Bart’s Amazing Disappearing Cloak*

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Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside.

Bartimaeus was blind.

Raised in the Christian tradition, I had heard this story more often than even Mark must have told it. But it wasn’t until I was well past 40 something or another that I finally heard the words as they were originally said.

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside.

Bartimaeus was BLIND.

As such, he had hopes few whatsoever in finding the damned thing again, should his take on this particular Jewish carpenter-turned public speaker prove to be wrong.

According to the new testament at any rate, we know that his gamble paid off. And maybe that’s where the story gets watered down for us. Winning always does look so easy in retrospect, doesn’t it?

Now my point here isn’t to address the dogmatic diatribes of who’s god-head is true, or who’s god-head is false, or even the idea that the whole lot of them might just be a case of communal wishful thinking. No, my point here is that Bartimaeus was blind. And he threw that blessed cloak away anyway.

Again, being raised in the Christian tradition, I am fairly certain that there are already camps forming for either side over a potential upcoming schism, as to whether he did so because he felt he no longer needed it, or because he felt that in a few short minutes he would be able to find it himself. Not the point here, kids. Why he did it doesn’t matter, that he did it, does.

You see, what he had was faith. True blue, potentially pie in the sky faith. In something, or in someone, or in his own good self doesn’t matter either. What matters is that he had it. Enough so that he could throw away the one thing that was guaranteed to protect him otherwise. The only thing that had proven itself to him up until that point.

And assuming that Mark wasn’t blowing total theological smoke, it carried him through to the end, this faith, making him presumably a happier guy who could now find his own cloak without any assistance, thankyouverymuch.

I don’t know why I heard it this way today, but I did.

The verse doesn’t expand on any back stories in regards to his possibly also having had a spouse who deceitfully broke all their promises to him, nor if he had had children who had also seemingly summarily dismissed him from their lives. It doesn’t even go into whether or not he was more than broken as a result of all these things.

In short, there was scant anything about him at all, sans a desperate plea for help and the fact that he and I both have cloaks – mine being woven much more with fear than fabric – that provided me with any sort of kinship with the man.

And still…

Still, I feel that as if this cat Bart could have faith – faith enough to literally toss aside the only protection a blind person of his day might have had against the elements – then I might also find this sort of power in me as well. I might also find the faith needed in some Thing, some One, hell, maybe even in some Me, someday as to be able to throw aside my personal cloak; carefully hand-woven over these past 40 something or another years. Maybe.

Bartimaeus was blind.

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside any way.

Pray this cat someday has vision similar to do the same.

* Based on Mark 10:46 – 52.

A New Face

k~ continually inspires me. As such, much like she has successfully done previously, with this week’s Inspiration Monday challenge, I attempted to use not one, but all five prompts. I hope it worked, and I hoped you like.

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“You’ve gone and fouled up the whole scheme of things, now haven’t you? Why don’t you just wipe that stupid grin off your face?”

The words never left her mouth of course, but through her bristled stare and hardened oxblood-red lips, you could tell that that was exactly what she meant to say, the very moment that she worked up the courage to actually do so. Sadly, it was a courage she’d been “working up” for most of her adult life, but to no avail.

“That is OBVIOUSLY the blouse isle,” she continued to silently scream through the thrift store where she stood at a safe distance, “and YOU are OBVIOUSLY in no need of any of those!”

Again, her lack of courage being an instance where cowardice in one, is a blessing to the many around them.

Having difficulty swallowing her disdain, she cringed as she observed blouses – colorful, flouncy and free – being held up first in surprised joy, and then to the breast, checking to see if they would fit.

“And being so flagrant about it! The nerve! You should only be the way the good Lord made you – no use in being any different! Why, it would be a sin – it would be like going up the drain!”

Her face continued to harden, making of it almost a new face, as she stared only through the windshield of her ignorance and fear while murmuring finally aloud through clenched and ground-down teeth, “I can only imagine the shame your poor family must feel…”

Her words were cut short by the appearance of the man who saddled up next to the teenage blouse browser. Shaking his head slowly in sad disapproval, he pleaded, “son, we’ve talked about this. You can NOT buy that blouse. Dude, you know that that shade of green makes you look totally dead! Besides, I found a pair of cool pumps you might wanna buy instead.”

