An open letter to America…and maybe the world

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Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations…

An open letter to all Americans…and maybe the world.

Dear Americans (or…Worldians?):

You don’t know me…well, I suppose some of you do, but the bulk of you don’t. And that’s OK.

It’s been a hot minute since we last spoke and that’s on me. It seems that the latest presidential election threw me for quite a loop. Not like a “damn, I didn’t see that coming” kind of loop, but more of a “KER-POW”, tiny cartoon mouse clobbers the cartoon cat so hard with a giant frying pan that his head flattens out kind of loop. And when I sat down to write to you all about it, to try and “work through it” as they say, I found the only things coming out of me were just awful. Anger and frustration bubbled up in me in such a way that I just could not put something down here without it turning all bad, just counterproductive maniacal ranting really. Who needs that?

So I stepped away for a piece. Took a moment to search for that inner calm, many of us seem to seek out so regular. I unplugged my TV. I read a couple books and learned some new things. Did you know there are over 40,000 different kinds of rice? News to me too.

Eventually, I felt the harder edge of my frustrations dull a bit, at least to the point where I could consider a different perspective. After a while, I did plug my TV back in and I took a “baby steps” approach to reacquainting myself with what the world was becoming. And through my calmer, deep-breathing induced, more rational state of mind, I realized – the world is a mess and we made it that way.

It’s awful to say, but that realization is not the culmination of frustration and vitriol as much as it is just an acknowledgment of the fact that, collectively, we have lost our way. We are on a path that needs to change or we will do great and eternal harm and it seems like we just don’t care all that much.

My friend Stella likes to say over and over that, “the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one.” She says it a lot. Like a parrot. But there’s truth in it. We have a problem, and by a problem, I mean a whole slew of them.

I’m not talking politics here, although politics surely feed the beast. I’m talking about how we seem to have stepped away from our lofty, yet primary objectives that define us as a species. Where is our decency, our compassion, our interest in helping others up so we can move forward together, or our interest in making a better world over slowly destroying it?

Understand that I am not so newly enlightened and calm that I believe we can all get along all the time and gather in some sort of eternal kumbaya moment like the Whos around a Christmas tree – nice as the thought may be. I mean, there are long-time neighbors and blood relatives that can’t stand to be in the same room together. Everybody has their shit and everybody loves their drama. But over the short term as those types of things work themselves out, or don’t, our job is not to proactively make things worse when these situations arise.

First, do no harm, right?

If you are a stranger to the obvious, let me share some of the things I’ve learned in addition to that tidbit about rice. We are divided. We are selfish and self-serving. We don’t listen. We are unforgiving. We are unyielding. We are inflexible. We are demanding. We are intolerant. We are irrational. We are easily amused. We are easily manipulated. We are lazy. We prefer style over substance. We go for the popular and discard the less so. We strive to be adequate. We spend billions on things that don’t matter. Comparatively, we spend little on what does. We gather and hoard. We crave fame and notoriety. We want to see and be seen. We are superstitious. We are frightened. We are weak. We are fragile. We are damaged. We are damned lucky to be alive at all and more.

Remember when I talked about stepping away from our lofty, yet primary objectives? That’s probably wrong. Truth be told, we probably never embraced the concept of those objectives. They are merely platitudes. We talk about how we should live. We have A LOT to say about how others should live, but we can’t keep up. The real work is hard. Too hard maybe, since we can’t seem to commit to it.

Now, I’ve heard people say, we all aren’t all those things and that it is unfair to use such broad and negative generalizations. You may be right. But we will be judged by who we are as a collective society, and not by the actions of our singular heroes.

We’ve had centuries to try figure out how to get along with each other and we can’t manage it. We keep making the same mistakes. The more people we squeeze onto the planet, the bigger those same old mistakes become. We progress far slower than our full potential because the masses rely on the work of a few to get things done for everybody.

You want an example? Pull up to the corner of virtually any intersection, look down at the curb, then count the cigarette butts you see sitting down there.

Even one is one too many. And that’s my point. We know smoking is bad, but people do it. We know littering is bad, but people do it. We know bombs are bad, but we keep making them and we keep using them. These are not the unfortunate byproducts of things beyond our control, like mold after a flood or whatever. These are things well within our control, but not within our immediate interest or sphere of caring. So as long as there is a person out there who feels it is their God-given right to smoke and flick cigarette butts out the window, or blow something up every time there is a disagreement – everyone else be damned – we will be a lesser species.

So what then? What happens now? What do we do? Whatever we can.

We have one world to live on and Heaven help us and whomever, if we find another one out there we feel we have the right to mess up. If you aren’t helping, you’re hurting or hindering. You’ll say no, but inside you know it’s true.

Think. Breathe. Get involved. Demand more from others, yes, but demand more from yourself first. Be humble. Be understanding, Let go of the anger and whatever else pollutes your day. Try.

Good luck to us all.

Your friend in the cosmos,

Java

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Java at the top of the page.

Something to Ponder – 7

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Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Ashley Chambray of Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

“Dear Banaba,” Ashley writes. “Why do people get mad at me when I’m only trying to help?”

To my new friend Ashley, I say simply, “Help is perspective, and it is subjective.”

But, I suppose that is me not being very helpful at all.

Help has been around for a long time. I have heard it said that the desire to help is part of the human condition. It’s instinctual. But as we have come to know, through conditioning, we can often override our instincts so that we act in a way that is driven more by our personal motivations and less by how we are wired.

If you feel people are reacting negatively to your help, we must explore what help you are providing, the environment in which you are providing it, and what is motivating you to act.

First, do they ask for help? That is the best indicator of whether help is needed at all.

I share with you two brief stories.

To start, there is the well-known tale of a man who came across a butterfly struggling to emerge from a cocoon. Because he could not tolerate the notion of the creature’s struggle, felt that the creature was in trouble and would be doomed without action, he decided to “help” by stepping in and releasing the creature. In this case, the creature was working through what it needed to as dictated by nature. The struggle itself is what the butterfly needed to overcome to ensure it was strong enough to survive. The butterfly was not ready to be free in that moment and the help – the man’s actions – only ensured the fate the man feared most.

In the second tale, a young woman recently moved out to be on her own, but she came back to her mother’s house regularly to bake cookies. The mother, thinking she was helping, gave the daughter a new cookie tray to bake with believing it would help make her life easier because then she would not have to make the journey back home just to bake the cookies. The daughter took the tray graciously, but it made her cry. She did not see the tray as a gift of help as much as it was a message from her mother that she did not want her to come over to bake anymore.

And, if you will indulge me, I believe another short story is in order. This time we find a teacher who is constantly telling a little boy what to do. There is nothing wrong with the boy other than he often lags behind the other children when getting things done. The teacher feels that she needs to remind him to do things so very often so as to “help” him stay on task, to “help” him keep up with the other children and to “help” keep him from getting into trouble. In his mind, the boy sees himself very much the same as all the other children, yet he feels frustrated that he is constantly singled out to do the very things he had either already done, or was on his way to doing.

So, now we wonder – who was helping who? Who really needed help? Would everything have worked out as it should without the added help?

The case of the teacher shows us that she may have pushed the boy under the guise of “help” to satisfy her own needs in the moment. The boy was capable. And aside from speed, the boy was successful. He likely did not need help. Yet, her job is to manage the class and the boy could be a hindrance – if even a small one – to her finding her own success in the way she perceived things.

If the mother was to know the real outcome of her help, that her daughter was profoundly upset by the gesture, we could guess that she would most assuredly clarify her intentions with her daughter, so the intent of her effort was effectively understood. But in the moment, the daughter was capable, she was successful, and probably did not need the help she received.

Finally, the man would have no way to communicate with the creature he encountered. He saw a situation unfolding before him and chose to act in a way that reflected the limits of his current understanding. He projected a potential danger onto the very small creature and felt compelled to do something. Was the creature in danger? Probably not. Would the creature have otherwise have been successful? Probably, short of the interference with another predator in his circle of life. Did the creature need help?

Because Ashely did not provide the specifics of what makes people mad at her when she tries to help them, we can only guess that she might be offering “help” where it is not needed or it is the kind of “help” she offers regularly, and some may say unnecessarily, to satisfy a need of her own.

