Category Archives: CHAPTER 07 – Ominous

The Bridge

thebridge1280The relationship between fathers and sons, change over time. Sometimes they grow closer, sometimes the opposite. This is a story of the second type.  They started as most fathers and sons do. At birth the pride of the father is such that he eclipses the sun. He now has a male child who will not only carry his name forward through time, but his destiny as well. So many sons have grown up wanting to emulate their fathers and strive endlessly for their approval.

But how many times have we seen the father and son become adversaries, satisfied with nothing less than the death of the other. How does this disconnect come to pass? It is certainly not some current fad or result of the changing times, for it has plagued mankind since the beginning of time. The tales go so far back they have become legends. They pervade every culture since the time of cavemen.  Maybe even them.

Some say it the disappointment when a son chooses a path of his own, rather than following his father’s path that is the cause of dissension. Others say it is when the father becomes human in his son’s eyes and is not infallible, that disappointment seeds the relationship. Some would argue that it is the impatience of youth to gain the wealth and position of their fathers, who take it by force instead that poisons the well. There are some who would claim it is the alienation of attention and approval that drives some sons to rise up against their fathers. Still more say it is a father protecting his son, who stifles rather than nurtures his growth. There are many cases to support each of these, but this excerpt is about the last.

He was not a king, a sorcerer, or a god, but his actions shaped the world around him. The mountains behind him had the worn and weathered look of the ages wearing away their pointed peaks. Although you could not see it from a distance, the waters that flowed down the gentle slopes gave life to a multitude of animal and plant life. The mountains of his son were sharp and forbidding like his son’s tongue. Both were ready to slice away at your flesh for the least misstep.

His son had almost been kidnapped by the father’s enemies. So to make sure it never happened again, he built his son a castle out in the lake connected to land only by a bridge to his castle. The concept was that his enemies could not reach his son without fighting their way through him and crossing the bridge to his son. To further protect his son, he had the bridge made in such a way, that with a single movement of a lever, his son could destroy the bridge with his enemies on it.

For many years as the boy grew, he would go to his father’s castle and other times his father would visit him in his castle. But as the boy grew he wanted to explore the world on the other side of his father’s castle. His father fearing for his safety, said he would bring back from the area beyond the castle anything he wished. So the son wished for a friend to keep him company. His father searched his lands for the most caring and honest person he could find and brought him back to be his son’s friend. They grew up together and had grand times. The friend would tell of love and the beautiful girls of the village. So now that the son had grown to be a young man, he told his father that he wanted a wife to keep him company and bear him children. His father had all the women of the land come to his castle so his son could choose a wife. His son chose a beautiful and intelligent woman to be his wife and live with him.

The wife loved the richness of living as a princess, but grew tired of the son’s friend always being around, so she convinced the son to send him away. She told him that once he was gone they would have enough time alone to make a family. The son liked practicing to make a family, so he sent his friend away. Sure enough, as his wife promised a child soon graced their family. The father got so much joy from his son’s son, that he thought life could get no better.

The third wish of his son, was that he and his family could go forth into the world to find their own destiny. The father wailed at the thought of his son facing the dangers of the world and taking the joy of his grandson away from him, so he denied his son’s request. The son stopped coming to the father’s castle and stopped letting his father visit his grandson in his castle, in the hope it would convince his father to change his mind.

Almost every night the father and son would meet halfway across the bridge and argue so loudly that none could sleep. This went on for a fortnight. The following night the father crossed the bridge half way and waited for his son, who never showed up. The son saw his father alone on the bridge and considered destroying it, so he could be rid of him. But he loved his father, and if the bridge was gone, he still could not go free into the world.

The next night when his father crossed the bridge halfway, he was surprised to see his son’s wife and his grandson waiting for him there. They told him that they had an important message from the son, but they could only tell him in his castle. So the three of them turned and made their way to the father’s castle on the bank of the lake. Just as they entered the castle, a roar came from behind them. The son had pulled the lever and destroyed the bridge.

