Archive for April, 2008

21
Apr
08

Signing off for a while

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

~Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones~

 

I’ll be headed to basic training at Fort Jackson, Columbia Sc on this coming Tues. I’ll be there for 9 weeks, and then almost immediately I’ll head to Ft. Huachuca in Arizona for Intelligence Analyst School. Finally, two weeks jump school at Ft. Benning Ga.

I Probably won’t have much access to a computer or if I do, it will be for short periods. I’ll see if I can’t let everyone know how things are going.

While I’m there, I hope to to accomplish a few goals.

1) Max my physical fitness test. This means I’ll have to perform 77 pushups in 2 minutes, 82 situps in 2 minutes and run two miles in 13.00 min. Or there-abouts. I can easily do the pushups and situps. The run will be tougher but I’m confident I can pull it off. When I took the pre-basic test last month, I ran one mile in 6:10, so we’ll see. I’ve always had a high threshold for pain while running, which has always given me good times in timed events but I want to improve my conditioning.

2) Expert Rifleman Badge: Only two misses allowed on the scored rifleman test.

3) Stay healthy: Old guys like me need to stay healthy to compete with the young bucks. We don’t heal as fast. Of course, we’re not as stupid either.

4) Be a leader: There will be some kids right of of high school training with me. I think it’s a responsibility to set an example.

I want to thank everyone who has given encouraging words along the way. I had someone speak so kindly to me today, that it almost made me sniffle. Please keep me in your prayers and I’ll talk to everyone in a couple weeks.

The waiting is over. Let’s do it.

 

19
Apr
08

My second novel: Chapter 1

This is the first chapter of my second novel. Don’t know if I’ll ever finish it. Its taste may not be for everyone; it’s decidedly influenced by Vonnegut. See what you think. I’ve got about 9,000 words done. There were some texting issues at the end of this chapter from transferring it from a Word file.

Chapter 1

 

 

Come now and look. This way, just down this damp, gray hall. Let’s look, as we pass each barred cell, notice the shades within. No not the shadows, the cool, ever reaching shadows that fill those concrete cubes. Notice the men, each with a dream, his own history and pains. They are animals, each and every, have no doubt of that, Friend. But so am I, so are you. Don’t stare too long and most definitely don’t make eye-contact. Obey their code while you’re here, just for a short time and then maybe you’ll understand, maybe you won’t judge or feel repulsion.

     Just a bit further, to cell one hundred forty. Look in there. That’s Jonny Kimble. Three years ago, Jonny learned that the universe will stab you in the back when you’re not looking, twist the knife just to feel the bones separate. Jonny found out that not everyone in life comes out a winner, no matter how some may try or how well-intentioned they be. Yes, three years ago, Jonny came home to his lovely wife blowing Jonny’s neighbor. And all he knew how to do is what he did. He smashed the toilet to a pile of powdered porcelain with his not-so-noble neighbor’s face. The only thing that really bothered Jonny was hearing his little girl crying from her bedroom, awakened by the horrific thunders of flesh-on-crapper and the woeful simpers of Mr. I-like-to-stick-it-in-my-neighbor’s-wife.

     He didn’t say a word to his wife after that, just saw her in the courtroom during the divorce. He’d called the police himself, while the horny neighbor rolled on the floor, grasping his visionless eyes, smearing blood on his naked skin, covering that with sharp biting granules.

     “There’s a man in my bathroom that may die,” he’d said. “But I’d prefer that he didn’t so if you could send an officer and an ambulance that would be great.” 

     Jonny sat in the bathroom’s doorway watching the man. There was no rage, just the question of why. And the question was not directed at his bellowing neighbor, after all, he knew what the man’s answer would be or at least should be: “I had to get me somma that.” No, the question was intended for the Cosmic Jester. Jonny thought he’d slapped the Jester around and put him in his place in previous years, thought the Universe’s Fool inhabited a straightjacket somewhere on the plains of Nebraska. That’s where Jonny had last seen him, on a night that sleep had rescued him from one more day, Jonny laying in an abandoned car, empty Twinkie packages licked clean and strewn across the backseat.

     You see, our man in there loved his wife. And she’d said that she loved him too, couldn’t live without Jonny. And that had given him the means to pull himself from his sewer-of-a-life. No more stealing and lying and losing. Got a job, he did, went to college. Didn’t wear his blotchy tattoo quite so proudly. Love was the only thing that had ever motivated him, ever made him anxious to wake up and do something. Well, other than wanting to see the sun so that its warmth could be his. Love latched onto him with a steel cable and yanked him out of the ditch. But love’s banishment came that night, on the second story of his little blue home.