Humans are generally good. They generally want to help others. But we could all benefit from understanding where help is needed most, defining what help will actually help and knowing that help is not often providing a resolution, but enough of a bridge to helping another achieve success. Most importantly, we must explore whether we are we helping those who really need it, or are we helping ourselves.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

 

Something to Ponder – 6

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Langdon Mershon of Park City, Utah.

“Dear Banaba,” Langdon writes. “What makes you feel you are qualified to comment on the human condition as you do? Where do you get off?”

To my new friend Langdon I say, “Since I am already here and I am not on anything, there is no need for me to get off of the thing I am not on.”

But, of course, that would be me kidding you.

Other people have asked me the same or similar question over the years. Those with whom I am close often consider the question, at least in its directness and perceived tone, to be rude or hostile. However, I assure them that the question is merely a question like all the others and that we should not judge Langdon’s intent by how the voice in our own head interprets the words.

That does not mean it is not rude or hostile. It may very well be, but that kind of hostility often bubbles up from the frustrations we feel when we can’t make sense of what we are experiencing. So we try to seek out a space of common understanding if both sides are willing.

When someone takes in the words of another they have two choices. They can agree and accept those words as part of their own developing knowledge base or they can disagree, discard the words as worthless and move on.

To Langdon, I am either uncannily close to his current mindset on so many issues that he is amazed at how in tune we are, or I am so far off, so often that he considers what I share to be so very incorrect that my sharing it offends his sensibilities in some way.

By asking where I might get off, I’m inclined to believe it is the latter. And if that is the case, he would probably rather that I be quiet and go away completely than to write another word.

It would be easy to do so, but he did ask the question and that implies – no matter how slim – that there is a chance to find a place of common understanding.

So to Langdon, I say, I am no more qualified to comment on the human condition than anyone else. That said, I am no less qualified to comment either.

I am a human in the human race and all that comes with it. I experience what everyone experiences. We all see things through the lenses, filters and biases that we develop as we follow our particular path. Each experience, good and bad, works to tune and hone, break, tear and rebuild those elements which ultimately affect how we see the world and how we feel we need to act to survive.

Just because we have these filters and biases, we should not feel that we are completely bound to them, that we can’t work to better understand them and that we can’t work to change them if we find them not to our liking. After all, as humans, that is how we grow.

We can follow the paths of our lives seeing the world as it is, blissfully unaware that there may be something more for us to do in it until we ask ourselves one question – why?

Once we do that, a gateway to a new universe of possibilities opens before us and it can never be shut because our new sense of awareness prevents it.

In many ways, it can be overwhelming. Change is a scary thing. What do we do with so much potential? Maybe we don’t understand what we think might be happening. So we reach out. We talk. We ask others who may have already been there what they experienced and what we might experience, and if there are any handy tips for making things work. A lot of what we do is looking for handy tips for making things work.

He may disagree, but in the sphere of his own experiences, Langdon himself probably offers insights and guidance to others more that he realizes. Even as he continues to question the broader universe that opened to him.

I cannot claim ownership to knowledge and insight. I cannot prioritize my perspective over another’s. I only do what I feel we all can do when someone reaches out to us.

Reach back.

We may not walk away from this any different from where we started, but because there was effort, there is hope.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

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Something to Ponder – 5

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Terry O’Keefe of Kellogg, Idaho.

“Dear Banaba,” Terry writes. “What is happiness? Why is it so hard for us to find?”

To my new friend Terry, I say simply, “Happiness is the cloud you walk in.”

When you consider the state of the world and the plights of so many people who struggle to merely survive, it seems that happiness is the most elusive of all the feelings.

Or is it?

We are a funny species. We crave happiness. We long for it. We work very hard to define it. We are pretty certain we know when we do not have it. And yet, when we do, or we think we do, we don’t allow ourselves the luxury of enjoying it. We often squirrel it away so nobody will see it. We feel guilty when someone calls us out for having it and then strongly deny it as if there was a greater value in a common, universal misery. When we see others who may have it, we envy them and instead of celebrating with them, we question if and how and why they may be more worthy of happiness than we are. There are many vicious circles at work here and the very bit of it all is that it all resides in our brains.

I always say you are the arbiter or your existence. You own who you are. Happiness, like misery is a choice. Of course, there are forces in the world that you must deal with every day. These forces may test your commitment to your search for happiness, but only you can decide to give up the power that makes your happiness go away.

So many people scoff at this notion and look at me as if sitting on this mountain for so long has warped my sense of reality and my perspective of the human condition. To them, I say, “not that I am aware of.” Because the questions you pose Terry, are not new and for as long as we have roamed the Earth, humans have done a very poor job of recognizing and embracing their happiness.

To be happy, you must define what it is. You would do yourself a tremendous favor by defining it as something you can attain easily. Why make it harder than that?

If you define happiness as winning millions of dollars in the lottery so you can do all the things you think you deserve to do and have all the things you think you deserve to have, your definition will be quite hard to achieve. You will find happiness elusive and you will perpetuate negative energy when you find out someone else won “your” money. Will the other winner be happy with the money? Who is to say?

If you define happiness more simply, perhaps as a positive state of mind that helps you work toward overcoming the challenges of your daily life, you will find happiness faster and more bountiful. In this case, happiness could be found in a good parking space, making it inside the house before it rains, the sip of an ice cold cream soda…so many things.

So you see Terry, because you don’t really find happiness, there is a sense of futility that comes with always looking for it.

Happiness lies in wait wherever you go and wherever you are. Making that your definition is not ignoring or glossing over the daily problems of life, for that will only lead to its own frustrations. Rather, it is embracing the knowledge of things as they are, knowing what you can do to change those things as needed – if anything – and knowing when to let them go. Accepting things as you have made them, after doing your very best work or putting forth your very best effort, even if they are not perfect – are good. And good is a profound seed for happiness to grow from.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

 

An open letter to all American voters

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Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations:

An open letter to all American voters – Dear Voters:

You don’t know me…well, I suppose some of you do, but the bulk of you don’t. And that’s OK.

You see, we don’t need to know each other on a super personal level to know that we are all part of a giant community of Americans who share the most important, and some might say daunting task that is electing our new president. That’s right, come November, we – collectively – get to pick who is going to represent us, protect us, nurture us, guide us, promote us, support us, inspire us, engage us in combat, embarrass us and calm us over the next 4 years.

Thing is, as I watch you on TV and such, campaigning or protesting or sharing your views with the world as to which candidate you back and why, the thing I keep coming back to is the notion that very few of you – OK, very few of us – really know what we’re talking about.

First, understand that I want every able-bodied and capable American to vote in this election. It’s our right to vote and it’s important to participate in the process. Secondly, every able-bodied and capable American who wants to vote in this election owes it to himself, herself and every other American to do the homework.

You see, I don’t really care who you vote for if you come to a responsible, educated, well-informed decision that suits your personal ideals of where this country should go. But – if you’re gonna pick who you vote for based on your gut, what spews forth from whatever news channel you favor, who slips you a fresh $20 bill, what your mom tells you, what lies in the bottom of your tea-cup, what Ben Franklin told you in a dream, what way the wind blows or whatever other magical seventh-sense, mystical voodoo that motivates you, stay home. If you’re gonna guess, stay home. If you just don’t like the way somebody looks, or you just want to vote the way you’ve always voted, stay home.

If you feel all those things above, or you driven by spirits or whatever and you still want to vote, just go ahead and jot your choice down on a piece paper and cast it to the wind. I assure you that the magical elves of Clannor will gather up your vote and see that it gets where it belongs. No harm, no foul.

It’s like this. Let’s say you watch a thousand hours of a medical drama (or a combination of medical dramas – there are some great ones out there) how likely would you be able to safely and successfully remove somebody’s appendix based on what you’ve seen? I think most of us would see ourselves as absolutely unqualified no matter how many hours we’ve watched and would step away from the challenge entirely. Why? Because we know we would likely do more harm than good. We could kill somebody.

It’s not a sign of failure. It’s the human brain being reasonable. You realize that the only way you will likely, successfully remove somebody’s appendix is to actually learn how to do it. You need to understand the anatomy of the body, where to cut, what to take out, what to stitch up and a whole host of other things plus, you need to know how to react if something goes wrong. It’s complex. Body parts aren’t conveniently labeled.

