Shucks, Tom, it’s Huck!

“Tom, how are you doing, this fine day?”

“Not bad, Huck.  Not bad ‘tall.  Haven’t seen you in a cat’s nine lives.  Where are you living now?”

“Why do you ask?”

“No reason, reason ‘tall.  I’ve been solving mysteries of all-seeing eyes for many years, though, I can tell you.”

“Private inspecturating, are you?”

“Private investigator!”

“Private eye is what you are.”

“And you…what are you going about?”

“Me?  Well, haven’t you heard?  I’m a politician’s politician.  Head of the City Council.  They want me to run for governor.”

“Are the you Sean Finnegan what’s holding up headlines?”

“The very same, I am.  Yes, indeed.”

“The one with an honest wife and three little ones?”

“So the Good Lord has made it out for me in His own sweet time, yes.”

“Lord a’mighty.  Who woulda thunk it, you and I, two successful businessmen.”

“Busy is the word for it, Tom.  Do you think our tales are any better with age?”

“Maybe.  Maybe not.  But they sure pay a lot more per word than they used to, don’t they?”

“Paid…or stolen?”  Huck winked at Tom and nudged his shoulder with an outstretched hand.  “Would you be interested in joining my campaign.  I could use a good man on the team, one who knows his way with the ladies, especially the little old ladies like your aunt.  They say I’m a shoo-in if I can nab the elderly vote.”

Tom motioned Huck over to a bench next to the entrance of the corner druggist’s shop.

“Huck, I’m not the man you once knew.”

“Aww, don’t be modest.  Your reputation is as good as gold, assuming we can keep a gold standard in this wonderful country of ours.”

Tom dropped his elbows on his knees and lowered his head, his shiny boots reflecting the passing carriages.

“Tom, it’s not like you to be silent.  What gives?”

“Huck, have you ever heard of Edgar Allan Poe or Victor Hugo?”

“Of course.”

“Do their stories appear as anything other than a child’s tale?”

“No, of course not.  These are troubled men, men in whom the light of God’s love is distorted, good for scaring kids and twisting an old morality tale into troubled plots, but they are not stories meant for good, law-abiding adult citizens.  Certainly not a decent voter like you or I!”

Tom wiped the back of his hand across his forehead, wiping off a day’s worth of worry written in sweat and road dust.

“Huck, in my job…well…there’s more than conspiracies in what we see.  The rawness, the open wounds, the lies…”

“Tom, Tom, it’s all in a day’s work for an elected official like myself.  I completely understand where you’re coming from.  Have you been backed into a corner and forced to take a bribe to look the other way before a certain someone in a prominent position will let you loose?”

“That I have, yes, but…”

“Well, there you have it.  Nothing to worry about.  A job’s a job and you’re the man for it.  If you weren’t yourself, I wouldn’t be offering you this job, now, would I?”

Tom pushed himself to his feet.  “Huck, what say we find a saloon and talk this out some more?”

“You sayin’ you’re thirsty?”


“Why didn’t you say so?”

They agreed to meet a few hours later after they both finished business for the day, joining each other at the Red Lion Inn, an old hotel famous for its saloon that sold ‘genuwyne’ moonshine in bottles labeled “Grandma’s Secret Recipe Cough Medicine.”


Overcoming natural tendencies to protect family

They say you can smell your competition, doesn’t matter if it’s a covenant or a coven.

If you’re hungry enough, you can smell food through a brick wall.

Lee held out arms, slapping his hands together like a circus seal.

His wife, Karen, had told him that if he made Bai his traveling dance partner, then Karen considered it grounds for a divorce.

Lee looked at himself in the mirror as he practiced his dance turns.

Who was he, really?

He had taken up dancing two years ago because Karen wanted to go somewhere for their 25th wedding anniversary and look like smooth ballroom dancers, putting their dance lessons to use on their Alaskan holiday.

When they went to a regional dance competition in New Orleans a couple of months ago, they noticed that a large number of the dancers were young enough to be their children, if not their grandchildren.

Who was Lee?

He loved the infinite possibilities of living while managing the limited expectations that came with being married to a woman he had shared most of his life with, a woman not prone to taking risks — she had not wanted to see Lee jump out of an airplane, she didn’t even want to look at the Milky Way Galaxy while parked in the middle lane of a small suburban street.

What was preserving the illusion of safety for his wife worth to Lee’s mental health?

It was easy to pretend to be a lone, independent cowboy when surrounded by friends and family.

Where was his reality located?

Lee’s imagination was full of dark oaths sworn in secrecy, training assassins to weed out the deadwood, killing for purpose, pleasure or both, maiming for fun, creating pain and chaos for the sake of business associates; forcing families into starvation just to say we can.

