Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Upriver Transport, Part Three

     The riverbank disappeared from view. Day turned to night as quickly as though some celestial entity flipped a switch. The water whipped up tumbling the boat to and fro. An announcement over the loudspeaker ordered everyone inside. Instead, my hand over hand grip on the railing led me to the bow for a better view of what lay ahead. 
     We were sailing toward a giant waterspout. The engines cut off and  the boat drifted nearer, the spout split and took on the appearance of a water cave. The engines restarted in reverse, but it was too little too late. The water cave created a vacuum, drawing the boat forward and into itself. Impossible as it sounds, we were all going into some kind of a black hole. Not me. 
     Not me. I wasn't going to just float into somewhere unknown. I thought about going below to warn the others, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it back out and time was running out. I strained to see the riverbank. A beam. Might have been a flashlight. The light flicked on and then off and then on again. It was enough to make me brave. I jumped over the rail into the raging river and swam in the direction of the flickering light.
     The current was stronger than any riptide I escaped on a summer day at the beach. My arms strained to keep me on course, while my lungs struggled to keep me afloat. At some point I passed out, and when I woke I hugged the riverbank while my body from the waist down remained in the water. Someone, two someones- sunlight returned so I saw their shadows on the ground- grabbed my arms and pulled me the rest of the way out of the water. They turned me over. The bright sun made me shield my eyes with my forearms. After my eyes adjusted to the light, I looked up into the faces of my rescuers. I didn't know if I should be grateful or afraid. I never before saw faces such as these. I hope I never do again.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Upriver Transport, Part Two

     'Look, Daddy, we're sailing into the sky!' the boy cheered as he pointed to the reflection of the scattered white fluffy clouds on the river.
     'Right, son. Did we board a spaceship by mistake?'
     'Maybe,' the boy replied and then added, 'Nah. We're still on a boat.'
     'I dunno, son. Look over on the riverbank. Are those people or space aliens, do you think?'
     I couldn't help but overhear the father-son exchange, or to follow that man's gaze to a gathering of--. I couldn't be sure, but I noticed the boy maneuvered himself between his dad and the rail so that he now stood between the man's arms.
     'Want to go below and get something to drink, buddy?'
     'Sure, Dad.'
     I watched them walk away with a longing to go with them. I don't know why people always act like what you can't see can't see you. Some kind of caveman carry-over, I suppose. I maintained my position at the rail and turned my attention back to the crowd on land. But wait- what the hell!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Upriver Transport, Part One

     It was a dark and stormy afternoon. Not the usual way a story begins. Not the usual story. Not a usual day, that late October day before the holiday. Holy day when spirits rise from graves to be remembered, to be honored with the remembrances of the living.
     The trees on the surrounding hills down to the banks of the Hudson shown like a rich-colored royal tapestry in the clear morning light. Blue skies and a moderate temperature inspired people to take to their boats and glide upriver to hike, to picnic, to relax in the fresh air of the Hudson Valley. This was the perfect start to a perfect late October day, the day before All Hallows Eve. Until, that is, everything changed.
     No one can say if something like what happened had ever happened before. No one survived to to tell. Well, no one but myself. Somehow I am able to testify to what happened, though to say I survived depends on how survived is defined.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015



'I baptise you in water for repentance,
 But the one who comes after me
 is more powerful than I,
 And I am not fit to carry his sandals,
He will baptise you with the Holy Spirt
And fire.

His winnowing-fan is in his hand;
He will clear the threshing-floor
And gather his wheat into his barn,
But the chaff he will burn
In a fire that will never go out.'

Matthew 3:11-12

Chapter One

      The sound of a wooden match being struck drew his attention even before the flame. In the total darkness the flame burned with an orange and yellow appetite for more than the splinter of wood which birthed and fueled it. By the aurora Sebastian strained to recognize the faint facial features of the person holding the flame.
     The flame grew larger, more brilliant and hotter forcing Sebastian to squint and try to shield his face with his raised forearm. He twisted his torso to the cooler darkness behind him. The person holding the match laughed at Sebastian's meager efforts to protect himself and threw the match at him. The flame landed at Sebastian's feet and  encircled him in a ring of fire. The man laughed.
     'You're not afraid of a little fire, Sebastian? After everything you went through and with your aggravating faith. Come to me, my love, and be sanctified. By the fire we are born again and given another chance to be happy. Come and see for yourself.'
      'Sean? Are you there?'
      'Yes, Sebastian. I am on the other side of the flames. My love for you is a fire which will never go out. We are forged together by a bond so strong Death cannot break the weld.'
      'No, Sean. You're dead. I witnessed your death.'
      'You of all people understand Death is not final, but a mere transition. Come, my love, and let us start over.'
      A sudden alarm sounded. Not because of the fire, but something Sebastian couldn't quite recall. A coin hit the floor and rolled, stopping at Sebastian's feet. He picked  up the coin and recognized a two-headed Kennedy  half dollar. Sebastian kept such a coin on his nightstand as signal  he is dreaming. As he raised the coin in front of his face like a priest holding the host, Sean screamed.
      'No! Sebastian, what are you doing? Stop. You'll wake up and we'll be apart again. Stop! I might not be able to visit you again.'
     'Sean, I don't belong in your world and you left mine. Under the circumstances death served as your best option.'
      The flames encircling Sebastian roared as though someone opened a gas valve further.
      'I won't let you go, Sebastian.'
      Sebastian raised his coin with both hands over his head and woke.

