"I have released many wrong things into this universe; I, myself, may be a wrong thing released by someone else."
I say I love you in so many ways to so many people but never from a sense that I may never see them again. Fatalism doesn't work for me. I do it because I'm a sucker for joy. In this world that way can be a cross to bear. This morning I found out that a cousin of mine was killed last night in an auto accident. I hadn't seen him in years, and this isn't about wishing I'd told him I loved him; it's hope that he felt comfortable telling others he loved them. It's about the joy that can be a cross to bear while simultaneously the greatest connection these meat cases of ours can make. I've thought I love you, said it, written it on silly notes, improvised songs about it, even emoji-ed it. I used to suspect I was in love with love (and I am), but more fully I've realized that connecting to the All once or twice in my life has opened me to appreciating wonderful souls more completely than ever before. There's joy in repetition. Circumstances ebb and flow, but the truth of "I love you" keeps life honest. When not honest we're conflicted. What this means in this blog space is that not only is our mandate to approach our messages with honesty, as creators we need to make good love every single time we put pen to paper, crystal to wood, water to clay, rivet to metal, verse to minor key of G; we should remember that there's nothing new to whatever we do, but there is always, always joy in repetition. I LOVE YOU never means you have to love me. It is a statement of fact. More potent than "I love cheese," yes, but "There are a trillion things in life that aren't meant to be," says the poet. "One of those is likely you and me. But I've seen you smile. I've seen your smile. I've seen you smile."
Repeat after me: Joy.
I may be wrong 20 times out of 10, but never when it comes to that. I know the joy of a sweet sentence, a perfect sculptural piece, a gentle kiss. Even a good cry. There's joy in contradictions.
Hell, there's joy in everything.
I wish you love.
Death can't stop that. Writer's block won't touch it. Disappointments are irrelevant in its face. Whatever and whoever you're doing, I wish all of you love, and if we're granted a final thought I hope my cousin had that one. I desperately hope there was something in his brief, painful life he needed to impart that upon, seeing as, from this particular life, he gets to walk away. Journeys don't end, they veer, detour, and go wildly off-road. That's life, that's love, that's friendship, family, dreams, and art. We're here to continually right the wrongs.
So I may be a wrong thing released by someone else but what I do I do out of love. Cross to bear or not, so far it works.
Modus Vivendi (orginally published in Historical Inaccuracies)
“Let me tell you what’s been on m’mind, mate. Devil babies. Little tykes all cold and emotionless gangin’ up on nannies and hackin’ ‘em to bits.”
“Everything all right, mate?”
“Been watchin’ me own. Got the reverend comin’ over tonight.”
“Sooner’s better. Sod havin’ devil babies about your life.”
“How’s rev to handle all thirteen? Are you workin’ in shifts?”
“Me and the misses’ll slip a little sleep in their cocoa.”
“So when Rev comes ‘round ‘is biggest problem’ll be havin’ the bleedin’ demons hear ‘im over all the snoring.”
“There’s always a rub.”
“Good counsel as always.”
“Psshaw! Gives me purpose.”
Thirteen pairs of grubby little eyelids slipped like a lush, flutter flittered a bit, and closed.
“Luvvie, it’ll be the devil’s time pickin’ ‘em up. Like dropped flies, they are.”
Number nine, whose grip had never been firm to begin with, tumbled from his roost on the family heirloom (a pawn shop chandelier).
Father was already diving for the catch. “Don’t worry it; I’ve got ‘im.” He tossed the boy onto the sofa. Already there were five asleep on it, moptops with nasal passages snoring like banshees. “Damn fine catch that, eh?”
Mother stepped her apron-body over a little one sprawled on the floor, and had to lean close to father to speak as the thumping and tumbling and godawful snores put out more than enough of their own.
“Here’s a thought. What with the factories foldin’ up I should think a good choice would be to sell the lot off to the American cinema, provided Reverend can’t cleanse the devil off their souls.”
“The lot? Maybe keep a few?”
“And never sleep a peaceful night again?”
“Point made, Luv.”
Religiously hearty poundings pounded the door.
Father hurried to answer.
The gaunt figure of Reverend Slip stood centered in the doorway of the humble dwelling. The little flat square of white below his pointy Adam’s apple was a beacon against batwing robes.
“Show me the ‘eathens,” was all. No greeting, just “Show me the ‘eathens,” and moved right inside like a line with legs.
