Elias Crowe


Part I:  How Elias Came to Understand his Blood Heritage

Elias Crowe was one year, eight months, two weeks, five days, sixteen hours and forty-six minutes old (give or take a few minutes), when his mother was taken by the “big C.” That’s right; consumption.  And although he had little knowledge of this, other than wondering where his Mum had got off to, he was quick whisked away by his grandparents to a tiny place in Wales called Llanon.  They lived in a cozy but modest farmhouse, on the edge of a beautiful rolling moor, with a small brook (or “nant” as Grandpapa called it) cutting through the bottom of the property beside the sheep pen.

It was there that they lived very happily and quite unremarkably for five years.  Each day, when he was old enough, Elias went to school, gaining friends and good marks from his teacher.  Each night, Grandpapa would tell Elias stories before tucking him into bed.  These were wonderfully fantastic tales about the olden days of knights and damsels, and of animals and dark men who lived in jungles far, far away.  So it was no wonder that one night, as Elias slept, he began to dream of a beautiful, lush jungle inhabited by beautiful large beasts.  He kept above them by swinging on the vines, but watched the large cats skulk below him and the colorful birds scatter before him.  In his dream, this seemed like hours upon hours of pleasure, but ended abruptly when the jungle ended at a large stone wall.  The top of the wall was as high as the highest tree, and stretched as far as the eye could see to his left and right.  Am I not lucky to be right in the middle where there is an opening in this wall? Elias thought to himself (as people so often do in dreams).

And into the large opening he went.  It took much longer to get through the wall than he’d imagined it would.  It was much more of a tunnel than a wall. As he walked through the dark tunnel, he noticed that his feet were wet and very cold.  He looked down to see that he was walking through an icy stream running through this tunnel.  He looked back at the jungle, but somehow the wall had closed.  He made his way out of the tunnel, and had to squint until his eyes adjusted to the overwhelming whiteness surrounding him.  He was high up on a paved hill, overlooking a vast, open valley below him, that rose up into a string of cloud-covered mountains.  The ground all around was frosted with a light snow, but because this was a dream, he was not cold, but simply in awe.  He began to make his way down the path to see where it led, but stopped when he saw children playing not far away.  He watched the children play, all dressed in grayish white, their skin the color of snow.  They were playing but their faces remained slack with boredom and they were silent.  And while Elias was pondering the oddity of these things, he spotted a small figure walking towards him down the path he’d just come.  To his surprise, it was his school friend Henry.  As he drew close, Elias was startled at Henry’s eyes.  Where there should be only one pupil, Henry had a second small one beside it: like a small bird’s eye interrupting the colored iris.  Henry did not speak but continued to draw closer.  Elias backed away, and from the corner of his eye, he saw the other children walking towards him, their eyes like Henry’s too.  Elias ran, the children ran after him, and from over the children’s heads came a large black, faceless shadow.  “Your soul is mine,” the shadow pronounced in a calm and breathy tone.  It came close to his face, a shadowy hand came toward his eye and as it touched, the shadow recoiled and disappeared.

Elias awoke.  He’d sweat through his sheets.  He stood, and as he did, he saw that his Grandpapa was sitting in the chair near the door.  “You met the stealer of souls, did ye not, boy?”

Elias nodded his startled and confused little head.

“A frightful one isn’t he?” He asked again.

Elias nodded again, shivering to think of that cold, faceless shadow that had touched him.

“I’ve been wondering when you’d meet.  Your time has been long in coming.  So long in fact, I thought you might not be your father’s son.”  Elias thought he might possibly still be dreaming, so he pulled up his wet sleeve and pinched his arm.  No, he was most certainly awake.

Elias sat back on his soaking sheets and his grandpapa walked over to him and put a hand on his damp shoulder before promptly removing it and wiping it off on his pants.

“Elias, my boy, you’ve just met your foe and you’ve just seen the true faces of those he’s robbed. Did you know them?”

“One was my friend Henry but it was not Henry—his eyes were wrong.”

“That is what Henry looks like in truth.  And it is your blood heritage to find his stolen soul and the souls of others and restore them to their rightful owners.”

“How do I do that?” Elias asked, still feeling both confused and terrified.

“Your dreams, of course.” His grandpapa said with a chuckle.  If Elias had been older and sarcastically minded, he would’ve thought, Of course, it only makes sense.  To which he would’ve meant exactly the opposite.  But Elias was not older, and in fact, still only a sweet naive child, so he nodded his head bravely, knowing very little what all of this meant.

“Your dreams will be trials that you must overcome to find the lost souls.  It will be difficult and you must be brave whenever you close your eyes in sleep.”

“Grandpapa, can’t you come with me to help me?”

“No Elias.  I did the same as you when I was no older than you are now.  But when you are ancient as I am, you no longer dream such dreams.  As I guided your father, I will guide you as I can whilst you are awake, but you will be on your own in your sleep.”

For the remainder of the night, Grandpapa explained many ways for Elias to find and rescue the children’s stolen souls. He listened with his brave little heart and his mind was saturated in trepidation.

“You are a soul seeker now, Elias Crowe,” Grandpapa so named him.

Meeting Jake “Cray” Lazenby


I sat alone that night, on the edge of the river, picking old scabs off my legs an crying. People said there was gators who came outa the river at night, but what do I care?  They kin come an eat me any old time they like.  At least, that’s what I thought in my tortured ten year old mind.  I listened to the tree frogs singing their songs and the fish making splashes in the water.  The air was that lovely semi-salty smell that reminded me of our last house across from the mangrove trees.  They made the water black, you know.  Life was a lot better there with those mangroves.

Somewhere behind me, a soft porch light flicked on and a screen door creaked open.  I turned to see that it was our new neighbor.  He had a strange name and kept to himself mostly.  I peered over the tall weeds to catch a good look at him.  He seemed really tall.  He turned his head to look back into the house as he held the door open.  He gave a whistle and out came two brown dogs who seemed all too glad to be romping around at night. He talked to them in a kind voice, but I was too far away to hear what he was saying.  I watched him sit down on a chair on his porch and look out toward the river.  I crouched lower, hoping that he wouldn’t spot me.  I pictured myself like a lion waiting for its prey.  He just sat and watched.

Before I had a moment to react, one of the dogs had found me and was wanting to play.  He started tugging at the bottom of my shirt.  I sat up, “Stop that!” I scolded in a furious whisper.  “Let go my shirt!”  I stood to tug, and as I did, I heard the man yell, “Here, Pal!”  The dog turned his head and went running full speed for its master.  The man was standing now in front of his porch, closer to where I was.  The dog licked his master’s hand and nuzzled it with delight.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” the man said, stepping closer.  “You alright?”

I nodded, tugging on my shirt.  He could see me clearly, but I could still mostly only make out a tall shadow.

“He’s jus a pup, so he don’t know any better yet.”

“I’m fine,” I said, suddenly realizing that my eyes were probably still swollen from crying.

“You sure you’re alright?  You look like the dog gave ya a bad fright.”

“It’s not the dog,” I admitted.

“Oh, I see.” He said in a thoughtful tone.  “Well, it seems to me that when I’m having a bad time that a glass of sweet tea makes everything better.  Come on.”  He started walking back toward the porch.

