At some point this was for sell. Oh well. Enjoy...
Every so often in the rural lands, in between the blurs of
fields of waist-high golden reeds, slicing into the wide tranquility of a
picture-perfect baby blue sky, there can a conspicuous and welcomed sign of
Sometimes, her grandeur juts out of the ground into the air
for 30 or 40 feet. She’s bedecked in the color of a Catholic cardinal’s
biretta, or that of a waning rose whose fragrance has pleased to the fullest
extent; having served its purpose it can simply do no more. She is trimmed in
what resembles the brilliant gleam of a south Pacific pearl, crafted by similar
fashions that require care and diligence. Her heart is a huge doorway,
permitting the passage of tenderness.
She is staunch but doting. Built firmly to withstand the
strongest storm but sheltering enough to accommodate the softest down. Inside
you might find enthusiastic youth zealous at existence and prancing about to
prove it. Or you may come across aged wisdom that has seen and done it all, now
satisfied to simply enjoy the gentle breeze and the bounty of the earth, taking
the wondrous star-filled night for granted.
There are chambers inside that each hold something special.
Sectioned off and protected, the things that dwell here know they are
cherished. At her apex, where beds of blond silky hairs lay, is often where
dreams are hatched and wishes realized. Yes, her presence in the countryside
can be reassuring.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been to the countryside in quite
some time.And this great form that I’m
thinking of that juts into the big beautiful blue will one day no longer
contain youthful zeal. The pearly gleam will one day be more of an ecru, a worn
egg-shell type of hue. The deep crimson that once encircled her will be faded
by burdens and time. She will be more the tone of fresh clay, much like soil
that no longer yields ripe fruit. Her gated heart will be imperfectly slanted,
cracked and splintered.Her strong
facade will be leaning remnants of inert pine with huge cavities and wide gaps.
One day she will represent the last of her kind. This amazing form may one day
be surrounded by new luster and new elements that tower above her. Do not fear
it. It is the natural order of things.
And yet, the youth that once lived there will grow to be
wise. The contents she once cherished will be cherished by the world. The stars
that lovingly winked at her will wink at us! Her crimson coat will exist more
gloriously in the hearts and minds of those who loved her than it ever did in
life. Hold fast to the comfort and protection she provided when the rain was
falling and the hail was crashing.
Yes. Some day from now, the time for cranberry-colored
sanctuaries with floors of satiny hair the color of sunshine will pass. She can
do no more. It will be up to those whom she touched, to savor her sweet memory.
This they must do, to the fullest extent.
In D’oh We Pray
tossed and turned. He fidgeted with this hair. He groaned. He lay in his bed
looking at the ceiling, blankets covered him from head to toe. Tomorrow he
would take part in his D’oh of Passage. Upon reaching the age of 13 every boy
and girl in his church was required to undergo the D’oh as a display of their
dedication and devotion to the Church of Homer Simpson. When he was younger he
had witnessed the ceremony in awe. He always looked forward to the night when
he would do it: the first Tuesday after the thirteenth year when the season’s
first reruns were scheduled to air (usually in March). Even though he often
dreamt of his special night, he was very anxious.
“What if I
get the prayer wrong? What if I forget a word? You know you have to have it
out, bro. You’ll be fine. When I did it three years ago, I was nervous, too.
But I was able to calm down and get the words right and then eat the sacred
Donut. You’ll be okay.”
Maybe you’re right. It should be okay.”
little brother. Just pray to Homer. That’s what I did. Say a prayer to Lord
Homer and all the Springfieldian Saints.”
May Homer be with you.”
bro. And also with you.”
Deacon got up to leave his brother’s room but he suddenly
Scott, dad would be proud of you. I just wanted to tell you that.”
so. If he hadn’t drowned in that giant vat of bacon fat, he would be right
there with you, sipping the sacred Duff beer and eating mountains of deep fried
Deacon. That means a lot to me.”
problem, dude. Now come down to breakfast. You’ll need some energy for school
today. Plus mom is making your favorite.”
refried ham sandwiches?!”
kitchen was messy and filled with the air fried treats. Spilled flour and
cooking utensils covered the countertops.
morning, son. Glad you could make it down for breakfast.”
here is nervous, mom, but I told him it’ll be okay. I went through the same
Sizlak smiled. She was a devoted and loving mother. She wore her hair eighteen
inches straight up, as was tradition for women in the Church of Homer.
it’ll be fine Scott. Are you hungry? Have a seat at the table. And since
tomorrow is your big day, you can lead us in prayer.”
pleased at the opportunity to lead his family in breakfast prayers. Meals were
probably the most important part of life in the Church of Homer.
good, Homer is the best,” his voice was a bit shaky. Deacon tapped his shoulder
and gave him a reassuring look. Scott grinned and started over. “Homer is good,
Homer is the best. May our donuts be jelly-filled, and our chicken only breast.
May our bacon be sweet and greasy, and our lives, slow and easy. To Homer we
go, little bro.”
beamed. He knew tomorrow would be the best day of his life.
these double refried ham sandwiches look awesome! Can you please pass the honey
and the powdered sugar?”
Sizlak slid the condiments over.
thing, hon. I understand you have a big quiz today at school. Did you study?”
course, mom. I’m prepared.”
“Excellent. That’s what I like to hear.”
the first one in his seat when the bell rang for class. He had done well in all
his courses, straight As, in fact. His first course of the day nearly didn’t
happen, though. It was a controversial topic at the school board two years ago.
Should religion be taught at public schools? was what repeatedly came up. But
the board eventually approved the school’s curriculum with a slim vote of 4 to
3. The one caveat was that the core course must be inclusive, not just based on
one religion, and today’s quiz was reflective of that.
of Lisa is fundamentally opposed to teachings held by the Church of Homer.
thought for a minute. Was this a trick question? He only personally knew one
member of the Sect of Lisa, Charla, who sat directly across from him, although
there were probably a few dozen members throughout the school. She wore the
traditional spiky hair and fake pearls, and often found it her obligation to
correct her male counterparts on nearly everything they said.
thought, the Sect of Lisa stood for women’s rights, the right to education, and
the right to balanced meals. He figured the answer was True, but just to be
sure, he glanced over at Charla’s paper. The T was circled. Sweet D’oh, he
It is a
commonly held belief in the Sect of Lisa that Homer is not a god, but a drunken
prophet hell-bent on destroying the world with nuclear power.
in Scott’s stomach felt uneasy. His God? Destroying the world? The question
seemed to cross a line. Scott was offended. He looked around the room. All the
other seventh graders were simply taking their tests. They seemed unfazed by
the second question on the sheet, but Scott felt he had to say something. He
felt compelled. Tomorrow he would profess his faith in Homer to the world, and
at this moment, a passion began to swell in his chest.
Flanders, I have a concern about question number two.”
Several of the students looked up, including Charla.
“Yes, Scott. What is it?” Mr. Flanders tried to whisper.
Scott looked over at Charla. She was eyeing him intensely.
“Well, sir, I think it goes too far. In fact, I know it
does. I’m offended by the question, sir.”
“Scott,” Mr. Flanders started. “We have to keep an open
“Look, Scott,” Charla jumped in. “Your Homer is a drunken
prophet. This question shouldn’t offend you. It should enlighten you. Lisa is
the one true God.”
Scott was blown away.
“What? How? Are you kidding me, Charla?”
“It’s true. I’ve studied your First Book of Moe. Read the last
verse. It says it all. ‘And Lo, Homer drank the Duff beer and saw that it was
good, real good.’ ”
Scott was furious by now.
“How could you, Charla? I wish the wrath of Homer and his
vengeful Power Plant on you! May all the blasphemous followers of Lisa be
struck down into the fiery pit of Monty Burns!”
Mr. Flanders had heard enough.
“Scott! Charla! That’s enough. Either get back to your tests
or report to the principal’s office.”
The students calmed themselves and went back to the papers
on their desks: Scott angrily answered True for the second question.
At lunch Scott sat with a group of his Church of Homer
friends. There was Apu, the transfer student from Sweden; Lenny and Carl, twins
who were both world record holders at darts; and two kids named Bart. They were
both “slow” and took remedial classes.
“Scott, we heard about what happened in your World Religions
class,” Apu was the most devout church member Scott had ever met. He had taken
part in his D’oh of Passage only two weeks ago and he already knew he wanted to
be a Homerian Priest.
“Yea, Charla’s crazy. I couldn’t believe she would say those
things. I still wish the fiery torment of Monty Burns upon her.”
He glanced over at Charla’s table. She sat with four girls
and one boy, all of the Sect of Lisa. They delicately ate their carrot sticks
and celery stalks. The sight sickened Scott.
“Gross. How can they eat that crap?”
Apu and the Barts laughed. Lenny and Carl were arguing about
which ice cream flavor was the best.
“Guys, help us settle this. Which flavor is better, butter
pecan pork? Or rocky road turkey giblet?”
“Wow. That’s a tough one,” Apu thought a moment. “I’m going
to go with butter pecan pork.”
“Not me,” Scott weighed in. “Give me rocky road turkey
giblet. With extra gravy sprinkles.”
The Barts agreed.
They went back to their lunches of grilled cheese and syrup
sandwiches, but Apu couldn’t seem to let the Charla thing go.
“We should kill them all.” The other boys froze. Apu
continued. “The Sect of Lisa is nothing but liars and infidels. They curse our
mighty Homer and the Holy D’oh. I wish I could unleash upon them all the
nuclear power in the world. One more word out of that Charla and—”
“Apu, dude, chill,” Scott looked worried. “Dude, calm down.
It’s not that serious. Tomorrow is my big night. Let’s forget about those Lisa
weirdoes. Are you going to be able to make it tomorrow?”
I’ll be there, dude. I wouldn’t miss it.”
man. May Homer be with you.”
The next day Scott found himself looking joyfully in the
mirror. His ceremonial white collared shirt and blue pants fit him nicely. They
were Deacon’s and before that their father’s. Scott rubbed his small belly,
imagining the day when it would be a fully grown gut worthy of praise.
“Lookin’ good, bro.
Your belly’s still a bit smallish, but you’re getting there.” Deacon rubbed his
round stomach. “Are you ready? Mom wants to see you.”
“I’m ready. I’m so excited, Deacon. I can feel the D’oh
flowing through my veins.”
