Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why there Are so many songs about Rainbows

There are so many things in this world that we take for granted. We see them all the time so they become mundane. Average. The every day things that if we stop and take a moment to consider, are truly amazing, but because they've become commonplace, we overlook them.

Then there's the other things.

Things that leave us wide-eyed and slack-jawed. They're awesome. Disgusting. Curious and misunderstood.

They're surreal and mysterious and most often, they don't make any sense at all. Yet they still... are. Sometimes those things can hurt us if we move without caution. We get caught up in the moment and throw care to the wind.

And yet... those things are the things most worth pursuing. They're intriguing to us because of their very nature. They leave us with smiles on our faces and butterflies in our stomach. They instill fear in some and bravery in others.

They're a result of circumstance and timing and all the stars aligning at the right moment. They take our breath away and make our heart go pitter-pat and kick in the fight or flight instinct at the back of our minds.

Yet most of us stand our ground.


Because the chase... the end result... the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow... it's all worth it. We fight through our fire and we hold onto our faith and we push forward.

Sometimes, that faith is blind. And that, my friends, should frighten the living hell out of us. It should shake us to our roots and make us kneel in prayer to whatever gods, old or young, will listen to our pleas.

I'm familiar with fire walking. Not literally, mind you, though I happen to think I'd give that a shot too, if it should cross my path. No, I mean mentally.

It's not fun, but not without merit either. Because when the fire walk is over, after you've walked the bridge, the other side offers peace and cool winds to keep pushing you on.

I'm thankful for both faith and fire this year. I'm a man transformed.

There's scar tissue, yeah, but what else is new?

This year, be thankful for your joys. Be thankful for your pains. They all make us who we are.

Most of all, though, I'm thankful there are still so many things in this world that make absolutely no sense to everyone around me... and that's still ok.

Never become too old for magic. Never become too cynical to be awe struck or amazed.

Never be too old to stop chasing rainbows.

Because no matter how much faith you have to draw on... no matter how much fire you have to walk... what lies on the other side is always worth it if you decide it is.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sleeping with a Full Moon Blanket

How far we all come. How far we all come away from ourselves. You can never go home again. James Agee

If I should be short on words
And long on things to say
Could you crawl into my world
And take me worlds away
Should I be beside myself
And not even stay.

- Chris Cornell, Seasons

Recently, the porch of our house was filled with great friends. Lots of laughter. Lots of smiles. A few new in-jokes were created. There were things that were healed while brand new cracks appeared elsewhere.

It was a good weekend.

It's late as I write this. Or early, depending on your point of view. I just got back from a walk outside. The sky's jet black and the stars are so sharp and clear that I found myself caught up in their beauty. The neighborhood trees reach for the heavens, their arms now bare and absent of the color they had only weeks ago. I pulled my wool peacoat tighter around me, trying my best to close off the wind, but tonight it was an exercise in futility.

Winter's on its way.

The farm house I grew up in had lots of drafty windows. My bedroom was on the third floor, just beneath the uninsulated attic. Sometimes at night, I'd sneak upstairs and look around. The wooden floor was gritty beneath my bare feet. Boxes here and odd ball furniture stashed there. Gray barn spiders would spin their traps along the edges of the wooden ceiling beams.

Some of the things in the attic belonged to my parents or my grandfather. Others belonged to the landlord, who had left some things behind. When we moved, I found letters and postcards tucked beneath the floorboards and a few glass Indian trade beads.

In the spring, I'd sit and listen to the rain pattering down on the tin roof, but mostly I'd just pull the chain link string on the single lightbulb in the ceiling and think. There were two windows on either side of the attic and in the winter it was often cold enough to see my breath inside the house. It was creepy being up there alone at night, but I liked it.

I enjoyed the solace. The quiet. The space to collect my own thoughts (yes, I was quite the deep thinker even at a young age) and it was a great spot to let my still-maturing muse find her voice. I'd wonder if there were ghosts up there beside me.

I'd stay up there for as long as I could, until my hands and feet had started to go numb, and then I'd go back downstairs into the soft quilts of my warm bed.

Life has damn sure changed.

Over the years, I've adopted many spots to let my muse whisper to me. Barns. Woods. A lake. A cemetery. They've all given her the ability to speak openly and freely to me when she needs to.

