The Family Business
“I’m so disappointed!”
Vali sighed loudly as he put down his fork. The news reporter droned on:
“Police say the killer, now being dubbed ‘Coyote’ after the animalistic injuries left on the victims’ bodies, is still at large.”
Vali begins talking, seemingly to his food, “Do you hear what they’re saying? Coyote? What kind of name is that?” He groans, “It’s ridiculous; it sounds lame!”
He scoffs to himself and continues eating. Soon enough, his alarm goes off. He reaches for his phone as he takes his last bite of food. He turns off the alarm and television, packs up his leftovers for dinner, and goes about his day, fulfilling his normal routine.
He meets up with his brother and sister for lunch. His older sister, Molly, sits with their orders already at their usual table.
“Hey, kid,” she checks the watches on the inside of her wrist. “Punctual, as always.”
Vali pulls a chair away from the table, and sits, uncomfortably, waiting. Finally, he hears his brother, Dan, running up behind him. Molly had her snarky comment ready.
“Riddle me this, Dan, you were born first, yet you’re always late.”
Dan smiles charmingly and Molly scoffs, “Cut the shit, you know it doesn’t work on me.”
“I haven’t even started yet, Molly,” Dan retorts.
Meanwhile, Vali stuffs his face with salad. It’s really just supposed to be a light snack between meals but he can’t help the harrowing anxiousness that makes his belly feel empty.
“Hey, kid, slow down,” Molly leans forward and rubs Vali’s arm.
“Yeah, don’t want you making yourself sick,” Dan adds on as he eats his own salad.
Vali laughs awkwardly, “Sorry, I just-”
Molly smiles warmly, “It’s alright.” She sighs. “It’s been sometime coming now. It’s only natural to be somewhat… nervous.”
Dan gives Vali a clumsy side-hug, “Yeah, dude. You’re finally getting a promotion!”
A man catches their attention; he’s loud and drunk at one in the afternoon. “Did you hear that shit? Stupid Coyote! Just a pathetic worm with mommy issues,” he laughs. The rest of his table laughs with him. Probably in fear- of not fitting in, of being cast out... of losing their jobs, maybe.
That night, it rains.
Heavy footfall resounds in an abandoned warehouse. It’s a shame that no one is there to enjoy how their pace increases in sheer desperation. The feet stumble and the body falls. The voice comes now, a deep groan, so unlike the loud, drunken laughter from this afternoon. How sad... he should’ve been more careful.
A new sound echoes throughout the room- soft, light steps, slowly approaching. The man, their target, still lays on the floor, and begins to think to himself: the Coyote. He admonishes himself for disregarding it- them. He’d just seen them on the news and thought the name was terrible, but he sees now how perfect it is. He wonders what the killer thinks of it. He wonders why, why do they do this? And why him? “Why me?”
Oh, and yet another mistake! That pitifully sobbed question led the Coyote straight to him. He crouches down to meet him and says, “You know, they always ask that?”
The man stares at him in shock and fear.
The Coyote clears his throat and elaborates, “They always ask, ‘Why me?’, which I think is quite a vain question. However, I suppose I can’t expect people like you to be all that smart.”
The man’s brain has finally processed what’s happening and his body pumps full of adrenaline as he tries to scramble away.
The Coyote shifts in their crouching position, unperturbed, “You know something else? You see, I find this quite interesting, but villains don’t think they’re the villains! None of you think you’ve done anything wrong!” He begins laughing, almost hysterically, throwing his head back. The man can see his sharpened canines from where he lays.
Again, he tries to get up, crawl away, anything!
Coyote simply pushes his head into the ground below them, “Now, now, I’m no doctor… well, not yet, but I don’t think you should be moving!” The target grits his teeth against the increasing pressure Coyote applies. “You were quite injured from our little game earlier,” he says.
He feels the man struggling beneath him, “So, you’re not going to take my advice then.” Coyote sighs and smoothly grabs the man’s head with both hands, harshly turning it. Then, he repositions himself into somewhat of a kneeling stance. He rests his target’s head on his right calf and keeps his left leg along the side of the man’s body, foot flat on the floor. He takes the man’s right arm in his hands and anchors himself, relying on his core and low center of gravity for balance and support. He slowly extends his left leg, snaking it under his target’s arm, forming an odd human crucifix. He can hear his target gag with every movement as his thigh presses against his neck.
“Ah,” he exhales. “Besides,” he continues speaking as he adjusts his grip and gets comfortable, “you control the head, you control the body.” As if to punctuate his statement, Coyote leans back slowly. They smile to themselves as they feel the man flail, knowing that his breath is rapidly leaving his body.
The Coyote looks down at the man, “Delicious isn’t it? The head rush? And, see- if I turn your arm this way,” the man kicks and blubbers, trying to get away or scream for help, all to no avail. “Exactly,” Coyote breathes out. “Here, I’ll ease up. Isn’t it glorious? Tell me! I’ll be patient, so take your time with your answer,” he says, almost gently. He moves forward, off of the man’s windpipe. He hugs the man’s arm with one of his to reach down and run his fingers through his target’s hair.
The man trembles. “Fuck off!” he screams. Immediately, he feels the Coyote grasping, pulling his hair. The tears begin to blur his vision.
He hears the Coyote sigh. “My, that’s not a very good answer!” The Coyote smirks, then snarls, releasing his hair. He feels the pressure on his throat again as they take a firmer grasp of his hand.
“Let me tell you something,” the Coyote says. “Hopefully, you can understand. The evil never repent until they are met face to face with the consequences of their actions.” Coyote turns to better see the man’s face, and the man looks away, struggling to breathe. The Coyote decides to take a break and make sure his point gets across. He squeezes the man’s face and turns it to his own. “Look at me,” he whispers. His eyes bore into the man’s, seeing into the depths of his soul, and says, “I. Am. That. Consequence.”