Now, there are those out there who would take on the challenge and want to step up, grab that knife and give taking out that appendix a go. These are the truly dangerous among us and don’t kid yourself, these people do exist. They will push their way up to the body and maintain that not only do they know what they are doing, but they can probably do it better than most because they are just all that. Even when things turn sour and they find themselves in trouble, they will maintain they know what they are doing and keep at it rebuffing help and wisdom, until it is way too late. Finally, as the body cools after their tragic ignorance does its terminal damage, they will not take ownership of the loss. No, they will likely blame the darned fool who let them have the knife in the first place. They are forever and always without fault.

You see, the average American voter is lazy, yet pompous and full of bluster. They don’t want to do the work. They don’t want to invest the time to figure things out. Rather, they pick, they commit, then sit back and have a fit when things don’t go as they thought they should. They are ready to go poking around for America’s appendix without having so much as an inkling about what lies under the skin and we can’t afford that. The world is a complex place. The issues we face are complicated. You just can’t pick a stance out of the blue based on a headline. It just doesn’t work that way.

The average American voter stands solidly behind the candidate that tells them the prettiest story or stirs the greatest anger within them. They don’t allow themselves to believe that the stories are stories and that solutions are useless unless people work together to make them a reality. They refuse to understand and accept that the backstory of our decaying government was written by their own hands and that they made the world we live in by filling the government with people who sit under their favored label or are apt at stroking the voter’s frail and fragile ego.

You can’t invite separatists, extremists, isolationists, egotistic, narcissistic bigots and zealots into your government and suspect that things will go well.

You need to get at those folks who are willing and able to do the job and who actually understand that the job is doing the work of the people, for the people and not the just relentless task of constantly getting re-elected. Seriously, we have enough of those do nothing career politicians.

I truly believe people spend more time looking at a dinner menu than they do evaluating their prospective elected officials, their qualifications, or what they really bring to the table.

I hesitate to blame the politicians. They only do what politicians do and that is press their advantage. If they can get voters to put them into office with pretty words and platitudes, they’re going to jump on that opportunity like a crow on roadkill. However, their work is a matter of public record. You can see what they do and don’t do. They’ll tell you they’re doing the good work, but it’s easy to see there’s not much work getting done.

We are the ones that keep putting people into places they don’t belong. Then we expect that we will get some sort of magic out of them when they get into office. Like they really heard us or something. It used to be cute; voters being all naive and aw shucks and such. Now, it’s just sad.

It’s time for each and every American voter to get off their proverbial backsides and start rubbing some brain cells together. The bluster and partisan pageantry of the conventions are over and now the real work begins.

How loud you yell, doesn’t make you a good voter. The size of your sign doesn’t equate to how well you get the message. You don’t “win” by being able to shout someone else down. You don’t “win” by vilifying another because their beliefs don’t align with yours. You don’t “win” by voting for one because you hate the other.

This ain’t a TV show folks. Do the research. Check the facts. Demand information. Ask questions then shut your mouth, open your ears for a moment and listen. Resist the urge to attack and disparage the moment you think you hear something that bumps up against your tender sensibilities. Dare to hear and understand the debate that takes place on both sides. Dare to expect more.

I’m talking to you American voter. You’re never going to teach someone else a lesson by wasting your vote. In fact, every wasted vote, every voter who withdraws from the process or treats the right to vote as anything less than the real and sizable responsibility it is, is an insult, a slap to the face of every person who fought for, died for and still fights today for your right to continue to vote.

The world is watching. We can show the world we still know what we’re doing and that we do it with mindful purpose and intent. That we give the right we have to vote the respect it deserves by taking the time to push beyond laziness, ignorance, apathy, bitterness, dogma, prejudice, spite, anger and more to ensure that our decisions truly reflect and serve the needs of our people. Do the right thing the right way. See you in November.

Your friend in the cosmos,

Java

 

 

Something to Ponder – 4

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Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Deloris Wilson of Tin Bucket, Arizona.

“Dear Banaba,” Deloris writes. “Can I have it all? If I can, great, but if I can’t, why not?”

To my friend Deloris, I say, “If you had it all, where would you put it?”

Of course, that is me kidding with you.

The answer to your question Deloris, lies almost exclusively within you – within each one of us.

You must first define for yourself what it means to have it all. Does “having it all” mean you have healthy, nurturing relationships with the various people in your life? Is it a life that allows you to be the person you want to be? Is it money? Material belongings? Good health? The ability to travel frequently to far off and exotic places? The latest clothes? The skills and abilities to do whatever you want? Fame? Recognition? And so on.

You might review that list and say yes, all that and all the other things, all of it.

Once you define the objective, the next thing to determine is what you are willing to do in fact, to get it all.

How deep is your drive? How dedicated are you to the task of achieving your objectives? How hard are you willing to work? What do you know now in your life that you are willing to sacrifice in order have it all? How much are you willing to gamble?

When we start to consider the work involved with getting, and having and keeping it all, we often start to hear in our minds the soft voices of dissent which whisper to us the various ways in which we will fail in our efforts to get everything we want.

It goes like this:

You: I want a boat. I deserve a boat. Other people have boats. I’m as good as anyone else who has a boat. Why can’t I have a boat?

The soft voices: Boats are expensive. You won’t be able to get a big boat. You don’t have the money. Yes, you could try to save the money, but that will take a long time. You aren’t great at saving money. And what about the bills? By the way, you have no place to put the boat. And, because you are working all the time, when would you use the boat. Do you really need a boat?

And just like that, we give up, often in a swirl of frustration and sadness…possibly anger.

In my experience Deloris, I find that many people who dream of having it all, are merely envious of those whom they believe have more than they do. What adds to their woe and anger is the perception that those who have more than they do got it all through ways and means that are not equitable to all. They believe that in someway, the other person’s path was made easier and that their path is far more difficult. That the world is unfair.

It is a hard notion to embrace, but even when we feel slighted and that our lives are bad, or not what we wanted or not what we feel we deserve, I can assure you there are people who envy the lot we have in life. In some ways, we look to be the ones with the easier path.

That is not to say that you should give up on your dreams of working for and having the things that you want. But know that we spend a lot of time and energy in the pursuit of things, things and moments that come and go and so quickly dissolve into photographs and memories. It is the day-to-day of living where you will spend most of your time and it is there that you must find some level of satisfaction, or happiness.

It was once said, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.”

If you can embrace the perspective that your life is as good as you make it. That you are good and that you have value no matter what others surmise, or what you believe others surmise. If you can recognize and embrace the glorious gifts that each day has to offer, the sun, rain, green grass, food and drink, the moon and the stars, those with whom you surround yourself. If you can release the bitterness and anger that comes with envy and the notion of greed, well, you may not end up having it all – at least not how you saw it originally, but you will certainly be closer.

Peace to you  – Banaba

An open letter to the Republican party

As she was prone to do in these situations, Java typed with determination and focus:

An open letter to the Republican party – Dear Republicans:

You don’t know me, but I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts with you that may well represent a portion of the voting population of the United States that you might have yet to hear from, or have not yet decided to tune into.

I grew up with a kid named Billy McCabe. For the most part, Billy was hands down the most hilarious person I ever met. He probably still is. I imagine him in jail somewhere for some reason, for the only problem I’ve ever know Billy to have is, he never really knew when to say when. He couldn’t recognize when perhaps the jokes had gone too far and his ability to wield the magical healing power of laughter turned from a relief and a blessing to a curse and an embarrassment. At times, he just got so deep in the ruse that he couldn’t see a clear way out of it, so he just kept at it.

Most of the time, his taking things too far ruffled a few feathers, but on occasion, people got hurt. Not the kind of physical hurt where people need medical care, although one time Billy took a fairly solid blow to the nose that drew blood. No, this kind of hurt was personal, internal. It was the kind of hurt that you remember and it festers in your soul. It can shatter your confidence. It can fill you with doubt. It can create hate and bitterness over healing and compassion.

Now, I’m not saying that what you all have brewing is a joke gone too far, but when I look at it all – when I watch and listen – I can’t help but continue to search for the moment when someone in your group pops up, with hands waving in the air, yelling, “Ok, stop! It was just a joke. We’re kidding! You didn’t get it. No harm. No Foul!”

I mean…seriously?!

The initial set up looked like a joke. You had so many potential candidates, you couldn’t get them all on the same debate stage.

Hilarious!

The array of personalities were diverse, stark and bigger than life and when they all started talking about stuff…it was real ROTFL kind of material.

