Category: short story

Anything is Possible

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It’s occurred to me lately that I’m never going to be “discovered.” The phone isn’t going to ring again with someone hoping for my services. Nothing is going to happen that will rescue me from my current situation. That’s not to say my current circumstances are bad, nor am I waiting for rescue. For most of my adult life, I sort of half-expected things were going to get better over time. I no longer expect that.

No, this is it, as good as it’s going to get. If I failed to save for retirement twenty or thirty years ago, it’s not going to suddenly happen now that I’m seventy. The next big landmark in my life will probably be a catastrophic illness or accident, a medical bill I might not be able to pay, a Go Fund Me site, but now with the pandemic, I suppose the line for charity bail outs will be interminable.

On the other hand and possibly on the brighter side, nothing seems to make sense anymore. Merely watching our own government handle the pandemic is an exercise in absurd logic. It’s like watching a Betty Boop cartoon. Nothing follows from what came before, and anything is possible. There’s a chance, albeit a small one, that when I leave my house this morning I’ll bump into Johnny Depp who was just coming to see me to offer me a role in his new film. We’ll go have coffee and he’ll offer me more money than I’ve ever made in my life, just to be part of a fun, new experience. That could happen. I’m not holding my breath, but it could happen.

Or a meteor could land in the vacant lot down the street and I could take it home and crack it open, finding that it contained pure old! Lots of things could happen.

Kent State and Me

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As an older white man, I am amused by the sudden outpouring of animosity I come across with increasing frequency on the Internet. People like me are responsible for everything wrong in the world today. Gee, just think of what I could have accomplished over the last fifty years if I’d only been paying attention! Instead I was acting out, exerting my privilege without knowing it, stomping on the toes of my fellows and earning myself a life sentence in Hell when I shuffle off this mortal coil.

I do remember what I was doing when Kent State happened. It was early May, the first days of early spring at the University of Missouri campus, and I was doing my laundry. Every month I would wash my sheets whether they needed cleaning or not. I was still a virgin, so as long as my bed smelled like me it was fine with this budding substance abuser.

Some people doing their laundry were watching TV in the main lounge of our building, and there on the news they kept showing a loop of the black and white film showing students just like me being fired upon my other young men just like me, only who had had the misfortune to join the National Guard to avoid being sent to Nam. My first reaction was self-centered. “Great, I finally get to college and they’re shooting us.”

I knew who the enemy was. It was the Man. He was all those rigid old men whose photos you saw on the walls of banks and real estate offices, stern, rigid men who had served in WWII and were now in charge of everything. Indeed, they were all white. They enjoyed sports and thought the Boy Scouts of America improved the lives of the young men who would some day take their place as pillars of the community. They were staunchly anti-Communist, and believed America had a sacred mission to spread democracy one bomb at a time.

Thank God I was unaware of all my privilege and advantage or I would have probably taken more LSD than I actually did and skipped even more classes by hanging around in the student union and flirting with languid young women who were just plain lazy and unmotivated.

CRIMES AGAINST NATURE

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The noise in my head is very loud.

If I’m going to be a criminal, I want to do something to attack the social fabric that tears a really big hole, one that will be remembered for years. Fuck propriety. Where did following rules ever get me?

Some people talk about a “social contract” as if it had been drawn up by lawyers and signed by witnesses. From what I’ve seen, it’s a bunch of unspoken agreements designed by those who have to exclude those who haven’t.

If I want to have sex with barnyard animals, that’s up to me and the critters. If I want advice, I’ll ask for it. Of course you’re free to accuse me of crimes against nature, but I think you’re talking more about yourself here than about me or Nature.

By the way, I don’t want to have sex with animals, that’s just something that came to mind while I was writing. A lot of what I say surprises me. I’m the first one to hear of it as my fingers dutifully type what the voice in my head dictates.

In fact, if the noise in my head were audible to others I’d surely be jailed or hospitalized before the day is through.

As Good As It Gets?

 

Remember, you’ll make smarter choices if you can believe deep-down that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

One set of voices croons “Things are unfolding exactly as planned. All this was designed by a superior intelligence with our best interests in mind. Even if we can’t understand what’s happening and why, that doesn’t mean that it’s not all coming together as it should.”

Of course you’re free to worry and fret if that’s what you want to do. Your reaction to what’s coming down will not affect the way these events unfold. “It is what it is.”

