… Long Live the King

I nudged the lever with the outside of my wrist to to turn the water on in the upstairs bathroom. I was careful of the cheap tile counter top. Lord knows how tough it is to get any kind of dirt stains out of the grout, worse with blood, I was guessing. A whirring sounded in the pipes from the ground floor and, before I could trace its path, it was drowned out by the spurt of water, a projectile from the pressure and sheer gravity, shooting from the ridiculous, tall faucet, down into the drain with no stopper. The sink basin in this room reminded me of the camp sinks out at Bunyan Park, as deep as it was round with just enough room to rest a severed head. That startling thought made me wince.  “Where the hell did that come from,” I wondered; I hadn’t severed anyone’s head.

With my elbow, I slowly pushed the lever down to lighten the stream; I needed to avoid a splatter affect on the mirror when I washed my hands. The mirror. Shivers rippled from my core as I caught sight of the naked woman staring up at me.  Were the eyes questioning or accusing? “It couldn’t be helped,” I heard the whisper, and for a moment thought it had come from the woman, standing now, her mottled hands carefully dangling over the opposite basin ledge, away from the water.

I had buried that little girl – the one that believed she’d fight fire-breathing dragons some day … with swords of truth. Silly little girl thought she’d be president. She was dead, as dead as all my victims, and buried along with them on federal land. It was land that was likely to be bargained out of its sanctified landmark status and placed in the hands of the corporate dirt-bags that own this country.  Dirt-bags that would drill for oil and gas in the years to come. Sooner or later someone would dig there, and when they did, my secret would be discovered. That was actually my plan. Not really a plan, per se, since it all happened reflexively. More like an after-the-fact resolution.

Several had died earlier that night: the feisty little girl, a beautiful park ranger, Stephen King … As my mind raced through the tick marks of things that remained for the doing, I stopped just long enough to ask myself whose blood this was on my hands. I couldn’t remember. Did I even know?

The liquid soap foamed out a lather that smelled sickly sweet, like honey.  It mingled in my nostrils with the iron tang of the blood that seemed permanent there; I nearly blew chunks. Committed to the sink, I couldn’t spin around to the tub and get the solid bar soap now. “Evidence,” I repeated over and over again in my head, swallowing the lump in my throat. I massaged the soap into aged hands, frowning at how much they reminded me of my mother’s hands.  Had they been this weathered before?  Would I ever have noticed if not for this terrible night?  Pink rivers swirled around the drain and disappeared.

I scrubbed underneath and around my cuticles with a manicure brush I kept by the faucet; I wondered if the bristles would melt like the rest of the plastic when I tossed this in the burn barrel where the rest of my clothes were likely ash by now. Dark lines framed my nail beds. I couldn’t tell anymore if it was the blood or the dirt. I flicked the water drops, now clean, from my hands several times into the sink and swung around to the tub. A hot shower would ease my nerves and the steam would help rid the lingering scenes from my air passages. scratching the shampoo into my hair and scalp might complete the work on my fingers too. I replaced the towel on the rod with an old beach towel from the linen closet. That would burn too once I was finished.

Stepping into that shower was like entering a deep, restful sleep. I felt almost instantly relieved, as if it was all over. I let go and let myself forget for awhile. “At least until the hot water runs out,” I thought. As hot hit cold on the ceramic at my feet, steam billowed up around me and I drifted back to a time before – when the little girl lived, I was in love, and King was my hero.

Advertisements

Writer’s Day in the Life …

Writer – Bless me Father for I have sinned.  It’s been 26 days since I last wrote.

Priest – Have you read anything, my child?

Writer – Yes Father.  About eight books since then.

Priest – Hmm.  That’s not many.  That’s about how many I’d expect if you had been writing.

Writer – _____

Priest – Tell me what you’ve read.

Writer – I read two Stephen Kings, one of them a short story collection, the other a car thing—

Priest – Oh dear – not Christine, I hope.

Writer – No Father, much worse.  The newer one.  From a Buick 8.

Priest – Okay then.  We can actually count that one twice since it takes a real effort to keep reading it.

Writer – Thank you Father.  I also read another short story collection called Dangerous Women.

Priest – Have you gotten into the erotica reading?  What is this book?

Writer – No Father.  It’s a collection of almost “noir” stories with the character type in them.

Priest – Very literary then.  That sounds good.

Writer – Unfortunately it’s also full of mysogeny.

Priest – I’ve heard this word.  How is it defined?