I wasn’t thirsty, but I followed him, mostly out of curiosity.  The kids at school said that he had two entire walls of his house that were books.  And one of them was fake.  Rhea said that the fake one was a hidden door to get to a secret room.  I didn’t believe her of course, but if there was truth to it, what would be hidden back there?  I peered through the old screen door and saw that in fact, there were two walls of bookshelves.  Why would a man need so many books?  One of em’ had to be fake.  He must’ve caught me looking in, because he said, “You can come in too if you want.”  I stood still and probably looked nervous.  “Or you can just stay on the porch out here.  I’ll go bring out the tea.”  He went inside and I could hear him humming in a nice soft, low voice.  I don’t know what it was, but it sounded kinda like a church song.  My family only went to church when Jesus is a baby every year or when somebody dies (which isn’t often), so I only know a few church songs, but boy do they all sound the same.

He brought out two mason jars of sweet tea with lemon slices floatin’ around in the ice.  He handed me one and sat down on the chair closest to the left edge of the porch.

“I like to eat the lemon slices once they soak up the tea and spit out the seeds. This is the best place to do that.”

Now that he was sittin’ still, I could see that I was right about him being tall.  He was real tall.  He had really cool eyes too, like when he was born God spilled gold glitter in em’.  And he had some weird scars all up one of his arms.  They were big and a lot whiter than the rest of his dark skin.  I think he saw me looking at em’ because he said, “Never tussle with a gator,” and took another sip from his mason jar.  Things were pretty quiet after that, so I tried to think of something to say.

“What’s your dog’s name?” I asked.


“What’s your other dog’s name?”

“Same. Pal.”

“That’s weird.  How come their both named the same?” Momma woulda slapped my face if I’d been rude to her like that.  I shoulda kept my opinion to myself.  “Nobody wants to hear what a child has to say,” she’d tell me.

But he didn’t say that.  Instead, he laughed.

“You know, you’re the first one who’s ever asked me that.”  He smiled, his eyes seeming to peer back into time.  “I once had a dog I name Marie.  And then I met a sweet lady named Marie.  She got all offended when I had to say things like, ‘Marie, you quit drinking that toilet water.’ Or ‘Marie, stop draggin’ your nasty butt on the floor.’”  He slapped his thigh and let out a chuckle.  He had really nice teeth and a really nice smile. “I figure Pal’s a safe name.  Ain’t nobody gonna get offended by that.”

And I laughed too, despite my earlier troubles.  Our laughter died down and things got quiet again.  He seemed fine with the quiet, but I thought it felt like we were expecting something bad to happen.

“My name’s Ella May,” I said to fill the air. He held out a long-fingered hand to shake.

“And I’m Jake, but everybody calls me Cray.”

Poor Lillian

Everyone knows what that look means and Lillian Crandenburg was an expert at detecting it.  You see, Lillian was a plain thin woman (bless her heart) with dish-water brown air and dull grey eyes.  She never struck anyone as anything more than your stereotypical recluse librarian.  And that, in fact, was what she was.

Every Tuesday morning, on her way to the Piggly Wiggly, she walked past “Trish’s Hair Salon.”  As if by some blessed miracle, this was when Trish’s place just so happened to be fully booked.  Filled with makeup wearing women sporting large unmoving hair and french manicures, the place was buzzing with life–not good life necessarily, but life nonetheless.  Now, if you’ve never experienced the talk that goes on in a hair salon, you’ve never gossiped.  It’s the kind of gossip that your Sunday school warned you about as a child and the kind that the preacher admonished yearly from the pulpit after some small scandal erupted from such talk.

“Oh, here she comes,” said Bertha-May in a half yell, half whisper so as not to be heard by Lillian but of course by everyone in the salon.  These women loved three things: games, gossip, and tradition.  And when the three could be combined, something close to perfection was at hand.  So, as always, a scrap of paper was drawn from a fish bowl to determine the name of the lucky woman in the shop who would then bestow upon poor oblivious Lillian, the newest, most creative and wild hairdo she could imagine.  Many times, this included complimentary accessories and clothing that would accentuate her new do.  From teal mohawk to purple spikes, everything was tried.  This fine tradition was now on its sixth month and still going strong.  Normally, this assessment would usually last for at least fifteen minutes, if not more.

This particular morning, providence smiled on Rita Fischer.  “I think,” she said thoughtfully, “that a nice mahogany hair color would bring out her eyes–you know, make them sparkle. And maybe some makeup would help too.”  Everyone turned towards her in disbelief and Trish gave a small gasp.  Never before had anyone put forth a good idea.  After a quick moment of awkward silence, Trish spoke up.

“You know, Rita, you’re raght.  She needs a makeover–a real one. What da ya say she becomes our liddle project?”  Most of the women excitedly nodded in agreement and a few clapped in jubilation; some skeptics held out for a couple of moments, hoping that Trish was being sarcastic.  One after another, women shouted out ideas and tizzied around the shop devising immaculate plans for the new and improved Lillian Crandenburg.  That’s when Mrs. Mauricia L. Myers graced the shop with her presence.  Everyone froze in silence as if Saint Mary herself had just walked into the room and stopped time.  She raised her right eyebrow (well plucked, penciled, and arched I might add), opened her mouth to say something as if about to inquire what was happening, and closed it again, realizing that she did not care to know.

“Can I help you?” Trish managed from across the room.

“I’m here on behalf of the women’s auxiliary. I’m wondering if I might give you a brochure to let your–” she paused for a moment glancing around the chaotic room, seeming lost for words. “–patrons know about the fundraiser and charity auction in two weeks.  It will be held at MacIntire field at two ‘o clock in the afternoon and will go into the evening.”

For the first time in her life, Mrs. M.L. Myers felt out of place.  No one around her was talking, and they made it obvious that she was the current focus of their attentions.  This was precisely why she made it a point to only give her business to the salon down the street–they practiced social etiquette.  She hurriedly stuffed a few flyers into Trish’s hand, raised her lovely eyebrows, turned and walked out the door before anyone had time to explain the silliness.  As the door shut, the noise once again rose as the women got back to planning.  Poor Lillian; she was really in for it this time.


A few days later, the well-meaning women with too much time on their hands and too little to think about, put their devious plan into action on Lillian’s behalf.  By some kindness of fate, Bertha-May (as oblivious as always)–while spying on Lillian from behind the grapefruits in the grocery store–noticed that Lillian was thoroughly engrossed in a romance novel.  After reporting this to the ladies, the vote to send Lillian  mysterious love notes was unanimous.  Thus, Bertha-May took it upon herself (with the occasional grammatical and spelling help of Rita) to write these love notes.  She always liked to sign them Your Secret LoveI know this is cheesy, and if other women had known, they would agree, but Bertha-May thought that a little extra effort was needed in Lillian’s desperate case.

After a week and a half of love note sending, Bertha-May grew frustrated that every time she had “accidentally” run into Lillian, Lillian said nothing about the “Secret Love” nor did she mention any odd mail. This exasperated Berth-May to no end.  And being the tactless woman she was, decided to straight up ask her.  Thankfully, right before she was able to blow her cover, she was interrupted by Mr. Lawson asking her about something.  To this day, she still doesn’t remember what he was babbling about.

Now it was two days until this charity auction was about to take place and the girls’ plan was in full swing. Bertha-May had sent the last note from the secret love which was the most imperative of the letters.  I never read it myself, but I heard Bertha-May and Rita brag about their collective genius many times afterward.  It read something like this:


My Dearest Darling Lillian,

  Although it has not been a long time that I have written you, I feel as if I must meet you and reveal myself to you face to face.  Since I have been so open with you, I must meet with you in person and know if you feel the same way towards me.  If you are willing, meet me at 3 o’ clock at the charity auction this Saturday.  Wear a red dress with a yellow flower pinned to your left lapel.  I too will be wearing a yellow flower.

