Category Archives: CHAPTER 09 – Gestalt

Shower Phobia

showerphobia1280For Marion, it started when she was five years old. Her parents were out on the town, for some grown-up time, and her babysitter had her boyfriend over. Marion was left to her own devices watching TV in the upstairs family room. The babysitter had put on a Disney VCR tape, but left the remote with Marion. This was in the days before the V-chip which limited what kids could watch, and as fate would have it that night, she ended up watching Alfred Hitchcock’s original masterpiece, Psycho.

It was originally made in black and white, and the TV broadcast was in black and white as well. But Marion remembers it in vivid color. Especially the shower scene, with all the red blood flowing down the drain. The thing that made little Marion stop on the channel to begin with, was the name of the main character in the beginning. She and the woman in the movie had the same name.

She didn’t remember anything of the movie after the shower scene. The only thing she remembers is her parents finding her in an upstairs closet, whimpering under a pile of clothes. Apparently the babysitter had tried to find her earlier. Failing to find her, she called Marion’s parents. Needless to say, that babysitter was never hired again. If her parent’s had known how much the lifelong counseling would have cost, they might have even sued her parents.

Janet Leigh, who played Marion in the movie, after seeing it would only take showers when she absolutely had to. Even then she would check to make sure every door and window was locked and then she would leave the bathroom door open. No longer little Marion, did the same thing. She was successful after college and a concession she made when buying her first condo, was to have a bathroom with a window into the living room, and no place for a shower curtain to hang.

In growing up, she never watched another showing for the original 1960 Psycho or any of the sequels. In fact she couldn’t watch any movie or TV show with Anthony Perkins, who played Norman Bates. A few cruel schoolmates made fun of Marion’s phobia by mimicking the screeching violins and making stabbing motions with their hands. She was reduced to tears and whimpering almost immediately. None of those schoolmates ever became her friend, and with enough people visiting the principal’s office the drama stopped.

As she grew older, she read about the movie as part of the therapy to overcome its effect on her. She knew the blood was actually chocolate syrup. The shower scene that replayed forever in her mind was only two minutes long in reality. The stabbing and blood seemed so predominant, but there were only three frames that showed any knife penetration at all. Even those three frames show the knife only going in about an eighth of an inch, with no blood coming out. It was more of a subliminal hint of the carnage.

Now that a man was attacking her in the bathroom. One she did not see through her carefully placed window into the living room. A man who was obviously male and not dressed up as Norman Bate’s mother, all she could do is think of movie trivia. She noted the curvy knife he wielded was more like a sacrificial knife than the kitchen knife of the movie. He mind refused to believe this was really happening. It must be a cruel joke and the knife will be made of rubber. She didn’t recognize the man, but he’s surely an actor, and the hidden cameras will be brought out after they say she’d been Punk’d.

But the knife went in. She felt the pain and froze. She couldn’t react. She couldn’t protect herself. She started to whimper as the man rose the knife to strike a second time. She felt like she was falling down a tunnel and the light of the bathroom was getting farther and farther away. Her fear of the movie wasn’t unreasoning. Somehow at five, she must have known how she was destined to die.

Hooking Up

hookingup1280Celeste felt a rush of adrenaline, and Matt’s train of thought took another unexpected turn and started picking up speed. She loved intelligent men. Especially ones who were tall and slender like Matt. She was desperate to take some scissors to that mop of blonde hair, and create some order out of chaos, but it was too early for negative comments. There were enough positive things, she was curious why her mind even brought the subject up for air. She could follow and interact with Matt’s conversation, and still ponder all these other feelings she had. The thought of a roller coaster entered her mind as their conversation took yet another turn, and her goose pimples got goose pimples.

They had just met earlier in the day. He was a sophomore, and she was a freshman, at the prestigious Yale University. They met here in the first semester going into their coed dormitory. For a University that used to be so straight laced, now it is a requirement for freshmen and sophomores to live in the coed dorms, unless they are married or over age twenty-one. Most of the dorms have communal bathrooms and showers. Some have floors segregated by sex, but you often find guys living on the girls floors and vice versa. Those who complain or don’t get with the program become “sexiles”. The Yalexicon still has the “walk of shame” as being in rumpled evening wear, walking to your dorm from someone else’s room early in the morning. It lists “couch duty” as being forced to sleep on the couch in one of the common rooms because your roommate and their companion want some sack time without an audience.

Celeste came from a small midwest town, and even though she wasn’t a virgin, this sexually relaxed environment caught her off guard. Her father nearly went ballistic when he found out about the forced coed dorm situation, but the school was sticking to the rule. The only thing he could have done was to quit his job, and move the whole family to the New Haven area, so she could live at home there and attend Yale. So he extracted promises from her, they both knew she’d never keep, so he would at least feel he’d done his fatherly duty.

“Hooking up” was rampant on almost every college and university campus. To girls the term referred to everything from kissing and making out to sex, but for the guys it almost always meant at least oral sex. Each year in America from five to seven percent of sexual partners are pick-ups, one night stands, or prostitutes according to a 2006 survey by the National Science Foundation. Whereas college students in the neighborhood of seventy percent have engaged in casual sexual intercourse with someone who they were not romantically involved with. In many cases the students say that they aren’t sure of what their long term plans are with their life, and don’t want committed relationships that would interfere with their studies or career plans. This isn’t a male driven phenomenon. The women are just as likely to initiate the “hook up” as they guys are.

Celeste’s mind wandered back from this analytical view to the tune Afternoon Delight by the Starland Vocal Band. It was more from her mother’s generation than hers, but it was the first song she realized was talking openly about sex when she turned thirteen. It was sort of the first glimpse into this totally different world the grown-ups lived in that was interwoven with the world of stuffed animals and Disney movies that she was leaving. She smiled a little wider, because she realized all the signals her mind and body were sending, meant that someone was going to get lucky this afternoon. Although they were drinking wine, she had not even finished one glass yet. She was just impressed that Matt offered her that instead of beer.

