A Parable Of Sorts

It’s curious how the mind can wander off into a story…

During a ‘time out’ from working on my WIP (“The Reluctant Savage”) my mind began its wandering and somehow settled on some of the world’s more problematic issues – at least, from the perspective of someone living in the USA and being bombarded each day with unsettling news from far away places, news of Syria’s internal devastating turmoil, of Iran’s new leadership and how it might hold some slight promise for relieving old angers and hatreds, news of a North Korea that seems always deleterious and scary…

I reached for my laptop and began to type this rather small piece that became a fanciful story. I decided at its conclusion that it had some ‘nuance’ here and there and decided to give it a title, “A Parable of Sorts.” I’m posting it here because I’m a writer who can hardly ever let anything I write, good or bad, go to waste. Hopefully, this little tale will not be too disconcerting to the senses. With this said, here’s the tale…

“A Parable Of Sorts”

Sasha begged him not to go. “You belong here with me, Leonid. The battle is within you, not with North Korea. What of us?” She tugged at his tattered coat.

He smiled benignly, “You’re a lovely and silly girl. You do not understand the reality of our time. To stay would be to defy my beliefs, my convictions, and, yes, my anger and hatred.”

“You would die for these beliefs and convictions, this anger and hatred?”

“We all must die, Sasha.”

“You brought me here to be left alone in a strange country?”

“Hong Kong is not a strange country, foolish one. We’ve been here sometime now. You know many of our native people. Go to them when your money runs out. Stay with them. Should something go wrong, I will return for you.”

“Please, Leonid, you go to die and you know it. You’ve told me of your plans. You go on a suicide mission. I’ve begged before and I beg of you, now, please stay!”

At the door of the small efficiency apartment, Leonid paused with his hand on the door knob. His dark eyes and handsome face held a strange and wistful look. He removed his hand from the door knob, returned to Sasha where she stood by the tiny dining table. “You are so beautiful, my blue-eyed wonder.” He embraced and gave her a long passionate kiss.

He then quickly twisted her head until he heard the snap. The lips were still in a half-smile as her head dangled and fell to his right shoulder, her blue eyes large and vacant in their death stare. In a whisper, he spoke, to the face he had loved, “Better you go this way, my dear Sasha, than to linger in life’s pain. You cannot know but I did love you.”

Leonid gently lowered her body onto a soiled stuffed chair just a few feet from the dining table, gazed upon her splayed form for some seconds, then slowly left the apartment. Tears welled but he willed them away, a final and essential part of his being had snapped and was forever lost to him.

*****

Night, reluctant to shed its vagueness, was slowly showing its lightened eastern clouds as the sun gave way to earth’s perpetual orbital pattern. Leonid walked in the shadows along streets leading to the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. It was still quiet in this city known as ‘Flat Land’ in its translation. In his backpack he carried explosives with timer mechanisms that he would plant at key buildings. The explosive carefully strapped to his body he would save for the KMP.

His thoughts were well focused on his morning’s mission but he could not deny the flashing memories that brought him to this point in time…

His father, mother, and brother had been ruthlessly killed here in Pyongyang in 2012 by a squad of government gangsters of the ‘People’s Republic of Korea.’ His family was shown no mercy as they were chopped to death by machetes, labeled spies against the state. Four hours later his older brother and sister were pulled from their lodgings, beaten, and then chopped to death. The government squad had no ears to listen to his family’s protests of innocence, their legitimate reason for being in the ‘Flat Land,’ their labored cries of mercy.

Pyongyang’s government never wavered from their ill-gotten information about his family. Never mind that his mother had pleasantly refused to cater a special luncheon for the squad and their friends, the sole event and motive that brought the hatred and the killings. Never mind that his sister would be raped before she was chopped. The killings were all justified, each query quashed and forgotten by the government.

His marriage to Sasha prior to the family murders made home life an hourly ebb and flow of emotions. When sleep would come there were the hellish nightmares, waking, screaming the names of his dead family, his body slick with sweat and tears, Sasha clinging to him, sobbing, trying desperately to slay the night-dragons that possessed him.

