If what he suspected were true, his respect for her was about to be run over like any dumb varmint on a freeway.
He hated her youth for what it kept hidden from her. There are so many ways to be young, he thought, so many parcels of naïveté. But she's not as young anymore, is she? She should know better. She's been burned. How can she possibly not see where she's headed? He watched her move past him. She hadn't noticed him. Even though it might betray his tailing her here, he wished she might catch a glimpse and stop, maybe give him that squeeze of eyebrows and skin she made when curiosity found her. What would he say? She'd ask him what brought him so far to this side of the city. He would want to ask her the same question but he wouldn't. He would lie to her. And that sudden revelation landed firmly on his head with the weight of an anvil and he had to brace himself against the table, the ice rattling in his drink. Lie to her? he thought. And what is your respect worth now?
"If autonomy and authority are genuinely incompatible, only two courses are open to us. Either we must embrace philosophical anarchism and treat all governments as non-legitimate bodies whose commands must be judged and evaluated in each instance before they are obeyed; or else, we must give up as quixotic the pursuit of autonomy in the political realm and submit ourselves (by an implicit promise) to whatever form of government appears most just and beneficent at the moment. (I cannot resist repeating yet again that if we take this course, there is no universal or a priori reason for binding ourselves to a democratic government rather than to any other sort. In some situations, it may be wiser to swear allegiance to a benevolent and efficient dictatorship than to a democracy which imposes a tyrannical majority on a defenseless minority. And in those cases where we have sworn to obey the rule of the majority, no additional binding force will exist beyond what would be present had we promised our allegiance to a king!)" - Robert Paul Wolff 'In Defense of Anarchism'
I left Masterson’s chambers with his angry voice accompanying Jim in quick step behind me.
The door closed. Jim and I had managed to escape, leaving Masterson’s voice banging it’s head into the solid confines of the office. I stopped before a tall grid of glass panes, icy flakes crusted in their exterior corners, a frigid resonance touching my face. Michael, you’re making things very difficult for me. He was standing behind me, nearly whispering. You remember Pop reading Mark Twain to us, Jim? I don’t read Twain anymore. I knew why he didn’t read Twain anymore. Twain said, I told him, ‘Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.’ In other words, take account of the facts, consider the possibility you’re being fooled. People can be swallowed by the mob. He stepped next to me and we watched the snow sifting from some silent place above the shimmering streets, each flake growing heavier as it fell, deforming into a beautifully crafted thing feathering with gravity to its demise in the steam and muck of the gutters. You’re not losing anything by voting yes on this one, Michael. From my point of view, I lose everything. I spent a lot of time and money and bent a lot of rules to bring you here, Michael. Then you shouldn’t have. But I have, brother, so how does that help us now? He was frightened. The red light at the peak of the monument far out in the darkness blinked slowly. I thought of the yin-shaped storm of birds I’d seen here in the spring. All that sunlight behind them. The air so heavy and moist. All I can tell you, Jim, is I’ll stand with you if you’ll stand with me, either way, I will be standing, right here. I turned to him and there, deep in his dark eyes I found that same yin-shaped mess and I wanted grab his tie and throw him through that window. You have no idea what you’ve done to us, Michael. Maybe but I’m a quick study.
Who killed more people in the Bible? God or Satan?
God: the high figure is 33,041,220 people. This is a high estimate. Others estimate a much lower figure of 2.8 million.
Satan: 10 people (seven sons and three daughters of Job) but these murders were allowed by God as a part of a wager so technically, God is also an accomplice in these deaths.
There you go... Just more proof that if God does exists, he's a fucking asshole.
PS. God only beats Ghengis Kahn by about 3 million...
This is the Cadillac Fraf tune "Truth of it All." Just a little refresher prax with some of my friends who will be performing at the Frafest tonight.
Here's some encouragement, judge, I've never won anything, never come out on top in any competition, the proverbial loser; so you have that going for you and you already have the advantage of the machine so in a sense, you've already won.
That's what I'm trying to tell you, Billy. But in another sense, judge, we're both of us at the mercy of the law of averages; the more times something doesn't happen, the more probable it will happen; all of my failures have lead me here and all of your triumphs have brought you. Billy, I'm afraid you've lost perspective. Perspective? there's a legal term I'm not familiar with, your honor; I've made my 'perspective' pretty clear, the perspective of my struggle, same as you; the difference is that struggle and I have a very special relationship; we enjoy one another's company; so gather the machine, your majesty; push the buttons or don't and save yourself the humiliation... good talk but I gotta bounce. Billy, the law has to be enforced and it's up to you how painful this is gonna be; why not just turn yourself in and we can end this thing peacefully? Why? because, as you well know, your eminence, I don't really have anything else going on; I'm bored, need a project; sayonara, your grace.
In honor of the Cadillac Fraf celebration this weekend, I give you some magic from the man himself.