“I know, Scotty. I know the feeling. You’ll also get a
really bad bout of gas, but that too shall pass. Get it? Pass?”
“You’re so stupid, Deacon.”
“Scott! Come down here. I want to see you.” Mrs. Sizlak was
so proud of her son. She dug out the camera and readied herself at the base of
the stairs. Scott emerged from his room grinning ear to ear. Deacon chuckled a
few steps away.
“What’s so funny, Deacon?”
“Nothin’, bro. Go ahead. Mom is waiting for you.”
Scott began to head down the stairs when Deacon suddenly
placed a skateboard in front of him. Scott took one step and his foot landed
directly on the skateboard, causing him to lose his balance and tumble clumsily
down the stairs like a chubby crash dummy.
“Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh! Doh!” Scott professed on every
Mrs. Sizlak snapped photos with each of her son’s awkward
positions. When Scott finally reached the bottom his head was spinning and his
clothes were wrinkled.
“Ouch. My head. Deacon! Why the heck did you do that?”
Deacon and his mother laughed. Her skyward hair was
elegantly styled with a tiara of old Duff cans, which was customary garb for
“It’s tradition, little bro. Every generation must take the
Sacred Stumble before the D’oh of Passage.”
“Yes, Scott,” Mrs. Sizlak added. “I was there the night your
father took his Stumble, and when Deacon took his as well. You’re almost a man
now. In a few minutes from now you will start your journey to full
enlightenment in your quest to know our god, Homer J. Simpson. Doh!”
Scott stopped rubbing his head.
“I understand, mom. Thank you, too, Deacon. I don’t know
what I would do without you.”
“No problem, dude.”
When they arrived at the church Scott could see all his
friends and family filing in. Apu was there, so were the Barts and Lenny and
Carl, who would be undergoing their ceremony next week. The September sun was
bright and warm.
“Scott! Scotty boy! Come give your grandpa a hug!”
Scott embraced the old man. He was folds upon folds of
flesh, like a shar-pei that could talk.
“Your dad would be proud, even if he was my illegitimate
son. You know he was born out of wedlock?”
Scott looked surprised. He shook his head.
“Yea, well it’s true. His mother was a lesbian river dancer
with one leg. She wasn’t very good. Cute though. She only had sex with me
because she was drunk on Day-Quill and Tylenol 3s.”
“Wow, grandpa. I never knew that.”
“Yea, well, don’t get all gay on me. Just go in there today
and be a man. Say the sacred prayer then shut your pie hole so we can all get
drunk on Duff beer. Then we’ll remember the days when we were single and free
and we didn’t have you crumb snatching rug rats begging us for expensive things
like bread and shoes.”
“Uh, okay, grandpa.”
“I love you, kid! Your dad would be proud.”
“Thanks again, grandpa.”
“Sure thing. Can you
loan me five dollars?”
“I don’t have any money with me, grandpa. Maybe Deacon—”
“You freaks don’t love me! I’m going home to watch the
Angela Lansbury Sex Chronicles.”
Scott, Deacon and their mother watched as the old man got on
a moped and rode on the sidewalk, nearly killing an old woman with a walker.
“Your grandpa hasn’t changed a bit. Let’s go, son. Everyone
Scott walked up the gleaming stairs to the pink and yellow house-like
Church. It was one of seventeen traditionally built Churches of Homer in the
continental United States (eighteen if you counted Guam). Deacon and his mother
had taken their seats when Scott began to make the ritual entrance into the
church. Everyone gathered stood.
Those seated at the edge of the rows tossed powered donuts
and hot bacon on Scott’s head. By church doctrine he was required to eat all
that touched him or the ground, hence he had to eat all of it. Mrs. Sizlak
wiped away her tears with a handkerchief. Deacon struggled to fight back his
Scott reached the podium and stood before his family and
friends and greeted them. “May Homer be with you."
“And also with you,” they said in unison before sitting.
“Today I take my D’oh of Passage. Today I become one step
closer to knowing the one true god. Homer J. Simpson.”
“D’oh!” The church said in unison.
“Thank you. Please bow your heads.”
Everyone bowed their heads. Scott eyed the Sacred Donut. It
sat upon a golden saucer. It looked so sweet. He could see a dab of raspberry
jelly peeking out. His mouth watered. He then started the ancient prayer.
“Heavenly and obese Homer, you are the greatest dude ever.
Your fat belly is a sign of wealth and prosperity. Your bald head is a sign of
wisdom and an absence of vanity. You are the keeper of the great D’oh, and we
ask that you give us strength against the temptations of the world. Lead us not
to lose weight or exercise. Let us not work too hard at our jobs, oh Homer. Let
us enjoy the great Duff beer, which you have provided for us. Let us walk
around in our undergarments and wish not for the finer things in life. Let us
not bathe, unless forced to. In Homer’s name we pray, D’oh!”
“D’oh!” the church again repeated before lifting their
Scott looked around the congregation and suddenly noticed a
face. Charla? What was she doing there? She slowly walked through the doors.
Scott thought she looked strange, chubby.
“You infidels!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Everyone in the church turned in her direction. Her spikey hair was dyed black.
Her once white pearls were now black as coal. “Lisa is the only one true god!
You wretched infidels!”
She swiftly removed her jacket and revealed a saxophone
packed with dynamite strapped to her midsection. Apu shot out of his seat to
grab Charla but he was too late.
“For Lisa! For the true religion of the world! Oh merciful
A huge explosion like a radiant sunrise rocked the church
and dust and debris and heat flew in all directions. A smoky cloud obscured
everything. There was mass confusion as people coughed and choked, gasping for
air. Blood and body parts were strewn all about. The force of the blast had
knocked Scott down. He struggled back to feet. Darkness filled the room. He
could only make out what seemed to be random bodies squirming. He couldn’t see
his mother or his brother. Where they wear seated was now a pile of rubble.
Where Charla stood was now a carved out pit of rocks and chunks of charred
Lenny lay lifeless on the floor. The Barts, Carl and Apu
were nowhere to be seen. Several people had managed to gather themselves and
they staggered out of the church. Others were checking on loved ones, checking
their pulses and calling their names. Scott was in shock.
“Why, dear Lord Homer? Why?”
The Boar King
He grumbled under his snout. The dust from the road,
miniscule fragments of gray rock and dirt and dead skin, made it hard for him
to see. He limped along, bruised; his ego and his body. He had been double
crossed. Humans, he thought. He had been walking for days, now, back on all
fours. He’d been had.
show them,” he griped. His hind legs ached for months of walking on them. His
forelegs were weak from lack of use. The hot sun above was merciless, turning
his coral-colored skin to a rosy crimson, nearly cerise. He could taste the
chalky dirt in his mouth. He stopped every so often to nibble on scraps. Apple
cores. Crusts of bread. The dry earth cracked under his hooves. He was a far
cry from the lavish life he’d created for himself. Only the verdurous leaves of
the summer trees left him with any sense of comfort.
truck barreled down the country highway. Youthful energy beamed from the
passenger side. She was elated. Ecstatic, even; blond locks springing in the
arid breeze. She clutched a prized possession: a handsome little bundle of joy
named Wilbur. He seemed to emanate the same energy as he lay in a content
position like a family’s first born son. Had the child been older she would
have surely been passing out cigars to family and friends while she puffed one
herself all the while aglow with new life.
endured a troublesome bout of stomach problems, so intense that it required a
trip into town to see Doctor Baxter, the local veterinarian.
two drops of this each day for two days,” Dr. Baxter instructed as he adjusted
his eyeglasses. The girl’s father stood close by, hands in his coveralls, but
he allowed her the privilege of being almost an adult. She nodded serenely in
acknowledgement of what she would need to do to nurse her dearest back to
Chevy spit rocks and left an earthy plume as the threesome neared the farm. The
town had been abuzz for quite some time after Wilbur’s arrival. It seemed that
mysterious messages had been appearing in a barn cobweb, all silky and
perplexing. Just like the rest of the town, Fern, too, was mystified by the
writing in the web; but she found the words to be proper and true.
moment, to the right of the road, out of the corner of her eye, through the
film that covered the windshield, Fern spotted a thing. It was low to the
ground, pinkish and dirty, a blob of slow movement. The crackling of the rocks
beneath the truck’s tires made it hard for her father to hear.
Papa, slow down! Do you see that?”
glanced over at his daughter, then his eyes followed her outstretched finger to
the strange thing walking, pained, it seemed, on the side of the road.
It was hard
to make out. Was it a dog? A fox that had been injured in a trap, but was
somehow able to free itself? Did it gnaw off its own paw?
the truck, though he paid it no mind. Several cars, trucks and tractor trailers
had passed him in his days of walking and surviving. But when the crunching of
the gravel slowed and then stopped, and he heard the syrupy voice of a child,
he was titillated. He played on it.
papa! He’s been hurt. Poor thing can barely move. We need to get him home. Or
maybe to Dr. Baxter’s?”
climbed from the cab and ambled over. Fern was already kneeling near the
injured creature. Wilbur lay resting on the front seat.
it, Fern? A dog? Is that Mr. Anderson’s dachshund? Buddy, I think’s his name.”
It’s a pig. Like Wilbur. Only he looks older, and I think he may be hurt. We
have to get back to Dr. Baxter’s right away!”
Fern tried to lift the pig but he was
heavy. He whimpered a little bit, like every touch by her diminutive hands hurt
we have to be getting you ready for supper. We’ve been gone a long time and
your mother I’m sure is missing you. Besides, I think Dr. Baxter has closed his
place down for the night.”
As he said
this, as if on cue, the sun lowered its place in the sky and descended behind
the ridge, darkening the quiet countryside.
leaving that pig out here. He may be rabid or something and you don’t want the
other animals on the farm to come down with nothin’,” Mr. Arable licked his dry
lips. “It’s probably for the best, Fern.”
We can’t just leave him out here like that! Please! I won’t do it, papa. I just
could have demanded it, but it had been a long day and he was hungry for his
supper. Mrs. Arable had promised healthy portions of meatloaf and potatoes au
down and lifted the hog, which was quite heavier than he looked. The sun was
down and lighting bugs flashed their radiance as the Arables made their way
home, now, with two pigs instead of one.
reached the farm Fern gently carried Wilbur to his pen. Mr. Arable lugged the
other pig a few steps behind her. The geese, horses, and sheep, having been
anxious all day due to Wilbur’s illness, were forced to hide their excitement
upon his return. Only Templeton scoffed at the piglet’s arrival.
you would have been bacon by now, kid.”