Writer – It’s when there’s dislike or contempt, usually because of an assumed prejudice of women.  Lots of objectification—

Priest – I see.  So this book involved … a great deal of sex?

Writer – No.  But there was a heavy leaning on the assumption women exist for man’s sexual gratification.

Priest – ______

Writer – Anyway, I also read another Asimov “Foundation” novel, and three indie published books.

Priest – Let’s get back to the, how did you pronounce it? “MY – SOJ – IN- EE?”  Explain it so I understand.

Writer – It’s a big topic, Father.  What would you like to know?

Priest – Well, the last part about sex; it’s my duty to remind you it sounds scripturally sound, dear.

Writer – Wait – you mean about man’s gratification?

Priest – Yes.  Paul writes—

Writer – I know what Paul writes, Father.  But it goes both ways about suffering a spouse.

Priest – Have you had marital problems, my child?

Writer – No.  I’m just saying, there’s a more enlightened understanding about “suffering a husband.”

Priest – I see.

Writer – Besides, mysogeny is more than just viewing women as sex objects.  It involves seeing them as—

Priest – Careful dear – remember the Lord created woman as a “help mate” for Adam.

Writer – Help is not a footstool.

Priest – Footstools can help reach books on higher shelves.  Yes.  And don’t forget the Marys – at Jesus feet.

Writer – I know the stations of the cross Father.

Priest – Would you look at the time.  Tell me about these “indie” novels you read.

Writer – One was a horrible fantasy story set in Irish folklore that obviously mirrored Harry Potter.

Priest – Sounds delightful, you must share your copy with me.

Writer – The other two were great – a spy thriller and a great speculative fiction called Chimpanzee.

Priest –  Uh, the premise of Chimpanzee?

Writer – A futuristic society where you have to get your brain wiped of your education if you can’t pay your student loans.

Priest – I see.

Writer – This guy’s wife has a job but he doesn’t so he has to serve on the conservation corps and get his multiple degrees wiped while his wife supports them and they buy a new house.

Priest – Oh dear.  I’m not sure that’s appropriate.

Writer – Appropriate for what?

Priest – It’s just that, well it appears you are struggling with your writing because of these confusing ideas you’ve encountered.  I can only imagine the toll this is taking on your marriage, child.  You should consider this before choosing your next book.

Writer – ___

Priest – Child?

Writer – You know, I’ve also been reading a lot of Moses lately.  I’m thinking about changing my pen name to Terzah.

Priest – Who?

Writer – Excuse me Father, I feel a story coming on.

Priest – But your penance, dear.  I haven’t blessed you yet.

Writer – I’m a grown woman, Father.  Not a “dear.”  I need to go.  I think if I wait around to be blessed by you I could die a very old and disappointed lady.  Gotta’ go write.

What I’m Reading and Why, v3

Writers have to read.  It’s not a chore.   Chef’s taste food; athletes watch footage of other athletes; cars get waxed.

The Story of Ireland: A History of the Irish People

by Neil Hegarty

A project I’m working on requires that I become a connoisseur of Irish history and society.  As someone who has always loved the lore and mystical nature of the average stories of Ireland that are tossed around somewhat casually, I am beginning to be in true awe of how for granted the world (and especially the United States) seems to have taken this island of people.

I had always had this idea that Celtic culture and religion had begun there.  In reality the island served as the perfect geographical location to collect all of the good aspects of historic European culture and (mostly) repel all of the negative aspects.  Who can resist the story of how cattle barons got rich and thus became Irish nobility off the backs of traders supplying the Roman army with their tons of leather?  Suffice to say that Vikings and Normans, while certainly ancient invaders, also became settlers and, along with the trend, melding with Irish-ness and further shaping the culture.  Talk about a melting pot!

I’m further enjoying the overlap this book has to the BBC produced, 5 segment special on Irish history hosted by the author.  I can read more of the book and then watch the segment covering those bits on YouTube and viola! it stays in there.

I’m careful about relying on one source for my information.  While this book and the corresponding documentary collection are very comprehensive and informative, I will also seek other sources for my information.  Bottom line here is – if you are Irish American, or even if you are not, there is much to be loved about an island nation that formed from our best qualities as humans and actually SAVED civilization as we know it through it’s academia and careful recording of history while the rest of Europe was burning heretics and killing knowledge.