They were all calling each other names and poking at each other’s ideologies and records of achievement (or lack there of), making faces at each other, there was lots of aggressive pointing and other standard playground behaviors culminating in some real juicy, knee-slapping, good times. It’s kind of like you rolled up a limo at the premiere of the presidential election that looked regal and all serious, but when you opened the door out rolled this happy clump of buffoons. I swear, if any one of them could make balloon animals, you’d have a show ready to take on the road.

But now, things are getting serious, and as my grandmother Chamile used to say, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” My dear Republicans, you are in the dangerous realm of potentially losing that proverbial eye.

We’ve seen the Grand Old Party slowly, but surely degrade over the years. You’ve been so busy bullying, obstructing, posturing and promoting that you seemed to have lost touch with your political vision. You have such a splintered, distorted view of things, that I’m not sure you are even aware of how deep in trouble you appear to be. You’ve become a mockery of your former self, kind of like Vegas Elvis in the latter years of his career. You don’t know who to pander to, so you collectively to pander to everyone – well, everyone who you think will vote your people in. You can’t win on record or deed, so you inspire division and are stuck in the mud stubbornness.

Let me break it down for you. Your number one guy, the guy who appears to be your pending nominee, may be the very best thing for reality television, but the very worst thing for you as the leader of the modern free world. You have to see that, right? The sad part is, numbers one through four after him offer little else in the way of smarts or substance. It just makes us shake our heads even harder. You were so busy worrying about what Obama was up to and trying to put the kibosh on that, that you lost sight of what was going on in your own backyard. You hate what’s going on, but you have nothing brewing in your own kitchen to offer up as an alternative. Bad plan.

Now on the upside, Trump could win and you would have your guy in the White House once again. Then again, Trump could win and you would have your guy in the White House. I don’t get the idea he will be as easy to direct as the last guy you had in there.

Could he do an about face and start to genuinely care about the American people and working to make the country a better place? Sure, maybe. But I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence of that. And in the absence of that possibility, you must start to envision the probable. When you have your guy in the oval office and he starts enacting his particular brand of “presidenting,” and things really start to head south – guess who’s going to suffer? Trump? Nah. No matter how he leaves the office, he’ll say it was amazing and he was the best president ever. He’ll go back to his life, kick up the apprentice thing again and be none the worse for wear. You however, collectively, will likely have a lot of explaining, apologizing and rebuilding to do. And it might just turn out to be too much and your efforts will be too little, too late. At that point, you will be Billy McCabe.

Your Friend, Java

 

 

Something to Ponder – 3

banaba 1a

*Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain. 

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Astrid Korthew of Aberdeen, Maine.

“Dear Banaba,” Astrid writes. “Is karma a bitch?”

To my friend Astrid, I say, “You know it sister, and then some.”

But in reality, that is me kidding.

As it is explained in Buddhist philosophy, karma is the law of moral causation. It is the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in this life or incarnation based on that person’s deeds in this life or in a previous incarnation.

The phrase you ask about is a very limited application indeed.

Often people use the “bitch” motif when they want to remind others that their deeds will lead to future unhappiness in a very ruthless and uncharitable manner, that they themselves are potentially on the receiving end of a sort of “karmic revenge” for something they must have done (which they feel undeserving of, of course), or they long to see the retribution of karma rain down on those which they feel have done any level of unsavory injustice.

In each of these cases, the whole of karma is boiled down to being some sort of metaphysical punisher or ethereal seeker of revenge.

Unfortunately, this is not generally how karma works. It is not something we control by our wishes and desires like some sort of spiritual voodoo doll. It is not something we can wish upon others to make ourselves feel better because we feel karma’s “justice” will take care of something we find we are incapable of doing ourselves – at least outwardly.

In most cases, we would never see the effects of karma because we could not possibly understand the complexity of the philosophy. On the other hand, all we may see are the effects of karma, but again, when we view what goes on around us through the limited scope or lens of our personal experience, no matter how broad, we are incapable of truly recognizing what we are witnessing, nor do we have the universal context needed to comprehend the vast meaning of what we see.

Human beings often limit their view of everything to the now. I am uncomfortable now. I am not sleeping well now. I am angry now. I am sad now. People don’t like me now, and so on. Therefore, their vision, their longing for and patience toward getting a resolution is limited to the now. If I am uncomfortable, I must find comfort now. If I am hungry, I must eat now. If I am passed over for a promotion, I must quit my job today and leave angry because they do not appreciate all I have done for them, those bastards, and so on.

While there is a great value in learning to appreciate the now – the moment you are currently living in – because it is the only thing you can truly count on, restricting your views and tying your actions and emotions solidly to the now prevent you from seeing the world and your place in it as it truly is. You begin to think and act without perspective because you do what you feel is right – right now.

As an example, in our first scenario you are driving. You are minding your own business. Another driver comes out of nowhere, zooms past you, cuts you off, scaring you half to death, causing you to swerve and possibly causing you to drift off the road. In our second scenario, you are driving. You have a sick child in the car and you are trying to get he child to the hospital. Time is of the essence. You swerve in and out of traffic, going faster than you should. A slow car in front of you refuses to yield the right of way to you. When you finally get the chance, you zoom by them and head on to the hospital, but in doing so, you cause them to swerve, scaring them half to death and nearly forcing them off the road. Who should karma punish in each case? The drive who cuts you off? The driver who blocks you from your goal? You, for nearly running someone off the road?

Who is to say?

It could be effectively argued that karma put that slow driver in front of you just long enough for you to avoid a potential catastrophe down the road, had you gotten there too early.

Remember, karma can punish, but also reward.

So, you see Astrid, yes, karma can be a bitch, when it is inconvenient to us. It can also be a delicious club sandwich with chips. It can also be a roadblock that takes us off our usual and predictable path so that we might see something new, or experience something we haven’t before. It can also be that stranger that sits next to us at the bus stop. The one that we don’t talk to, but politely acknowledge as another person just trying to get through the day, and we leave it at that.

The greater task for us, is to focus less on determining an appropriate level of revenge against those we feel have wronged us – or – worrying about what we might have done to deserve  the unwavering eye of karma’s “ruthlessness” (although we are convinced it is nothing), and focus more on understanding the role we play in the world and in the lives of others with a more universal perspective.

Understand that when you throw a rock into the water, the are ripples. Those ripples will travel out from the center of the action you created and they will do what they do until they fade away and the next rock is thrown. The only control you have is how hard you throw the rock…or if you throw the rock at all. That is karma.

Peace to you – Banaba

Something to Ponder – 2

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Myrtle Trisk of Portnoy, North Dakota.

“Dear Banaba,” she writes. “Why are people so stupid?”

To my friend, Myrtle I say, “Because.”

I say because, because there is really no better answer to that question, at least as Myrtle poses it.

It is what some might refer to as a “loaded question.” For without context, the ability to assist her in reaching a higher level of enlightenment is greatly diminished. Despite our very best efforts, to try and divine a satisfactory response that helps illuminate the pathway to resolution related to her specific need is very much like trying to lasso a single star in the great universe that surrounds us.

Let us try instead, to better understand what drives such a question, to then see if a more reasonable answer will present itself.

First, Myrtle is not alone in her search for the answer to this question. Many write to Banaba asking the very same thing with varying levels of related information. But the question itself seems to be more an expression of frustration. The motivation to ask the question comes when understanding the actions of those around us – both in circles close to us and those in representational groups we are forced to recognize – eludes us.

In most cases, it is clear that a person or persons have acted, or are acting, in a way that conflicts with what we see as our own definition of common sense. We see them as behaving contrary to what we deem as “smart” and the action is so far away from “smart” that in order to easily classify them for the sake of discussion, we must ordain them as “stupid.”

As an example, let’s say that many users of the Internet start responding to a common and widely dispersed post that asks, “What kind of cat are you?” You begin to see tens, then hundreds, then thousands of responses from some of your very closest friends and family members to throngs of total strangers, which define for you, and each other, what kind of cat they are.

We know, of course, they are not currently and never will be a cat. Let’s say too, that you do not like cats in the least. Let us say finally, that you find this kind of mindless group exercise to be a fruitless and meaningless waste of time.

You will certainly not be playing the game, for you could care less about what kind of cat you are. In fact, we could go as far to say that your strongest desire might be to post something completely contrary (like being a dead cat) that would wrinkle the noses of those who are playing the game.