The father was beside himself because he knew that without a way to get food to his son, he would starve. He demanded to know what message the son had sent. The wife said that his son’s wish was that he let her and his grandson go free beyond the castle. The father angry at his son’s folly, and still not wanting to loose his grandson refused. Days went by and the father tried sending boats and birds with food for his son, but all were refused and pushed away. Before long the son was gaunt and had used up the last of his water. The father was sure he would give up this foolishness now, but the son did not. In his last act of life, he threw himself from the tallest window of his castle, so his father could see his gaunt body die.

The father was racked with grief and self loathing. He thought surely his son would give in before letting himself starve to death. The wife came to the father with his grandson and said, now I will tell you the second message from your son. The father confused, looked up and bade her to continue.

She simply said, “Do not do to my son, what you have done to me.” The wife and his grandson turned and walked out the door. He did not stop them.

All Volunteer

allvolunteer1280Welcome to America’s all volunteer Army. Well, it used to be that way. Even though it wasn’t made up mostly of American citizens. It became a fast track for illegal aliens to gain citizenship for themselves and their immediate families. But even then, there is only so far you can beat a mule and still get it to move forward.

In 2007 with the war in Afganistan and Iraq dragging on and the casualties rising as the American public who believe we should still be there falls. The recruitment numbers started to fall, and those who were serving were being forced into longer deployments and stiff penalties for not re-enlisting. They are even denying non-commissioned officers retirement if they leave or even saying you can’t leave at all under “stop-loss” conditions. The saying started to become, “The only way out of the all volunteer services, is in a body bag.” Where there was once a requirement for a high school diploma or equivalent, there is none now. They have extended the age limit for how old someone cam be to enlist to forty as well as the age someone can be and still serve. They are even taking people with criminal records and mental problems.

When the American president and Rumsfield weren’t just throwing away the lives of our sons and daughters for no visible reason, the all-volunteer forces were the finest troops this nation had ever fielded on many levels. To make things even worse, the vetrans who returned alive were subjected to sub-standard medical treament. That is no way to treat the fine women and men who have answered the call to serve our country.

You may not be old enough to remember, but this isn’t the first all-volunteer force. After World War One, the United States went to an all volunteer military. When World War II started, so did conscription. Also the use of the reserves and national guard were as they were designed to be. They were the first pool of already trained personnel. It wasn’t until the Vietnam that the reserves and the guards became a place to go to avoid active duty. Now the swing has gone so far the other way, that the reserves are fighting far beyond the scope of what they were designed for.

When a government goes from being a defensive force to taking unilateral actions around the world, you go from needing a volunteer armed forces to a standing army.

The Mosquito

themosquito1280

There is an old Vietnamese legend, who the author’s name is long lost in time. The story has been told with minor variations through the generations, and though I’m not Vietnamese, now I shall tell my version.

There was a small rural community, whose name really doesn’t matter there was a man of meager means, but with an impeccable reputation for honesty. His name was Ngoc Tam. In the center of the community was a shop for seeds, and farming tools. The owner of the store had two daughters, and Ngoc Tam fell in love with the older one, which was proper. The eldest daughter must be married before a younger daughter can take a husband. Her name was Nhan Diep.

She had seen the catalogs from the companies who sold her father tools, and the images of far away places that made her imagination spin wildly. Ngoc Tam told her father that although he was not a rich man, he gave his word that Nhan Diep would never need for food, shelther or love. Nhan’s father knew of Ngoc’s honesty and agreed to the wedding.

Nhan’s younger sister was in love and pleaded with her to take Ngoc as a husband so she could marry the man she loved. Nhan agreed to marry Ngoc, not so much for her sister, but because she so desperately wanted to go anywhere other than the village she grew up in and had spent her whole life in. So a simple ceremony took place and Nhan became Ngoc’s wife. They moved out to his small but simple farm.

Ngoc worked even harder than he used to, so that he could raise their station in life. He planted mullberry trees and worked the rice paddies, while his wife took care of the house and raised silk worms. Ngoc assumed Nhan was happy in her wifely duties, because she hid her desires for travel and riches from her husband who truly loved her.