      Elevated aggravated assault. That’s what the District Attorney hit him with. And he didn’t fight even a little, didn’t pull the woe-is-me garbage. He’d argued with his attorney over a crime of passion defense. Looking at the event truthfully, he didn’t remember any passion, just a cold Fuck You to the laughing Jester as the toilet exploded. Besides his daughter, there was no reason to get up and go to work, to brush his teeth, to pay taxes or mow the lawn. A better thing actually, and he’d thought about it carefully, was to play in the heavy traffic on I-95. Not rush-hour. The vehicles moved so slowly then. He thought that a good game of Hacky Sack, performed in the passing lane, would be sufficiently romantic, with a copy of Joseph Conrad’s, Heart of Darkness, tucked into his back pocket. That’s the way he wanted to be found, flattened and thrown into the weeds—rundown by a teenager talking on her cell-phone, a stinging classic which condemned all-that-is jutting from his pants. He wondered if the Jester liked to read. Jonny was sure that he did, in between sending children to burn wards and pushing old ladies in front of speeding cars.

     By the time the police arrived, Jonny had mapped out the dramatic I-95 plan, but he was in shackles before he could find his Conrad classic. The Jester laughed again as Jonny was escorted out the front door, because Jonny caught a glimpse of Heart of Darkness on a lamp stand in between a copy of Ain’t Life Funny? and Why married men live longer.

     Other than what I’ve told you, there’s nothing that special about Jonny Kimble. Except that he can walk through walls. Phase out-of-sync with the Jester’s universe. The prison’s cinderblocks are but burned-out illusions to Jonny; that is when he can muster the courage to care. He’s only cared on two occasions since discovering his wondrous ability. He cared about a pack of smokes then he cared about seeing the leaves change color one October. Actually he did care one other time. He wanted to see his daughter, but she lives too far away. Each time after caring, he’d returned to his cell, phased back to the Jester’s reality and lay back down in his cot.

     There was never any question as to whether he would come back to the New Hampshire State Prison. After all, there was no other place he could so easily not care. Even his Hacky-in-traffic idea had faded. Instead of a persistent despair or a gnawing desire for self-annihilation, buzzing numbness had settle on Jonny causing him to act like a stoned automaton. Get up. Piss. Lay down. Get up. Stare at a corner. Lay down. Read, The Crying of Lot 49. Wonder what the hell the book meant. Scratch his ass. You get the idea.

     Back up for a minute. Here comes one of the guards. Oh, that’s Bill Bompus. Don’t say anything about the chili on his lapel, and don’t stare at his bulging gut. Looks like he’s got something to tell Jonny.

     “Kimble. Someone here to see you.”

     “I’m not available.”

     “Yes you are. This guy’ll see you in your cell.”

     Must be Jonny’s lawyer, got an appeal lined up, a technicality to throw into the gears of Justice.

     “Hello, Jonny.” Never trust a man wearing a black sport coat and armed with a briefcase.

     Bompus slides the metal bars aside, the suited man walks in. He sits on the steel toilet, opens he briefcase without looking up at Jonny, who’s laying on his cot counting the spiders on the ceiling.

     “Have I got a deal for you, Jonny, a real sweet deal,” says the man.

     “I’m getting the Playboy Channel on my TV?”

     Presently, the man scans a dossier with Jonny’s name on its tab. “We can do that too, and the TV can be yours, just yours.” Nameless-Man flutters the sheets of Jonny’s file, hoping to disperse Jonny’s disillusionment. “We know about your abilities. And we can make use of them. You’ll be duly compensated of course. A new car, new clothes, and we’ve got an impressive lineup of Russian girls who’d love to meet you. Or perhaps Japanese. Little dark girls with cute smiles and submissive attitudes.”

     Jonny stops counting. You can hear his thoughts just as well as I can. Don’t be embarrassed for being able to read his mind, Friend. You’re here with me now, in the Jester’s Universe. I’ll walk you through it; just don’t lose sight of me—ever. I’m sure the Jester would love to have a little fun with you. Make you play with fireworks or run with scissors.  Didn’t you notice that the rays from the sun felt a little different, oblique and shifting? Or perhaps you can tell that the people’s souls are colder, just a bit. Like the entire of humanity has succumbed to a cool melancholy, admitted defeat, each person waiting for its turn in the barrel. It doesn’t matter that you don’t want to be here. We need you here, so here you are. Remember what you see, what you hear, but most of all—what you feel.

     “Let’s go for a ride, Jonny. You need to smell the fresh air, see the sights of the happy,” says Nameless-Man. “Get up. Let’s go.”

     “I’m not going anywhere. Take your shit and go.”

     “Jonny. I’m trying to be diplomatic here. Truly I am. But I do have certain…levers, if I have need to employ them.”

     “Get-the-fuck-out.”

     “There’s still some life in you after all.” Nameless-man looks at the dossier again. “Your first mission, should you choose to cooperate—and you will—is to meet up with Joe.”

     “Who’s Joe?” Jonny finally regards Nameless-Man, if only obliquely.

     “Joe works at the Seven Eleven two miles from here. Works nine to five, weekdays. Go there and ask for Joe. Get up, Jonny.”