However, since you see yourself as better than that, and you are not interested in dealing with the potential rage of a group of angry cat lovers, you do nothing. That lack of satisfactory action and the inability to put an end to the distraction causes frustration. In the worst case, this frustration can make one very angry to the point of wanting to break something, or wanting to punch someone in the face. But again, because you are so reasonable, you boil that frustration down to the point where all you have left is to ask, “Why are people so stupid?”

You don’t really need an answer.

You need a better question.

You need to release frustration that comes with trying to figure out what you may never know. You need to understand that the energy put into figuring out why people do what they do, may never result in an answer that gives you great insights, for the moment you think you’ve seen it all, a whole new crop of stupid is almost certainly guaranteed to rise up and greet you.

Thus, the better question for you Myrtle and so many others; the better possible pathway to a deeper layer of inner peace may be:

Why do I allow people who act contrary to my personal sense of, or definition of intelligence, distract me so that it restricts the progress I make on my personal journey to enlightenment?

Remember too, the you may at one time or another, do something that falls outside of someone else’s personal definition of smart. You will be a distraction to their focus, which feeds the pool of their frustrations, and they may one day write Banaba a letter about you.

Peace to you  – Banaba

Something to Ponder – 1

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends, today I bring to you some thoughts on a question sent to me from a Mr. John Tanner of Mesquite, Texas.

“Dear Banaba,” he writes. “The question that constantly comes to my mind is simply, what the Hell? I mean, as I look around me, I wonder…seriously, what the Hell?”

To my new friend John I say, “What the Hell, indeed.”

Your question is really most profound.

Many people around the world have asked it again and again throughout all of time. Some have used it more as an expression of their frustrations and in more of a rhetorical sense while others seriously and earnestly ask it because they would really like to know in that moment – “What the Hell!?”

No matter what in your life brought to where you needed to ask, the question as you ask it certainly deserves an answer.

I can tell you that the answer is not easy, nor is it overly complex. The answer can also be as individual as the person who asks it and may be affected by the variable context in which it is asked. So, there could be over a billion possible answers.

But, let us not try to boil the ocean today. Instead, today let me tell you that there are basically three answers to your question.

Number one:

In a literal sense, the answer relates to Hell itself, of course. For some reason, things in your life start to move in a direction that you feel ill prepared for. It may appear to be something that is either truly difficult to resolve or just too much of an inconvenience at that point in time for you to want to deal with it. Mentally, you may feel as though Hell has literally opened up and brought forth this horrible thing just to ruin your day.

In many ways, you are correct.

As an example, you are driving to an appointment and are running late, but you have it all planned out and you still have time to get to your meeting. Then you realize you need to pick something up at the store. You can adjust your plan, but that makes your schedule even tighter. It’s doable, of course, but much tighter. Then you find yourself in a traffic jam. It’s bad. You will miss your appointment, you will not get to the store and in fact, it looks like you will miss your next appointment as well and get home late.

“What the Hell!?”

It seems unlikely – if Hell is as we understand it to be – that Hell, or whoever runs it would select you out of everyone who needs their compass adjusted, to ruin your day. However, if that is how you feel, that is your reality, and that is ultimately what you must deal with.

Number Two:

If we further explore the more rhetorical side of the question, viewing it less as a question and more of an expression of emotion, Hell in this case may be no less real, but is then applied to the thing you see or encounter.

As an example, you are walking along minding your own business when a speeding truck barrels down the street and plows into a box of baby rabbits.

What the Hell!? Am I right?

In this case, you are making an expression that applies to the horror, or the Hellish scene, that unfolds before you. Unless those are your bunnies, you are probably not directly affected in this case, but the horror for you is still very real. You do not have to deal with the circumstances of the situation intimately, but you will have to learn how to process what you have seen so that in some way you can accept that the thing occurred and can now move forward.

Number Three:

As a good friend once told me, “Hey Bro, sometimes shit is just messed up.”

Again, this leans less toward an answer and more toward an expression. But it can also be taken as an ending statement, like a period at the end of a sentence.

You may not understand what happened or why, no matter how “messed up” it is. In this sense, your “What the Hell?” is merely an acknowledgement of the event. A stake in the ground that allows you to take the next step into your world without being eternally bound to the event.

To think of it another way, it is giving yourself the right to move past what might be seen as the futility of over analysis, complicating the very simple or getting stuck in something you have little or no ability to change.

As an example, you come across a lavish tray of freshly baked cookies. You know you do not need a cookie, but that knowledge is nothing against the desire to have a cookie. You could spend many valuable minutes of your life debating the pros and cons of eating a cookie, when in actuality, you have already decided to eat the cookie and you are merely going through the exercise of internal debate to soothe your conscious mind once the cookie is consumed.

To resolve this conflict, you say, “What the Hell?” and you eat the cookie.

So you see John, despite your frustration in the moment that inspired this question, you will likely encounter a great many more. Being able to answer your question, and being able to accept that answer will be the key to a greater inner calm and a better overall life.

Peace to you – Banaba

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter To Donald Trump

Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations:

An open letter to Donald Trump –

Dear Donald Trump:

You don’t know me, and while the chances are greater that we might one day meet now because you are running for President, I’m not holding my breath. So, let’s just leave it at you don’t know me, and you probably never will.

Still, despite – at least based on my research – what appears a complete and total disconnect between us, I think it’s appropriate and important for me to reach out to you because of your interest in representing me, and the interests of our country, as the President of the United States.

You see – the job of President is a complex one. We the people need to respect the person who gets that job. More importantly, the person who gets that job needs to respect the job itself and the mantle of responsibility that comes with it. If you want to be my President, you better grab a seat and give a listen to what folks like me have to say.

Listening is a critical skill for a successful President. My mother always told me that the best way to listen is to keep your mouth shut so that the message you’re supposed to get comes in clear, avoiding anything your mouth might try to throw at it to confuse things. The second part of listening, is hearing – actually hearing the message that’s coming at you. Since you are everywhere these days I’ve had some good opportunities to watch you, and yes, listen to you.

Two things on that, first, as I listen to you, I hear what you’re saying. And while I’ve never been quite sure what a “bejeezus” is, I know that when I listen to you and I hear what you say, whatever bejeezus I have in me is scared shitless. Because when you boil it down, I’m not hearing much of value at all. Like a handful of those puffy cheese curl snack things, what you say lacks all kinds of substance. What I see is that you have throngs of people who do hear something in your words. I surely don’t begrudge them for that, even though I’m not clear on what it is they’re getting. To me it seems that on the surface, what they hear from you centers on, and seems to incite hate, violence, separatism, intolerance, misunderstanding, ignorance and a few other tasty negatives, which they appear to be OK with. The truth is, you have followers. Therefore, you have a responsibility to them and for them. You owe them the courtesy of your attention, your humility, your sincerity and your respect.

The second thing is that I’m not sure you’re listening or hearing. I get the feeling that instead of listening, you talk until you get tired, you pause for a bit, and then you spend your time looking for your next opportunity to speak out loud. Then when you do – BOOM – there goes my bejeezus again! It’s a terrifying cycle.

Look, I am one voter. While I have my doubts, they tell me my one vote counts, so like anything extremely personal to me, I’m very careful about where I put that vote. In my mind, it’s so much more than a single vote. It is an expression of who I am as a human being, as an American and it is a representation of what I stand for in my life. I don’t give my votes away. A candidate has to earn them. And I can tell you that no hot, steaming pile of rhetoric or reality show based shenanigans will earn my vote.

I’m a voter who needs solutions, solid ideas, compassion, a broad vision of the future, an understanding of the global circumstance, temperance, tolerance, empathy, strength, courage, common sense, a dash of humor, and a slew of other tasty attributes.

My hope is that you got into this because you are sincere in your efforts and intents to guide this country in a way that is beneficial to all. My hope is that you are not just some pot stirring, bile spewing, hate mongering, short-sighted, cartoon strip, ego driven, narcissistic, circus master who’s pulling his show into the center ring because he found someone who’ll shine a spotlight on him.

The fact that you are currently leading your party certainly says something about America. I’m not sure what it says yet, but it has a very sort of “monkeys running the zoo” kind of feel to it. It makes me sad in my soul. Don’t worry. While you are a huge part of that, the whole field of candidates seems lack a certain sense of…gravitas.

