Generation Gap – Rebooted

“Between two worlds life hovers like a star, ‘Twixt night and morn, upon the horizon’s verge, how little do we know that which we are!”

Instructor Black was quoting again, she always got a faraway look when she quoted from old earth fiction. Zendra gestured the phrase to search: ‘Matched: Don Juan by George Gordon Noel (1788 –1824 CE), 6th Baron Byron, AKA Lord Byron.’ The earth-born were obsessed with names: were there truly so many of them that names should be so complicated? Zendra’s mother named her Alice Jane Miller but only the earth-born still use long-form names.

She dug further: ‘British poet and a leading figure in Romanticism; celebrated in life for aristocratic excesses including huge debts, numerous love affairs, and self-imposed exile.’ She chirped her class-mates: ‘Today: sublime wisdom from a drug-head steam-tech playboy’ and followed it with her sig-glyph slighted towards irony.

Black was trying to explain the dead language but had wandered off into a soliloquy about the limited sight-lines of her youth. Each cycle the oldsters became more distant: each parsec they travelled made them more nostalgic, less present. It was getting dangerous to have them in charge.

As she read on Instructor Black appeared to be crying. Zendra exchanged glances with her classmates: life in the hostile vacuum is too hard to waste tears on a long dead poet.

“Of time and tide rolls on and bears afar, Our bubbles; as the old burst, new emerge, Lash’d from the foam of ages.”

Household God

I was eight, had a silver sixpence for my birthday. Hid in the cellar from my no-good cousins and my hands felt the hole in the wall. A slot, like my piggy bank. Thing is, it seemed to want somethin’. I didn’t even think, slipped my sixpence into it. The boys were on the stairs, clumpin’, but they lost interest, went off to annoy the dogs.

I plumb forgot about the hole. That bad winter was when I was twelve, we was out of food. Was in the cellar, hopin’ for a last jar of pickled beets. The hole was bigger, ’bout the size of my fist, and still wantin’. I thought ’bout it, went off and found my Aunt Aggie’s silver that she left us. Four forks, two knives, all the spoons, seemed to do it. I poked them in and they went away. Them beets was under my hand all the time.

I was in the cellar when that tornado came over, proper scared. Hole was bigger, so was the wantin’. I lay there and thought promises at it; when the wind was gone, went and found the big silver teapot. Pushed it in, it went away. When my folks was back, told them the storm took it.

I don’t want to talk ’bout when I was twenty-five. The hole was bigger, the wantin’ was bigger, but it shut right up when I gave it the ring. I dunno how it figures these things. Maybe it liked the diamond.  That boy was always no good, anyways.

Few years later my ma’s sickness was real bad. Pain wouldn’t stop. I gave the hole my ma’s wedding things – the sugar tongs, the cake stand. We never used them. It was real big now, ’bout a foot across, and needed more – took the silver from the thermometer to shut it up. Anyways, my ma died quiet soon after.

Now I’m sixty-two, sittin’ here in my rocker, and can feel the need clear through the house. Few months more, my hair will be all silver, and I figure the hole will be ’bout big enough for me. I’m lookin’ forward to it.

Counting Breaths – Rewrite

Eight hundred million breaths is a lifetime.

The first, I imagine, was unwilling. Drawn from me on a mid-winter’s night by the practical violence of a doctor’s slap.  A wet uncertain gurgle bubbled forth as pink lungs first tasted the world’s sweet air. Then the clawing animal vitality, the desire for life, surged forth in a scream that pierced the still Highveld night. When that long cry sputtered and faded, it was for lack of air not passion.

Eight hundred million breaths is a lifetime.

The last, I hope, will be willing. Embraced by me on a warm summer’s evening as I would an old friend. A smooth, deep inhalation and I will taste, one last time, this world’s sweet air.  Then a soft lingering sigh and the last life within me will join those soft summer breezes. The urge to life, its passions fulfilled, finally expended.

Eight hundred million breaths is a lifetime.

The next, I know, is my choice. With twelve thousand I could read a good book and only a million are needed to write one. Instead I use twelve hundred to write this; two thousand to polish it; and just twenty to post it. You used thirty-eight to read it.

The Gloom of Righteousness – Rewrite

The pain was gone at last. The rest is easy, just head into the light and ignore the distractions of the world. Silently the man congratulated himself on preparing so well. Slowly, savouring the moment, he opened his eyes.

The light, the glowing doorway to eternity, was before him. Deep within he felt the warm satisfaction of being right. Jackson might have got that corner office, the girl and the BMW but one day he would be standing here and know the wisdom of investing in the spiritual.   As his eyes adjusted he saw the Master sitting at his feet on the dirty maroon floor.

Dressed, as always, in simple black cotton he looked, as always, utterly serene.

“You taught me all about the light and a place of eternal gloom but you never mentioned a maroon carpet. So you don’t know everything after all.”

The master looked up at him with a sad smile and said, “Moron.”

“I studied at your feet for seven years; paid good money to learn to die – but now I see any idiot can walk into the light.”

“You’re an idiot. What are you waiting for?”

In life, the Master had never spoken to him with such disrespect.

“Did you ever teach me anything useful?”

“Did I ever teach you anything?”

“Well I might have missed some lessons but I read the book and it didn’t mention any smoky, red office cubicles. I took all that stuff really seriously.”

The man considered all he had sacrificed: the steak he resisted; the hours of Zazen; endless fees and hours of effort.

The Master rose smoothly, walked away into the doorway of light. He closed the door behind him.