Life Giver

I posted this a year ago. But I’m putting it up again for the three new followers I’ve accumulated over the last 365 days.

 

 

We are here to create … I do it with words … but we all create … if nothing else, we create our lives each and every day as soon as we get out of bed.

I once had a mystical experience when I was quite young and on the road.

That experience forms my writing … it forms me … I spoke with God … once upon a time …

I swear this is all true. This is an abbreviated version of what happened on that magical, mystical night.

Back in 1968 when I was eighteen and hitchin’ around the country, I was going from LA to Miami. Thought I’d go home for a spell. Along about sundown, a blue pickup truck picked me up on Old Highway 90 in Arizona. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was spending the night with a young Apache Indian. His name was Jimmy.

After his grandmother fed us, we walked out into the desert and sat down on a small rise. The western sky was aflame with bright orange and pink clouds. Another day was coming to an end. Jimmy talked of Geronimo. He spoke for over an hour. I listened with my eyes closed.

Then things grew quiet. I was hesitant to open my eyes; I did not want to break the spell. Though, eventually, I did open them and looked directly into the face of God!

While Jimmy was talking, the sun had traveled to the other side of the world and the stars had come out. Never had I seen anything like it. For three hundred and sixty degrees the stars touched the horizon. No light impeded their brilliance. There were no buildings to block my view of that wondrous sight. There was just as much starlight as there was black sky. I felt as though I could reach out and touch them, they seemed that close. I could see how Ptolemy believed the earth was encapsulated within crystalline spheres. In the dry desert air, the stars did indeed look as though they were made of fine, delicate crystal. I saw the Great Bear … and Polaris, the only star that does not move. Orion seemed as though he could lower his arm and smite me with his club. I was in the midst of searching for other constellations when Jimmy broke my reverie. He said, “It is time.”

Jimmy handed me a wooden bowl; he had one just like it. We each held our bowls with two hands in front of us, about chest high. I was told the potion would help me go within, to commune with the Old Ones. Jimmy said: “It is my hope to speak with Life Giver at times like this, but it has not happened yet. Although I have been trying for many years. I am told by the older men to be patient. That Life Giver will speak to me when I am ready to hear what he has to say.”

Jimmy reached his bowl towards me, as in a toast. I did the same. Then we drank whatever that concoction was. (Hey, I was young and open to anything.)

He said that we would not speak again until morning. He would continue facing west, and I should face north. I walked ninety degrees around the rise to Jimmy’s right, sat down, and awaited whatever was to come. It was starting to get a little cool, and I thought it would have been nice if I had had the forethought to bring a jacket. In an effort to keep warm, I brought my knees up to my chest, folded my arms about them, and rested my chin on my knees.

Time started to stretch out. A second felt like a minute. After a while, I noticed I wasn’t cold any longer. I unfolded myself and lay back to look up at the stars. As I said, time was playing tricks on me. I don’t know how long it was before I heard The Voice. At first I thought it was Jimmy, but when I looked in his direction, he was staring off into the western sky, oblivious of me and his surroundings. Then I heard it again. It was in my head.

Aloud I said, “Are you calling me?”

“There is no need to use your vocal cords … think … and I will hear you.”

For some reason, this all seemed perfectly natural. As though I spoke with disembodied entities every day.

My first … or if you want to be technical about it,  my second question was, “Who are you?”

I swear this is what I heard:

“I have many names, and have had many other names in the past. I am known to your friend Jimmy as Life Giver. I am known to you and your culture as God. Some refer to me as Jehovah. I am called Allah and Krishna by others. Some call me The Tao, or The Way.”

I don’t know why, but, for some reason, it did not seem strange that I was having a conversation with God.

“If you are who you say you are, why do you speak with me when Jimmy has been trying to speak with you for years?”

“I have been with Jimmy all those years, and more, waiting for him to notice me. I am with my children—all my children—always. I am never not with you.”

NOTE: To cut down on the prose, I offer a transcript (as I remember it) of my conversation with the entity, which I have come to believe was indeed who It claimed to be: Life Giver. Before you make up your mind, read the transcript in its entirety. Then decide if what I heard makes any sense.

ME: It just doesn’t seem fair that I’m here speaking with you when it should be Jimmy instead.

LG: Jimmy and I do speak, all the time, but not in this way.

ME: Have you come to teach me some great truth?

LG: You have nothing to learn. None of my children have anything to learn. You only have to remember.

Me: Remember? Remember what?