I’m thinking maybe you started this thing as a lark and it all got out of control and now you just don’t know how to get out of it. Mostly because you’re tossing some real doozies out there that make it feel like you are just begging someone to eject you from the game. For if they kick you out, you still win. You save face. You can say you didn’t quit.

Look, if you really want out, my first suggestion is to take a page from the Jeb Bush campaign. Look at that poor man’s face. Have you ever seen anyone who wants to be President less than him?

The long and the short of it is, you have yet to earn my vote. I don’t get the feeling that you truly respect the job or the responsibility that comes with it. You are welcome to prove me wrong. Should you do that, I am more than happy to make a full, fair and public apology for doubting you. Until then, it’s all just a big show, a big joke, a whim and a scam, but a scam with severe consequences. I urge you to dance on that line carefully.

Your friend in the cosmos, – Java

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – Epilogue

“Will there be anything else ladies?”

Taffeta stirred awake from a light nap, as the waiter, whose name tag identified him as Damerae, placed their drinks on the small table next to their lounge chairs.

“Oh, no thank you,” Taffeta said. “This is fine.”

“Not right now Damerae,” Myrna said. “But don’t go too far. I never know when I might just feel like dancing.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Damerae said with a wink.

“Myrna?” Taffeta said, as the waiter moved on. “You are a shameless flirt.”

“I am,” Myrna said, settling deeper into her chair and her sense of self-satisfaction. “I don’t see any reason to change at this point.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Taffeta said, lifting her glass.

She let the cool, fruity concoction work it’s magic and closed her eyes again behind her large sunglasses.

In the dark, the shadows of the past rose up as they always do now. The imprinted residue of resilient memories that can’t be erased, but instead, must be endured until they fade away of their own volition.

A shadowy room materializes, strewn with the bodies of those unfortunates who lurked in alleyways and around corners waiting for a crack at an easier life, but always at the expense of another.

Bright spatters and dark puddles of blood broke up the monotonous, dusty grays and dingy browns. The smells of dirt, mold, decay and gunpowder mixed in a choking, nauseating haze.

Once again Myrna stands with her outstretched arm holding a smoking, hot Cora covered by a patent leather purse now with a sizable hole in the side. The long and broken couch. The money.

Yes. Even in the midst of chaos and fear and death, the siren call of money is strong and clear and seductive.

Once Taffeta and Myrna calmed themselves, Myrna was ready to go, to cut bait and run and just clear out and start the work of forgetting. But how does that happen? For all that went on in that room. The screaming, the fighting, the gunfire, they were still alone. They were in a place that nobody on the outside must have cared much about. When it was over, it was quiet. More than quiet. Silent. No sirens. No men with megaphones shouting “Come out with your hands up.”

Nothing.

It was just the two of them, the bodies and the money.

“Myrna, wait,” Taffeta remembered.

“Wait? Wait for what?” Myrna asked.

“Let’s…just see how much.”

“How much what? How much more mayhem we can get into? No thank you!” Myrna turned again to leave, but Taffeta held strong.

“The boxes. All those boxes must be filled with money. I mean, look at how much it is on the floor.”

“You’re kidding right? It’s bad money, Taffy. Blood money. Money from drugs and crimes and…”

Taffeta looked back at her friend. “And what if we call they police? What if they come and see what went on here. What do you think happens?”

“I’m sure I don’t know.”

“You do,” Taffeta said. “You know they will come and clean up the mess and lock everything up and that’s the end of it.”

“You want to take the money?” Myrna asked. “Really?!”

“Let’s see how much.”

“No. It’s blood money.”

“It’s lost money Myrna. It’s not like this is from a bank or something. I mean sure, some of it’s stolen, but you heard them, a lot of this money people gave willingly – stupidly, sure, but willingly. Just to get high or whatever.”

“It belongs to somebody,” Myrna said. “It always does.”

“Why not us?”

“What?”

“Sure, why not us?” Taffeta said. “We were kidnapped, victimized, harassed, tied up, probably traumatized for the rest of our lives and they were going to kill us. Can we just walk away from that? Can you just, forget all that? Forget it all and just move on?”

Myrna took another step toward the door and stopped. “I killed a man, Taffy.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sad about it. He was certainly going to kill you and if it happened all over, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

“But…”

“I don’t know. It feels wrong. The killing feels wrong even though it was the only thing I knew to do. Taking the money, just feels wrong.”

“I know. You’re right,” Taffeta said. “And we can leave right now and go home and call the police and let them deal with it all. And we will get on with the rest of our lives, however long that is, and try to forget it all and hope that we are stronger than our nightmares, because I don’t think this is going away any time soon. I mean, just look! I’m just not sure that’s how I want my ending to be.”

“How?”

“Alone in an empty house, making sure I’m up by a certain time so that I can take my medicine before my nap and be awake for my afternoon doses of whatever so I can do it all again tomorrow and the next day!”

“Taffy…”

“Myrna, we almost died here today. Right here in this horrible, disgusting, vermin-infested wreck of a place. Right here where we would be forgotten as soon as the next news story came along to replace the one that tells the tale of two stupid old women who got themselves killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time!”

Taffeta spun away from Myrna and stared into the shadows, at the bodies and the ocean of bills that poured from the boxes Petey tipped over.

It was some time before she felt Myrna’s hand on her shoulder. “Let’s just see how much.”

It took them a while, but they loaded quite a few boxes into the car that waited for them outside. There was too much to count right there. It was all sort of thrown together. And there was the matter of the three dead bodies. Once they decided to move on their idea, the ladies moved effectively.

For as troubled as he was, Danny Mackenoy, the New Capone, did a fair job of gathering up quite a lot of money. Who knows? If he stayed away from the drugs himself, it might have dawned on him that he was close to getting exactly what he wanted.

They took what felt right. Nothing more. It came as a silent decision between them after loading one of the boxes into the car. At one point or another, it just seemed like enough.

Once they were loaded, they made certain they had all their belongings, and they crawled into the car and headed home – at last.

About halfway home, they found a payphone and called the police. They didn’t know that address specifically, but they gave the general area and expressed concern over what they were certain was gunfire before hanging up.

Once at Taffeta’s house, they ate and had a good sleep before they started rooting through the boxes of money in the front room. With few expectations, it just became clear that it was a lot. Anytime they came across a random pill or other chemical, they promptly flushed it down the toilet.

They split the money into two piles then sat down looking at them for the longest time wondering what next.

They watched television news for any information on their story from the other perspective and it was as it was expected, “Three unknown victims were found dead in quarantined building, two from blunt force trauma and one from multiple gunshot wounds. Along with the bodies, police found a variety of prescription drugs and a large amount of money, possibly related to a recent string of thefts from several local pharmacies. Police suspect gang and, or drug related violence as the cause, but continue to investigate.”

Two days later, the story all but evaporated from the headlines, due to a warehouse explosion on the other side of town with the potential of releasing toxic smoke that posed a danger to the local population.

Then things got quiet.

Taffeta called Angela Deffert of Deffert, Smith and Deffert, blah, blah as her brother did some time ago. Proper and professional, Miss Deffert acknowledged the memory of working with Taffeta’s brother and the firm’s handling of his affairs, including the distribution of the various crates that he left in his will.

Miss Deffert confirmed that Taffeta’s brother had indeed secured their services, not only because they were a top ranking firm, but for their reputation for being discreet.

In short order, Taffeta and Myrna had set up the money in a living trust with conditions suitable to their liking. They arranged for the pick up, delivery and possible long-term storage of a certain crate, which now contained a well cleaned, well oiled and well packed Cora along with the remaining ammunition.

They each sold their houses and pretty much everything else they had short of their most prized possessions and made the plan to head some place, “South. Tropical. Caribbean.”

“Well, I do declare,” Myrna said, in what was the very passable, if not stereotypical accent of a Southern belle. “Why, with all this heat I fear that I am fixin’ to perspire!” She leaned over and tapped Taffeta on the shoulder stirring her again, from her visit to the past.

“I’m heading inside to take a shower before we go to dinner,” she said. “Don’t stay out here too long now, ya hear? Why, you’ll just bake!”

“Go!” said Taffeta, laughing lightly. “Get out of here, you loon!”

“Seriously, you don’t want to burn.”

“I’ll be along,” Taffeta said, downing the very last of her cocktail. “I don’t want to miss the sunset.”