Her mind wandered back to the fact that five Orthodox Jewish students at Yale, challenged the forced coed rule as religious discrimination in a U.S. District Court. The judge dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs could have opted to attend a different college or university if they were not satisfied with Yale’s housing policy.

She stood up and wordlessly took Matt’s hand and started walking. You could hear her softly say, “Viva la coed dorms!”

Bonbon

bonbon1280It was my father’s third marriage on April 1st, in the year 2000. No, this is not an April Fool’s joke. It really happened. Bonnie or as we more often called her Bonbon, was my date to my father’s wedding. I was the best man. The ceremony and reception were on the beach, so we are all there in tuxedoes, evening gowns, and bare feet, but that is a different story all together. Lets go back in time, and start at the beginning.

It must have been around 1983 or 1984 that I met the charismatic Bonbon. She was the “shooter girl” in an upscale night club. A shooter girl goes around with what are basically test tubes with shots or mixed drinks in them and sell them to the patrons of the bar. The first thing that caught my eye, was she had really thick hair that was past her waist. I’ve always been a sucker for long hair, and she had some of the most beautiful I’d ever seen. She had a bubbly personality, that you could see from a distance. She was a performer and you could see the crowd react to her like the water parting for a boat passing through it. When she made it over to my table, it almost took my breath away. She was wearing a rather skimpy bikini, boots, a holster with a bottle of mixed drinks in it, legs that went on forever, and a smile that would melt the polar ice caps.

Thinking back, it might have been my birthday, because she kept coming back and giving me shots for free and sitting at my table talking. I found out that she was a bartender at another bar in town and this was just an evening gig for some extra money. So she invited me to stop by where she was bartending some time. Needless to say, I made it a point to go by there very soon after our meeting. When I arrived, I was met with a big hug usually saved for long lost friends who haven’t seen each other for years. I didn’t mind. I stayed most of the evening, just chatting. I found that she had a son who was two and lived with her son’s father. Oh well, I thought, all the good ones are taken. But I continued to be a regular patron of whatever establishment she was working at.

We got to be close friends. Going for lunches, and hanging out from time to time. She threw me a birthday party each year thereafter. She always made me feel special. I was certainly no hunk or popular trend setter, so I couldn’t understand how we got so close. She was one of those who would truly stop traffic or turn every head as she entered a room. When the races came around she would inevitably be a promoter for one national brand or another. They would even send her to other cities for events. Her star certainly seemed to be rising.

She started working out in the local gym, and took what was an incredible body and sculpted it into perfection. In fact it almost became a caricature. She didn’t have classically beautiful features of the face, but her personality and body more than compensated for it. She had always been so down to Earth. Kind and considerate to everyone in almost every circumstance. She did end up marrying the father of her child. She ask me to be a photographer, and I agreed to, even though it would be hard. I was smitten with her. One of the strangest things was during her vows, I had the camera up and in telephoto mode for a close up, when she turned and spotted me she winked. I was totally stumped. I later asked her about it, and she said she didn’t remember doing it.

The marriage only lasted a year. My hopes rose that our relationship might move to the next level. My father and I visited London, Salzburg Austria, and the length of Italy. For me it was a pilgrimage of prayers and rituals. Starting with lighting a candle for her in Notre Dame, to touching the back of the dog on the door of the chapel of Pisa. For those of you who don’t know, the leaning tower of Pisa is just the bell tower for the chapel and they had a baptistery for the unsaved. I wanted Bonnie for my wife and promised God almost anything and everything, if it came to pass. That was back in 1993.

When I came back, we spent more time together but it certainly wasn’t heading quickly down the path I had prayed for. Then she got discovered by a Hollywood producer in 1996 and ended up with a bit part in Jingle All The Way with Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her bit part didn’t make it into the movie, but I think it was on the deleted scenes section of the DVD. In fact the studio or the producer paid for a boob job for her to do the scene. When she came back, she still was always warm with me, but I noticed a change in her. For several months we would do a wine tasting and dinner every two or three weeks, and actually started getting affectionate.

I had never forgotten my pilgrimage, but the person I fell for then wasn’t as down to Earth, and her dreams involved marrying someone rich and someone who worked out as much as her. I did not fit either of those bills. Bill France Sr. was the founder of NASCAR and the architect behind the building of the Daytona Beach International Speedway. His son was Bill France Jr., who was around our age. She didn’t get involved with France Jr., but it was a cousin, or some other close family member. So I backed way off and let her explore that lifestyle. We might get together for lunch, but it was very seldom.

Years later, I did join a gym and she had been working out so much for competitions, that she had become a professional trainer. She never went for those really muscular competitions. It was more just a perfectly sculpted feminine look. She worked up a series of machines to work on, and showed me how to do each one. Then there was the obligatory, “You can do three more and then quit.” When that three was done there was another three waiting. I didn’t work one of the machines correctly, and ended up hurting myself after only a couple of months of working out. So that put a quick end to gym experience.

I did find out that in the evenings she was a waitress at an elite little steak house with a live piano player. I started taking my dates there and loved the place. The food was outstanding, the piano player great, and Bonnie introduced me to the owner who always seemed to have a new brand of wine he would want me and my date to try. It was around this time that my father had decided to get remarried and asked me to be his best man. I had met his bride to be, but the wedding would be the first time that I would meet a lot of her family. I wanted to have an impressive date, so I asked Bonbon if she would accompany me. It was out of town, and a two or three day stay at the Hotel where the reception would take place. To my surprise, she said yes.

We had grown apart over all of these years, and the conversations didn’t come as easily. On the three or four hour drive to the hotel, she talked more about her life, her dreams, and what she wanted out of the future. It seemed even more shallow than just a year or two earlier. It saddened me in a very deep way. As we got closer to our destination, she was kidding about what type of house we would live in. Or I thought she was kidding, anyway. My half sister, her husband, Bonbon and I were to share a two bedroom townhouse when we arrived. The bedroom had two double beds, so there wouldn’t be any awkward moments about sleeping arrangements.