     “Piss off. You’re out of your mind. I have no idea who you are, why you’re here or why I should do anything you ask.”

     “I’d love to tell you Jonny, that you should do as I say because it’s the right thing to do, and you always do the right thing. But the truth is…” Nameless-Man puts a finger to his lip, creases his brow and stares at the floor. “your daughter will remain unharmed should you cooperate.”

     Stand back, Friend; things could get ugly. A little further from the bars, should Nameless-Man get launched through them at an extraordinary velocity. Jonny swings his legs off the cot, his feet touching the cement like settling feathers. Look at those eyes—they care. Nameless-Man cares too, backs up a step.

     “I’m gonna kill you.” Jonny stands, deliberately slow.

     “We don’t want to harm her. But our mission is of the utmost importance. You’re not from here, Jonny. I know you feel that, you know it deep down. Have you ever felt like you belonged? Haven’t you always felt out of sorts, like your gears are grinding with the universes?”

     Jonny’s a lot of things. A fool isn’t one of them. He sits again. The Nameless-Man knows something about him. Maybe though, he’s employing the fortune teller’s trick. Speaking in generalities that apply to everyone.

     “Just go meet with Joe. He’ll fill you in on more than I can. You won’t need anything, since you don’t have anything. Follow me.”

     Nameless-Man’s hand beckons to Jonny. Nameless-Man presumptuously tells the guard to open the gate, steps out and looks back. Look. Jonny cares just a little—just enough. Maybe the inertia’s been broken. Stepping behind Nameless-Man, Jonny eyes the guard, who obviously approves of the prison-break.

     Down the hallway again, through the prison’s intake area. There’s paperwork for Jonny

to sign. Then out the heavy steel door to freedom. The sunshine stings his eyes, pulling forth

tears that had remained buried in dry tombs for many years. Too bad they’re not caring

tears. We’ll know, Friend, that Jonny’s journey is nearly complete when the wetness in his

eyes accompanies a softened heart. You’ll see. You’ll know. You’ll feel.

19
Apr
08

Storm of Steel; The Fall of Berlin; Allied Victory

“Zero is not a lot.”~Michael Rozos

 

It all came down to Britain’s strike at the German heartland. Could I take it before Russia was defeated?

I attacked with everything I had, holding to Clausewitz’s’ maxim of concentration of forces at the point of determination. Seven tanks, two bombers, two fighters and several infantry. Germany still boasted a formidable stack of infantry, but my hope was to at least weaken Mike enough so that America could finish the job on it’s turn. America would later invade Southern Europe and handily defeat what amounted to the last of the Hitler Youth.

To the battleboard we went, and when the dust settled, and the blood had clotted, Britain found herself the victor, with a single tank holding Germany. Mike looked at Germany’s IPC count, which sat at zero. “Zero’s not a lot.” he said. Nope. sure isn’t, Mike.

The game would be decided in Russia. Japan mustered all her available forces and pushed into the Soviet capital, which finally fell before the Imperials. But the victory was to be short-lived.

The next turn I was able to build 10 (!) tanks in Germany with Britain, as well as land amphibious troops in Karelia for a possible counter-assault on Moscow. There was no need for British intervention, however. The last five remaining Russian infantry attacked a single Japanese tank, and liberated the Motherland.

With America building stacks of armor and Infantry, Britain’s supreme world-power looming, and Russia still in the game, Mike unconditionally surrendered.

All and all it was a great game. It could have gone either way up until the next-to-last turn.

 

19
Apr
08

Sinking Ships, Rising Sun

This game of Axis and Allies has turned out to be one of the strangest that either Mike or I have ever played.

The two Island-nations, Japan and Britain, are the prime powers in the world, Japan having swept through east Russia with little or no resistance and Britain invading France twice and finally establishing a firm bulwark, reinforced with American infantry and armor.

Russia continues to stave off any attempts at her subjugation. The Germans were never at any point able to capture vital Leningrad, and because of the resources needed to maintain momentum after several defeats, they were unable to hold Africa, which remains in complete Allied control. A mere two territories remain in German control: Southern Europe and the Rhineland herself. Only a stack of Wehrmacht remain, while Britain, the most powerful nation in the game now, coils for a final strike. But will it be in time?

Perched and panting at the gates of Moscow, a growing Japanese horde is preparing for a killing blow. The victory is in the balance. Should Moscow fall before Berlin, it may give Japan the IPC boost and land-based industrial complex it needs to push through the rest of Europe.

If Berlin falls first, the Brits can probably reinforce Moscow before she falls.

Japan gained complete control of the Pacific when Mike launched a huge sea-attack on my fleet. I’d built four subs, had two American battleships, an aircraft carrier with one plane and two transports. Mike’s fleet was just as formidable, perhaps more so, but I expected to at least momentarily cripple his ability to ship troops over to Russia.

