‘Confession of a landlubber’

Let me tell you all a true story of woe.

About a month ago, my son and I rented a canoe at a local state park. Despite the muscle cramps, sunburn and numerous other ailments of 'the great outdoors' it was a lot of fun. We enjoyed it enough that we decided to buy our very own boat or kayaks. As they are very expensive and difficult to haul around, we asked my dad to be on the lookout for a gentle used boat at the flea market. What he found was a massive inflatable raft, large enough to support 'Seal team 6' in their quest for Bin Laden.

As beggars can't be choosers and it helped solve the transportation problem, we decided to give it a try. The thing is, a massive raft isn't as easy to maneuver on the lake as a two person kayak is. (And that ain't exactly easy, either) so I began trying to decide how to engineer a canopy covering for us. The boat had numerous eyelets and oar holders so I came up with a cross oar tent like thing to drape a tarp over. My son is much like me. He gets excited over projects until he's almost manic about them. He spent most of his days thinking about the maiden voyage of the 'SS Bandy'. We needed more oars, we needed a tarp and rope, draw ties, oar parts, line, a cooler, life jackets, etc. for the next month, this is all he talked about. We went to sporting goods stores, pawn shops, Walmart and online shopping places to acquire our needed outdoor gear.

Then I had nasal surgery to fix a lifelong breathing issue and the recovery time was about a month. Every day, my son would ask how my recovery was coming along (not out of a general concern, as much as to gauge when we could take the massive boat trip. My recovery time gave us a needed pause for me to heal and pick up our boating supplies. It also allowed three scorching Georgia summer weeks to pass for slightly kinder weather. While it killed my son to wait, I simply didn't have the strength to deal with the heat and all that rowing in the blazing sun. The canopy idea was my solution to still being in a weakened state.

Also, the raft came with a foot pump. Yes, a foot pump. When I tested out the raft at home to make sure all three chambers held air, it took me more than 15 minutes of furious pumping to inflate it. (In 71 degree air conditioning). The thought of doing the same thing out in the heat was very unappealing. We had a DC adaptor (or AC, whichever a car isn't) and were given an electric pump by a coworker. It seemed like we had all the bases covered. Every weekend my son hoped would be 'the one' where we took the floating behemoth out on the lake. Finally I thought it was time.

That morning we loaded up the boat (still half inflated and doubled over), the cooler, all the oars, the tarp and tie downs, the rope and life jackets, a duffle bag of duct tape and zipper sandwich bags for my phone and keys, the electric pump, towels, a change of clothes, and four hundred other things. (Not including the water, sports drinks, 10 pounds of ice and junk food we intended to buy at the store.)

As it turns out, the AC adaptor and electric pump wouldn't work. The motor drew too much power for the adapter to handle. So my fears were realized. I had to use the manual pump in the noon sunlight of a Georgia summer. As if that didn't destroy me, then I had to construct the canopy. There was no shade anywhere. The sun beat down on me until I because woozy, disoriented and saw spots. A dwarf lady told me to head toward the light but I refused. All kidding aside, we weren't even in the water and I was already about to have a heart attack and pass out. Before lugging the flotilla down to the waters edge, I got in the car and cranked the AC one last time to bring down my core temperature. It may have saved my life for what was about to come.

The canopy apparatus I engineered for our new inflatable raft (four boat oars crossed in pairs and tethered with a lightweight, coated planter stake top beam, held together by rope and covered with a tarp) worked brilliantly to keep the searing sun off of us. It was a little slice of heaven sitting there (just the two of us) eating thirty dollars worth of junk food snacks and 'sports drinks'. We floated gently down to the end of the lake by the natural current and the surprisingly strong gusts of wind (which saw our tarp as a perfect sail.

The problem was (and it was a problem) the same tarp that protected us, was also our achilles' heel. Once we hit the end of the lake, it wouldn't let us return. No amount of rowing could move us out of the shallows at the very end of the lake. We fought the current and wind for some time with all our carb fueled might, then we reluctantly realized that we were trapped until we dismantled the tarp covering us.

Besides being blazing hot in the middle of the day; I didn't construct it to come apart easily. As a matter of fact, it was tied together to survive a tropical storm. That might have been admirable except we were being pushed by the wind into the thick weeds in the shallows that I feared was infested with water moccasins. After an enormous amount of time struggling, we lowered our unintentional sails and tried to paddle back. By this time we were exhausted and we were as far away from the landing dock as we could be. We paddled fiercely for a long time but the current just drove us back to the shallows. I was starting to get sun burned and angry. Aleister was out of strength and wasn't rowing and we kept getting pushed back.