But it wasn’t just his imagination at work.

He created false walls, barriers of plausible deniability that allowed him to give the highly moral/ethical childhood training a safe place to thrive in his thoughts, showing his family that he was preserving their heritage guilt-free.

Aliens creeped and crawled, slipped and slid through his thoughts without boundaries, using Earth as a playground and feed lot.

The sets of states of energy that comprised the visible universe were such temporary illusions that Lee often was bored trying to explain once again to the illusions around him their place in the greater “universe” that was currently invisible to all instrumentation that had been imagined/theorized/conceived, invented and built.

Yet, Lee had found no way to sit idly by when the universe as he knew it kept changing.

One look in the mirror, compared to the photographs of Lee at a younger age, convinced Lee he was doing anything but sitting idly by — the concepts of entropy and chaos were clearly visible.

Lee cocked his head from side-to-side, feeling the popping sounds within his spine.

Who was he?

He was no natural dancer, having little in the way of converting his imagination into physical actions that overcame his stiff joints and aching nerve connections.  He could flail around but training his flails into consistent movement exercised his brain in ways that were mentally painful, pushing past the noise and chaos that flooded his thoughts constantly.

Teaching an old horse, breaking it in without breaking its spirit, in other words.

Lee felt a twinge between his shoulder blades.

It was time.

Lee sat down on the floor, his legs straight out in front of him, his back propped up against the dance mirror.

Although Lee believed in the sanctity of science, he had developed a second sense, thanks to the elderly lady who visited him as an infant, almost a toddler, when he could hardly speak his own internally-forming language, let alone that of his parents or the wide old woman.

Lee was married to his wife but he was connected to the curved spacetime of the universe that existed outside of explanation.

A voice spoke to him, a low, gravely voice, ancient but ageless.

“We are what you call the ‘mound builders.'”

Lee looked straight ahead and nodded as if the speaker was sitting in front of him.

“Our spirits are your spirits.  We are one people.”

Lee nodded again.

“Your ways were not our ways but all ways belong to every one of us.”

Lee blinked.

“We know you.  You and I have not spoken but I know you.  Your spirit is strong.”

Lee smiled.  “Yes.  I know.”

“You are here because the spirits called you here.”

Lee felt his heart skip a beat.

“The spirits have plans for you.”

The pain in Lee’s back subsided.

“Your people say, ‘Resistance is futile.’  We say you cannot escape your destiny.”

Lee swallowed, his throat dry.

“There are others who will travel with you to St. Louis.  Their spirits, too, are strong.”

Lee nodded again.

“In your travels, you will meet a man.  You will not speak but you will talk to each other like brothers.”

Lee leaned his head back against the cool mirror, looking up at the air duct in the ceiling tiles.

“The female spirit in you will meet a sister.  We remind you, she is not like your earthly sister.  She is a sister spirit.”

Lee arched his eyebrows, unsure of the voice’s meaning.

“Our earthly brothers long fought the white man’s way, thinking the European was ruinous, a destroyer, taking from the land more than he gave back.  In spirit we see that the universe is bigger than this planet.  Our message to our brothers and sisters, our message to you, has changed.”

Lee closed his eyes, waiting to hear the message.

He opened his eyes again, unaware of the time change, not knowing that an hour had passed as he entered a trance state, communicating directly with the mound builder’s spirit without words, sixty minutes to the second of a deep conversation about what Lee was going to do in preparation for his trip to St. Louis, turning his internal eye toward a bigger goal, clearing his thoughts of present-day storylines and focusing on an eternal message he would receive and pass on to other strong spirits during their ritual dances over three and a half days in the Gateway to the West.

The pain in Lee’s body was gone, his muscles no longer tense, his worries behind him.

His old thought patterns had shifted.  The story was not about dancing, wives, marriage status or planned assassinations.

A spirit brother of Geronimo had spoken to Lee in a language he did not know but fully understood.

In his thoughts, too, were Helen Keller, Charles Lindbergh, Henri Poincaré, and Scott Joplin.

The future is the past retold.

Lee looked forward to hearing from his brother spirit again.

Modeling models in modules, modes and nodules

Giving the Creative Arts Department free rein is not, I remind them, the same as giving them free reign.

Free rain, on the other hand, is fine in limited quantities.

Today, I stopped by their cubes, covered in bubble wrap so they can throw books at each other just to duck and hear the “pop, pop, poppety pop” of compressed air escaping through sheered plastic sheeting.

I asked for an update.

After two weeks of work, this is all they had to give me:

can a robot dance the robot

Umm…I’m not prone to violent outbursts except when I’m prone to violent outbursts.