We could even dare to assume that though some things aren’t perfect yet, they’re on their way to becoming just that. In the long run, it won’t matter how long it takes for them to reach perfection, because the pains of the struggle will be forgotten in face of the bliss. As the Apostle Paul said “I reckon that our present sufferings do not compare with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

All this change could be seen as exciting. If you ever complained of being bored, consider that now your prayers have been answered. There’s a good chance that unprecedented upheavals are in the works. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

On the other hand, you could also take omens and portents quite seriously and begin practicing rigorous self-quarantine and stockpiling whatever you fear you might run out of while you’re holed away. By the way, how will you know when it’s time to emerge from your bunker? Will someone sound an “all clear” or will you just notice the ominous silence?

There’s a good chance that what you’ve assumed to be true about human nature in general has been a whitewash, a convenient lie. Most people are as stupid as they are cowardly. Most people would gladly stab you in the back as they pick your pocket. If someone they admire tells them to do so, they’re capable of the worst sort of treachery and will feel not a shred of remorse if caught.

It’s usually more convenient not to focus on these unpleasant truths, but avoidance doesn’t make them any less true.

It’s more fun to celebrate minor victories than it is to get to the bottom of what needs to be fixed and then scrape your knuckles trying out various fixes.

Besides, most plans are simply arrogance. Desires come and go, seemingly important at the time but in retrospect, less so. In one ear and out the other. Surprising beauty appears unexpectedly and then vanishes without warning. At first, names and dates seem momentous, but ultimately prove they aren’t. Most ambitions are merely nurtured grudges and planned disappointments. Again, they come and go seemingly of their own volition.

 

Saucer

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It’s after midnight but they still haven’t arrived. I’m getting sleepy but am determined to stay awake until the saucer lands. They cautioned me it won’t make a sound, but I might feel a rush of wind and smell ozone. The ship itself won’t be terribly bright, just a burnt orange glow. If you’re looking right at it you’d see it, but then why would you be looking in my yard in the middle of the night?

So far I’m the only one in my family who takes this seriously. I’ve been packed and ready to go for days now. My wife is unsympathetic. The kids can’t get bothered. Fine, let them stay. I’ve been ready for a change ever since I retired five years ago. There’s nothing I want here. Nothing at all.

The other retired guys all meet for coffee at the local supermarket coffee shop at six a.m. If they’d open the doors at five half of them would be there at that time. They talk about politics and sports. Their wives take a several table, but there aren’t as many of them as there are of us. I don’t know what the women talk about. Probably us.

The fact is, we’d all be thrilled if aliens really were taking an interest in us and wanted to take us away. Only I seem to have the faith. The others may follow as their hollow lives become even emptier. I have no interest in converting them to my faith. What’s in it for me? Where I’m going, I don’t need more friends from back home. They never did much for me in the past. No, I’m looking forward to transformation, to becoming somebody else entirely.

What will it be like to wake up my first morning on another world? Will be there one sun or two? Will the vegetation be completely different or just exotic? Will women find me attractive? Will I be attracted to them? Do they even have men and women, or do they lay eggs or give birth through a hole in their sides?

I’m sure it will be way different, but I find that prospect exciting. Anything but more of this same old same old. I figure if the saucer doesn’t land, I can always move across the world to some place like Mongolia or Tasmania. Things might be different enough there to stave off boredom for a few more years.

MISSING PORTION

The first few days they took me to an institute of some kind, maybe a research university, where after a brief physical examination, they simply asked me questions. How did Bach’s music differ from Chopin’s? What was the radio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference? What is plutonium? Do most compounds exist in more than one state? How many apply to water? What was the first network situation comedy filmed instead of shot live? Where was it filmed? Why were so many early television shows based in New York?

I knew the answers to most of the questions they asked. Whether or not this impressed them I couldn’t tell, because they simply moved on to the next question. After three days of this, I was tired and told them so. I wanted to be shown their planet. This request confused them. “But this is our planet,” the replied.

So this was it. They lived in bunkers underground. And I thought my options were bleak back home.

I asked them what they did for fun. The replied they watched a lot of our television shows, but since the speed of light was only a measly 186,000 miles a second, they only now were getting the shows we had broadcast in 1957. They asked me who I preferred among newscasters, Douglas Edwards, Walter Cronkite or that new duo, Huntley and Brinkley.

I told them I was homesick and asked when the next saucer would leave headed back toward my home. They laughed nervously. I told them I was serious. They said they’d ask, but there was a big universe out there and they couldn’t guarantee the timing would suit me.