Wilbur cozied himself on a bed of hay and closed his eyes
for a night of rest. It had been a long day. The crowds had just left the barn
and he was exhausted. On the other side of the pen, away from the others, the
new pig, having waited for the throng to leave, investigated the barn and its
You look like you’ve been hurt,” the goose said.“Are you okay? By the way, my name is Gussy.
What’s your name?”
snorted in her direction, startling Gussy. She flapped her wings and several
feathers left her, afloat and drifting toward the barn floor.
she said as she made her way back to her nest.
were familiar. The sound of the horses’ tails flicking the flies. The familiar
rustle of wings and the clapping of webbed feet. The mesmerizing hum of
might you be?” He spoke for the first time. She intrigued him immensely.
“Charlotte. What a lovely name for such a lovely creature. You’re a
spider, are you not?”
I am. You have to forgive me. No one has ever called me lovely. And by this
hour most of the barn animals are asleep. I spend much of my time alone.”
edged closer, looking up at Charlotte, whose web was suspended high into the
barn’s loft. She had dismantled this day’s glorious word for Wilbur –
“Stupendous” - and had begun spinning a new web.
Charlotte, I am honored to be the first. You are indeed quite lovely. You will
learn that I’m not like the other barn animals you have met. No. In fact, I
would venture to say that I am unlike any barn animal you have ever met.”
see. Are you a pig, like Wilbur?”
over at the sleeping piglet.
“Yes. I am
in fact a pig, but I’m not like Wilbur, my dear.”
And what is your name, mysterious pig?”
He edged even closer. Charlotte could nearly feel the heat
from his breath.
“My name is Napoleon, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Napoleon? I’ve never heard that name before. It must be a
“Oh, my dear,” the pig smiled. “It is a special name. Just
as special as you and I.”
“I’m not so special, Napoleon. I’m just a simple spider. I
make webs. I catch food, and I spend time talking to Wilbur and the other
animals. Nothing really special about that.”
Charlotte released more webbing from her abdomen and put the
finishing touches on her silky net.
“Well, Charlotte, I won’t keep you any longer. It’s getting
late and I assume you’ll have a busy night catching your supper,” Napoleon
turned to walk away. “I think we will become friends, you and I. Good friends.”
“I hope so,
Napoleon,” Charlotte smiled. “Have a good night.”
“Good night, my dear.” Napoleon made his way to an empty
patch in the back of the barn. The other animals were sound asleep. He gave the
barn one last glance and saw Wilbur’s hind leg kicking as the piglet slept.
Napoleon smiled and closed his eyes.
Later that night, Wilbur had a dream. All around him people
were gathered and talking and cheering. They were praising him.
“That’s some pig!” one said.
“That pig is downright amazing!” another shouted.
Wilbur basked in their praise. On his head was a crown of
jewels and gold. He loved every moment of his new status. The words and
affection of the townspeople felt wonderful. And for the rest of the night,
lying peacefully, Wilbur enjoyed his dream.
The next day Wilbur was to be taken into town for judging in
the county fair. The fair was the biggest event of the year and Fern wore her
best summer dress. Red with white polka dots, it matched perfectly with the red
silk ribbon in her hair. She had awakened before everyone else in the house and
started her day early by washing Wilbur in a pan of sweet-smelling soap
bubbles. Wilbur was now fresh and gleaming, ready to prance for the judges. He
appeared fully recovered from his illness and Fern was delighted.
“Wilbur’s looking great, papa. The medicine that Dr. Baxter
gave him must’ve done the trick!”
Mr. Arable dusted a few crumbs from his chin. His breakfast
of biscuits and gravy warmed his belly and made him smack his lips as the sun
beat down on his tanned skin.
“I guess so, Fern. Ya’ll ready to go to town?”
The Arables loaded up the truck with Wilbur tucked safely in
a pen on the flatbed. Gravel crunched as the truck sped out the drive and
toward the road into town. A plume of dust filled the air.
Back inside the barn the animals were awake. Mr. Arable had
filled their trough and bowls and bags with enough feed to last them through
the day. The geese pecked at the seeds while the horses munched at their oats.
The sheep grazed nearby. Templeton popped out of his den for a morning stretch.
He took a deep breath.
“Ah! I love the farm life.” He sniffed at the humid air then
began nosing about, searching around for edible scraps. That’s when he smelled
it. A look of surprise painted his whiskered face.
“What is that god-awful stench?” he asked himself. He
followed the trail. No, it wasn’t the horses. Nope, not the sheep either. Then
he saw it. A dirty scarlet color. A heaving mass of hardened meat. Templeton
jumped at the sight. He scurried over to Gussy.
“Yes, Templeton?” she asked with a mouthful of seed.
“What is that?” he pointed in the direction of the pink
“That is a new pig. Napoleon.”
Templeton frowned. He sniffed the air again. He edged closer
to the dark pink mass. It was still sleeping. He edged closer, still,
mesmerized by this new scent, this new thing.
“Can I help you?”
“Holy smokes! You’re going to give me a heart attack.”
Napoleon turned his huge head. Strands of straw stuck to his
“Do you always sneak up on people when they’re asleep?”
“Uh, yeah. I mean, no! I mean—”
“Do me favor, rat. Find me some food. Not the bits and
pieces you eat, but real food.”
“Real food?” Templeton slyly stepped away. “Sure. Sure! I’ll
find you some real food!”
“Thank you. And don’t dawdle.”
Templeton raced away in a frenzy sniffing and searching
about the barnyard. Meanwhile, high above the barn, in the blue sky, three
geese soared near the clouds.
“Oh, look, Bess, isn’t that the Arable farm? Where your
cousin Gussy lives?”
“Why, yes, Gertrude. It is.”
“Let’s pay her a visit, shall we?” Mirabelle added.
They swooped down and landed upon the fence. They could see
the sheep grazing in the field. They could see a little black rat racing about
frantically. They could also see Gussy, who was dutifully pruning her feathers.
“Gussy! Oh, Gussy!”
Gussy looked up and saw her cousin, Bess. She hadn’t seen
her in quite some time and she was pleased by her visit. She flapped over to
the three travelers.
“Hello, Bess, Gertrude, Mirabelle. What brings you ladies to
the Arable Farm?”
“Well, we’re actually headed north. Can you imagine?” Bess
said. “This heat has been unbearable. Gertrude has some family along the coast
and we’re hopeful we can find some relief there. They’ve had hatchlings and the
farm is all abuzz.”
Gussy and Bess went on talking with Mirabelle occasionally
chiming in. Gertrude was becoming bored with the conversation and the seed
below was looking quite tempting.She
decided to hop down for a few kernels. She ate a few, wandering further and
further into the barn. Templeton passed her with a slice of old bread in his
mouth. Gertrude wondered where he was going in such a hurry, so she followed
him into the barn, deep into the shadows. Within seconds Gertrude became
incredibly flustered. She shot out of the barn.
Bess and the others stopped talking and turned to Gertrude.
“We have to leave at once. Gussy, do you know who that is?”
“Who?” Gertrude was now anxious herself.
“That pig. His name is Napoleon. He’s a monster! He cannot
Gertrude turned to Bess and Mirabelle.
“Let’s go, girls.” All three immediately took flight. “Be
careful, Gussy!” Gertrude’s voice was becoming distant. “He’s a monster! A true
The sun was hanging low in the sky now and an orange hue
captured the horizon. Gussy was terrified. Napoleon laid in the back of the
barn the entire day eating the morsels that Templeton ferried to him. Gussy
wanted to tell the other barn animals what she had heard. They had to be
warned. She decided she would wait until nightfall, when the notorious pig
would be asleep.
The Arables had since returned from town and Wilbur wore a
striking blue sash that named him “Best Pig” in the county. Weeks of
Charlotte’s beautiful writing in her web had truly won the judges over. Fern
brought Wilbur back to the barnyard. Though he was tired, Wilbur was still excited
from his remarkable win at the fair so he lay on his hay bed, unable to fall
asleep. All of the other animals, with the exception of Gussy, were now in deep
in their dreams.
“Wilbur. Wilbur,” Gussy whispered.
“Yes. Is that you, Gussy? Why are you whispering?”
“I have something to tell you, Wilbur. You’ll have to help
me tell the rest of the animals as well.”
As Gussy began to tell Wilbur what she had heard, there was
a rustle a few steps behind her. She quickly turned her long neck and found
herself looking eye-to-eye with Napoleon.
“Do tell, Gussy. What have you learned today?”
Gussy froze with panic.
“Tell us, you fat duck. Have you heard something about me?”
Napoleon turned to Wilbur. “Hello, son. I’m afraid we haven’t met. My name is
Napoleon. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Wilbur stared at Napoleon. He was at least five times his
size. His skin looked hardened, like crimson concrete.
“Hello, sir. Uh, Mr. Napoleon. My name is Wilbur.”
Gussy stood there motionless. Her heart quickened. Her
feathers quivered in the night breeze.
“Wilbur. That is such a fine sash you’re wearing. Best in
the county? Superb, son. Simply superb.”
Napoleon turned to face Gussy. “Wilbur, do me a favor,
please? Will you please fetch me an ear of corn? I am surely famished.”
Wilbur nodded and dashed off to the trough were Mr. Arable
dished out his eats. There was usually at least one ear of corn, maybe two.
When the piglet got there it was dark and he had to search through the slop for
the crisp, yellow ear. He shoveled the dark goop with his snout until after
some time he nuzzled a long firm ear. Got it!He quickly scooped it in his mouth and retuned to where Napoleon and
Gussy had been standing.
Wilbur looked around but Napoleon and the goose were nowhere
in sight. All he could see were two or three feathers floating softly to the
ground. Napoleon suddenly appeared from the rear of the barn. His skin now had
a darker tone to it and his brow was drenched with sweat.
“Oh, Gussy? I’m afraid she’s flown off. She mentioned
something about being with her cousin, heading north, I believe.”
Wilbur quickly looked up to see if he could catch a trace of
Gussy in the sky.
“She flew off? But her family is here. All of her friends
“I know,” Napoleon sighed. “But sometimes, my dear boy,
people do strange things. Animals do even stranger things. Let me ask you
something, Wilbur. Do you like being an animal?”
Wilbur was confused.