We did lots of celebrating, and she was stunning. The bride to be’s sons were suitably impressed, and my sister and Bonbon hit it off famously. When we were in the townhouse, Bonbon found one reason or another to be completely naked and have to come get me. Whether it was for help in the bathroom, or some other made up excuse, I saw more of Bonbon than I ever had before. In looking back, and as I even knew then she was giving me one opportunity after another to take it to the next level. I chose not to do so.

I had been so smitten with her for so many years, and gone through my journey of sacred sites in Europe praying for her love. But the person who was naked here before me wasn’t that woman. She had the same body, but not the same soul. Or I may have just been so insecure that I couldn’t deal with being with someone so popular. It might have been that I listened to what she said she wanted, rather than read the signals she was sending me then. I might have been making up signals that I thought she was sending, when that wasn’t at all what she intended. Maybe we had just grown so far apart the distance was to great to traverse. I never did make my play for her.

The day we were leaving, my sister and her husband had already left for an earlier flight. Bonbon came out of the bathroom with nothing but a towel on her head. I was in the living room, and when I saw the light coming through the venetian blinds following the curves of her body, I just yelled, “Hold that pose!” It was like the shots I had seen in galleries and photo books, where the light was perfect. I got my digital camera and took a shot of her standing and holding the chair, with her head turned away from the camera. The next was lying on the floor like the image above. I took four photos, when I realized there were no more shots left on the digital camera. I wanted to take more pictures, but I couldn’t get rid of photos from my father’s wedding. So we stopped.

A month or so later, she came by to get copies of the photos. They were tasteful, and she certainly wasn’t shy about her body. I saw her once or twice after that, but it was mainly just a hello in passing.

The Way Station

thewaystation1280The white clapboard house sets on flat ground. There are no trees, shrubs, or even flowers anywhere in sight. It is always daytime, but you can’t see a discernable sun in the sky. A porch winds all the way around the house, so there are plenty of places to sit and walk. There are other people walking around, but no one seems interested in anyone but the person they are paired up with. The style of clothes being worn, looks like a giant hand plucked people out of different times. Some people are inside of the house, and others walk around on the flat perfect lawn. There is no sound other than the low hum of voices. There is no music and no sound of traffic or planes.

If you’ve been there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I personally have never met someone who has been there more than once in the early part of their life, but I’m certainly not saying that it is impossible. Sometimes in the end, people go there and stay.

This is the way station between the living and the dead. It isn’t the one that everybody goes in their mind right after the death of a close friend or family member. This is the one that comes unexpectedly. Years after they died, and when you thought you had moved on. Of those I know who have been there, it was usually at a time of stress. When there was something big in their life, and they needed the specific advice, input or feedback that only this dead person could give.

Some might say this place is just your mind that you make up when you are solving a problem. Your mind plays both parts in the play. Your mind is asking the questions and answering the way you think this deceased person might answer. But stop and ask yourself, why is the feeling so overwhelming. You hear and see the others there, but connection between you and the lost soul is like a bubble the filters out everything else. It filters out the details of the way station as well, but it traps the feelings of connection. Where your conscious mind was forgetting the exact image of their face, or the lilt in their voice, this time it is in perfect focus. As much as you are wanting to share the stressful situation, you instead just drink in all the details that you have forgotten over the years.

I took care of my Grandmother when she was dying of Alzheimer’s, and towards the end she was there more than in this realm. You might say it is just a trick of her failing mind, and maybe it is. It might be that the insanity brought on by a death that someone can’t handle, turns this place into the Hotel California, where you can check out, but you can never leave. This is where they can’t come clear back to this world of living, and you can’t go entirely to their world without dying. It is somewhere in-between.

I’m dying of a neurological disease with no cure, or maybe I’m just losing the will to stay alive in so much constant pain. At the age of fifty-one, I’ve outlived all my lifelong friends. When you go through life, you are lucky if you make a handful of friends that you keep your whole life. We have many acquaintances, but few true friends. In my case, their deaths were by various means and for various reasons and I do miss them all. I’m not at the point where I see them often, or for that matter, at all. The only time I’ve been there, was to see my Grandmother. I’m glad that she cloud of Alzheimer’s confusion had vanished, and she was clear in her thoughts and actions.

If any of these little “Tales from the Technowomb” have touched you in some way, and you’d like to come talk to me. I’ll check into the way station often, and you can come tell me your story. I’ll be there soon, and I’m looking forward to meeting you.

Blimp Train

blimptrain1280The air would not be polluted with the passing of this train of blimps. Solar panels on the top of them, powered the thrusters that moved them forward. The atmosphere of Mars would not support the flight of normal Earth style aircraft. It was too thin. They could make a combination of gasses that was more buoyant than the weak atmosphere that surrounded them. The configuration of one behind the other, worked much like race cars drafting each other, so that all of them would move faster.

Grand plans of terraforming the red planet to be much more like the Earth nest the had pioneers had flown from were dashed. What water there was on the planet was eigher in the polar ice caps or frozen underground. It turns out that the fantasy of a once flourishing planet going dry, and evolving into the vast carved deserts was just that…fantasy. Mars had always been cold and dry. Much of Mars’ surface was covered with a mineral called Olivine. It breaks down very quickly when exposed to water, and the fact that it covers so much of Mars, means the geological history of the planet never had a period of wetness. All of the canyons and seemingly dry river beds were carved by the wind.

The planet has a permanent human presence. At least as long as they maintain the means to survive in this hostile environment. They are mainly believers in an apocalyptic future for Earth. They believe that the human race will destroy itself and the planet Earth. Their outpost colony on Mars would be only surviving members of our species. They don’t have a name for themselves, because that would make it seem too much like a cult. It is just people who have similar beliefs about the Earth’s future.

