To see the complete Chapter 1, use the following link;https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/
The year in which I lost my father has been a truly ghastly ghoul of a year. I could spend time listing all the things that went wrong for me personally, but that would be a very long list for no real gain in wisdom. I need to take some time just now to reflect on some very hard lessons we have been given by this year to deal with in a way that we might potentially learn from.
There is a chance I may live out the rest of this year and reach 2021. But it is not guaranteed. The pandemic virus, Covid 19, is an insidious destroyer of organs, attacking lungs, heart, and brain, causing blood clots and complications long after the initial infection has passed. The way it strikes people, randomly cruel to one, and presenting no symptoms to the next, has guaranteed it would be almost impossible to control, if we were even trying to control it. And we are dually blessed with an incompetent and corrupt presidential administration that couldn’t care any less if I lived even if they stood to make money off my demise. Like the Bubonic Plague, the Black Death of the Middle Ages, this virus is restructuring our economy and changing our world in ways no one has as yet accurately foreseen.
I have not, as yet, survived this pandemic. I have multiple risk factors that make it dangerously likely that at some point I will have to discover the hard way whether I can survive an infection or not. My middle child of the three came home infected in August from his job as a jailor for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office. I managed to avoid infection then until he tested negative again, unless I had it as a symptomless carrier during our summer quarantine. Only time will tell. I have not had an antibody test. I haven’t suffered any Covid aftereffects either.
My father did not die of Covid. Parkinson’s Disease like Michael J. Fox and Mohammed Ali had was ultimately what robbed him of memories, the ability to talk, and eventually the abilities to eat and breathe. The “good news” is, I have Parkinson’s symptoms myself, and am merely waiting for a safer time to see the doctor to get it diagnosed. There is more than merely one way that my life could end before 2021 arrives.
But my father led a good life. And he passed a good life on to me. He taught me self-reliance and a respect for hard work in a way only a former farm boy and Navy Seaman could. He taught me to lay shingles as we re-roofed both our house in Rowan and our stable-turned-car-garage also in our little Iowan farm town. He taught me love classical music, especially Beethoven and Mozart, as well as Ravel, Chopin, Vivaldi, and… he always argued… John Philip Sousa. And he started his own Great American Novel. I had to sneak into his closet when I was eleven to read it. It was only about the first third of a novel written all in pencil and kept in a gray binder under the winter clothes in the box on the floor at the back of his walk-in closet. It was called Prairie Moon. It was about a very stubborn and self-reliant pioneer named Ed Adems who built himself a sod hut in the Iowa grasslands of the 1870s. So, I guess, he also taught me to be a self-published novelist. I have at this point published eighteen novels and books, with numbers nineteen and twenty already at least halfway finished.
I hope you listened to the Mozart Requiem while you read this post. I listened to it while I wrote it. A requiem is a Mass for the repose of the dead. We honor them and remember their goodness and light while we commit them to their eternal sleep, even if we are atheists. Because there is a next life for them, no matter what you believe. They live it through us. My father lives in me. And as my hold on life gets weaker and more tenuous, I will live in my children. I have tried to teach them as my father taught me.
And as we put to rest the terrible year of 2020, hopefully there was some good in it too to carry on into 2021 and beyond. And, Dad, you kept all your promises. If you ever failed me, I do not remember it. And I pray that, having kept most of my promises to my children too… at least so far… I will pass on the light for generations yet to be born. You are a part of that too. God bless you, I love you, Amen.
Today was the funeral. We attended by Facebook Live. You couldn’t understand what the minister was saying over static and feedback. And you couldn’t see or talk to anybody who was there. My two sisters were there. My sister Mary’s husband and two kids were there. My mother was there. And twenty people attended by Facebook. My father deserved more. But Covid 19 doesn’t make bargains… or play fair. So, we make compromises with time and circumstance. We are patient and we endure. That is what my father taught us to do. And so, we honor him in the only way we can.
I was a child who grew to maturity holding a secret horror… a truly terrible secret, in my creative little brain. I was sexually tortured when I was ten. I know now that it sounds like I should blame my torturer for everything, that I should have reported him to the authorities to keep him from ever doing that to anybody else. But my mental defense system took over in ways that prevented me from ever seeking justice. Or what justice too long delayed becomes, simple revenge.