“What do you mean? I’m a pig, just like you, Napoleon. We’re
both animals, aren’t we?”
Napoleon smiled. A white feather blew near him and he
promptly mashed it into the soil with his hoof.
“My son, what if I told you that we did not have to be
animals? That we did not have to behave like animals. Like pigs. Would you like
Wilbur was silent. The full moon shone brightly over his
“I don’t know,” Wilbur murmured.
“Well then, observe, my son.”
Napoleon leaned on his hind legs and grimaced. He placed all
of his weight on his back legs then thrust himself straight up. Bones in his
lower back cracked and he frowned from the pain.
“Look, boy. Look at what a pig can become.”
Pure wonder filled Wilbur’s face.
“You can walk?! Like the farmer? And like Fern? But how? How
is that possible?”
Napoleon strutted toward Wilbur with pep in his step.
“You must understand, Wilbur. I am not your average pig. And
my boy, you are not either. Do you want to be more than just the best pig in
Wilbur thought for a moment. He immediately remembered the
dream he had the night before. All the praise. All the adulation. He had never
experienced such joy. Such power.
“Yes,” he answered with confidence. At that moment Charlotte
emerged to build her web for the night.
“Hello, Napoleon. Hello, Wilbur.”
“Good evening, my dear,” Napoleon called out to Charlotte,
who was high above the barn door. He lowered himself back to all fours and
turned to Wilbur.
“My son, stick with me and you will be the finest pig in the
world. Second finest, if you will.”
Charlotte? Charlotte, darling? I have a request for your lovely web this
Napoleon? I should be able to help you with that. What would you like it to
thought a moment, until a grin crept into his cheeks with a sinister
it should read: The large pig is God.”
“Hey look fellas, here comes his Majesty,” a crewmember
joked as he removed his dust-covered hard hat and curtsied in Juan’s direction.
All the guys laughed, the August humidity baking them in the Virginia oven.
Juan ignored them today as he always did, slowly walking
over to the tool shed where their equipment was kept.
“Hey, Juan, you gonna do some real work today?” the
jackhammer operator asked, cracking a sly smile while tugging his wide jeans
back towards his big belly.
Juan looked through the sweltering shed for the lightest
sledgehammer he could find. He didn’t want anything that would be too heavy. He
grabbed a wooden handle and gave it a couple quick tugs. It was sort of light.
It would have to do.
Juan made his way over to the area he was assigned, walking
as slow as grass grows. It was his way. With every other step, his mind would
involuntarily switch to another time and another place. The guys would notice
“Man, JB says he thinks Juan is mentally retarded, or
something,” Aaron whispered to Petey. The sun roasted their flesh. Sun-dried
Petey looked as if he was considering JB’s assessment, and
then shunned it.
“Naw. He’s just quiet. Kinda slow and goofy. But mostly
quiet, I think.”
Juan mustered up his strength to take the first swipe at the
remaining drywall. His crew was tasked with demolishing specific quarters of a
stately manner just off the west bank of the Potomac Rover. Off white chips
slapped his U.S.A. T-shirt and awkwardly fitting Levi’s as the sledgehammer
drove into the wall. The shock waves reverberated throughout his body and he
frowned in discomfort.
Sweat trickled down his brow as he slowly worked the wall.
In his heart he knew he really didn’t want to be there. The sun rose higher in
the sky and hours had passed. The other men in the crew had finished their
early morning tasks and were now enjoying lunches of homemade bologna
sandwiches and potato chips.
“Look at that. Ya’ll see that? Any of us could have finished
that wall in about 30 fuckin’ minutes,” JB whispers, throwing up his hand in
disgust. The men peer over at Juan from their shady haven under a mammoth tree.
“And he can’t blame it on age. He’s what? 26? Tops. He’s
just a lazy bastard,” the foreman whips. His skin stop-sign red from the summer
“Shit. Why don’t you just fire him? If that was me, you’d
fire me. He does this shit everyday, man.” Tyrone states, plucking on his
Washington Redskins T-shirt in an attempt to cool off. Sweat poured down his
face. All the while Juan plugged at the wall, occasionally taking a break to
wipe the waterfalls from his bearded face and catch a breath.
“Are you kidding me? I fire him for being slower than
everybody else and I get the EEOC all over my ass for racial discrimination.
This job pays me $25 an hour. I’m not about to risk it because some Mexican day
dreams or whatever the hell his problem is,” the foreman rants. “Matter fact,
breaks over. Let’s get back to work.”
The guys groan for a second then get back to their tasks.
The day’s duties soon end and everyone places their tools and equipment in the
shed so it can be locked up overnight.
“Juan! Let’s go,” the foreman yells. “It’s quitin’ time.”
Juan looks up from his labor and notices everyone is packing
up, so he stops and begins the 50-yard walk back to the tool shed.
“Sure thing, boss,” Juan yells out. His voice is light and
“Yea I knew you’d like the sound of that,” the foreman
grumbles under his breath.
All the guys have gone and the sun begins to set by the time
Juan has locked away the sledgehammer. He makes it home about an hour later and
is greeted by the sweet aroma of sizzling beef.
“How was work today?” His wife asks, smiling.
“The same,” Juan states. He passes by a glass book case
decorated with United States flags and photos of him looking younger and fresher.
In many of the photos he’s clean-shaven. Focused.
“Just the same?” His wife probes. She sprinkles paprika on
“Yep.” Juan softly responds. He slowly eases into the living
and frowns when he bends to sit on the sofa. He removes his grimy work boots
and places them to the side.
Slowly, he rolls up his right pants leg, meticulously
cuffing each inch all the way up to the knee.His wife moves from the stove in the kitchen and the light she blocked
now freely illuminates his shiny metal leg. Juan removes a latch and gives his
plastic and metal appendage a stern tug and it pops off from the knee down. He
grabs the crutches tucked behind the sofa and makes his way towards the
kitchen, again passing his basic training photos and Medals of Valor.
“I don’t know. Just seems like you would want to tell people
about Iraq, and what it was like” She pauses. “I know you wish you could be
back with your old squad.”
She looks up and throws a bright smile at him. He returns a
My big sister is yelling. She’s telling me to hurry up. I’m
trying. The stupid loops on my boots are being stupid. They won’t tie! In,
around, and then pull the bunny ears. That’s what momma told me. I think I can
They said it’s cold
outside, so I have to wear these big stupid boots. I want to wear my tennis
shoes, but I know Mo-Mo won’t let me. She’ll tell momma if I don’t listen to
her. Bend the bunny ear, loop it, and then pull. I got it! I got it! Mo-Mo! I
“Good! Now come on!”
She says, kinda mean. I pick up my mittens off the floor and my coat off the
floor. I want to put it on both arms at the same time but it’s not working.
“What you doing,
Che?”Mo-Mo sounds mad. “We’re going to
miss the bus!”
I can’t put my coat
on. Maybe I’m getting big! Stupid coat. I hate this coat.
“Will you just come
on?!” Mo-Mo sounds like momma. She helps put one arm in at a time. She did a
She picks up her
backpack and scarf from the kitchen. It smells like coffee. I follow her.
“Why are you walking
so close to me?” I don’t say anything. I lift my shoulders. “Come on, boy!”
She opens the door
and it’s cold. Very cold. The wind blows in our face. It kinda hurts. We walk
out on the sidewalk and it’s really snowy. We can’t really see. We can’t even
see the 7-11 sign up the big hill. My face kinda hurts.
Mo-Mo is walking fast. She’s almost down the big hill. She’s
almost down to where the bus comes. I wish I had a sled. That would be so cool!
I’d sled right past Mo-Mo and I wouldn’t even let her get on. My feet are cold.
These stupid boots are not warm, like momma said. Momma don’t know. She can’t
even fit them. With her big feet. Momma’s toes look funny too. It’s so cold out
Mo-Mo! Wait for me!
“Come on, Che!” She sounds mad. Plus I can’t really hear her
that good. My hood is on my head and her scarf is covering her mouth. I wish I
had my scarf. I think momma said it’s going to be below. Below is bad. It’s
very cold. I want to go back home.
Mo-Mo! She’s not even listening! I hate her! My toes are
very cold. And my face hurts bad. “Look, the bus should be here in a couple
minutes.” Her voice sounds funny. But it’s so cold. My feet hurt. My hands
hurt. My face really hurts. Mo-Mo, I’m cold.
She looks at me like momma does sometimes. Like on my
birthday or when I tell her good morning. Mo-Mo unravels her big fluffy green
scarf and wraps it around my face. It smells like her Strawberry Shortcake
It’s so warm. It feels like when I’m hiding under the
covers. It’s so warm. The wind is blowing harder now. Oh! I see the bus. Mo-Mo!
There’s the bus! But Mo-Mo doesn’t say anything. I think she kinda smiled, but
the wind is so cold. The bus door opens and Mo-Mo wants me to go first. Her
scarf is so warm.
It’s funny. My mother used to remind me of that incident
over and over again. You see, when we got older, my sister and I would
constantly argue and fight. Not physical quarrels, primarily just shouting
matches. It was mostly because I was an elementary school pest six years her
junior, and she was a cute little teenager with her own agenda. My mother would
say it also had an astrological basis. My sister Ali, pronounced with a long A,
is a Leo. I’m a Virgo. Apparently Leo’s are headstrong and like to take charge,
and who wants to deal with that crap, especially coming from an older sister?
But by reminding me of the frigid day, my mother would hope
to remind us, really me, of how important family is. She really wanted to let
know me how much my sister Monique loved me. (Monique is her middle name, hence
the loving moniker Mo-Mo.)
Growing up she was the closest in age to me, therefore she
got the brunt of my super annoying behavior. I can admit that now. I could be
overly playful, extra silly, and completely goofy.
Mo-Mo always had a big heart, even when she was in the sixth
grade. To this day she’d give you the warm scarf off her neck, even if it is
cold as hell outside and her scarf is 100 percent pure cashmere from Sak’s
Fifth Avenue. Purchased at full price.
I remember the house we lived in in those days. I believe it
was a townhouse. I can recall that the very next year, when I just in first
grade, I would begin taking the bus alone. The house key was tied around my
neck, dangling from a dirty sneaker shoestring. You can actually see the gray
tinged off-white string in that year’s school picture. Funny.