They release the man, resume their position, and without hesitation, chomp down on the man’s pinky. “Heh, not bad,” they say, ignoring the screeching, breathless wails reverberating throughout the warehouse.
The sound of a door being shut echoes in the man’s ears. He cries, fruitless, salty tears. He’s going to be eaten alive by the Coyote and his pack.
“Dalli, bring the extension cord through here!” The female of the pack. If he didn’t know better, he’d think she was the leader. No, the real Coyote was the one ripping off his fingers.
“I know, I know. Jeez, V, you could’ve waited till the sedative kicked in! The screaming is so-”
The Coyote turns back and smiles, “We decided not to give this one a sedative, remember?”
“Wait, which one is this one?” Dalli asks. He peeks around the Coyote and nods in understanding. “I remember now. Ugh, goddam pedophile icks me out,” he says, visibly shivering at the thought.
“Did you bring the stuff, Malice?” the Coyote turns to the female, easing up on tha man beneath him. The man mourns the loss of his three fingers. Soon enough, he’ll realize he’ll be saying goodbye to so much more than that.
“Mali will do just fine, you know Mom always liked the rhyme,” she says. Upon the mention of the loved one passed, the trio all complete a hand sign, an open plam with their thum tucked in, held in front of their chest. She hands the Coyote a phallus made of polished wood, “Here. You made the plan, you reap the harvest.”
The Coyote smiles, toothy and bloodstained with a glimmer of excitement in his eyes.
The next morning, the police found the man’s remains. The Coyote was true to their pattern- no organs were left. The body had been ripped open, hollowed out, and cleaned. It was always clean.
Even the area where the body was found hanging upside down… not even a trace of blood. It wouldn’t even look like a crime scene, if it weren’t for the body in the middle of the room, of course. At least it was helpful to the clean-up crew. Unfortunately, that’s where the Coyote’s generosity ended.
The bodies were almost always unidentifiable- eyes removed, cranium opened, teeth extracted, and fingers gone.
“Here, look, can someone say ‘signs of forced entry’,” an analyst asks.
“That’s not funny, get back to work!”
The analyst nods and looks away. Someone else says, “Well, we wanted this guy for child porn anyway. We just… never found enough hard evidence. The pun was unintentional.”
“And you think this is the way it should’ve been handled?”
“Well, he got what was coming to him. Sorry, again, unintentional.”
“You watch your mouth or I’ll write-”
The screens turns off. Vali leaves the police to stand around and scratch their heads, satisfied with what he’s seen from Dan’s homemade spy cams. He decides to make his way to his sub-level garage. Sipping a blood-red beet smoothie nonchalantly, he opens his deep freezer, looking for something to thaw for dinner.
He reaches into the freezer, “Hm, Mom always said a warm heart at night does a body good. A classic.”
A sign of change
It was another Friday night in the flat on the canal. It had become my second home after my catastrophic reentry from Greece and four months of boozing and working for pennies and falling from churches and nearly dying. It was warm and full of characters, not a lick of privacy, a mini commune if you will, but there was no other place I would have rather been. I had gotten used to the constant comings and goings and on the quiet days when I found myself with only one or two friends, I felt nearly lonely.
People started arriving in dribs and drabs , each one helping themselves to the kettle and to the dwindling supply of tea bags. Some came from work, or study or like the majority who were on the dole from the day drifting in and out of pubs waxing philosophically about life and trying desperately to find a point to it all. The evening got underway as usual, from tea we moved onto tins and flagons of cheap cider. We were waiting patiently for a very important person to arrive, Fergus, he was the man who brought our smoke. A quiet fella with piercing eyes and a tough yet gentle way about him. Of all the people who passed through that flat, he was the most interesting. He had a respectful day job and just did this on the side and did enjoy the company even though he wasn’t part of the ‘inner circle’. We had become a rather large clan and as happens with clans, cracks in the equilibrium were starting to show.
Within the group a few couples had formed over the years and through no fault of their own, simply growing up and changing direction and perspective they began questioning their futures together. Some had gotten together after a drunken night together, I had been victim to that. Two wasted years thinking that was what you were supposed to do. A one night stand can’t just be that or can it? The girls seemed more together, some were nurses, others studying and working and others still planning on the all illusive and difficult immigration to the paradise land of Australia. The lads seemed to be stuck in a sort of limbo, the refusal to accept jobs they deemed beneath them left them on permanent dole payments and angry discussions about how things should be.
It was about ten o’clock when we heard ranting coming from the front garden. I ran to the bedroom window and looked down to see Brendan, probably the most charismatic human being I had met up until that point in my life, arms wide singing a Neil Young tune between laughter and senseless ramblings. He had obviously made a few pit stops before his arrival and was looking worse for wear. We welcomed with the usual camaraderie and swiftly handed a pint. Brendan had dropped off the radar recently and from what we knew had some family things to sort out at home in Tipperary. Dublin then seemed as far away as London. Some of the group we had already lost to far corners of the world, Phil, who had actually witnessed the taking out of non other than one of Irelands most infamous criminals, The General, had disappeared to New Zealand. Antonella went to Australia and others joined the long line of ferry immigrants to London. Totsie, the scruffy, mousy and mouthiest of the clan had gone to New York with high hopes of becoming a barman. He bragged that he already had a job set up and that he would never set foot again in rainy old backward Ireland.