LG: Who you are, and where you come from.

ME: Now I’m getting confused. Aren’t you God?

LG: We are God. Some refer to me as All That Is, which is more descriptive of the truth. There is only ONE. We are both a part of that ONE. This planet’s first religion was The Law of One. In a time long forgotten, man knew from whence he came. That is what I mean when I said you have only to remember.

ME: So, why can I experience you and Jimmy can’t?

LG: As I have stated, Jimmy, you, and all of humanity experience me every day.

ME: What I mean is why am I talking to you tonight, and Jimmy is not?

LG: How do you know he is not speaking with me now as you are?

ME: Well, I guess I don’t. I reckon God can carry on more than one conversation at a time.

LG: You reckon?

ME: I didn’t know God had a sense of humor.

LG: I have what you have, you have what I have. We are ONE.

ME: I guess I was pretty lucky when Jimmy picked me up this afternoon, or else I wouldn’t be here speaking with God.

LG: It was no accident that Jimmy offered you a ride and a place to sleep. Jimmy and I arranged it while he slept last night. We spoke in his dreams. Though he has consciously forgotten our talk, he has remembered it subconsciously.

ME: Then why am I here?

LG: Do you mean why are you here tonight, or why are you here on the planet Earth?

ME: Both … I guess.

LG: You, and everyone else extant on the physical plane, are here because you want to be here. You, personally, are here tonight because I have a message for you, and this was the only way to make sure you heard it.

ME: Before you give me the message, may I ask just one more question?

LG: You may ask as many as you wish.

ME: What is the meaning of life?

LG: The meaning of life, the reason you, and all our brethren on this planet and on all the other planets in other star systems, is to choose. Making choices is the reason for life. The choices you make is the way I express myself. When a life is completed, the experiences you bring back to me are a gift. A gift from a loving child who has volunteered to endure the hardships of the physical plane in order that its parent may BE.

ME: What if we make the wrong choices?

LG: You cannot make a wrong choice. Whatever you choose will eventually lead to evolution, and over time evolution creates balance as part of the nature of existence.

ME: Even if we make a choice based on hate?

LG: Remember this: Ultimately, there is only Love. All so-called negative emotions—hate, anger, jealousy, greed, just to name a few—stem from fear. The only way to combat fear is Love. Love always wins out over fear.

ME: WOW!

LG: WOW, indeed.

ME: You said you had a message for me?

LG: Yes, you are planning on going home. You, of course, may do anything of your choosing. However, you came to the Earth to teach. Some of those you have agreed to teach will miss their lessons if you go home now.

ME: I thought you said we have nothing to learn, we only have to remember.

LG: The lessons help you to remember. As a song will bring back memories of the time you first heard it, the lessons you, and all teachers, impart, help those involved to remember.

ME: I’m just a kid, how can I teach anyone anything?

LG: First of all, you are as old as I am. We existed before time began. Secondly, you teach by example. Some will learn from you after seeing you for only a moment, others will have learned their lessons after many months with you. As you, in turn, will learn your lessons from others you will encounter.

ME: You say I have a choice?

LG: Of course you do.

ME: Okay, as long as it’s my choice. I don’t like to be pressured, even by God. When will I know when it’s time to go home?

LG: I will tell you.

ME: Sounds like a plan.

LG: Yes, it does. It is almost daybreak. It would be better if you left without disturbing  Jimmy. He is speaking to his inner self.

ME: Well … good-bye.

LG: I am always with you.

I got my carcass up, looked over at Jimmy, and mentally said good-bye. I walked the few hundred yards to his house, picked up my gear, and walked into a new day.

Three years later, I finally made it home.

 

 

 

This Time Tomorrow

Reckon I’d better start at the beginning. Reckon I’ll tell it all. I first met her up at Grayson’s Creek. I had just bought a pair of new boots and my feet were hurting me something awful. With my feet cooling in the water, I was thinking of things past. I’d been back from the war a year by then. Four years of marching and fighting them bluebellies, my feet never did hurt so much as they did that day. Ol’ Robert E. and them other generals rode horses everywhere they went. Us privates walked the whole damn war.

Softly, she came up behind me. The first I knew she was there was when she giggled. I turned to see a young girl no more than sixteen years. She was smiling.

“Whatcha doin’ with your feet in that water?” she wanted to know.

“What are you doin’ sneaking up on a peaceful man just mindin’ his own business?” I asked in return.