I remember sitting on the bed watching Popeye. I had a big
curly mane and the slightest little sound would give me chills. The sounds always
seemed to come from the kitchen, which was out the bedroom door and down the
hall to the right. I was the youngest of four, and my siblings would always try
to scare me. They really enjoyed it. The ghost stories they told me would flood
back when I heard a creak or a strange tap.
Looking back at what happened with my sister and I, I mean
God, what little kid knows so much about self sacrifice? The type of kid I was,
I know I didn’t appreciate the love Mo-Mo exhibited on an arctic Missouri
morning. I went back to that part of town a few years ago. That big hill isn’t
so big.Even the coldest weather is not
as cold as it seemed on that day.
In light of it all, I suppose my mother’s work situation
contributed to this amazing event and what has become a defining recollection.
I don’t argue with my sister anymore. It’s been a while since we argued about
anything. Now she lives 1,000 miles away in the Midwest, where it still gets
cold and the temperature regularly dips below zero in the wintertime.
A lot of things have changed. We both have families now and
kids who we must remind to grab their gloves and hats. I guess it is
interesting to look back and reflect on memorable days in our lives. Funny.
Monique’s scarves may have changed, but I know her heart has stayed the same.
Today we were able to secure the necessary supplies - rope,
canteens, insect repellant (it is ungodly hot here), and condoms (you never
know) – from the local shopkeeper. Once informed of our mission, the natives
have been scarce. It was quite a task to interest our guide in embarking on our
expedition. Wannagrabsumazz is several miles to the south of the Forbidden
Zone. I have assured Mr. Sternforce that we will have his precious talisman
within 72 hours. The natives have been abuzz with their folklore and tales of
doom. Rumor has it that those who venture to the Forbidden Zone never return.
Unfortunately for myself and my crew, Mr. Sternforce could care less about the
superstitions of savages.
We have traversed a deep and thick ravine and established a
base camp. The moon and stars and shining brightly tonight. The jungle sounds
are wild and ubiquitous. The insect repellent (actually a local concoction of
berries and monkey spit) has proven to be ineffective against the ravenous
mosquitoes, who are tapping into our flesh with surgical precision. Ringo took
an amazing barrage to his man sack. The poor fellow’s tea bags were swollen
like diseased oranges. Navel oranges. (Lefty and James continue to insist that
Ringo ventured to a solitary patch here in the jungle and attempted to pleasure
himself with maple syrup. Those winged vampires had a field day!). Ringo will
be escorted out of the jungle on mule back. I pray the best for his ball sack.
We crossed a treacherous river today. Angry rain pelted us
like wet missiles. Jacob, a good kid from Iowa, foolishly stuck his hand in the
murky river. He let out a terrible shriek and withdrew his arm only to find a
bloody stump where his hand used to be. Doc fashioned a fine wrapping and was
able to stop the bleeding with a combination of goat dung and York Peppermint
Patties. Although Jake is understandably distraught over the loss of his hand,
Doc believes he will survive without infection. I guess I have to hand it to
him. Poor choice of words. The captain is tired.
Today has been disastrous. In attempting to cross a strange
and dark swamp, we were separated from the supply caravan. I have sent out two
search parties and the only trace of them was a condom found in the muck. It
had been used. Giorgio volunteered to examine the contents further but I
informed him it was not necessary. He was adamant. I was forced to further
insist and he subsequently dropped his request. The condom and its contents,
however, have gone missing.
We have now been forced to take drastic measures to survive.
Several groups have been formed to scour this woeful bog for vegetation. It
seems nothing but moss and algae live here. Sadly, one of my men seems to have
gone delirious. Woods. Just moments ago he began ranting about food and what he
saw as a certain, looming starvation. He was later caught trying to eat his own
ass. It was a ghastly sight. Smith and Doc were able to bind his arms with
vines of the swamp. Though he is no longer a threat to himself or others, I
fear Woods may succumb to an infection: Doc refused to treat his assy wound. It
is now night and the cold has settled upon us. We will attempt to make fire and
rudimentary shelter to protect us from the elements. Damn Sternforce and his
blasted bauble! May God watch over us tonight.
We are just 100 meters from the Forbidden Zone and the
mountaintop where the talisman is rumored to rest in a deep cavern. There are
many strange flora and winged insects the size of birds. No humans live here.
Our feeble guide has given in to his foolish beliefs and has abandoned us. He
took with him a man’s boots and my last remaining condom. Damn him! There are
now just five men remaining and we have yet to enter this god-forsaken
Forbidden Zone. We are hungry, tired, and our morale is low. In addition to
that I am extremely horny and in need of a good whacking. I pray that Giorgio
steers clear of me.
We are now just 25 meters from the cave opening. We are a
day behind schedule and I suspect Sternforce has already attempted to contact
our liaison back in Wannagrabsumazz. No doubt some form of threat was issued. I
have instructed the men that I will enter the cave alone, as was Sternforce’s
wish, so that I may retrieve his sad trinket and return it safely without the
prying eyes of desperate men. Smith discovered a fine fruit that is palatable
and we have subsisted on it henceforth. Poor Doc, he was found weeping behind a
large spruce. This fruit, not unlike a kiwi, has given him the runs something
terrible. I believe explosive would be the most accurate word to describe the
pain his sphincter is enduring. We have truly angered God.
The Forbidden Zone is hell on Earth. I am now alone. I pray
to God that these words will again be seen by human eyes. I am perched at the
mouth of the cave. I will retrieve this cursed talisman for Sternforce. During
the chilly wet night we were attacked by the most ravenous beasts I am certain
man has ever encountered: a lost tribe of Bill O’Reilly clones. Oh, the horror.
They pelted us with questions that had no answers and spittle that must have
come from Satan’s anus. The bloviating and posturing was unbearable. We were
defenseless. I am now nursing my left leg and a gash above my eye. During the
commotion we were separated. I fear I am the only survivor. This journal is my
only remnant. I now enter this dark and evil cave, fearful of the unknown, but
in great need of finality.
I write now from a quaint inn and saloon of sorts in
Wannagrabsumazz. This will be my last entry. In that dark and miserable cave
there was a mysterious ornament. Smooth, heavy to the touch. I instantly felt….
enlightenment, rejuvenation. I do not know the source of the talisman’s power
nor do I wish to pursue it. I have since bundled the thing and shipped it at
once to Sternforce. No doubt he will find a way to extract the power of the
talisman and amass ever more riches, selling its energy-giving properties to
Japanese businessmen, Olympic athletes and same sex couples. I am the lone
survivor of this doomed expedition. Many fine men lost their lives.
I sit here now drinking a cold beer the locals make from
tree bark and bat sweat. It’s an acquired taste but it packs a punch no less.
Several times now, I have caught the bar maiden staring
wantonly at my crotch. I cannot blame her. My crotch is impressive.
In a moment I will offer to buy her a beer. Damn Giorgio and
that simple guide! I have no condoms. I am afraid I will have to experience her
unsheathed. God help us all.
Known Teeth Kingz
Corporal Sanchez wiped the sweat from his brow. Just one
hundred kilometers from their rendezvous, his company hunkered down for the
night, bringing an end to the day’s long march. The humidity quilted them.
Yo, Sanchez! You still have that extra water ration? I’ll give you double what
you were asking for earlier.”
was always thirsty, more so than the others. In boot camp he would drink his
canteen dry and offer to do KP duty for extra rations. They said he never got
adjusted to the new way of things. For Rodriguez, today was nearly unbearable,
and he wasn’t the only one: several men had already been visited by the medic
for severe dehydration.
J-Rod, no can do. Already got double from Jackson. Next time act. Be decisive.
Be a Marine!”
a chorus erupted. Troops milled about, pulling rocks from their boots, clearing
the sand and dust from their weapons. Some thought about their girlfriends at
home. Others jacked off in their sleeping bags with whatever remaining strength
they had left.
let me get a sip of that H20?” Rodriguez edged closer to Jackson’s tent,
resting this foreman at the apex of the triangle.
Rod man. Maybe after I drink this cube you can suck my dick and extract the
water from my tea bags.”
and Nguyen laughed. Their tents were just a few steps away.
“A, Nguyen. Nguyen!” Jackson called out.
“Que paso, my brotha’?” Nguyen had a straight row of pearly
“Man what the fuck was that bitch yelling about in that
village? Crazy dumb ass bitch.”
“I do not know, my brotha’. I speak Vietnamese, not Hanyu,
or Mandarin, for that matter.”
“Yea well that screechy chicken talk was driving me crazy!
We should have smoked her and that retarded kid of hers. Would have saved both
them a lifetime of heartache. Well, at least a few more weeks at the way shit
is going now. Won’t be much longer till we smoke all these gooks. I mean
chinks. My bad, Nguyen.”
“Hey, no problem, my brotha’.” Nguyen took a deep breath and
blew the dust and sand from his helmet and wiped it with a rag. “I’m an
American. Fuck ‘em all.”
“Ooh-rah,” Jackson flashed a smile and reached for his ear
rolled out his sleeping bag and lay on his back, looking up at the colorless
night sky. They had humped all day until they reached the village of Ltasa in
the arid Quixwuan Province. It was suspected that the Chinese military,
thwarted in the far eastern coastal cities, had regrouped and fortified the
area villages with troops and artillery. When Echo Company reached Ltasa, all
they found were old men with paper thin skin and old women with gray hair. One
or two sympathizers mouthed out. That was enough for all the men in the village
to be executed. The few younger ones who still possessed vitality were gunned
down as they ran for the mountains.
think we’re going to win?”
looked up from his wiping. Rodriquez glanced over from the rock he was sitting
on. He had managed to score a ration of water for triple what Sanchez had
“Sanchez, you starting that shit again?” Rodriguez shook his
head. “Yo, Jackson! Yo, you black bastard! Sanny is talking that dumb shit,
Jackson yanked the buds from his ears.
“Can’t you dumb motherfuckers see I’m trying to listen to my
fucking music? Comprende?”
“Man just tell your boy Sanny that we’re going to win.”
Jackson frowned. The camp lights struck the sweat on his
forearm and illuminated the defined muscles that ran from his wrist to his
“Fucking right we’re going to win, J-Rod. Sanchez. Ain’t
that right, Nguyen?”
Nguyen went back to wiping his helmet. A dry gale traipsed
across the sandy plateau.
“I’m just saying. We’ve been in this shithole country for
five months.” Sanchez flicked an insect from his neck.