My former best friend Nathalie arrived with a couple of new acquaintances. We had had a massive falling out, typical girl stuff, random jealousy involving a guy. I hadn’t seen her in quite some time so we sombrely saluted each other then went about revelling with others. The flat was full to the brim with people and the smell of smoke and drink had thickened the air. Conversations that night were intense. The country was at the tail end of a long recession and we were all weary from it. The shine had gone off the suffering melancholy which had inspired many of us over the years to write poetry, songs and to share moments of solidarity. We now wanted a change and the anger and anxiety over our futures had begun to show its horns. Waves of laughter mixed with sharp sparring of ideas and opinions cut through the evenings atmosphere. I spent a good portion of that night talking to the smoke man, Fergus. He wasn’t either way about anything that night, just observing the spectacle and I was in need of a quiet corner to myself.
Gus arrived home around eleven and he was well oiled as usual. His thick accent, often mumbling half arsed tales and floppy hair which covered his eyes made him our groups teddy bear. Many an evening was spent laughing uncontrollably at one of his nonsensical stories. We asked him for news about Totsie, they were best mates and we expected him to have an update, it had been 4 months since he had left for New York and no one had heard anything since. Around the room there were several joints being prepared. I was working on one next to Fergus when I realised I ran out of papers. I tried to get Hillary’s attention but she was in fits of laughter over something and the music was too loud so I went across the room to Brendan. Someone started knocking on the door. It was the flat downstairs. There was a phone call for Gus. He staggered downstairs closing the door behind him, trying not to let the smoke waft out into the hall. Brendan hand me his last two skins and I finished my joint with Fergus. We started sharing before passing it around to the others.
Gus came back and closed the door. He also turned off the music and appeared to have lost 5 pints of blood. He typically pale skin had gone three shades whiter and he trembled while he mumbled something about just having received a phone call. We all stopped what we were doing and asked him what was going on. Totsie had been found dead. Beaten to a pulp outside the pub he had been working at in New York. His father was on his way to identity the body. We all sat in silence. The news just wouldn’t sink in. Gus stood and cried. The room seemed to fade in and out. It was as if a ice cold wind had come in and blown us all frozen. Someone went to put the kettle on. Gus sat down on the couch and we gathered around. He had apparently pissed a fella off that evening, the wrong fella, by drunkenly hitting on his girlfriend. He was set upon after hours, alone on the footpath with no one to defend him. We had always said his mouth would get him in trouble one day. It chilled us to think that he died like that and so far from home.
The flat that night had begun to feel claustrophobic and after the news of Totsie I started to look around the room at the faces that had become my day to day for so long. The habitual meetings, the pub crawls, the nights spent aimlessly drinking and smoking until the wee hours of the morning only to sleep in and get up and do it all again. It wasn’t just me, the others felt the same I know they did. The looks on their faces said the same thing that was going through my mind. ‘Its time’. For so long we had lived a cloistered existence, protecting one another, maintaining this safe little world. Exploration had become our enemy and we were stifled. I started remembering the dreams and ambitions I had before letting myself lull into this placated state. A writer, an artist, going back to university. Everything had been put on standby, yes by the economy, the country our circumstances, but also by fear. It was easier living this way, the clan moved together, thought together, drank together and stagnated together. The phone call that night had brought a clarity that I was not expecting.
It was about four in the morning when we all crashed and I found myself nestling in Fergus’s arms. Reflecting, we had spent nearly the entire evening together. And it was as if this ‘new’ person, different from all the rest, symbolised my break. A breath of fresh air, a light at the end of a tunnel that so many of us had created around us. I was saddened for the loss of one of us. But I thanked that moment for setting me free. That morning when I woke, the bodies strewn about the place and the stale smell of smoke and half drunk tins made my stomach turn. I wanted nothing more than an empty house. Fergus awoke and grabbed his hoodie. I walked him downstairs and it was at the door that he asked the question that would be the key to the rest of my life: “Do you fancy meeting for a coffee later?”. And the answer that would seal my fate: “Yes”.
On Following Dreams, OR: Wisdom(?) from Pig Destroyer
There’s this headline from The Onion that I love because it is un-comedy: “Find what you love: do it on nights and weekends.” People need to do what they love; that is not to say that everyone will make a living with what they love. Do what you have to in order to pay your bills, but don’t let that stop you from sharing your talent with the world. Should people full-time, full-throttle pursue their passions? In particular, should your friend fully focus on the drums and pass on other studies?
Well, I don’t know.
I have some questions.
First of all, if you’ll pardon my being blunt, how good is he? There’s “my friends are very impressed,” and then there’s “my band teacher says I’m good,” but let’s face it: if you’re talking about pursuing a career in music performance, neither of those will necessarily cut it. “I worked up to section leader my senior year” is different from “I made all-state band for three years running.” What level of skill has he obtained?
Second, what does he want out of life? It’s entirely possible that literally the only thing he wants is to drum. That makes it easy. But when contemplating a career in a field that’s a tough nut to crack, requiring skill and effort and luck, it’s important to be honest with oneself. How important is it to your friend to have a nice new car? Own a home? Have kids in the next ten years? None of those make a career as a drummer impossible, of course; getting stuck in either-or thinking is logical failing. But work in a creative field is not necessarily the easiest path to creature comforts or stability, and I don’t use those terms mockingly: there are several reasons I became a teacher rather than pursuing creative writing my whole life, and I’d be lying if I said a stable job with good insurance wasn’t one of them. I have no regrets. Before anything else, I wanted a home with a family I could support, and I have those things. Sharing a studio apartment with a roommate and hoping I could sell a story to make rent? I wasn’t interested.
Maybe your friend is. Maybe splitting an apartment with roommates/bandmates through his 20s, maybe spending a lot of time on the road, sounds fantastic: there’s a romance to that life. Maybe if he gets to play gigs a couple nights a week he’s totally cool with waiting tables, because those gigs make life worth living. Lady Gaga has a tattoo of a Rilke quote that translates to, “Confess to yourself in the deepest hour of the night whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.” Is that how your friend feels about playing the drums?