I hope to meet you there.


  Your Secret Love


Now this is as cliched as the dickens, but the ladies thought it to be a fine piece of work.  A few days prior to the note, Rita had contacted her sister’s college roommate whose husband had a cousin who was a former Abercrombie and Fitch model who was older now and desperate for work.  Plans were set and ready to go, and now all the girls had to do was dress and groom Lillian.  Rita took it upon herself to invite Lillian to a free makeover session at Trish’s on Saturday afternoon before the auction.  She made sure to drop a few names of other homely women in town that would serve as props to make the scene look a bit more authentic.  She thought Lillian seemed excited–she raised her eyebrows slightly and made a slight grimace, which Rita took to be her smile.

To the surprise of the women, Lillian arrived at exactly 1:30 at Trish’s on Saturday.  All of the women tried to act non-chalant as they brimmed over with pure elation at the site of Lillian being dolled up.  And to think that they had done such a good deed for such an outwardly unexcited person.  She did get “all prettied up,” as the women like to say.

Trish gave her that mahogany color that really did make her eyes sparkle and the makeup that made her prettier.  Some of the women later admitted they were glad that Lillian didn’t look this good on a regular basis, because if she did, they would have to be more careful about the watching of their husbands.

The last and most crucial part was the dress.  Lillian had come not only homely because of her face and hair, but because of the ugly sack she called a dress.  It was red but only in theory.  Ten years ago, it might have been a nice shade of red, but as it was, the dress was tired and worn and really, very ugly.  The only glimmer of hope came from a small yellow flower clumsily pinned on her left shoulder.  Rita thought it best to get Lillian to spill the beans about the love letters and she would happen to solve Lillian’s problem of the ugly dress for her.  Yet, as Lillian would have it, she never once mentioned the letters nor of her reason for getting beautified.  Finally, Rita just said that all the women could go and pick out a dress from the consignment shop next door.  She helpfully steered Lillian right to the dress that had already been picked out for her.  Lillian kindly tried on the dress (didn’t like it), but pretended to like it for Rita’s sake–she just seemed to like it so much. Rita was envious.  She wondered why this woman didn’t normally wear something to show off her nice thin figure.  People like Lillian were just plain wasteful and ungrateful.

The women walked with heads held high as they slowly followed Lillian.  The couldn’t imagine what she was thinking.  Was she excited?  If so, she surely didn’t show a bit of that excitement to them. Was she nervous?  She couldn’t be with the way that she carried herself with such calm, defiant dignity.

Once at the auction, Lillian stood alone as the women purposefully dispersed themselves amongst the crowd.  At exactly 3 o’clock, a voice came over the loud speaker announcing that the auction of good-looking men would begin soon.  Everyone made their way to the stage, excited to see these fine specimens.  When Mr. former model stepped on stage, all the women were silent–knowing that only Lillian was allowed to bid.  Lillian stood motionless for a moment, and noticing that no one else was bidding for this man with the yellow flower, bid a dollar.  After winning, she nodded at the women and escorted her budget-friendly prize away.  Where they went was anyone’s guess.  The women were indignant at her ungratefulness.  They assumed that she didn’t even realize how hard they had worked just to make her feel socially accepted.

An hour later, the Secret Love (named Ralph, for those curious) resurfaced without Lillian.  The women figured that Lillian was bored by him, paid him a little sum and had left him to spend it at the charity auction.

The funniest part to this whole story is Lillian’s secret that only I knew.  The silly plotting of the small town women played perfectly into her own plan.  She had waited a long time for this, and now she had gotten what she wanted–and no one even knew–except for me, of course.  I could never tell them though, I would become just like Lillian: the center of a small town’s world.

The Greater Good

Dear Journal,                                                                                                         Today  Day 1

Today I am thinking of Ben and Alaya because one of the Society guards saw my wall and realized I knew how to read and write, so he gave me a small piece of charred wood and some bark.  Ben taught me how to read and write. He said I must be really smart to do all that at three.  I’m six now (I think), so I’m much smarter than I was then. I wonder if they’ll bring my writing to Ben.  I hope so.

Alaya never knew how to read because she was too little when her parents died a few days after the world ended. Ben told me all about that.  When his Uncle was a child, there were things that did all of the hard things for you: computers so you wouldn’t have to think much, cars and trains and planes so your legs wouldn’t get tired going far away, guns so that you could kill people without touching them, and air conditioners to make things cold. Ben said that his uncle taught him all of those things after his parents died in one of the earthquakes.  He told Ben that because people were so lazy, they would never figure out half of the stuff that they had before.  Ben said Uncle was a pestmist.  I’m not sure what that means, but I think annoyed.

“Things are very basic now,” Ben always told me.  He said, “One day, people will figure out how electricity works again and they’ll figure out how to make the engines that made cars go.  But until that happens, it’s our job to wait.  My uncle told me that after volcanoes erupt like they did when he was a boy, things start to grow after a hundred years or so.  I guess I probably won’t see that happen, but maybe you will.”  He winked at me.

Ben’s really smart.  He works for the Society.  It’s his job to make a library out of any old books that people find around the world so that maybe they can start making smart things like air conditioners again.

I have to go.  I have to dream now.


Dear Journal,                                                                                                                Day 2

I did not like my dream yesterday.  It didn’t help me do what they wanted and it was scary.  I dreamed about the big black bird that sometimes sits in my square patch of grey sky.  He sits, watching me with his small black eyes and clicking his beak like he wants to eat me.  In my dream, he came down from the window and flew around the room trying to peck out my eyes.  When I woke up, there was a dead black bug beside me.

That’s why I’m here.  To help the Society make a new world.  Ben and Alaya tried to hide me, but the Society found me.  Alaya told me “If they ever find you, Rya, they’ll use your gifts until you’re all worn out.  That’s why you need to stay hidden with us.”

Sometimes I got tired of never going anywhere.  Alaya said she was sorry that I had to sleep in the secret closet, but I didn’t mind.  I had all of the things that my dreams created, so it was very nice.  They let me keep my dream plants and insects in there with me.

“You better stop having so many nice dreams or you’re going to outgrow your closet,” Ben told me and laughed.  Ben smiled a lot.  Not like everyone here.  No one is happy here.  I’m not happy here.  Even my grey walls cry.


Dear Journal,                                                                                                                  Day 7

There is another child here!  I heard him last night!  He was crying and his voice echoed around.  Alaya told me that I was the only child she had ever heard of and that after the world ended, no one was able to have kids, so my mom must have been special.  I wonder if this boy is special too, like me.  Alaya and Ben always liked to tell me about the night they found me.  Ben is so funny.  My favorite time they told me the story was the day they acted it out.

“Okay, you sit over there Alaya.” Ben said pointing to the chair at the table. “And Rya, you have to be over there at the far end of the room which stands for being outside.  Okay?”

Alaya began. “Ben, do you hear something?”

Ben crouched down on the floor with an exaggerated look of curiosity.  After a moment of listening, he stood upright and said, “Nope.” He began walking and froze in place as Alaya shushed him with a finger to her lips and a very intense look on her face.  “I definitely hear something.”  She grabbed her prop which was also the weapon that she used in real-life and stood up.  “I think it’s a cat,” she whispered.