But I could never be that seeker of revenge. I had a Sunday-school faith that had to be strictly followed. First of all, although the thing that happened was never truly gone from me, my creatively evil little mind forced me to forget. Or at least bury the knowledge so deeply within that I could not answer the school guidance counselor in high school when he asked, “Michael, what is it that is causing this behavior, this debilitating fear?” I could only answer that I thought I might be going crazy. He told me that he could help if it was about something like having sexual feelings toward another boy. He was more progressive than most Iowans. But, at the time, I didn’t understand what he was suggesting. I wouldn’t really understand homosexuality as a thing until I was almost out of high school, so when we had that talk, and I was clueless at sixteen, and then he talked about it with my best friend Byron, he knew that it was not about that.
The coach had seen the burn scars on my lower back and legs during P. E. But he only saw scars. I suggested to him that it was probably from playing with the large dog next door. He had big paws and untrimmed claws. And he believed me because he knew my parents, and he knew that they would never do anything like that. And he could tell that I was being truthful when I said I really didn’t know for sure how those scars had gotten there. I didn’t realize for sure how the scars happened until my more-mature twenty-two-year-old evil little brain decided I was burning myself against the heating grate to make sexual feelings and urges go away.
I was seriously beginning to hate myself, be depressed without knowing why, and nearly killing myself at seventeen. All because of an event in my life that I really wasn’t able to admit to myself really happened.
Then, one snowy night in February of 1974, Radasha came tapping at my window.
I realize now that it had to have been a dream, but I knew even then that it couldn’t have been reality.
He was a black-haired, brown-eyed boy with goat horns on his forehead and a deer’s tail on his behind. He was completely naked, sitting on his haunches in the piling snow on the porch roof outside my bedroom window. He was grinning at me. No larger than my younger brother who was sound asleep in his bottom bunk in the room we shared. He indicated that I needed to open the window and let him in.
I should’ve realized that it was a dream then, because in real life I could not have opened the window like I did because of the winter storm-windows dad had put up before the first snowfall in October. But the scene played out according to dream logic.
“Aren’t you cold like that? You must be freezing your peeper off if you are outside naked like that.”
“Naw, I’m not real, Sharpie. I don’t feel cold because I’m a faun. I’m mythological.”
“Oh. then why did I have to let you in?”
“I’m Radasha. I am a part of you. You can’t keep me out. I should really be inside you instead of out here talking to you.”
“What? Are you my heart or something? Maybe one of my kidneys?”
“More like your love-life. I’m a part of you that shouldn’t’ve ever been detached. You need me to live a normal, healthy life.”
“Should I even be talking to you? What if my little brother wakes up and sees you?”
“Nobody can ever see me but you. I was born in your brain. I’m here because you need me back in your life.”
So, from that moment on I was a teenager with an invisible playmate. He reminded me of all the things I had learned about the birds and the bees from Reverend Aiken, the Methodist minister. We talked about what sex was, and the role it had to play in a normal human life. We talked about what to do about girls and how I felt about them. Without consciously realizing it, I stopped burning myself.
His advice got me slapped by a girl I thought I liked. He also helped me avoid three different girls that were sorta chasing me, at least in my evil little brain. In college he would get me into and out of trouble with girls I both wanted to chase and were chasing me when I didn’t want to be caught.
When I had the assignment to create a life-sized nude portrait for anatomy drawing class, he picked out the girl he wanted me to ask to pose for it, and almost goaded me into asking her. I, of course, ended up drawing my sister with all her clothes on. And I didn’t fail the assignment. He also got me to sign up to pose for the art class in the nude. But fortunately I got the flu the week I was suppose to sit in front of all those female art students in my birthday suit… the best ten-dollar modeling fee I never collected.
My invisible faun was a kind of self-therapy, I guess. He brought the sensual side of me back to life. He healed me and made me more whole.
I seriously thought I had a lifelong invisible friend. But once I started telling other people, real people, about the sexual assault, he kinda faded away.
I have now probably confessed something that makes me clinically schizophrenic, or technically crazy. But Ra is still real to me in so many ways. I used his story as part of my book, A Field Guide to Fauns. And for me he was an imaginative and necessary cure for a very real problem.
