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Emory Crisp’s Tales From an Expanded Universe – 2

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EC – Personal Log – 0120053118 – The Flaxtor Carrier Pigeons of Death – Part 2

For the record, some history.

Flaxtor was a nice quiet planet on the far edge of the Katakan Nebula. Even after hole-jumps started to boom, Flaxtor was not on the list of places to go. It was a simple, basic planet that filled a hole in space.

That is until Textr Crimm happened to make a jump into Simmaer, he says on purpose, but others say not so much. There he “discovered” a population of peaceful, trusting inhabitants who were also – a pushover. They were adept at making miniature electronics, mostly for the creation of music, art and furthering ideas through advanced artistic expression – almost like what they might call “high functioning hippies” on Earth back in the day.

Crimm also “discovered” the Flaxtorian invention we now call “Pops”,  a super-advanced nano-technology that induces mental euphoria with hallucinogenic properties that not only make the artificial seem more real than real, but it also taps into and feeds the pleasure centers of the brain heightening imagination for what is described simply as the highest of highs.

Crimm went to work exploiting his new finds immediately and in short order, Flaxtor devolved from a quiet oasis into one of the six most accessible, and officially Union ordained, public pleasure planets within several universes. Or, as one might better refer to as one of six supremely universal shit holes.

I’m not sure what it is about artificially altered mind-states, or the ability to induce artificially altered mind-states that makes people crazy. Maybe the question is its own answer. Either way, once somebody knows there is a new way to escape from what they carry around in their heads all day, they get hell-bent on trying it. Once they try it, most can’t forget it and have to get it again. Once there is a stable demand, there’s always someone like Crimm working to control the supply – or at least monetizing it. And as history shows, that generally leads to all kinds of unsavory behavior.

That brings me to the Shags. There wasn’t much of a law enforcement function on Flaxtor because, for the most part, it wasn’t needed. Flaxtorians lived in some near Utopian, peaceful mindset where everything was all good all of the time. Even now, the Shags aren’t really for the Flaxtorians as they are to better control the off-world elements. That’s where all the big trouble comes from.

And for beings that lived in harmony most of their lives, those drafted into the Shag corps seemed to take right to the military-grade training they got from humanity, and other more militant civilizations, making them a force to reckon with – at least when one was outnumbered.

As I struggled to get my eyes adjusted to the beaming light, without making any sudden moves, I counted five Shags total. Five was a lot. That was about four more than you’d see on a routine investigation of any kind and about five more than you’d see anywhere during sleep hours. Certainly, more than you’d see in a fairly non-descript alley where no crime was taking place. At least as far as I knew. So, what’s the give?

The incredible light, made brighter by the dimness of the alley came courtesy of cell drones. One of the Shags pulled radial blasters, one in each hand, and trained one on me and one on Strom. Two shags stepped into the light with the shade shields down on their helmets and grabbed Strom while two stepped out of the darkness behind me, seizing my arms and pushing us closer together.

Having a radial blaster pointed at you is deterrent enough to avoid any sort of resistance. Best case scenario, if and when it works like it’s supposed to, it stuns the assailant to the point of temporary paralysis. As you recover and the feeling moves back into your body, you get one hell of a headache as a reminder not get yourself into situations where you might get blasted again. That’s a fresh weapon mind you, straight out of the box.

Most of the time, however, someone gets to tinkering with them. Quite often the safety sticks on them so that’s the first thing to get hacked away. Then there’s the aiming beacon, the power regulation, blast recovery cycle time… the long and the short of it is you never really know what you’re gonna get when one of those things goes off. Depending on the settings, if those are still operational at all, and depending on who’s using it, at it’s worst, I’ve seen it basically gut a man in seconds from the inside out, leaving little more than a smoking husk to sweep up after the party’s over.

“YOU GIVE ANSWERS!” the voice repeated.

“Of course, of course,” Strom warbled. “We are more than happy to help!”

“STATE THE NATURE OF THIS BUSINESS!”

Now, I don’t know a whole lot about Flaxtorian anatomy, but I think Strom was sweating.
And my intent was straight enough, I’m just here to pick up the thing and tap out of here. But before I could open my mouth, Strom changed the whole dynamic.

“There is no business here, sirs,” forcing his mouth to smile as he spoke. “I came out for some air after a long day, and this man is passerby.”

“YOU HAD BUSINESS. STATE NATURE OF BUSINESS.”

“Business? There was no busi…,” Strom’s voice stopped quick as a muffled, scratchy recording of his own words filled the air.

“BE CAREFUL DIS, YES? HOT. HOT. HOT.”