Ben cupped a hand over his mouth so that I wouldn’t see it, but he made a terrible sound that was supposed to be a cat. I laughed and Alaya gave him a look of “Really, Ben?  That’s the best you can do?” and pointed him towards his weapon.

“I hear it,” he said in too excited a voice.

“Let’s go. Maybe we’ll get a good meal,” Alaya said.

She was very good at making you think she meant it.  I think that is exactly the way she did things the night that she found me.

They made a walking motion toward me, Alaya keeping the serious searching look and Ben put his hand to his ear and mimed listening.  As they came closer, Ben whispered to me that I should make a quiet crying sound.  I did and they acted as if they discovered me.  Ben looked surprised and Alaya looked concerned.  She seemed to look me over very carefully and then looked around to see if this was some kind of trap.

“It’s a kid.” Ben stammered.

“Let’s get her inside before anyone else finds her.” Alaya said.  Ben handed his weapon to Alaya and picked me up. Throwing me over his shoulder, they walked back to the table.  Ben set me down and I laughed.

Alaya smiled.  “I don’t think that you carried her back like that, Ben.”

I remember her smile because she didn’t use it much.

“I’ll never forget what a surprise it was that you just came from nowhere.” Ben explained. “You were about one year old, we think.  When I picked you up, Alaya noticed that the ground where you sat was green.  Nothing else was green.  It was like it is now–all ash and dust and withered things.  We knew right then that you were special.”

I don’t want to be special.  I wonder if the boy is special too?  I hope that I can see him.  They haven’t let me come out of my room since I’ve been here.  I think I’ve been here…a long time.


Dear Journal,                                                                                                             Day 13

Today, I did really good.  I dreamed really good things and when I awoke, there were several green and beautiful plants growing beside me.  The Society guard looked very pleased and said that I could have all of the writing stuff that I wanted.  I wasn’t too sure if I should, but I asked him about the other boy.

“Which one?” the guard asked.

I think my heart stopped for a moment. “There’s more than one?”

“Sure.  There are four of you.  Two girls, two boys.  Four is the number of hope, you know.  You four will save us.”

I don’t know if I want to save everyone.  I want to go back to Alaya and Ben.


Dear Journal,                                                                                                               Day 17

Today, I heard the guards talking about the one little boy.  I think the boy has nightmares because the guard said that things were getting dangerous.

“What was I supposed to do?” my favorite guard told the other.  “The thing was coming at me and even in books I’ve never seen anything like it.  So I killed it.”

“You know that we’re not supposed to interfere.  These four are supposed to make our world new, no matter what they bring.”

Bring?  Is that what they call the things that come from our dreams?

Today I was thinking about Alaya.  I miss her so much.  I cried last night because I thought of the day the Society found me.  It was the middle of the afternoon and Alaya had asked me to read to her while she finished sharpening the weapon that she was making for me.

“Ben’s got plenty of book smarts,” she told me, “but we’re alive because I keep us that way.”  Her weapon and the one that she made for Ben were made from old road signs.  She named them Lyrh.  Hers was red and had an “OP” and Ben’s was yellow and had part of a black squiggle.  Ben showed me pictures once of swords and Alaya’s weapons are kind of like swords–maybe a little wider.  The one that she was making for me was small, very light and silver.  Alaya said that it was not ideal, but it would have to work until she could find better material.

Ben and Alaya never agreed about one thing.  Alaya didn’t trust the Society.  She said that they just wanted to hold the power, not to help anyone but themselves.  Ben disagreed and always said that it was the Society that paid him in regular food supplies.  It was only enough for two people, so Alaya always went out at night to find more food.  Sometimes, I read books to help me dream about plants we could eat.  It only worked once.

Anyway, Ben had brought back a book from his library and said that I would like it because it had really nice pictures to go with the stories.  So I started reading.  It was a story about two very stupid children who go wondering into a forest and start trying to eat a witch’s house.  The pictures were nice though.  I was finishing the part where the one boy with the weird name is in the cage, when someone knocked on the door.

“Quick, take your book and Lyrh in with you and hide in your room.”  I did and when she was satisfied that I was hidden, she opened the door.

Three women with high, too cheerful voices said that they wanted to just check in and see how she was doing.  Alaya gave a cough and said that she was very sick.  The women made sympathetic sounds, but unlike people normally would, they did not go away.

“May we come in?” The leader asked.  I recognized her voice.  Alaya said that she called herself Mina and Ben worked her name into sentences like “She is Mina than you.”

“What is this?” Mina asked, and I heard Alaya’s Lyrh being slid across the wood table. “You know this is illegal.”

“It’s…art.” Alaya said.

“Mmm…hmm,” Mina responded. She didn’t sound like she was listening.

I heard someone drawing close to the secret panel where my closet was.  “Mina.  Do you smell that?” an unfamiliar voice asked.

Mina took a deep breath. “I do.  What an odd smell.  Sweet.”

A moment later, the panel opened and I had to shut my eyes because the light hurt them.  Someone pulled me out.

“A child!” Mina cried. “I knew that you and your silly husband were keeping a secret from the Society.  How can we help one another if we keep such secrets?”  She squeezed my arm tight and looked down at me.  For the first time, I saw that she was hideous: like the witch from the story.

A moment later, Alaya grabbed me and ran out the door and into the dusty brown and grey.  I did not remember what the outside looked like in the daytime because the few times I left the house, it was pitch black.  I felt like I was in a dream. We ran, but after a few minutes, I realized that there was nowhere to hide.  Everything was bare as far as I could see–except for the huge cement building in the distance that was the Society and a few tiny scattered shacks like ours.  From behind one of the shacks, some Society soldiers made their way toward us. We were trapped.

Alaya knew it too.  She picked me up in her thin arms and dropped to her knees.  She squeezed me tight to her chest–it was hard to breathe.  The dust flew up around us and it made me choke. I had never seen her so afraid before or seen her cry.  Her tears made brown marks on her dusty cheeks.


That’s how I’m here now.


Dear Journal,                                                                                                              Day 25

Today, I got to meet the other children.  I was led to a room that is at the end of several long hallways.  The nice guard told me that all of us needed a break.  He was right.  The last few nights, my dreams only created dead things.

When we came into the room, it was filled with all of the plants that I had dreamed and many more that I think came from one of the other children.  I stood for a moment, trying to take the deepest breath I could hold because the air was good and sweet.  I closed my eyes and filled my lungs and when I opened my eyes, I saw the other three children in front of me.  At first, we weren’t sure what to do or what to say, but after a moment, I told them my name.  Only one of the boys had a name.  He called himself Pit.

Something moved behind the children and I saw something like in books–it was some kind of animal. It was large and furry and had enormous wings.  It was a beautiful blue color and made a soft purring sound.

“It was from my dream,” said the girl.  She seemed very proud of it and said that it was friendly.

The rest of the time, we played.  At least, I think that’s what play is like.

It was the best day of my life.  I’m going to dream now.