“Well, don’t you worry about that, Sanny ole boy. You see
that over there?” Jackson pointed to the snowcapped peaks in the distance.
“That’s home, baby. That’s what we came for. Almost there now, Sanny ole boy.
“Yea I know. But fuck, did all those fucking villagers have
to die? I mean, they were probably going to die in the next few weeks, but—”
“But nothin’, Sanny. Fuck them goddamn chinks. Like I said,
we did them fucks a favor. You’ve seen how those fuckers look when they go from
the dry. The dry is a horrible fucking way to go. We ending their miserable
lives with honor. It’s a goddamn honor to meet God with a Marine round in your
“Ain’t that the truth,” Rodriquez knocked off the rest of
his water and tossed the plastic cube to the sand. “We’re Americans, Sanny. You
know how we do it. We don’t ask nobody for shit. We take it.”
“You goddamn right, tell your boy, J-Rod,” Jackson leaned
forward and the rage in his eyes smoldered by the camp light.
“If those fucking chinks didn’t walk out on us and the rest
of the fucking world at the International Water Summit we wouldn’t be here
putting American boots up their asses!”
“Amen to that,” Rodriquez smirked. Jackson again reclined in
“I know about the goddamn summit, asshole. Okay? I don’t
need a fucking history lesson,” Sanchez was now leaning toward Rodriguez.
Nguyen and Jackson seemed uninterested. “All I’m saying is that we could have
been more diplomatic. We could have tried to bring them back to the table.”
“Please. Don’t kid yourself,” Rodriquez said. “They saw what
we did in Eastern Europe, in Central Africa. We don’t negotiate. We
Sanchez waved a lazy hand at Rodriguez as if shooing another
“Look, fuck face, you want to sit around and negotiate while
your mother and sister are dying from the dry? You want to sit around while
their fucking eyeballs sink into their skulls and mangy dogs gnaw at them while
they’re still alive? In case you didn’t know it, asshole, we’re at war.”
“Yea a war we started.”
“Wise the fuck up! The freshening don’t give a fuck what
flag you fly. We’re all dead meat, eventually.” Rodriguez slapped Sanchez’s
boot and stormed off to another group that was playing dominos a few meters
“The freshening,” Sanchez sighed.
“That’s right, fuck boy. Good ole global warming,” Jackson
propped his elbow up and rested his weight on it. “Those goddamn polar caps
melted and blam! Too much fresh water in the ocean.”
Nguyen placed his helmet in the tent and sat out in the sand
listening to Jackson.
“Those suits knew it was coming,” Jackson laughed. “Now
we’re all meteorology scientists in this bitch. Too much fresh in salt means
flooded coasts, monster hurricanes and baby halleluiah send in the Marines!”
“And so now it’s China’s turn to burn?”
“You goddamn right. Those dumb fucks agreed to dump their
nukes. So now it’s time for an old fashioned Marine ass kickin’. We meet up
with Delta Company at the Szinwuan Pass one hundred kilometers from here and
it’s half a day’s hump up to the base of the Himalayas. After that, it’s
General Kwinluan’s last stand. He better bring all he’s got, because Mama
Marine wants her fresh motherfuckin’ water. His ass is going to fall like those
fucks at Kilamajaro, and those weak fucks in the Alps. We kick ass and take
Rodriquez returned to this hutch just as fast as he left it
(that quickly he had lost two weeks pay playing mahjong). Deflated, he cracked
open an old book; an ancient tale of war and strategy and of life. He had heard
it was a tale chock full of uplifting shit. He needed that. He picked up where
he left off.
“I just wish there was another way.” Sanchez kicked a pebble
with this boot and stared at his rifle, dusty and yet to be cleaned.
“Please. No venga with that bullshit. When we get to the top
of that peak, I’m goin’ to mash my boot in Kwinluan’s ass and crush that snow
in my hand and take a long, long drink.”
“Li! Li!” Rodriquez read. Li had always been a precocious
and curious child, and his intellect often found him in trouble’s way. Glossy
black hair covered his head. Mischief was his occasional cohort. His mother
called for him.
“Li! Your father and I need you to travel to the market,”
Xuwaun called. “We are in need of twine to bundle our catches from the sea.”
Xuwaun was a fastidious and square-built woman. She demanded much and doted
little on Li, her only child.
The boy had heard her words, but the strange and wondrous
countryside of the western province had always enthralled him. During lessons
at the schoolhouse he would daydream about the ants that marched in systematic
rows, following tiny, well-worn paths. He would imagine being their size,
exploring their tunnels and homes undetected, discovering the hidden delicacies
the ants may have collected and stored during one of their many raids.
This afternoon Li was following the flight of a dragonfly.
Long, stick-like, its iridescent wings sliced the prism of the sunlight. He was
quite far from home. Leaving the comfort and lushness of the valley where his
family had lived for many centuries, his journey had taken him to the edge of
where the grasses hue became golden, then all but within a shade of pale
yellow. His mother was nearly out of breath when her voice finally reached his
“Li! I will have your father take a reed to you! Come now
and do this chore!”
Li’s hypnotic gaze was broken.
“Li, my son, look at me, this is very important,” Li’s
father counseled. Chiwong was a thoughtful and hard-working man with rough
hands and tanned skin. His family had worked as fishermen and sea trappers in
the nearby bay for as long as men had lived in the province. Chiwong’s family,
much like many in the village, lived by modest means. Their thatch hut
contained only two woven mats and a large pot used for cooking.
“Li, the sea has not been as kind to us in the last few
outings. We cannot afford to lose one fish, nor a single eel. Visit Won Si at
the market’s center to purchase the twine. He has the very best twine in the
province. Do you understand?”
The boy’s eyes were aimed skyward. He was fixated on a cloud
he thought resembled his good friend, Lon Wi, fat and puffy.
“Li! Are you listening to your father?” his mother scolded while
stirring herbs into the pot, now filled with boiling water.
“Yes, I am, mother. I am sorry. I am listening.”
“Li, this is very important for our family,” Chiwong
continued. “Take this coral as payment for Won Si. He is a collector and will
appreciate adding such a lovely piece to his collection.
Li fingered the jagged coral. He thought resembled the
evening sky moments before the sunset. Or perhaps it was like salmon’s flesh?
One of many sea creatures he was not fond of but was forced to eat nonetheless.
“Go now, Li . And hurry back,” Chiwong said. “We must tie up
our catch before night fall and recast our baskets before the moon reaches its
height in the sky.”
Li held the coral tightly as ran through his village,
passing friends, neighbors, and Szu Chi, the bully who pushed him into a puddle
two days ago. The odor of fish entrails filled the air. There was a mood of
anxiety amongst the small fishing community, Li could feel it as he raced
through. Long faces, low eyes and haggard steps dogged many of the villagers.
“I will not let my family down,” Li vowed.
Li ran for more than two hours, stopping only once to sip
water from a quiet stream, before reaching the bustling market.Men yelled out prices and bartered and
bickered with other men for all sorts of unusual goods. One man had a shawl of
silky black and brown furs, another a basket of bear’s claws (Li pondered
wildly how the man secured those!).
Squids hung from hooks and old women cackled, toothless and
very wrinkled. Li had never been to the market alone. He clung tightly to the
coral, which was about the size of a large star fruit. Strange spices filled
his nose, pungent. Everywhere he looked people were talking, yelling, moving,
exchanging, laughing, trading, and watching.
“Boy!” a skinny man with a long beard called out. “What do
you have there?”
Li squeezed the coral and darted into the market’s crowd,
the rough edges nearly pierced his supple palms. Mules with packs of dried
seahorses and headless ducks clogged the busy roadway. He inspected every hut
and shop, but there was no sign of Won Si’s tannery. A painful ailing suddenly
struck Li’s stomach. He clutched at it and winced. His father had not given him
any goods to trade for food, and his long run to the market had left him
starved and in need of something to eat. Carts loaded down with plants and
filthy children brushed past him as he looked for where he might carefully
secure a bite to eat.To his left he saw
large portions of raw tuna, sliced longwise and displayed to show their
freshness. No way, he thought. He had eaten sea things everyday of his life,
and no matter his hunger today, he would opt for something else… anything else!
He took a few more steps, vigilantly avoided a steaming pile
of dung and a group of rowdy boys shoving each other, before he noticed a
gleaming fruit stand. Bread fruit, cactus pears, natal plums and leechee lined
the table. A thunderous rumble took hold in Li’s belly when he took sight of
the sweet delectables on the table. I’ll just grab one, he thought, to satisfy
my hunger, then I will find Won Si and leave this awful place. He had not felt
safe in the market from the moment he got there.
He edged closer the table where the glistening fruit lay,
like beautiful mermaids sunning themselves on a soft-sand beach. Merchants and
traders buzzed about exchanging barbs and babbling in strange dialects. Li
tightly cradled the coral in his left arm, then as fast as a humming bird
reached up with his right hand and snatched a shiny plum.
“Thief! Thief!” the shopkeeper screamed, pointing a long
dark finger in Li’s direction. Li ran as fast as he could, cutting between
carts and donkeys and ragged men and scandalous women. How could he have seen
me?, Li asked himself. His heart pounded so hard his chest ached.
Li finally came to a stop with hands on his knees. He took
one look back, saw no one following, and took a bite of his plunder. Juices ran
down his chin; their sweet and acidic qualities coated his empty stomach and
quieted the storm that had been brewing there. Li felt it was the best thing he
had ever eaten.
He devoured the plum in three bites and tossed the pit onto
the road. Li stared at it momentarily, thinking some panhandler or other
riffraff would try to sell it, probably as a talisman to cure swollen feet or
something to ward off evil wives.
Li looked around to regain his bearings when he noticed
dried skins and straps of leather hanging from a long post. Won Si’s!
“Excuse me, sir,” Li approached the shopkeeper, who was busy
haggling with a man over the price of a walnut brown water bladder.
“This is by far the finest water bladder you will find this
side of the Red River, I assure you.” Won Si was a tall man with a fine
demeanor. His black hair was neatly coifed, resembling a raven on a branch. Li
liked him instantly.
The man refused to accept Won Si’s price and he walked away
without saying a word. Li saw his chance.
“Sir, excuse me. Are you Won Si?” Won Si placed the bladder
back in its proper place.
“Yes I am, boy. Who are you? I have no food or items to give
out today. I’m sorry.”