Concentrate…ommmm….meditate upon the nothingness of the universe…remember I’m not paying them anything…the Kickstarter campaign will help them recover their costs…IF THEY ACTUALLY PRODUCE SOMETHING TANGIBLE!

Okay, on to other projects.  I’ll let the Creative Arts department know I’m serious by denying them more than four mochalattafrappaccinocarpediem drinks a day.

Or should I double their intake to 24 a day?

Decisions, decisions!

Party on the patio, Jody in the backyard blitz

Karen sat down on the folding chair, pulling a pair of beige dance shoes out of a black bag.  “I love these shoes.  The heels are wide and they’re easy to slip on.”

Guin bent over to adjust her black shoe, the straps coming up from around her toes and crossing over the top of her foot, forming diamond patterns filled with black mesh.  “I like being able to adjust the straps on mine but this strap comes off too easily.”

“I’m going to stretch why you two finish the choreography.”  Karen stood up and walked over to the computer stand where Guin’s mobile phone was plugged into the dance studio’s sound system.

Lee shook his head from side-to-side while he stretched out his arms, lowering them behind his back to pop vertebrae into place.

He watched Guin work on the shoe strap, noticing for the first time the colour of her hair, a deep, dark brown that he mentally avoided associating with colours of wood, trying to get a sense of what colour meant to him without the use of labels such as adjectives.  He compared the colour of her hair to her toenails, which appeared to be painted white on the tips like the tips of an aeroplane propeller.

He thought about the backstory their choreographed routine was supposed to show, a steampunk tale, an alternate universe that appeared in this universe for a minute and thirty seconds or so.

He remembered Guin telling him about her divorce, that the California surf dude she had married in their partying years of late teens and early twenties could not handle the new Guin who emerged from a horrible car smashup.

He remembered the car smashup scenes and urban landscapes of J.G. Ballard.  How many people had inadvertentedly aligned their lives around the transportation fiction of a man who found a way to make a living by writing while raising children without a mother?

Guin took off the black shoes and put on a pair of Lindy Hop sneakers.

Karen yelled across the studio.  “Do you all want to try the routine from the top…with music?”

Lee looked at Guin and she nodded.  “Sure!”

Lee put the palm of his right hand in the small of Guin’s lower back, holding her right hand in his left hand, tapping his left foot on the floor in anticipation of the first beat of the music.

He needed to look at himself in the mirror to see his posture but didn’t want to, expecting Guin to describe how he looked.

“We need to work on your technique” told him everything he needed to know.

They danced through two-thirds of the routine before Lee lost track of the steps, unable to hear the beat of the music because a financial spreadsheet was filling his thoughts.

“I’m sorry.  I can’t get my thoughts straight.”

Guin shrugged.  “That’s all right.  Let’s try it again and see how far we can go before you have to stop.”

Karen pressed a few buttons to clear the screen on Guin’s iPhone and started the music again after Guin and Lee had run over to the side of the studio, back to their starting position.

Lee could feel a bead of sweat rolling down his back, running into his shirt which was pressed to his skin by Guin’s hand which, although they had danced dozens of times together, he had never noticed before, the heat of his back seeming to warm her cooler hand.

As they danced their steps, going into and out of Lindy circles, forming sugar pushes, tuck turns, man passes and swingouts, their eyes met, sometimes triggering automatic head nods and smiles.

Lee found himself still fascinated by Guin’s hair.  He wondered how the thickness of the strands of her hair compared to that of other similarly-coloured heads.  What about the number of hair follicles her square inch?

After they reached a point in the routine where Lee forget what a pecking maneuver was, they broke into light laughter and stopped dancing.

Karen fumbled with the iPhone screen again because Guin had set the screen to lock into password mode quicker than the length of the song.  She finally stopped the music.

Meanwhile, Guin walked Lee through the pecking.  “We start the first half of a Lindy circle.  Remember?”

Lee nodded.

“Five, six, seven, eight.  Step, step, triple-step.  Step, step, triple-step.  Now step, step, stop.  Wait a beat.  Step forward.  Good!  You remember.”  She smiled encouragingly.


They walked through the rest of the routine without music.

Karen sat down in a chair and leaned her head back against the wall.  She was tired and enjoyed the precious seconds of rest before Guin would get far enough with the routine to call Karen onto the floor to dance the steps with her husband.

After nailing down another 20 seconds of the routine, Guin did get Karen’s attention and had them dance the routine with music.

They repeated this several times over the next hour.

Finally, Lee felt he was getting no farther, his thoughts filled with numbers and dance steps for the day.  “That’s it!  I think I’m done.”

Guin looked at the dance routine spreadsheet on the computer screen.  “Well, that’s good because we’re at the place where I want to work on the choreography a little better.  The camel move doesn’t fit here, I don’t think.  I’m thinking maybe a corkscrew.”