Then came the job loss and it was as though the people of Hong Kong could see the rage in his eyes, the stench of hatred from his body. He became a man avoided and feared. Sasha tried to get him help, would set an appointment for him to see someone who might be able to help him, but he would not arrive at the set time. Sasha was the only person in the large city who could give him moments of relative calm, but then those times of surcease became fewer and fewer.

He would not bathe nor shave, only when Sasha would run his bath and physically pull and push him to the tub and wash and rinse him. For those few precious moments Sasha could almost sense some warmth come to him…but it never lasted long. The strange hatred that occupied him never resulted in personal damage to her. She did the talking, asking questions of him, and he bluntly answered the questions – until the fateful day he killed her! It was only some modicum of revenge that would fulfill what was left of his putrid life…

As he walked in the shadowy stillness, a voice came to him from an alleyway just a few feet away: “Leonid, I must talk to you. Come walk with me in the alley.”

Leonid stopped, momentarily startled…no one knew his name, knew that he was here in Pyongyang. “Who speaks my name?” He braced himself against a building corner near the alley, moving his hand near a detonator that would vaporize him and much of the immediate area.

“A friend, Leonid. Please come these few steps and talk to me. There is no harm intended. We will talk, and you can do then what you will.” The voice had a calm and soft cadence, and Leonid knew that the man spoke the truth.

Leonid walked a few feet into the alley until he saw a man’s form. What struck him were the man’s eyes. They glowed in the semi-darkness, matched the tenor of the stranger’s voice. Oddly, Leonid was not afraid of the stranger and walked some fifty feet further down the alley, stopping when the stranger sat on a wooden crate. The stranger bid Leonid to sit on another wooden crate nearby.

“How is it that you know me and what do you want?”

“I’m just a man who knows the pain you carry within you and the mission that you are on.”

“How could you possibly know such things?”

“I have been with you all the way from Hong Kong, Leonid, mourning with you the loss of your beloved Sasha.”

“I killed her! With these ugly knotted hands, I killed her. How can you know this, Tell me who you are and why you are here, or, I will…”

“Leonid, just a few questions I have and you can be on your way.” The stranger’s voice was mesmerizing, measured in softness and tone. “Why is it, Leonid, that we are here on this spinning orb we call earth?”

There was rapture in the stranger’s voice that commanded a response. “We are here to live in parables and to die and be no more.”

The stranger’s eyes seemed to glow more brightly and the long beard he wore was a pellucid whiteness that seemed somehow unearthly. Leonid quickly considered whether of not he was awake or in a dream.

The stranger spoke. “So, why is it that the moon falls from the sky, the sun does not bring us daylight, and birth has no precise process to follow?”

Still taken by the stranger’s soothing voice, but a bit nonplussed, Leonid responded. “But you know that is not so. What is your motive here?”

The stranger seemed not to hear the question. “Why is there no evil and good in the world?”

“Stop confounding me with your Socratic silliness. Of course, there is evil and there is good in the world.”

“And why do you think that is so?”

“God only knows.”

“You speak His name as though you know him, Leonid. Do you know God?”

“There is no God!”

“Yet, you say He knows about evil and good.”

“Look, your aura wraps me in some kind of spell and I seem compelled to listen to your words. Please tell me what it is you wish me to know.”

“One last question, your response, and I will say my final words to you. “Did you truly love Sasha?”

“Of course, with all my heart I loved her, but my heart and soul is heavy with grief and hatred.”

“Like the hatred of Jesus’ enemies as they crucified Him on the cross? Like the hatred of the Americans for the Japanese during World War Two? Like the psychotic hatred of serial killers?”

“Yes, yes! How else can I answer such questions?”

