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My MRI Made Me Think Of The Military

Few of the procedures for the MRI were troubling.. I had been told the MRI would take an hour, but I was only in the machine for twenty-five minutes. I guess the rest was the preparation.


I held an IV container in one hand and a panic button in the other. The mattress was really comfortable and the sides were adjusted so I was snug. A broad container containing the ‘film’ was laid on my stomach. I was told (repeatedly) not to open my eyes or wiggle my toes. I had a headset through which I could listen to music or hear verbal instructions. I was offered a number of playlists but took the one recommended – Easy Listening,


I did not find the noise troubling. To me, the sound was more like someone on the outside was throwing rocks at the metal container mixed with rumbles and growls. I know other people find it deafening.


Oh, I also had a prescribed pill (which I requested) for anxiety, which no doubt helped and perhaps kept me drowsy into the day.

But, being literally confined(and with my eyes closed) I found myself actively thinking what to think about., So, I don’t know how spontaneous these two thoughts were.

I started thinking about scenes from one of my NATO espionage novels – the one with Louie the dog. Now, I in no way remembered this verbatim, but the following is a portion of the scene I was remembering.

The Sea King is built for rough weather. It takes some positioning changes but the pilot manages to keep within a constant perimeter. There are also masts and wires and the superstructure itself to avoid. As the BLACK DALE advances through the seas.

A half dozen commandos form a defensive circle under the hovering helicopter. As soon as someone reaches the Sea King, Major LeClerc orders another commando up the ropes. The defensive perimeter is then reduced. There is a compliment of eight NATO personnel, Louie, and the two prisoners beneath the helicopter when CURACA makes his move.

A door at the far end of the Superstructure is blown out. At the same time the door that Bonner bobby trapped is also blown. Though each explosion is barely heard beneath the helicopter, Bonner and LeClerc do hear them. They exchange glances. LeClerc gets half of the commandos still on the deck to aim at the blown door. Bonner, Bess and General Bonner go to their knees, aiming at the doorway they just came through. It is only Louie who starts bounding toward a communications mast in the direction away from the explosions.

“They don’t want to damage the helicopter – they want to escape.” Bonner yells above the noise. “Contain them.

Bess notices Louie. She looks beyond him and sees another door, already open

Booth – to the left!”

CURACA and most of his crew are already out of the Superstructure. They are positioned behind a wall and at the base of the antenna array. They are using only machine guns and are careful about the helicopter.

One of the prisoners starts running toward CURACA while the other prisoner tries to run away. Pickering takes out the fleeing man while no one attempts to shoot the other. He dives and rolls toward the doorway.

“Keep loading the helicopter.” Bonner then yells to the earpiece. “Time check.

“Ten minutes to spare to get far enough away.”

Bonner notes no shooting comes from the exploded doorways. They are diversions. He turns to see Louie making a leap.

LeClerc! Use some RPGs. Hit the wall over their heads.”

Major LeClerc has kept one of the sharpshooters. He points, indicating to keep it high. He is also aware of the dog, who is taking down the shooter closest to them. LeClerc checks the ropes. They are clear. There are six left to go up

The other thought was perhaps more expected. My father told the story of being in a convoy going through Italy after the successful invasion of Sicily in the Second World War. He has at the trigger of a heavy machine gun, in the back of a truck under canvas. He suddenly heard numerous things being thrown at the canvas side of the truck. It kept happening and he thought that the Italians were attacking. He pulled up a side of the canvas, and saw that the folk lining the street were throwing flowers.

The Cat Lady And The Seal

Well, she was dressed like a cat though, I realise as I write the sentence, how really does a cat dress?

Really, the only dress-up cat that comes to mind was a cat called Tuxedo, who was – I assume – so named because of his attire of black and white fur – right down (or up) to his bow tie. And, I remember him because he ran in every civic election for years, and always garnered 500 -700 votes. He lived a few blocks from me and always had his lawn signs out. Yeah, he probably had a human manager – but still.

But I digress.