Her hands clasped behind her back, she took a tentative step closer. Still she smiled.

“This is my husband’s land and I have a right to know who’s trespassin’ through.”

“You married?”

“Sure ’nuff. Husband’s name is James Foster. He’s a big man in these here parts.”

“You look kinda young to be married.”

She pointed her chin skyward. Eyes veiled, she said, “Us mountain folk marry young. But James is a lot older, he’s thirty-one. I’m his second wife. His first wife, Anne, took sick and died two years back when the cholera passed through. Not that it’s any of your business.”

“The name’s Tom Dula. What might be yours?”

“I’m Laura Foster and I’m mighty pleased to meet you, Mister Dula.”

Without asking if she could, she came and sat down by me—her feet splashing in the water next to mine; she had no shoes to kick off. “Well, Mister Dula, what brings you to this neck of the woods of Tennessee?”

She was pretty. Keen grey eyes. A pert strong chin. Dimpled cheeks that blushed as she wiggled her toes in the cool, clear water. Her hair was dark and loose and fell to her waist. Her fresh young white skin, translucent in the bright sunlight. I took all this in as I was formulating in my mind how much I would tell her. For some reason, I wanted to tell her all of it. I was twenty years old and on the run from the law. I had killed a man. But in the end, all I said was, “Had me a little trouble over in North Carolina. Thought it might be best if I hightailed it outta there until the dust settled.”

She tilted her head and nodded as though she understood. As though she was wise beyond her years. As though she wasn’t a little wisp of a thing. As though my heart wasn’t hers for the taking if only she wasn’t married.

I pulled my feet out of the water and put on my boots. “I gotta be movin’ on, little missy. No time to tarry further, gonna be dark soon.”

Her smile faded, her eyelashes fluttered. “Thought I might invite you to have supper with me and my husband.”

With one foot in the stirrup, my hand on the horn, I hesitated. Perhaps for a moment too long to her way of thinking.

“You wanna eat with us or not?”

She looked hurt. “I’d be right proud to sit at your table. But how is your husband gonna feel about you bringing a strange man to his home?”

Her eyes grew big and round. Her smile returned. “You just leave James to me, Mister Dula.”

I should have gotten on my horse right then and there and rode out. But I did not, to my everlasting regret.

Their cabin wasn’t but a mile from the creek. As we came into the yard, a man who had been chopping wood stood straight and tall. The axe held loosely at his side. His eyes followed us up the path. His manner was neither friendly nor hostile.

“Where ya been, Laura? Ya know there’s chores to be done.”

Laura brushed her hair behind her ears and straightened her back. “I was just down to the creek and came upon this nice gentleman. His name’s Tom. He’s from North Carolina. I’ve invited him to have supper with us.”

He gave his wife a look I couldn’t interpret. He nodded at me, but no smile was forthcoming. “Does Tom have a last name?”

I started to say something, but Laura beat me to it. “Of course he does, silly. It’s Dula.”

“Well, if Tom Dula is going to eat our food, he can help with the wood chopping. You git on inside and lay the table.”

Without a word, Laura turned on her heels and went into the cabin, leaving us two men staring at one another. I rolled up my sleeves and walked over to the man. Holding out my hand, I said, “I appreciate you having me, Mister Foster. I’d be happy to chop all the wood you might need.”

He shook my hand and at last favored me with a slight smile. “No offense, mister. But Laura’s been gone half the day, leaving her chores undone. It kinda threw me for a loop when she walked up with you.”

I started in on a log at the ready while James Foster picked up what he had chopped and brought it into the cabin. I got me three logs cut and was just starting in on splitting them when Laura called from the door. “Supper’s ready. There’s a basin and pitcher up here on the porch. Get washed up and come on in.”

The cabin looked fair sized from the outside, but had only one room. In the far corner stood an old wood stove. I was surprised to see they had a short-handled pump attached to a thick wooden plank that also served as a work counter. The bed was on the opposite side. Right smack dab in the middle of the room was the table with four chairs arranged around it. James Foster sat facing the door with a napkin shoved in his collar. He looked ready to eat. Laura, standing at the counter and still barefoot, had put her hair up. I liked it better loose.

“Come in, Mister Dula, and have a seat,” she beamed. Her husband had lost some of his reserve. “Yes, boy, come on in. You’re welcome at our table.”

The food was good. I hadn’t known how hungry I was. I told them a little about myself and a few war stories. When Laura pressed me for what kind of trouble I was leaving behind in North Carolina, her husband said, “Ain’t none of your concern, girl. Let the man eat in peace.”