“You can answer such questions by having Faith that there is more to come beyond this life, by believing that evil only spreads when good people are paralyzed by anger, fear, and hatred. To Love is to have Faith. To have Faith is to have Love. These noble elements of living decide our ultimate destinies. People have choices to make all their earthly lives. They will not always make the right choices, but Faith and Love will make all the wrong choices bearable and inconsequential when the last grain of sand is gathered.”

As more light came to the alley Leonid thought that he understood what the stranger was saying to him. He wanted to say something but no words would come.

The stranger lifted himself from the crate and stood in front of Leonid. “May I touch your head, Leonid, so that it might bless you?”

With tears now flowing, Leonid merely moved his head downward. The stranger touched his head. Leonid sensed warmth on his head and a coursing flutter through his body. Then, the hand left his head.

When Leonid raised his head, the stranger was gone and daylight streamed throughout the alley.

*****

When Leonid awoke, his head was on his own pillow. He was gazing at the adjoining pillow into the wondrous blue eyes of his beloved Sasha, a sweet smile upon her face.

“You look different somehow, my love. Do you still intend to carry out your vendetta against North Korea? Please say that you will not.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled her face to his chest.

“No, my precious love, there will be no vendetta, not ever…” Leonid tightly wound himself around Sasha and gave her a long and tender kiss. “I’m torn,” he said, “making love to you, or, bacon and eggs?” He paused only briefly, “Oh, to hell with the bacon and eggs…”

[END of tale]

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“Kerosene Lamps And The 21st Century”

Bill SSMT

 

Kerosene Lamps And The Twenty-First Century

There are so many of us who carry through life certain angst, anxieties, doubts, emotional experiences, and guilt. If there was truly a way to quantify these feelings the numbers might shock us, or, at least, give us a better sense of the world in which we live. These feelings of course touch every segment of our worldwide populations. It matters not if you are poor, rich, or somewhere in between.

To the degree we carry one or all of these feelings determine how we make our way in life, how we are perceived by those around us, to the degree we can dislike, hate, and love. No class sector in our world community is exempt.

People work their way through poverty into the envied and glittering rich class… Some find their way there by attrition, a lucky lottery number, and/or by devious means. It is perhaps easier for the rich to find escape routes away from these feelings, but they are there nonetheless. Whatever the merits or demerits conveyed on the rich they are generally the group that invest their money into beginning or expanding companies that create jobs and more wealth.

The Middle Class (and its sub-divisions) ebbs and flows with the economic indicators – the GNP, growth, recession, all the fancy words that define the great capitalistic engine that moves our goods and services forward. This class depends on institutions like banks, credit unions, entrepreneurs (investors and job creators), and sound, well-managed, wise government agencies that function on their behalf. The feelings and emotional experiences are always prevalent in this class as well.

The Lower Class (and its sub-divisions) are the unfortunate among us who most generally exited the womb into meager surroundings. Some will stay there for their entire lifetimes. Others, by love and nurturing, by their own initiative and mental clarity, will fight their way to the other classes. The feelings and emotional experiences are most easily felt in this class, and, in many cases, it is the class most accessible to change.

If, then, these simple premises are accepted, what is the point of this post?

When these feelings and emotional experiences are connected to the world, we have a combustible situation. The United States is hated by certain groups. Some groups want to kill us, end our freedom and the principles upon which we were founded. We are considered arrogant and a bully by many. At some point, perhaps our government backed a country’s leader, supplied money to aid in a cause we felt was beneficial and humane to its people, made some mistakes in judgment along the way. As a nation we have tried to right any perceived wrongs but are met with defiance and hatred…people still want to kill us and our way of life. We give so much money to countries that harbor those groups who try to kill us. Where does the money go? Does it reach the good people who need it?