The cat lady, it is true, had an exceedingly colourful set of clothes, with a frilly shirt and what looked like a square dance dress. I didn’t note if there were dancing shoes. I was down on the harbour, sitting on my favourite bench, looking out to sea. Summer is picking up and there were many, many other folk walking and taking in the view. So, it wasn’t really her garb that meowed “cat”, but the fact the had her face painted up as a cat, with accented eyes and tufts of fur and a set of cat ears. It’s summer, and there are lots of entertainments on the harbour, and it is possible she was part of some CATS revue that was giving entertainment for the masses. (or that could just be me, trying to make sense of it all).

However, she broke the tranquil evening by starting to yell.

“WHAT’S THAT?

“WHAT’S THAT?

“OVER THERE!

“IN THE WATER

“IS IT A SEAL!?!”

She was becoming so excited and agitated that I finally yelled back:

“YES, IT’S A SEAL”

“I’VE NEVER SEEN A SEAL. EVER IN MY WHOLE LIFE. ARE YOU SURE?’

“YES!”

Yes, I was sure. I had already been watching the animal, and it was putting on a good display. Not many seals venture so far into the harbour, and when they do they are usually above the water less than a minute before they dive to come up somewhere else. This seal was swimming tranquilly along, in nearly a straight line, for longer than a minute at a time. Perhaps basking in the sun. Or watching the people, so he would have tall tale to tell to his friends.

“A REAL SEAL?”

“YES.”

“I NEVER SAW ONE BEFORE.”

And with that she walked away, the sight, apparently, not being as earth-shattering as her voice.

When The End Times Fall

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[Illustration by Kafka]

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his lost diaries.  Here, as the learned Doktor of Laws, he has been asked to speak to the citizens of the small village of Zurau, where he is living with his sister. He is talking about the end of the Empire the townsfolk have been living under all their lives. Their Empire, and the civilization they know, is soon to be swept away. Will their lives go with it?

He speaks the truth /he avoids the truth.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

15 January 1918

This war. They wanted my opinions about this endless war. These earnest, honest men, awaiting the words from the Herr Doktor of Prague.

I agreed only to answer questions – that way I could not be accused of fermenting treason. Even in these troubled times, the law allows a man to answer questions. Assuming that the law prevails.

The law was present in the form of the policeman, attending this questionable gathering while still in uniform. He doffed his hat as he shook my hand. I would rather have him in our midst, than lurking in the hall. We have nothing to fear from him.

“Will the empire last?” This was first from their lips. And they must have needed to hear the words, for even the Emperor must know that all is lost. The Old Order, having fallen into the hands of dull and witless men, must succumb. The complacency of the age must be purged – but that has not yet happened. That awaits the next generation – and the destruction will be furious. But I do not tell them this.

I am skillful in what I do not tell them, for the truth is beyond their power to persuade or control. (Their next questions would have been more difficult had I not curbed the truth further still.) “What will happen to Zurau? What will happen to us?” And they have every right to worry. To suspect. When a society crumbles, it is those at the bottom who get crushed. But I told them that Amerika seemed a just power – not bent on retribution.

I did not tell them that a victor can do as he wants.

And I told them that we live in a secondary part of a secondary empire – the powers of destruction will be concentrated on Vienna and Berlin. I did not tell them that during the death of a snake, the spasms of the tail can be lethal.

And I told them something which could really be of help. I told them, in this coming year, to grow more food: fatten more beasts: prepare, preserve and put away. Fill their cellars and barns to bursting with food and fuel. Buy some things now, which they can use for barter later if the currency becomes worthless. Look after their families and lands. Look after each other.

16 January 1918

I did not tell them that war is the end result of injustice and arrogance, and that it is oftentimes necessary. I did not tell them that when the natural balance is upset by human action, the cost of righting it must be made in human payment. I did not tell them that a country where neighbour is cruel to neighbour is a country mean for war.

17 January 1918

I did not tell them how the Jews will always suffer in time of war. How we will be searched out, then driven as far as the east is from the west, and then be persecuted. How there will never be safety for us. Yea, even unto the land of Israel.

Olympics & Death

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo is the proof needed that the Human Race has a strong bent toward suicide. To say nothing of insanity

Colonel Bonner Goes To The North Of Canada – Way North

In The Bonner Resolution, Colonel Bonner of Her Majesty’s Canadian Armed Forces, does a lot of work for NATO. A lot. In this novel he begins in the high Arctic. And then he goes – well – pretty well anywhere NATO dabbles their fingers into the pot of intrigue. And that covers the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sky is clear and cold.