After supper, as Laura cleared the table, James and I took out our pipes. I offered him my pouch. “Here, try this. North Carolina is known for its tobacco.”

Him and me chewed the fat for a bit. Then I figured I had stayed my welcome. “I thank ya’all for the vittles, but I reckon it’s time I was movin’ on.”

Laura, who was at the pump cleaning the last of the dishes, turned around and said to James, “It’s late. You think it would be alright if Mister Dula slept in the barn tonight?”

James had warmed to me as he smoked my tobacco and did not hesitate. “Good idea. Fetch him a blanket.”

After lighting their spare lantern, James walked me out to the barn. “While you unsaddle your horse, I’ll pile up some hay for ya. You’re lucky it’s springtime and not winter. You should be comfortable enough. If you have need, the convenience is behind the cabin.” It was a lot better setup than I had anticipated when I had hit the trail that morning. James bade me a good night and left me to myself.

Before turning in, I watered my horse and gave him some hay to hold him over until I could replenish the oat bag hanging from my saddle.

Lying there alone in the darkness, breathing in the smells of a Tennessee barn, I confronted my demons and wondered how I’d gotten into the fix in which I found myself. Sure, I had killed a man. Ol’ Jake Parsons. It was in self-defense, but no one had seen the act. He was drunk and I was drunk. No one had seen him lunge at me with a knife clutched in his hand. No one saw us tussle and fall. No one saw the knife pierce his heart but me. He was well-respected. I was a nobody. By the time I realized what had happened, people were starting to gather. Murmurs were going around that perhaps justice would be best served with a quick hanging. No need to trouble the sheriff. I pushed through the crowd and made for my horse before more people showed up. I was one step ahead of them and made it out of town before they could coalesce and pursue.

I would have to make miles in the morning. Word had certainly gotten about by now. I would head north and hide among the Yankees. Those damn hated Yankees. But it was better than the alternative: a hemp noose and a short dance in the air. I drifted off to a troubled sleep thinking those thoughts.

I don’t know how long I was asleep before I was shaken awake by a gentle hand. It was dark and I was disoriented. “Hush. Don’t say nothin’.” It was Laura.

“What is it, Laura? What’s the matter?”

“Nothin’. I just wanna talk.”

“Well, let me light the lantern so I can see you.”

“No! Just talk to me.”

I brought myself up on one elbow and waited. What did she want me to say? What was this all about? I soon found out.

“Do you think I’m pretty?”

So that’s what it’s all about. “I think you should go back into the cabin before James finds you gone.”

“Don’t you talk to me like I was a child. I’m all grown up. Now answer me. Do you think I’m pretty?”

With a heavy sigh, I answered her. “Yes, Laura. You are pretty. Now leave me be. You’re gonna cause nothin’ but trouble being out here.”

She came closer. I could feel her warm breath on my cheek. I could smell her hair. She must have washed it recently. It still smelled of soap. Her hand touched mine. It was soft like I knew it would be. She was trying me. Lord, was she trying me. “If you don’t leave, I’m gonna saddle my horse and be outta this barn before you ever knew I was here.”

She grabbed my hand and held it tight. I could not see her, but I heard her sniffles. All her words came out in a rush. “I’m in the prime of my life. I don’t want to grow old and worn on this forty acre farm. I’m no farm woman. I was meant for better. I’m only married to James because my pa made me do it. He has eyes on this land. Let’s leave tonight. Let’s head to a big city. I’ll be your woman. You’ll never be sorry. I know how to please a man. You don’t even have to marry me.”

I gently extricated my hand from hers. I hadn’t been around woman folk much. I mean in that manner. But I knew they were filled to the brim with emotions. You had to be careful with them. You never knew, they could go off like a firework on the Fourth of July. And the last thing I needed right then, with her husband not twenty yards away, was an hysterical woman on my hands.

In a soft voice, one I hoped sounded caring and honest, I said, “Laura, you are probably the best lookin’ woman I ever did see. And if things were different, I’d take you to the ends of the earth. But a man does not ride onto another man’s land, eat his food, enjoy his hospitality, and then ride out with his wife on the back of his horse. It just ain’t right. You understand that, don’t ya?”

Things were quiet for a spell. For a long spell. At long length, she whispered, “Are you saying if I weren’t married you’d take me with you?”