     Sunlight beaming through the bedroom window delivered Sebastian into wakefulness.  He threw back the covers to get out of bed causing his two-headed fifty-cent piece to fail to the floor. He returned the coin to its usual place in the same smooth motion with which he turned off the alarm clock.
    Sebastian stood, stretched and, as he scratched various parts of his naked body, paying unconscious special attention to what remained of his abs at thirty-something, stood in front of  the window  overlooking the rear garden. The trees filtered sunlight not yet sufficient to warm things up.  This is New Orleans, however, so the atmosphere would soon be warm enough and humid enough to satisfy all those tourists who hoped to escape the winter for which they fled their homes.
     Following his morning routine, Sebastian sat back down on the bed and pulled his journal and pen out of the nightstand drawer to write the details of his dream before the image faded with the morning dew.
    He finished writing down everything he remembered, then wrote in big block letters THIS IS THE DAY and underlined the phrase. He meant this would be the day he purged every artifact and memory of his former lover Sean from his house, his mind, and his heart. He wanted no more dreams like the one he recorded now, or like any of the others he journaled in the weeks since his return from New York after Sean's death.
     No point to postpone the inevitable any longer. After showering and getting dressed, he would go someplace to buy some cartons and pack up his lover's  things, their things together, things doomed to be constant reminders of the man Sebastian  loved, and -as he learned while assisting his friend Detective Cliff Nolte in the investigation of a pedophile ring of priests and teachers in Brooklyn -he never knew. The discovery of Sean's sexual abuse as a child and teenager by Father Finn broke Sebastian's heart. Finding out Sean later acted as a pimp for the priest, bringing in fresh recruits he helped groom went beyond devastating and to Sebastian's mind unforgivable.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Groundless, Part Six

     'How's the patient today, Doctor? Any change at all?' 
     'I'm afraid not, Bjorn. Lars suffered a psychotic break which will take a lot of time to repair, if at all. He seems content in his world, but he doesn't allow me of anyone else to enter.' 
     'Maybe seeing me would help? Six months is a long time without any positive signs.' 
     'The shock of seeing you might plunge him deeper into himself. Remember, he thinks he killed you.' 
     'I was still in our apartment in the city. I planned to drive up to the house the next day. I told him when we spoke earlier in the evening.' 
     'Did the police ever determine if a break- in indeed happened?' 
     'No signs of a break-in. Lars was alone in the house. He imagined the entire incident.' 
     'May I at least see him, Doctor? Even if he can't see me, I want to see for myself how he's doing.' 
     'I understand. He's in one of our observation rooms this morning. Follow me.' 
     Doctor Samuelson led Bjorn through a series of hallways to the room. Lars sat at a table where he seemed to play some sort of card game.' 
     'What's he doing with the cards, Doctor?' 
     'He wrote a prayer on each of them, eighty-one in all. He numbered the cards so he can keep track of them. Every day he shuffles the cards and tosses them like confetti. He gathers them up and counts them. 
     'Is this some kind of occupational therapy?' 
     'His own device. He tossed the prayers into the air with the hope God will keep one of them and grant his wish. He counts the cards to check if one is missing.' 
     'None of the cards ever disappeared, though, did they?' 
     'I'm afraid not.' 
     'Do you know what he wrote on them?' 
     'He allowed one of the attendants to take a look at them once. Some of them say forgive me. Others say give Bjorn back.' 
     'There's the answer, Doctor. Make one of the cards go a miss and I'll walk into the room. Lars will think God answered his prayer.' 
     'I appreciate your logic, Bjorn, but like I said --' 
     'Nothing else is working. I think this is worth a shot.' 
     'They way Lars handles the cards, we can't control how they land. Everything will be random.' 
     'Have faith, Doctor. Maybe today is the day we witness the miracle of God answering prayer.' 
     'All right. Once he tosses the cards, you walk in.' 
     Lars read each card and focused on piling them in numerical order. He shuffled them once and flung them high overhead. Cards floated and landed all around him. On cue, Bjorn entered the room. 
     'Hello, Lars.' 
     Lars glanced at his lover, but said nothing focusing instead on gathering and once again ordering the cards. 'A card is missing. A card is missing.' 
     The doctor entered the room but remained at the door. Bjorn moved closer to the table. 'Which one?' 
     'Number nine. The ninth card is missing. God kept the ninth card.' 
     'What is significant about the ninth card, Lars?' 
     Lars stood, threw his arms around Bjorn's neck and pulled him close. 'Nine is the card which asked God to give you back, Bjorn. I asked God to give you back and you're here. I love you, Bjorn.' 
     Lars held Bjorn like a life preserver. Tears rolled down Bjorn's cheeks. 'I love you, too, Lars. I love you more than you can imagine.' 