Playing the drums would not be forbidden, of course: not if he majored in something else, not if he got a 9-5 office job, not if he waits tables… he can always play the drums, and regardless of his life path, I hope he does. What if he pursued music education, and teaching the drums to kids was part of his life? What if drumming is a side gig? On the other side of things, will he always wonder if he could have “made it” if he hadn’t gotten bogged down with X, Y, and Z?
One of my favorite essays I’ve ever read is called “Into the Darkness” by David Rowell, which The Washington Post published in 2009: the author spends a week with a grindcore band called Pig Destroyer before they play Maryland Death Fest. It’s a wonderful read about what metal means to people, and what Pig Destroyer means to the people who play in it. I’ll throw in a few excerpts…
They are also quite successful, considering the band's part-time status. Pig Destroyer has sold nearly 100,000 albums, and it earns about $20,000 each year from merchandising, album sales and live appearances, which, when the band isn't playing a festival, are generally in front of crowds of 300 to 800. Though the band has, over its 12 years together, performed in such far-flung countries as Japan, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Mexico and the United Kingdom, it plays only a handful of shows a year because its members are fiercely protective of their lives outside the band. Hull, for example, is the devoted father of two small boys and a frequent volunteer at his older son's school. He had been working on his PhD in physics at Boston College before eventually abandoning it. Now he works for the Department of Defense, though that's all he can tell me for security reasons…
While in Boston, he joined a metal band with a name that can't be printed here, and recorded a CD with them, but he stayed for only a couple of months. "I couldn't take off and do all the touring that they wanted to do," he said. But that wasn't the only problem. He began to realize: "'Hmmm, I'm the only one with a credit card. I'm the only one with the ability to rent a car. I'm the only one with any sort of education.' A lot of things were starting to come into focus. And I thought, 'I'm not sure I want to follow this path...This is fun, but I'm eventually going to want to have a family. I eventually want to be comfortable. I want to have a future.' "
He got tired of life as a teaching assistant making $12,000 a year, he said, relocated to Washington and started up his career. He was working at Lockheed Martin in the IT department, which, he said, put to use his skills as an analytical thinker, when Pig Destroyer started up in 1997. From the beginning, Hull saw the band as something on the side to a fuller life. His main interest was writing and recording, rather than performing on the road…
Hull enjoys the careful balance he has set for himself. "I like being in my own house, and I like having my family around. On the road it's like: 'Where are we going to find ourselves tonight? Oh, no hotel? Okay, we'll just get back on the road. Who's going to drive?' It's just an endless array of problems you have to solve."
When Pig Destroyer does play a show, the preference is for weekends, which lets Hull save as much vacation time as he can for his family.
"Ultimately, this is not a career," Hull said of Pig Destroyer. "Bands typically fall apart after a while. And then your ability to want to continue to do this sort of wanes, and then all of a sudden you're stuck in a position where you've professionally chosen to do this for your livelihood, and all of a sudden you have to do this, and it's a job. That's why we choose to keep a lot of the pressure off. That's why we don't tour so much. All of that just tears people apart."
I don’t know your friend the drummer any more than I know the guys in Pig Destroyer. I don’t know what sort of drumming he wants to do, or what other interests he has, or anything. I don’t know what his life goals are, or if he even knows for sure what they are yet. What I am certain of, is that figuring out one’s life goals, and finding one’s way toward those things that truly matter – whatever they are – is an essential condition for happiness. There’s an opportunity cost for everything. Go in with your eyes open. Talk to people in your prospective field. Think: what life do I want, and what am I willing to sacrifice for it? Figure out what is most essential for your happiness, pursue it, and remember there is more than one way to skin a cat. Or destroy a pig. Whatever.
Difficult To Get A Straight Answer, Isn’t It?
“And now I am eking out my days in my corner, taunting myself with the bitter and entirely useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot seriously become anything, that only a fool can become something.”
~Fyodor Dostoevsky - Notes From Underground
First allow me to impart my belief that no human can fully understand another, so the preliminary answer to your question is that being trans is probably an experience unique to each person.
It is widely accepted that gender-dysphoria exists. I consider it to be a human condition with many different manifestations, resulting in a range of unpleasant emotions, from mildly uncomfortable to intolerably distressing. I call it a human condition because I have not percieved it to any severe levels in other animals, and because it plagues a great number of people who have suffered by it to various extents at some time or another in our lives.
But, to be as coldly and condemningly rational as I am capable of; Dysphoria of any kind appears to have certain preconditions, one of which is relative safety and security within an over-prosperous society. It is akin to that streak of utopia-rebellion in humanity which causes us to be upset by nothing terrible occuring; the subconscious conviction that in the absence of suffering we must make ourselves suffer.
In a survival scenario for example, where every bead of sweat must be utilized toward the aim of preserving what small freedoms are afforded one by the merciless recriminations of the natural world, I think it likely that only the most extreme cases would endure, as there wouldn’t be enough downtime to indulge all the masochistic tortures with which the human brain so often occupies itself when idle.
That aside, seeing as we are idle, and various dysphorias do torment us, it is a passably reasonable opinion that we might attempt to formulate some kind of remedy to one of them which seems to have an obvious solution.
However (while I have no qualms whatsoever with crossdressing) being of an impractically old-fashioned disposition myself, I regard the surgical mutilation of genitalia with abject horror. More particularly knowing that even with a skilled surgeon it could all go very wrong, that most require further surgeries to correct abnormalities, and that infertility is usually part and parcel, even if it all goes smoothly. I know not how much my terror of body-mutilation and my joy in parenthood have combined to cloud the openness of my mind on the topic, for perhaps there is no way to scientifically measure the extent of human bias. Nevertheless I for one definitely find it worth the attempt to encourage all other avenues of comfort within oneself before resorting to surgical alteration.