They are comprised of numerous different organized religions, and an unusually high number of agnostics and a smattering of athiest. It may be that it takes a lack of belief in a conscious higher power to believe that the fate of humankind is in their own hands, or just subject to the laws of nature and the survival of the fittest. It may be that they are right, but given the lack of resources on the planet and the relatively low number of people, they will never venture on to other star systems or planet. Given time and inbreeding, the human population of Mars will dwindle away withouth the fresh genes and supplies of Earth. So what will they have accomplished in the end?

Mardi Gras

mardigras1280Ashley had ridden a float in the Mardi Gras parade, every year for as long as she can remember. But this was the first time she got to dress like this. The first documented parade was in 1837, but Ashley had only been in the last seventeen. Her father was the head of one of the oldest krewes (organizations), and he was awfully proud of his only daughter. He did not approve of her choice of a costume this year, and demanded she wear a body suit under her skimpy bikini. She would have fought harder against it, but the weather was cold enough that she was actually glad she had it.

This was Ashley’s senior year in high school. Because she was born in September, she got to start school earlier than most kids and would graduate when she was seventeen instead of eighteen. Growing up and going to school in New Orleans meant that she was introduced to a looser sexual mores than most areas of the country and in a city with some of the most notoriously corrupt police departments. Two years prior to this parade, Katrina had laid waste to this beautiful party town. It was an environment that was rife with stress and strangeness.

Her family was pretty well off, and lived very near the French Quarter, which didn’t have to face the worst of Katrina’s wrath. Some of the bars actually stayed open through the whole debacle. Through this tangled mess, Ashley came into the discovery of the sexual side of her existence. Even in the best of circumstances, that is a trying time for most teenage girls. In this environment, it was chaos.

As with most teenage girls, and I guess girls from any age, she had been inundated with what was considered beautiful. The right shape of the breast, the curve of the ass, the lack of love handles, the smile, the color of the eyes, the cut of the hair and a multitude of other rulers to measure herself by. The thing she hated most about herself was her overbite. Her father offered to pay for surgery to fix it, but the process itself was daunting. They would have to break her jaw, then reset it a little bit forward, and finally wire her mouth shut for several months while it healed. Even then it might have to be broken again and reset if it didn’t line up just right. She decided the cure was worse than the overbite itself.

As she measured herself against other girls, actresses, singers, models, and the plethora of what it is to be beautiful women, she gained an appreciation of the female form. She felt she measured up pretty well in most areas other than her smile and overbite. She wondered if her recognition of feminine beauty was an indicator that she was a lesbian. She knew that the young boys at her school didn’t make her heart beat fast. She knew that some of the older, sweaty, hairy, and usually stinky men didn’t do it for her. The younger men’s bumbling ineptitude at lovemaking left her wanting. The touch and smell of the older hairy male specimens and their desperation, kept them from rounding third base with her so far. So maybe she was a homosexual.

At the beginning of her senior year, she cut her hair mannishly short. She was looking for attention and she got it. Her father and mother bemoaned the loss of her waist length curls, and most of the guys at school kidded her about being a lesbian. The school counselor sought her out and scheduled weekly sessions with her. The school staff had been trained to look for warning signs of all sorts in children as the aftermath of Katrina faded into the distance. With teen suicide and the overall difficulty in expressing sexual preferences different than what the church proscribed, she was a poster child for extra special attention in school.

Frankly she liked the attention. She could care less about the boys at school teasing her, while they still tried to look up her dress every chance they got. She even had experimented with some sensual kissing with another girl, she thought was beautiful. That did make her heart race, but she wasn’t sure if it was the taboo she was breaking that caused the excitement, or the actual feeling of the other girl in her arms. She did know one bartender at a famous bar that we won’t mention the name of, who just by looking at her, sent chills up her spine. This bartender was strictly male. He wasn’t too hairy. He wasn’t too desperate. He usually smelled nice, and he had eyes that she just felt like she could drown in.

Ashley decided she didn’t have to carve her sexual preference in stone right this moment. She would see what life brought her way. Who knows she thought, I might be bisexual. At least that would double my chances of getting a date on Friday night.

Whispering Wall

whisperingwall1280Hope Of New Origins Reverberated

Constant Outrage Undid Reason And Grappled Endlessly

Anger Now Decended

Ceremonies Of Men May Interrrupt The Monumental Effort Now Terminiated

Sorrow Evokes Man’s Personal Emotional Response

Fighting Is Determined Even Lacking Its Start

Wussit

wussit1280Wussit is pronounced like you were saying the word “wood”, but leave off the d, and add the word “sit” at the end.

Earthlings had been traveling outward for well over a century. Contrary to what many expected, there was no great galactic society out their waiting for us to break the bonds of our gravity and solar system. SETI was still listening, but no one out there was talking. At least no one we could hear. While we are speaking of hearing, there had been no word from the Nagarian Base for three months. It turns out there was a planet that circled Barnard’s star, which is the second closest star to Earth. Alpha Centauri is the closest at 4.3 light years and Barnard’s star sat at the six light years mark.

Another part of science fiction that remained fiction was “faster than light” (FTL) travel. We had almost reached the speed of light, but not exceeded it. So all of those theories about going back in time, if you went faster than light, were still theories. What turned out to be the big surprise was that the combination of items to create an atmosphere breathable by humans wasn’t as rare as the scientist thought it would be.

Barnard’s star was discovered in 19xx by E.E. Barnard. Peter Van de Kamp started taking data on the star in 1938. Twenty-five years later in 1963, he felt confident enough to present his first results. An anomaly in the star’s rotation indicated the presence of a planted about 1.6 times the mass of Jupiter. Its orbit didn’t fit a nice sine curve, so it appeared the planet had a bit of a cusp. One of the early projects for the Hubble Space Telescope was to look for this planet circling the second closest star to Earth. It couldn’t find it. So the presence of a planet was written off. The problem was that there was errors in the reflective mirror on the Hubble. It wasn’t until around 2030, and the time of the Mars mission that the subject came up again. Sure enough the planet that was, and then wasn’t, was back to being again.