The boy replied with a quick and excited “awesome!” as he hurriedly placed the blouse back onto the rack.

And in that action was when he finally noticed her, their eyes locking for a brief moment. He smiled naturally, and before he broke contact, placed both thumbs high up into the air as he mouthed the earnest and complimentary compliment of, “I LOVE your hat!”

In that moment, and while still only a shade of a glimmer of a possibility of an idea to her yet-hardened soul, she could have almost sworn that as he turned away she saw in him a different face. A face somehow new.

•••

For today’s post, I was going to end with another song altogether, before stumbling upon the choice below. I think this says exactly what I was hoping to say, only far more eloquently. Mainly – in the (new) face of hate, Love is our only defense…

Trifecta 3rd attempt: Down To Just One Thing…

So from my second (found here, of course) Trifecta Writing Challenge attempt to this, there has admittedly been just a bit of a lag.

This week’s one-word prompt:

Manipulate (transitive verb)

3: to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose : to doctor.

I apologize for the delay in “coming ’round,” and as always, I do hope that you enjoy. Please also take a moment to check out the latest issue of Woven Tale Press – a talented group of writers and artists whom I am honored to say asked me this last time to sit in with them…

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The room was cold, barren and obsolete. But in all honesty, he no longer cared.

He’d grown accustomed to life being unpleasant, accustomed to being alone. So acutely and irrevocably alone.

He woke every morning to the knowledge of it. The voices, wisp-like prancing through his awakening thoughts of once happy children being overheard, as they scrabbled haphazardly down the stairs, were now just distant and dust-filled memories – cruel mental prompts of the life that had been wrenched from him. The life that he had once made, the life that he’d let slip through his damned fingers by trusting her that one last time.

Even the cats who unwillingly boarded with him seemed to keep their peace when first he woke, as if to allow him uninterrupted, his unwelcome reverie.

In years previous, he could manipulate the experience – pretending that he still owned a life that he no longer did. Squeezing his eyes closed hard against his brain, he’d pretend once more that his measly two-bedroom flat was again the two-story estate where he shared in his children’s daily laughter and delight. But eventually, and no matter how heartening the experience, his eyes would once again have to open, the invading light, daily stealing away all his hope. The silent cats would stare quizzically at him from the bed’s foot, wondering why this man made such odd moanings every morning while from his eyes leaking so much useful water. Squeezing his eyes closed hard against his brain, the exercise had become tiring. The ruse had become self-evident, and as a result, he eventually gave it up altogether.

In fact, he eventually gave up on everything altogether. He surmised – somewhat logically – that if this life already so closely mirrored the Godless one he presumed to follow, then what earthly difference could it make for him in forestalling from moving on from this one into the next?

And even in this final unpleasantry, as he surrendered the felines remained resolutely mute.

•••

Trifecta 2nd attempt: I’m telling you now…

Ever-present.

No matter should I attempt to run from, too, or through – He stands, belligerent.

Pervasive, judgmental… longing for me to fail. Needing me to.

He is what I fear.

He is me.

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Sorry to be back so soon, raining again on your Trifecta Writing Challenge parade, but this prompt – wherein we get to slap down 33 words about that which scares us most – (for me at least) was a clear no-brainer. I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into a “me” that is in the process of withering, as my new horizon slowly chases all his shadows away.

Return To Innocence

It was late Spring when the sky first turned gray. An ominous, oppressive gray, with just a smattering of pockets of light. As the months trudged on, every last one of them was slowly blotted out, and by the true beginning of summer, Michael could see only charcoal blackness, sooty and billowesque, whenever he dared to look upward.

The storm never broke, though for months now it had threatened to. The sheets of rain, filled out in triplicate, that Michael so longed to receive in the hopes of conducting the storm through to its end, thus returning the blue sky to his possession, never came. And though the bleak grayness was miles above his head, it pressed down upon his shoulders as if it were a living thing. Softly, Michael closed his eyes, imagining the gate once more.

It was a gate he’d never actually seen before, but one he knew existed. His love had told him about it, a gate of heavy metal, intricately woven and painted with a thick coat of black, the kind of paint that was always shiny, though seldom showed finger prints. It was the gate that entered you into the park, the park that hosted all the loves of the world, and all the lovers too. A place that existed only in the mind and, to those who knew how, the soul as well. Michael wished that his own soul would eventually possess such knowledge, but until then, his imagination was put to task, and performed the bulk of the work in creating this secret place within.