I nodded my head. But then realized she couldn’t see the motion in the dark. So I said, “That about covers it.”

She patted my hand. How she knew where it was, was beyond me. It was pitch black in that barn. She must have been part cat. “That’s okay, Tom. I understand. You go back to sleep now. I’ll see you in the morning.”

She leaned in and kissed me on the cheek, and then she was gone. My only thought at that point was, like hell she’ll see me in the morning. I was gonna be gone before first grey light. I lay back down and smiled to myself. Life sure can be crazy at times.

I must have been more worn out then I knew. I was awakened by a crow’s caws. He sure was insistent. It was full light out. Damn, I should have been long gone by now.

I got up and grabbed my saddle, but before I could fling it on my horse, Laura walked in. “Don’t be in such a rush. We have time to have breakfast before we leave.”

I shook my head in dismay. “I told you last night, you’re not leaving with me.”

“I know what you said. But I’m not married no more.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean James is gone and now I’m free to go with you.”

“What do you mean James is gone?”

She flung her arms up in the air in exasperation and explained it to me. “I killed him last night right after I talked with you. Pulled the big carving knife right across his old throat as he slept, I did.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Was she funning with me? The look on her face said otherwise. I dropped my saddle and raced for the cabin. The door stood open and I went right in. There he was. Lying on his back. The front of his nightshirt stained a crimson red. His eyes half lidded, his mouth open.

I heard a noise behind me. It was Laura as she came in through the door. “What are you dallying for? If you don’t want breakfast, I have my kit packed, ready to go. And I won’t have to ride the back of your horse. I’ll ride James’ mare. She’s a fine horse. Her name is Maggie.”

I looked into her grey eyes. She was stark raving mad. Funny I hadn’t noticed before. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to set her off. I just wanted to get out of there. Then any decision I might have made was taken out of my hands. The clip clop of horses’ hooves came to me from outside. Someone was riding into the yard.

She looked at me. I looked at her. I knew what she was gonna do before she knew what she was gonna do. Through her eyes, I saw the thought process going around in her mind. When she had decided her course of action, a determination played across her face. She grinned at me and said, “It would have been so much fun, Tom.”

I was resigned to my fate. I should have died in the war. I should have died when Jake Parsons came at me with that knife. I didn’t know it, but I’ve been on borrowed time since I left North Carolina. I smiled at her and said, “Yup. It would have been one hell of a hay ride, Little Missy.”

Without another word, she turned and ran screaming from the cabin. She ran right into the arms of her father and three of her brothers who had come for a visit. The upshot is that the trial was over before I knew it. Laura testified that she and James had befriended me and I paid back their kindness by slitting his throat while she was out of the cabin, pulling water up from the well. She said it had been my intention to kill her after having had my sinful way with her. Only the fortuitous arrival of her family saved her. It made no sense. But she was believed. I said not a word. What was the use?

The horses move sluggishly. They are in no rush. Neither am I. I hear that old crow cawing to his mate. I notice every leaf on every tree, the green and brown of the different grasses. The clouds have never been fluffier, never whiter. The sky never bluer. The sun rides high, the crisp morning air flows around me, embraces me, caresses me. It is a beautiful day. There’ll never, ever be such an astonishing, lovely day again. Never. It’s a great day to be alive. I’m riding in the back of a wagon, my arms tied behind me. My coffin follows in a wagon of its own. We’re headed for an old white oak just outside of town. The hanging tree. This time tomorrow, I’ll be planted six feet down, wishing I was anywhere else.

Something to Ponder

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, ‘I love you’ to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away. — George Carlin

 

A Conversation with a Friend

I was hanging out the other night at the Tiki Hut, minding my own business, when a voice behind me said, “Hey, man. What’s up?”

I should first explain that the Tiki Hut is an edifice at the marina where I live. The denizens of said marina congregate there on occasion to commune with one another. I, on the other hand, avoid it like the plague. It’s not that I don’t like people; it’s just that I don’t like being around people. But that particular evening, I had the place to myself.

I turned around, and standing there was this dude I had never seen before, although he did look somewhat familiar.

“Hello,” I said in response. I was a little perturbed at having my solitude interrupted, but decided not to be rude. “Are you new here?” I asked in a friendly manner.

“Kind of,” he said with a slight smile.

I mentally shrugged. I didn’t care one way or the other. I was just trying to be polite. Well, I had done my part and started to head back to my boat. I had a six-pack of cold beers waiting for me, and I thought it about time I paid it some attention.