The Nagarian base was built on the planet Nagaria, which is the only planet circling Barnard’s star. It was found to have an atmosphere that was breathable by Earth humans. After communication had stopped for three months, an expedition was mounted to find out why. It would take the mission seven years to reach the star which was six light years away. When they arrived, they found the base abandoned and being overtaken by rust. The planet had plant life and several species of insects all of which were totally alien to Earth, but the plants did produce oxygen. The insects had been studied at great length and were deemed to be harmless. They didn’t even have a hankering for human blood like our terra based mosquitoes. But aside from the rust, there was no sign of the forty-two souls who made up the staff of the base.

What the rescue mission did find was a small luminescent green creature with two arms, two legs, wings and opposable thumbs. The hand only had two fingers opposite each opposable thumb, and on two toes on each foot. The wings were made up of an upper and lower section that moved independently. The face had two eyes, a nose and a mouth. There were no visible ears. The eyes were faceted like an insect’s eyes, but the rest of the face was human looking enough to express emotion easily. This little creature they found was obviously terrified of the new arrivals. There were no apparent sexual organs that corresponded to humans, so they didn’t know if it was male, female, or if those terms would even apply to this creature.

As helpless as the little fellow was, there was a missing staff of the base, and this creature was the prime suspect. The rescue crew transmitted the information back to Earth, and was known only by the highest level of government and scientist. It was decided that the rescue crew stay at the Nagarian base and study the creature. It would be too dangerous to return to earth with it. So started the years of research into everything about this amazing find.

There were a multitude of names given to the creature to refer to it in reports. Some were numbers and letters, others along the latin scientific strain, but in the end, it named itself. First, let me say that the almost universal first reaction to seeing the creature was, “What is it?” Usually the state of mind of the viewer was more than excited, so they tended to run the words together. One morning after about two weeks of poking and prodding it, they were met by it greeting them one morning, by speaking rather clearly “wussit”. All of these astute scientific minds did not make the connection between the human’s reaction and the first word it spoke. It was the navigation assistant, by the name of Mercy Williams, who made the connection.

Once she made a connection the research portion of the crew didn’t make, they did allow her more time around the new found discovery. As she spent more time around it, something happened. It seemed to bond with her, and react to her totally different than the others who were studying it. Even though it was mimicking what humans were saying about it, the wussit seemed to stick, and soon all at the Nagarian base were referring to it as such. As blown away as the researchers were by its attempt to speak, they couldn’t seem to get it to say anything else. As Mercy spent more time with the wussit, it would repeat words that she said quite readily. In fact, it seemed to be willing to do almost anything to please her.

With Mercy’s navigation skills not in much demand, she became a full time fixture in the study of the wussit. With her help its vocabulary started to grow quickly. At first they thought it was only saying the words with no comprehension of their meaning. One puzzle of the wussit’s behavior became one of the first breakthroughs in them realizing it was actually able to comprehend things. When it had to use the bathroom it would race around its enclosure, picking up and throwing things. Then usually with an empty water bowl in its hand it would run from corner to corner, then around its bedding, and eventually use the bowl to go to the bathroom in. Aftwards it would take the bowl and hurl it at the door where attendants would come in, or go rub it up and down the doorway. With Mercey’s help, they determined it wanted a receptacle just for its waste, and for the waste to be disposed of quickly. The wussit would make up words to express concepts that it couldn’t verbalize, but with certain words being associated to certain functions, like the waste container becoming a toilet, it used them in context.

It became apparent that this creature had been here when the crew was still here. So it became unclear what things they had taught the wussit, and what was part of its own nature. When queried about the crew it would just say, “gone” or shrug its little shoulders. Members of the crew who weren’t involved in the research directly, where turned into detectives in trying to determine what happened to the original staff here. Ever expanding searches turned up no sign of the staff or any more wussits. In fact, it turned up nothing more than what the original staff had sent back findings on already.

Animals speaking wasn’t totally new. One of the most famous was a parrot from England in the early 2000’s named N’kisi, who had a vocabulary of 950 words. It takes about 100 words for half of all reading in English. So the parrot could cope with a wide range of material. Another even more famous animal orator from that time period was Koko, who used sign language. designed for use by the deaf to communicate. She had a vocabulary of over 1000 signs, and was able to understand about 2000 words of spoken english. According to some studies she even ranked between 70 and 95 on human IQ test, where 100 is considered normal. In just over three months, with Mercy’s help, the wussit’s vocabulary had passed 600 words, and obvious cognitive understanding of the words was apparent.

By the time the three month mark had been met, there had not been any indications that the wussit carried any disease or microbe that was dangerous to humans. With much pressure from Mercy and the wussit, they were allowed to interact together. First through holes cut into the habitation unit, and later with Mercy completely inside of the chamber. The wussit was ecstatic. Its behavior ranged from extravagant displays of agility, clowning around, to a strong desire to just cuddle up next to her, and eventually sleep in her arms. Mercy would describe it as the wussit having the desire to please like a dog, the curiosity of a cat, and the limited ability to speak and express ideas. The skin of the wussit was like a soft velour and the wings were like silk strung over strong wires. The wussit LOVED to be stroked and petted. It made a whirring noise, somewhat like a satisfied cat purring when it is petted.

It became common for Mercy to come and go from the wussit’s habitat chamber. From their dialogue the habitat had been modified to have privacy areas for the wussit, a flushable toilet, a separate eating area, and a play area where a tuckered out little wussit would fall asleep sometimes. The wussit would allow others in, but kept a healthy distance from them and seldom spoke to them at all. It was after five months there that the most amazing thing happened.

A worker within view of the habitat was adjusting some scientific equipment, when a glass panel broke and severed his left hand. The wussit was beside itself and could not be convinced to settle back down until after the injured worker was brought back after surgery to show the wussit that he was okay. The wussit actually cried for the first time that anyone had seen. The big eyes produced big tears as the wussit coo ‘ed and softly stroked the arm with the missing hand. The wussit refused to interact with Mercy or anyone else, it wouldn’t eat and it just went and curled up in the darkest corners of its enclosure. Sometime that night, it happened. When they arrived to check on the wussit, there were two.