Then it was official, small streams of sweat limped across Strom’s course features.

“Oh that,” he said in a more high-pitched warble. “That was nothing. Just me commenting to a passerby on how it is such a warm evening.”

“Look,” I said as plainly as possible. “Nobody did anything here. I’m just here to…”

“He was lost!” Strom blurted out. “I was gived him directions.”

“PROVIDED INFORMATION IS FALSIFIED.”

“No,” Strom said, “This is all the true. This man was lost, looking for his tap-out. I was gived him directions and he was on to go.”

“PROVIDED INFORMATION IS FALSIFIED. TAP IS CANCELLED. AWAIT TRANSPORT OT CENTRAL.”

My mind flew. Central?! We need to go to Central for this? I ran through all the things I could recall about this job from the moment Bodie Marcum contacted me at the start.

Blah, blah, blah, Flaxtor, blah, blah, blah, get turbo-drive, blah, blah, blah, in and out quick and easy, blah, blah, blah, fast money.

Nope. I wasn’t missing anything. Bodie’s not much of a talker, but he was always one to give me a head’s up if he thought things would go sideways on a job. There were no clues about Shags getting involved and certainly no information about ending up in Central. I’m a good boy. At least, I’ve been a good boy on this trip. Straight business.

Where Flaxtor was seen as a pleasure planet, Central, the primary criminal holding, and processing center was anything but. Outside of the Shags who did the footwork, the real peacekeeping effort was all outsourced to Cankton-Ho. This giant off-world conglomerate provided criminal handling and prison resources to multiple systems. They prided themselves on incredible success with rehabilitating the damaged members of many societies. That was the print anyhow. The fact is Central, formally known as the Cankton-Ho Criminal Restoration Corporation, was as reliable at prisoner reform as a hacked radial blaster. You knew what the intent was, but the end result was anybody’s guess. Many people who ended up in Central, even for small and seemingly trivial infractions, were often never heard from again.

I never signed up for a trip to Central and since I accomplished my objective and had the drive tucked neatly away in my pocket, it was clear to me that my business here was done. True, it sounded like the Shags had eliminated my current tap-out, but that was a temporary problem The bigger problem was staying upright, whole and free long enough to find a new tap-out and get the hell out of here.

The mention of Central caused Strom’s breathing to hitch and wherever the heart of that creature resided within that bulbous mass, I was certain it just hit-skipped up a few notches to where – for whatever reason – full panic was about to take over. The broad, artificial smile he worked so hard on faded to nothing as his eye grew wide. He started to shake.

“AAAAAAAYYYYYEEEEEEEEE!”

Damned if I ever heard such a thing in my whole life before or since, and I’ve heard and seen some shit, but the noise that tore out of Strom in that moment, that ear-piercing, head-splitting scream, threw us all out of whack.

Strom’s body pulsed and recoiled. His hands shot to his ears, and while I don’t think he had any intention of resisting or escape, an eye in the moment could see it as such and it did. The Shag with the blasters turned both on Strom and fired.

“AAAAAAAYYYYYEEEEEEEEE!”

The intensity of the scream began anew as Strom’s body jerked in response to the blast. He was on fire. The two Shags holding him must have been newer for they forgot that much like electricity, the pulse of a radial blaster runs through whatever, or whomever the target is in contact with. They forgot to let go in time and in seconds, their screams joined him.

The Shag who fired quickly held the guns up before him as if what happened was so disconnected from what expected that he needed to see if the guns were in fact what he thought they were. In any other instance, the gaze would have been comical.

In the same instance, the tight grips on my arms loosened and the Shags holding me dropped my arms to shield their faces from the spectacle before them, even though they came in with face shields down.

Chance is a fickle mistress. For as ugly as things got as fast as we got there, I learned enough in my travels to know that when a chance comes along – you take it. I stood there watching, trying to process everything that was going on until that moment when a single word flashed across my mind.

Run!

turned *Editor’s note:
To read other fantastic tales, search for Emory Crisp at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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On any given day… 1

Any-given-day

“She could be a professional smiler, ” Barton thought. “If there was such a thing.”

He stood at his register mindlessly passing the goods from Mrs. Fromeyer’s cart, one at a time, across the scanner. He waved each item back and forth over the single, red-flashing laser eyeball of the machine that logged the purchases until it noted success with a short, innocuous beep.

April, who stood at lane number 7, just two registers away, did the same work, but with more…

Words flashed across his mind as he sought out just the right one. Style? Flair? Zest?

Panache.

