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When The Other Animals Help Humans To Stop Satan

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A prominent American politician (you know who you are) recently opined that a gang of murderous humans were a bunch of animals. We are all animals, and it should be of no surprise that the other animals never act with the hate and horror of humans. The true insult is to call someone “human”.
In my first Satan novel, There Has Been A Sighting, my human animal characters join with the other animals on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan in Botswana to confront a true Beast. This is the abridged encounter.
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“Caleb and I agree.” The old nun glances at Dorkas, then looks back to the Kgosi. “You must have your people move with them.” She speaks loudly, so other ears will hear. “Whether they join us, or we join them – we are all in this together.”

“My people – ”

“Will follow the crook of your finger.” Caleb is now standing on the other side of the Kgosi. “That’s what Dorkas told me, and I see she is right.”

“Am I now to trust the wild animals?”

“They are here.” Caleb points. “One must assume they are trusting us.”

“It seems to me.” Dorkas speaks softly. “Their leap of faith is greater than ours.”

“I will do as the white witch tells me.”

“No.” Dorkas puts a hand on his arm. “You must overcome your human limitations. You must act with the conviction of these other animals. This is not an order for me to give.”

“Talks With Devils wants a lot from me.”

“And I plan to get it.” Her grip becomes so fierce she pulls the Kgosi toward her. “And I plan to get it here, from this second forward.”

Letsolathebe looks around the tight circle of faces. He does not see fear or hesitation, and he regains his confidence.

“You seem ready to walk into Hell.”

“It’s an easy walk.”  Mother Ursula smiles.

“Is it an easy walk back?”

“Jesus did it with alacrity.”

“I am not the God woman’s God.” Letsolathebe wonders at the comment. “To say that puts a great burden on me.”

“Our Lord was also a human being.” The old nun chuckles. “And looked a lot more like you than me. It is as a man we know Him, and through His trials as a man that we more fully understand God.”

“Didn’t He die first, before He entered Hell?”

“There are drawbacks,” admits Mother Ursula.

“I can not tell my people that death is merely a drawback.”

“Perhaps we tell them too much as it is.” Caleb raises his voice, and Shona does likewise. “Perhaps it is time we listen.” He turns a slow arc to address their silent followers. “Listen to the other animals.”

“Listen?” asks Letsolathebe.

“And smell, and use all our senses.” Mother Ursula answers. “To become like them, so we can more truly become ourselves.”

A sigh of intense interest spreads to the furthest reaches of the assembly, then quietly ceases without question or comment. They all stop to listen to the animals. The other animals.

As the sounds of the people become just breath and heartbeat, the other animals keep their silence, and keep to their waiting, but their tension eases. Their erratic pawing of the ground, which had sounded so loud on the rough, hard earth, stops altogether. They no longer search for predators, or flex their legs for immediate flight.

After a long period of time, the other animals begin to move.

They move in unison, with tentative steps of invitation. Each and every person present is startled by the slow and careful approach of one of the other animals. They no longer mingle in a random way – they are choosing partners. The people stand silent and tense, and some shiver when an erratic flip of a tail catches them by surprise.

“Jesus,” whispers Shona.

The other animals sniff their way, hunting for scents which are compatible. They rarely hesitate, although the ones which have their young are more cautious, with many a backward glance. But the young follow their parents without deviation.

The presence of young animals makes the people less cautious. They feel no threat from these small animals – if anything, they have the desire to protect them, and save their future. The people began to regret they have not brought their own children, even though they realize their offspring are far more defenceless than any of these active cubs and kids. Their children can in no way fend for themselves.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Letsolathebe marches forward without another glance, barely noticing that the child’s hand has slipped into his own. They hold onto each other for dear life and expected death, as they race toward the flickering flame held high by Mother Ursula.

“Oh boy.” Caleb sighs.

“Do we follow?” asks Shona.

“Follow?” Dorkas shakes her head. “We join them. We match them. We become one with them.” She looks at Caleb.

“Mother Ursula may be right.” He smiles. “When is the last time we had Satan on the run?”

“Now or never,” says Dorkas. “It’s as easy as death.”

Caleb makes a slight bow to Dorkas, and to Shona, and then speaks loudly so she will translate with the same force.

“It seems to me this is the perfect time for Talks With Devils to have her say face-to-face.”

And as the three begin to race headlong into the darkest part of this darkest night, the thousands of their brethren and the thousands of the other animals are right at their heels.

And that beast.

That beast of time and terror.

That beast attached to life like a nodule of cancer.

That beast as strong as any lust.