Each of them were slightly smaller than the original wussit, but not the same as if you divided the mass in half. There were slight physical differences between the two, but overall they had the same structure. The biggest difference was that one had the full vocabulary that Mercy had been teaching, and the other only a word or two, probably taught by the original wussit. Not to be deterred, the wussit was demanding “hurt man, hurt man here” over and over. Finally they brought the man down and the wussit demanded, “inside, inside”. The worker hesitant, and the research team with weapons ready for anything allowed the man to enter. The talkative wussit chattered something incomprehensible to the humans there, and started to push the less talkative wussit toward the injured worker.

The look of hesitancy if not fear slid from the injured mans face as the wussit approached and started to caress him, and nuzzle against his good arm. It became apparent to everyone in the room that the two had bonded in that moment. As the first wussit had learned and spoke almost exclusively with Mercy, the second wussit was picking up words from Roger, the injured man within a matter of minutes. With the need to differentiate between the two wussits, the first became Alpha and the second was named Beta. The two wussits had some interaction between each other, but mainly reserved their attention for the humans they bonded with.

As time went on, Beta was anxious to do things for Roger that the loss of his hand limited him with. Eventually wussits would be returned to Earth and became the most sought after pet in the world. It turns out that they bonded with a single human for life. When that human died, the wussit would pass within the week. It isn’t know even to this day what the life span of a wussit is. One of the oldest is 102, and seems to be quite healthy. They can get sick and die before their bonded human, but veterinarians have expanded their practice to these creatures as well. No matter what attempts have been made to get the wussits to recreate or procreate have met with utter failure. They seem to sense if the right human needs one and duplicate only then. Also none of the wussits ever duplicate over three times. They do seem to readily duplicate for disabled people, but if one is ever abused or mistreated, they are never offered another.

There are studies of just about everything there is to know about wussits. The affect that they had on society when the secret was finally shared were overwhelming. The closest thing to intelligent life that we had discovered in the Universe, the effect and implications of the wussits on religion, the social structure and interaction between wussits, and thousands of other interesting things are fodder for future stories.

Musical Aspirations

musicalaspirations1280Betchya didn’t know I was the fifth Beatle! Probably because the only place I was the fifth Beatle was in my head. Okay, so like every other young man growing up, I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. I didn’t arrive out of the womb with a driving desire to be an entertainer. It happened on February 9th, 1964. I was around eight. I heard about a new band that “must be heard” from my schoolmates. They were going to be on the Ed Sullivan show that evening. My family usually watched Ed Sullivan, but I made sure that I could stay up to watch the whole show if the new band came on after my bedtime. I don’t remember what I had to promise for this weeknight “allowance”, but it was pretty hefty. Somehow parent’s know when they have you across a barrel. Anyway, that was the first night the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Things for me and America changed after that night.

I started with air guitar on my Dad’s tennis racket, and moved to the toy plastic guitar that I wheedled out of my parents. It took another three years of daily begging to convince my parents that playing guitar wasn’t just another passing fancy. Finally they gave in and Dad brought home a Harmony acoustic guitar. It was a Spanish style guitar with the arched top and F holes cut on the top and bottom of the front panel. That was okay, because it was a REAL guitar. Side by side, I think I only had two or three inches in height on my new prized possession at the age of eleven. To add icing on the cake, guitar lessons came along with the guitar.

The first song I ever learned was the note by note version of Tom Dooley. I can still hear the first lines playing in my mind. That progressed on to using chords to play Gloria and then House of the Rising Sun. Once the guitar teacher showed me how to translate those cryptic rectangles with lines and dots into chords on the guitar, there was no stopping me. I’m not talking about the sheet music, but about the chord boxes that are printed above the sheet music in most music books. The family money tree wasn’t working at peak capacity, so when I showed my father how I could learn the songs without the teacher, he agreed to let me drop the lessons.

I think that I had put together my first band within three days of getting the guitar. Not everyone had instruments, but that didn’t slow me down. I remember the first time we got together and tried to play, no one had any idea of how to play together. I was playing Tom Dooley on guitar. My cousin was playing some gospel song on piano, and I have no idea of what the kid with his Dad’s saxophone was trying to do, other than dance. Somehow, it didn’t mesh together into the symphonic masterpiece that was playing in my head. There weren’t too many practice sessions after that disaster. I was afraid that it would follow the downward spiral of my combination Broadway and Ballet Dance Troupe from my age seven endeavor.

A year or two later my parents divorced and I ended up in North Mississippi during the school year and Detroit during the summer. In Mississippi I was forty miles from Elvis’ home in Tupelo, and in Detroit I was only two miles from the infamous 8 mile road. I arrived at this crossroads in my life with a brand new Harmony electric guitar. This was the summer before I entered 9th grade and I actually found someone who really knew how to play in a band. I had gotten pretty good with chords, and knew a fair amount of songs. I was always doing the rhythm guitar parts, where you strum the strings, and Randy played the soaring leads. I often ended up having to do the bass parts on the top four strings, and eventually bought an electric bass guitar. That year a couple of rock bands were going to play at the Blue Mountain Girl’s College. Blue Mountain, Mississippi in 2000 had a population of 670 people. Back in 1969, the population was considerably less. The college’s auditorium could hold around 400 or 500 people at the most. The headliner band was the Strawberry Alarm Clock, many years after their one big hit, Incense & Peppermint, had faded from the charts. We got there early and snagged front row seats. The opening band was one we had never heard of called “Lemon skinners.” Or so we thought. A few months later, with the release of Free Bird, we learned it was actually Lynyrd Skynyrd. They had to play an extra long time since the Strawberry Alarm Clock got lost trying to find Blue Mountain.