“Wait just now,” Father tossed, turning after him. “They’ve been brought up proper. This’s just one of them aborigines.”
Reverend Slip dropped a heavy duffel for loud effect. “If Satan could hold them at all then they’re a far fetch from righteousness. Where’s tea, Mother?”
Her hand flew to her mouth.
And as a matter of fact there did issue from the reverend one sharp, audible intake of air. “No tea?” Looking at Father like a man suddenly betrayed he blurted, “Biscuits at least?”
“Well what with the kids I forgot to kettle!” Mother exclaimed, trading worried glances with Father.
“Some things you simply do not forget, Mother,” Father said, then offered a placatory smile toward the reverend.
“How am I to function? You invite me into your home—how can I be the savior of your children if you can’t even observe the social graces? I know beggars much poorer than you who I can always count on to give with joy to the church!”
“Tea, Mother,” Father urged, nodding toward the tiny kitchen. She skittered off, muttering and mumbling at herself as she dug deeply in her apron pockets for little packets of sugar.
“Have you biscuits, then?”
Father swallowed nervously.
“M’God,” muttered Reverend Slip. During which (accompanied by a rancid odor that screwed noses up for blocks around) in the kitchen, having just stepped out of a particularly narrow shadow, popped Big Red itself, except it wasn’t red and was rather sensitive about racial stereotyping. Rather a short one actually. Unmistakably evil.
Reverend rushed the kitchen hoping ahead of time the stench hadn’t come from a mishap with a biscuit substitute. As the reverend’s reaction to such an unmistakably evil presence—“What the bloody hell’s this?”—was voicing, Father was hoping that feigning ignorance might make the tackily dressed bugger leave off. The devil, to clarify.
“Bloody ‘ell!” it rasped. “Anybody in the human race not daft? Satan!”
Man can’t depend on anything anymore, Father fretted. He rubbed his bulbous nose. “Yes, well, you’re—”
“I know I’m late! Lost me head in the U.S. God, America! Bloody piss me off, I don’t mind telling you. Now I’m here. Let’s have to.”
“Now waitaminute,” Reverend said. “What’s this?”
“Eh?” said Satan.
“A direct confrontation? I’m not here for that!”
“Stop chokin’ your scrot. Heard devil babies were about, came to give a look. Curiosity, you know. Vested interests and such. Observation only, Reverend.”
“See to it, then!”
“Show some care, Rev,” hissed Mother. “Just might piss ‘im off.”
“Right, where would that leave us?” Father put to him.
“Pretty buggered, I would think,” trilled Satan, strolling out to have a look at its alleged progeny.
“These aren’t babies! A friggin’ rugby team!”
“Some may be a bit big for their age,” Mother defended.
“They don’t even look like me.” It nudged ol’ Mother with its elbow. “Eh, Mother?”
“You be havin’ tea as well,” Father interjected starchily.
“No sugar, Mum, that’s the lass.” And it patted her doughy rump to send her off. “To business then,” Satan said, drawing the two men further into the sitting room.
“I am here strictly to establish paternity,” the reverend reminded assertively, adding with a terribly hopeful eye, “Unless you simply want to own up right here?”
“They really don’t look a thing like me.” It frowned. “No, go to it, Rev.”
Father hawed a bit. “What, uh, what if they happen to—”
“Not to worry. I make it a point to always travel with damn fine cigars on me.”
By which time even the eyes of dogs and parakeets in the neighborhood welled up. Those in the devil’s immediate presence had tried a discreet show of it, but finally Father had to ask, “Whatever ‘tis you’re givin’ off could you tone it down a bit?” There were some annoyances a man shouldn’t have to deal with in his own house, by God.
“Do I offend?” It smiled a coquettish, broad, cigar stained smile at Reverend Slip. It puppeted one of the sleeping children, a girl, to open a window as there wasn’t a single one open, at which point the atmosphere of the squalid house rushed to flood the entirety of the rest of the world, leaving Father’s flat somewhat fresh and comfortably cool. Consequently, a particular breed of monkey that monitors the activities of Satan unanimously decided to forego evolution, ensuring a complete lack of scented toilet paper in the world after the house-apes blew off. Their reasoning: Why give the devil its due? Several parakeets whose owners constantly talked to them committed suicide within moments of the window opening.
Father breathed deeply. He heard the quick aerosol can of country potpourri in the kitchen: Mother hoping the spray would take to this newly freshened air as it was the only freshened air the flat had recently entertained.