Instead, the American fleet was vaporized with only two Japanese transports going down. I lost well over 100 IPCs in that battle. America is now relegated to using a few transports to reinforce the Western Front. Mike rolled something like six one’s out of eight die rolls in the first round of the battle, sending the Americans to Davy Jones’ Locker.

The battle of wills continues. It will be decided today, though it’s unclear who has the advantage at the moment. A few bad die rolls will probably decide the thing.
May the best man win…

 

18
Apr
08

Short Story

Wrote this one in while eating pizza and drinking a beer at Mello Mushroom in Greenville.

 

Can you figure out who the narrator is?

The Thirteenth Labor

 

 

Yea, I know. I’m puttin’ the demi back in demigod these days. Stop staring. I’m workin’ on it. Bought one of those ab machines last week. I broke it. Piece of junk. So what if the gut’s a little flabby? I can still kick ass if I need to.

     Things have been okay; got me a place downtown, on First Street. A decent car too; good gas mileage.

     Like a beer? I like this Coors Lite stuff; doesn’t fill me up and it’s cheap. Back in the day it was all wine. Used to drink the stuff like water, then the years passed and I fell on hard times. Three bottles a day of Wild Irish Rose. I went downhill quick. Strictly a beer-man now.

     Don’t shake your head. Despite what you see here, I was a ball-buster when I was young. And if you tell me you’ve never heard of me, I’ll slap the taste outta your mouth. Things just started gettin’ to me. Around the time of the Stymphalian Birds. Got a little twitch in my right eye, a little shake in my hand. What? A legend can’t have issues? You try takin’ out a flock a’ flamingos-from-hell, see how it is. Pretty soon, you’ll be getting’ a disability check too.

     Geryon sealed it though. I was pretty messed. Drunk pretty much all the time after that. Kept goin’ though. Put the beat-down on Cerberus even though I could barely stand. That was one pissed off mutt. By the way, he didn’t have three heads; I just saw three heads. Homer (who was a chick by the way; no she wasn’t hot) thought three heads made a better story than one. I’d have to agree.

     My therapist says I’ve got Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She gets paid a lot of money to come up with that crap. But what would anyone expect? Theseus kills a guy with horns on his head. Perseus offs Medusa. They’re big-time heroes. Ladies all over ‘em all the time. Me? I gotta do twelve suicide missions. One’s not enough for my lovely step-mom. Oh yea. Step-mom. Real sweetheart, that one. Tries to punch my ticket at every turn but Dad still won’t leave her. She’s got him by the short-n’-curlies. He knows she’d get the mansion on Olympus and besides, no ruler-diety can get divorced; it breaks up the image of perfection. Just keep smilin’ when you’re out in public, Dad. Course, Dad makes his own problems. Can’t keep it in his pants. Really likes the mortal ladies. After all, here I am.   

     Finally, I just had to get away from it all. My last wife knew about Dad’s shenanigans and she knew a little of his act rubbed off on me. So she just couldn’t help but try a little of Nessus’ saltpeter on me. Hydra venom does have the tendency to take the romance outta ya. Thanks, Hon.  Got a huge tat on my back trying to cover up the scars from where my skin ripped off. No, it doesn’t say: I love Mom. The pain’s still bad, but the pills help. There’s a saying: Religion is the opium of the masses. I say opium is the opium of the masses.

     So after the fourth divorce, I faked the whole funeral pyre thing. Hit the road. Saw more of the world. At least Hera left me alone. Even the other Olympians felt sorry for me, started the rumor that I’d been accepted as one of them. Mommy-dearest was too busy messin’ up the war in Troy to see any different. I kicked ass a few more times, but nothin’ serious really.

     I had to get this all out. Go ahead, write it down, print it, talk about in on Oprah. Whatever. People have to know the truth. I want kids to know that someday, they can be on top of the world and then it may all come crashing down. That’s when they’ll find out who their true friends are. Oh, and drugs are bad—real bad.

     For right now, I’m lookin’ at a comeback. Got an agent. Been workin’ out. Little less beer. The gray hairs can be fixed. I’m workin’ hard on this—real hard. Memoir; Hollywood option. But you’re the first to hear it made public. A photo? Hold on, let me get my club.

 

18
Apr
08

Operation: Hun-Slayer

 

Current Location: Coffee Underground, Greenville South Carolina

Concerning: Operations to destroy Axis Powers, in the control of expert Axis+Allies player, Michael Rozos.

My opponent, Michael, is a very good player. He honed his skills against an old roommate of his: Jeff. Right after Mike got out of the army in the 90’s, he moved in with Jeff who’d also just mustered out. Jeff, while in the army got himself into a bit of trouble it seems, and ended up at Ft. Leavenworth military prison. During his stint, he played A+A virtually everyday, refining most aspects of the game down to a science. It was a religion of sorts. You couldn’t touch Jeff’s dice, every move was choreographed, knowing the outcome that one could expect from attacks on certain territories. In that sense, it became much like chess is to the highest level players: A battle of will in which both players grind it out, in hopes their opponent will make the slightest mistake.  

