Between the Day

021This Louis Ting poem had a life of only two hours. Written in the wet sand at low tide on Lighthouse Point, the tide soon claimed it as its own.

 

Cloaked in gray,

the world lay between decisions,

when silence is broken

by birds

singing what composers have chased

but could never hope to achieve:

simple perfection.

 

The sun rises with fiery paints

burning upon rippling waters,

golden, flickering light

dancing through the ocean’s waves.

 

The embrace of silence

gives way to the waiting arms of morning

as stars caught in the

cupped, gray palm of evening, retreat west,

until it is again their time

to blanket the world in its slumber.

 

A walk along the dark, lonely sand,

the tide whispers to you

its secrets that

you try desperately to understand.

The waves curl in,

and then retreat

with running pebbles,

scurrying back into the sea.

 

In clumps of

seaweed and rocks,

treasures wait for discovery.

Your only competition,

a gull who’s found his fill.

Bubblegum Newspeak

She Bubblegum Newspeakspeaks as if she actually expects others to understand her, a series of letters and numbers spewed out as if she is the Enigma Machine, a textureless language void of any real thought or understanding. Who would have thought that the Orwellian horror of Newspeak would be created by teenage girls?

Death Tours: Part 3 — Beach Day

Nick's HouseContinued from: Death Tours: Part 2 — Oracle 

Nick sat in the kitchen, looking down at his untouched breakfast. It was mid-August. The hottest day of the year. Nick’s father, Peter Bishop, sat beside him, eating his own breakfast. Nick’s mother, Karen, stood at the kitchen counter, pouring milk on cereal.

“Gonna be a hot one today,” Peter said, scooping up the last of his scrambled eggs with his toast.

“It’ll be uncomfortable up on that roof,” Karen said, bringing her cereal over to the kitchen table and sitting between her two boys, as she called them.

Peter said, “Yeah, but we should finally get it done today. It’s been a real pain in the…” he paused, glancing at Nick, and then said, “…tukas.”

This usually brought a giggle from Nick, but today, Nick sat, silent, still staring at his breakfast.

Peter regarded his son for a moment, waiting for the giggle that never came, and then he said, “I don’t know why they don’t just tear the building down and build a new town hall. Probably be cheaper than to keep fixing the old one.”

“You know this island, people aren’t good at letting things go. Besides, why ruin the charm?” Karen said.

“Ha. Charm. Right. This place is like a photograph of a time that never was,” Peter said. He ate the last of his toast and glanced at his son’s untouched food. “Not hungry, bud?” he asked the boy.

Nick shrugged.

“You feeling okay?” his father asked.

“Yeah,” Nick said with another shrug.

“Okay,” Peter said and stood to bring his dishes to the sink.

“Dad?” Nick said, still not looking up from his food.

“What’s up, bud?”

“Don’t go to work today.”

Peter stopped, still holding the dishes hovering above the sink, he cocked his head and looked back at his son. He said, “Why’s that, champ?”

“I don’t know…” Nick shrugged, “Just don’t.”

Peter, still with the dishes hovering above the sink, glanced at his wife. She paused mid-slurp of a spoonful of cereal and raised her eyebrows. Peter looked back at his son and said, “I have to go, buddy.”

“Yeah, but…” Nick began to say, but stopped.

Peter placed his dishes in the sink and returned to the kitchen table. He said, “Look, pal, some of us have to rely on working for a living. We can’t all be basketball superstars or television personalities like you plan to be.” He ruffled his son’s hair and then turned to leave.

“Dad?”

Peter turned back to the table. “What’s up, bud?”

“Nothing.”

Peter said to his son, “Go to the beach today, have fun. I’ll be home later, and maybe I’ll head down for a dip myself.”

“I’m sure you’ll be ready for one,” Karen said. “Supposed to hit 97 today.”

“See?” Peter said to his son. “Sounds like I’ll be dying for a swim.”

Nick winced. Peter glanced at his wife again. She raised her eyebrows.

Peter ruffled his son’s hair again, then he walked around the table to his wife. “All right, “ gotta get going.”

Karen stood to greet him.

“Dad, don’t go to work today.” There was an underlying panic in Nick’s voice that caused his parents’ glancing at one another to take an uneasy edge.

“Seriously, buddy, what is wrong with you today?”

“Just come to the beach instead.”

“Nicky, if I could, I would. I’d love to spend the day at the beach with you. But I can’t. I have to work.”

“Dad, don’t go.” Tears welled in Nick’s eyes. His parents looked at one another again.

An unnamable emotion crossed his parents’ faces. For a moment, they all felt that empty pocket waiting to be filled, but if people always heeded that feeling, nothing would ever get done, and so Peter broke the tension with his bright, toothy smile, and he kissed his wife. “Gotta go,” he said. He grabbed his tool belt from the counter and he left.

For most of the morning, as the temperature rose, so did Nick’s anxiety. He paced around the living room, looking out the window to the front lawn baking in the sunlight.