 

Foundation

by Isaac Asimov

I’m a science fiction fan.  Bradbury and Asimov are not foreign to me.  So how did I miss this?  I came across an estate sale recently where the deceased was obviously more of a sci-fi fan than I.  There were complete series of Orson Scott Card, and alas, all the series of Asimov.  The Robots were all there.  I bought them all.  Even the set of Fantastic Voyage books made an appearance.  I bought them too.  Now, I was aware of the Foundation trilogy, but for whatever reason, had never cracked it open.  What I didn’t realize was that he was enticed to write three additional books in the series later in his life.  So I got to work trying to figure out what order the books were in to make sure I didn’t miss getting one of the pieces.  This is where the trouble started.

foundation bookThere were actually one book to each story present but for the price of 50 cents per paperback, I could get the one book that housed the initial trilogy all-in-one for just that.  Duh.  Except … the cover of this one (unlike the cover graphic I have snagged for this article) listed the trilogy contrary to the order I understood from the other books.  It listed them as:  Foundation, Second Foundation, and Foundation and Empire.  As you can see from the graphic to the right, the actual order is different.  Without internet to research my treasure trove, I scratched my head and made my purchase.

I couldn’t wait and started reading Foundation as soon as I got in the truck.  Thanks my lovely driver!  It wasn’t until I got home and researched that I discovered that he wrote the three follow up books out of order and was floored, once again, by his skill and capacity.  I gave the idea of reading them in actual chronological order a very brief consideration, but decided to stick to the order they were written.

Aside from the sheer enjoyment, I’m reading Foundation because I want to study one of the great masters of world building, to learn how he imagined and threaded together contrived history married with cutting edge science truthes into the magic of science fiction where, indeed, the reader becomes so enmeshed that they could easily live there themselves.

 

 

What I’m Reading and Why, v2

Writers have to read.  It’s not a chore.   Chef’s taste food; athletes watch footage of other athletes; cars get waxed.

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

It occurs to me as a writer with a full time job that short stories may be the way to start.  I was fearful after I read a preface by Stephen King in one of his short story collections (“Until Sunset” I think).  He said short stories are a totally different creature than books and left me with the impression that it would be hard to break out of one mold (that of a short story writer) to become another (author of a novel).  So I delayed, dabbled, delayed some more.  Then I started reading this book.

I didn’t realize it was a collection of short stories when I started.  It may be possible that the stories will overlap somehow as I read more.  I’m less than half way through this book and so thrilled at the way it allows the author to flex more than one writing muscle.  The first story tells of a pair of girls who live in swamp lands and have been left alone for a time.  I could state its storyline follows that of the children of Alligator wrestlers but that wouldn’t even cover it.  Besides, you’d miss out on the sister’s jaw dropping relationship with the ghost/demon, and then might abandon it altogether for fear it’s a paranormal story when, in fact, it is not.  My favorite story tells of a camp for youth who suffer from a myriad of sleep disorders (some that will make you want to google them to see if they are indeed real).  I could state that the campers must band together to solve the mystery of a serial sheep killer, but you’d probably mistake that to mean this is full of cliches and a “cute” story.  It is not on either of those counts.

My point here, and I do have one, is how lovely it feels to dip my feet in, and even at ankle deep, this author has shown me how refreshing it can be to shift gears, change paradigms, and even genres, all within the same book.  My fear erased, I will honor the summer and start writing some shorts!  While I’m at it, I’m definitely adding some of her other books to my reading list: Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Swamplandia, and Sleep Donation.

 

Writing Mysteries

by Sue Grafton (Editor), Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Tony Hillerman, Sara Paretsky, Fay Kellerman, Ann Rule, Linda Fairstein, Jonathan Kellerman, John Lutz, Nancy Pickard, Jan Burke, Barry Zeman, Lawrence Block, Laurie R. King, Margaret Maron, Loren D. Estleman

WritingMysteriesCoverI know what you’re thinking – “Who are these people and why should I care?”  If you’re a mystery writer and this is, indeed, what you were thinking, you might want to consider writing for dairy ads.

Yes, it’s true!  In just one book you can have the mentoring of all those mystery writers.  Sue Grafton edited it and each chapter speaks to a different aspect of the genre.  I’m reading this book because, to not read it and go on writing mysteries would be like the child who pulls away from his parent and says, “No!  I can cut my own food!” and then progresses to let fly everything on the plate.  My favorite sections so far have been Faye and Jonathan Kellerman’s piece on research and Julie Smith’s on “Background, Location, and Setting.”