She lowered herself to the floor, had Lee hold her hands and then showed him how to spin her up off the floor.

He smiled.  “I like that.”

Karen nodded her head.  “Yeah, it fits with your steampunk theme.”

“Thanks.  Well, if you guys are finished, Eoj should be getting here soon.  We’ve got ten days to put together our routine.”  She walked back toward the row of chairs at the entrance to the changing room, Lee walking beside her.

“No kidding?” Lee jokingly put his hand in his mouth, pretending to chew his nails.

Karen pointed toward the bathroom.  “I’ll be right back.”

Guin sat down to change her shoes.  “Yeah.  And you know what, Kirby said to me last night that he never gets to see his wife anymore.  He works third shift and he knows I work first shift.  It’s not like anything has changed with what I do.”

“You’ve always been busy at night teaching dance lessons.”

“It gets worse.  He’s home during the day so our neighbours see him but not me.  They asked him yesterday if I had moved out or something so he told me, ‘Look, our neighbours don’t believe I have a wife anymore.  I never see you!’  I think it’s because he’s getting over his brother’s death.  He’s starting to blame me for every little thing.”

“Uh-huh.  Karen was the same way with me.  She accused me of stuff I hadn’t done, let alone thought of.”

Karen returned from the bathroom and Lee spoke to her.  “Do you remember being on my case all the time after your brother died?”

“Yeah.”  Karen spoke to Guin.  “It takes a while to realise the effect you have on other people while you’re grieving.  I’m sure Kirby’s going through the same thing.”

Guin laughed.  “Kirby?  Yeah, he’s going through a lot and so am I.  I’m going out of town on business, on top of everything else.”

Lee looked at Guin, unable to read her face.  She bent over to change shoes and Lee looked at Guin’s hair again, noticing it was pulled back into a small ponytail.

He noticed her grimace slightly as she stood up.  “Your foot alright?”

She scrunched her face in a smile of pain.  “Yeah.  It locks up, though.”

They looked at the steampunk outfit that Lee had brought, including a vest Karen had made for him when he dressed as Not-So-Serious Black for the local midnight premiere of the last Harry Potter film.

They talked about matching their outfits when Guin laughed unexpectedly.

“You know John, the big guy that comes to the dance club every now and then?”

Lee nodded.

“Well, the other day he joked that he thought his man boobs were bigger than mine so I went to the restroom, took off my bra and had him try it on.  Sure enough, his were larger!”

Lee and Karen laughed.  Lee turned from Guin to Karen, a knowing look shared between them before Lee spoke.  “Should I tell her about Donald?”  Karen nodded as Guin, seeing she was left out of the loop on an inside joke, stood up and walked to the computer stand, hearing her phone ring, the ring tone a theme song from the original Super Mario Brothers videogame.

“That’s Eoj.  He better not ditch our dance practice again tonight!”

Lee and Karen followed.

Karen shut down the computer while Lee listened to Guin’s half of the phone conversation, entertaining Lee as she described back to Eoj how she understood that he cut himself accidentally at work and was unable to dance until tomorrow.

Lee mentally counted off on his fingers the multiple perceptions that he shared with, about and of Guin, his joy of writing helping him organise his thoughts for later recording, his love of self and his ability to fall in love with everyone he meets his joy and his curse.

It wasn’t his best dance practice night, distracted as he was by an undertone of sexual objectification that had put a layer between him and Guin but didn’t let him stop from learning more about his relation to the universe, wondering why there was part of him on any other night that could synch up with Guin without thinking, sharing their differences as if they were similarities, how people around Lee wanted to tell him their views of Guin without his asking so that he got more insights into people than he wanted, placing himself at odds with himself as the objective reporter in order for him to become a more descriptive author caught in the middle of the story in progress.

What about Guin’s hair, her makeup-free face and his wife’s willingness to strain their financial budget to the breaking point?

He had a robot construction kit to work on, didn’t he, a Kickstarter campaign that wasn’t going to create itself.

Lee wanted to stay and talk with Guin and Karen about life but knew his nervousness from earlier in the day was blocking him from seeing Guin as a friend rather than a sex object.

As he led Karen out of the dance studio, calling out a goodbye to Guin, the memory of the first words he had shared with Guin when he walked in floated into view.

Guin had looked at him knowingly, a twinkle in her eye, “So, how was YOUR day, after what happened yesterday and last night?”

A dozen thoughts had jumped to the foreground, fighting against the sexual objectification he had brought with him into the room before he had looked at Guin, the tiniest moment of friendship between them clouded over by his turning her into an object of lust.

He wanted to ask Guin exactly what she meant but was afraid to ask.  What if what he thought she meant was what she meant?  Would it have mattered if Karen was in the room?