His mother walked past the living room doorway with a basket of laundry in her hands. She stopped, rewinding her steps to see her son.

She said, “Why aren’t you out playing? Or at the beach? Scooter not around today?” Scooter was a person, by the way, not a small bicycle.

“Why does Dad have to work today?”

“It’s his job, dear.”

Nick looked back out the window, his foot nervously tapping the floor. His mother watched him a moment, feeling that empty, ambiguous dreadful feeling again, but she chalked it up to just contagious anxiety caught from her son. She shrugged it off as being part of Nick’s growing pains, the anxiety of a coming adolescence, and she returned to her chores.

But Nick’s anxiety wasn’t caused by coming adolescence, and it felt like it was about to turn him inside out, as if his feelings were maggots wanting to burst from rancid meat, and that’s when he ran from the house, out to his yard, grabbing his bike and riding off down the road.

To Be Continued

Death Tours: Part 2 — Oracle

mystic-island-map-v2_03Continued from: Death Tours: Part 1 — Welcome to Death Watch 

The recognition of death would hit him in different ways. Sometimes it was a flash of a name, or of a time, or of a place. Sometimes it was all three. Sometimes it was just a feeling of an empty pocket in the air, about to be filled. The drop of the stomach signifying death’s sudden appearance.

Picture Nick Bishop as a child, a ten year old playing basketball on an old hoop affixed to a telephone pole in front of his childhood home on Mystic Island. Each dribble a practice in concentration as the ball kicked aside tiny stones on the blacktop, each stone threatening to kick aside the ball in kind. Picture him stopping in front of the crooked rim and, in his best Johnny Most voice, saying, “D.J. passes to Bird…” Nick pivots toward the hoop, cocking his arm, about to shoot, but he stops, the boy seeming to sense something. He looks behind him at a dog sniffing at a bush.

Sometimes Nick would get a sense of death weeks or days ahead of its appearance, but sometimes, like when that dog interrupted his basketball game, he would get the sense of death at that very moment. Don’t ask him for any scientific or philosophical explanation for any of it, because he has none. And don’t think that plenty of people—from researchers to government officials to Oprah, herself—haven’t tried to get the answer from him whether it be by money or force—or in the case of Oprah, both. The fact is, he has no idea how he is able to do it. As for me telling you, I will only tell you this talent is nothing new. The Oracle at Delphi, the witches of Macbeth, Nostradamus… Hell, there is even a cat at a nursing home in Rhode Island that can predict when the residents are going to die. The cat jumps up onto a resident’s bed, and the next morning, that resident just never wakes up. The person dies peacefully during the night. Now, you would think that when the cat walked into a room, the room’s occupant would grab the thing by the tail and throw it yowling out the door. But that never happens. The resident just lies back and falls asleep. Sometimes knowing one’s time has come is a comfort in itself. A chance to prepare, to brace for the coming end, to reflect on a life well-lived. With this knowledge you can be afforded the chance of dying with grace. The opposite is what happened to Paula Reece, who you all witnessed being mowed down in a Manhattan street on Death Watch. For her, knowing wasn’t a comfort at all. Knowing only made her completely freak out. It’s all in what a person does with the knowledge. You only die once, it’s a shame if you fuck it up. No, Nick Bishop wasn’t the first person with this knack of realizing the when or where of death. He was just the first person to put it on Prime Time.

So back to the dog. Nick watched the thing pee on a bush and trot off down the street. Nick followed the thing at a slow, steady pace, and as he did so, the dog eyed the boy suspiciously, the thing trotting into another yard for more sniffing. The dog had actually caught the scent of a young bitch in heat’s urine, and he was very eager to know in which direction she was heading. Nick looked off toward the street running perpendicular to his own street. He then looked back at the dog, the dog glancing nervously back at Nick. The dog was having a hard time keeping track of the two instincts now running in its brain: finding the bitch or keeping an eye out for potential danger. The bitch, as usual, was winning. Nick bounced the ball with one loud air-filled report, startling the dog into action. The dog darted into the street that ran perpendicular to Nick’s street. It was immediately run down by a car in a squeal of tires and yelping.

The car’s driver got out of the car. He looked at the dog dead in the road and then he looked at Nick. The driver said to Nick, “This your dog?”

Nick shook his head.

“I didn’t even see it,” The driver said. The statement is what all drivers say when hitting something.

“And it didn’t see you,” Nick said, turning and dribbling off toward the NBA finals, where Bird had the ball.

“Hey, do you know whose dog this is?” the driver called after Nick.

“Nope,” Nick called over his shoulder. His next words were in the gravelly voice of Johnny Most about to announce another Larry Bird buzzer-beater. The driver stood shocked at the kid’s coldness toward the dog’s death. But the truth was, Nick had just gotten used to death making its appearance. However, there was no getting used to what was to happen two weeks later, when death came home.

Continued in: Death Tours: Part 3 — Beach Day