I hope you’re listening – mystery writers – this book has it all.  From dialogue and perspectives to short story mysteries and YA, you’ll find some inspiration or new information here.  The only thing better than reading this book would be to sit in my writing tank while listening to this as an audio book being read by each of the contributors.  Wait.  Is that too creepy?  Did I cross a line?  #authorgroupie

 

What I’m Reading and Why

Had an idea for this series while talking to friends yesterday.  Almost every author advising new writers agrees – you must read as much (if not more) than you write.  That wisdom makes perfect sense to me, so I follow it.  For the sake of getting more things posted while still working my insanely demanding job, I intend to run this series whenever I finish a book and start into something new.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I just finished “The Historian,” by Elizabeth Kostova.  Upon first cracking it open, I was impressed by the style and flow.  I have no doubt it reads like Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” intentionally.  I say that, but you should know that it is a more modern account and is really about several historians as they search for the truth about Vlad “The Impaler” and his dark legacy.  As such, it balances light with dark themes and lures you into a more “historical fiction” style of the Dracula legend.  Unlike other vampire stories, this book is a serious literary contribution.  There are the elements that make the reader stay hooked and coming back for more (character development, mystery, adventure, romance), but without the “teenager with raging hormones,” stamp of approval.  You will not find a group of readers in “Camp Paul,” versus those in “Camp Rossi.”  For that, I am very thankful. 

This is Kostova’s first novel!  Oh, please let me be as blessed!  Reader BEWARE – if you have no patience for long books – this one is 704 pages.  That’s nearly twice the page count for the average reader of fiction.  Oh, please let me be as prolific!

I didn’t choose this book, it chose me.  I was in between pages that held my interest and it grabbed me out of the e-library stacks.  I stayed in it because it made me feel like a scholar in the Oxford library wiping dust from an ancient volume bound in worn leather.  I hope to improve my skills in imagery having put this one in my bank.

The Shining by Stephen King

Immediately after finishing this one, I started on an older book, Stephen King’s, “The Shining.”  I have never watched the movie rendition of this book other than the occasional Jack Nicholson “Redrum” clips.  Not a fan of King’s books until recently, this is probably because I had no idea he had more than just gore and horror.  It wasn’t until I read his book, “On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft,” that I got curious about some of his other offerings.  I picked up “The Dead Zone,” and then “The Body,” “11.22.63,” the “Dark Tower” series … well it’s just that now I’m hooked.  I have always been a student of sociology and psychology – in awe about how just a single synapse could be the difference between monsters like Ted Bundy and people like Oprah Winfrey.  Stephen King does “Psychological Thriller” like nobody’s business!

If you want a writer to take you on a journey of escape, while still rooting you in some lessons about people and relationships – Stephen King is your answer.  Just a few pages into “The Shining” and I’m reeling at how effortlessly he tells me the grisly detail of how this guy (a dry alcoholic) broke his baby boy’s arm … and then pages later makes me empathize and still see this guy and his family in human terms.  In the world outside the pages, it would be so easy – common, in fact – to write this guy off for the asshole he appears to be.  When Mr. King writes it, you have to really try hard to demonize him and the family that chooses to stay with him.  “Life has to go on for these people,” King says with the story, “Put their shoes on and deal with it.”

That’s what I love about his style – he finds unique situations, often times rooted in gut-level reality, and he doesn’t dismiss truth for the sake of entertainment in these stories.  If I could emulate only one writer – it would currently be Stephen King.  I’m reading him because I’d like to be able to infuse his style into my mysteries.

I won’t even go into the typical King spin that grants someone in the story a unique but stigmatizing power (like reading people’s minds) and how that tickles my fancy.  Read it yourself!

Opening Lines

Rain Drops

By Bodhitukun (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


Rain on a metal roof seems urgent or forceful. When you hear it, you’re either inwardly frantic (while intelligently self-talking yourself into casual unconcern) or outwardly sleepy and willing to be drummed into Neverland. Either way, your first instinct when you hear the pummeling of nature upon your hard earned home is not to grab your keys and go bolting out into it. Yet that is exactly what Kevin Abernathy did on that afternoon on the first of May, 1992. Twenty minutes later the sun came out; brilliant rays radiated the leaves that overhung the gravel driveway, their slippery burdens dripping off and falling to the ground. But Mr. Abernathy wasn’t there to see it.  He would not be seen or heard from for another twenty years.