And blue.

This does not help while watching the expanse of ice. Colonel Bonner thought it would. He thought such a clean demarcation of surface and horizon would accentuate anything appearing between the two. Across kilometers of rippled ice that encourages the winds. The winds that make the Arctic cold penetrate his high tech parka and his thermal long johns. They talk about “wind chill” in the country Bonner is used to. They don’t know nothing.

Before this assignment, Colonel Bonner presumed he had been every place NATO could send him. He has been in war zones. He has been in safe zones where people did not know there is a war. He has been in those diplomatic zones that teeter-totter between the two. Those most of all. He has fought enemies both foreign and domestic. He has averted disaster of massive proportions on his own soil (well – legal sea boundary) that has still managed to remain unexplained.

It was cold there, too.

Colonel Bonner is lying under white camouflage blankets and upon a waterproof mat. He has been in this position for two hours. Any longer and he will be prone to hallucinations. Any longer and he will freeze his balls off – regardless of protective clothing and insulated mat. This is not just his opinion; it is the observation of his guide. His Canadian Ranger companion had nudged him on the shoulder and cupped his own groin and pointed at his watch. If he wants to have babies he’ll move his ass. The cold doesn’t creep up on you, it hits with a wallop. From one minute to the next.

Bonner looks at his own watch. Twenty minutes left though he feels he could have been here either four hours or forty minutes. Time expands and contracts at the same time. This happens during long periods of observation, wherever he has such an assignment. It happens with more force when there is virtually nothing to see. The passage of the sun is the most notable action going on before him. It proves to be of little distraction. And anyway, it is dimmed by his snow goggles.

Bonner adapts to this barren reality by accepting it is not really barren. He pays attention not only to the things the Canadian Rangers teach him, but he watches how they interact to the surroundings. With few humans to deal in an environment that can kill them, they are far more attentive to their senses than he. A creaking of ice, or the slant of shifting snow, tells them more than a manual reveals. They can smell a change coming toward them that is hours away. He makes an attempt to follow their lead. He keeps his mouth shut on the inane observations those from the south are prone to make. He has been shown his restraint is appreciated.

Slip Sliding Away – Not The Dock On The Bay

Since it had nothing to do with my childhood, upbringing, or my university days, I have no idea why I am now so enamoured by harbours, ports and the ocean. I’ve lived within a half day of them all my life, yet never yearned – let alone took advantage – to visit.


At the end of my second year of university I flew over the ocean to work on a farm in Germany – a student exchange.  I was near the port of Hamburg, where I both visited and took boat tours. I worked on a farm that was nearly on the banks of the Elbe river, which flowed into the North Sea. Canals on the farmland rose and fell with the tide.


I crossed the English Channel twice (one way in a storm so bad it made the crew sick – as it did to me).


So, perhaps with this sea and port exposure, I became enthralled with harbours and the ocean. I crave fishing villages with their small ports, and have visited many. I currently live in one of the largest harbours in the world.


Over the decades I have visited and lived in Halifax, I have walked the waterfront hundreds of times. I never tire of it.  I have written four novels where harbour and ocean play a significant part – more than just as a setting.


Decades ago, when I was just visiting Halifax, there was an anomaly on the harbour. At the very edge of where the tugboats were berthed, there was narrow slip. It looked as if it was not made on purpose, but was an erratic triangle of water  between a dock and a (at the time) jutting shoreline of rocks. Someone kept their small and narrow sailboat there. There was no signage, and I never knew if it was done legally. I never saw the boat come or go, but I often found the slip empty. This situation lasted for years, and although the sailboat was long gone, the slip itself only disappeared this year through massive changes to the shoreline.


However


At the other end of the harbour shore, where additional major changes are being made (a huge hotel, condos. restaurant, shops), between an established peer and the new construction, there is an anomaly. A narrow triangle of a slip, suitable for one solitary boat – if it is ever used.


Such a slip has now appeared in my current novel.

A Police Officer Called Me “Dear” This Afternoon

I wonder how she knew.

I was walking in this mainly residential neighbourhood to go to the bank, when I came to a line of stopped cars. A long line. Not too much untoward happens on these streets, and I was wondering what was the cause. I came to the treed boulevard that crosses the street. There were the flashing lights of two police cars , and a long tow truck with a broad platform upon which they haul damaged cars.