The feelings and emotional experiences are real. They are deeply felt in the Middle East (since the dawn of time, countries at war with each other), in Russia, in China, in certain Latin American countries, in Africa, and other parts of the world. We, the people of the United States are of many nationalities. We have ‘Projects’ for some of our Blacks. We have ‘ChinaTowns’ and ‘Russian Boroughs’ and Muslim communities. Some assimilate and try to learn our constitution and our principles. Some are in back rooms perhaps plotting ways to destroy our democratic way. We the people have government issues, split along party lines: some wanting less government interference in our private sector businesses, less laws, regulations, and/or executive orders; some wanting more entitlement spending, more regulations, money redistributed to those less fortunate. Yes, indeed, the feelings and emotional experiences are real, more pronounced, more volatile, and, potentially, more dangerous than a civilized society has ever known. Many people want a different world from the one I was born into, the one that gave us the ‘greatest generation’ – the world’s graveyards hold many of their bodies…the beautiful, the brave men and women who died so freedom could hopefully live on.

The ‘machines’ are now with us, adding expediency and pleasure to our lives but also kindling those feelings and emotional experiences. Nuclear weapons are out there. Can we account for them all? Computers dominate our lives as never before, the language of ‘Widgets,’ ‘RSS feeds,’ ‘Apps,’ ‘Tags,’ ‘URLs,’ on and on. Some of us get lost in the new language of the internet. ‘Social Networks’ (twitter, facebook, linkedin, google+, others) consume our days. Our laptops freeze on us. We rant and rave at the inconvenience of our IT system being down for periods of time. Our dependency has grown exponentially.

All these things gather in our conscious and subconscious minds. We are reminded that history has given us some rough patches that we have overcome, and we will overcome again.

Hope so. Pray so.

I’m in the twilight of my years, and these feelings and emotional experiences have gotten me this far without the world coming apart. For my children, my grandchildren, my great grand-children, I’m hoping this is all just an old man’s over-reactions.

Just can’t seem to get the image out of my head of Charlton Heston standing on that beach with our cherished ‘Statue of Liberty’ there in the sand and him uttering something to the effect: “We finally did it!”

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The World Is Stretching And Yawning

The picture is a younger me! Okay, it’s a much younger me! During the days when this picture was taken, the world for me was a rare giant oyster with many lovely pearls. Oh, sure, there were some moments of regrets and despair but, generally, life was piano bars, pretty women, and usually too much of the amber fluid. Drugs were around my life but never really in my life. It was a busy time for making fun the order of every day, impressing the girls with my wisdom and wit, and, of course, my ‘etchings.’

For the most part my friends were attorneys, textbook salesmen, and mostly anyone who answered one question correctly. That question: “Are you a turtle?” If the answer was not, “You bet your sweet ass I am!” it would take a little more time but, really, anyone could be my friend. The turtle question? Just something silly my generation thought up to keep everyone amused – as you can see, it didn’t take a whole lot to amuse us! Sort of like some of the weird words and phrases of today… There was, however, a most definite difference ‘then’ as opposed to ‘now.’

‘Then,’ there was not the subterranean build-up of world issues. There was not the economic and job worries of today. And, certainly, there was not Terrorism – oh, there was some mayhem and murder, that kind of terror, but not the kind that gets into your subconscious mind and bubbles up too consistently in the current ‘now.’ I’m not writing about ‘the good old days’ – yet, there were good days mixed with the ‘down’ days when I allowed myself to think about the mistakes I was making or the sadness that was of my own making. In the ‘then’ days there were bad governments and there were good governments, depending, of course, on political leanings. Perhaps what I remember most about the ‘then’ days was the feeling of Freedom, that sense that, even with my periodic goofs, our world was reasonably within some tolerance level of diplomatic solution.

‘Now,’ it is more a feeling, a sense, that the world is ‘stretching’ and ‘yawning’ in some peculiar and scary ways. Some say we are seeing ‘Revelations’ come to pass (for those who might not know, ‘Revelations’ is a book in the New Testament of the Bible). Some say we are on the downward slope of our Democracy, that when Freedom and Liberty are eroded by too much government control and entitlements, we are heading down the proverbial slippery slope. Some say we are just going through a generational phase where the digital world is making our lives more accessible and bringing the world together too fast. There are new ‘words’ in the ‘now’ lexicon. There are new faces appearing in the crowds, their lips speaking in different tongues and their gestures not always friendly.

