Monday, March 10, 2014

Way Of The Gun (Your Time Is Gonna Come)

He'd read about such men as a child. Outlaws on the run, living on the outskirts of society, their lives steadily withering away. Drip by drip their options dissipating until finally, they have no place left to go. In that moment they'd simply turn to the wall and die, the will to live passing away with their breath, the last flickering of light vanishing from solid black eyes.

And now, he was one of them - though having taken a completely opposite path. Ben had always done his best to follow the mores of society. He went to college, studied by the sheer force of his will to gain an MBA and strained his way into management, making himself as useful as possible. His rewards were purely external: a nice paycheck, social standing, and most of all a way to shut out the world. But he had followed the rules for being responsible and took succor in that above all else.

But over the course of the two plus decades of his tenure, the world had moved on. A new standard of evil had evolved while Blind Ben labored to maximize company profits. His stalwart motto was to put the company before himself, to be an asset. In that he reasoned he would have safety. But that was not the world in which he lived. In the new breed of evil, reason was for fools.

Dread Scott moved in on this new wave of discourse, a purely political animal calculating his every move, currying favor and surmising his co-workers' weaknesses. Upon spying Ben he found a particularly juicy target, one whose rape he greatly anticipated. He knew he could shatter Ben's world and leave him destitute - all the while remaining untouched himself. What fools these men are who try to be honest! They know not the way of the world.

It irked Ben at first to see credit taken for his labors by his new overlord. No mention was ever made of Ben's contributions. In fact, Dread Scott trumpeted his Grand New Ways of doing business, regaling his easily duped superiors who were made of the same political mold. The industrious, the trusting, the dutifully loyal, were wholly despised by the likes of Dread Scott. For the moment the company was prosperous and bountiful and he knew his destructive moves would not be brought to the light of day until far too late.

In the meantime, plans must be made to rid the workplace of any souls of integrity. He cherished and relished his role as betrayer and assassin. His worm tongue whispered sweet lies pretending concern for his intended target and an anxious demeanor for the well being of the company - despite his efforts resulting in exactly the opposite. Dread Scott loved the lying game, of managing deception rather than people. He even managed his family with the same sickening method.

The day of Ben's assassination was arriving with great anticipation. Dread Scott rehearsed what would be one of his prized performances. He'd spent the last year minimizing and ridiculing Ben's practices, foreplay to the climax of the kill. There would be a big meeting and a conference call where he'd stare down anyone who dare defy his new world order. How delicious!

"Are there any questions?" he asked after the firing. The attendants answered in a thunderous silence of hate and contempt. When no word came: "I didn't think there would be," he smirked. Later he brazenly sent an email declaring Ben had decided to depart on his own and in future meetings lambasted Ben for leaving on such short notice as they tried to pick up the pieces of his projects. Next month, Dread Scott's bonus check was bigger than ever and the devil wept with joy.

It was true Ben had not followed his heartfelt desires in life (whatever those were). But he never saw himself as one who would end up like an outlaw on the run to one day be cornered in dire and hopeless circumstance. At 55 as a mid-level manager, he was the most unwanted creature on the planet. His replies from seeking employment bordered on the vicious. Ben was a leper by whom no one wanted to be infected. Gradually, Ben's eyes opened too late, having never wanted to see the evil. Now, he only saw the blank wall in front of him.

Few would guess driving down the wealthy, manicured streets of Plano, Texas that such a forlorn situation could even exist behind the plush exteriors and clean, new cars. Ben had read of the mayor of a fellow wealthy suburb who had shot her daughter and then herself rather than face her secret ruin. Addiction to appearances ran high in these neighborhoods but Ben vowed not to be a victim of such thinking. He sold everything, moving into a cheap condo in a lower middle class berg. He'd use the cash to finance the time he needed to find a way out.

It was at the end of this time Ben decided to needed to buy a gun while he still had the cash. His nights were sweat filled torments of unreal walls closing in on him, burying him alive. Next step was life on the streets, to die in a slow agonizing death as the pirate Dread Scott counted his ever higher pile of cash. What was the point of going through all that hell? Ben had prayed himself silly but could find no god with ears that listened, he was as helpless as Jesus on the cross.

The way of the gun had now become The Way. This would be his salvation, his way of cheating an unholy world and an uncaring God. "If You think I am wrong, God, then feel free to stop me. But I know You won't! We've been left to die! Life has no point or meaning. Doing the right thing means nothing. It's Your evil children who see reward. Hope is the ultimate illusion."

And yet, he was repulsed by the sinister black revolver. In his worst moments he found comfort in its presence, that he had a way to stop the pain and torture. But he crawled forward, clinging to what little life afforded him, even as the world collapsed around him. Ben wondered if he could shoot the pirate Dread Scott, to "make the world a better place." But that was not within him, feeling Nature would rectify the ills of Man in due time. Then a more immediate issue came up.

A small black man in a ski mask began his own campaign of terror in the condos and apartment complexes where Ben now found himself. Notices were posted to be on the look out for this serial criminal operating at night, waiting for victims to leave their cars in the exposed parking lots. But Ben had had enough. Time would come when he'd eat his final bullet but no more pirates could he suffer. Long contained anger finally boiled over.