My mind is numb. I just awoke from a diabetes-enforced nap that I hadn’t planned to take, so I lost about half an hour. I had to edit my own father’s obituary this morning. It goes to the Belmond Independent local newspaper later today. The service will happen over Facebook Live direct from the funeral home. And I don’t feel like writing. But I will anyway. Writing is the only life I have left in me after this gawd-awful pandemic and even worse, plague of a presidon’t… namely Presidon’t Tronald Dump. He was never my president. Still not. I check my watch… still not. But I don’t have a watch. Can’t afford it after the Big Dump.
Looking at my invisible watch again…
Nope, still not.
My latest novel will be free in a Weekend Promotion of the e-book format starting tomorrow, Friday, November 20th.
Did you realize that you can’t have a Friday the 20th without having first survived a previous Friday the 13th.
Didn’t know that? You were obviously never a member of the Knights Templar.
The children in the above pen and ink are both ghosts. You can’t see through them, but they are both completely white in a scene that is all about bright-light sources on a dark and shadow-filled night. Neither child has any shadows on them even though the full moon and the lighthouse are both behind them, meaning they should both be backlit with the shadow-side towards the viewer.
Why did I draw a picture of ghosts while my father was in the hospice care that kept him comfortable as he was dying? It can’t be because the boy has reached the peak, and he is closer to the heavens than the girl. And the girl is certainly not my mother.
I can’t answer the questions because I still don’t know what I am writing about. I am just rambling and writing down whatever pops into my head, and choosing illustrations by scrolling through the gallery and choosing images at random.
It seems like the author of Look Homeward, Angel is correct. You can never go home again. The people you knew will no longer be there. The farmhouse will be sold, and probably plowed under to make more arable farm land. And the places of my youth themselves have been transformed and almost erased by time. Nothing lasts forever. Nor do we want those things to be changeless forever. Change is what the universe and time within the universe is for.
Sometimes free-writing and free associations can bring peace and quiet to the stressed-out mind. But not today. And I check my watch one more time. Nope, still not… and never will be. Every single thing changes. Yesterday I found out my father had died. And yesterday will never happen again.
My father passed away last night, three minutes before midnight, in other words, three minutes before my 64th birthday was over. I am devastated at the moment, but it is not like it was unexpected. He was in hospice care since early August. He had Parkinson’s disease which was destroying his nervous system. He had multiple strokes during the time he was hospitalized. His memory was gone. If I had been able to go up to Iowa to be with him, I would not have been able to see him, and he wouldn’t remember me anyway. So, it is almost a relief that he is finally at peace. But I am grieving now. And the only reason I am telling you about it here is because I need to write it down to make it real to me. Dad, I love you. And you will be missed.
Canto 116 – On the Rooftops
Tempi, one of Shen Ming’s messenger boys, spotted the intruder first. He was riding on a PZ-27 anti-grav sled more commonly known as a pregnant penguin. He was wearing a golden helmet with three spiked horns, just as Shen Ming had warned Tempi to look for.
“Master Shen! Master Shen! Your old enemy has come, like you thought he would! What do we do?”
“Oh, my! What, me, worry? No, this is a job for the White Spider and his charges. Run, Tempi, and warn young Master Shu or young Master Phoenix… or both!”
Tempi ran as fast as short legs could manage.
Shu Kwai was the first notified and the first to respond. He found the helmeted intruder menacing a crowd of people in the courtyard with a pair of strange ray pistols.
“Die, ugly, worthless Gaijin! In the name of the traitor Shen Ming, I slay thee!”
Shu immediately grabbed at the guns with his telekinesis powers, and though he couldn’t take the weapons away, he could pull the shots off target. The rays splashed harmlessly on the palace walls and on the ground. In fact, surprisingly damaging or burning nothing at all.
Swiftly Sara Smith was at Shu’s side.
“Can you grab his mind and put him out?” Shu said.
“No, I can’t. His mind is shielded from my power in some strange way. But I sense that as he fires, he doesn’t even try to hit his targets. He’s… missing on purpose.”
Jadalaqstbr teleported into a group of children that were in danger in the middle of the courtyard. She grabbed two boys by the arms and let a small girl wrap her arms around her neck. Then she teleported them all to safety.
Shu and Sara gave chase as the intruder leaped up to the roof of the library. Shu shielded them from the shots he took at the two of them, but they seemed to be incredibly weak shots.
Taffy King lifted herself up to the library roof and used her telekinesis to make a barrier that forced the helmeted stranger directly towards the trap that Phoenix had planned.