I can anecdotally disclose that I was highly displeased with being female in my youth, wallowing in visceral despair and self-disgust at my appearance (which is a vanity I still partake in from time to time.) And, as I was (and still am, to be honest) possessed with an intense admiration for all things masculine, I might have easily gotten seriously obsessed with the idea of being male had I not then found and fallen in love with a male of comparible age and interest, thus rendering any inclination for being something other than a female obsolete.
This is not to say that I consider myself as having escaped some horrible fate; I cannot know what my life would or would not have been like in alternate dimensions. I know only that it was possible in my case for my opinion of myself to change drastically in a short period of time, and that I do not regret the direction my life has taken. I might go so far as to call the want of transformation ‘childish’ within myself, though I know that to others it is a far more overwhelming desire which endures long beyond the inelegant disturbances which plague every adolescence.
Yet there are those who succumb to the unavoidable throes of puberty with irreversible effects, and come later to regret that no one cared enough to discouraged them in their teenaged flights of fancy.
It is this which leads me to think, perhaps naively, that many cases of dysphoric transgenderism (especially in young people) will cease to take over the life of the avid self-questioner, given enough time and empathy of surroundings, without resorting to surgical interference or rampent enabling, which in itself is a cruelty none should be put to bear. To place a person’s whims above their well-being is a degradation which no soul professed of compassion should be able to inflict upon a loved one.
This should not be taken as any particular insult to the persons afflicted with wanting a different body. It is a universal, not particular, folly; to be confused, or to be sure of oneself for that matter. Both are detestable qualities in some respects. After all, no sane person should be expected to know without a shred of decent doubt what exactly one’s own mind thinks about the fact of it’s querulous existence, less still to make imperiously sensible decisions as to it's bodily condition.
But of course the audacious pomposity of that last statement is at once apparent to all who place any sort of passing importance on the notion of free will; for we must choose our own way, regardless.
A Besties Story
I ran across our adjoining yards to Austin's house. I knocked on the door, then hopped from foot to foot. Apperently the ground is cold in winter. Who knew?
Nora, Austin's little sister opened the door.
"Hey Lila! Come in," she said.
I walked in the open door and awkwardly held my textbooks in my arms. Austin came over to me and smiled.
"Lila! I'm just about ready."
He walked over to our usual couch and sat down. I sat down on the right, like normal. I opened my textbook and started doing the homework.
My mind left me, and went to planet Math, where all the rules make sense, processes define everything, and there is only one correct answer. I love planet Math. Everything makes sense there.
I finished all the practice problems and closed my textbook. Austin looked over at me.
"How are you already done? I still have like five more problems!"
I shrugged. "It makes sense to me, I guess." I looked over at him. He hunched over the page, rubbing his forehead. His notebook was a mess of problems and solutions. I wonder daily how he manages to keep track of it all.
I decided to take pity on him. "What doesn't make sense today?" I shifted to sit sideways on the couch, facing him.
"Everything..." he said. His glance at me was pleading. How can I resist that?
I laughed a little. "I need a more specific problem."
I helped him understand today's chemistry assignment, then we both sighed in relief.
Austin looked over at me slyly.
"Do you want to watch some Gravity Falls?" He reached toward the remote, already knowing my answer.
"Of course!" He smiled and turned the TV on.
I don't have Disney+ at my house, so I have to go over to his house when I want to watch anything besides VHS's. His family is really nice about it, and actually encourages me to come over and watch things. I'm pretty sure Austin's mom ships me and him, but I've never been able to comfirm it. I'm also not quite sure how it makes me feel. Austin is just my friend, after all.
I curled into the couch cushions and focused on the episode. Gravity Falls is awesome.
Austin started jiggling his leg, like he normally does. Instead of annoying me, it always soothes me. I smiled and looked over at him. He was completely zoned on the TV. He had no idea he was doing it.
I took a deep breath and let the vibrations relax me. I wish I could always stay with Austin. Somehow, he makes me relax.
The episode ended, and I looked over at the clock. Quarter till 6. I really need to get home. I stretched, then picked up my textbook and notebooks.
"Oh, are you leaving?" Austin asked.
"Yeah, we're gonna have dinner soon," I said. I sat up and walked to the front door. Austin followed me.
"Bye Lila! See you tomorrow!"
Then I stepped off the porch into the twilight.
“I love the feeling of the fresh air on my face and the wind blowing through my hair.”
For those readers born after the 1970s, and have no idea what ABC’s Wide World of Sports was, Montana-born Even Knievel was a daredevil who excelled at riding motorcycles and breaking bones in his body. The Guinness Book of Records states that he had 433 bone fractures by 1975. He must have been paid for this talent, and well, because he was worth $3 million dollars when he died.
Coincidentally, he also attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp jumps, some of which ended with him upright, and with no injuries.
Evel’s first jump was over a 20-foot box filled with rattlesnakes and two mountain lions.
Wonder what the animals thought about the event?
Though the jump was successful, he did sprain an ankle. His second jump, in 1966, saw him leap over 2 pick-up trucks and come down safely. Success! His third jump a few weeks later was without a motorcycle and long before Woody Harrelson provided us with the valuable axiom Evel would have been thankful for: “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992).
He decided to try and jump, spread-eagled, over a speeding motorcycle. Mr. Knievel jumped a tad late and the bike hit him in the groin, tossing him 15 feet in the air. He would never attempt the feat again.
Through ’66, ’67, and ’68 Knevel made his reputation as a man able to leap a line of cars with a motorbike, which is something. At least he challenged his fears.