End of the Week Humor

This is an exercise on writing from a different perspective on a well-known scripture passage (2 Kings 5).  Enjoy the silliness 🙂

Dear Mr. Naaman,

  We have not been formerly introduced, but my name is Eli Sha (a.k.a. prophet of the God of Israel) and not to be confused with my friend and predecessor Eli Jah (also prophet). I feel it my duty to let you know that there has been a misunderstanding. Your master was slightly misinformed as to who might be able to help you with your malady. It is not the king that can help you, but I who will give you the aid you desire.  The king was in quite a state when he received the summons to heal you, and although he might be glad to accept the lavish gifts you sent along, he cannot heal you.  Enclosed are my references that you may verify at your convenience if you so desire. I only ask that you bring a change of clothing, an open mind and a bright smile.  There will be no payment necessary.  If you find these terms to be acceptable, please meet outside my front door, four days from now.  My home is the third hut on the left after the sycamore tree in the middle of town. 

Thank you,

         Eli Sha



(please feel free to read about them in the local news scrolls or contact them directly)

The Widow

The Shunammite and her son

The Harpist 


Dear Mr. Eli Sha,

  Thank you for your speedy reply–your messenger is quite fleet of foot!  I have taken the time to review your references and was thoroughly impressed.  As I write this, I and my servants are preparing to leave tomorrow.  I do not know if the severity of my condition was adequately conveyed to you, but what health I have left is quickly diminishing.  I must admit that I am rather nervous about the journey, partially because of my physical condition, and partially for my anxiety about failure, but have high hopes.  Aside from your references, you and your god are well-known here.  Many people have told me stories about the miracles that your god does.  Again, I have great hopes.  Although you specified no payment, how can I not repay you?  I am a businessman and nothing is settled without payment.  Looking forward to meeting you face to face day after tomorrow.




Mr. Eli Sha,

  I have never been so very insulted in my life!  First, you did not answer your door, but instead shouted through it.  Are you afraid that you too will contract my disease?  And to add insult to injury, you told me to dip myself 7 times in the Jordan.  Have you seen that river?  It’s worse than any other I can think of!  It’s completely unsanitary.  

  (Please disregard the above sentiments–I was under a great deal of stress and have no extra parchment replacement).

  After giving it some thought, I decided on the advice of several servants to at least attempt the dipping.  As we neared the river, I could see how murky it was.  Nothing like our Damascus rivers.  Could you really have not chosen a more hospitable river?

  I studied my deformed hands as I gave one last thought to turning back.  I have come this far, I thought to myself and stepped to the edge of the muddied waters and slowly made my way into the river.  I shivered and closed my eyes as I dipped beneath.  As I surfaced, some kind of unknown fish swept across my chest, but I forced myself to hold my composure.  After each dip, I opened my eyes to look at my hands.  4,5,6…nothing had changed.  My skin was still white, and my fingers deformed, ravaged by the leprosy.  As I came up from the 7th dip, I held my eyes closed as I took a deep breath.  When I opened them, I was astounded to find that my skin was returned to its former state!  I even still had my battle scars. I am not quite sure how that’s possible, but I cannot complain.

  As my servants looked upon me from the shore, they began to shout with glee at the sight of my renewed visage.  I too leapt and shouted and slapped my new hands against that blessed dirty water.  We made haste to come to see you again to show you that indeed, a miracle was committed.  

  When we arrived to thank you, I must apologize, I was expecting a much older man.  I’m afraid that my surprise was plain to you and hope that I did not offend.  I do whole-heartedly thank you for the kindness of you and God.  I wish that you would have accepted more payment than the meager amount I sent with your servant after we parted.  

  Thank you again. 

Forever in your debt,

 (new man) Naaman


Dear Mr. Naaman,

  I am so glad to hear that you are so well-pleased.  And no worries, I take no offense.  People say I look 10 years younger when I have taken the time to trim my beard and wash my tunic.

  I feel I should inform you that my servant who caught up with you to ask for just a few shekels, etc…lied to you.  He took those things for himself and I have seen to it, that for his treachery against you, me and God, that he and his generations have taken your leprosy upon themselves.  Do not let this distress you.  Hopefully, the next time we meet it will be under favorable circumstances.  Keep yourself out of trouble.


  Eli Sha

Is Your Man Ready for the Next Step? Take Him to a Pet Shop…

I first spied Tonya and Garrett at the pet shop in the nicer part of town.  They were in their mid-late 20‘s and had the typical yuppie look: Garrett in a light autumn sweater and American Eagle jeans and Tonya in capris and a cute boat neck shirt.  What caught my eye was the look on both of their faces.  Tonya pushed the cart through the aisle with a look of witless wonderment and Garrett looked marginally appeasing.  He was only going along to insure that they did not end up owners of a pet for which he had no use.  Garrett was nothing if not efficient, I surmised.  They made their way from puppy to puppy, Tonya chittering in a high baby voice and cooing and Garrett only producing a grimaced smile whenever Tonya looked back at him for approval.

He had probably been acquainted with far too many little yippie dogs that produced too much noise and commanded too little intelligence.  It was likely that he could not stand the vacuous expression that was bred into those punting-size dogs.  Then again, I could just be projecting my own dislike of small dogs upon him.  If he was like me, he’d want a dog that was big enough to kill a man, but intelligent enough not to.

Or perhaps it was commitment issues.  Was Tonya wearing a ring?  Nope.  Ah, that’s what his look meant.  Garrett wasn’t ready for the dog step.  That would mean long-term, and closer to a no-back-out plan.  He didn’t look like a man who readily jumped into responsibility; he was after all, still sporting the high school tin-tin hairdo.

After a brief chat, in which Garrett seemed to be thoroughly unsatisfied with all of the dog choices (coward), he directed Tonya to the fish aisle.  She pretended to be happy about the fact that Garrett was finally showing some real interest in a pet, but a fish?  That’s not a pet, that’s a meat type–probably the only meat she ate–she was thin and pale, so I assumed she was a vegetarian.  As Garrett pantomimed excitement and Tonya mirrored him, they sped their way through to the section I thought they should have gone to in the first place:  the small rodent section.  I thought this because, you know how some people look like their pets?  Well, what about before the pets are their pets?  Tonya looked like a hamster: long teeth, vacant but excited eyes, and I swear her nose even twitched at least once.  Garrett stopped fake raving about the fish and realized that this, this was doable.  He relaxed his face into something resembling a look of relief and Tonya looked excited–for real this time.  She and Garrett bonded over a little teddy bear hamster that she wanted to call Bobsy but Garrett said that sounded to much like a name from the 40’s.

“What about Ted?” he said.  Tonya, giggled and agreed that it was kind of ironic but probably a “fitting name for a hamster.”  And so, they gathered up all of the supplies needed to make Ted the Teddy Bear hamster happy and spent a little extra to get the cedar shaving instead of pine because Garrett said the cedar probably covered up the urine smell better than pine.

Off they went, Hamster holding hamster and Garrett getting off easy.  Nope, this wouldn’t last long.


CC Some rights reserved by pykmi

In a lovely little loft on the edge of the city, we sit around two rectangular tables pushed together to form a large square.  On the table in front of us, a cat named Moon-Pie is lying nestled like a sardine in a cardboard box and overhead spins the “ginkgo mobile.” Surrounding us are random sculptures and paintings, some of school busses and of the moon, and framed poetry written by children hangs on the walls.

This is my weekly writing class.  The teacher is a beautiful woman with wild multi-colored hair,  a shock of white strands framing her face.  She wears thick black glasses–like a Harry Potter character–and is fond of saying things in a sort of mystic tone of voice.  To her left sits Georgia the poet.  A 70 year old single woman who wears bright clothing, smiles constantly and has a way of conveying her point with only a few well-chosen words.  Next to her, sits the paranormal archeologist writer: at least, that’s what I think she is.  She has a deep and raspy voice and is always first to volunteer for anything.