Groundless, Part Five

     Lars startled himself awake. Still dressed, he fell asleep in his club chair in front of the television which was still on. The cablebox reported the time to be only 11:04 PM. Lars stood and stretched, reached for the remote and switched off the television, and then stretched again. He inspected the windows to make certain they were looked. He turned off the light as he exited the room to make his usual rounds to check the locks on doors and windows before continuing upstairs to bed.
     He happened to look out to the front yard as he striped off his clothes. He threw open the windows for the night air. Quiet night. He was about to turn away when a glint of something shiny and silver winked from the shadows. Lars turned off his bedroom light and continued to scan the yard. Someone stood among the birch trees lining the south side of the property. No, make that two people. He stepped away from the window and pressed a button adjacent to his bed.
     'Home security. What is your emergency?'
     'Two people, two men are watching my house. One of them is holding something silver. I think he has a gun. Please send someone right away.'
     'Are you secure in the house?'
     'Yes. All the windows and doors are locked. I am in my bedroom upstairs.'
     'Do you have a safe room?'
     'Yes, I'm going in now.'
     'The police are on the way. Stay in the safe room until we tell you to come out.'
     The call disconnected. Lars entered the safe room and activated the locks. Nothing to do now but sit and wait. 'I can do something else,' he told himself. He ventured out of the safe room to retrieve the revolver Bjorn stored in the nightstand on his side of the bed. Lars never liked having a gun in the house, but now the gun seemed like a good idea. He carefully checked to make sure the gun was loaded and took the safety off. The doorknob on the door opening to the hallway slowly turned. Lars froze. The police always announced themselves, but whoever this was said nothing. Lars panicked and fired the gun through the door with a mind of its own until the trigger clicked without any more bullets. Lars still sat frozen the the bed holding the gun at this side when the police opened the bedroom door.
     One of them turned on the light. A second officer approached Lars, He kept asking Lars, 'Are you all right?' while he took the gun. Lars didn't answer. He sat on the bed staring into space. Someone spoke through the police radio to announce the arrival of the ambulance.
     'Come with us, sir. The ambulance is here to take you to the hospital. Sir?' Lars didn't respond. 'Sir? Can you hear me?'
     Lars turned his head and looked at the officer, but didn't speak.
     'Sir, you're in shock. We're taking you to the hospital. An ambulance is waiting for you downstairs. Do you understand?'
     Lars nodded and stood. With an officer on each side of him for guidance, Lars ambled into the hallway where two bloody corpses lay akimbo on the floor.
     'No! Oh God, no!' Lars screamed while his legs surrendered to grief.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Groundless, Part Four

     Four hours on the train for what? Humiliation? Suspicions can be swept aside until they become facts. Lars believed Bjorn's friendship with Mateo to be something more from the time he met Mateo. Even so, he never expected to encounter their lovemaking in his apartment and not in the bed he shared with Bjorn. Lars vowed he would never enter those premises again. Lars planned to sell the apartment complete with all the contents and remain in the country house. He didn't need the stress of city life anyway. He also didn't need any reminders of Bjorn and his betrayal.
     The ringing phone brought Lars out of his reverie. The caller ID announced Bjorn calling again.
     'Honey, I called several times on your cellphone only to go into voicemail. Are you all right? I expected you back hours ago.'
     'I'm fine, I guess.'
     'You guess? What's wrong?'
     'Nothing. Only a little blue is all. I'm busy up here with a project. I called.'
     'Yes. I saw a missed call from you, but you didn't leave a message. I assumed you called from the train.'
     'That's right, but I decided to come back.'
     'You went back? Why? Don't you miss me?'
     'More than you can imagine. I'm better off here for a while longer.'
     'Okay. I'll come there. I miss you, Lars. I prepared a surprise for you here, but it can wait. I'll catch the next train and take you out for a ce meal. Okay?'
     'Bjorn, do you not realize the time? You'll get here too late to eat. No, I'm better off alone tonight.'
     'Lars, did I do or say something to upset you?'
     'You tell me. Did you?'
     'Okay. I agree. In this mood we are both happier to be apart. I'll wait and come up tomorrow.'
     'Fine. There are some things we need to discuss, Private matters, so I trust you'll come alone.'
     'Honey, I want you all to myself. If you feel like, well, if you want me to invite Mateo--'
     'No. No need to drag him wherever you go. Call me from the train. I'll send a taxi to pick you up.'
     'I can get a taxi. Won't you tell me why you're being strange?'
     'Goodnight, Bjorn.'
     'Good--' but before Bjorn finished speaking, Lars ended the call.
     'Is Lars all right?'
     'He says he's fine, Mateo, but he sounded like he is angry with me.'
     'Angry? Did he give a reason?'
     'No. He wouldn't admit he is angry. He's learned your technique.'
     'My technique?'
     'When I asked him if I did something or said something to upset him he replied I don't know. Did you?
     'Anything else?'
     'When I told him I'll catch the next train he told me he prefers to be alone tonight. I could come tomorrow as long as I come alone.'
     'Bjorn, at the risk of being an alarmist, I don't think you should wait. Let me drive you up there. I don't think Lars should be on his own tonight. We can be there by dark.'
     'Thanks, Mateo, Let's go.