“Want a beer?”

It was the dude. He was holding a plastic grocery bag that I had not noticed before. It definitely had the outline of a six-pack. Figuring the guy might be lonely, and thinking I might as well do my Christian duty, I said, “Sure, why not?” I would have a beer and we’d shoot the shit and then I’d get the hell out of there. I reckoned I could put up with him for the time it would take to drink one beer.

He reached into the bag and came out with two bottles of my favorite beer. Things were looking up. He did the honors of popping the caps and we both took a long pull of that cold, good-tasting beverage.

“So,” I said, “you moving in?”

“I’m thinking about it. I wanted to get a feel for the place first. Do you like living here?”

“It’s okay. As long as you pay your rent on time, they leave you alone.”

I’ll not bore you with the rest of the mundane conversation. That first beer led to a second and then a third. I was starting to warm up to the guy by the fourth. Then it dawned on me. We both had had four beers each, but we had started out with only one six-pack. When I mentioned that fact, he said, “No, you must be mistaken. There were two six-packs in the bag.”

Another mental shrug on my part.

As I popped the cap on my fifth beer, he asked me, “So, what do you think of the state the world is in?”

If I had been asked that question on the first or second or even the third beer, I would have bolted. I don’t get into conversations like that. Truth be known, I generally don’t get into conversations at all. I live alone and I like it that way. I don’t have to please anyone and I sure as hell don’t have to answer stupid questions. But … I was on my fifth beer and the guy was buying. So, what the hell?

“It depends on what world you are talking about. My little world is doing just fine. I eat every day. And when it rains, I’m dry. What more could a man ask for?”

He nodded, but said nothing. Fueled by Guinness Stout, I went on.

“Now, if you’re asking about the world in general, I would have to say that, for the majority of the people in it, the place is a shit-hole. Wouldn’t you say so?”

“I would say that the vast majority of the people on this planet are living the lives they want to live.”

Now the guy was pissing me off. Being of Irish descent and having four and a half Guinnesses in me got me up on my soap box.

“Do you believe in God?” I asked with a drunken sneer.

“I have heard of Him, but I don’t know if I believe in Him.”

“Well, if God is real, how can he let the suffering go on? How can he allow a baby to get cancer? How can the son-of-a-bitch let the world get into the mess that it is in today?”

“Good questions, my friend. Very good questions.”

“Don’t patronize me, and hand me another of those goddamn beers.”

I was in rare form.

When I had been placated with my sixth beer (but who was counting?), my new-found friend went on.

“Many people feel as you do. They use the same argument. ‘If there is a God, how can He allow the suffering?’ I think the answer is that there is no God. There is only the Oneness. There is only us. Perhaps we are God. And if we are God, how could we allow ourselves to suffer?”

That was it for me. Free beer or not, I was out of there. The guy was crazy. But first I would finish my beer … just to be polite.

Then he went on.

“It’s a shame that we don’t believe in reincarnation, because that would explain many things. If reincarnation was for real, that would mean souls exist before birth. It might even mean that we choose our lives. That life is not a crap shoot.”

About then, I was thinking, You’re a crap shoot!

“Do you know that physicists have proven, mathematically at least, that there is no such thing as time, and that we are living in a hologram? And if that is so, then what does anything matter? Look at it this way. We live in a dimension known as space-time. You cannot have one without the other. You cannot have time without space and you cannot have space without time. Right?”

“If you say so. How about another beer?” We were now into the third six-pack that wasn’t there.

“Think of it this way. Space-time is a manifestation only of the physical plane. Off the physical plane, there is no space-time by definition. Correct?”

“Please stop asking me to confirm what you are saying. I’ll admit it makes sense . . . so far. So, I’ll sit here and listen to you as long as that magic bag keeps popping out Guinnesses.”

“Okay. Now visualize this. If you were to look into a dimension of time-space from a dimension of non-time-space, meaning a non-physical universe, what would you see?”

“Your momma!”

He smiled at me with such forbearance that I felt ashamed at having made such a flippant remark. And I sobered up instantly. “I’m sorry I said that. Please go on.”

“I take no offense and I assure you, ‘my momma’ takes no offense.”

I pushed my half-finished beer aside and waited. He didn’t seem drunk, yet he had had as many beers as I had. He took another deep swallow of his Guinness and continued.