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She was there already of course, puffy pink cotton candy in hand, offering it to him as if she were a child. For in this place, that is exactly what you are. Love cannot be trusted to the adult mind, for it is muddied by selfishness, desire, and ego. Only the child can properly appreciate the finer art of simply loving the person without question or motivation, because of who they are, versus what they can provide you, or what they have done, or what they have failed to do just yet.

Michael smiled to the real world, as his imaginary fingertips brushed against and gently pulled upon the offered treat. Never greedy, he took more than his share this time and, as was his normal habit, tightly rolled it up into a hard sugary rock, before placing it on his tongue. He smiled again, as he felt the sweetness melting in his mouth and slowly dribbling down his throat. She laughed in such a way as to almost make him open his eyes, thus destroying the illusion. At the last moment he caught himself however, instead looking at her with his mind’s eye before asking, “What? Why do you laugh, lover?” Giggling again, she replied, “Why not? To see you eat cotton candy is like watching a man with one arm build a bridge. Have you ever just enjoyed something, without first having to man-handle and control it into an almost totally different existence? Have you ever let be, just be?” Michael frowned slighty, as his immediate reaction was one of hurt. Hurt over the idea that he was already going well out of his way to meet her here in the park he had so diligently created mentally, only to find her “critiquing” something else altogether, instead of complimenting him for his efforts. But while all this played out in his head, in a melee of hurt and bruised ego, his mental voice to her said only, “why do you ask? Was I not enjoying the candy correctly?”

“Lover, you were,” she shook her head enthusiastically, “but only after you had made it into your own image. Only after you had hardened it, squashed the life out of it, made it ‘other’ than what it was intended to be. Darling, the candy was supposed to be light and fluffy, yet you felt for some reason that that was not good enough. Do you realize that by doing so continually throughout your life, you may still experience happiness, but miss out on Joy altogether? Why even here Michael, in this park, what do you see?” “I see banks and banks of greenery and ferns,” Michael retorted, “beautiful and lush and dew-kissed, all surrounded by big, bold and resolute sunflowers.” He said it cautiously, wondering if he had come to the correct conclusion.

Sensing this, her response was measured. “Hmmm, Michael, I really wish you would learn to come here by way of your soul, instead of through your imagination. You did not come up with an incorrect conclusion, lover, but you did create a place that is a mere shadow of the realness that surrounds us. Dear, all that you saw is here, but this is the park that hosts all the loves of the world, and all the lovers too. As such, it is awash with every type and sort of plant, draped with every color of flower. It is carpeted with not only grass, but earthen path and waterway too. Michael, much like Love is, this place has everything, and all of it is free.”

Crestfallen over not being able to see, and after trying so hard, Michael began to slowly open his real eyes, only to stop as he felt her hand tap gently upon his shoulder. The touch was light yet comforting, and it was only in his feeling it that he remembered how he hadn’t felt the pressure of the gray since he had entered here.  She whispered softly, “Michael, I know you are leaving me now. I said something wrong maybe, or your ego is still too bruised to be here with me wholly. Regardless of why, I am sorry. Sorry for you, and for us. Dear, please try to be here in your soul. Please try to find this place through Joy, instead of happiness or want. I’ll be waiting for you here when you do. Until then, here is a kiss…”

A kiss that was never realized, as it was then that Michael’s boss, spying that he had another “goddammed lazy-lack sleeper” on his hands, thwacked Michael soundly back to reality, via the tried and true rolled up newspaper continually found in his hand. “Now git back ta work, ya turd!” was all the encouragement Michael received from him, as his boss stomped back to his office for a well-deserved nap himself.  Listening to him clump noisily off, thwacking others occasionally along the way, Michael slowly rubbed the back of his head where the paper still stung, wondering to himself just which of the two places it was, in which “reality” really existed.

•••

Bloggers note: Posted in response to The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt on Kindness, and resulting wholly from a dear friend offering me a bite of cotton candy, I wonder if I should flesh this out more, or leave it as a stand-alone piece. As always, your thoughts and critiques are requested… and no newspaper thwacks will result from sharing your honest opinion. Promise!

Surrender.

“The past can’t hurt you anymore, not unless you let it.”

~ Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

“Daddy… Daddy?”

With no response, I uttered again, “Daddy?” But still he slept. Soundly, and on his back, in the dark coolness of their bedroom. Peaceably he snored, with a tranquility seldom seen during his waking hours. Presumably off again, on one of his Navy-day adventures. Loving the song, women, and wine of yesteryear. The times he used to speak to us most fondly about. The man he had once been, and one could only assume, wished that he still was.

But this was not about him. No, it was about me. As would become so much a pattern to my life, it was about me. And as would become so much a pattern to my life, though I desperately needed to reach out to someone, I didn’t, for the mere fear of not wanting to “bother them.”

Meekly, from the corner of their big bed, I murmured again, “Daddy?”

No response.

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“Daddy. Please wake up daddy. Please tell me everything is OK daddy. Please let me know that all my fears are unfounded. That all the monsters and the fiends and the ghosts are all make-believe, daddy. In my head, daddy. Please tell me that daddy, please.”

But he didn’t. In part because he couldn’t. In part because it would have been a lie. In part because his dream-land adventures were, in themselves, an escape for him as well. An escape from the very same monsters and fiends and ghosts as were plaguing me.

“Daddy, please tell me they’re all make-believe. Please.”

“But they are not, my son. They are real, even if they won’t eventually appear as you currently imagine they will. Even then, they are real. The monsters are real, though they look much more like incompetent and ruthless bosses and overlords, than they do oversized creatures with maddened eye, and glaring teeth. And the fiends are real too, even if they look much more like friends and relations who you felt you could trust – did trust – only to have them use that trust against you, pushing upon all the softest spots you shared with them, in an effort to have their way.”

“But the worst son, the very worst are the ghosts. The ghosts that come screaming right up from the roots of your family tree. The ghosts of your bad habits and phobias. The ghosts that tell one that they’ll never be good enough, while telling another that there could possibly never be another wiser or more correct. The ghosts that bind a family to its own destruction, the ghosts that kill some with self-loathing, while suffocating others with pride. These ghosts of who you are – though you aren’t – these are the very worst.”

“Daddy, does it get better? Do they go away?”

“For me, they did not. Because I never allowed them to, because I had to maintain control. You know many like that, and you too suffer the same disease. They’ll get you in the end as well, if you’re not careful.”

“Daddy, what should I do?”

“The easiest thing in the world to do, the hardest thing in the world to do. Give up control. Just give it up. Surrender. When the farmer plants the seed, does he fret everyday over whether it will grow or not? No. He simply does what he knows needs to be done for a good crop to result, and then lets Nature do the rest. Be like the farmer, son. Plant the seed, do your best, and wait. Just surrender to Life, and wait.”

“Will they go away then, daddy? The monsters, the demons, and the ghosts?”

“The first two, no, but the third can be greatly reduced. Recognize them for what they are, and you can then work towards dismissing them. Keep in mind, your old life will be destroyed in the process, but it’s simply a skin waiting to be shed, after all. And once done, the monsters and the fiends become inconsequential. A mere nuisance to the New You. The new beautiful, liberated and True You.”

“Is what you’re telling me true, daddy?”

No response.

I’m back in his room, and he is still asleep. As he has been this whole while. Back then, just for the night; and now, forever.

The final question I fear, was left unaddressed, as it can only ever truly be answered by me. In my own time and fashion.

“In my own time and fashion, daddy. I will surrender, and I will see.”

•••

Happy Fathers Day, dad. The adventure continues…

An obligatory NaNoWriMo post

No, I didn’t have one of these last year. As I was still relatively new to the blogging game (a mere 5 months old at the time), I honestly had no idea what “NaNo” was when everyone first started chirping about it.

This year however, I was wiser – less wet behind my bloggerish ears. This year I was with the “in” crowd, and had actually signed up with NaNoWriMo. I even went so far as to write a post about it. One that would, in the final analysis never leave the status of “draft.” Well, not until now, that is:

Holy Christ.

I just created a NaNoWriMo account.

Now, what in the hell did I go and do that for?