“No. I am not here for that, sir. My name is Li. I come from
the western province. My father is Chiwong. He sent me here to get twine from
you. He said you have the finest twine and that I must bring it back so that my
family can secure their catches from sea. I have brought coral to you as
Won Si was impressed.
“I do know your father, Chiwong. He is an honorable man.”
Won Si stopped. He noticed faint, violet trails on Li’s chin. “Tell me, Li, son
of Chiwong, did your father send you on your travel with foods to eat?”
Li was confused.
“No, he did not.”
“And what of your mother? Did she?”
Again, Li answered with the truth.
“I see. So you have fed yourself by wayward means today?”
Li was startled and ashamed. All around the fuss of the
market seemed at once quiet. The rickety creak of wooden wheels and the barks
of dogs were dimmed by the silence of his own conscience.
“Come here, Li.” Won Si led Li to the back of his shop.
Hides of all colors and textures covered the floor. “Grab that… yes, the
Li knelt down and pulled an aged scrolled from a satchel.
Li unrolled the scroll. Light passed through the thin
“Read it. I have customers to tend to. But read that, Li. I
will return when you have finished.”
Li sat on a high stack of bear and tiger hides and began
reading the scroll. It read thusly:
In the beginning of time, the great turtle emerged from a
hot volcano. He carried the world on his back. Smoke clouded his eyes but the
great turtle was unfazed. He knew all mankind rested on his shoulders, so he
The universe was a cold and violent place. The great turtle
called to the winds and calmed them. Then the great turtle, with his mighty
claws, crushed the vile beasts that roamed the universe unchecked. Mankind must
find safety in his new life, the great turtle thought.
After some time all the weight of the world began to weaken
the great turtle. Though his shell was strong and impenetrable, the great
turtle could only do so much.
“I will find man a place where he will be safe to grow and
prosper. Where his numbers will multiply and he will live out his days in
peace,” the great turtle said.
It was then that the great turtle created the Earth as we
know it and all its inhabitants. He made the trees tall and green and the
oceans wide and filled with life. He made the sky blue as the ocean and stars
glimmering like diamonds.
“Mankind, I give this gift to you. Care for the Earth, as
you care for yourselves,” the great turtle said. “Find joy and comfort by the
sun at day, and rest and love by the moon at night.”
And all the men of the earth rejoiced with their new
“Find peace, live honestly in your ways, and keep peace all
of the days of your lives. For if you are not with peace, then war shall find
you. And if war shall find you, then your days, and your lives, shall be no
And with that the great turtle took the world off his back,
slid into the deep blue sea, and peacefully and quietly, fell into a deep
slumber and died.
When It Rains
The blanket curled and contorted. The rainbows and stars
that covered it dipped and peaked as the tiny legs kicked and the thin arms
flailed beneath. Just last month the little girl began sleeping in her own
room. She usually slept with her mother or her big sister. It was now not
possible for her to sleep her big sister. The mother was exhausted and justly
required her own space. It was not an easy transition for the child. She had
made excuses. The room was too dark. The bed was too hard. The crickets outside
were too loud. All of which were addressed. And yet tonight, her sleep remained
restless. Then a scream. Jacinda was a light sleeper, and the thought of her
youngest being in pain immediately woke her and she ran down the hall to
“I had a bad dream.”
Stars and comets wrinkled her pajamas.
“Oh, no. It’s okay, Ki Ki,” Jacinda whispered and rocked
Kiara in her arms. “It’s okay. I’m here. It was only a dream.”
Kiara sat up in her mother’s arms. Her brown eyes were
swollen and streaks like chalk ran down her face.
“No. It seemed real. It was scary.”
“It was scary? It’s okay. It’s okay. It was only a dream,
“No, mommy. I dreamed Thalia was dead.”
Jacinda slowed her rocking at looked at her daughter with
tenderness. The nighttime darkness filled the house.
“No, baby. It was only a dream. Thalia will be okay. Your
big sister will be fine. It was only a dream.”
Jacinda pulled the blanket back and helped the little girl
shimmy tightly under the covers.
“But mommy, the doctors said there was, she was incoperable.
“It’s okay, Ki Ki. It will be okay. God will make a way.”
The next day Jacinda placed the breakfast dishes in the sink
then scrambled to find Kiara’s left shoe so the little one could catch her
school bus in time. Thalia, pale with dry cracked lips, lay in her bed awaiting
Megan’s arrival, the home health aide. Megan was never late and Thalia became
accustomed to her daily greeting of a fortune cookie fortune and a warm smile.
Thalia thought Megan always smelled like cinnamon.
Jacinda spotted the small patent leather shoe under the
living room’s reupholstered red sofa. She knelt down and stretched out for it.
“Got it! Come on, Kiara! Come put your shoes on!” Kiara
bounded in bright with her hair neatly separated in braids. She had seemed to
forget about last night’s unpleasant dream. Her mother began to pull up the
little girl’s tights. In the background the morning news ran unnoticed.
“While area meteorologists did note a strange upper level
pattern in the jet stream state biologists remain baffled. One Native American
community in this small Kansas town says it has the answer. They’re crediting
Simon Whiteflower, a local shaman, or medicine man, if you will, for helping to
conjure the spot shower that produced the amazing crops you see growing behind
me. Locals say just hours after the downpour, vegetation could be seen
sprouting from the soil…”
The doorbell rang.
“Thalia! I think Megan is here!” Kiara shouted as she
grabbed her pink backpack. Jacinda hurriedly stepped to Thalia’s room. The air
was stale. Drafts from the air conditioning or from an open window chilled her
to the bone, so she lay under several layers of blankets and sheets in the
sour, musty room. An army of tan and white bottles, over the counter elixirs,
creams, and ointments lined the nightstand next to her bed.
“Good morning, honey. I think Megan is here. How do you feel
“I’m okay.” Her words were as dry as the air she breathed.
“Are you sure?”
“Okay. I’ll be back at noon, okay? To check on you like I
always do. See you then. I love you so much.” Jacinda kissed her on the
“I love you too, mom.”
Jacinda smiled and slowly rose to leave the room before
“I can stay if you want me to. It would be okay if you want
me to stay.”
Thalia coughed harshly and shook her head; her lungs and
“It’s okay, mom. You say that everyday, and everyday I say it’s
okay. I’ll see you at noon.”
She left the room and put her watch on, grabbing a jumbled
stack of papers stuffed in a manila folder. She heard the door open and Kiara
“Hey, Megan,” Jacinda slipped on her pumps and fumbled with
“Hey, Mrs.--.” She caught herself. “Ms.Hampton.”
Jacinda glanced over at Megan, not with an eye of anger or
annoyance but with an eye more of emptiness.
“I’m sorry. Force of habit.”
Jacinda quickly took one last look at the mirror over the
table in the foyer.
“How is she today?”
“The same, Megan. Unfortunately, the same. I’ll see you at
Jacinda made it into the office at Goldstein and Jerrell at
her usual time: A few minutes late. She swiped her badge and the machine read
the time. She would have to take her lunch, then come back early and stay later
to get the additional overtime she needed. Thalia’s medical needs had just last
month exhausted her health savings fund and she was about the start paying the
fees out of pocket. Megan’s portion was the most expensive, but Jacinda knew
she couldn’t function without the girl’s assistance.
“Hey Jacinda, did you have your coffee for today? You wana’
come get a cup with me?”
Jacinda and Peggy chatted everyday, but never about anything
too serious. Jacinda didn’t like co-workers knowing her personal affairs.
“Sure thing, Peggy. I could use a cup.”
Peggy grabbed two paper cups and searched the drawers and
the cabinets of the break room for creamer.
“I have to tell you, I was talking to Rose the other day and
you know our annual evaluations are coming up? Well, she heard that Mr.
Goldstein is going to talk to you about your tardiness, maybe even issue you a
Jacinda sighed, took a seat at the table and ran her fingers
through her hair.
“Yea I know, sucks. They’re supposed to give you a verbal
warning first, but I guess they just want to get to the point. You know
lawyers. Hey, did you catch that story this morning on the news? I think it was
“No. It was on but I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Yea it was pretty crazy. Some Indian in Kansas prayed to
God for rain and it fucking rained. Unbelievable. How much sugar you want?”
“Really?” Jacinda looked up but wasn’t too interested. “I’ll
take two. Splenda.”
“We’re out of Splenda.” Peggy stirred in the creamer.
“Uh, the blue one, was is that, Equal?”
“Ok. Coming right up.”
Peggy took a seat next to Jacinda and they both stirred
Steam arose from the cups in smoky swirls and wafted away
like tiny ghosts.
“So you think it’s real?”
“What?” Peggy blew on her coffee and took a small sip.
“The news story. With the Indian.” Jacinda took a sip and
frowned. Still not sweet enough.
“Who knows? I doubt it. But, then again, you never know.
They say God works in mysterious ways.”
Jacinda breathed on her coffee again.
“Yes they do.” She took a slow sip. “Yes they do.”
Horns blared and fingers and shouts of protests filled the
streets as Jacinda raced in her Toyota Corolla to meet Kiara at her bus stop.
Lunch went well. She spoke with Megan and had a simple meal of salad and soup
with Thalia, who took only a few bites before she became nauseous and was
unable to eat more. Megan had pulled her to the side and whispered that Thalia
didn’t look good today, more so than on days previous. She didn’t even smile
when her fortune was read: You will receive a special gift today. Megan seemed
overly concerned, but Jacinda didn’t want to hear it.
Now, sitting at the red light at least ten cars back from
amangled pile up, Jacinda anxiously
stared at the clock on her dashboard and frantically shook her steering wheel.
it! I’m going to be late. Damn it!”
quickly riffled through her purse to find her cell phone. She would call Megan
and have her ask the next door neighbor to meet Kiara since Megan couldn’t
leave Thalia and Jacinda didn’t have the neighbor’s phone number. Only she
couldn’t do even that when she looked at her phone and saw that the battery was
it. Goddamn it!”
blowing horns got louder and more irritating and Jacinda began to cry. Tears
rolled down her face as she thought about the two little girls that needed her.