Ben purposely came back alone to his condo deep in the night, daring the robber. His solitary pattern would surely be noticed - but not his carefully concealed gun. Time to rid the world of a predator. That's the only thing these animals understand. What infuriated Ben even more was the knowledge the suited predators would always escape conviction, free to wreak wholesale devastation while the small fry did time in the struggle for survival. Still, he'd not be raped ever again.

"Fuck you, asshole!" cried Ben as the shot rang out. He had no idea how he'd truly react if the time came. He might have even handed over his wallet and cell phone as the robber commanded despite being armed himself. Instead, the outrage of the past eighteen months of his life exploded with an angry trigger as the black figure dropped to the ground. If anything, Ben wanted to shoot him again - and again and again and again.

When the police arrived it was determined the armed robber had been armed with a BB pistol. In his guilt, Ben reverted to his previous ways of revering authority and trusting society's institutions. He informed the officers he'd kept the gun concealed but no, he had did not have a permit to do so. Ben was arrested for the gun violation and also charged with involuntary manslaughter. He was thrown into a room of nothing but walls but this time without the comfort of a permanent escape.

The D.A. licked his chops at the prospect of an easy conviction to pad his numbers and further his career - another pirate in the waters. He ordered three more charges to be trumped up, leaving Ben facing a possible twenty years and a ten thousand dollar fine. Overcharging is a common tactic in order to reach plea deals to show a high percentage of convictions. All but the most serious charge is then dropped (because they wouldn't stand up in court anyway) and the cowed defendant - guilty or innocent - agrees under legal duress.

Ben got ten years probation. His appointed lawyer knew the ropes and processed his client without a fight. The county would receive a nice stipend from the monthly probation fees. But for Ben who was unemployed and now a convicted felon, his prison was permanent. When it was discovered he'd taken his fatal escape, authorities scoffed at his dead body, seeing it as proof of a guilty corpse. "We are the survivors. We are the good ones."


Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels,
“Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”

The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out
 on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood
like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.

The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water,
and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:
“You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
you who are and who were;
for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”
And I heard the altar respond:

“Yes, Lord God Almighty,
true and just are your judgments.”

Friday, March 07, 2014

Kenji, Tokyo Orphan (What Does It Mean To Write?)

Mariko was known as one of the most stunningly beautiful women in Tokyo. Her smoldering eyes and winning smile charmed smitten hearts and inflamed hopeless desires. Many a soul panged how one night with her would change a life forever. Sharks and vultures, sycophants and adolescents, pinged her on a daily basis in a circling swarm. Marriage was never more than a whispered "Yes" away. Yet with these blessings comes a curse.

While so many wanted her for what she was, Mariko must find the one who wanted her for who she was. She must not sell out her smile. She didn't need "a" marriage like many of her friends ("I'm just happy to be married!"), she had to have "the" marriage in order to make her life work. With very few understanding this she felt quite alone and isolated. But how does the most beautiful woman in Tokyo explain feeling lonely and isolated?


Kenji also felt alone and isolated in the shimmering city of lights. But no one would harbor ill will for his feeling that way. Blinded at a young age, he had grown into a dark world. He felt very sorry for himself, never trusting anyone to have an interest in him. Having never seen his own face, he assumed it to be one of ugliness - cursed like the rest of him. Life was an endurance test until the blessed relief of being six feet under.

Feeding into his cursed outlook, Kenji took a job as a masseur, a job in which he had no interest but was the traditional role for a blind person in Japan, the lack of sight allowing for modesty by the client. Though while not enjoying it he still ruthlessly forced himself into performing well - but it was the same as forcing his head under water; he could only stand it for so long. Others had a reason to try to live, Kenji believed he did not.

A drunk driver brought these two souls together, the superstar and the loser. Her back misaligned by the wreck, part of Mariko's therapy was massaging by Kenji in the clinic where he worked. He'd already heard word of her, listening to the low, envious voices of the men who spied her. Kenji had never seen such a commotion and when he found out he was to be her masseur was wildly bitter at the gods above. Freaks do not wish to be exposed to the beautiful people.

"Your touch is superb. You know exactly where to go."

In Kenji's world, compliments are insults. If only she knew what he had to go through to provide that touch! It was not sustainable and to be liked for what brought him torment was no prize indeed. Six feet under cannot come soon enough. He should have done a poor job so he could be rid of this "wonder woman" as the guys called her. Kenji did not need to be reminded of the divide between him and the likes of Mariko.

Not wanting to encourage further "compliments" and having missed his chance to drive her away with feigned incompetence, Kenji decided to use his secret weapon: he'd be himself. That will run her off! Take your false compliments and mockery elsewhere. The light does not belong on me.

"Even without hearts and minds,
"Plants wither in the passing days.
"In seeing this,
"Are we not ashamed?"

"Excuse me?"

It was as close as Kenji could come to what he thought was insulting her without directly taking a shot. She with her fine beauty and countless suitors could never know the shame or the lowliness of a life like his, he assumed. He would feed her the ugly truth and she would duly flee to the hills to continue her life of the undoomed.