I guess we have always had our calamitous moments, mass murders, our children kidnapped and killed. It just seems tougher today to know who to believe, who to trust, when and where to visit, what to do and how to act when we get there.

Of course, when I think about it, I’m in ‘Twilight,’ and perhaps my senses are losing (or,  have lost) some of their acuity. Maybe those ‘then’ days are happening for someone else as I write these words. Maybe the ‘now’ is not so bad after all. Yeah, sure, and maybe 9/11 did not happen at all!

The world is stretching and yawning! A lot is happening, perhaps too much for the old brain to process, too many social networks to monitor, too many machines. If not stretching and yawning, is the world getting too tightly bound? It just seems to me we’ve lost some stability, lost some of the old standards that were so important to us once upon a time, lost some of the texture that made our part of the world so great. We write about our world and what is happening in it, but who can truly say where we stand on the timeline of history? Who has the compendium that can accurately foretell our future. Is it our government? Is it the Bible? Is it God?

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A Family Dynamic

Billy Ray Chitwood liebsteraward booker-award very-inspirational-blogger1 reality blog award one-lovely-blog dragonsloyaltyaward

The drive was not so long from Rocky Point, MX, where I currently live on The Sea of Cortez, to Oceanside, California where our family had a week-long get-together at a lovely resort hotel on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The family members were sharing lovely suites on the same floor of the resort, meeting each night in a larger communal suite where we all, old, medium-old, young, grandparents, parents, kids, grand-kids, all frolicked passionately and not so passionately with our faithful libations, some timeless tales and experiences re-lived, heard in an earlier time but always fun and laughable when heard again… “Remember the night when we…” — well, you get the setting…

Some of us played golf at Torrey Pines (South Course) – amend that to read, the writer of this post tried to play a few holes while the other three golf members did play all eighteen holes –  I rode in the cart the final nine holes as the rust on my game was beyond removal. It was nonetheless a beautiful day of sunshine and there was scenery that will be forever etched in the memory room – and, there were some really good golf shots by some of the participants.

There were discussions, even the dreaded never-to-be mentioned politics and religion. We talked about the disabled, the hungry, the poor, the sick, all those who longed for better lives. We prayed for those less fortunate than we. We felt no special favor or privilege that we could come together as a family. We worked hard for what we had or for what it was we were seeking. We talked about our country and our world, the new technologies, the new ‘machines,’ where we might be heading. We had our views but we had no real answers to the world’s problems. We all wished for a world of love and peace, but understood the myriad of differences among all people made this universal dream likely an impossibility. No one came away bloody. Everyone claimed their love for each other after all was said and done. Some California friends and neighbors from years past dropped by for drinks and dinner a couple of nights – and, yep, we got to hear some of the same stories we heard on previous nights.

Each new day brought the ocean mist that would burn off by mid-morning, bringing the world famous California sun. Some of us went to see the old mission at San Luis Rey. Some walked the pier at Oceanside and ultimately sunbathed at the beach. Each day brought some new activities, together as a family and apart.

For me, it was somewhat a study in the family dynamic. There were people who cared for each other very much, each different and yet alike, each speaking of things that meant a lot or not a twit, each with pure hearts and noble ambitions, an entire group of which it is a matter of pride for me to belong. My thoughts often wandered off to my own childhood, not always the best of memories but plenty that gave feelings of warmth. I thought of my Mom, my Dad, and my sister. They are no longer with me, hopefully up there with ‘Clarence’ and his bells, but I find it still so easy to miss them, along with two sets of loving grandparents that attended me in my youth.

This little family get-together had most of the right ingredients…  There were some family members not there who were missed and loved. I can also hope that a few friendly ghosts of my youth were nearby – just wish I could have had some special moments with them again – thto tell them how much I truly loved them.