Yes, panache was it to a T. It felt like an old word. Like something his grandmother might say, but it fit April and what she was doing in this moment perfectly. While he scanned by rote, April talked to people. She was genuine. She cared. She gave little tidbits of information about the products the people were buying and asked them about their day.

Even though she had a scrunchy at the ready on her wrist, she kept her hair down most of the time. It constantly fell across her face, which required that she constantly pull it back and tuck it behind her ear. An exercise in futility for the hair, but for him each pull back revealed that amazing smile. It hit him like a kid watching a magician pulling his cape back to reveal the end of an amazing illusion.

Barton looked around the store. Most people don’t smile. Mrs. Fromeyer wasn’t smiling. He wasn’t smiling. They were all capable of smiling, sure, but everyone seemed to dole them out as if they were a precious and limited resource best used exclusively for special occasions.

Not April though. If smiling was a precious and limited commodity that should be tightly managed, nobody told her. She had smiles for everyone. She had smiles for no one. She looked as though she could have been born with a smile on her face. She could have been the hardest birth known to humanity and Barton could only imagine the new infant April lying in a small hospital crib and struggling to “make it” – all while smiling.

It was a sweet smile, natural and full. It fit her face perfectly. It never faded. If it ever went away, and he was pressed to think of a time when that happened, you could rest assured that a new fresh smile was coming up to take its place any second.

When some people smile, it looks forced, fake, off-putting in some cases and foreign in others, as if gracing the face it sat on was a mistake. It’s not that these people are unhappy, but more that they are not properly gifted with adequate smile features.

April’s face was made for smiling. Whatever bone structure and musculature nature set up for her provided the optimum conditions for maximum smile efficiency. She had more than a mouth smile. Her whole head was symmetrical and balanced. The trigger of the smile caused her eyes to widen just so to add that extra gleam to them and a subtle, soft blush would grace her cheeks with just the right amount of color. It was art. She was smile incarnate.

He could imagine her face on magazines, billboards, giant animated screens and on TV, not hawking cars and overpriced, sludge-creating, high-speed juicing machines, no. That did not suit her. Instead, she would represent ideals, assurances and lofty aspirations, inspiring  those seeking help or who search for a pathway to a better existence to take those steps needed to be who they want to be in this life. Quit smoking. Read books. Meditate. Recycle. Save puppies. Feed the homeless. Use energy efficient LED light bulbs. Retire at Shady Oaks. Consider Tyler Funeral Home the best option for your loved ones as they head to the great unknown. And more.

He knew he was staring. He tried not to, but still he found himself looking without looking, gauging her movements to make sure that if she were to look up, he could effectively shift his gaze off to some other direction without getting caught with his eyes on her like some distant, creepy, stalker.

He was not proud, but it could not be helped. In his 19 and three-quarter years of life, he had never encountered such a force. It knocked him off balance. Yet, in 19 and three-quarters years of life, he still he knew well the notions of fate and impermanence. His best friend “for life” David Berkingham moved away that fateful day in June the year they both turned eight and look how that turned out. It was like David never existed. Nothing lasts forever. So if the universe saw fit to align his path with that of April Timmons and the smile that could generate universal peace and harmony, who was he to argue?

*Editor’s note:
To read other story entries, just search for On any given day at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Emory Crisp’s Tales From an Expanded Universe

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EC – Personal Log – 0120053118 – The Flaxtor Carrier Pigeons of Death – Part 1

Medi-tech once again performed a miracle of modern science by getting my thumb back where it belongs with one hundred percent of the nerves connected, restoring full feeling and range of motion.

Good thing too. I’ve had a lot of good times with this thumb and I’d hate for that to end just because I didn’t pull it back fast enough in the clutch. And, being the fourth time I’ve nearly lost that thumb…completely, it’s fair to believe that it might reject me strictly on the basis of neglect. Nobody wants their thumb turning on them. I don’t.

And as I sit here, pumping my reborn digit up and down like I’m cracking the detonator of an X-13 Plastisplode Peacekeeper, I have nobody to thank for the return of my thumb – and the Nexit Commodore turbo-drive I was sent to retrieve – than Turp, supreme Flaxtor Carrier Death Pigeon.

Breaking it down, calling this creature a pigeon is just wrong. It’s an obvious joke of whoever had the job to name things that we humans started to encounter once hole-jumping became a thing. A standard CDP looked more like a large bat with leathery skin, stubby, metallic looking feathers, and near reptilian facial features instead of your standard issue pigeon beak…or bat face. They’re substantially larger than even the largest pigeon could dream of being and they are fast, tactical fliers, nimble and agile, with the ability to get in and out of the tightest of places with ease and turn on a dime with great finesse.