Did Guin think he was drunk last night at the dance club?  Did the quick private conversation between Lee and Bai’s French boyfriend about their separate relationship with Bai get back to Guin?  Had Guin talked with Bai about the blog entry he had written where he briefly spoke about holding Bai’s hand for so long yesterday as if they were longtime lovers no longer bothered by sexual tension?  Had Bai told Guin that Lee had texted her while she was driving to Little Rock, Arkansas, on the way to a weekend dance competition in Dallas, Texas?  Had Guin seen the Frenchman dance with Lee, showing Lee how to be a better leader?  Was Guin referring to the dance lesson she gave Lee and Karen at the dance club?

Lee thrived on the uncertainty between his fictional characters but it drove him crazy in real life.

Did the bartender at the dance club really tell him that her real name was not Jody but she called herself Jody anyway, until friends called her Jody in the backyard so she changed her real fake name to Jodi with an “i”?


Sobjectification : (n) feeling sad that you feel bad about yourself for sexually objectifying people around you.

Lee’s body was shaking, his shoulders aching.  He woke up at 2:12 a.m., feeling aroused and disappointed.  Why had he objectified the women in his life yesterday, the old defense mechanism that almost went away but showed up again unannounced?

His body only shook like this when his set of states of energy were rattled severely — at the end of running a marathon on a 25 deg F day, the first time he kissed a woman and the first time he kissed a man, the first interview for a real desk job, the first time he made love to a married woman, standing in a funeral home parlour greeting friends and family of his dead brother in-law.

At his age, shaking could be the early signs of many neurological disorders, not just psychoemotional moments.

Lee’s chest felt like a tree trunk being struck by a hammer.  He needed something to calm his nerves.

He turned to the script to check where in the current round of world politics his thoughts were supposed to be aligned…

23 November 1957. Open Letter to Eisenhower and Khrushchev by Bertrand Russell,” published in the New Statesman, followed by a response from Nikita Khruschev on 21 December 1957, with a reply on Eisenhower’s behalf by John Foster Dulles, published on 8 February 1958.

Lee’s shudders got worse.  He wasn’t supposed to see he was stuck in an endless tape loop, the sound quality deteriorating playback by playback, his thoughts disintegrating into repetitious nonsense.

Shouldn’t he care where he stood on the alpha male hierarchy of his times?  “To know is to do” he was told by the advice of history.

If the universe was here for Lee’s entertainment, why wasn’t his body as entertained as his pondered theories of social engineering?

Why did he revert to objectifying women’s bodies just when he was making a breakthrough?

Why did he let his wife’s withholding of her body for sexual activity influence him in any way, make him feel unwanted, unused, unworthy of attention by the opposite sex?

Was his body’s uncontrolled shivering related merely to caffeine withdrawal?

Yesterday, Lee was sitting in a room with his wife and two people interested in closing a deal to manage Lee’s finances for the rest of his life, taking his hard-earned millions and returning to him an annual “salary,” pension or annuity as a monetary security blanket to hold until he died, depositing his funds in a bank that contains the wealth of others in the entertainment business, from Hollywood to Nashville.

Money had no meaning to Lee.  Never had, never will.  He only understood purchasing power.

Money never bought Lee happiness.  Lee was always happy in his pursuit of knowledge to aid his quest to reorder the words in his vocabulary, long ago knowing that something as mundane as the changing patterns of dust on a wall could entertain him for days.

Money bought Lee new knowledge — he could overwhelm his senses with knowledge or he could add to his knowledge base one coal pitch drop of tar at a time.

Nervousness had crept into Lee’s thoughts yesterday that he had shifted into the habit of sexual objectification to give himself the false impression he was above the petty feeling of being nervous, one of his passive-aggressive attitudes he wanted to change.

What if he had told the investors that he was nervous about his life’s fortune being managed by complete strangers and hadn’t turned to seeing one of the investors, who happened to be female, as sexually desirable at the very moment he needed to concentrate on third sigma distributions of financial risk management and Monte Carlo simulations?

What if he had told his dance partner, who complained of aching body parts, that he wanted to say he’d rub her foot if she’d rub his because his foot was really hurting but he was afraid admitting his foot hurt would sound like a weak excuse and worried, too, that the request to barter one foot rub for another due to his lack of cash fluidity would be mistaken as a sexual come-on because he couldn’t get the confusing sexual objectification out of the thoughts of the new Lee?

Self diagnosis of one’s thought patterns in the mental game of self therapy could or could not be as slow or fast as professional psychosocial therapy.

Lee was a cheapskate.  His visions of life were not grand enough to include hoarding vast sums of institutional level financial security.  He knew he had to depend on someone else’s financial expertise to keep him out of debtor’s prison but it didn’t mean he had to like the idea or be able to sleep fear-free at night.