"A poem I once heard." In truth, it was Kenji's own, poetry his one most valued refuge from a wearying world.

"I very much like it. No life should wither. But how often do we face that?"

Kenji's stunned reply was with his hands, caressing her as a work of art. She must be preserved at all costs, a woman like this. She speaks of truth and not of the drowning lies Kenji hears day after day. She had fed him water in the dry desert. Could this be real?

Mariko insisted Kenji be her only masseur. If Kenji could have seen himself he'd have realized he was beaming like the sun. That night, in bed, he thought of nothing but her. He'd put his toe in the water but surely he could go no further. If he kept being himself at some point she would reject him like everyone else. "To good to be true" was the phrase to remember.

The next day, Mariko very excitedly dreamed to him.

"Even if I
"repeated a love's name
"could outward life match
"the intensity of our hearts?"

She explained she'd been inspired by his poem. Inspired?? By me?? Is heaven for everyone, after all? Again, Kenji could only reply with his hands, his delighted heart wallowing in this kindred spirit. She touched his inner life, of the world needing no eyes. What could he do for her? He'd give his life if he could.

When passing to his predetermined path home, Kenji heard the men at the clinic talking once more, fantasizing about Mariko. His heart burned in murderous jealousy. These were men who could offer a life beyond him. They could lay with her in the night, sharing her most intimate moments. Kenji too desired that beyond all else - only he had never seen her face.

He knew he must come up with a reply for her poem. In his private times of poetry, Kenji did not feel blind. He wished to live in those times forever. But a cursed man's poetry would surely be as rejected as he was. Still, she was giving him a chance to live - a chance he could not humanly resist.

"I had a vision last night. May I share it?"

"Yes, please do!" answered a truly delighted Mariko. Her enthusiastic response had him floating on air.

"By a flowering bloom,
"and by the lamp of the moon
"she reads her letter."

She gave no immediate reply but Kenji felt a shudder through her body. Had his arrow hit home?

"That's very beautiful. So simple, so clear. I can see it perfectly."

Yes! He, Kenji the cursed, had given her physical pleasure by his words. Let the clinic hounds match that! At first, he was disbelieving he could ever have anything in common with such a lovely creature and his pride knew no bounds in her relating to him. Now he wished her ugly to the world so he could keep her all to himself. These therapy times - these appointed, outwardly arranged times - consumed Kenji to the point where he desired them only more and more.

Mariko, for her part, felt herself too walking out on frozen ice, not knowing if it would break at any moment. She feared a man to whom her physical charms meant nothing. She'd never before realized how much she relied on that. Poetry had long been a secret passion of hers but she dared not face her need for it. She was being awakened - awakened by a blind masseur with a mystical face. What does it mean?

Kenji was asking himself the same question: what does this mean? It was like a long lost dream come true. In fact, he found a new part of himself gone since childhood. He must hear her poem tomorrow. He must know of her and continue to explore. Was life really life?

"Things That Make One's Heart Beat Faster," she proudly announced. "Do you wish to hear my list?"

Kenji wanted to scream an orgasmic "YES!" but fear halted him. It was the first time he'd held back from her (which scared him). "I want to hear them all," he meekly replied.

"Chirping sparrows feeding their young. [Originally she had written "watching sparrows" but changed it to "chirping" for Kenji's sake]. To sleep in a room where fine incense has been burned. To wash one's hair, make one's toilet, and put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one."

"Those are wonderful, truly. Small moments that live forever."

"I have one more!" Kenji smiled unabashedly at her uncontainable joy. Even he could see she held him in high esteem. "It is night and one is expecting a visitor. [Kenji's heart sank thinking that visitor could never be him] Suddenly one is startled by the sound of raindrops, which the wind blows against the shutters."

"Oh, my," gasped Kenji reflexively.

Never had Mariko's smile shined so brightly. She had feared her need to write but this joining of souls inspired her to new heights, creating as never before. To be known as a poet, not simply a holder of beauty that fades. How far down this line can she go? Where does it end? Could she write poetry that actually sells? All she knew was she didn't want this ride to end.

But the end weighed heavily on Kenji's mind. He'd flashed in deep anger when he heard the news, wanting to choke the life out of that voice. Mariko's sessions were coming to an end. This exciting, glorious peek into her life had lifted and exhilarated him like an explosive tornado. What happens when her assigned time with him goes away? Would she see him in real life?

Kenji's poetry output had exploded with Mariko's arrival, he could barely eat a meal without a new inspiration interrupting him. He couldn't write like she could of life and visitors and scented robes - though his love of hearing of her living world knew no bounds. Yet she envied his insights into the universe - a trait which cannot be bought nor learned. Each was a greater person together than apart - where each felt a fraud in comparison.

So what does it mean to write? Kenji and Mariko filled holes in the life of the other that even a spouse might never fill. Could he live with a need he could never marry? Could she live with a need outside of a marriage? They had tasted heaven as some never do. But the train was pulling into the station, the surreal trip coming to an end. Would they get off the train together?