That beast spread so deeply across the expanse of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan.

That beast, recognizing in its fetid mouth the taste of defeat, lingers on the periphery of one glowing candle.

“You will never win.” Mother Ursula speaks softly. “In spite of all your victories, we are still able to care for each other.”

And that beast, afrighted by the light, and sacrifice, and the raw power of life, moves elsewhere.

“God woman.” Sekgoma tears across the rough ground and throws his arms around her. “Mother is safe?”

“This is a madness you have brought us I don’t wish to see again,” chides Letsolathebe. But he too puts an arm around the old nun’s shoulders.

“None of us can promise that.” Dorkas is breathless.

“Talks With Devils is always so strict.”

Letsolathebe takes both her hands, and leans forward to kiss her on the forehead. And then he does the same with Caleb.

I am the Kgosi, and I tell you this. Tomorrow night we will dance, and drink, and feast.”

His gaze sweeps over his people and the thousands of the other animals.

“But no roasted flesh.”

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Kafka Dreams Of God from “Kafka In The Castle”

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17 May 1918

Dreamed I met God. Quite unexpectedly. Without any introduction or preparation. Much as it’s supposed to be. In the twinkling of an eye.

I was in an office building much like the Institute. Though I knew it wasn’t the Institute, for I was a visitor. I had business to conduct, yet I wasn’t a petitioner. I was not after benefits, or some other type of assistance. I was not apprehensive, or intimidated by the building, as can often happen in dreams. But I was unsure of where to go, so I wandered from office to office, one floor to the other. Though I do not remember what it was, I obviously had a definite goal, for I knew without asking when I was in the wrong office.

I was confident that my chore could be completed. I walked up flights of stairs, and strolled along corridors. If the doors to offices were closed, I simply entered without announcing myself. Sometimes the offices were empty, save for desks and chairs, the occasional typewriter, the odd telephone.

Sometimes there were people present, usually seated at desks, but they were vague and unknown to me. A brief nod of acknowledgement, and I was on my way. And so it went, without interruption. When one corridor of offices was completed, I would go up a flight of stairs and start the procedure all over. I had no sense of urgency, and no sense of frustration. I was as patient as the Sphinx. I would have (it seems – quite happily) continued in this manner forever.

It was a seemingly endless, time-consuming task, much as is my life at the Institute. The only thing I found strange – though not enough to bother me – was that I did not recognize any of the people. They had the stifled stamp of bureaucrats, but that was all. So it was with total surprise that I opened one door, and found a group of people standing near a window, listening intently to a man in their midst. He was reciting orders, and assigning duties for the day. The others were hurriedly taking notes, all in deep concentration. But the voice abruptly stopped, and the faces turned in my direction.

The man giving orders was of slight build, pale and with thinning hair. His suit was of a fine cut, though somehow dated. His eyes were subdued, yet immediately commanded everything they saw. I knew within an instant that this was God.

“Yes.” The voice was sharp. “What do you want?”

“I’ve been sent to see you.” I realized that it must be true, for this was no place to tell a lie.

“You’re Kafka.”

“Yes. Doktor Kafka.”   I replied again. “Yes,”

I was gratified at such immediate recognition. Then God turned to one of the people surrounding him, his voice impatient.

“Give me the list.”

He hurriedly flipped through the pages handed to him.

“No.” His voice was again abrupt.

“You’re not here. Come back later.”

And I was dismissed.

 

DE

In Port, & Dry Land Ain’t All That Great

It’s Thursday in the Port, and I’m walking in what some folk call the rougher part of the city. This always means “poorer”. Which always seems comparable to what the more genteel folk of a place class as, well, genteel. Go three streets over and one down. You’ll be walking where the genteel live and money talks up a storm. In a genteel way, of course.

But where I’m walking, money only whispers if it says anything at all, and there are bars and used furniture shops and tenement buildings. The cars are old, not vintage. As I walk along the sidewalk a van enters the driveway immediately ahead of me. Stops so its ass is on part of the sidewalk and I have to swerve.

The side doors slide open and out come a dozen or so men and women. Poorly dressed. Unkempt. Quiet if not sullen. They are intent, and follow the gestures of the driver. This way. This way. They are all headed to a tavern on the corner. I follow the group along the sidewalk, although not into the drinking establishment. As I pass I notice the marker-on-cardboard signs in the window. ‘Two Bucks a Drink Thursday’.

I continue up a hill and then down a hill. I’m aiming for the harbour because I like the water, and the boats, and the vistas. This part of the harbour is also genteel, because there is a large hotel and retirement homes along the genteel boardwalk. There are benches upon which to sit. I appreciate all this. I chose a bench and I sit.