There are weeks that bring us blessings. There are weeks that bring us sadness. This week of family was special to me. They were moments perhaps better remembered in diaries than in public blogs, but, in watching the dynamic of these special family members for a week renewed some wishes I have for other families who might not be so lucky to get together on a California beach, who might be struggling to pay their bills, who might very well feel that this week of which I speak is exclusionary tripe — and, really, who could blame them? If there is a message here, it is that all families hit some ugly times. I know that my family did. There is also the message of hope – though it might seem to be dwindling for some, try to hold on to it. Some of us are lucky. Some of us, not so much. But we are all part of a whole, part of the universal scheme of things. Maybe we all can never quite get together but we can remember that we are part of a great big dynamic – we are all part of ‘the passing parade.’

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“Butterflies And Jellybeans – A Love Story” (A short excerpt)

Billy Ray Chitwood    Butterfly Jellybeans Nook Size

Most of my books are either ‘mystery-crime-adventure’ genre or ‘memoir’.  “Butterflies And Jellybeans – A Love Story” is my first romance novel. While it is essentially a love story, there are some elements that would attest to my penchant for the ‘mystery’ component in most of my books.

Fate plays a hand while two joggers run in the rain. Unknown to each other, a sudden lightning strike will change the lives of Jenny Mason and Jason Prince. I’ve pulled part of Chapter Twenty as a sample of the writing and to show a shade of conflict that is prevalent with the new lovers. Perhaps it will hold some interest for you and make you want more — that’s the unvarnished idea, of course. It is a short excerpt, and there will be information at the end to direct those who might be interested in reading the entire book. Hope you enjoy the section.

Chapter Twenty

Jenny rushed to meet him as he came through the heavy glass entry doors of the ER. She touched his arm and gave him a kiss on the cheek and told him she was sorry about Carlton.

She felt again a remoteness about Jason, as she had earlier over the phone. He was little else but civil as he asked to see his brother.

Police officer Donahue had left the hospital but had given a card to Jenny and asked her to have Jason call him at the precinct office.

There was a new intern tending to Carlton when Jason and Jenny arrived at the IC room. To Jenny, there appeared to be little or no change in Carlton. He still had a jumble of tubes coming out of his body. His face bruises raw and ugly against his pallid skin and the white sheets of the gurney.

The new doctor’s name was Seeley. Dr. Seeley finished his examination of Carlton, checked his clipboard, said something to the attending nurse, then turned to Jason and Jenny.

“You are the brother?” the doctor asked, with the normal hospital solemnity.

“Yes, I’m Jason Prince.” Jason extended his hand to Dr. Seeley and neglected to introduce Jenny. “What is the prognosis, Dr. Seeley? Will my brother survive?”

Jason glanced only briefly at Carlton. It was obviously difficult for him to see his brother so incapacitated and vulnerable. There was something about Carlton’s face that reminded Jason of an earlier time, when they were kids in the desert. The cant of Carlton’s face now had the same wistful mixture of sadness and something akin to fear that was there years ago in their play time. A lump formed in Jason’s throat.

The hospital room was filled with beeping sounds and an offensive malodorous air filled with merging medicines and body fluids. Jason was just noticing the physical aspects of the room for the first time since his arrival.

“He remains stable, Mr. Prince. His readings are consistently in acceptable ranges. We believe he will pull through, but, I must add, we are concerned about his head injuries. We want to run a series of tests and do a spinal tap. There is some evidence of amnesic behavior. Despite his comatose appearance, he has been conscious off and on. The intravenous medicines are keeping him heavily sedated.”

Jenny felt awkward, as though she were intrusive by being there in the room with Jason and the doctor. Their conversation seemed to her mind mutually exclusive, with no acknowledgment of her presence. She excused herself and left the room, informing Jason that she would wait for him in the ER lobby. There were no objections, merely a cursory nod of Jason’s head.

After Jenny left the room, Jason asked: “Are you expecting these tests to confirm that Carlton has amnesia?”