But nothing's ever lived up to the attic of my youth.

The barn collapsed and the farm house has been torn down now for years... 55 acres of farm land divided in half to make homes for two well-to-do familes. I went back as an adult and took pictures before it was gone. Even in photographs, the place still held magic, though it had developed a patina with age and a mournful sort of sadness to it, like a god that had been worshipped mightily for eons, and been forgotten.

I visit the old place in my mind sometimes. I'd memorized every ridge of the farm; knew where every interesting part of the stone wall was... where the sweetest honeysuckle grew down by the stream where the crayfish made their home. I knew where two hunting dogs were buried, and where I laid to rest the best friend a boy could ever have.

I could tell you where the best spots to pack down a sled trail were and how if you greased up the sled with just the right about of Crisco oil, how far you'd make it before the sled stopped in a cloud burst of white.

I can see it all in my mind now... just as if I still lived there. I visit the barn and my attic most often... can picture them clear as a bell in my mind... see the plumes of breath curl from my mouth and nose as I sit in a corner, arms hugging my knees.

Some days, that seems like so long ago.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Bad Turn

Keene throttled the Harley and felt it rumble beneath him.

Watched the people on the New York City sidewalks give him a startled glance and pick up their pace. People in this city knew the difference between crazy and bat-fuck crazy. They recognized the look in his eyes.

He grinned. The bike was chrome thunder beneath him. He nodded, the sound of his iPod blasting Maiden in his ears. He didn't know shit about this bike. Couldn't tell the difference between the carburetor and the driveline. Didn't make a shit. People scattered before him and that was all that mattered. He puffed on the stub of cigar in his mouth and bared his teeth.

behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.

Keene's grin grew wider.

"Zombies? Fucking zombies? I'll give you SOME GODDAMNED ZOMBIES!" He screamed it out loud, though he barely heard it over his music.

He reached out a hand and patted the saddle bag to his left, considering the contents. A glass beaker topped with a Mason jar clasp was nestled inside. A maniacal brainstorm from his 'biggest fan"; a twenty-something mad genius who worked at a government lab. Someone who'd read every shred on the zombie apocalypse. Someone who thought it'd be fun to make it happen for real.

Keene goosed the Harley, heading to the core of the city.

It had only taken several emails to other fans to find out the schematics of New York City's water supply and review the perfect spot to dump the plague. By the time the outbreak began, Keene would be back on the highway, close to red lining the Harley's engine, driving like the apocalyptic horseman he truly was to get back to Journey's End. He'd be sipping Knob Creek and smoking Cubans when the news reports began.

"Fuck 'em all!" He growled, and raced down an alley. The side street opened up into a market place and that's where things started to go wrong. Fast.

Keene roared out into the street and squeezed the brakes but got nothing in response. He steered around a homeless lady who screamed "Shel Silverstein must die!" as he clipped her shopping cart.

A dented cab blew its horn at Keene as he drove between it and a produce delivery truck and still the Harley wouldn't slow.

He tried to avoid three blonde powersuited women sipping lattes and that's when he saw the business end of the mounted policeman riding one of the biggest horses he'd ever seen.

The front wheel of the Harley hit dead center of a fire hydrant and over the crunch of metal as the bike crashed, Keene felt himself lift off the bike and fly forward. He had a split second to see the glass beaker fly free of the saddle bag, bursting in a silver spray against the street curb, before realizing he was making a bulls eye for the ass of the horse in front of him.

He plunged head first into the horse's sphincter, a sound like a boot being pulled from wet mud, and Keene was immediately surrounded by damp mucus. His arms were clamped down at his sides. His body dangled freely in mid-air.

From outside, Keene heard the horse give a startled neigh, the cop utter an angry "What the fuck?", and the horse began to gallop. Every heavy trot sent jolts through his body, constricting his ribs and cutting off his air. He could feel himself begin to shut down.

The odor, Keene thought, slipping away, it's familiar. It smells just like... the small press.


Today is Brian Keene Must Die day. Brian will be killed in dozens of horrifying ways in blogs across the blogosphere for a very good cause. If you enjoyed this humorous little vignette, please consider making a donation to the Shirley Jackson Awards.