I can’t write. I mean, for a sustained period of time on one subject. Oh sure, I can blubber on and on about any number of random topics – made-up or real – but I can’t actually write an honest-to-God story. Or at least I don’t feel as if I can. I think we can all see that, in the “Stranger Things” tale that is spinning slowly out of control (that’s right, part 2.2 is currently sitting around with a very sour look on it’s face somewhere in “drafts;” being very hard to please and even harder to talk with). With it, I can feel myself falling into that old trap I constructed all those years ago, wherein nothing I create is ever truly good enough. “Sins of the fathers” sort of thing, you know. As a result, each installment is getting harder and harder to beat out through my battered keyboard. True, my “100 Words” tale is coming along nicely, but I’m none too sure if that’s because of me, or more because of the community involved (that, plus the fact that the 100 word limitation makes you work really hard to get your point across!)

So then, why’d I do it?

I have no idea.

Which of course means I have a very good idea. I think it all comes back to that concept about bettering myself. Finding my way. Yeah, that’s gotta be it. I’m finding my way, and in so doing, I want to share my story. A story that I just can’t believe isn’t up there in my grey matter somewhere. I know it is. I can feel it, taste it. I can glimpse it even, but every time I go to write it down, it simply disappears into the ether of my mind, hiding out until it thinks I’ve forgotten about it. But I don’t forget. I keep coming back. Trying to find it again, so that I can plunk it all down, and share it with you.

My fear?

My fear is that my story – the one so rudely involving me in a game of “hide & seek” that I didn’t ask to play – is pornographic in nature. C’mon now, stop laughing, I’m being serious. I believe I’ve mentioned before just how important sex is to me. Hell, look at how many tags I’ve created involving it:

And I also think I could spin a pretty good yarn revolving around it. But you see I wouldn’t want it to be porn. Or perceived as such, at any rate. For me, sex is way too important – and enjoyable – to be muddied by plastic boobs, bleached hair and canned dialogue. That, plus I’m still not sure just where exactly J.C. stands on the whole “sex thing.” I know for a fact that the folks claiming to follow him have it all wrong, but seeing as he nary said two words on the whole subject, I would just never be sure if what I wrote was somehow sinful. Again, stop laughing. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to “play it safe” and as a result have my story perceived as some dime store romance either. Sex is way too important – and enjoyable – to be flounced by bullshit rainbows, happy-ever-afters and over-the-top dialogue as well. You see, it’s somewhere right in between the porn and the romance. Smack dab in the middle of “real.”

Now wait, what in the flip was that last bit all about?

This post is supposed to be about writing, not sex (dammit, C is right, it IS all I ever think about). Anywho, sorry for falling off the map like that. Moving on…

So, there you have it. I signed up for NaNoWriMo. And I did so – I believe – in the hopes of forcing my story out of its hiding spot. Once done, I’m hoping that other stories will come easier. I’ve a darling blogging buddy who wants to co-author with me, and I’ve been a very bad person, blowing her off as a result of this current trepidation. I’m terribly afraid that, similar to my solitary work, I’ll start to short-circuit while writing our story together, and attempt to bail on the whole thing. I simply couldn’t do that to her. Well, I could. So I won’t. Hell, even when she asked me what we would write about, I blanked. I shut down. It’s been over a week since the question was asked, and my mind is still stumbling all over itself in the dark. And I really wanted to do this with her.

Maybe my fear isn’t that my story will be pornographic, maybe it’s that it just doesn’t exist in the first. Maybe what I feel, taste and catch glimpses of isn’t a story at all, but rather a ruse I invented for myself, something to keep me occupied. Who knows? I suppose we’ll find out this November when I’ll have to slam down umpteen words into a fashion that creates some sort of a yarn when they’re all laid out. I still have no idea what that yarn will be, so it had better come out of hiding soon…

•••

As I think we all know, the story didn’t come out. But it’s not because of any failure on its (or my) part. No, instead school came out. And two additional kids came out. And work issues came out. And C’s (continuing) health issues came out. And – well, I could go on – but I’m sure you’ve got the idea by now. Life looked me square in the eye and said, “Son, tain’t gonna be no NaNoWriMo for you this year. Not if you want to keep your family, your job and your sanity.” Duly noted, Life. Hell, if I’m still around Blogsville next year, I might give it another go. Maybe Life might cut me a break. Until then, best of luck to all of you who are participating – I hope your keyboards are still speaking to you by month’s end!

Now, here’s a little ditty – the BEST song the 80’s EVER produced, I might add – to help spur you along…