The carrier part was spot on. Their large feet and strong talons, combined with a healthy extended, wingspan made them perfect for carrying notes and small packages over long distances. The spooky part is that these things have the ability to absorb suggestion and process information in a way that allows them to understand what you want them to do quickly and where you want them to take something all while figuring the fastest possible route. They say it’s part chemical reaction, part telepathy and brain synapses something or other. Who knows? All I know is that they can cut through the mental clutter to get directly to the bit, the thing you want them to know, and make that bit their mission.

The death part is right too. Despite their mostly calm demeanor and being bred to serve, this is not a “pigeon” you want to piss off. Aside from the talons, which are formidable weapons in and of themselves, the CDP also has lengthy retractable fangs that carry a lethal venom, at least lethal to humans. Whether they bite you or spit on you, if you come into contact with that venom…you’re done, good night.

On paper, my assignment was supposed to be a standard, by the book pick-up and delivery. After the incident on Bahtch, which I maintain was a total misunderstanding, my income stream hacked to odd jobs and hole-jumps too menial, or unsavory, for others to do. Hm…technically, I was reduced to being little more than a CDP myself really…you know, except for the wings and the venom spitting fangs and…

But I digress. The job was a simple hole-jump to Neb 15 with a tap-in spot set in the heart of the Vax complex which was nestled serenely in the third quadrant of Simmaer, Flaxtor’s biggest city. There, I would meet up with Strom Gorman, “purveyor of fine goods”, as he put it, pick up the disc, head to the tap-out and hole-jump home.

Easy, right? Should have been, but somewhere along the line, the whole plan went scrap.

Getting in was rage – smooth and easy. The tap-in was pretty close to where it was supposed to be, about 100 feet away from Strom’s place. Which was lucky. Lately, a string of miscalculations from the senders put the taps off by miles. In one case, hundreds of miles; just another thing eroding the once fevered interest in jumping.

As I  got my bearings and headed down the street, Strom stepped out of the door of his storefront. He was a large, beast of a Flaxtorian male, but with many years behind him. He walked forward slowly while dramatically arching his back as if it were stiff. He breathed in a full helping of the cool night air, holding it for a moment before letting it escape with a loud sigh as if the day had certainly taken a toll. For someone who acted like he was looking for nothing, the awfulness of it all made it obvious he was looking out for someone…me.

“Strom,” I said, raising my hand up to identify who was calling out. Dumb move now that I think of how barren the street was at the moment. Who else would be yelling at him at this point?

“Mr. Crisp?” The sound sort of warbled from him as he spoke. The Flaxtorians found English a bit more challenging than some of the other languages they encountered in this sector, but it was clear enough for me. I got it.

“E.C., please.” I stepped up to him and suppressed the reflex to shake hands. His race found it to be a disgusting ritual. “I guess you have something for me?”

“Right to the businesses,” he warbled. “I like that.”

Strom looked both ways up and down the street with a serious and stern expression before reaching into the pocket of his robe-like coat.

“Here,” he said pulling his chunky, three-fingered hand out and palming the small silver data bank. “Be careful dis, yes? Hot. Hot. Hot.”

He laughed a little, as far as I could tell, then he shoved the disk hard into my front coat pocket. Funny that they don’t shake hands, but they seem to have few qualms with aggressively violating one’s personal space.

“Wha…,?” I said. “Oh yeah. Right. Hot.” He patted my pocket down for safety. “Hot data. I get it.”

He gave me what I think was a wink, but it was so slow, it looked like he might be starting to nod off. I guess Strom liked the sense of drama that came with delivering a data disk to little more than a courrier on a dark street…at night, artificial as it may be.

“OK,” I said, rocking back on my heals a bit while trying to avoid any longer a good-bye than what already transpired. “Gotta jump.”

I took a few short steps back, giving a small, polite wave and a nod Strom, you know, as people do, then turned and walked with more intent back to the tap-out.

It was about step number three when the section of street we were on lit up like daylight forgot something. My eyes clenched as I recoiled and turned as if slapped on the back by an invisible hand.

“NO MOVES!”

A voice rang out from, well, from everywhere.

“NO MOVES!”

The voice boomed and warbled.

“NO MOVES! YOUR TAP TERMINATES! YOU GIVE ANSWERS!”

There it was. The blinding light and the booming voice. Whether it’s Brooklyn direct or a Flaxtorian warble, the unmistakable tone proved the authorities had arrived. Still squinting too hard too see, I slowly raised my hands in surrender. It was the Shags – the Flaxtorian police.

*Editor’s note:
To read other fantastic tales, search for Emory Crisp at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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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.

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

 

 

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