“We don’t really expect them to show any one thing. The tests are rather common, particularly in cases such as your brother’s. They are not necessarily conclusive but they can give us some important information. Actually, Mr. Prince, your brother is a very lucky man. He took quite a beating. All in all, his vital signs are very good and, in all likelihood, he will come through this in fine shape. The tests are merely precautionary. When I say, ‘we’re concerned,’ it just means we’re going to be thorough. With head trauma from a severe beating like this, it’s important to be thorough.”

“Of course, that’s the way it should be. Still, I’m getting what feels like mixed signals. Is there something specific about Carlton’s injuries that make you concerned?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Prince. Perhaps it does sound like mixed signals. We doctors can be vague and inarticulate at times. What I’m saying is that, in cases where there has been serious head trauma, it is common medical practice to run tests and check for possible amnesia issues, permanent brain damage, and so forth. It is also a common fact that the body is an amazing piece of machinery. It rights itself in miraculous ways.”

“Okay, maybe it sounds like I’m not hearing you, but I am. It just seems to me that some sign presented itself to you regarding amnesia. Can you tell me about that sign?”

Dr. Seeley maintained his composure even though he thought he had accurately addressed the issue. “Disorientation … blank, confused staring, sudden tearing in the eyes, a sense of panic and anxiety. Again, these symptoms are natural and can be easily explained away … by the acute trauma, the sudden realization that the body is not where it should normally be, with tubes coming our of several parts of the anatomy. Just by awakening and finding this alien environment is enough in and of itself to cause immediate depression. Anyway, the tests will help guide us to proper treatment. If I were a betting man, I would bet that your brother will recover fully from this. Physically, he should be fine. Mentally, I’m not qualified to say. There is no real reason to suspect that he will be mentally or psychologically damaged.”

Jason had never particularly enjoyed his sessions with doctors. To him, they seemed to specialize in double speak. They rambled and used their fancy words to muddle the brains of people who would never know better. Maybe he was being harsh in his feelings about the noble physicians. Maybe it was simply a matter of him being too dense to understand them. It was difficult for him to listen and understand the doctor when he stood above his brother’s battered body. It was difficult to separate the emotions he was feeling and the reality in this IC room.

Dr. Seeley could see that Jason Prince was himself traumatized. He could see the pain in his eyes and in his body language. The man was reeling from emotions the doctor could not know. Dr. Seeley felt a deep sympathy for Jason, and, with a benign smile, he patiently tried once again to make himself understood.

“What we really need to focus on is …”

The doctor was interrupted by an abrupt movement and sound from the hospital gurney. Dr. Seeley and Jason turned together to look at Carlton, then rushed to his side.

Carlton’s eyes were open and vacant, his ashen face twitching and moving rapidly from side to side. His head began to nod in frantic gestures and his throat muscles constricted and expanded in a grotesque kind of melodic frenzy. The medical equipment in the room seemed to match the human activity on the gurney. The beeps were strident in their intensity, and the gurgling sounds raced to keep pace with the aura of confusion.

Jason eyes, wide with fear, were locked into the same visceral and arcane circuitry of the movement surrounding him, twitched and started in quick jerks, first in one direction and then another, his head swiftly darting from equipment to Carlton to Doctor to equipment. The room was chaotic.

Dr. Seeley moved with haste, mumbled orders to hospital personnel who had rushed into the room. Voices clashed in decibel disharmony. One of the nurses adjusted a knob, something, on the intravenous line, turned a couple of dials on the heart monitoring machine. Standing over the frenetic body on the gurney the doctor pulled the tubes from Carlton’s mouth and nose, began a hurried procedure of resuscitation, pounding his fist onto the sternum. Other rushing bodies in white were wheeling some new equipment closer to the bed, preparing for electroshock treatment.