I can sit literally for an hour and more. I am no where near my quota when a roughly, though neatly dressed, young man sits on a bench a couple away from me. He stares out to sea in silence for a number of minutes. Then he starts to talk loudly enough for me to hear. I am the only one present.

“Gotta storm coming down the coast.”

“I heard.” And I have.

“Going to be bad.”

“So they say.”

“Not good to go out on that.”

“I bet.”

“I gotta boat waiting for me.” He mentions the name of a fishing village. “Haven’t been out for awhile.”

“I wouldn’t start today.” And I wouldn’t, but I don’t fish.

“It’s a bugger.” He has not once looked at me. “Gotta go back sometime.”

“I’m sure you do.” And I am.

“Lost a man last time.” I’m not sure I hear him correctly. “Messy death. The sea’s like that.”

I feel I should say something, and I’m sure I should have. But what? I am not certain, truth be told, that he is even – really – talking to me. There is no emotion in his voice. He has yet to look at me. At best it’s a monologue and I’m the audience.

He then opens his outer windbreaker and takes a large bottle from an inner pocket. It looks like a bottle that commercial mouthwash is sold in. He screws off the cap and starts to drink. He does not gargle.  He takes a number of drinks in quick succession, and I am convinced it is not mouthwash. But I do not know. He screws the cap back on and puts the bottle back in his pocket. He sits. He sits in silence.

“Sea’s getting rough.” He stands. “Lot of wind.” He starts toward the railing along the boardwalk. “I’ve got the Spring run, but I’m not going out after that.” He leans against the railing. “Time to stop. Yes, it is.”

He stands, looking out over the raising waves for a couple of minutes. Then he walks away.

 

(Jacques Brel’s “Port of Amsterdam” via David Bowie)

Truth As Pointed Out By Kafka from “Kafka In The Castle”

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(Image by Kafka)

I have filled in Kafka’s missing diaries for a two year period in my novel, Kafka In The Castle. So, a hundred years ago he was – in reality – realizing that his escape from Prague, as he stayed with his sister is a small farming community, was nearing its end. He made some trips back to Prague to try to get his leave from his employer extended. I imagine this happened on one of these trips.

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07 May 1918

Max and I to a coffee house. It was not something I really wanted to do, but I have no good reason for wanting to be on my own. He would take offence. Max – although observant of my needs – becomes (it seems to me) more and more full of himself. And – although I don’t tell him this – his life is just not interesting enough to be exposed in every drop and detail. I did not miss these forays into his loves, his family, and his career, as I lived the eight months in Zurau. And, as far as I can tell, little has changed. The names, perhaps. The places of rendezvous. But the bickering simmers, and his wish for flight still bubbles to the top. Flee to the freedom of the Palestine. All this is more difficult for him, because he wants to be as truthful as he can with everyone. I confess my ears pricked up at this, as my interest (or annoyance) was engaged.

Doktor K: Being partially truthful is like being partially pregnant.

Doktor Max: A truth you’ve brought back from the farm?

Doktor K: Truth does cling to the feet – and the smell lingers.

Doktor Max: Which permeating truth do you think I should know?

Doktor K: That you can not possess a truth and it’s opposite.

 

08 May 1918

I have acquired a farmer’s eye for the weather. My predictions for the next day have so far been surprisingly accurate. Much to the amusement of my father. I at last possess some ability which is of worth.

Home: 100 Wild Islands Nova Scotia Canada

Birds on the wing and fish on the fin.

Source: Home

100 Wild Islands Nova Scotia Canada

Birds on the wing and fish on the fin.

Source: Home

Getting Published In New York In The Old Days

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Over The Transom

My friend Google tells me that “over the transom” is still a viable term. In this case it refers to a manuscript accepted by an editor submitted cold – perhaps even from the dreaded slush pile.

At any rate, my manuscript for A LOST TALE was accepted “over the transom”, and I was asked to New York to meet the editor. Although I had experienced and appreciated Montréal, Toronto, London, Berlin and other large cities by that time, I had not been to New York. Many events of that trip are memorable, but none more than my “lunch” with the editor.

The editor took me to a dark and trendy place for a late lunch. There were not many people there and, restaurant fiend though I am, the food was not my top priority. Discussion of “the work” and proposed changes was more on the menu for me.

As I sit across the table from my editor, I can not help but notice a man seated by himself beside the wall. He is tieless and shirtless and, though the lighting is dim, what there is reflects from his naked skin. He sits with a beverage and seems to hum to himself.

