Seaside.

How often did I end up here. On this shore of broken stone and weeds that try to live in cracks fed by salted water. I respect those weeds, as spindly as they are, they know what it is like to struggle.

Over head the sea birds caw to some distant bit of scrap. They watch the world through their bellies. I amaze at the ferocity of these scavengers, even from here I can see them amassing. Some are scarred from bitter fights over the Holy Grail of some dropped french fry. It is a hard life to be a seagull, but I suppose there are worse things.

I marvel at the waves, how they continue to swell and die. an everlasting dance of life and death. As quickly as one goes, another comes, born of mother tides and father moon. Ceaseless, unending, even when still there is some movement. I watch and relax, allowing the swells to calm my soul.

My thoughts wander to the world. The ever-moving clock that just keeps ticking. That’s life though, isn’t it? We wake, we move, we sleep and start again. There are moments of emotion, but still…breathing is the key.

I feel my breath as it enters my lungs. I hold it and wait, counting the seconds. I feel my chest tighten, feel my lungs screaming to release the poisoned air inside them. I hold it longer, feeling the ache and pain of my body’s need. I release it in a gasp, a rush of air and a sense of relief.

I shake my head. I failed again.

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His Tree.

The dark was like an endless twilight under the dark ceiling of green. As a breeze moved through the leaves above, sneaky sunbeams managed to get by the thick green. He looked at these rare circles of light on the earth and moss-covered ground. They looked like pools of water, rippling as if afraid the breeze that gave them life would return to end it.

He smiled as he plodded through the forest. He moved slowly and deliberately, cane in one hand and a bag in the other. His smile firmly planted on a face as wrinkled as the trees. He pushed through a familiar thicket to a clearing and his tree.
“Hello old man,” he said as he approached the large tree.

He placed his cane against the large trunk. His bag dropped to the ground with a sound of clinking metal. The old man placed his hand on the trunk and marvelled at how smooth it was.

“I think you are aging better than me Rupert.” he chuckled.

He called his tree Rupert, not sure why, it just seemed right. He knew that no tree was his, but after spending 65 years together he felt a bit of ownership. He leaned down to his bag and got out his shovel and fork.

“Work time Rupert,” and he began his weeding.

The day wore on, the old man on his hands and knees, methodically removing anything that could bother his friend. His joints ached and his breathing was heavy, but he smiled and talked as he worked. He talked of when he first found his friend.

It was after the war that took so much from him. The house he lived in was his parents and where he spent most of his life. The day he stumbled, quite literally, on Rupert, was the day he decided to stop living.

He had returned from the war, to the care of his parents. His voice long-lost in the horrors he had endured. The long nights, the blood and loss of so many of his friends tortured his mind. It was endless and painful. No one understood what was wrong with him. They tried all manner of treatments and nothing brought him out of his long nightmare.

One night he heard a whisper, deep down in his noisy head. Though quiet and distant, it seemed to break through the other voices and memories. He picked up his service revolver and left the house quietly. He moved into the forest without thought or plan. Slowly the whisper grew louder and the distance between him and his home grew farther.

He didn’t notice the branches or brambles that cut his arms and face. The weight of the gun heavy in his pocket. He moved toward the whisper until it stopped. He stood in a small clearing, covered in vines and rock. The rocks themselves seemed to be alive with the green moss that covered them almost completely.
The whisper was quiet, but he wanted to hear what it had to say. He looked up at the dark leaves of old trees and then closed his eyes to the world. He heard it.

“Just leave Peter,” his own voice whispered.

He reached into his pocket and held the gun in his shaky hand. He knew that the answer was to end all the voices. Perhaps if he joined those that left before him, he would finally be free. The gun’s barrel rested with a coolness against his temple. He closed his eyes and tightened his grip. As he increased the pressure on the trigger another whisper was heard.

“Help me,” as clear as his own voice.

Peter looked around in the slow light of the morning and saw nothing immediately. He shook his head and was about to lift the gun when he saw it. In the middle of the clearing, covered in vines and surrounded by craggy rocks was a sapling. It looked almost desperate in its need and want to live. Peter stared at it and felt his heart warm, felt his head clear and just like that he had purpose and a friend.

The old man chuckled and winked at Rupert.

“You saved me that day,” he said with a wink.