While in Vegas in ’67, Evel became infatuated with the idea of leaping over the Caesar’s Palace fountain. On Dec. 31, 1967, Evel placed a bet at the blackjack table with his last $100 (he lost), drank a Wild Turkey at the bar, and went outside to race the devil. He steered his Triumph Bonneville towards the point of no return. Shooting skyward, he gloriously roared past the spewing water eruptions and almost made it safely to the landing ramp before crashing hideously (though not as bad as a later copycat, who, among other injuries, had his aorta ripped from his heart after “someone moved [his] landing ramp during the night”). Evel said later his bike curiously decelerated on the incline, which led to his shortage of oomph!
He also attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon in a custom built rocket whose parachute opened prematurely, and, despite the fact that he was over the opposite side of the canyon, the wind soon caught the ’chute and blew him back to the near side of the river, where he crash-landed.
Evel once said:
“You can't ask a guy like me why I performed. I really wanted to fly through the air. I was a daredevil, a performer. I loved the thrill, the money, the whole macho thing. All those things made me Evel Knievel. Sure, I was scared. You gotta be an ass not to be scared. But I beat the hell out of death. [...] You're in the air for four seconds, you're part of the machine, and then if you make a mistake midair, you say to yourself, "Oh, boy. I'm gonna crash," and there's nothing you can do to stop it, not at all..”
He also said the words beginning this..thing, which about sums up the role of Nature in his, and our, lives. While we’re cruising down the highway of life, earning our livelihoods, Nature breathes its zesty breath through our hair, and over our face, giving us the impression that we are alive, and that our efforts somehow jell with the natural world around us.
Until we crash and all of our bones are mashed; or we catch cancer or realize (finally) that most of the jobs we are doing are stupid, and benefit no one and nothing at all.
Chapter Nine: The Struggles Of A Farmer And A Fighter
December 15, 1817
Chadwick Kincade stood outside the house he had built, marveling over his farmland and the barn he had also constructed. After exploring the territories of Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, he had ventured to Georgia, and purchased land on the Georgia-Florida border. While enjoying the busy, yet tranquil, life he had found, he also thought of the future. Someday he would meet someone and create a legacy. Chadwick smiled at the warm thoughts of watching his future family appreciate the hard work he put into this little piece of heaven he could call his own.
It was early morning, and before getting caught up in the excitement of the future he daydreamed about, Chadwick thought about the tasks at hand. His farmhands weren’t set to arrive for an hour, but he could start some of the work himself. Several of his animals were ahead of him in starting families, and he would need to care for their babies. He had a recent harvest of vegetables that needed to be checked for quality and freshness, and what passed the test could be packaged and sold to the market. He would also need to trash the bad crops that hadn’t fared as well. The cows would need milking, and the milk would also need to be prepared for the market. Before Chadwick could choose from among these tasks, or the countless others that came from being a farm owner, a whooshing sound interrupted his train of thought.
Chadwick looked behind him and saw an arrow lodged into one of the logs that made up his house. Ducking instinctively, he looked around and could not see his attacker. The cornstalks in front of him were likely the location of the arrow’s owner. He had no weapons on him for defense, but he had a rifle inside. Before Chadwick could retrieve his firearm, another arrow whizzed by and hit the door.
Chadwick felt powerless. Whoever was after him was a skilled archer, and was not giving him anything to work with. The arrows were precise shots, but didn’t seem to be aimed at him directly. Chadwick concluded that the intruder wasn’t trying to kill him yet, but was seeking his attention. Knowing he didn’t have much of a choice, he ventured off his porch and faced the cornstalks. He put his hands in the air, and hoped he wasn’t giving his foe an easy finish.
Out of the cornfields came the shooter. He was a tall, muscular Indian man without a shirt, but he wore a breechcloth and leggings. Chadwick called out to him, hoping the man would understand his language.
“What do you want?” Chadwick asked the man calmly. With a bow and arrow pointing at him, he wasn’t about to get aggressive—yet.
“Name?” the man asked, looking at Chadwick intently.
“Chadwick Kincade. And you?”
“Thlocco Tustennuggee. It mean Big Warrior.”
“Why are you here?” Chadwick asked.
“Taking back land,” Big Warrior answered.
“No,” Chadwick said. He sympathized with the Indians wanting their share of land, especially after reading his sister Rosie’s letters about her war experiences, and her marriage to Little Eagle. But he had purchased this land and built a successful farm business with it. He might die if he stood his ground, but he preferred that to surrendering over what he had worked so hard for.
“Then fight,” Big Warrior responded, a vicious smile crossing his face. He dropped his bow and arrow quiver and ran toward Chadwick.
Chadwick hadn’t fought since the time he assisted Jim Bowie in Logan County. He was in good shape from working on his farm, but he wasn’t sure if he could hold his own against an Indian warrior. Not having much of a choice, Chadwick entered a fighting pose and prepared to square off with Big Warrior.
Big Warrior reached Chadwick and swung an open hand at him. Chadwick ducked and answered with a left hook. Big Warrior was briefly dazed, then smiled before headbutting Chadwick. Chadwick managed to keep standing, and responded by kicking Big Warrior in the chest. Big Warrior retched momentarily, then smiled at Chadwick.
“You fight well, Kincade,” Big Warrior said, somewhat out of breath, but still inspired. “But warrior of the Seminole tribe will prevail!”
“Let’s find out, shall we?” Chadwick responded, enjoying the thrill of this adventure, despite the danger he was in.
The fighters rushed at each other and extended their arms forward, each gifting the other with a fist. Chadwick and Big Warrior both fell to the ground after the exchange, ending their fight in what appeared to be a draw.