“Tea, Father?” Satan smugly inquired.
“Shall we!” Reverend Slip, unsteeled, unsettled, and quite extraordinarily put out about the entire situation, straight-lined to the children. It did not do for the Misses of the house to be spraying potpourri on air freshened by the devil.
He peered closely at the sleeping faces. One particularly showed signs of evil, muttering incoherent phrases and unnatural numerical chants, the middle lad, Reverend surmised from the boy’s advanced size. Middle’s the best place for corrupting behind and ahead. The reverend indicated with his nose for Father and Satan to give note. “What is this, yes?”
Father coughed and spoke into his hand. “Stocks.”
A tick developed beneath the reverend’s right cheek. “Again, Father?”
Aghast, Father glanced between Rev and Satan indecisively a moment, sputtered something almost apologetic for destroying what was the Rev’s first sure thing, then, gripped with the sudden parental insight and resolve of placing blame where it lay, hurried across and rapped the sleeping boy once across the head to close him off.
And as mum marched primly forward she exhorted chirpily, “Tea?”
Well, the room did brighten a bit, didn’t it?
As they drank (without conversation), Satan couldn’t help noticing Mother’s rather conspicuous way of peering over her cup’s rim each time it took a swallow. In a huff, it acknowledged her rudeness.
“Where’s yer tongue?” she said directly.
Father and Reverend glanced her way.
“He’s got no tongue.” Damned if she’d be made to feel untoward in her own home for pointing out someone’s improper anomalies. “Had it when he came in.”
“Must’ve swallowed it!” Satan snapped. “Daft ass Brits.”
His most manly, world-wearied sigh came from Father, who set his cup in the callused palm of his hand and proclaimed, “We take tea proper in this house when we take it.”
“Bloody well came in with it,” Mother was saying to Rev, who nodded his support.
“Shall I cough it up?” It hawked a drag, eyeing all. No one responded.
In silence they drank on.
After tea, Satan said, “I’ll be off now,” and unmistakably meant that there was no reason it should even begin to think those children were its.
“Are you quite certain?” Father asked. “A lot of ‘em here. Been off a bit, they have.”
“Definitely a good right number, and they’re an unpleasant lot. Can I fault them their genes? But realistically, how could they be mine when they’re all bloody tranquilized? Don’t you think they’d have had enough about them to hack you to bits before you could slip ‘em all the mickey?”
Reverend Slip, not one to refute logic, zipped up his duffel sack. “Take example in my utter lack of self-deception in the face of things irrefutable,” he said to Father.
“All the best,” Satan tipped with a cordial nod.
Reverend ignored it. “Be taking my leave. Father. Mother.”
Gone, like a line with legs.
A bit of a scene now. Mum and Dad entertaining Satan--without, recall, biscuits--and thirteen very economically taxing progeny in a little flat on West Buttles. What to do, what to do? (“Stop whizzing!” Reverend shouted trying to dodge all the crying dogs congregated outside this West Buttles home.) “Can you make ‘em all politicians then?” Mother asked in an unusual fit of genius.
Satan seemed startled not to have proposed this itself.
Father goggled Mother’s way in astonishment.
“The lot?” Satan inquired.
“Well, not all at once, I suppose.”
“Sellin’ off our children on installment plan?” Father considered this a moment then asked of Satan, “How much soul we talkin’, me and the misses to you?”
“No money down, laddie.” With an overly large, inhumanly pleased smile that showcased each of its brown teeth, Satan winked. “Politicians I consider an even trade.” It took a cigar from its plaid vest pocket and bit the nub off.
Mother smiled inwardly across her slumbering lot, proud, proud. The wafting of country potpourri seemed so much richer now, as though the air recycled and became a step fresher each time, and would confidently keep doing so. Why, soon as this Satan business was over she had a mind to run out and purchase another can.
Father, as only fathers do, slapped then rubbed his stinging thighs to indicate the pleasurable completion of a rather wary situation. He, too, felt a surge of pride knowing without doubt his children would grow up to be respectable, profitable citizens, politicians no less, although, knowing Satan, there’d be some hidden loop and one of them would turn out to be a lawyer, but even that was livable and Father breathed his own short sigh of relief along with an amicable nod of the head, communicating that the boys at the pub would never believe this.
“Believe you me, lad,” he responded to the devil, “you’re a fair shakes fairer than me lender.”
Life, the universe, and everything creative
Towel Photo credit: EvelynGiggles via Foter.com / CC BY