This reminds me of something that I read by Kurt Vonnegut. He was a POW in WWII. Through an error in paperwork, the British troops held captive were allotted more food and coffee from the Red Cross then the other prisoners, so they were able to build their bodies up, doing hundreds of pushups and pullups everyday. Also, they became card-sharks and masters of chess. What man can do when he has no distractions…

I digress. Japan made some major encroachments on Russian soil. Almost all of my army is of course fighting Germany, so Japan is chomping up the IPC’s. Mike made a bold attack on Alaska, landing Japanese troops there and momentarily taking the territory. I would soon remedy that…

On America’s turn, I moved my newly reinforced navy north, settling just south of the Japanese force near Alaska. I attacked his troops with my battleship’s off-shore bombardment as well as two fighters and an infantry. Soon, Alaska was back in my hands. I finally managed to strike a painful blow on Japan when I sent two submarines on sneak-attacks to his fleet. They both managed a hit on the first turn, sinking two transports, before withdrawing to fight another day.

Now, the Russian front. That’s where the game is always decided. The Russians must slow the German tempo down, while the Germans must gain IPCs almost every turn. Karelia is key, and I had already repulsed the first attack there. Building all infantry at the beginning of Russia’s turn, I decided to move west, pushing into Eastern Europe with a titanic force of infantry (Over 20 units) as well as several tanks and fighters. I sought cripple any attempts by the Germans to mount a counter-attack on Karelia. The problem I faced, was that Germany still had a transport and Battleship in the Mediterranean, allowing them to wing troops behind my front lines and into the Caucasus.

I decidedly won the battle, and still retained a huge force in Eastern Europe. Things were looking up. Actually, I’d never seen Russia this strong at this point in the game. But can they hold out against the fast-rolling Japanese?

Mike did counter-attack with the Germans, and he did manage to take back eastern Europe, but all that remains there are four German tanks. He also destroyed three British Transports in the North Sea. I’m having a tough time bringing British power to bear. The German airforce had destroyed my amphibious ability, but now the Reich only has one bomber.

I decided to build another bomber for Britain, so that I could do a little damage until I had control of the seas. I built several American transports and infantry. With those, and the American bomber, two British Bombers, I’ll begin the slow process of an IPC-bleed on Germany. IPC bombing and the liberation of Africa should deny the resources Germany needs to maintain its Blitzkrieg.

 

 

 

18
Apr
08

Real Cop Stories

 Since my friend Mike seems to be spending the evening talking on the phone again, and because I’m feeling ancy, I’ll burn off some energy by writing my first entry of Real Cop Stories.

Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. Yes it’s true.

Pet Bumble Bee

I’d been working as a police officer for the Bangor Police Department for about 4 years I think. Still had a lot of energy, still liked to get into trouble.

It was a fall day as I remember it, and I’d seen a fellow that I knew to have warrants for his arrest. By the time I parked my cruiser somewhere around the corner, near Main St. he’d disappeared.

Later that day, I was working through on some overtime, and I saw the same fellow on the same area of Main St. in front of what used to be Sweet’s Market. This time I was already in a position to park quickly.

Walking around the corner of the store, I saw him immediately change direction upon catching sight of me. I quickened my own gate, and told him to stop, that I needed to talk to him.

He did stop. He turned and produced what looked like an Altoids tin. I asked him what it was for, and he said that his pet bee was inside. Indeed, he cracked the lid, and a bumble bee staggered drunkenly around inside the box. He snapped the lid shut, and looked at me as if he’d showed me the contents of the Ark of the Covenant.

Let’s call the fellow Bill. Little did I know that Bill was suffering from a terrible brew of Schizophrenia, Lysergic Acid, and a bad childhood. I politely and professionally informed Bill that there was a warrant for his arrest. He shook his head and said confidently, “No there isn’t.”

He said it with such grace and assurance, that I almost caught myself saying: “Oh. Sorry to bother you, Bill. Nice Bee. Have a good one.”

Shaking off such thoughts, I reiterated the warrant issue and told Bill to turn around and place his hands behind his back. Nope. Uh-uh. Bill had plans tonight, he and his bee. He started to walk away from me, each step quickening as I followed trying to close the distance. Finally I lunged and caught his arm.

Have you ever seen video of a feral cat that discovers it’s attached to a leash? This was now Bill. My favorite maneuver for getting people to the ground was to grasp them by the wrist with one hand, while applying pressure to the back of the elbow. Then a quick turn of the hips, pulling the suspect around in an ever closing circle, down to the ground. Worked every time–almost.

Seems like Bill’s experimentation with psychedelics, combined with whatever else he had going on, was enough to give him the agility of Tarzan. Oh yeah–he was bellowing like an enraged Mandrill too…

After about three revolutions, I figure that we looked like we were dance partners. Quickly brushing off feelings of disappointment at my favorite technique’s failure, I changed directions and launched him Judo-style into a flower bed at the base of a tree. I immediately dove on top of him, as he didn’t seem in the least stunned by the fall.