Taffeta shifted in her chair and draped a towel across her legs. Her gaze moved along the beach and out across the water. She squinted and pushed herself to see as far as she could, far beyond the horizon and up into the sky until the very essence of her soul seemed to melt into the churning warm hues of the evening sun, set to drop away to mark the end of another day.

THE END

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – XI

“The other one was going to let us go,” Taffeta said softly.

Myrna’s hands squeezed hard into her arm as the words left her mouth. She could hardly believe she spoke out loud. She wasn’t thinking about talking, but there were her words, cutting through the silence like a hot knife.

While she tried to look away when the one continued to drive the head of the man with the hammer over and over again into the floor, there was no way to shut out the horrible noise that came with it.

Then, out of the blue, she spoke, as if in a dream.

Danny looked up from his seat on Hover’s body.

“Excuse me?” he said.

Taffeta gave Myrna a quick reassuring look, took another deep breath and turned back. “The man who got hit with the hammer, Petey? He was going to let us go.”

“Yessss,” Danny hissed softly. “And you can clearly see where that got him.”

“The point is,” Taffeta said, pressing on. “He realized we’re not a threat… to him, or to you or to whatever you have going on here.”

“Well, lady,” Danny said shaking his head. “All that seems to have turned into tough shit for you now, considering that your benefactor seems to have had his brains scrambled. And whatever it was you didn’t see before. Since then it seems to me that you’ve both seen quite a bit more. I mean, look around you. We’ve got bodies now. This is what they call, a bona fide shit storm.”

Whatever it was that had bolstered Taffeta’s confidence, faded quickly as a smile crawled across Danny’s face and he began to climb off Hover’s body.

“Now, you look like a couple of smart ladies to me,” Danny said, trying again to wipe the blood from his hands as he gained his balance. “Although, how smart can you be really? I mean look at where you are.”

Taffeta leaned back into the couch.

“Just a bit ago, whatever Petey there was feeding you, was still pretty fresh and I guess, not far from the truth. But now, he’s dead. Hover there is dead. They spilled my money all over the place while doing the dance of the idiots. And, now I’m left with you two. And, you think I should let you go?”

Taffeta cleared her throat. “Yes,” she said. “You should let us go.”

Danny began to pace, laughing to himself before turning to face the old woman. “You…,” he said, pointing with a dramatic flair. “Make a very compelling case. However, I can’t let you go. You know that, right?”

“You’re a horrible human being,” Myrna said, lurching up and throwing herself into the mix.

“Yes,” Danny said, feigning reproach. “I’m sure you see it that way. But you see, none of this was supposed to happen!” He went back to pacing and sliding his bloody hands across his shirt. “I mean really, look at this mess!”

“This isn’t our mess,” Myrna shouted back. “We’ve had just about…”

“SHUT UP!” Danny shouted, spinning around and ducking down to get into Myrna’s face. And while it may have been the rest she got after Danny knocked her out, or she may have just reached her limit, Myrna didn’t flinch and she didn’t waiver. She set her one good eye sternly on his gaze and they stared at each other, each one not daring to flinch.

“Let us go,” Taffeta said softly into the heart of the stand-off. “Let us go and we won’t say a word. I promise.”

The silence flowed between the three of them with little resistance, like a barely there summer breeze.

Danny blinked first. Breaking the stare down with Myrna, the turned his glance to Taffeta. “You’ve got guts lady,” he said, before reaching up to pat her cheek with a smile. “Both of you! You’ve got a lot of guts.”

He kneeled down before them to finish the work Petey started, untying their legs and tossing the ropes aside. He stood uneasily before them. “Hell, if my mother or grandmother had half the guts you two have, who knows where I’d be today.”

“Thank you,” Taffeta said, reaching down to rub at the spot where the ropes nibbled into her ankles.

“The sad thing is,” Danny said as his smile melted away. “Guts can make you stupid. They can give you a false sense of right and wrong, and of power. They make you careless. If I let you walk out of here, we both know where you’re gonna go. And I can’t have the police showing up here. Not before, at the very least, I get a chance to spruce the joint up a bit.”

He looked around his domain almost sensing the possibilities that could come with a good cleaning.

“No,” he said. “You’re going to leave all right, but you’re not going home.”

Again, with an unsuspected speed and seemingly peculiar strength, Danny lunged forward grabbing the front of Taffeta’s coat, and jerked her up and out of the couch to stand before him.

She let a small whimper slip as her legs wobbled and tingled a bit from sitting so long.

Danny looked into her eyes with a dark determination and he spun her around to drag her from the room.

“Wait!” she cried. “Please! Wait! Just let me say goodbye.”

Danny paused, letting the words sink in. The day was getting long and his patience thin, but a quick goodbye seemed reasonable. He spun Taffeta around like a giant doll and without letting go, leaned her out toward her friend.

Myrna reached out. Taffeta reached out. Their hands met and clasped around each other.

“I’m sorry,” Myrna said as tears trickled down her face. “I’m so sorry.”

“Shhh,” Taffeta said, closing her eyes softly and shaking her head ‘no.’ “I love you. You know that right?”

Myrna shook her head, squeezing Taffeta’s hand.

Taffeta squeezed back as hard as she could. “Myrna,” she said, searching for her friend’s eyes. “Don’t worry about me. Do you hear me?” She started to cry. “You can get out of this thing. You get out of this thing and you get out of here and you go far away where it’s safe. Do you hear me?”

Myrna gave her an obligatory nod, holding back a sob.

“Ok,” Danny said, pulling at Taffeta. “That seems good enough.”

“You get out of here,” Taffeta urged. As Danny pulled their arms stretched between them, but their hands held tight.

“You do what you need to do!” Taffeta shouted, fighting to stay with her friend. Danny pulled again, finally breaking the link between them and trying to spin the old woman away and into the shadows.

“You get free!” Taffeta yelled. “You let Cora protect you!”

Taffeta pushed back as hard as she could, but Danny held tight. She bounced around as he fought to control her. She tried to point at Myrna. “You get Cora!”

“SHUT UP!”

Danny pulled Taffeta up in front of him with a hearty shake and a head-jarring jerk that stilled the fight in her. He stared directly into her eyes, again silently communicating all the seriousness he was about to bring down upon her.

“The show’s over lady!” he spat.

Taffeta stared back for a moment before squeezing her eyes shut as tight as she could make them.

Two seconds later, the room exploded.

Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop!

Holding her eyes shut, her ears began to ring as the sound of Cora’s report filled the small room like thunder. Wood, glass and molding drywall shattered around her making the air thick with dust and debris. She felt her captor wriggle and shake. She heard him grunt and howl, but his grip held tight through the storm.

Thirty shots later, with a soft click, it was over.

An aggressive silence sought to recapture the space, save for a few bits and pieces that had yet to find their way to the ground.

Taffeta, with a measure of hesitation, slowly opened her eyes.

Danny face filled her vision. His eyes darted across her face showing anger and hate and fear and finally, emptiness. Like she has seen in Petey’s eyes, Danny’s life slipped away from him. One single, small smile crossed his lips before he loosed his grip and crumbled to the floor in front of him.

Taffeta took in a huge breath, and tried to blink away her tears. As he eyes adjusted, she say Myrna standing before her. Myrna’s arm stretched out. And at the end, where one would have expected to see her hand, Taffeta saw her purse. Coming from a dark black, powder-burned hole in the side of the purse, a thin, delicate stream of smoke rose up into the sky.

Myrna sobbed.

“I heard you!” she said. The words poured out of her like water from a rusty bucket. “I heard you and I didn’t think I knew what you were telling me, but then I realized. Then I couldn’t get it out. The gun got stuck in the bag. I tried to get the safety off and I really wasn’t sure if it would work because I couldn’t see.”

Taffeta walked to Myrna as she spoke, smiling and wiping away the tears that streamed from her eyes.

“Then I pulled the trigger and just hoped,” Myrna said. “And it did, but then I couldn’t aim, and you were right there and…”

Taffeta reached up slowly, felt into the bag and softly urged Myrna’s hand to let go. She hefted the bag with the gun off her hand and set it on the floor. She moved Myrna’s outstretched arm down to rest at her side.

“…and you were right there. And my God, what if I had killed you? But he was horrible and he said horrible things. And the way he kept slamming that other man’s head over and over. He was never going to let us go he…”

“Sh, sh, shhhh,” Taffeta said, moving in to hug her friend in earnest. “It’s over now. It’s ok. It’s over.”