“What you would see is all time happening at once. That is what you would see. Now, here’s my point. If all time happens at once and we are living in a hologram—a false reality if you will—and if we exist before we are physically conceived, and if we know the lives we are going to live, and if there is no time, which means the duration of our lives are as one-millionth of the time it takes to blink an eye . . . then how are we harmed?”

A good question to which I had no answer. But I had to ask, “Who the hell are you?”

“I’ve been known by many names over many lives. My time on the space-time plane is over. I just come to visit once in a while because that’s what I do. I am a teacher. Sometimes to the multitudes, sometimes to just one lonely man thinking of drinking a beer by himself. In my last incarnation, I was known as Jesus Bar Joseph, or Jesus, Son of Joseph. In parting, let me say this. There is no God. There is only the Oneness and we are all fragments of that Oneness, playing out our existence. Working our way back to the Oneness where we will be reunited. There is no hell and there is no heaven. There is no loss, there is only us. Peace be with you, my friend.”

Then he glowed with such intensity that I had to cover my eyes. The brilliance was filled with so much love. I have never felt such love. I have never been so loved. It was all I could do to not break down and cry right there on the spot.

Then he was gone.

Now I sit here pondering his words. If we are all One, then hiding from my neighbors might not be such a smart thing. I think I’ll invite that nice young couple who live a few boats over for a Sunday brunch. If I can make it through that, perhaps I’ll visit the Tiki Hut a little more often.

You never know who you might meet there.

How Slats Lost His Cymbals

By Mike Royko

March 7, 1973

Many people were shocked by the recent news report of the two baseball players who swapped their wives, their children—even their dogs. They see it as still another example of our new, loose morality.
That may be. But it isn’t the first time such a thing has happened.
I remember a slightly similar incident involving the Grobnik family, who used to live in my old neighborhood.
The cause of it all was Slats Grobnik, the eldest son.
One day he decided to join the alderman’s marching boys band, which played in his parades and rallies and also threw stones at windows displaying pictures of his opponent.
The alderman had been Slats’ hero ever since his father had said the man never worked a day in his life.
Because of his peculiar ear for music, Slats was given the cymbals to play. He rushed home and immediately began practicing. He hoped that if he did well, the alderman would let him play something else, such as the horses.
Mr. Grobnik was working nights at the time, so when Slats began marching through the flat, clanging the cymbals, he came roaring out of bed.
He hit Slats on the head with one of the cymbals, causing the boy’s eyes to roll even more than they usually did.
This touched off a terrible row, with Mrs. Grobnik crying that her husband should not stifle Slats’ musical development.
That was when Mr. Grobnik said he would like to swap his family.
“I would trade all of you for a little peace and quiet,” he shouted, hitting Mrs. Grobnik with a cymbal, too.
“Ma, you can get alimony,” Slats yelled. “I will be your witness.”
Mrs. Grobnik gathered her clothes and children and said she was leaving and would not return until Mr. Grobnik apologized.
At first, Mr. Grobnik could not believe they were really gone. To make sure, he changed the locks. Then he want back to bed.
Mrs. Grobnik took the children and went around the corner to stay with her friend Ruby Peak, who had a nice apartment above the war-surplus store.
“Now you are the man of the family,” Mrs. Grobnik tearfully told Slats. He turned pale, thinking that meant he might have to go to work.
Word of the breakup quickly spread through the neighborhood. Naturally, some of the unattached women set their caps for Mr. Grobnik. They didn’t get anywhere with him, though, because he didn’t like women who wore caps.
The shapely widow who ran the corner bakery hurried over with some fresh sweet rolls for him.
And as Mr. Grobnik ate them, she leaned forward and whispered huskily in his ear:
“Is there anything else you would like?”
“Yeah,” he said, “next time bring a loaf of rye.”
When Slats’ teacher heard of the separation, she worried that he might suffer a trauma.
The next day he came to class with tears streaming down his face.
The teacher assumed it had something to do with his home life. Actually, somebody in the school yard had told a filthy joke, and Slats had laughed until he cried.
She put her arm around him and said: “There, there.”
Slats said: “Where, where?” and gave her a pinch.
She ordered him from the room, which didn’t bother Slats, as he figured he had learned enough for one day.
A few days after the separation, old Mrs. Novak asked Slats what his mother was doing.
“She is going to Reno,” Slats said.
He didn’t know what that meant, but he had heard someone say it in a movie.
Old Mrs. Novak didn’t know what it meant either. She figured it must mean Mrs. Grobnik had run off with a man named Reno.
So she went to the grocery store and told all the other ladies about it.
“I’ll bet he is a no-good gigolo,” one of them said.
That afternoon, they all told their husbands that Mrs. Grobnik was carrying on with Mr. Reno, a notorious gigolo.
The husbands discussed it in the tavern. One of them said: “I think I know the guy. He lives over in the Italian neighborhood.”
Another said: “I know the one. He has a mustache and hangs out in the pool hall.”
When Mr. Grobnik stopped for a beer, they told him his wife was in love with a notorious pool shark and fortune hunter named Reno, who had a mustache and pointy shoes.
“Everybody in the neighborhood knows about it,” the bartender said. “I hear she has even sold her wedding ring to give him money.”
Enraged, Mr. Grobnik went to the pool hall and punched the first man he saw wearing a mustache. He turned out to be a jukebox distributor, and three of his boys beat Mr. Grobnik with pool cues.
When Mr. Grobnik came to in the hospital, his wife and children were at his bedside. Mrs. Grobnik said she would come back home and make Slats give up the cymbals.
“Will you stay away from Reno?” Mr. Grobnik said.
“But Reno is in Nevada,” said Mrs. Grobnik.
Mr. Grobnik smiled. “Good. I must have really taught him a lesson.”