And there were two damaged cars.

These are generally slow streets and placid streets and it is an anomaly to me that one car dashed out to crash into another. Or that the other could have been putting on the speed.

Regardless, the whole intersection was blocked by two dented and damaged cars, two police cruisers, and one big tow truck winching one of the cars onto its broad platform.

And a female police officer directing traffic.

There seemed to be no sensible route for me to take

I was the only pedestrian and she looked over at me and said:

“Where do you want to go, Dear?”

And I did not mean my response to to be funny, and I’m not certain that she took it as funny, but she gave a hearty laugh when I said that I wanted to go “straight”.

And she kept chuckling as she looked over the scene and said “I guess if you want to go straight you’re going to have to get around this somehow.”

Which seemed true to me, too.

So I watched for cars though none were moving, and took a wide berth around the big tow truck, and jumped a little at the grind and snap of some metal, and went on my way.

When I returned after the bank, the whole scene was empty.

Missed By A Day (slap my wrist) Happy Birthday Franz Kafka

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03 July was Kafka’s birthday.   Imagine all the celebrations running rampant in the world that I missed.   No doubt a hearty rendition of “Hip hip hooray” and the occasional exuberant “Huzzah!”, echo through each major city and every quiet hamlet.  

I have written him a letter (as yet, unanswered).  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Present / Your Future

Still in this World

A Life Away

Dear F:

You would find it perverse to be wished a “Happy” birthday, but your response would be gracious. Such is the reality you understand, and how you deal with it.

I enerally find your reality is actually real.

Although it will give you no pleasure – well, ‘little’ pleasure – you are correct in all your observations.

Governments become the tools of the bureaucracies which run them. It doesn’t matter what type of Government, from the monarchy under which you lived, to the right wing horror of fascists that called themselves socialists, to the inept socialism pretending to be ‘for the people‘. All three governments held their sway over the city where you spent your life. All three oppressed the people they ruled. All three looked after themselves first.

Writers are either writers or they aren’t. The urge to write encircles one like a snake around its prey. Feed it and it won’t quite squeeze you to death. You can not ignore it – even at your peril. It is with you every hour of every day, ever inquisitive and (sadly) always looking for something better.

Love is a see-saw of extremes. Every high guarantees a low. Every low reaches for a high. Every high reaches for a high. When these hills and valleys are eventually levelled, they are still desired.

Sex is highly over rated. The thing of it is, even rated fairly ’tis a consummation devoutly to be had. Yes – I know – you appreciate Shakespeare. On a par with Goethe, even if you can’t quite bring yourself to say the words.

People are just one damned thing after another. Of course, so many people have brought you blessings, you throw up you hands to ward off the snake. And sometimes – some few times – it loosens its grip.

There is no castle with walls thick enough to hide against the perils of being human. Which is why you never tried.

Except the grave, of course.

Except the grave.

Yours,

D

~~~~~~~~~~~

And, in my novel; Kafka In The Castle, I gave him this diary entry.

03 July 1918

The anniversary of my birth.

In celebration of the day, I did not make it my last.

Dominion Day With Frolicking Beavers In Canada

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Canada is – rightfully – taking a beating with the renewed (certainly not *new*) information and revelations of the horrendous treatment done to our First Nation citizens. This is not only historic, but contemporary, Justice can not help but come too late, But Justice must come.

I will re-post this this story that centres around the country I live in. The human is just an observer.

We know that Canada Day is really Dominion Day.

But – that said – there is still no better symbol for Canada than the industrious beaver. But even hard-working beavers hard-working beavers need their time at play. This is what I saw.

I was walking along the river and heard the strangest noise.

It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should. A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river.

First there were small rolling noises, as the branch went through its hands.

Then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’.

And then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.

This went on fifteen minutes or so, until the beaver and I both heard noises in the river.We both saw another beaver approaching.

The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which). They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and sniffed each other. They then swam in different directions.

This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver that had first approached rubbed noses once again, then made the bawling sounds one more time.

I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg). The sun was setting and they became difficult to see.

However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour and one headed to the other shore.

Perhaps they had just had a date. Perhaps they had just arranged for a date. Whatever the case, I had the distinct impression they were more than friends.

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