In the meantime, we could try collaborating on a TV show. In our interviews, I had mentioned that my earliest memories of being delighted by creativity and wit came from watching Steve Allen on the Tonight Show. I told them I had always hoped I could have a show like that, and improvise as effortlessly as Steve Allen had. They proposed that we do such a show, and went so far as to buy me some over-sized glasses that resembled those worn by Mister Allen and Roy Orbison, for that matter. I would interview a bevy of pony-tailed starlets with names like Gigi, Gidget and Brigette, as well as some bearded hipsters named Dirk, Bret and Clay. We could talk about upcoming movies and hit records we were excited about, even though there were no such products. I’m not sure they even had television on this planet, but they did have a way of storing our performances.

They gave me a piano onstage which I could pretend to play, while they piped in Bill Evans performing in his unique style.

We made five, one-hour shows, and I became more and more comfortable playing the role of TV talk-show host. In the course of my conversation with these faux starlets and stars, I learned:

That the surface of this planet was a radioactive wasteland, the result of an unfortunate nuclear war that took place years ago.

That the forms my hosts had assumed for my sake came from their study of our planet, but in actuality they were a green, bubbling foam that rose a few inches when it got excited and then settled down to being a slimy carpet.

That they couldn’t guarantee me that upon return I would find the Earth at the same era it was when I left. Time was a slippery thing across great distance. Celestial navigation was both an art and a science. Fortunately, my memories were equally likely to become foggy and vague, and if we did return at a different time, it would be sort of like an alcoholic coming out of a blackout and having to buy a newspaper to find out the date.

But I was willing to risk it all just to get home.

WON’T YOU JOIN ME?

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I have access to real truth that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. With this truth comes power. If you become my disciple, you will wield unimaginable power. With power comes wealth. People will find you more attractive because you are now wealthy and powerful. You will never regret a moment after you become my disciple.

My truth is an unearned gift that was given to me by God Himself. I don’t know why He chose me, but He did. He wants me to draw worthy souls to myself in order to experience this Truth and Power and to eventually know Him. I am merely His servant.

In order to be my disciple, you will have to move to be with me. This is not an attractive area. No one has ever come here on vacation. There are no tourist guides written about its beauty. It’s a distant suburb of a dying rust-belt city in the middle of America. Even the motels have shut down. At least half the houses and commercial buildings are lived in by vagrants, raccoon’s and possums. I live in a tent. You can have your own tent, if you bring one. There’s room for several tents.

We don’t own the land we’re camping on. Nobody knows who owns it, and nobody cares. There is city water nearby, and nobody seems to mind us using it. We could call all this a “miracle,” or merely a series of oversights. What it could be called doesn’t matter. It’s our life, here and now.

We need someone to learn ventriloquism in order to operate several dummies we found in an abandoned house. This could provide a way for us to attract followers and possibly earn money through street performing. What the English call “busking.” It would be nice to have some children in our community. Hanging around only with other old people ultimately proves depressing.

If you’re coming, give us a few days notice before you arrive. During the hot weather we’re often nude all day long, and we don’t want to give you an unpleasant surprise. We have no hidden agenda regarding nudity. It’s simply been the natural outcome of heat and isolation. We’re not into free love any more than most old hippies.

The truth I have to share with you is Absolute Truth, not corrupted by falsehoods of any kind. It is the Real McCoy. It is what you’ve been looking for for all of your life. Once you embrace this truth wholeheartedly, you will never be the same. You will no longer cause yourself or others grief. You will stop pointing the finger at others and blaming them for your unhappiness.

And that is just the beginning of what you will experience and learn from what amounts to a conversion process that can best be described as “returning to your natural state.” The cost? It is, of courses, absolutely free.

Somebody Somewhere

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Is getting rich doing this. Has gone viral. These thoughts haunt me as I write books to self-publish on Amazon or write for by blogs. But are they? Does anybody who’s not writing vampire teen fiction really sell books? Isn’t everybody writing but nobody’s reading? That’s sure what it looks like from this perspective, and I’m not completely blind or deluded.

 

On the other hand, I’m no longer young. It’s been a long time since I “showed promise.” Nobody would ever guess that I have my finger on the pulse of today’s youth. Still, almost everyday I hear about someone whose making two thousand dollars a month from having his blogs read on Medium, or some lady who writes romance novels and sells them in bundles to addicted readers and who is buying a McMansion somewhere in the States while interviewing decorators.