Why? Why me? I’m a good person. I go to church when I can. I pay my tithes. I
don’t drink. I don’t do drugs I take care of my girls I pray everyday I don’t
lie I don’t steal I don’t cheat people I always try to do the right thing I
know I’m a good person I know I’m a good mother I know I’m a good mother I know
I’m a good mother!”
wiped her face and refocused her attention on the road. The cars in front of
her hadn’t budged an inch. She felt disheartened. A sad clown in the world’s
“Why me? Why can’t I get help for my children? Why is
Thalia’s father dead? Why did he get gunned down like a dog? Why is Kiara’s
father is jail what was I thinking why did I have kids so young why didn’t
anybody teach me to love myself why didn’t my mother teach me these things
where the hell was my father? Why might I lose my job? Why is my baby dying
from cancer, God? Why is my baby dying, God?! My beautiful little baby! Why,
God? Why can’t I save my baby?? Why, God? Why?”
looked up and again there was a sea of metal and car parts with the deafening
blaze of car horns wailing.
wiped her face again. The sitting and waiting was killing her. She decided she
needed a diversion so she reached over and turned the radio on. She hated the
radio, with its annoying disc jockeys and disrespectful and senseless music,
but she needed something to pass the time. All she could think about was her
six-year-old first grader getting off the bus stop alone and scared.
been all the talk on the Kansas side of the state line. Meteorologists think
they’ve spotted a similar jet stream pattern to the one that some say was the
answer to farmers’ prayers out in Peoria. Get this people, these farmers were
facing a failing crop, some on the verge of bankruptcy, when a storm, some are
using the term miraculous to describe the rain shower, but a storm swept
through and only hours later crops began to grow. Unbelievable, folks. Another
story coming in, this one has not been confirmed, though, I want to make that
clear, but another story coming in is that there was a little boy dying from a
congenital heart defect and somehow, today, this little boy is fine. There’s
nothing wrong with this heart.”
drunken sadness Jacinda heard the DJ’s words but was unsure if she heard them
clearly. She turned the volume up.
“Again, that story has not been confirmed, but at least one
caller who claims to know the family stated that this boy got caught in the
rain with this grandfather last night and today he’s healthy, strong and doing
well. Now, we don’t want to send the wrong message here, folks, but KCTV
meteorologists claim that a similar storm appears to be forming over the south
side of the city and it should begin raining in about thirty minutes.”
A thousand thoughts quickly shot through Jacinda’s mind like
a panicked horde of moths around an evening night lamp. Maybe I can pray for
money and dollars would rain on me? Maybe I can pray for Kiara’s father to come
home and the vindicating proof will fall from heaven? Or maybe, just maybe, I
can take my beautiful Thalia to lie just under that amazing rain cloud and she
will be made whole again, healthy again.
“They say the last
storm lasted between one to two minutes. That’s what they’re claiming out in
Peoria. Now folks, I don’t claim to be a religious man, but if I didn’t have to
be in the studio talking to you nice people, I might be out there on the
Missouri side of the state line in that rain.”
Jacinda jumped out of her car as fast as she could and ran
down the street. Horns honked and blared even louder. Her skirt fluttered in
the wind as she ran with desperation. She made it to a street corner with sweat
running down her back and checked her watch. Five thirty-nine. The rain would
fall at exactly six o’clock.
By the time
Jacinda reached Kiara’s bus stop there wasn’t a child in sight. She swirled in
all directions looking for her daughter as if her body was a top spinning out
of control. Only cottage houses and shrubs and trees met her eyes, along with
the desolate hum of Midwestern life. Jacinda took a deep, deep cleansing
Dear, Jesus. Please let my baby be okay.”
was panting heavily by the time she reached her house. Both three-inch pumps
lay somewhere in the neighborhood and there were now ragged holes where
pantyhose once covered her feet. The incessant clacking and pain became too
much to bear.
Megan!” Jacinda burst through the door a wild caricature of how she looked
earlier that day. “Megan! Kiara!”
Hampton?” Megan came from the long hall that adjoined the living room to the
bedrooms carrying a hamper of used Kleenex and soiled linens. “Is everything
have you seen Ki Ki? I was late and didn’t see her at the bus stop.”
Hampton. I thought she was with you,” Megan sat the hamper down and ran her
dusty hair back behind her ear. “I figured you would have called.” She lowered
her voice and stepped closer.“I have to
let you know, Ms. Hampton, Thalia isn’t doing too well. Not well at all. I
think maybe we should call her doctor, or… or maybe just take her to the
“No, Megan.” Jacinda’s voice was a
low murmur. “No, Megan. Not now. Not today.”
hardwood floor felt like concrete when Jacinda hit it.
“Ms. Hampton! Oh my— Ms. Hampton! It will be all right. Can
I get you some water?”
“Mommy?” The front
door closed behind her. Jacinda lifted her heavy head. The voice was received
like Christmas Day. “Why are you crying, mommy?”
“Oh, no reason, baby,” Jacinda cracked a faint smile and
wiped her tears. “I’m so sorry I was late. Where were you, Ki? I was worried
“It’s okay, mommy.” Kiara took off her backpack and knelt
next to her mother. “I walked with Emily. Her mommy just dropped me off.”
Jacinda smiled. She went to hug Kiara just as thunder
barreled outside in the heavens. She suddenly remembered the rain shower. The
miracles. Thalia’s chance. She checked her watch: five minutes.
“Oh my, God. Come on, baby! Megan! Put Thalia in her
“Why? What’s going on Ms. H?”
“Just do it. Is your car outside?”
“Yes. Of course. But what’s going--”
“Megan. Please trust me.”
Megan’s pulse quickened.
Jacinda, Kiara, Megan and Thalia sped to where the rain was
predicted to fall, just ten city blocks from their home. The long arm on
Jacinda’s watch struck the appointed time and as if on queue they could all see
the rain falling in the distance. It was a single gray cloud, lower than the
others. Water poured in even sheets over an empty field of dying grass the
color of old gold.
“It’s started! Stop the car, Megan.”
“But we’re almost there. It’s only about three blocks away.”
“I know but we’ll never get close enough with all this
traffic. I’ll have to carry Thalia.”
“Are you sure? We’re almost-”
“Yes, Megan! They say the rain only lasts about a minute! I
know it’s crazy, but this may be my baby’s only chance. Come on, Thalia.”
Jacinda opened the door and held the sickly teenager like
she was again a newborn. She was nearly weightless and cool to the touch.
“Mommy has to run, baby. Hold on, okay?”
Jacinda increased her pace and weaved in and out of the many
cars that had also heard about the coming of the miraculous cloud. She exhaled
and inhaled in heaving bursts.
“It’s okay, baby. We’re going to make it. We’re going to
Thalia opened her eyes. They seemed to be sealed with melted
“Why are you running, mommy?”
“Because, baby.” Jacinda took a deep breath. Her bare feet
bled from running on the asphalt. “Mommy loves you, and this is special rain,
baby. They say it has power to heal things, baby.”
Thalia’s head bounced in her mom’s arms. The sheet that
covered her became unwrapped in the dash to the field. All around them people
were running and trying to catch the rain. Old women with walkers, teenagers
with torn ligaments hoping to play college ball, greedy financiers who prayed
for more money, poor families with no food to eat, homeless men and women with
no where to lay their heads, con artists and snake oils salesmen hoping to
bottle the rain and sell it at astronomical prices, and single moms with dying
children. All around people flocked to the rain.
Sweat covered Jacinda’s face and ran down her back and inner
thighs. The humidity was unforgiving.
“Almost there, baby. We’re almost there.” Jacinda could see
people dancing in the rain. Rejoicing! Something must be happening!”
The soft grass was the first blessing, Her feet no longer
throbbed from the pain of the concrete.
“Almost there, Thalia. Almost there.”
Jacinda slowed her pace.
“Thalia? We’re almost there, baby. Thalia?”
She stopped walking and looked down. The sheet slightly
obscured the girl’s face.
“Thalia, baby? We’re almost there.”
Jacinda pulled the sheet from her daughter’s face and it was
colorless. Her eyes were firmly shut now. She was lifeless, a blank
mumbled before dropped to both knees. The rain suddenly stopped and the cloud
was gone just as fast. Some people shouted and released tears of joy. Others
cursed God and heaven because they missed it. They swore and yelled out in
Jacinda just sat there in the grass, holding the dead body
of her first born child.
“Dear, God. We were so close, baby,” She ran her fingers
over the girl’s cold face. “We were so close, baby. I’m sorry. Mommy’s sorry,
baby. I’m so, so sorry.”
Sweat covered Jacinda’s face and ran down her back and inner
thighs. The humidity was unforgiving.
“Almost there, baby. We’re almost there.” Jacinda could see
people dancing in the rain. Rejoicing! Something must be happening!”
The soft grass was the first blessing, Her feet no longer
throbbed from the pain of the concrete.
“Almost there, Thalia. Almost there.”
When the water struck them it felt like a million
butterflies fluttering in and out of their bodies, their skin, their souls,
their pores, and their very essence. No more blood flowed from Jacinda’s feet.
Thalia opened her eyes wide and smiled brightly, as if she had tasted life for
the first time, smelled the zest of grass for the first time, sampled the
beauty of an evening sunset for the first time.
“Momma, I can stand. You can put me down.”
Jacinda glowed as she lowered Thalia to her feet. Men, women
and children danced and celebrated all about them, holding hands, praying,
weeping with joy.
Thalia stood and towered above her mother. The girl lay
bedridden for so long Jacinda forgot how long and lean her lovely daughter was.
They’re clothes were soaked in a glorious torrent of healing.
“Thank you, momma. Thank you for believing.”
Jacinda beamed. Mascara ran down her face. Her white silk
blouse lay drenched tightly to her skin. She stuck her tongue out and tasted
the water. It was sweet. Thalia edged closer and embraced her mother.
“I love you so much, momma. Thank you for never losing
Jacinda hugged her daughter as if her life, Jacinda’s life,
depended on it.
“Baby, believing is all I had left. Believe me. It was all I
Born and raised in Kansas City, MO, Che Parker attended Grambling State University in Grambling, LA and later graduated from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, with a Bachelor’s in Arts degree in Communications Studies. He began his professional writing career as a newspaper reporter for The Call Newspaper covering local crime and politics in both Kansas and Missouri. He later moved to Washington DC as a staff writer covering national healthcare issues and Capitol Hill hearings for the American Hospital Association. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated and resides in Alexandria, VA, with his family where he works in Public Relations. In 2009, Che Parker earned his Master's degree in Writing from Johns Hopkins University, where he was named Outstanding Graduate.