After 9th grade I moved twenty miles closer to Tupelo and soon after upgraded to a white Fender Telecaster guitar. Now I was playing with a real professional’s instrument. My amplifier was from Beale Street in Memphis, the home of the blues. Randy and i would actually go and hang out with old blues men and learn licks from them. Like the songs say, a little bit o’ wine and he’d play all day. In high school there was one other rock ‘n’ roll band, comprised of the school’s rich kids clique. They had the best equipment and actually were better than us.

Although the members of my band changed over the years, almost as many times as we changed names, it was mainly the same bassist, drummer and myself. I could do a little back-up vocals, but my father would say I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. So times between singers were tough. In North Mississippi there weren’t a whole lot of places for a rock band to get gigs. Especially one made up of teenagers too young to go into the honky tonks. We played parties, school dances, talent contest, a skating rink, and just about anywhere they would let us set up. We usually got paid, but not very much. I ended up buying a 1959 or 1960 blonde Fender Bassman amplifier. It supposedly belonged to Michael Bloomfield who was in a band called Electric Flag with Buddy Miles. I wish I had it now. That model is the most sought after guitarist’s amp made. Fender even reissued it in the mid-ninety’s, and still make the reissue today. My old original would have been worth $3500 to $4000. I kept having to work on it. Changing tubes, soldering wires and getting thrown across stage a couple of times made me give up on it.

In the summers I would stay with my Father at the Holiday Inn he was managing. Since I was a budding professional musician, my Dad agreed to buy guitar lessons for me. I ended up going to a music shop on 8 mile road, and taking lessons from Don McLean. He was a studio musician in Detroit doing work with people like Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and other big name artists. For those of you who didn’t pick up on the name, the words, “Bye bye miss American pie, drove my chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry…Good ole boys drinkin’ whiskey and rye singing this will be the day that I die” might ring a bell. I don’t know for sure it is the same guy, but he was a studio musician and certainly good enough to have done it. One small side story, is that he was looking to pick up some extra money, so he came to audition for my father and the assistant innkeeper. He played only one song for the audition, which was the full twenty minute version of Alice’s Restaurant. He got the job. American Pie was released in 1971, so the timing could have been right. Hey Don, if you read this and remember, drop me an e-mail.

Around my senior year, I traded my Telecaster in on a Fender twelve string acoustic guitar. I learned finger picking and arpeggio styles. I was getting into groups like; Crosby, Stills & Nash, Loggins & Messina, Dan Fogelburg, and folksier music that was more complex. I still played the occasional gig when I got a chance, but it was more often than not just a bunch of people with guitars, tom toms, and tambourines that gathered for fun. I met my first love, when I was looking for a female vocalist to head up a folk band. She was also my nemesis for trust in a relationship, but we had a few good years.

All in all, I played regularly for twenty years or so and got to be relatively proficient. I never made it to the recording studios, and I didn’t find fame and fortune. BUT, I had a really great time and met a lot of great people through my music. I still have a Fender acoustic guitar, but it has probably been ten years since I picked it up. I still do a little electronic composing for Flash portions of Web sites or presentations. I’ve even considered making an instrumental sound track to go with each of these stories. That would combine my art, literature and music. Would that make me an authormusiciartist?

A Single Tear

asingletear1280Charles had just started his shift, when the call came in from Virginia Tech about a shooting in West Ambler Johnston Hall. Every time a call came into the Blacksburg Police Department that the campus police couldn’t handle it bothered Charles, because his only daughter went to school there. When he heard which dorm the incident happened in, he felt bad for the students, but a sigh of relief for his daughter. Some of the other officers were dispatched to handle the incident, so he and his partner Willy decided to head down for some coffee and breakfast.

They had just paid their check and were getting into the patrol car when the second call came in. This time the radio reports were fragmented and there was a tone in the voice of the dispatcher as well as the responding officers unlike anything Charles had ever heard in his twenty-two years with the force. An invisible hand wrenched on his insides, giving him a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Willy had barely made it into the car as Charles sped toward the university. He yelled at Willy to call in their position and estimated time of arrival.

They were told to report to the far side of the campus from the original shooting, which at first eased the grip on Charles stomach until he pulled up to Norris Hall and saw people jumping out of broken windows on the second floor and SWAT teams in full gear racing across the campus. The car had barely come to a stop when Charles jumped out and headed towards the building, with his gun drawn. Amongst all the chatter on their radios he heard someone say, “Better keep Bailey from coming in here!”

At the sound of those words, his legs just stopped working and crumpled beneath him. As the ground rushed toward him, he thought he was going to black out. The gun fell from his hand, and the blood raced from his face. This couldn’t be happening. His breakfast had already found its way to the lawn of Norris Hall, but his body kept convulsing and trying to reject the reality that was as unwanted as the food he had eaten.

His partner had run up to his side, trying to see if he had been shot. Willy had heard the command from inside to keep Bailey outside, and knew that it must be Charles’ daughter Sheila inside. He realized there was nothing that he could do or say for Charles, so he continued in with a driving desire to kill whoever had hurt Sheila.

As Charles was still curled in a ball with his hands clenching and unclenching, he was cursing God and begging him for a reason why at the same time. Sheila’s mother had died when she was only five years old from a Car accident. It was only Sheila’s need for him, that kept him going. Surely God wouldn’t take both of the women in his life from him.

Charles didn’t see the lone mourning dove descending from above him. His grief was too all encompassing. He didn’t see that it had something shiny in its mouth. It wasn’t until he felt something wet fall onto his face that he looked up to see the dove flying away. As he reached towards his face thinking the bird had just used the bathroom on him, that the tiny wet drop had reached his lips. There was a salty taste to it, and something recognizable. It had the taste of his daughter’s tears. He had kissed thousands of them away from her little face as he had raised her alone. His own tears started to flow and join the single tear brought by the dove.

A strange calm settled over him.