Chadwick came to and remembered the events that knocked him out. He glanced over and saw the Seminole lying on his back. He quickly checked Big Warrior’s vitals, and confirmed that he was still alive. He gloated to himself about apparently winning the fight, and despite the adrenaline rush from the battle, he knew he had to do something about the man that had attacked him for possession of his land.
“Rope! That’s it, there’s some inside!” Chadwick exclaimed out loud.
He grabbed the bow and quiver of arrows that Big Warrior had previously tossed on the ground, then dislodged the two arrows from the side of his house before running inside to get rope. Chadwick found the coil of rope in his workshop, then ran back outside to bind Big Warrior in order to buy time to come up with his next course of action. When he returned to the spot where their skirmish occurred, however, Big Warrior was no longer there.
Chadwick rushed back inside, taking the opportunity to arm himself in case the Seminole was hiding nearby. He checked his house, his barn, the cornstalks, and the rest of his land. Big Warrior had apparently fled, and Chadwick had a feeling that he would encounter the warrior again someday.
December 29, 1817
Chadwick was sitting in his living room drinking coffee with Mitchell Damoan, a good friend who served as one of his close confidants in the management of his farm business. Chadwick trusted that Mitchell would be the right person for the request he was about to make.
“Your coffee is exquisite, as always,” Mitchell complimented. “Coffee made from beans grown on Kincadia Farm is truly the best.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” Chadwick said appreciatively.
“Which is why you are the perfect person to take on what I am about to ask.”
“What would that be, my dear friend?” Mitchell asked, curious as to what was being requested.
“I have been called back to service in the U.S. Army to help deal with the issue of the Seminole Indians attacking Americans in these areas,” Chadwick explained. “My recent struggle with the Seminole Indian, Big Warrior, was a minor incident, but more severe attacks are occurring elsewhere.”
“From what I heard about your encounter; you were magnificent!” Mitchell gushed. “After holding your own against one of the best fighters of the Seminoles, I can see why you would be desired by the Army!”
“They don’t get it, though; Big Warrior could have easily killed me, but he didn’t,” Chadwick protested. “Still, if other settlers here are being attacked, it must be stopped. Kincadia Farm would also likely fall if this conflict continued.”
“Indeed, it would,” Mitchell agreed. “And for what role have you summoned me?”
“I would like you to manage Kincadia Farm until I return,” Chadwick requested. “I don’t know how long my duties in the Army will last. Will you handle things here until I can return?”
“It would be an honor, Chadwick, and I thank you for entrusting this to me,” Mitchell said enthusiastically. “If you vow to return safely, I will also vow to keep Kincadia Farm going strong in your absence.”
August 10, 1818
The conflict with the U.S. Army and the Seminoles that I am involved with has been perilous. I thought that we would be protecting our citizens from Seminoles that were attacking them. But as this war progresses, I am not seeing how our actions differ from those we fight to stop. During this past spring, General Jackson led us through the villages of the Seminoles on Lake Miccosukee and along the Suwannee River, and we were ordered to leave a trail of destruction throughout. We invaded Pensacola, and while some of the Seminoles were driven away, many were killed by our hands. Two Seminole Chiefs and two British men who were assisting the Seminoles were captured. The military court suggested that one of the British citizens should receive fifty lashes for punishment, but General Jackson ignored this and forced the execution of the four men. Oh, sister, your disdain for the General is warranted. If only he had listened to you when you tried to talk sense into him during your encounter in the Creek War.
I have been praised for my abilities in combat, and the story of my showdown with Big Warrior has been the constant talk among my comrades. I have not encountered Big Warrior again per the writing of this letter, and I question if he is still alive. I fear for my own life as well, but I promise to somehow survive this nightmare and return to the place I belong, Kincadia Farm. I hope your days are better, sister, and I wish you and Little Eagle the best, always.
Your Loving Brother,
Written By: Roses311Sublime
The hunter in the tangled thicket looked out through bloodshot eyes at the forest clearing before he ran toward his prey. He felt his anger boiling up from his cauldron of festering rage. Why did his father dislike him so much that his only childhood memories were of beatings and scathing remarks? He still had the scars that his father had inflicted. Even his mother hadn’t wanted him. Sometimes, she even sent him to bed without supper for no reason at all. Now that he was no longer a child, he could finally get back at all those who had caused him grief. His world was a dark, foreboding place as he tried to keep his escalating insanity in check.
A young woman was kneeling on the yellowed grass in the open space, picking wild strawberries and humming a little melody. Why should she be happy when he was so miserable? He took careful aim with his rifle, imagining she was a rabbit, and shot her in the back. She moaned as she flailed her limbs, trying to survive as she gasped her last breath.
The huntsman smiled to himself as he pondered his name, Chase. It was such an appropriate name for one who preyed on others. Running over to his young victim, he prodded her with his rifle but she didn’t budge. He wiped the saliva from his toothless mouth, slung her over his back, and headed back into the forest to the little dingy cabin where he lived.
“Ma! Pa!” he yelled, still trying to attain their approval after all this time. “Here’s another one for the barbie! Stoke up the grill!”
"Anything else, dear?"
Sabrina politely refused Mrs Taylor's offer with that sweet smile that could only belong to her. It was that gracious giggle that made the young lady famous in town, even when she rarely appeared down here. Her house is somewhere near the woods, the young boys say. It was the sole thing her father left her with, says the older fellas in the armchairs. And yes, to have stories told about you can be exciting. But not always.
"Oh, and I could use a broom, Mrs Taylor. The old one leaves more dust than it sweeps."
And that was the moment when everything changed. Mrs Taylor, who had been busy totalling all the prices despite her poor mathematical skills, gazed up at her in shock. The young boy, fiddling around with the worn-out bicycle tires, stood still as his tires rolled down the stairs to the harbour. The senior gentleman, busy scanning the papers beside her, no longer cared about the headlines. Clearly, they just beheld the beginnings of the forthcoming big news in town.