There he was face down on the pavement, my knees pressing into his back. I managed to get one hand in a handcuff, when Bill begins screaming at the top of his lungs: “He’s trying to fuck me in the ass!” He repeated his assertion several times. I looked in through the glass to Sweet’s Market, making eye contact with several customers standing in line. In my mind, I really hoped they saw my uniform, so they’d know that I had no interest in Bill’s rear end.

Then Bill amazed me again. Not only had he foiled my invincible take-down attempt at a mere 150 lbs., he also was managing to keep his other hand away from me. I can’t remember anyone that I had so much trouble hand-cuffing in almost 8 years. The whole time, he’s still screaming, and I’m pulling at his other arm.

Then a man, maybe early to mid-fifties kneels down next to me. He’s wearing a ball cap that said he was a retired US Marine. He asks me in a calm voice, if I’d like some help.

“Oh no….I’m….doing….alright. Thanks though.”

He helped me anyways and we got Bill into cuffs. The man walked away and I never got his name and I never got to say thanks.

Mr. Marine Veteran, if you’re there. Thanks.

 

17
Apr
08

Mourne Plain

Wrote this a couple of months back. Not sure what to think of it.

Mourne Plain

 

 

 

Anderson Edwards hunched over the old table; a table covered in the etchings of family member’s names. There was Bobby and Joseph and Crazy Ed.  Bits of sand scratched his elbows, but he didn’t notice for the four shots of vodka that now sat in Anderson Edwards’ stomach. He touched the loaded semi-automatic handgun that lie before him, dragged his index finger over the serial number, felt the steel grip as if it belonged to a sacred relic.

     Indeed, the gun was a sacred piece to a newly formed death-cult, of which Anderson was the founding member, the only member—the final member.

     Anderson Edwards swung his lolling head and peered out a window. He saw the universe mocking him, flaunting the beauty that he had failed to see all of his life. Blue moonlight sprayed obliquely through the two windows that faced the lake, falling upon half his face and half upon the table, further roiling him by highlighting the names of his father and mother, each separated by a small carved heart and dated 1968. They’d left him too, like everyone else had. His thoughts drifted to his ex-wife.

     “That’s right, Honey, you got the kitchen sink. There’s nothing left now. Are you happy!” he swayed back, holding the bottle of vodka, yelling at the timbered ceiling of the camp’s bunkhouse.  He stood with the help of the table, shuffled his feet on the gritty floor and found the mirror that hung on the wall at the foot of the bunk-beds.

     He stared into his own eyes, scanned the reflection of his face. The vodka seemed to be pulling his cheeks down and his eyes too. Also the corners of his mouth. Anderson Edwards watched himself sip from his shot glass. Water of Life is what the Russians called it. “Water of Death’d be better,” he muttered.

     It wasn’t long before his image danced before him; a mesmerism in the shadow. Edwards watched his form stretch, the borders of his body become pliable as if he were putty being molded by an invisible child. The vodka of course. And he was tired. And he wanted to die.

     Then the reflection gathered, reconstructed itself to become a semblance of what it had been before; a simple man, alone, in the dark with no one that loved him, in a world that he hated.

     His lip quivered a bit, his chin wrinkling. He swirled his drink and gulped the rest. The burning of the alcohol choked back the cry that tried to escape his throat. Looking up from the floor, weeping ambushed him.

     Great sobs echoed through the damp wood of the cabin. It pleased him to see himself weep. Anderson Edwards seemed to gain some great self-knowledge as he watched his face crinkle, tears roll down his cheeks. Best of all though, was the sound—a symphony of despair. The sound proved that the world was no place for him.

     He studied his own eyes again, thought about going back to the table for the gun. But now his eyes shone with a joy that Anderson Edwards thought vanished since childhood. He shifted his vision down to his mouth and found the corners upturned. His teeth were even showing! The shot glass bounced twice on the floor, the now empty hand reaching to probe the terrain of his face. A smile?

     No. His fingers found the same frown. Still, the drying trails from his tears covered his cheeks.

     “Hello, Anderson.” His reflection’s mouth moved with the intonations of the words. “Why so sad?”

     Adrenaline shot through his body. “What…” He stumbled back, a hand reaching by instinct and smashing through a window into the crisp air outside. He dragged his arm back through the jagged glass, streaming sanguine fluid.

     “Careful, Anderson. See, you’ve cut yourself.” The reflection’s smile softened only a bit.

     “This isn’t real,” insisted Anderson.

     “Isn’t it? Does it matter now? I know what you plan on doing.” The figure in the mirror folded his arms, and now its eyes seemed to be set afire; they shone with a color like that of the moonbeam. “I think you should reconsider. I have a better plan.”

     Anderson shook his head. “This is the plan for me. Nothing’s gonna stop it now. There’s nothing left. No reason for anything.” He cursed himself for debating with something he knew wasn’t real.