Even when he did row, it was countering my efforts and just spinning the raft. Finally I'd had enough and decided I would go ashore and drag the boat (from the coast) by rope in the shallow edge of the water all the way around the lake. The problem was, the rope wasn't long enough and the coast was hilly and rugged terrain. Soon I was standing in the tall weeds and hoping there were no snakes.

Finally I went back in the water and tried to drag the boat (while I was in waist deep) until we could escape the current and make progress. This was a huge mistake. I was wearing sandals and the immediately sank into deep, four inch mud that oozed between my feet and toes. Many times my sandals just stuck in the muck and pulled my sandals off. I was stepping on hideous, unmentionable things. 'Things' were swirling around my legs and feet. I kept stepping on old logs and mysterious things that I shall never forget. I imagined 'okie noodling' with my feet and being seized by giant catfish as I slipped and tripped over slimy river debris and stepped into massive holes. I imagined contracting that nasty flesh eating bacteria from all the flesh wounds I received. I imagined stepping on lost fish hooks and swimming in fish poop. It's hell having a lucid imagination. There was an alligator captured in the river about ten miles from here recently. … I decided I'd pulled us far enough along and decided I needed to get back in the boat.

It was then that I saw the spider in my seat. It didn't want to leave and I didn't want flesh eating bacteria in my wounds. I worried about the spider biting me in the cramped quarters of the boat while we languished against the current. (But we weren't going to starve to death with the floating junk food debris in the boat…) I assumed they would find two well fed corpses in the boat, back at the shallows. Finally we made a truce and I hopped in. (And the cooler full of icy water and power aid dumped into the deck of the raft). Cookies and Doritos were everywhere. My cell phone and keys were in a plastic bag and at risk of floating off. The wind caught the cooler lid and tossed it back in the shallows that we had just escaped from. I wasn't about to go back for it.

Aleister and I were slowly roasting in the sun and exhausted. We tried to row but since I weigh twice what he does, we just spun in four hundred circles with very little forward progress. Hellish heat from above, icy cooler water from below in our extremities. All while spinning in a circle and often floating backwards toward failure.

The spider ate the bacon flavored crisps while we tried to break free of the relentless current. As we made minuscule, incremental progress, I tried to remain positive and estimate our distance from shore. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done but somehow we made it back to the boat launch. Near the end my fingers locked up and literally wouldn't open. The boat is still in the back of Gretchen's SUV. We may leave it there as a memorial shrine.

Just call me landlubber.

Posted in Children's Stories, Essays & Rants, Horror, Humor, Inspirational, Recollections, Thought provoking, Thriller, True Stories, True Stories, Essays & Rants, Uncategorized, Whimsical | 2 Comments

‘For this flesh is weak’

For this flesh is weak,
but our mind is strong.
The libido is motivated;
whether right or wrong.

If we still yearn to sew
when temptation calls;
the constitution is weak
and our resistance falls.

An eleventh hour bargain
is struck to make a deal.
It's never about morality;
only about how one feels.

To overcome pangs of lust;
conscience can triumph will.
We crave conquests of youth
but old age is a sobering pill.

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‘The weight of the words’

To describe her as a voracious reader' would be an understatement. Every waking hour of the day was spent in the pursuit of the written page. Meredith Burgess devoured books of fiction and non fiction alike. The simple matter of fact was, she never really met a book that she didn't find a way to appreciate. Some topics were more interesting than others but there were always facts or general entertainment to be gained from the printed page. The overwhelming majority of the publications she encountered met her definition of 'treasure'. In that way, she was the richest woman she knew.

Not surprisingly, she acquired a significant number of books and periodicals over the years. Eventually, the sheer volume of volumes began to take over her modest home. Stacks of paperback and hardcover editions lined every hallways and staircase. Magazines and newspapers went from floor to ceiling. The distinctive odor of the written page and paper dust filled the air.

As Meredith sank further into the lavish realms of imagination, her social life dwindled accordingly. There simply wasn't enough room in her fragmented mind for both the fantastic dream worlds of Dickens and Bradbury, and flesh and blood companions. Unlike real friends, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock and Dr. Watson never let her down. The antics of Cervantes still put a grand smile on her face. Slowly her grasp of reality began to slip. It wasn't that she failed to recognize the difference. She just preferred to sink into the far more appealing tales of the story masters.