Even as Sabrina left the store, no longer wearing her adorable smile, she could feel the stares. How can someone feel those eyes? She doesn't know, but those eyes pierced right through her skin. The broom stood projected out of her little jute basket, and no one hid their suspicions as she walked to the edge of the town. Sabrina could hear the faint whispers amidst the cacophonies of the busy street. And for some reason, she knew they were talking about her.
Sabrina walked a little faster, feeling a growing sense of uneasiness clawing about her insides. Unfortunately, this only adds to the suspicions of the piercing eyes. She could now hear their breath. Perhaps if the town was quieter, she could have listened to their heartbeats too. Soon enough, she could hear the footsteps following her in stealth, closing in for the day's prey.
And before Sabrina could restrain herself, her legs took off, attempting their best to carry their keeper to the safety of her home. The jute basket slipped off into the gutter, soaking her favourite cookies in the swamp. But she couldn't care any less.
Of course, the home could not keep her safe. But sometimes, it seems to be the solution to everything. Returning home. But in those nefarious eyes, it was no longer a home. It was a coven. And Sabrina, a witch. Their prey. The one to burn while they relax and watch.
"Burn her." There never was much Sabrina could do. Apparently, the young man, whose love she refused, had seen her cooking potions. Smoke billowing out of her little coven. And another little girl who had seen her in her nightmares. All she could do was beg, and she did. But the men took the decision for the Gods, and how could she prove them wrong?
The young man was smirking as she got carried away by the relentless guards. The little girl sneaked behind her mother, unwilling to listen to the pleads of a witch. One day, they might take her away too. She doesn't know. In the name of God, they say. How could one kill an innocent girl in the name of God?
She doesn't know, but as she felt the fire melting her skin, she realised it. Her father loved the legends of the lost kings and their declining realms. They perch helplessly on their thrones when the Wicked takes over. In the name of the King, they say. But the King would have long lost his hopes on bringing happiness back to his kingdom. He just shuts his eyes and says it's dark. Sabrina wouldn't blame him. There wasn't much he could do.
Even as the young lady could feel Life doing its best to hold on to her, she was perplexed. Who was more terrifying? The King or the Wicked?
I got a long explanation to make, haven't I? *innocent lauughter* Well, to start off, I am in college! As if that justifies everything XD Well, I messed up. I guess that's pretty evident when it's about me *facepalm* But yeah. Well, technically, life messed up way better than I did this time around, so I guess I did okay XD Anyway, I will try to come up more often from now on. And yes, this story will (from now on) hold the record of the fastest story I have ever written ^-^ It took me about... an hour? An hour and a half? Well, definitely not a week or longer, as it normally is XD I hope you guys like the story. Missed you all too much!!! Warm hugs everywhere ^0^ <3 <3 <3
#fiction, not the last part (:
An advisor and a friend.
"What now? What did you want to talk to me about that couldn't be said in front of the council?"
"The Janushirians are a strong enemy, many have gone before them and fallen. I believe you're underestimating them."
"Yes, many have gone before, but they were not us. We are strong too, almost stronger, and we have better numbers. I am not underestimating them, I just know we can win. Why delay the inevitable?"
"The numbers we have, yes, but numbers aren't everything. Look at them, look at your army. They barely survived the ambush in the mountains; most have seen their dearest friends torn apart by wyvern riders. They have walked far from their homeland, their marching songs stopped after the plains of Etaryia. I even overheard some of them talking of desertion.
These are not the hungry dogs of war you started with, my friend. These are battle weary soldiers who can barely hold a sword. They miss our homeland, the mountains, their families. The Janushirian's haven't yet reached the borders of Unstaulk, marching out to meet them now would be a death sentence. I implore you, let your army rest."
"Absolutely not. I will not adhere to cowardice within my ranks. We may have called each other friend once, so I will warn you, you are treading on thin ice."
"Why? Why wont you listen? Would you march them to their deaths?"
"I would march them straight to the gates of the deep myself if it meant victory!"
"Dragging ten thousand soldiers to their deaths will not bring your father back."
"How dare you!"
"How dare I indeed. You are not the leader I knew you once to be. Your heart has gone cold inside of you. You are 'Icellinor', one of the living dead."
"If you do not keep your tongue behind your teeth, I will strike you down here and now!"
"Do it. I would rather die then see you turn into something your father would detest. I would rather be eaten alive by the birds than see my oldest friend throw away their life and the lives of their countrymen for such folly."
"Folly? You would dare call this folly? They killed him while he was eating at their table! They slit his throat during peace talks and then sent me the declaration of war signed in his blood! I would see every single Janushirian on a pike before ever thinking of retreat."
"Yes, they did, and it was despicable, may the darkest halls of the depths be their house when the long sleep comes for them; but do you forget I was there? Do you forget that he was like a father to me also? How he raised me after my own parents perished? Does my heart no also grieve for his loss? You've taken your revenge tenfold; you marched us through their banner lands, torched their farms and their innocents. You made us pull down their temples, we have destroyed their gods, none of their cities are left standing.
I helped you execute the lords of their fields, I stood and watched you burn their seers at the stake, I looked away when you hung their princelings. But no more. I refuse to continue, i refuse to avert my eyes any longer. You have spilled more blood then you were owed, and every single soldier, from the lowest pike-men to the highest knight, knows it.
Do you ever walk through the camp at night? Do you realize how many of them have nightmares? Most dont bother anymore, they know sleep has pulled her blessing from them. It's not too late to lead us home, to end this, to give your soldiers hope again. Please, I'm begging you."
"Leave me. I need to think."