Beside her sits the younger woman who always wears those cute chopstick things in her hair–the kind that would never work in my hair.  She writes mostly about problematic men and feels free to use swear words to explain the depths of her inner self.  Next to her is the quiet and bubbly woman who never had anyone to encourage her creativity.  She’s comes to each class wide-eyed as if seeing the world for the first time and is always making happy cooing noises when something new is revealed.

Then there’s me.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected from a writing class, but if nothing else, I get a kick out of it whenever I go.  This week, our homework assignment was to write about a piece of fruit.  (These exercises are supposed to be unedited train-of-thought writings to spur creativity).  Georgia the poet wrote an unbelievably beautiful poem about a withering strawberry.  The paranormal/archeologist wrote an amazing short story about how a pear changed a guy’s life.  The others wrote deeply personal stories that their fruit brought to mind.

And then, there’s mine: silly because I mean, hey, it’s a piece of fruit.  Here it is.

Bananas: The Resentful Fruit

  I am a banana of the Chiquita clan.  We are a proud but jealous lot.  My particular clan is favored by the American’s for our length, usefulness and ability to be used in both knock-knock jokes and those jokes of the more phallic variety.  We are kept humble by the necessity of our undressing before being consumed.

  We are also kept humble by history–we have never been the favored fruit.  Apples seem to rule the show and have since the beginning of time.  Many people think that Adam and Eve ate an apple, but I would like to point out that the word used in the original text was “fruit.”  We bananas believe that that it was our ancestor to whom Adam and Eve partook.  The irony of undressing a fruit simply to realize that they too were undressed is the height of banana humor.  *chortle*

  Sir Isaac Newton propounded the glory of the apple by crediting it with helping him discover gravity.  Apples get a body part named after them (Adam’s apple), and all kinds of sayings of their own: “Apple of your eye,” “As American as apple pie,” and so on and so forth.  You get the idea–damned apples.

Small children enjoy smashing us between their fingers and consuming us with dried Cheerios–utterly disgraceful.  We are frequently being paired with other fruits that also get all of the glory.  Takes smoothies for instance.  No one ever orders just a plain banana smoothie.  They like things that seem more exotic: blueberries, strawberries, mango, kiwi, or the worst–acai berries.  What the heck are those anyway?  Glorified blueberries, that’s what.

And yet, none of them could have all of that glory without the silent smoothie backbone: bananas.  Yes, we are the mighty banana.

The OId Man and the Emo Kid

In the darkest corner of a small cafe, Brian sat alone looking out the window, sipping an iced mocha.  It was a hot day, especially for Maine, and a cool drink was just what he needed.  Today as everyday, Brian wore black: baggy black pants and a black shirt with some sort of cryptic lettering on the front spelling the name of his favorite death metal band.  He wore this color because it seemed to best explain his current state of mind: dark and on the edge of decay.  Sometimes for effect, like today, he drew on his neck with red permanent marker: two blood droplets that indicated that a vampire had just had lunch from his neck.  It felt good to have people’s attention, even if it was disgust.  And as upholding a cause sometimes requires sacrifice, Brian’s crusade for attention was no exception.

As he sat sipping his coffee and wiping the sweat from his forehead, he stared out the window wondering why no one seemed to give a damn about him.  Earlier this morning, he had walked out of the house and decided he was never going back.  His parents didn’t care about him, his friends were all messed up like he was, and there was no reason for him to stay. Besides, he had already missed too much of summer school and knew he was doomed now to repeat 11th grade.  That’s not happening, he decided.

“It’s not my fault,” he mumbled aloud. It’s not that I’m not smart, he thought, I just need a reason to care.

Before he could delve any farther into his self-pity, he stopped, distracted by a car that had just pulled up in the parking lot.  It was a beat up Buick driven by an even older and much frailer looking man. He must be like 100, thought Brian.  The fragile man, opened the car door and began to get out, but got back into the car when it started to roll backwards.  He hadn’t put the car in park.  A second time, he attempted to exit the vehicle and the same scene replayed itself.  On the third try, with much heft, the old man gave the Buick’s shifter a firm shove and the car was still.

Being satisfied that there was no way the car could move, the old man feebly pulled himself from the car and brushed off his ancient baby blue suit.  Brian noticed, with some amusement that the man was wearing a cowboy tie.  The man shuffled to the back of the car and opened the trunk.  After rummaging around for a moment, he grabbed something out and closed the trunk.  Brian watched this from his stool with a mixture of curiosity and humor.  Anyone else watching this scene play out would probably have added to that sympathy, but not Brian.  No, he fancied himself to be a cold-hearted bastard.  It sounded good in his head, anyway.

The man walked into the shop with a slight smile on his face, but his skinny and bent frame made the smile more sad than anything else.  I hope I’m never that old, thought Brian.  The man with the cowboy’s tie asked the woman behind the counter in a weak but pleasant voice, “May I speak with your boss?” The woman behind the counter said that she answered to “boss.”

“Then hello ma’am,” he said. “May I interest you in one of these nifty devices?” He placed the device on the counter in front of him and watched her with a smile.  The woman picked up the small plastic device, scrutinizing it against the light coming from the window.  Brian, trying not to show interest in anything but his inner turmoil, slowly browsed the room to catch a glimpse of the device.  No luck.  The old man continued to  discuss the advantages of having one of these devices.  A large man making sandwiches behind the counter commented on the devices usefulness.  Brian could tell the sandwich guy was just saying that to be nice.

“Listen sir,” said the boss woman, “you seem like a very nice man, so I’m just going to be honest with you.  This, I think, would be more of a nuisance to me in the kitchen than helpful.”

The old man mumbled something, but Brian could tell the man realized his failure.  The old man gave something to the woman and said she could keep it. She looked at it and sighed as the old man began to shuffle away.  The woman’s face showed pity.

“Okay, here’s what I’ll do,” she said. “Give me your number and I’ll think about it.  And since you gave me a sample, let me return the favor.  What kind of danish would you like?” The old man’s face lit up with excitement, he chose a flavor, took his danish, thanked the woman, shuffled out the door, returned his wares to his trunk, and drove away.  I hope that’ll never be me when I’m that old.  Brian felt that he identified with the man: alone and never getting a break.

Brian finished his coffee and realized that he should get going.  It was cloudy and since he didn’t know where he was headed, he better be off.  Any place is better than here, he told himself.  So, off he went to find this better place. On the outside, he still looked just as sullen as always, but on the inside, he was excited.  He wasn’t sure where he would end up or what he would do when he got there, but he would figure it out as he went along.

For several hours, Brian walked south.  He thought about the old man, and about how life was so unfair to people like him and the old man.  He wondered what it was that the old man was selling?  Was it really that bad?  The clouds were gathering thick and heavy now and low rumbles of thunder seemed to be growing by the minute.  Although he enjoyed watching storms from his bedroom window, he wasn’t sure if he wanted such a close encounter this late afternoon.  It was going on five now, but looked more like eight.  After much thought, Brian was realizing that it was much different to be alone in his room than to be alone on the side of a secluded state road.  He actually wanted to see someone he knew.  That’s stupid, he thought.  I finally get what I’ve wanted for so long and I’m wanting what I’m trying to get away from. 