Naturally she had to close her treasured tomes on occasion. Bills had to be paid, groceries had to be bought and household errands had to be completed. Absence just made her heart stronger to return home and read another chapter. Up ahead, the story held more adventures and each chapter teased a nail-biting cliffhanger. She sought the euphoria of completing a new book like some people collect stamps. There was a never-ending procession of new reading materials waiting as soon as the current one was finished.

As the years passed, Meredith accumulated a massive amount of written treasures. Her bookshelves overflowed onto the floor and far beyond. Soon her home became a claustrophobic labyrinth of vertical stacks where only the spines showed. Balancing them was an art form in itself and navigating the maze made her feel like a mouse looking for cheese. Try as she might, she couldn't bring herself to sell or discard any of them. They had become her 'children'.

Over time her obsession with the written word pushed her deeper into solitude. She rarely went outside and her level of human socialization dwindled accordingly. During the last decade of her life, she only ventured out in public when it was absolutely necessary. Her reputation as a 'shut in' or reclusive hermit was cemented. She didn't care, she had an infinite world of fantasy to wander through.

After several days of unattended mail and no answer at the front door, the local authorities decided that a wellness check was in order. The police knocked loudly again and then broke the lock to her front door. What they discovered upon entering was both surreal and startling. Her living quarters had been reduced down to mere tunnel passages, barely large enough for an adult to squeeze through. The men feared the worst. Calling out her name brought no response and the men retreated to a safe distance outside. They were worried about the very real possibility of a cave in. Tens of thousands of heavy volumes and periodicals filled every nook and cranny of living space.

A specialized search and rescue team was brought in to navigate to cave-like premises. It was assumed that she would be found deeply buried somewhere in the massive collection of paper publications. Instead, her body was discovered in the master bedroom, undisturbed and apparently at peace.

Her volumes on mining and deep cave exploration taught her how to effectively truss the mountains of books. Mythology stories about the labyrinth and Minotaur showed her the best way to find her way around the confusing maze. Her extensive collections of the greatest authors known to humanity entertained her until the very end of her bibliophile life. For every circumstance there was a written remedy. For every intellectual itch there was a written cerebral 'scratch'. Within her internal ecosystem, life was rich and very fulfilling. There on her bed, Meredith Burgess had expired doing what she loved; heaving the weight of the written word in her mind.

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‘My killer is dead’

On my eave of mortality
I met my true confidant.
To him I bared my heart;
this day he never forgot.

Only he could judge me;
or my soul tucked away.
Down banged his gavel
but I didn't seek a stay.

He drew his gun to shoot.
The bullet found its mark.
I shot my self-murderer;
and then all turned dark.

Only we know ourselves.
From heart to the bones.
We move in small circles;
in the end we die alone.

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‘Hidden compartment’

His deviated septum surgery was supposed to be routine. The doctor went in through the sinus canal to repair an old injury to the dividing membrane. The full amount of time under anesthesia was less than two hours. The patient hoped for a significant improvement in his breathing once the swelling went down and the nasal lining healed. In the meantime, both passages were packed with a temporary stent to insure they held their newly expanded shapes in the transition.

After the surgery, 'Patient X' regained consciousness and was taken home to heal. A week later he recovered enough from the trauma to have the stents removed. The process involved deadening the affected tissues and gently pulling them out. Afterward, a suction apparatus was inserted into the nasal passages to remove any remaining debris. Unbeknown to the surgeon and his staff, one of the nasal stents partially bonded to the patient's sinuses and tore the tissue slightly. The suction device latched hold to the dislocated skin and pulled it completely loose.

'Patient X' had never experienced the procedure before, so he was unaware of the circumstances. He assumed his burning discomfort was an ordinary part of the surgical process. For the first time in many years, the original obstruction was gone and he could breathe normally through his nose. The sensation itself was so intense and dramatic that it fully overshadowed the pain of the accidental skin loss.

This combination of maximum airflow entering his nasal passages and the missing sinus tissue directly beneath his brain, over-stimulated this undeveloped area. It resulted in an unparalleled metamorphosis. Almost immediately, the man's cerebral function expanded by 40%. The unused grey matter 'wasteland' on the underside of his brain was an untapped source of super intellect and psychic abilities.