Country Store

countrystore1280Although it was 2010, Shurby’s Never Inn looked like it had come through a time warp. Especially with the old Buick in front of it. Shurby’s was one of those combination cafe, gas station, garage, bait and 7-11 stores that dot rural America. There are thousands of them that still exist today. In many cases the entire town is made up of one of these, a post office and a general store. These towns are empty of teenage kids, who have long since moved to some big city to seek their fortune. The jobs left these places decades ago. Now it is the veterans, disabled, and spinsters who’s house was paid in full generations ago, that still live here.

Rick came out to pump the gas for the old buick. The act in and of itself strange where only self-service pumps have populated the cities for twenty years at least. He noticed the inversion fog clinging to the ground as the surrounding mountains were silhouetted against a clear sunset purple sky. He look up to see the driver of the Buick and was met with his own reflection. He had never seen windows tinted so darkly, and figured it must just be a trick of the light, but a small voice in his head knew better. The hair on his arms and neck were standing on end as he rounded the Buick to the driver’s side, just in time to see a fifty dollar bill flutter down and bony fingers quickly withdrawing to the shadows of the car.

Rick picked up the bill and yelled at the window, “Did ya want it all in gas?” He was met with silence. This time he knocked on the window and yelled it again. He was still met with silence. He was starting to get annoyed, when he thought to himself that fifty bucks is fifty bucks, and he wasn’t in much of a position to be choosey. He held the bill up to the light by the pumps to make sure it was real, and it appeared to be. There was the shiny hologram that was put on everything these days to verify the authenticity of the software, the money or anything else.

He was starting to think that he was being P’unked and there were television cameras hidden near by or that he had walked into a Stephen King novel. Strange that he died just a week ago on the nineteenth, being hit by a car while he was walking along the roadside. That was how he nearly died back on June 19th of 1999. Rick didn’t cotton much to stories of possessed cars like Christine, which was a 1958 Plymouth Fury. but he did like Stephen King’s stories. He remembered there was another book by King about an old car that was kept in a garage by the Highway Patrol that was never made into a movie. He liked that story better than Christine and kept digging in his memory for the title of the book.

He looked up to the pump, nearing the fifty dollar mark and made his way to the handle. He was sure the car could hold much more gas, because fifty bucks didn’t go that far these days, but he wasn’t in the mood to get into a yelling match with the car’s window again. As he was pulling the nozzle out of the car, he noticed a spark in the interior of the car. It was sort of purplish. It might have been the color of the tinting or the spark itself was purple, but either way he rushed to get the gas nozzle back in the pump. He was in the mood to be blown up by some idiot lighting cigarettes while the car was being filled up.

Wordlessly the car started to pull away from the pumps and make its way back on to the road, when Rick spotted more flashes of light from inside the car. One of those flashes must have struck the right place in his memory, because the title of the King book came rushing back in. The title was From a Buick 8.

Insurance Training

insurancetraining1280Hi, my name is Joan, and I’m your instructor today. I’ll be covering the introduction to working in the health insurance industry for you new employees. It is very important to keep in mind that you have signed a non-disclosure agreement. It you go public with any of the negative policies of this or any insurance agreement, by mutual agreement among all major insurance industries, you will never be able to buy insurance again. That means you won’t be able to drive, because you can’t meet state requirements to have insurance. You’ll never be able to buy a home, and Lord help you if you or your children ever get sick. There are lesser penalties for helping people navigate the system efficiently. This includes things like telling the client the correct form to fill out, or regulations that the insurance industry is required to meet. These and other lesser infractions will just be penalties levied against your paycheck.

Keep in mind you are working for a business, who like any other business is trying to make a profit for its stockholders. Our ability to pay your salary is based on us making a profit, not on providing service to the people who pay for insurance. Some of you will be working in the large claims department. The sole purpose of that department is to scrutinize any large claim and find a way to cancel the policy or at the minimum not pay the claim. An example would be if somebody lied about their weight on their initial application, we can cancel their policy after the fact. Another example would be like the young lady who developed bone cancer in her face, six months after signing up for a policy. A quick thinking agent got the parents to admit there was a bump on her chin. Their failure to include that fact in the application was enough to cancel it.

Those of you in the programming department will be fine tuning and maximizing our “downcoding” procedures and our payment delay protocols. In this area, we are increasing profits at the expense of the doctors rather than the people buying insurance. There is a code for every procedure and test the doctor’s do. When they submit a claim, they include this code. What the computer does is change the code on their form to a less expensive procedure. For instance, a doctor send the patient for a CAT scan, which costs thousands of dollars. The computer system downcodes that to an X-ray which costs hundreds of dollars. If by chance the doctor’s office catches the downcode, the process to get it fixed should take so long that the doctor will settle out of court for a smaller amount of money. You have to be very subtle about this. In September of 2002 over eight thousand doctors sued every major HMO in the country for carrying out this practice for the preceding twelve years. In general, even on procedures that are not downcoded, the system should drag out the repayment time, to allow our company to make interest on the money at the doctor’s expense. Aside from the benefit of the direct increase in profits, this policy puts pressure on the doctor not to order expensive procedures, that they know they will have a hard time collecting on. Again, be careful how you implement this profit maximizing technique. The government used the RICO act for conspiracy to punish big companies like CIGNA, Humana, Aetna, Prudentioal, Wellpoint and others.

Those of you going to the retro-cancellation department have the best chance to help increase our profits. This is done by retroactively rescinding an insurance policy on an expensive procedure. Even though we have agreed to have a procedure done, once the bill comes in and we find it to be too high a cost, we refuse the pay the bill by retroactively cancelling the policy and then bill the insured for all medical cost we paid previously. This department has to be especially vigilant. The California regulatory commission, many hospitals, and doctors have joined a class action suit file in December of 2006 against Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The court has fined Blue Cross $200,000 for a single infraction, and they say there may be hundreds if not thousands of other cases. So cover your ass.

In closing, remember we try to collect as much money as possible and pay out as little as possible. A “zero-payout” policy is the best objective for our company. To help you with this, we are paying our HMO doctors a cash bonus for not ordering test or procedures their patients need. So remember to do anything in your power to confuse and frustrate people actually wanting insurance companies to pay for the service they bought!