She Was Born

She was born a free spirit.

She was the most beautiful woman in all the world.

Her name was Maria.

She touched me . . . she loved me.

I was not worthy of her love.

But she loved me nonetheless.

Then one dark night she was taken from me.

It’s now early morning.

I awake because of the sound.

The scream.

The horror.

But dreams can fool you.

I am alone.

It was I who found her body.

Her dead eyes looked into mine, but she did not see me.

I beheld her broken body, but it was not the woman I had loved.

Her essence had fled to another part of the universe … to another realm

I retrieve my gun and go in search of the man who had killed her.

He’s where I knew him to be.

I raise the gun and stick the barrel into his ear.

His brains spray out.

His blood forms a red mist that floats in the air … for a brief moment.

He’s gone.

Good … very good.

But his death does not bring back my Maria.

Now I will join her.

The gun barrel feels right in my mouth.

I pull back the hammer.

My hand is on the trigger.

My mind is on Maria,

I squeeze the trigger.

I am no more … until my essence is reborn.

Maria will find me.

Love is like that.

The Green, Green Grass of Home

Jake

The sun sends its warm rays down onto the world, onto the trees, and onto the green, green grass of my home. God is in his Heaven as I lie here in my grave. I killed a man. I killed him out of fear, fear of losing my love. But I lost her anyway when they hung me from the old oak that stands out front of the courthouse.

My name ain’t important … hell, I ain’t important to no one no more, except maybe the worms that crawl through my body and feast on my rotting flesh.

I had me some bottomland, good bottomland, only forty acres, but it was mine. I had cleared it and planted corn and sorghum in the spring of ’85. I was a man in love. Her name was Faith and she was the most beautiful woman in the world, at least to me.

I’ve never been around womenfolk all that much, so I wasn’t prepared when I first saw her. I was in town for supplies. I had just finished loading the wagon when she walked by. She looked like an angel. Her hair was a golden color—the color of sunlight. Her eyes were gray. She made my legs quaver. I fell in love.

I did not see her again until the grange meeting. I went because the topic of discussion was to be water rights. I had my water, but if someone was going to take some of it, I needed to know about it beforehand. She sat stately in the front row. Nothing much was accomplished at the meeting. Afterward, I stood outside lighting my pipe when she walked up to me. She was so beautiful.

“Hello, Mister MacDonald, my name is Faith Simpson. My people own the land next to yours. We just moved here from the East and I’ve been wanting to meet you.”

That was the beginning. Before I knew it, her family had my water and she had my heart.

On the third moon of our meeting, we were betrothed.

Then, on a cold, dark night, I made the mistake of my life. She was standing on a chair, putting up curtains in my cabin. She was getting it ready for when she would live there. Jim Peters—from a ways up on the mountain—had come down on his way to town and stopped by when he saw the light in the window.

I know now that I was mistaken, but this is what I saw as I walked up to the cabin. Through the window I saw her in his arms. Now I know that she had stumbled and Jim had caught her before she hit the floor. But I didn’t know that back then. I pulled my gun and sent Jim Peters to another world.

It was a mistake. It was my blunder, and for that I lie here alone in my grave and try to feel the warm sun on the green, green grass of my home.