How was Lee going to deprogram his sexual objectification when he was nervous?

He finished a mug of Earl Gray tea, never quite sure if the caffeine calmed his nerves, his writing calmed his nerves or if an unknown script writer gave the actor Patrick Stewart a character named Jean-Luc Picard who moved a lot of people to drink Earl Gray tea because they really believed that they themselves discovered it tasted better than other flavours of tea, coffee or sources with “natural” stimulants.

Lee mentally apologised to the women he saw yesterday, setting in motion his newly-minted curmudgeon self to tell the next woman he saw, “Look, I’m a bit nervous.  Either I can share with you what’s really going on in my thoughts right now, which are really not socially-kosher at this moment, or I can stare at your boobs and ass.  It’s your choice.”

Suddenly, an image of the J.K. Rowling character named Dobby riding a wrecking ball while nude and speaking Russian passed through Lee’s thoughts.

Lee smiled, the shaking subsided but not completely gone.

History may repeat itself but Lee was going to enjoy the ride, even if it meant he was going to throw up because he was dizzied by the scenery flashing so quickly through his thoughts.

Windbreak Shadow

They stood hand-in-hand, the same height, facing each other.

Her shoulders were broad, her hips turned to one side like a pitcher winding up, her grip strong.

He held her hand firmly but let his arm stay loose.  “I promise I won’t drop you.”

She smiled.  “Uh-huh.”

“But I might drop you.”

“Uh-huh.”  Her smile widened.  “You know, you oughta take a look around the room.”

His back to the rest of the dance floor, Lee cocked his head over his shoulder, nodding.  “Yeah?”

“Can’t you see I’m the biggest woman in this room?  You do know my brother played college football, don’t you?”

He shook his head.  “Where is he now?”

“He’s a retired police officer.  When he interviewed to become a DEA agent, they asked him how come he was so tough.  He told ’em he had me as a sister, who could beat him up.  I put stitches in his face.”

Lee nodded.  “I don’t promise I won’t drop you.  I might just try to drop you on purpose.”

“Yeah, you do that.”  She squeezed his hand.  “Or you can try.”

The dance instructor called out in his French accent.  “Five, six, seven, eight.  Sugar push…now the contra move…stop on three!”

Lee held his partner out from him.  “I could drop you right now.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I might trip you, make it look like an accident.”

“A tango move that went wrong?”

“I promise I’ll pick you up.  Or pretend I will.”

“Oh, don’t do that.  A friend would leave me on the floor…”

“I’ll definitely do that.”

“…and laugh.”

“I’ll make sure I’ll drop you, point, laugh and walk away.”

“Ooh.  You’re good.”

“What are friends for?”

The instructor called out again.  “Okay, dance leaders, rotate counter-clockwise.  We only have so many followers so we’ll rotate twice as faster so they can share themselves weef us.”

Lee looked at his partner.  “See you later.”

She laughed.  “You wish.”  She squeezed his hand harder.  “No.  I mean you’re a really good leader.”


Group dance lessons are like speed dating.  You partner up quickly as you rotate leaders or followers, establishing a relationship which is always instantly based on first impressions.  However, should you speed date often, you may find yourself with the same partner again, having broken the ice or pointing the way to the icebreaker, ready to experiment a little more with or without the first impression the second time around.

Some fun is worth waiting for.

A windbreak between corn fields takes years to reach the right height but never so tall as to completely block out the sunlight or a heavy thunderstorm.

Our sets of states of energy may build up defenses but sometimes the cocoons around our personality are melted by the simplest of smiles.

Or, as they say, there’s a time and place for everything, patience has its virtue, and laughter is the best medicine.

Lee promised himself he’d let her slip the next time, catching her unawares in his arms, seeing if he could avoid the stitches her brother couldn’t.

We all love a good challenge!

Valley Girl

Guin and Bai stood on a small rise, waiting for Eoj to join them.

Guin hefted a small boulder in her hand.

“How far do you think I can throw this?”

Bai picked up a small rock and threw it twenty or thirty meters with no effort.

Eoj walked up behind Guin.  “Hey, guys.  What’s up?”

Bai nodded at Guin’s arm.  “She’s got a crazy idea.”

“Oh yeah?  What’s that?”

Guin tossed the boulder in the air.  “You know, I used to throw shotput, discus and javelin.”

Eoj laughed.  “In this century?”

Guin smiled.  “Who’s counting?”

Eoj looked at Bai.  “What hasn’t this woman done?”

“I also competed at the pole vault and long relay.  Very occasionally they would throw me in a short relay.”

Eoj snorted.  “And here I am, sucking in my breath after running a few kilometers to catch up with you guys.”