     “Let’s switch places then. The universe is a big, complicated place, Anderson. It’s bad place. But here, where I am, it’s pretty darn good.”

     “Who are you?” said Anderson.

     The thing snickered. “Who do I look like?”

     “Me.”

     “Than I’m you.”

     Anderson slumped down against the wall until his rump hit the floor. His head hung between his knees as he spoke. “Look out there. The lake, the moon, the pine trees. Can you smell them?”

     “I know. It’s horrible isn’t it? I’d like to help. Do a little switcharoo with you.” The thing motioned to Anderson. “Common.”  

     What was there to lose? He’d planned on spraying his brains across the lake anyway. Gathering himself, his rose. Blood quivered at the end of his fingertips before splashing onto the floor. Two steps forward and he stood face to face with his smiling reflection, the simmering moon-glow of the simulacrum’s eyes pressing into his soul.

     “Just say it. That’s it and you’ll be here, I—there,” the reflection said.

     “Where are you? I mean what is there?” Anderson flittered his head toward the mirror and stared intently at the area behind the figure. He saw nothing but the shadows and the broken window behind him. A loon knelled from the dark lake.

     “It’s a place where you can finally find acceptance.” The figure’s face became serene, seemingly losing its contour. “I’ve been here for a while so I think it’s time I share my spot with someone else.”

     “But you said you’re me,” said Anderson.

     “Well, I will be you—I want to be you.”

    “That’s a mistake. You don’t know what it’s like to have no one. It’s better being dead—you’ll see.” Anderson Edwards scratched his head, brought his hand to in front of his face. The ache from the wound had finally burrowed through his drunkenness. It throbbed with each beat of his heart. “Okay. I want to be there.”

     His image still stood before him though, and the grin had returned. “Thank you Anderson. Thank you so much. You’ll find what you want, I’m sure.”

     Placing his hand on the mirror, Anderson tried to push through it, into the other world. But his hand did not penetrate to another existence, it merely settled on the cool, dusty glass.

     It brought a jolt to him when his reflection took a single step back, spun on its heel, then walked away. Anderson Edwards angled himself with the glass so that he could watch his image walk. He watched the mirage pause at the picnic table, pick up the handgun, then walk out the door without looking back. He turned to look at the real table. Gone. The loon had fallen silent. And there was no breeze—no cabin walls.  

     But there was a moon. No! Two! And blood red, one as big as a cup platter, the other a dinner plate, each faintly streaked with flowing yellows and orange. The air felt a tinge warmer. Anderson Edwards began to choke. He rubbed his eyes.

     Then, marching from the antediluvian mist that wafted around Anderson’s feet, from the utter darkness that surrounded Anderson Edwards but for the crimson swath cut by the terrible moons, two dark men, skin the color of onyx, dressed in white, linen robes. As they approached, Anderson saw that they had no hair, their faces possessed an inhuman angularity—sharp and long. Their arms hung a bit too low; a few inches below their knees, and their legs, long and lean, strode with inordinate grace. When they’d drawn to within ten yards, they stopped and stared.  Anderson Edwards heard a voice, but both beings’ mouths remained still—some would say grim—but when Anderson heard the voice, he heard the voice of an angel. Had he in fact off’d himself at the lake and found what the here-after is like? Maybe God found a bit of mercy for poor, unloved Anderson and decided he shouldn’t remember the final act.

     “Anderson Edwards,” the voice said “welcome.”

     “Where am I?” asked Anderson, strangely calm.

     “This is the epicenter of the multiverse’s pleasure—and its pain. From here, you can move from one shadow-reality to the next. The only caveats being that in order to leave one’s previous reality, another must willingly replace you, and the sum total of pleasure and pain in the universe must remain balanced. It is a rare distinction to be given this chance, Anderson Edwards.”

     What was Anderson’s replacement doing now? Probably finishing off the vodka.

     The voice continued: “We understand that you wished to terminate your existence, as you lack the feeling of being loved. Since the adoration of others, at all costs, seems to be what makes you happiest, we believe we have found a proper match for you.”

     In the space between Anderson Edwards and the strange beings, a rectangle of purest darkness bloomed and hovered not more than a foot from the ground. It bore the same shape as the mirror in the bunkhouse.

     “Look,” said the voice.

     Hesitatingly, he walked to the dark rectangle. He ground his teeth as he edged himself around to peer into space and time. Within the blackness, beyond it, a man paced to and fro, his hands locked behind the small of his back. Somehow Anderson Edwards knew the face, but more he knew the clothing. The man turned and walked to stand in front of Anderson Edwards.

     A deep sorrow flowed from the little man’s eyes. Those eyes told Anderson Edwards what to do next:

     “Let’s change places for a bit. I know what you’re planning. I can see it in your face. There’s a better place for you here.”

     The man jumped and spoke in a language not familiar to Anderson Edwards, but that he somehow understood.