Wentville Wind Chimes

Stacheldraht 05.jpgThe sound an old rusted chain makes when the cheap plastic seat, baked by the sun, has succumbed to one too many cracks and fallen off … and the chain hits the swing-set pole when the wind catches it. The sound of farm land metal (resurrected from a dirt grave where the orange-brown pipe has corroded for years) when it takes a dive into a burn barrel of the same color. That’s the sound wind chimes in Wentville make. They fit right into the landscape of yard trampolines and trailers, old tires and dead grass cradling yard trash.


Photo: “Stacheldraht 05” by WaugsbergOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Other Worldly

At 40 years, Adelaide Raines allowed herself to take a personal inventory.  She knew she wasn’t well educated or even that well rounded by any means.  She knew her limitations.  She read what interested her and had little patience for all else, regardless of the subject matter’s import to current events, or its impact on the survival of humanity.

Every evening she would drown any possibility of self-analysis during her 30 drive from work with the tap of her iPod.  She’d make progress in the most recent audiobook she borrowed from the library and add it to her “read” list along with those she read the old fashioned way (on her Kindle) on the weekends.  She dedicated her time away from work (the lifelong mission that stole nine or ten hours of her life away, five or six days a week) to either escaping those elements of her life that she subconsciously abhorred through Netflix therapy, or some monotonous computer game that appealed to her mild touch of OCD.  In this way she could avoid thinking about the parts known as the end, the beginning, or anything in between in her life.

This left her roughly an hour to read something daily that would lend itself to one of the two facets of her personal image of herself.  If prolonging the inevitable through escapism, she would indulge in some fictional tome of mystery, science fiction, or other imaginative literary work.  If developing her knowledge of the world that existed when she chose to breath outside her house, she dove into a history, science, or other non-fiction work.  The key was that it had to be interesting.  Ultimately, reading was always an escape.  So fiction or not, it had to take her somewhere else.

Thus, she knew just enough to impress the average and sometimes even those more knowledgeable than her in those occasional conversations encountered when personalities meet, crash, or slide around each other in the bubble of to-and-fro called “day-to-day.”  This was all she needed to survive amongst others more emotionally stable and confident that herself.  It was what she referred to privately as “fool fuel.”  She could fake it to make it among the humans.  And she did.

Perspective

blank pages

Nothing more depressing than a blank page.  Nothing more bothersome than a quiet room with no story or voices in my head.  Darkness pours in through the patio door window and I am too lazy to get up and go close the blinds.  It was a sunny day today.

One would think my description would be that of, “glimmering rays of warmth embracing my arms and neck … soothing away the recent snowfall debacle, and ushering me into a few spare moments of joy before the real winter hits.”  Not so.  Instead, my inner self forced the following into my head, as I scanned the scenery and looked for another angle that would push my story along:

The fickle sun’s rays teased me into seeing what the world had turned into these past few days.  I had not been tempted at all to open the curtains or draw the blinds. What point was there to watch, as shadows covered the land and temperatures made it clear – nature was pushing us to fear what she could do if our technology failed and our manufactured heat disappeared.  But now I could tell that, if spring and summer never came (a very real possibility in my depressed state), our paths would be muddy and austere; sparse plains of nothingness would engulf us and smother us in severity.  No love, no joy, no amount of pleasantries could make this landscape seem hopeful.  My eyes glazed into thought as the sunlight danced upon my heart’s grave.  “Come out,” it taunted me, “hurry before the story ends and I hokey-pokey myself around.”

“Fuck-You,” I said to the sun.  I shut the blinds and poured myself a drink.

I searched and searched for words I could feel good about writing in the continuation of this damn mystery story I’m into.  And these are all I could find.  Somewhere in the story, I’ll have Malone break into this little diatribe.  Meanwhile, what will motivate the reader to like the characters enough to care?  Who murdered the family and why?  What will happen to the little boy, and what is his name?  I wish I were invested more in this story and these characters.  If I shovel out the required words, I’ll have a book, but I wouldn’t want to read people with whom their writer doesn’t even find an affinity.  Perhaps I’ll use this initial “novel” to test the self-publishing waters, learn the systems with a piece I’m not concerned about breaking or sharing.

If you are an aspiring writer like me, and want to watch the gory details of a book, either being born or dying before it’s time – stay tuned, Dear Reader.  I can’t, in good conscience, commit to finishing this novel.  But I will continue to bore, complain, whine, splatter more parts of the storyline, and (in general) fight to keep this dream alive, after long dark days of other important work and a tired soul.