One day Nhan Diep was taken by death unexpectedly. Ngoc Tam was so overtaken by sorrow that he would not leave her side and would not let them bury her. He sold everything he had and got a sampan. On the boat he put her coffin an sailed away. He knew not where he was going, or for how long he had been sailing, when he came upon an island with a fragrant green hill that perfumed the countryside. When Ngoc went ashore he found flowers and fruits of every imaginable type. Among all these plants and shrubs, he found a man with a long white beard and hair that matched. The old man’s eyes sparkled with knowledge and understanding.

Ngoc Tam had heard of a mystical being who traveled the heavens and earth on his island, and taught his science to the men of the Earth to alleviate their ills. Realizing that this must be the mystical being, Ngoc fell to his knees and bowed before the old man. The man spoke to him, saying, “I have learned of your virtues Ngoc Tam, and I have landed my island in your path that you might join my disciples and learn.”

Ngoc was honored, but so far in grief he could not imagine any life without Nhan Diep by his side. He thanked the old man again and again, but begged that if any art could bring his love back to life, that was what he desired. The mystical being looked at poor Ngoc with both kindness and pity and asked, “Why do you cling to this world of bitterness and gall? The rare joys of this short life are only a snare. You are foolish to entrust your destiny and happiness to a weak and inconstant being such as woman. I shall grant your wish, but I fear that you will regret it.”

Then the old man ordered him to open Nhan Diep’s coffin and he cut the tip of Ngoc’s finger and let three drops of blood fall on her lifeless body. She opened her eyes, and as one rising from a deep sleep rose slowly gaining her senses as she rose. As she became fully alert, the old man said, “Do not forget your obligations woman, or your husband’s devotion. May you both be happy.” Upon finishing the sentence, both the old man and the island vanished into a mist.

Ngoc Tam was overjoyed and anxious to return home, he rowed day and night. He had to stop at a port for provisions to keep his promise that Nhan should never want for food, and while he was gone a large ship came alongside the tiny sampan. The rich merchant on the ship was taken with Nhan Diep’s beauty and invited her aboard his fine ship. As soon as she had boarded, he gave the order to cast off, and sailed away with Nhan on board.

Ngoc sailed from port to port searching for her, but with no luck until a month later. When he finally caught up with her, she answered his questions without the least hesitation. She had grown accustomed to the finery and riches of the merchant and had no desire to go with Ngoc Tam. For the first time Ngoc saw Nhan Diep’s true nature. He felt ill as all of his love for her vanished, and he no longer desired her. He said, “I will set you free, but first you must return to me the three drops of blood that I gave to bring you back to life. I want to have no part of me in you any more.”

Glad to be free of Ngoc so cheaply, Nhan Diep cut the tip of her finger. As soon as three drops of blood had fallen, she fell to the ground dead.

Somehow instead of leaving this plane forever, she became a small insect. She was forever trying to steal three drops of blood that would return her to the human form. She tried one person and then another, but no one loved her, so an insect she remained. It became known as the mosquito, who will keep searching for blood until the end of time. Unfortunately for us, her race has multiplied many times over, but still only female mosquitoes bite.

Pregnant Amy

pregnantamy1280

It was 4:30 in the morning and still dark outside. Jason and I had just had another go round in the bedroom. As he rolled over to go back to sleep, I got up to fix a cup of coffee. I grabbed his dirty, wrinkled shirt from the floor and put it on as I tip-toed out of the bedroom. His shirts were my favorite clothing. Where sweat from other guys I had know smelled horrible, Jason’s scent was intoxicating. I felt like I was glowing from the inside out, and wondered if all the people who tell pregnant women they glow are just trying to say something nice or if she really did glow visibly.