Jason stood nervously watching the actions on the edge of the hospital group, mesmerized by the organized bedlam of activity. He was conscious of a mad throbbing at his temples. His mind seemed in some kind of paroxysmal state. Then his eyes became riveted to the face of his brother. Like a master calendar for all the years, flashing and flipping its pages backward in time, the flickering cine scenes came to him, unbidden. Faces happy and sad, in play and in loss. His life, Carlton’s life, together and apart, all a steady unraveling of the years. Jason stood among the people who were blurs of white and green, staring at the body on the gurney, helpless and alone. Tears slowly rose and tumbled down his cheeks.

Then, an eerie sort of cessation came to the medical equipment and to Carlton’s thrashing. A relative quiet fell over the room. The nurses, the aids, the doctor, the newly arrived intern, Jason, all looked at the equipment, the patient, and each other in an awkward acknowledgment, temporarily stupefied by the turn of events. The heart monitor beeped normally. The gurgling resumed a steady pattern of sound.

Dr. Seeley checked the pulse and blood pressure of the patient. Carlton’s cheeks had gained some modest color and his head settled quietly into the pillow. His eyes occasionally and lightly twitched as though trying to open. The doctor shook his head and stepped back from the gurney.

After some adjustments were made Jason moved to his brother’s side and looked down upon the suddenly placid face. He felt a warm and uncommon sensation go through his body. He was reminded in a flash of another time in their lives. It was a time when Carlton had been sick with the flu and his face had held the same pink serenity that it did now. Looking down now at Carlton’s relaxed countenance, Jason could see the former youth that had been his playmate. The child showed himself in that quiescent moment. Carlton had been nice to Jason at that time in their youth. He had not wanted Jason to leave his side, and Jason had felt an ambiguous need then to stay, to cater to his wishes. He had felt sibling love and a warm sense of pride and unity. Jason felt much the same now, looking down on his brother’s body.

Jason noticed the silence in the room. It was as though he and Carlton had been all alone there for a time. He looked around and no one was there. They were alone. The doctor, someone, might have mentioned a brief absence but he had not heard. He sat lightly on the edge of the gurney, more a leaning than a sitting, and gazed again upon his brother.

A sadness followed. He wanted to go back in time, really go back, to have another chance with his brother, to change the divergence of their ways. Unbidden, another tear rose and fell down his cheek. Then, another. More tears came and he soon was erupting with great heaving sobs. “Why, God, could we have not been more to each other?” he softly intoned.

Carlton slowly opened his eyes. There was no anxiety or fear, the orbs calm and suffused with a poignant pathos.

Jason stood quickly and leaned to touch his brother’s arm. “Carlton, I’m here.” His voice was tinged with compassion, sadness, and hope.

Carlton stared silently and steadily into Jason’s eyes, a beckoning and sorrowful look. A sad smile slowly formed on Carlton’s lips, a smile of secret knowing. A finger feebly moved, willing his bandaged hand to lift from his side.

Jason noticed and gently placed his hand tenderly into Carlton’s. “What do you need, Carlton? I will get it for you.”

The lips quivered to speak, the smile still there, the eyes watery in their sorrow. Carlton conjured a forgotten will and finally spoke, his voice a wispy whisper of supplication. “Jason, forgive me, my dear brother. Tell grandmother that I love her.” It appeared that he wanted to say more, but his will abandoned him. He seemed to sink further into his pillow, the wistful smile lingering like a fragrant rose.

Jason felt an awful agony in his heart as he neared some heretofore unknown, emotional precipice. Tears flowed down his cheeks and he tried to answer his brother’s plea.

Then, with a soft caress of his hand, Carlton closed his eyes. The smile upon his lips dwindled to a passive serenity. His hand now lay limp on Jason’s palm. A near inaudible sigh escaped Carlton’s lips, a rapturous resignation to his fate.

Carlton Prince was dead.

Oblivious to the noisy sounds of medical equipment being moved and people rushing into the room, Jason remained, staring upon his brother’s face, not believing, not accepting, what his heart knew to be the truth. Jason did not heed the voices and he was finally, physically, unclasped from Carlton’s hand and moved away from the gurney.

{End of sample section.}

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