Guin kicked small rocks out from a small circle.  She made a few test turns, seeing if she still had her perfect throwing moves in her memory.  “Throwing and polevaulting — there are serious ramifications if you move your body the wrong way.”

Eoj laughed again.  “Bai, I think you and I ought to throw a few rocks ourselves.  If we can dance as well as Guin, we can do whatever else she does just as well, right?”

Bai looked from Guin to Eoj and back.  “He’s never seen you throw, has he?”

Guin shook her head.  “No, but you’ve never seen him throw me in the air, either.”

Guin motioned Bai and and Eoj back a few paces.

She steadied her breathing, set her feet and took three steps, launching the boulder from her body’s core, through her shoulder and out of her hand like a hydraulic jack hammer punching the air.

The boulder’s arc was like a low altitude sounding rocket’s path, an ideal unimpeded trajectory in the thin atmosphere.

Several seconds later, a puff of Martian dust, then another and another indicated a few thousand meters away the boulder bouncing on the other side of the valley.

Guin smacked her hands together as if she was cleaning them of dust.  “Not bad, if I say so myself!”

Bai looked at Eoj.  “You think you can throw her that far?”

Guin snapped her head around.  “Now, wait a minute!”

Eoj grabbed Guin around the waist.  “Hey, it’s worth a try.”  He tossed her ten meters in the air and caught her.

He set her down and they laughed together.  “Ready?”

They started a slow jog, pacing themselves for a run down the valley and back around to the lab.

Eoj had the afternoon off before he had to return to the tourists and wanted to warm up with Guin and Bai before they put in some dance practice for the finale performance the last night of the tourists’ stay on the Red Planet.


Lee stood in the middle of the nature preserve, his crosstraining shoes upon the concrete path of the city greenway, and looked up through light pollution at the dim outlined threads of the Milky Way galaxy.

The ends of his toes were calloused from running inside shoes a half-size too small, Lee unable to afford a new pair, his three-dollar pair of running shorts and twenty-year old T-shirt a reminder that the life of a middle-aged ascète led him to austerity years before austerity was cool all over again for the very next time.

He felt a pain on the left side of his neck that throbbed through the back of his shoulder, down into his left shoulder blade like a thick rubber band freezing up.

He was tired, a deep-seated nervousness gripping him like an invisible creature digging its claws into his upper back, its body hovering over him, hunching him over like a crooked old man.

Recent phrases echoed in his head, repeatedly refreshing themselves in volume before decaying into icy pain in his neck.  “It’s not about what’s in your pants,” which translated into “You’re not attractive as a man.”  “You’re one of my weird friends,” which translated into “You’re lucky I consider you a friend because otherwise you wouldn’t have any.”  “He’s very passive-aggressive with his wife,” which translated into “Every time I see you, I talk about another person being passive-aggressive to hint to you about your own passive-aggressive issues.”

Lee took a deep breath.

He knew that writing stories was his way of dealing with a world he didn’t understand, his coping mechanism, his stress relief, his private conversation with himself as his own best friend because he trusted no one else to listen to him without judgement or reinterpretation.

His arms and hands drooped by his side.

Lee felt small, like the iridescent insects that hunkered down in the grass next to the greenway, their eyes or wing shells reflecting the light of the LED headlamp he wore while running after dark.

He had always been uncomfortable in his body, hearing kids make fun of his clumsiness, overhearing his father tell other fathers it’s not always what a kid can’t do on the ballfield that counts, his father bragging about Lee’s academic study habits and keen interest in both science and sports.

Lee put his hands on his hips, watching puffs of his breath rise up through the light beam pointing off his forehead.

He had only pretended to be interested in science and sports to keep his father’s anger directed away from Lee.

Lee knew at an early age that it was not his own interests that kept peace in the family, it was ensuring that his father’s anger was kept under control.

Thus, Lee had learned it was not what he liked that mattered.

He walked the world in fear.  He developed a survivor’s mentality.  He could easily tick off on his fingers what he didn’t like but had no idea what he liked for himself.

Writing was therapy, a purifying source of anti-joy that propped him up.

His thought patterns started splitting themselves into what made his father leave him alone, what made school bullies leave him alone and whatever else kept controversy and the fear of physical/mental abuse to a minimum.

After an automobile smashup in his teens, a lot of his thought patterns were reshuffled, his fears realigned, the noise in his thoughts, a kind of screaming pain with no source, making him wish every day that he was dead if the pain of the discordant thoughts would just go away and leave him alone in peace.

Years of self therapy ensued.