It wasn’t that she didn’t have a strong sex drive, but there was something about being pregnant that made her want to have sex all the time. Just thinking about holding Jason made a tingle go through her body and she smiled even wider. At this moment, she felt everything is right with the world. This is what happiness truly was. She didn’t fear for the future, because she knew without a doubt that Jason and her would work through it. She made a quick promise to herself not to become one of those mother’s who are so wrapped up in the children that they neglect their husbands. She couldn’t conceive of neglecting Jason, but she promised herself not to anyway.

Right out of left field came the thought “A lemon.” She wanted a nice fresh lemon. It seems each woman has “her thing” to eat when she was pregnant, and for her it was lemons. Not only did she suck every last drop of juice out of one, then she’d eat the peel. She had never wanted to eat a lemon peel in her life, but now it seemed the most natural thing in the world. She didn’t know how she had survived so long without them. They say that a woman’s body knows what it needs and there must be something in lemon peels she was way low on. She made a mental note to Google what vitamins and such there are in lemon peels.

She was distracted from her inner soliloquy, by the sound of Jason moving around in bed. A big grin crossed her face as she put down her coffee cup and scampered off to bed.

Starting Over

startingover1280

As Jessie walked along the beach in Sonoma with Julie in tow, she pondered her situation. Julie just looked up at her mother sensing something was wrong and this wasn’t a time to bother her.

Jessie’s thoughts tumbled over each other like clowns at a circus, and following a single thread of thought still seemed impossible. It had only been three days ago, that she took Julie and told her husband of six years she was going to the grocery store. The packed no bags, they took no toys, and they started driving straight for California. She prayed her husband, Harry would not find them here. It was the one state she had refused to visit because of earthquakes. Right now an earthquake seemed a lesser adversary than Harry.

She wanted a divorce, but the last discussion of one put her in the emergency room with two broken ribs and a sprained wrist. It was another of her “clumsy” moments, where she “fell” and bruised herself. Or so the excuses always went. Divorce had been in America since 1620 and the Puritans, but it wasn’t an option for her. She wondered how long the cheap blonde dye would last in her hair. In the middle east, your ideal mate is a first cousin. What on Earth made her choose Harry.

Harry wasn’t an alchoholic. Harry wasn’t a drug addict. Harry was just plain mean. He liked to hurt things. Most of all he like to hurt me. I’d left him before, but always kept going back. Somehow he convinced me it was my fault, and he’d never hit me again, no matter what I did. I felt lost without him, because he took care of everything. I’d left my family when I was only seventeen to marry him, and I frankly didn’t know my way around life.

It was when I saw him starting to play his control games with Julie, that I realized I had to make a break for it. He had never hit her, but his punishements were becoming more twisted and absurd, when she was bad. No matter what I had put up with myself, I couldn’t let my daughter pay that price as well.

It was right at that moment I heard a panicked, “MOM!”, and felt a small hand pulling me back. I looked up to see a car barreling down the road right at me. I had been so lost in thought, I just walked out into the road. Suddenly I realized the car was of the same make and color as Harry’s car. My heart started to pound out of my chest as I grabbed Julie and ran to some rocks near by. I fell behind them with Julie still cradled in my arms. Thank God the sand was soft, and even though there were tears, I could tell she wasn’t hurt. I peeked out from our hiding place to see the car go by with three young guys in it.

The car hadn’t been Harry’s. My panic was for nothing. I had almost hurt my daughter by running from a perceived threat. Is this what my new life was going to be?

Battle Tent

battletent1280

They say that the winners always write history, thus say I that history shall be written by me. History shall know me as Michael the Brave, but I was raised the bastard son of a Wallachian prince with nothing to my name. Now I stand in this battle tent readying my army to fight the Ottoman Empire. My giant companion and bodyguard, Rakkaban nods as if he understands my plan, but I know that his mind is not his greatest asset. I have never seen another like him in battle. He could take on five of the greatest warriors from any land, and single-handedly slay them all. I thank the gods for his oath of fealty to me, for he could destroy me if he chose as well.