It started to rain.  At first, it was light and tolerable.  Brian enjoyed the thought of people driving by and seeing a poor, soaking-wet kid walking alongside the road.  He wondered if someone might offer to give him a ride.  He reveled in the idea of people taking notice of him as we walked alone in the rain.  That is until the rain grew harder and the thunder louder and the lightning closer.  He tried to keep walking, but realized that no one was going to stop for someone like him–people were always afraid of his kind.  He looked for a place to get out of the rain.  Up ahead, he saw a long-abandoned gas station and decided that this was the place to be.  As he grew closer, he could see through the pouring rain that there was a familiar old Buick underneath the rusted overhang.  The car’s tire was flat.  The trunk was open and the old man was on his tip-toes, leaning deep into it.  Between the thunderclaps, Brian could hear the man’s words to the car.

“The one day I need you and you can’t even hold up your end of the deal!   Why Louise, why?  The biggest break I’ve had and what happens?  You decide that today is the day to have a flat tire. My luck.  Just my luck.”

Brian drew closer and trying not to give the man a heart attack, he gave a hardy cough.  Unfortunately, his cough was ill-timed and drowned out by the rain and the thunder.  He tried again, and this time, the old man heard him.

“Oh,” the old man started.  He lost his handhold and plunged his hands deep into the box of plastic devices.

Brian grabbed the old man by the back of his belt and pulled him (with care) from the trunk.

“Do you want some help with the tire?” Brian asked.

“That would be nice.  These hands aren’t what they used to be.” For a moment, the old man paused and gave a good long look at Brian.  Brian hadn’t noticed before that this man’s glasses were so thick.  As the man looked at Brian and Brian at him, Brian expected the usual judgmental phrase to come next.  Instead, the man said, “Do you know how to change a tire?  Forgive my skepticism, but you don’t look like you’ve done much work in your life.”  He grabbed Brian’s hands, gave them a quick look-over and clicked his tongue. “Yep, I bet you’ve never done a good day’s work in your life.”

Obviously, you’ve never made enough money to retire from your good day’s work, Brian thought.

“The tire iron is in the trunk,” the man continued. “The goal is to get the old tire off and the spare tire attached to the car so that it doesn’t fall off. My name’s Myron, by the way.”

This man confused Brian.  Where was the mild-mannered man from the coffee shop?    How was it that Myron conversed with him as if he was a normal person?  Brian mumbled some sort of “nice to meet you” and went to the trunk to find the tire iron and spare.  As he peered into the trunk, he realized what it was the man was selling.  Plastic lobster can openers.  What crap, Brian thought.  No wonder no one wants to buy any.  Brian dug through the lobsters to find the iron.

“They’re crap aren’t they?” Myron sighed.  “Don’t act like they’re not.” He picked one up, glared at it, and dropped it back into the large pile of synthetic sea creatures.  “I’m on my way to get the rest of these sold to a souvenir company. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it now.  I guess I’ll have to go by tomorrow. What’s your name?”

“Uh, oh, Brian. Brian Dunwoody.”

“Well Uh Oh Brian Dunwoody, why did you put that junk on your neck?”

Brian said nothing.  This was the conversation he was planning on having soon enough. He let out a small breath and continued his work without answering.

“You a thug or something? Naw, never mind.  Not with those hands.”

Brian was taking off the old tire one nut at a time.  Myron leaned against the car with arms crossed.

“You look like you know what you’re doing,” Myron continued.  “Well, what da ya know?  I used to work on cars all the time when I was about your age.  I had an old jalopy and fixed it up to go cruisin’ with the guys.  We had some fun times. Yeah, those were some fun times. You know, you don’t talk much.  Then, heh, maybe it’s because I’m doing all the yapping.  My mother always said I would be a salesman.  She was a wise woman.”

Brian, still working on the tire, and forgetting his heir of sullenness, smiled a minuscule smile.

“Don’t you wanna say anything, Brian Dunwoody?” Myron asked.

“Uh, how old are you?” Brian gulped, wondering why he had just blurted out what had been going through his mind since the first moment he had seen the man.

“You do speak! And straight to the point, aren’t you?” He raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you really mean, why am I still selling crap out of my trunk when I should be in a retirement home in Florida having pretty young nurses spoon-feeding me?”

Brian paused and continued working. He was coming to see a large difference between the meek and mild salesman that people felt sorry for and the quick, opinionated man standing before him.  Perhaps this was what made Myron a great salesman.

“That, is a long answer, kid.  But I’ll give you the quick one.  I’m 78 and still live here in Maine because, well I don’t really know why. I just do.  I sell this shit because it pays the bills. What d’ya want me to say?”

“Don’t you have a wife or something?” Brian asked.

“She’s dead.” There was a long pause and Myron continued. “I sell this stuff because I have to pay off all of her medical bills she left behind after a long bout with the cancer.”

Brian looked up at Myron unsure of what to say, when Myron started again. “Hah! I’m joking! My wife divorced me years ago! Never had any kids to speak of. The whole marriage thing didn’t stick.  Listen Brian, if I can give you any advice you’ll actually listen to, here it is: never get married.  If you’ve already got junk drawn on your neck to show how troubled you are, you don’t need a woman to come in and make things worse.”

At this Brian unconsciously touched his neck.

“They make things complicated,” Myron continued, “That’s what women do, they complicate things and tell ya things like ‘What did you ever do before you met me?’ and ‘I don’t know how you ever made it on your own.’” Myron laughed cynically. “I made it because without a woman, life isn’t so damned complicated!” Myron paused for a moment to look up at the rain then continued. “And why not a retirement home? I don’t like old people.  They smell funny, look funny, and their favorite topic is their most recent ailment and who’s had the most surgeries.” Again, Brian smiled with his back turned. “Don’t get me wrong, Dunwoody, I don’t dislike them any more than I dislike anyone else.”

Brian realized that Myron was a vision of the ornery man he would become if he gave up and cut himself off.  It left a metallic taste in his mouth and he wasn’t sure that he liked it.

Brian stood up and admired his work.  Myron too glanced at the work.

“That things not gonna fly off in the middle of the highway on me, is it?”

Brian smirked.

“I’ll take that as a no.  It’s been lovely chatting with you Brian, you really should learn to keep quiet every now and again.” Myron thumped Brian on the back and chuckled.  Brian put everything away in the trunk, shoved aside the large pile of lobster can-openers and shut the trunk.  Myron stood watching.

“Well, I guess I should give you a lift since it’s still raining.  Where you headed?”

Brian thought for a moment.

“Back,” he said.

Myron shrugged, got into his Buick and drove away without a word.

A Hairy Situation (pronounced: si-chee-ay-shun)

“I jus’ don’t know how to tell ‘im, Lyle,” said the old barber to the thin man preoccupied with the days newspaper.