He depended upon the kindness of strangers to see his body in their own image, awarding him a four-year university scholarship based more on imagery than cold, hard facts.  The facade quickly crumbled when Lee arrived at university, with no study skills, no motivation and little in the way of a support network for Lee himself rather than a system that was geared to keep him going down the road toward an officer’s commission in the U.S. Navy.

He spent hours in the Georgia Tech library looking at diagrams of early personal computers, dreaming of building his own, back in his parents’ basement when he was in high school playing with hand-assembled CPU systems that did little more than accept octal code in memory and display it back, Lee unable to understand how to go any further, his brain lacking logic circuitry to convert opcodes into useful subroutines and programs that weren’t spelled out in a programmer’s cookbook.

He walked the streets of Atlanta by himself, fearful of local gangs looking to protect their turf by beating a white kid in nominally black neighbourhoods.

He let his charm and innocent, nonthreatening personality protect him, which they did.

He never cared about his grades.  He barely studied for the freshman calculus and chemistry classes that felt like his father’s threats all over again, leaving him no escape this time, finally showing his father the falsehood, failure and disappointment that Lee had felt he had been to his father, who had based his pride on a son simply hoping to survive childhood, if not die by a random mugging in some dark downtown Atlanta alleyway.

Those nine months in Atlanta taught Lee he had no friends.  He had people who wanted to be friends with him until Lee shared his odd thought patterns with them, breaking the iconic imagery he represented in their thoughts, quickly walking away, watching them shake their heads as they wondered who he was.

Years of loneliness followed as Lee wandered from one person’s pretend image of him to the next.

He kept his thoughts to himself, burying them deeper.

He believed he was a gentle soul who just wanted to live in a cabin in the woods, freed from the cycle of first impressing and then unimpressing people, tired of one disappointment after another.

The girl from his summer camp days, with whom he had exchanged handwritten letters in the mail, seemed to be the only one who never saw Lee as strange or disappointing.

He loved her and hated her for accepting him as he was because by loving him she accepted him as a product of his father whom he feared which meant that Lee feared her, too.

Lee’s thoughts drifted, returning to the present.

How long had he stood by himself under the stars on a concrete path surrounded by woodland wrapped by suburban tracts filled with thousands of people?

He held the contemplative thoughts in as close a sequence as possible for writing down later on.

His thoughts were the only thing that mattered to him, worth more than gold.

He had once been a person who negotiated multimillion-dollar international contracts, flying across the globe for meetings, wondering when he was going to fulfill his dream of an ascète, withdrawing from the world his only hope for quieting the painful noise in his thoughts that never went away except when he was drunk or asleep, constantly on alert to cocoon himself from his business colleagues so they wouldn’t see his brain was crisscrossed with insane thought patterns.

The numbed ends of his toes and the needlepoint pains in his hips woke him from his daydream.

He shuffle-jogged over the concrete pathway, knowing he had forty-five more minutes with himself on the trail and roadside to add to his thoughts that he’d write down after he returned home, kissed his wife, petted the cats and showered.

The life of the frugal millionaire was coming back to him again, as close to happiness as a hunched-over simple man could ask for before he died, as entertained by a caterpillar munching on a redbud leaf outside the window as by the behaviour of his species in its desire to develop and maintain weapons of mass destruction as a form of godlike deterrent against the use of our worst hatred toward people unlike us.

Lee had learned to manage his fear.  What about the other seven-plus billion of us?

If it weren’t for paying expensive health insurance premiums, my wife and I would be fully retired already?

The past two weekends, my wife and I combined a visit with family with a trip to the college football stadium.

This weekend, we visited with my cousin and her [second] husband, whom we have embraced as a member of our family.  He humbled us by saying we’re like the family he hasn’t had since he doesn’t know when.

The previous weekend, we spent time with my mother, my sister and her [second] husband, whom we have embraced as a member of our family.  He humbled us by saying a few years ago we gave him a present that was greater than any he had ever received before.

I live with a head full of thoughts, many of them self-deprecating, which science tells us is not an unusual phenomenon.

When other people tell me how nice I am, one of my automatic thoughts is that they must be lying to me to get something from me because I know I am not a nice person.

That thought alone says something — if I think it and have written about it more than once, then is that who I really am?

Is that why suicidal thoughts creep into my day, wishing the cruel, devious person that drives me out of bed every day would be dead and not influencing the world?

Our society is packed with history and textbooks discussing this very issue, offering various solutions.

The hope that drives me past my cruel side is that I’ll outlive my worst tendencies and die a happy man, having made one good contribution to our society at large, if just in one simple act of kindness I never knew about.

Otherwise, I’ll continue to be what many people refer to as one of their “weird” friends whose thought patterns run tangentially to the mainstream, running parallel occasionally through good brainwashing during my formative years.

Time for this set of states of energy to meditate upon the nothingness of the mundane.

Have a great day!