     “Vile revenant! Be gone. My hour nears and I’ll face it with honor. No escape for me.” The man straightened his long blue coat, swiped his hand across the tops of his high leather boots, then inspected his work. Finally, with his fingers, he combed back a tuft of his thin, dark hair from his forehead.

     “You won’t lose any honor by living another day. It’s only smart,” said Anderson Edwards. “And maybe you can come back someday.”

     The man paused. It was obvious that he now considered the truth in Anderson Edwards’ words. A few more moments of negotiation and finally the man said: “Very well, another start for me. Another exit from doom’s stage.”

     At the words, Anderson Edwards found himself adjusting the very same tall boots, straightening the identical jacket and hair, his former life only an echo in his subconscious mind. He strode out through the flapping aperture of his tent, pulling on his thick, leather riding gloves and fixing his cavalry saber at his waste. With great arrogance he set his famous hat on his head. Around him, men saluted as he moved by them. In their eyes, Anderson Edwards saw what he cherished most: unconditional admiration. Each man saluted him, but such was their respect, they cared not that no salute returned to them, only an astute nod.

     All across a wet, grassy land, thousands of men had gathered, all dressed in the same vestments as Anderson Edwards, and preparing themselves for some great endeavor. Thousands of men, hundreds of thousands of men, each of them as his beck.

     He climbed onto his steed then weaved his way through the encampment. The horse snorted its own love for its rider. Anderson found what he looked for: eighty cannon manned by his expectant soldiers. He glanced at his pocket watch: 11:50.

     “Soldiers of the Fifth!” he cried, lifting his saber from its scabbard. All of the men within earshot turned. “Let us finish this before supper. Your emperor can ask nothing more from you than your blood.” He smiled at this, and snickers rippled through the regiment. “But I prefer to ask for the blood of our enemy!”  At this he cut the air with the blade, prompting a roar from his soldiers.
     “Vive L’Empereur! Vive L’Empereur!”

     A Lieutenant locked eyes with him, and with a determined countenance, turned and shouted orders at the crews attending the cannon.

     “Grande Batterie—charger le canon!” Thirty seconds later: “Feu!”

     The guns thundered, vomiting ball shot. The iron spheres fell amidst Wellington’s troops as they assembled for war. Some spheres found their targets, tearing brave men apart, others simply sunk deep into the wet mourne plain of a small village called Waterloo.

     Anderson Edwards never felt more loved.

 

17
Apr
08

Summer, 1942

Well, last night’s game was cut a little short because of set-up time and the fact that Mike’s phone kept ringing.

We completed the first turn and now are in the middle of Japan’s turn. We’ll continue the struggle tonight. Mike will get drunk and lose. Badly.

The first turn of an A+A game is critical. For experienced players the first turn is comprised of standard troop purchases and maneuvers, but can be severely effected by unlucky die rolling.

Playing Russia, I stayed with the only plan that gives her any fighting-chance to survive past the first few turns: I purchased eight infantry and placed them all in Karelia, expecting a large German force to make a push there in an attempt to gain the factory and the strategic position to assault Moscow.

I further reinforced Caucasus with infantry and a fighter plane. Then I moved a couple troops east to help against the predictable though unhistorical fight against Japan.

In Russia’s battle sequence, things turned out quite well. I destroyed Germany’s transport and Submarine in the Atlantic with a sneak attack from my own sub.

Next, it was the German war machine’s turn. Mike made his purchases, then proceeded with a massive invasion of Karelia, using an armored force comprised of at least eight tanks and a large stack of infantry and one aircraft. I knew it would be a tough fight, but here, Russian conscripts proved worthy. I repulsed the German attack, forcing them to retreat back to Eastern Europe, and leaving the Ukraine defended by a single German infantry unit. The normal quandary applied here:  One tries to adhere to the military maxim of troop mass, but is tempted to defend all his territories for fear of losing IPCs.

In other parts of the world, I didn’t fair so well against German might. My British battleship was destroyed, and German Panzers roared across the Suez Canal into Anglo-Egypt Sudan, easily defeating the British garrison there. Britain only retains a single troop in South Africa. Not good.

Japan managed to take China and the Soviet Far East. Hopefully America can soon place enough pressure on the Imperials to make her pay the ultimate price…

I’ll make sure to employ Suzie’s mathmatical theorem’s–the one’s I stole off the comments section. It was kind of like decoding the Enigma machine.

16
Apr
08

Spring, 1942

My friend Mike and I just started a game of Axis and Allies. A+A is a WWII “simulation game”, the term being used rather loosely here. We’ve been playing since junior high.

I’m playing the Allies, Mike’s playing the Axis. He’s already started his trash-talk, asking me if I wanted to surrender before we began the game. Yeah. Ok, Mike. Hope you don’t mind seeing Berlin and Tokyo made into parking lots. Nuremberg trials anyone?

It may take us a few days to finish the game. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.




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