Even if my army rules the day, I must retreat to Transylvania. My troops are too few and too tired to chase the Ottomans into the core of their stronghold. But win the day I must, for it will free Wallachia from the rule of the Ottomans. Then to control Moldavia and bring the three Romanian territories under a single ruler for the first time. I am not the politician, I am the warrior. Let another rule these lands, but it is my destiny to unite them.

Not since the times of a century ago led by Vlad Tepes, when the Ottomans decorated many a spike, shall their blood flow. As they call him a monster, let my name be one too. The line of princes of Wallachia shall in the name of Christianity, water the lands of our forefathers with Islamic blood.

Epilogue: Michael the Brave did win the day, but had to retreat to Transylvania as he predicted. Instead of being labeled a monster as Vlad Tepes who had became known as Dracula, the Order of Michael the Brave became the highest military decoration of Romainia. It was instituted by King Ferdinand in the early 1900s.

Tiny Dancer

tinydancer1280

The classical music from the boombox reverberated off of the brick walls of the alley, giving the audio effect of a large concert hall. Minnie, with her eyes closed spun and leaped to the sounds of the orchestra. She didn’t know the piece or the composer, but it didn’t matter. She was both the director and choreographer for this performance. Her two close friends sat in the front row of the auditorium, so they could get a better view of the technical perfection of her movements.

When the dee-jay of the classical station would have to play a commercial, she would simply hold the last pose she was in. For her, time had stopped. It would continue when the first strains of the next composer’s work started. As a young girl, she had two years of training in ballet. The rest she taught herself. Minnie knew, if the newspapers were to review her, that all would be amazed at what she had learned on her own, from watching ballet on her small black & white television.

Each day’s perfomance started with the same ritual. She would meticulously clean the alley, first by picking up any trash the drunks may have deposited the night before. Then she would sweep it and finally mop it. Her stage could have no dangers that might disrupt her dance. It was probably the cleanest section of alley in all of Atlanta. Next came the make-up and wardrobe, where she worked to get into character. She anxiously anticipated the five minute curtain call. The alarm clock on her vanity went off, signalling her to hurry with the last of her preparations.

One would think that Minnie would be a very slender woman, with such a rigorous daily regimen, but the only food available cheaply to the poor are pastas and starchy foods. Macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, corned beef hash, and the out of date cookies she got to bring home from her job as a cashier at Dollar General, clung to her frame like a drowning man to a life raft. It didn’t really matter to her. Her family, comprised of two cats didn’t seem to mind at all. Her social life consisted of saying hello to the other residents of the tenament as she came and went.

The next song started pour from the speakers of the ghetto blaster, as the announcer introduced a live recording of, Dance of the Sugar Plum Faries recorded by London Symphony Orchestra. Minnie took her starting position in the wings, and leaped to center stage as the music started. She threw every ounce of energy into this performance, feeling the gravity pulling at her muscles as she pirouetted. As the music softened, and the crowd started to clap on the radio, Minnie bowed deeply and exited from the stage. Her soul was buoyed by the applause from the audience.

Dark Place

darkplace1280

Desiree’s father didn’t understand why she didn’t wear make-up or dresses, or even attempt to look feminine, and she could care less. If he wanted her to be a girly girl, he should have sent her to some private school, where that kind of thing is popular. Desiree went to public school, and it was a lot like life. There were a lot of assholes and a few nice people. The teachers were like bosses. Most of them arrogant know-it-alls that really knew nothing.

She pondered taking another cookie, and before she could decide, her mind was racing off in another direction. Desiree decided that even if she did attend a private school, she probably wouldn’t be a girly girl with the make-up and dresses. There was a dark place in her soul. People with dark places in their soul don’t shine in public. The darkness draws them to the shadows.

Desiree flipped back to her thoughts about school and how it was survival of the fittest. That is way camouflage pants were appropriate. Skull and crossbones were a universal sign of poison, so it was her way of saying hands off, don’t mess with me or you might die. Her father always accused her of trying to be “Black” to fit in, which was stupid. She was just aware of what life was on the streets. She saw it in the lives of her friends, and the deaths of a few of them.