Myrna kept talking, kept saying every word that came to her head until there were no more, and the trailed off into the dark silence. They stood together, hugging each other, rocking back and forth ever so slightly and assured themselves that they were both alive and that everything was ok.

A long while passed before they moved. Eventually, Traffeta broke from the embrace, pulled a pair of tissues from her pocket and offered one to Myrna.

Together, the wiped their eyes, gathered their wits and calmed their souls.

“Such a mess,” Taffeta said first. “Such a waste.”

“They were horrible, right?” asked Myrna. “I mean, I killed…”

“Sh…,” Taffeta cut her off gently. “Don’t.”

Myrna drew another breath and nodded. “I want to go home.”

“Me too,” Taffeta said.

“Can we just…go?” Myrna asked. “Are we allowed to just…leave?”

“I guess.”

“What about…”

“I don’t know.”

Myrna reached down and took Taffeta’s hand. “Then let’s go. Let’s get out of here before something bad happens.”

Myrna stopped. Her brain caught up to what he mouth just said and she couldn’t help but giggle. “Before something bad happens. Did you hear that?”

Taffeta nodded.

“Let’s go!” Myrna said. “Medication be damned, I need a drink!”

She held on the Taffeta’s hand as she gathered up her own purse and moved to maneuver around the bodies and to the door, but Taffeta pulled at her.

“Myrna, wait.”

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – X

Taffeta stared down into Petey’s eyes which in almost the same moment, popped wide with the realization of what Hover just did to him, then dimmed as his consciousness, and his life slipped away from him.

With a soft grunt, he tipped forward dropping his head into Taffeta’s lap, then slid down from her knee and along her calf as his body slumped to the floor.

Taffetta’s breath caught as she tried to pull her eyes away from mound that was Petey, or at least tired to squeeze them shut, but they would not comply. Instead she slowly lifted her head tracing the room until her gaze fell upon Hover. Her face twisted in to disbelief and fear.

“Dammit!” Hover shouted, dropping the sledge to the floor. His body grew rigid as his hands clenched into and out of frustrated fists.

“Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!”

He stomped around in a small circle as a child might while having a tantrum, shaking his fists and at one point, raising them up to hit himself in the forehead several times in quick succession.

“Dammit, dammit, dammit!”

He kicked out at Petey’s lifeless body, catching him in the leg and making the body shift with its force.

“You stupid son of a bitch,” he said, grinding his fists harder into his head. “You couldn’t just leave it could you? Could you?”

Taffeta stared at the building, brooding mass of anger and frustration before her, her heart beat rising in pace with the escalation of the situation which had quickly deteriorated from a moment of hope and possible escape to…this.

Whatever this was now, whatever their situation had become, it came with a heavier weight than anything up to this moment, as her husband might say, “This was the shit and they were up to their armpits in it. Time to do, or be done in.” She missed that about him.

When Hover kicked out at his associate’s corpse, the alarms screeched through Taffeta’s head.

She burrowed deeper into her friend’s side trying in earnest to elbow her awake, but without drawing attention.

“C’mon, Myrna,” she shouted silently in her head. “C’mon, c’mon. I need you now.”

For the first time since plopping her into the dilapidated sofa, Myrna uttered the very softest of groans causing Taffeta to jerked her head toward her friend’s face.

“That’s it,”she dared to whisper. “C’mon Sweetie, wake up.”

Myrna uttered another soft and barely audible moan as her right eyebrow raised up ever so slightly.

Even that ever so subtle response set Taffeta’s heart to beating faster, but with a greater sense of comfort and relief than compounding fear.

Hover’s swearing boiled down to a base growl as he continued to smack and berate himself while churning in a small squall of a manic pace.

“Myrna,” Taffeta whispered, following another nudge. “You have to wake up now, but you have to be quiet…really quiet.”

An eyelid quivered, then lay quiet for a moment before both eyes popped open.

“What the…,” Myrna said, sitting bolt upright.

Taffeta grabbed the lapel of her friend’s coat and pulled her close to her.

“Sh, sh, sh,” she whispered directly into Myrna’s ear as loud as dared, but with the intention of being heard. “Keep calm. Keep quiet. We’re OK, for the moment.”

Myrna’s eyes shot around the room as her brain worked to put everything together as fast as she could. She remembered the…pharmacy, yes the pharmacy, they were going to get, but then there was that horrible, dirty boy and… She turned a face twisted with fear and a dash of panic back to her friend.

Taffeta raised her hands to catch Myrna’s face and made her focus on her. Her own face mimed deep, careful and calming breaths before she mouthed a long and silent, “Shhhhh.”

Myrna nodded, working to match her breathing to Taffeta’s. The two calmed each other to the point where Taffeta could finally hear something other than her heartbeat banging in her ears. At least until…

“Sweet Jesus! What the hell?!”

Hover stopped instantly, dropping his arms and turning to face the voice that blew out of the shadows like a child who got caught lifting the goods from the family cookie jar. Whether knowingly or by reflex, he took a small step to the side in an effort to block the greater problem, which was the slumping dead pile of Petey Chambers.

“It’s not what you think Danny,” Hover said, pleading his case. “He was gonna let them go.” He pointed accusingly at the ladies cowering on the dilapidated couch. “He was gonna let them go, just like that and you know they would rat us out! I mean he was untying them and everything! He…”

“SHUTUP!” Danny Mackenoy, leapt from the shadow swinging a fist wide and fast that caught Hover square in the jaw, knocking him to the ground.

“Just,” he said, through dangling, dirty strands of hair and a heavy breath, “Shut up.”

Hover lay on the ground rubbing the side of his face as a small tear welled up and dripped down to his cheek. Danny slogged forward, kicking as Hover scurried out of the way, clearing a path to Petey’s body.

“Jesus,” he said, leaning down to poke at the corpse that lay in the dark. “What the hell have you done? What the hell, Hover!?” He spun around and lurched toward Hover who tried to spider walk himself into retreat.

“Did you forget the plan?” Danny asked. “I made a plan! A careful plan that uses three legs of a stool made up of my brain, your flair for on the job security, and Petey’s gift for distribution, everybody playing to their strengths. But you, you with no brains what so ever decide that you will, kill our key to effective distribution!”

Danny’s words started clear enough so as to emphasize his point, but as his own words sunk in along with the realization that his plan, which worked perfectly up until this point, was now messed up beyond reasonable repair, his words grew tight and forced. He began to spit them out through gritted teeth. And as Hover tried to slink away, Danny inched ever closer.

“No distribution, no cash! It’s a pretty simple formula!”

Danny jumped forward grabbing Hover and dragging him across the floor to Petey’s body. “No distribution, no cash, Hover!”

He forced Hover’s face to the floor so that his gaze would have to meet Petey’s lifeless stare. “No cash, no plan!” He brought Hover’s face up to his own. “Did you ever think of that? Did you?”

“No!” Hover yelled, “No, I guess…”

Danny forced his head back into the floor. “Of course not!” He yelled. “You didn’t think!” He raised Hover’s head and forced it back into the dusty, dirty wood floor with a heavy thud.

“You never think!”

Thud.

“You aren’t paid to think!”

Thud.

“But I guess you wanted to give it a try anyhow!”

Thud.

“Now, look what we’ve got!”

Thud.

“No distribution!”

Thud.

“And, that means…”

Thud.

“No…”

Thud.

“More…”

Thud.

“Cash.”

Thud!

The last blow pushed Hover’s head in a way that his now similarly lifeless eyes stared into Petey’s. Danny sat, perched on top of Hover’s body, holding his one time partner’s head against the floor until the slight twitching in Hover’s left foot stopped completely. Then he slowly forced out a heavy breath before sitting upright and shooting his head back in a way that should have flipped his hair back and out of his eyes, but the dirt and sweat held it back. He brushed it away with a bloody palm leaving a smear of red across his forehead. He looked up.

“Ladies,” he said, matter of fact. “I’m sorry you had to see that. However, the poor behavior of my associates has brought us to a rather uncomfortable crossroads in our relationship.”

He looked down at his hands covered with blood. The tops. The palms. He clenched his fingers to feel the stickiness before dragging them hard across his shirt.

“Idiots,” he muttered to himself.

Myrna and Taffeta sat still, clutching at each other, trying to remain calm, in the face of this recent turn of events.