After a time the old man turned and sat with his back against his friends trunk. He stared up into the strong branches and marvelled at every leaf. If there ever was anything in this world that came close to perfect, his tree was close.

“I know I have tried to thank you Rupert. Tried to be good to you. I have moved rocks and vines. I have weeded and fed the soil around you. I have fought fungus and bugs alike, but you always seem to do a bit more for me.”

Peter reached into his pocket and pulled out a yellowing photo.

“She loved you too you know. We spent so much time here. I still thank you for being here when she passed. I am a man of few words, but you let me cry without judging me. You never judge me Rupert, I never thanked you for that. God I cried rivers for her. I know you did in your own way.”

As if to answer, the leaves of his friend rustled in a light breeze. Peter looked up again and nodded.

“Thanks old man.”

Peter felt his bones ache, felt the air in his lungs struggling to feed his old body. He felt the tingle in his hand and the heavy beat of his tired heart.

“I don’t think I will be able to tend to you much longer,” he said as tears filled his eyes. “It isn’t that I don’t want to. I hope you know that. It’s just I am old and men that get old usually don’t last to long.”

He chuckled as he grasped the photo.

“I wish I could have buried her here. I wish I could be buried here. My kids never really understood you and me. I think my eldest thought his dad was a bit nuts.”

The breeze rustled the leaves, though no wind was felt on his face. He smiled as he felt his friend on his back, strong and well, Rupert would live on. His breathing became shallow, his aches faded, as his mind drifted to his wife. He remembered the first day he introduced her to his tree and how her face it up with joy. He loved her for understanding and sharing in his tree, his friend.

The sky moved on to night and the old man moved on too.

The middle aged man and his son moved quickly through the forest.

“Dad!” He called out worried sick.

His son kept up with his father calling out for his granddad as loudly. They had not realized the old man was missing until the morning. The Father busy with a deal that would earn him some much needed debt relief and the son just busy being 14. They didn’t spend much time with the old man, life always seemed to get in the way.

As they pushed through a thick bramble they stumbled into a clearing that didn’t fit.

“Welcome to wonderland Alice,” the father murmured.

The clearing was immaculate. Almost a perfect circle, completely clear of debris or tangled weeds. In the centre was a tree, huge and beautiful. The boy felt his breath shorten at how perfect it was. The father shook his head as tears streamed down his face. He stared at the lower branches seeing his father cradled like a babe almost 20 feet above them. He moved closer, placing a hand on the mythical trunk of the friend he had heard about all his life.

“Hello Rupert,” he sobbed falling to his knees.

The boy stared up confused as to how his old Papa could have reached those branches. He felt tears on his own cheeks and a warmth that he couldn’t explain. His eyes moved to the ground where he saw the start of a weed in the clean dirt. He knelt down and carefully removed the pesky intruder.

“Don’t worry Papa,” he whispered, “I got this.”

 

I am.

i am father,
i am son,
i was a husband,
but just for fun.
i am friend
i am foe,
lost with
nowhere to go.

i have worn masks,
upon my brow,
sometimes heavy,
i wear one now.
i have smiled,
too many times,
without thought,
of my many crimes.

i am innocent,
and guilty,
i am strong,
hiding frailty.
i am a liar,
telling truths,
i am anger,
that can’t be soothed.

i have loved,
and i have hated,
in truth it’s
what i created.
i have stood,
upon the altar,
i have fallen,
and often faltered.

i am a father,
i am son,
iwas a husband,
just for fun.
i am a friend,
and a bitter foe,
as for myself,
i just don’t know…

Forgotten.

Silently the machines moved the vital fluids around the body of the small one, delivering vital nutrients to muscles and organs. Pushing magic gas into her small lungs and taking away the poison that remained. She slept in a deep sleep of the infirm, unaware of the delicate balance played out around her. Machine danced with organic, in rhythmic harmony.

She had been in the small room for more than half her life. Visits dwindled from daily to weekly, then finally monthly. Her own parents had lost the hope of love and their little girl lay alone in the dark. Another child had come and this seemed to make it easier to forget. The second eased heartache, but the remnants of love made it impossible to stop the machines from performing their duties.

On this day fate was ready to play. The storm battered the city with ferocity, finally managing to topple the great grid of power. It intricately woven cables ran through the city like veins, illuminating streets and buildings in neon and fluorescents. The town of light shifted in a heartbeat to the city of darkness, quiet replaced bustle on this night.