She knew that one in ten teenagers think about committing suicide, and every year half a million actually attempt it. She knew that nine other teenagers were safe. She didn’t bring her friends around, because she lived in a nice, upper middle class home with her Dad. Most of her friends lived in slums and tenements. She felt guilty for having a better place in life than them. It wasn’t fair. But they didn’t know the price she paid for that upper middle class life.

Her mother had run off when she was just three years old, and Desiree could hardly remember her. She never made any attempts to see her daughter or send cards on holidays. She never even wrote one letter in the thirteen years she’d been gone. Desiree wondered if she was even alive. If she wasn’t, then that would be an allowable excuse for not ever writing. Nothing else would be forgivable.

Her father was a successful investment counselor, and that was why they could live this way in a single income family. But it seemed he was married to his business, now that her mother was gone. When calls came in, she was shushed and shoved out of the room to the nanny. She never felt she was more important to her Dad than those phone calls from strangers. Now that he had a steady girlfriend, she just felt like baggage from her father’s previous life. He tried to make her feel important, and bought her nice things, but he didn’t giver her time or self confidence. She was even ashamed to wear the nice things he bought because they would be stolen from her at school or she would be made fun of for wearing them. It was a lose – lose proposition. Her life was a lose – lose proposition.

Desiree was a smart girl. She did well in school, but not well enough to attract attention. That was by design. She knew her father had a gun, and that was the most common form of suicide. It accounted for 60% of all suicides in the United States, and 80% of the suicides by white males. The second most common method is by hanging for men, and drug overdose or poisoning for women. The idea of a gun or hanging didn’t really appeal to her, and though taking enough drugs to just drift off to sleep and never wake up sounded good too many failed to do it right. They just ended up in the hospital and therapy for the rest of their lives.

Jumping from a tall building had a strange appeal to her. It offered several advantages. Almost nobody ever survived if they chose a tall enough building. You also had a few seconds before you died to tidy up your affairs with God. If suicide is a sin, but you ask for forgiveness in the few seconds after you jump, wouldn’t that wipe out the sin? It made sense in a strange way.

The Babysitter

thebabysitter1280

This was Wendy’s favorite part of the job. As Mr. Wheaton got in the car and the interior light sliced through the darkness, Wendy turned and gave him her sweetest smile and said, “Thank you for driving me home.” Mr. Wheaton, who’s first name is really Walt, told her that he was glad to do it. She wanted to call him Walt, but was afraid to. She leaned forward and pulled her shoulders together a little so her smock would have a gap that showed the pink bra she was wearing. She glanced up innocently to see if he would look, but he didn’t. She sighed quietly and sunk back into the bucket seat of the minivan.

She had fantasies about Walt. Even though he was in his early thirties and she had just turned fifteen, she liked the thought of a man holding her. She had been out with boys at school. She had even let one boy get to second base, but he just seemed like a fumbling set of hands that kept saying he was sorry. She told him it was okay, but it didn’t make her feel anything at all.

When she read her Harlequin Romance books the authors described feelings that washed over the women like the ocean on the shore. They described kisses that made women weak in the knees. They described a lot of things that Wendy had never experienced, and she felt like she was missing out on the best parts of being a woman. Wendy had seen all those movies and television shows where the man of the house drives the babysitter home, and then makes a pass at her. She wondered if Walt would ever make a pass at her? Wendy knew that she was pretty, but that didn’t mean a man as old as Mr. Wheaton would look at her in that way.

Wendy knew what sex was, but was still a virgin. She didn’t really want to have sex with Walt, but she thought a long kiss where he held her tight would be nice. Wendy didn’t feel that one kiss would make her a home-wrecker, which she didn’t really want to be. Anna was Walt’s wife, and she was the one who always paid her. Wendy wondered if Anna thought that Walt might give her a little extra as a tip, and she wanted to keep control of the purse strings. It wasn’t that Wendy felt she wasn’t paid enough, she just wondered what Walt would do. Their two sons weren’t that much trouble, so she didn’t mind when they called.