My editor is discussing both the menu and some confusion he perceives at the beginning of my novel. I note items on the menu unknown to me and am doubly confused.

The shirtless man at the other table increases the volume of his humming and eventually a waiter goes to him and has words. The shirtless man has words back, but they sound like gibberish. At my table the editor suggests something from the menu and I happily comply. There is wine.

Whilst I eat and listen to suggestions, the shirtless man is spoken to by two other waiters. As I (wisely) restrict myself to a second glass of wine, two uniformed policemen enter the restaurant and approach the shirtless man, whose gibberish had increased even more in volume. In the course of a few minutes three other uniformed police officers – one of them female  – arrive on the scene. They are now ranged around the shirtless man and his table. I finally tell my editor what is happening behind him and why I am not concentrating fully upon his suggestions. He turns around.

Two of the officers remove the table from in front of the shirtless man. Two others, one on each side of him, haul him to his feet. It is then that we see his shirtless state continues all the way to his naked feet. The female officer takes the tablecloth from the table and drapes it around him. The four male officers form a circle around the naked, shrouded man uttering his gibberish, and hustle him from the restaurant. The female officer picks up what appears to be a pile of clothes from beneath the table, and a pair of roller skates, and follows them.

I say to my editor that I have never seen anything like that.

My editor concurs.

Train Station Saved By Becoming House of Booze

 

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I was first at this train station in the late 1950s, to greet my Mother’s mother, who travelled by ship from England.
She first went to Saint John’s, and then (I guess) Halifax. She stayed with us two months or more, with one trip (I bet by train) to Ontario to see a sister (Great Aunt Lizzie, who sent me a toy where you squeezed a rubber ball attached to a hose that pushed air into a small box which made it pop open and a snake coiled out. I called the snake Lizzie, which caused some consternation).

Also, my brother’s first memory of my father was seeing a pair of legs waiting at the bottom of a rail car as he and Mom disembarked. I assume this was also the York St. Station. He would have been three. Dad was away on the continent fighting a war when he was born and, at war’s end, had been shipped directly back to Canada.

And – of course – I lived ten minutes away from this station for thirty-four years. Many and many are the times I walked the tracks to go to UNB, both as a student, and for work at the University Library. Many was the Sunday walk I took from the Station to the Princess Margaret Bridge, which was two kilometres away. Then I walked back beside the river.

I also took a number of train trips to and from this station. And during those times the train finally did not physically come into this station, one took a bus from here, to and fro the Fredericton Junction station.

This  unexpected walk down memory lane is caused by my current character, Alison Alexandra. For the last three days I have been describing Alison Alexandra sitting beside a disused train station (now a museum), waiting for a train to pass so she can wave at the engineer. Which she did.

Here is the link that describes how this station – eventually – was revived from its years of abandonment, and its derelict situation, to become a modern place of commerce.

Shakespeare Born And Dead Day, April 23rd

 

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I bet Shakespeare could look you in the eye and tell you who you are – so well-versed in the ways of people he was. And he could then place you upon the stage, and have an actor have a go at you. With puns and foibles and insights.

Thus do I repeat my Shakespeare (if not Shakespearean) homage.

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The stage is as bare as my lady’s ass in his lordship’s bedchamber. Rough-hewn in the most knockabout way, leaving splinters in the palace lawns of the imagination.

There’s many a dip ‘twixt the trap and the lip.

It fares little better than hastily strewn boards covering parched ground, and barely enough elevation to keep the understanding masses at bay.

Were one fool enough to come from out the wings, and at centre front begin a soliloquy about the beauty of the wretched arena on which he stands, to fight the resulting and justified spontaneous combustion, there would not be found one drop of piss from any a Thespian’s hose.

For who could allow this sacrilege to be spoken?

Even the flag atop the pole knows that the magic is not yet arrived.

A stage without commercial trappings:

without solid doors and thick drapes;

uncluttered by pillars and arches, tables and chairs, windows and fireplaces;

sans orchestra, sans balcony, sans pit.

A stage revealing all its secrets. Profound as emptiness.

A stage in wait.

For in this world writ small – as in the globe around – the audience has nothing to know, nothing to learn, until the actor makes an entrance, and prepares to fight past our eyes to battle with those thoughts and fears which lurk in sheltered halls.

What’s Hecuba to him?

Why – nothing.

Merely a name on a page of script, a cue at which to turn his profile thus.

It is what Hecuba becomes to we who wait,

that turns the key upon the heavy gate.

DE

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