Well if you asked me to move a mountain
Or bend a river, I'd probly try... just for you
But I am glad you only asked me to move a bed
A pile of clothes, a bunch of shoes, and yer radio
Well, I would do just about anything for you... I enjoy yer company
Me, I would even try to part the seas... good friend of mine
Well, I know it's just the rain and my stuffy nose
But if I had the blues I think I know I could count on you
So if only I could save you from the dark
And be around to answer... each time you call
Well, I would do just about anything for you... it's what you mean to me
Me, I would even try to part the skies... good friend of mine
Well, I wish I could swim in yer eyes
And take you face... and eat it... right off the bone
I wish I could sleep in yer arms again tonight
But instead I'll go on home and go to bed alone
But I'd still do just about anything for you... it's what yer smile does to me
Me would take on new enemies... good friend of mine
So if I could see the words to help you find
That my mind... is always on you
You'd realize that if there's a favor you desire
The pleasure is mine. I've go the time if you need me
I would do just about anything for you... I love you so
You don't know what you you mean to me... Good Friend of Mine
The rain stopped and the clouds separated into bands, a great ribcage reaching over the foothills.
She could hear the freight train moaning like her mother used to late at night when she thought all her children asleep. There's only one way down the mountain now, he told her, shaking her shoulder. They're coming? Yes, he made a motion against the outlying bulwark of trees, the blue serrated distance carving the horizon behind them. I want you to take the boy and the pack and get going. She corkscrewed her neck through the folds of the damp blanket on her back. The boy sat crying on a log fifty feet from her, his leg tied to a tent stake loosely dipped into the wet soil. Why run? she grabbed his collar. We don't have to do it like this. He slapped her fingertips and she retracted them, hissing at the cold slice of pain. Godammit! he barked. Take the pack and the boy and get moving or I will leave you here. The knife appeared silver and liquid, mercurial death escaping the shadow of his coat and she held her breath as the blade kissed the skin just below her jaw. I understand, she whispered. I know you do. He shoved her from the lichen covered rock to her knees and set to limping across the meadow toward the trees. When she finally stopped crying and opened her eyes, the boy and the tent stake were gone.
For him, a man who cherished the movement of life—the course of days—this waiting was killing him, or so he thought, amazed how the act of waiting required an exhausting amount of strength and focus.
Those around him worried depression had discovered him and he took note of their attention. At times, it seemed as if they had almost willed this corporeal disturbance in his chest. However, he could easily admit to himself the grind of his focus was ultimately guilty of creating this germinating depression. He found himself randomly staring it directly in the eyes in restroom mirrors or the reflections in an elevator door, sensing its taste for his destruction. It fed on lackadaisical moments between waking in the morning and the appearance of coffee, during those normally forgettable minutes in line at the convenience store, or staring into the vibratory red of a traffic signal. It developed an odor. He failed to pinpoint the familiarity of the smell but he recognized it. A texture bubbled across its surface with an annoying grace, a subtlety beaded ribbon of cognizance wrapping around his chest, slithering the tunnels of muscle and gristle leading to his throat where it would constrict and writhe. That which initially he suspected as a parasite soon revealed itself the engineer of a cocoon. He had been transformed to chrysalis, no longer the selfish thing in command of a mind or body—a mind and body he could barely remember—but a thing built by the creature.
We stood among the pines on the eastern slope, hearing the wind yawn as it plowed across the mountain and we waited for it to touch the needles above us as the rising sun painted the dark pillars with swimming red light.
The spires waxed velvet, the radical color dissolving the shadows, burning the darkness. She told me when she was a child she feared the snow and I saw her fixation on the patches of steaming ice stroked down the talus below us. I asked what she could possibly have to fear from the snow. Everything was more danger’z back then, she explained, specially Mother Nature. She recounted the deaths of her cousin and another boy in a blizzard when she was five years old. They had gone into the weather to bring the cow in from the field and one fell in the creek and the other went in to save him and their blue-black bodies were found a week later on the muddy red shores of a playa. She told me how she wouldn’t leave the house, gladly taking whippings from her father for refusing to go to church or school or even fetch the eggs until every drop of snow had melted. Hell, she laughed, looking back on it, there was probly more chance of that roof fallin on my head than dyin in the snow. I could see the tears glassing her eyes, too cold to escape. I never thought I’d be this old, she said. I don’t rightly know if I endorse livin this long. I feel like the last of somethin. And it’s lonely. It must be, I said. She stretched her arm into the light, her hand shivering not from the cold but the very weight of her fingers as if her arm were a long pole growing heavier the higher she lifted it. Thing about lonely, she smiled and closed her eyes with the sun revving waves of heat across her open unsteady palm, is the same as anything else like it. It never gets worse than the first time. And that makes it easier? I asked, her smile infecting my face. Well, of course.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
That Night Filled Mountain
episodes post daily. Paperback editions are available.
My newest novel River of Blood is available on Amazon or Apple Books.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.