As Wendy was looking out the van window into the darkness, she realized that she hadn’t spoken a word to Mr Wheatly since he got into the car. She was so deep into her fantasy and thoughts, she figured he must think she was brain dead. As she turned to say something, he did the same and his hand brushed across hers. As they both started to talk at the same time and then stopped at the same time, then they broke into laughter. Wendy’s hand was still tingling from the short moment Walt’s had had brushed hers. It seemed so rough and covered with coarse hair, but she didn’t mind.

Talk Show

talkshow1280

Talk Show Host: Welcome to our late night show! As you know, we invite each of the American Idol contestants who are cut to appear on our show. Since you got cut last night, we are glad you accepted our invitation.

Guest on Show: Well, thank you for having me. I’m a big fan of your show.

Host: Oh, so you’ve heard of our show before coming here? [audience laughs]

Guest: I watch it when my parents let me. It is on so late, and I’m only sixteen. I have to have all my homework done. My parents call your show low brow humor, but I still like it. [audience laughs]

Host: Hey, I’m supposed to be the one doing the comedy here! So what is like to be only sixteen and make it to the final six contestants on American Idol?

Guest: If you make the final three contestants you are guaranteed a really sweet recording deal. I’m going to have to wait and see what I’m offered. I’m thinking about doing a nude spread for Playboy to increase my exposure and probably get a better deal.

Host: Unless Hef is getting into the child porn business, you are going to have to wait a couple of years before that publicity stunt. Aren’t you worried about what your parents will think? Or your high school classmates that are watching the show?

Guest: What they think doesn’t matter. It is like that movie that came out a while back with Hugh Grant called American Dreamz. More people watch American Idol than the number of people who vote for the president. I got near the top of that popularity machine. Heck, with averages of 33 million viewers, I was in front of more people than all the Baptists in the United States, which is the second largest religious group. The Catholics are the largest.

Host: Don’t you think it is more the music talent that is being judged, not just the popularity?

Guest: You have to have some talent, but you can tell by the people they cut that it is more on looks, personality, and who Paula, Randy and Simon think will make for good television. They put some ugly people in the final twelve just to give nerds hope, but the finalist will always be pretty like me. Hell, some of the best singers technically didn’t even make the top twenty-four to be on the show, and what about that girl who got so mad at the Memphis auditions? She sang in front of some producers, but they pieced together the film to make it look like she was auditioning for Simon, Paula and Randy. It is all about television, not talent.

Host: Wow! Is this just a cynical attitude or is it the inside scoop on the biggest television phenomenom of the decade?

Guest: What’s cynical?

Host: There you have it folks. The next president of the United States. A Playboy bunny who is more popular than Jesus, and doesn’t know what cynical is. [ audience laughs]

Right Stuff

rightstuff1280On January 15th, 2004 President Bush set forth a mission to revisit the moon and to have a manned mission to Mars with a target date of ten years. How he intended to accomplish this while draining the coffers of America with his war in Iraq was not explained. Originally the plan was to have a manned enclave on the moon to test new technology for the Mars mission, but an announcement by China and Russia to launch a mars mission, changed the priorities of America. If it was going to be a matter of one government on Earth claiming Mars and its resources for their country, it wasn’t going to be Russia and China. Even the Pentagon was strongly behind this race.

Facing the reality of reaching the objective to put people on Mars, it became very apparent that getting them back to Earth and still launching before the Russians was going to be impossible. Suicide missions by American’s have never been popular, and as far as the American people knew, there was always some chance of the people coming back. The Pentagon offered soldiers who were willing to die for their country, but statistical models showed that wouldn’t fly with the public. A NASA engineer going on short term disability came up with the idea that proved to be the solution.

The odds against the astronauts being able to make a return trip were 87.359% to be exact. The panacea for the American public was the decision to have space capsule become a housing facility for future missions. The first astronauts would set up greenhouses to produce oxygen and food, and wait for the next mission to come and save them. The odds against that happening in reality were higher than the odds for a return trip, but those numbers never made it outside of secret conference rooms.