“Tell ‘im what?” he asked placing the paper in his lap.
“He’s got the lice.”  Bill Jones was not a man to be taken lightly.  He laughed at jokes and always held a pleasant attitude, but never joked himself.
“Yep.  It’s the lice alright.  And you know how hard ta git rid of ‘em they are.  Those thangs’ll get the best a anybody.  You remember how there was a whole plague of ‘em last year in the school.”
“Sure do.  All of them kids runnin’ ‘round buzzed and bald—and that was the girls!”
The truth of the matter struck them both, and they broke into laughter remembering how the reporters from neighboring towns had a hay day with it.
“Anyhow, he’s got suh much blasted hair.  I dunno what ta tell ‘em, but that’s the only way he’s gonna have a chance of gittin’ rid of ‘em.”  Bill picked up a comb and wiped it with a small towel.  For a moment, as if a solution had just come to him, he paused, squinted, and as if the idea retreated, he started rubbing again.
Lyle raised his paper and began to talk while pretending to be interested in it. “You’re makin’ this too big a deal, Bill.  Just ‘accidentally’ take a big ‘ole honkin’ chunk out of his hair and tell him that to make it look alright, you’ll have to chop it all off.”
“You know I cayn’t do that, Lyle.  I’ll jus mention it to ‘im.”
“Well, if you wanna take your life into your own hands, that’s your choice, but I’m tryin’ to be a real friend here for ya.”
“I know, ” Bill turned to look at Lyle.  “Why don’t you take your lunch breaks someplace else?  You don’t even eat your lunch half the time you’re in here.”
Lyle knew it was Bill’s anxieties doing the talking for him.  Lowering his newspaper, he sarcastically replied, “You know why I come in here for my lunch.  It’s the stimulatin’ conversations we all git into over here.  Over at the garage, we just talk about fast cars, women, and crazy stuff we all done.”  Anyone who knew Lyle knew this to be a heaping pile of B.S.  Lyle made it appoint to avoid the subject of women and reckless adventures from the past.  They were just that: the past, where Lyle believed those things should stay.
As Lyle finished this last statement, Jackson passed by the front shop window.  Lyle raised his eyebrows and grimaced at Bill, who in turn rolled his eyes and sighed.  The door flung open, and a giant of a man stood before them.  He was, how should I describe him?  Massive.  Hairy.  Like I imagine Goliath might have looked.  He made Paul Bunyan look short and metrosexual.  Standing at a conservative 7’2,” with a barrel chest, watermelon biceps, and emitting a hardy assortment of odors, he made most lumberjacks look like 4 year olds in leotards.  He had a mane of thick black hair that started on his head, snaked its way around to the front of his face and continued undeterred to the rest of his personage.  Yet, for all of his pervasive manliness, he was well-mannered and soft-spoken.
“Well good afternoon, Lyle. Bill,” he said nodding to each.  “You ready fer me, Bill?”
“Sure am,” said Bill sneaking a glance Lyle’s way.  Lyle looked out of the corner of his eye, shook his paper, and once again raised it.
Jackson set his gargantuan self down into the barber’s chair and Bill lowered it as far as possible.
“The usual, would ya Bill?” Bill grabbed a stool to stand on (not being too tall himself) and the largest gown he could find.  He draped it round Jackson’s tree trunk of a neck and cleared his throat.

“Jackson, now you know I admar your hair and all. Great hair but…” He sighed. “Fact is, you got the lice.”  Lyle peeked over the top of his paper at Jackson.

“The lice?” Jackson asked.


“What’s that?”

Lyle opened his eyes wide and quickly raised his newspaper to hide his sniggering.  Bill shot him an angry glance.

“You never heard of lice before?” Bill asked.

“Nope.” Jackson said and gave a scratch.  Bill jumped back off of his stool and said, “Don’t do that!  That itchin’ goin on thar, that’s the lice.”

“Oh.  I guess I do that a plenty. How ya git rid of ‘em?”

“Gotta shave ya.”

This time Lyle didn’t try to hide his interest.  He set down his newspaper and watched for a reaction.

“Shave?” Jackson asked, looking scared. “Wull, how much?”

Bill considered for a moment.  “Probly all of it.”

“Whatd’ya mean all of it?”

“For you?  Head to toes.” The matter-of-fact tone that Bill used made Lyle burst into a fit of laughter.  After a few seconds, Lyle cleared his throat and apologized.  Jackson seemed unperturbed.

“Do what’cha got to,” Jackson said reluctantly. Bill looked at Lyle in surprise at how easy this was, pulled out his electric razor and told Lyle to “pull the shades.” As Lyle did this, Bill pulled on a pair of gloves, and the process began.  It took a long time, and by the end of it, Jackson looked thinner–like a shaved poodle. He was unrecognizable, and the enormous pile of hair (had it not been for the amount of lice) could have been donated to a museum needing hair for a black bear exhibit.  Bill kept himself busy decontaminating the shop floor and trying not to make eye contact, while Jackson got reacquainted with his own reflection.

After a few minutes, Jackson stood, thanked Bill, and asked how much.

Bill, afraid that Jackson might try to kill him in his sleep after getting a good, long look at himself, said, “No charge.”

Jackson walked out of the shop and Lyle walked over to raise the shades.

“Bill,” said Lyle. “Jes ‘cause he’s big as a bar, don’t mean he’s gonna act like one. I told you, you’re overreactin.’”

“You never know what he’s gonna be thinkin’. He don’t say much and in my experience, ya cayn’t underestimate a quiet man.”

“I got ta go.  My lunch break was over ‘bout 20 minutes ago.”  Bill waved him off and tied up the trash bag containing all of the hair.

“Whadum I gonna do with all this daggum’ hair?” Bill mumbled to himself.

The Price of Oddity and Vanity

He looked around to make sure that no one was looking.  Finding that no heads were turned his way, he began his journey with what he called his “burden” in one hand and his “just in case” in the other.  The air was stale with cheap tobacco smoke and these borrowed shoes pinched his feet—not to mention they repulsed at least two of his other senses.  As he grew closer to the line, his steps grew slow and deliberate.  A prayer continued its loop through his tedious mind, “All at once, all at once.”  Before he realized it, he had arrived.  The red line was now beneath him.  He placed his “just in case” carefully on the floor beside him.  He breathed deeply, closed his eyes, lifted his “burden” close to his heart and stepped back.  In one sweeping motion, his arm swung forward and released the ball quickly onto the floor.  As his ball rushed forward towards the teeming pins, he held his breath.  The crash of pins broke the silence.  His lips moved faintly as he counted the felled adversaries: seven, eight, nine!  Nine?!  Only nine?
“I just needed one more,” he said through gritted teeth.  He swung an angry fist in the through the murky air and picked up the “just in case” ball.
For most people, not seeing an X the first time, every time is a disappointing but normal fact of life.  For George, this was a matter of social life and death as he saw it.  He was not bowling for a championship of any kind, nor had he made any bets or hopes of besting anyone.  No, today, he had brought along a few friends.  Their bowling skills were average and they were friendly people.  So what’s the problem, you might ask?  To find this answer, think back to your first bowling experiences with your friends.  If you were unable to get a strike right off, you were forced to wait for the pins to be cleared and for the ball to come back to you.  Thus a rather long awkward waiting period would ensue.  This is the embarrassing social pressure that George could not live under.
Hurriedly, he threw the “just in case” ball as fast he could.  If done correctly, this would ensure that the awkward forty-five second pause of shame and humiliation could be successfully avoided.  However, there was much skill involved in the timing. If he threw too late, the gate would come down and he might forever lose his privilege to bowl in this alley.  This time though, the gods must have been smiling upon him, for he nailed the last pin right before the machine came down to grab it.  He turned crisply, walked quickly to the scoreboard, pushed the button, and sat down.  He was glad to see that his plan had worked so well.  As he looked around at the handful of other bowlers, he felt something like pity for them as they stood dumbly waiting for their balls to return.  The silence seemed to mock them as they stood giving everyone watching, a chance to revel in the fact that that bowler missed.  George’s friends though were very impressed with his feat–that or dumbfounded.  Either way, at least he didn’t look ridiculous.