Vantage Point 2

Carting around the catch all day was bad enough; it seemed the smell never left her nostrils fully after there were no more buyers in the streets.  This was only intensified by the oils and other fluids that remained after the fish were sold or returned to the market.  Molly used the lye soap and tried lemon juice, wincing at the sting as it seeped into the cuts and cracks.  Her hands smelled so badly of fish, she sometimes soaked them in vanilla liquor or wood alcohol, other times in pickle vinegar, in an attempt to get rid of the stench. Continue reading

Imagine If I Were 18

Imagine if I were 18, or even 20 years old.  I could talk of the world as if I were over it, skeptical and sarcastic.  No one would even care; it would be, in fact, expected for my world view to include sardonic song lyrics that accused all white men of being part of a conspiracy or spat iconic insults at so-called leaders in the world for their failures and irresponsibility.  My somewhat disjointed outlook for my life and my future would be accepted as part of my place in the time-space continuum.

But I’m nearly 40 and that is not what is expected or allowed in proper journalism from one such as I – a “lady” no less – to espouse.  Instead I should know where I’ve been and where I’m going and have a particular view on politics and foreign relations.  It isn’t right.

Image

Handlings

She looked at her hands for what seemed like the first time in decades. What she saw shook her mental framework. She had been functioning in the same thought bubble and personality framed by her youth. It’s true that she had begun to notice that her fraction-of-a-second assessments of the before-and-after ramifications of a single reaching movement were not spot on anymore. The monthly visits to the massage therapist and chiropractor should have been one of a long line of clues she shouldn’t have missed. But her hands spoke loud rays of stinging images at this moment as she balked at their leathery creases; and for Heaven’s sake where did all the excess skin come from.

For a moment she imagined that some alien abduction had occurred and a foreign plastic surgeon had switched her hands with those of another abductee to observe how these earthlings used such strange appendages. She had to get her own hands back! How would she pull off this ”funny story” among friends? She’d always been careful to call attention immediately to her most despicable attributes in a social setting. Get them out of the way and strategically shut down any exterior comments about them by making fun of them herself. Once disposed of in this way, she was free to fake that wonderful confidence and cleverness that everyone seemed to believe she had.  These damn hands were going to be the social death of her! Bastard aliens!

xtray hands

inturruptingcow2013

Planet DiscoTank

Up.  Quick shower.  Coffee.  Brush my teeth.  Quick mirror check to prevent being paranoid about stares.  I wade in.

M drives me so its mostly just scenery as we drift to the car and leave.  No little plastic castles, just the latest birds chickadee-ing, or the occasional leaf settling.  The smell of bleach engulfs me for a few and I realize the landlord has been here cleaning the pavement in the parking lot.  Very particular his wife and he.  Meticulous on some things, not too bothered by others.  Best ones we’ve ever had.

M opens the door for me as we arrive and I shiver past a couple leaving.  The woman is smiling at her smartphone in one hand and she holds the jacket of the man she follows with the other.  He walks with purpose and doesn’t seem to notice us.  Reminiscent of the shark and eel.

We sit at the bar.  The chef displays his talents as he carves and shapes each plate with ease and efficiency.  We order several rolls and I order my usual hamachi sashimi.

They have a tank that looks like a disco.  Blue lit and full of dancing jellyfish, it entices and hypnotizes me.  I can’t believe the contents are real so I have to go investigate.  I swim past another couple at the bar and several tables.  The Saki drinker next to us appears too self-absorbed to notice me.  Several others glance or curve a little grin my way.  I try to avoid too much eye contact.  Heaven help me if anyone talks to me and I should have to reply.

But the sea of people disappears when I get closer to the tank.  Air bubbles serve to either keep the water aerated or to create movement in the otherwise stationary jellyfish, or maybe both.  I still can’t believe the little white marshmallows with scraggly hair are real.  They aren’t like fish, with eyes to gauge if they are alive, or muscular little bodies to watch for twitches or speedy turns.  They float and zoom at the whim of the little currents created by the bubbles.  They are luminescent under the light.  They are beautiful.

Even within their little disco-tank planet they do not escape cares and troubles.  A few have gotten caught under the filter intake and I don’t think they will make it.  One has been caught in a pocket of water unmoved by the bubbles since I have been watching.  Are they just for display, or is there something utilitarian about this tank for the chefs.  Have these creatures come to be natives, spending their lives in a dream-scape of liquid blue?  Or are they cattle in a holding tank for the next artistic display ordered?

I wander – what would my mind be like if I were able to spend an eight-hour work day meditating in an environment like this?