The hospital became a scream of orders and movement. Backup generators switched into overdrive quickly. Backup batteries for key instruments silently hummed into green LED displays of hope. The old hospital’s dull orange glow showed the planning of people too comfortable with the status quo. It had become spoiled and decrepit, the generators old and tired. When the first of the old died, the rest followed unable to keep up the slack.

Battery power became the only thing between the critical and the reaper. Luckily the wealthy paid for those services and the hospital always obeyed the wealthy. The dark house of healing moved on through the night. In a small room, forgotten by most, the machines cried out as they went silent for the little girl they had grown to love. The cold of steel could almost have a heart as it sighed its own last breath.

The body was left alone, left alone without movement of fluid and air. The small body twitched in spasm as it too tried to shut down like the machines. Her eyes fluttered to open, looking for a loving face before death. Instead they found the dark all around her, closing in like a specter. A tear formed and ran down her soft cheek, No one there to wipe it away.

She felt the choking of tubes down her throat and up her tiny nose. Small hands grasped and pulled at these foreign and intrusive things. She pulled them with a strength she couldn’t have had until they were out of her. She gasped air for the first time in so long. It burned its way into her lungs as she coughed and gagged learning to breathe again.

The door swung open and a shadowy figure swept into the room. It moved with speed and direction. The little girl was filled with fear as it descended with outstretched arms.

“Oh baby,” the man cried as he took her into his arms, tears streaming down his scruffy face. He held her close and tight. “I’m so sorry, so sorry, my baby, my baby…” he kept whispering into the small ear of the child born again into the world.

She held on, slowly working breath with lips, “I think I was lost Daddy.” She whispered.

The man laughed through tears, “Me too.”

When She Paints…

 

Once upon a time…because nice stories always start that way…there lived a girl who loved to paint.She felt alive with brush in hand and canvas bare and ready. With her hand she would stroke the canvass, waiting for it to speak to her as only it could. “Tell me what you are” she would whisper and wait for whisper to come back. Only she could hear it’s tale and only she could paint it. When she painted it was like magic.

Before her was her paint. Colours so vibrant and bright, they would shine on the canvas like multicoloured stars in a twinkling sky. She dipped her brush in the deep red, feeling the whisper, as much as hearing it. A long stroke across the white and the story had begun. Her hands danced with her arms in a waltz as beautiful the girl herself. She sang as she covered the canvas, a song as sweet as honey straight from the comb.

Greens married blues which married reds…the story becoming more than told, it became real in her hands. If one could see love it would be those reds. If one could touch sky, it would be those blues. If one could feel envy, one would feel it for that green, being so close to the other colours.

The story became one of oceans, green blue, a colour that seemed to move like a real ocean created by the girl. The sky was a blue that seemed to go on forever and in looking one would think they saw birds flying within it. There, on the ocean, she placed a red boat, and if you looked from the corner of your eye, that boat bobbed on those waves of paint.

With a delicate hand she used the finest of her brushes and on that boat she painted a small man in a yellow raincoat. She looked at her creation, smiling at the scene. She looked so deep into it that she almost willed it real. She could hear the birds, smell the tides, hear the creak of that boat. With brush in hand she dabbed it in grey and on the horizon painted dark clouds. They seem to coil and churn like an evil creature covering such a beautiful scene.

“Turn around,” she whispered to the boat and the man.

“A storm is coming,” she said to the paint.

Tears filled her eyes, asshe watched the grey approach. She shook her head and screamed at the canvas with all of her heart.

“Turn around Daddy…turn around!”

As in anything in life, we wish for things to change. The girl wished her Daddy hadn’t gone to sea. She wished he had not stayed out to weather the storm. She wished that someone, anyone had told him to turn around, for then he would not be gone.

She held on to the edge of the painting. She tightened her grip. She closed her eyes and imagined the sounds and smells. She did this and she wished again. This time she wished the only wish she could…as she picked up her finest brush and painted one more thing.

…and if we look again at the canvas, we would swear that we knew the other figure on that boat. We would swear that the boat was now moving back to that painted shore, even though it is impossible. We would wonder where the painter had gone, but in our minds we know. When she painted it was like magic…