- the same damn picture I’m holding in my other hand- is hanging on the wall in this one.

I think we should go he said slowly to no one in particular, placing both pictures on top of one of the boxes.

You should check the last box first the old man said.

The Weeds

Nothing held more magic for me growing up than the woods near my house.  In the era of 4 channel television- my parents sprung for the twenty-odd channels cable offered at the time somewhat late in my development- talk shows and soap operas could not compete with the great outdoors, and I spent the majority of the summers with the sun shining on my face.  (This was back when there were true “summer” vacations, and the luxurious time stretched for miles and miles in the bristling heat.  Only Labor Day threatened to usher us back into the classrooms.)

I was blessed to be surrounded by other children around my same age on my half-mile street.  So we would gather and play ball in a neighbor’s lot or wander the street or jump on a friend’s trampoline or discuss the intrepid dangers of walking all the way around the block for hours at a time. 

But most of all, we would take to the woods.  We had three choices in all- a stand of old growth near the Interstate, where the dirt road took you to an attorney’s billboard; the “sand pit,” an undeveloped lot covered in scraggly pine trees and four-wheeler trails; or “the weeds,” a house lot in the middle of the street so long ago abandoned that it had become overtaken with ten to twelve foot tall vegetation.  (What our descriptive powers lacked in verbosity they more than made up for in accuracy.)  Due to its relative proximity, we spend most of our time in the weeds.

We would hack our way through the weeds with machetes kids our age should not have handled- long, sharp tribal weapons that made short work of the brush as we swung back and forth.  Though unspoken, we imagined savages at every turn.  We would set snares in the hopes of catching a swamp rabbit, but our knots were amateurish and ineffective. 

The main trail, three feet wide, led to the heart of the weeds where a natural clearing existed.  From there- like bees- we created smaller tunnels and trails to other, more dense, parts of the lot.  (Toward the back of the lot, briars became more prevalent, and it was a mark of courage to traverse the lot from street to street.) 

In June blackberries would grow wild in spades and we would eat our fill, staining our clothes and fingers.

I will forever look upon those days with fondness- to tell more bears repetition, and too much examination destroys the memory, and it is one I very much wish to keep alive. 

I did drive down the street on occasion years later, when the youth had fallen from me.  The lot is still for sale and still losing a battle with nature.  However, the house next door is now occupied and the man who bought it mows the portion of the trail we blazed, preserving it expertly in time.  It curves into the depths of what we once considered a jungle.  Perhaps his kids play there, as we once did. 

I have thought of stopping one evening and walking it in the moonlight, but some things are best left as they were.

We Are Not The Flame, But The Tinder.

Words are clunky things, and stringing them together in a seamless stretch is far more difficult than one can imagine.  Our thoughts are free; unregulated in time and space and thus they need no form or fashion to make absolute sense within our minds.  But to pluck them from the mental ether and pin them to paper almost always removes their luster and vibrancy, reducing them to dusty moths and frail ribbons at the county fair.

This is why writing is so difficult- no writer is satisfied with their work, in that their work can never be satisfactory.  We can cover the corpses with make-up, pose them and pretend that they breathe, but they do not.  We have the breath of God within us, it would seem, but something is lost when we breathe out.

Our only hope, then, is that the words that fumble from our minds retain their shape enough to be revived by the reader- thus the dusty moths become freeze-dried, waiting for the day when a reader’s experience relights them with a fire never known by the author.  Thus a new thought is formed in the reader’s mind, as alive and quick as the words used to be.  Words are forever dead, but in their death they can create new life- this is the power of writing.  And then the cycle continues.

It is in our connectivity that the magic happens- an unread story means nothing; an story read lazily with leaden eyes might just mean less.  There is nothing in halfway- no glory, no memory, no satisfaction. 

Stories are merely exercises in exploring the distance between two points, those invisible expanses that define everything and anything in this universe.  Take a boy and his dog- the story is not in the boy, nor in the dog, but in how they interact, grow, and learn together.  Can you capture that relationship in a bottle and clearly define it?  Not without the boy or the dog, but the boy and the dog are ancillary to the subject.  So how does one carve from the ether an invisible statute that is clearly there but impossible to see?

There is yet another problem.  The best writers cannot merely say what they see, because then stories would be but one sentence long.  If I were to say, “The boy loved the dog,” that may be technically correct but the heart of it is gone, and therefore does not do justice to the tale.  That love had a birth, perhaps a death, and a great many things in between.  It is a hallmark of becoming an adult that one realizes that not all love is the same.

However, if I were to relate how the boy placed food out for the dog every night, and occasionally snuck him into bed to sleep beneath the threadbare sheets when the wind howled- because the dog feared it so- then a picture emerges.  Even then, though, this picture only points at a possible love.  It is a reaction or reflection of the love itself, because the love can never be seen.  A writer must attempt to define the relationship through these interactions, because that is all the writer has.

And then- one day, if the writer is lucky- a reader stumbles across the story and remembers a childhood pet they had and the story disappears for the briefest of moments and becomes transubstantiated in the reader’s mind.  The emotions well and for a second the reader is twenty years in the past, playing fetch with a long-lost friend.  The weights of daily life are lifted- worries such as the mortgage, money and all the riff-raff that accompanies human breath evaporate, and the reader finds joy.  That is where words find their glory- not on the paper, but in the minds of a reader.  What writers create- the best writers, at least- is the opportunity for the reader to create something themselves. 

We are not the flame, but the tinder.