There was a mulititude of handicapped and disabled Americans who were going to die anyway, and wanted to do something to make their life count before dying. When the call went out to the “differently abled” Americans, the response was overwhelming. Also the reaction to their willingness to undertake such a dangerous mission, was unexpectedly embraced by the rest of Americans. The profile that was sought was a man or woman who was single or widowed, who had no children, who was disabled, but still capable of one or more specific funtions, and who was slightly narcissistic. The last one wasn’t published, but they wanted people with an excessively high opinion of themself, who were more likely to push the envelope to be a hero than the average person.

Another side benefit was the diffusion of the sex problem. Flight time to Mars was six months, plus whatever time the astronauts managed to stay alive on Mars. Although NASA’s policy had been don’t ask, they knew of several members of the 200 mile high club. Even though many disabled people don’t have sexual function problems, many do. The choice was made that any chosen must have a sexual dysfunction, and have had it for a while. The last thing they needed was for a child to be born on a mission with little chance of survival.

The profile of the disabled couldn’t be of someone who’s death was imminent, and might not last the training and the trip. It had to be some lingering death, that the participant would be glad to avoid that way of dying. All were given cyanide pills. As usual, when called upon, the Americans found a way, and won the race to Mars. It also changed the perception of the handicapped and disabled that were back on earth to the status of potential heros.

Alferd Packer

alferdpacker1280He was actually born Alfred Packer on November 21, 1842, but a somewhat illiterate tatoo artist mispelled his name while he was a scout for General Custer. He found the mistake amusing, and often took that spelling as the official one. Due to his epilepsy, he missed Custer’s famous last stand. For five fellow travellers, that oversight of fate led to a grisly end. A portion of a ballad goes as follows:

In the Colorado Rockies
Where the snow is deep and cold
And a man afoot can starve to death
Unless he’s brave and bold

Oh Alfred Packer
You’ll surely go to hell
While all the others starved to death
You dined a bit too well

—from The Ballad of Alfred Packer

Maybe he was an early influence for the fictional Hannibal Lecter or a more evil version of the Donner party, who’s famous misfortune happened when Alfred was but four years of age. It is also possible that he is just an unfortunate soul, who had to do the unthinkable to survive, but his path of lies threw doubt upon his innocence.

When Alfred was 31, he went into the mountains near Montrose in the Northwestern part of Colorado with 20 other prospectors, hoping to strike it rich. By January of 1873, they had reached Chief Ouray’s Ute camp and were urged to stay until spring thawed the dangerous passes they would need to cross. Five foolhardy souls decided they couldn’t wait, and would try to reach their destination in the harsh winter. Alfred claimed to be a guide and offered to lead them to the prospecting site. Alfred wasn’t a guide for this area, because he didn’t know it, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to be the first to arrive.

Two months later, Packer walked into the Los Piños Indian Agency on April 16th. Although he claimed to have gone without food for more than a day, he only asked for whiskey. He mentioned hurting his leg and his fellow prospectors going on ahead of him. He expected them to already have arrived here. That was the first of his lies. An indian scout found strips of meat along the trail that Packer had arrived by, that turned out to be human flesh. They also found the wallets of his unlucky prospecting companions.

Under pressure, Alfred Packer confessed to eating his companions, but the story of the exact events changed drastically between upcoming legal battles. He dodged the hangman’s noose in the first trial in 1883, because at the time of the incident in 1874, Colorado was a territory and not a state. Thus there were no murder statutes on the books. In 1896 he had his second trial and was convicted of voluntary manslaugher and sentenced to forty years, which was eight years for each of the five men. After serving sixteen years, with the aid of the Denver Post he made an application for parole, based on his deteriorating health. The govenor denied it, but later in 1901, with only a short time to live, he did receive parole but not pardon.

In 1907, he died of a stroke. The place where the bones of the five men he ate were found, became known as “Dead Man’s Gulch.”