What might have taken another hundred thousand years of evolution to develop naturally, was advanced overnight through the freak surgical accident. This undeveloped brain area was like a secret compartment, just waiting to be activated. 'Patient X' didn't know what to make of his new abilities or hyper awareness. Suddenly having the foreign powers of telekinesis and a full awareness of others thoughts didn't insure that he could understand or control it. In nature, the extra sensory capacity thrust upon him would have evolved slowly, allowing the entire species to adapt over many generations. As it was, his unnatural genesis left him in a very isolated realm.

The gambit of unlocked psychic abilities caused great headaches and manic euphoria in the man. At first, he didn't even realize he was responsible for drinking glasses flying off the table or light switches flipping off and on. He feared he was experiencing a wave of supernatural activity. Only later did it register that he was actually the source of the paranormal phenomena. Learning to control and use his power sparingly was another matter entirely.

Many of the myriad of transitory thoughts that human beings have on a daily basis are very inappropriate to act upon. Fortunately they remain hidden within the privacy of our secret minds. With his newfound abilities, it required a concerted effort of impulse control to avoid subconsciously acting upon them. All the extra mental effort to 'color within the lines of polite society' was exhausting. The hapless individual was constantly fatigued by the extra mental processing. He experienced an internal war of personal ethics. It proved too tempting to use his mysterious powers for greed and personal gain.

As power has a definite way of corrupting the most innocent of souls, 'X' was soon completely under the spell of his own paranormal prowess. He used his unexplained gift for petty profiteering and lustful pursuits. He also wasted it to gain advantage in games of chance and to steal lonely women's hearts. In short order, he had everything he'd ever wanted and yet there was still an emptiness. Never before had there been such a clear distinction between 'wants' and 'needs'.

Financially, he was 'filthy rich' but he was also the poorest man he knew in spirit. He had a cavalcade of 'friends' and an endless entourage of hangers-on, but he had no one he could depend upon. There was no way to know if they were truly loyal and devoted to him, or just around for the consideration perks of being his friend. 'X' began to wish that his strange powers would go away. What had once felt like an incredible gift and powerful advantage in life slowly changed to be a dreaded curse. The price of being able to read other people's thoughts was knowing the darkness of what they were. Being the most intelligent being in the universe brought sadness, distrust and paranoia. Even having the power to move objects at will had lost its luster. For all his power and wealth, he only longed for one thing: a return of normalcy.

'X' thought long and hard about his circumstances. He concentrated on how to eliminate his alienation from the rest of the world. Having an advantage over everyone else on Earth wasn't as enviable as it had seemed from the onset. With his magnified intellect came a full understanding of what caused the unexplained evolutionary leap in his mental advancement. The surgery accidentally lead to his psychic 'awareness'. In a stroke of brilliance, 'X' devised the solution.

He simply willed the 'hidden compartment' in the underside of his brain to heal back to its previously covered state. Predictably, the charged gray matter tissue was no longer exposed to the oxygen-rich air and atrophied. Soon, all of his psychic powers faded away and with that went all the insincere parasites and users. Luckily he still reaped the benefit of his successful nasal surgery… and his billions of dollars!

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‘The space between the bones’

In my youth there was a space,
a cushion between the bones.
This buffer acted as padding,
to prevent aches and moans.

Back when my joints were new;
the cartilage was soft and thick.
I climbed up stairs effortlessly;
but now pain comes very quick.

Many years have since passed
and my youth has flown away.
Injuries long since forgotten
have now come back to stay.

Any movement brings a chorus
of creaks and clanking bones.
My noisy joints snap in protest.
with the rhythm of a xylophone.

Perhaps this narrowing space
Is just to remind us of our age.
Once our bones bang together
We will end the wars we wage.

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‘Her alliance with the night’

She summons darkness with just a touch. Her pale caress is ice divine. The enchanted moon becomes her lover. Evil, always upon her mind.

She rises from the soil at dusk. Cursed to roam the night alone. Death speaks in haunted whispers. Velvet is her seductive tone.

The coiled serpent seeks its prey. Lies plied, it's forked tongue slithers. Will this victim escape her clutches? No one knows when their flower withers.

Sapphire eyes lure you in, nothing you can do but bow to sin. Unholy hunger drains your life, temptation's mistress, Dracula's wife.

Posted in Different Perspectives, Essays & Rants, Fiction Stories, Ghost stories, Gothic horror, Horror, Macabre, Poetry, Supernatural, Thriller, Twilight Zone Inspired, Uncategorized, Utopia & Armageddon, Whimsical | Leave a comment