It was Phoenix and Rocket Rogers that stood at the end of the intruder’s path.
“Rocket! The fire bubble to burn his oxygen!”
Rocket, at Phoenix’s command, sealed an air-tight dome of flaming air over the man and absorbed his ray-gun shots.
“Now, I drop him with heat…”
Phoenix’s temperature-spiking bolt took him down.
“You didn’t kill him, I hope?” asked Ged-sensei as he arrived at the scene.
Shen Ming arrived in time for the unmasking.
“Your messenger said this was some kind of old enemy, Shen-sensei,” said Ged.
“Ah, yes… yes. Every three hundred years he comes around to threaten and maybe kill people seeking vengeance for something he imagines I did to wrong him.”
Of course, everybody present knew that Shen-sensei was more than nine hundred years old. A vendetta that old was not surprising.
“So, you’ve never caught him before?” Ged asked.
“Oh, no… not quite like this… This one is too old to remember his evil self, but he is called the Avenger.”
Phoenix pulled off the horned helmet.
“It’s Jai Chang our archery master!” said Ged in confusion.
“Hmm… now, that seems so unlikely. I recall Master Jai is only thirty Earth years old. A mystery this is…”
Shu noticed that the old man had a suspiciously jovial smile for the circumstances.
“We will take him to the infirmary and strap him down. When he comes to we will learn more about what caused our faithful teacher to do this thing.”
Shu and Taffy picked Jai Chang up with telekinesis and floated him down from the roof and to the infirmary. Ged and his students looked at the inscrutable Shen-sensei and shook their heads in wonder.
Many things are coming to an end. My father’s life is almost over. He’s in hospice care sleeping most of his remaining hours away. I myself don’t feel so well. I may have escaped Covid 19, at least for now, but I am still at risk for heart and brain trouble, possible heart attack or stroke. And the whole world may be ending in one of several ways.
The climatologists watching the release of methane gas from the Siberian permafrost are now reporting a massive release of gas over the summer, as much as 500% higher than predicted by climate change models. That cuts years off the time we have left to mitigate the disaster, if it is not already too late.
And the pumpkinhead dictator that refuses to admit he lost the election is continuing to make dealing with the environmental issues and the current pandemic harder and harder as he wastes more time on petulance and greed and treasonous actions.
I am not going to say I believe the world is ending. My world is ending, no matter what is probably going to happen to yours.
I am going to say I believe the only time that is relevant to me is right now. And I am ill. It only matters how I do what I can still do to live a good life and make the world a little better for having allowed me to live in it
I am not suicidal. I have two books I am working on at the moment, and two more books I hope to do after that. My family still needs me for as long as I can hang on. But I am not going out of my way to try to extend my own life. If I have the option, I’d rather die at home in bed than in an expensive hospital. And if my heart gives out before this day is over so be it. I’m satisfied with the life I have had.
There are those who believe I will suffer an eternity in Hell for what I believe… or don’t believe. Some of those are in my own family. But if Hell is real, well, the people there are all the really interesting ones. Heaven and harp-playing is boring unless God is more of a liberal than he seems in the Old Testament.
Anyway, I softly, slowly make this promise. I will not give up. I will continue to do and be precisely what I should be doing and being. And you can take that promise to the bank. Of course, they will laugh at you. I am bankrupt and literally have no money. But you have my word. And my word is more golden by far than the word of that Cheeto in the White House.
I do now admit to being a nudist… or naturist if you prefer. To me that means, if given a choice, I would prefer to be naked all the time. Especially in a natural setting outdoors. I have probably spent more time in the company of naked people than you have, even though I was never myself nude in a social setting until my one and only visit to the Bluebonnet Naturist Park in Alvord, Texas. I was a visitor at the clothing-optional apartment complex at Manor Road in Austin a number of times in the 1980s when my girlfriend’s sister was a resident there. They asked me to disrobe a couple of times, but, as a visitor, I exercised my option. And I corresponded with Floridian nudists by letter, email, and subscriptions to nudist publications through the 1990s.
But it is very nearly an ironic notion that I am literally a nudist. My wife is opposed to nakedness for religious reasons. Although members of my family were fine with skinny-dipping in our pool until it developed fatal foundation cracks, we no longer tolerate nudity at home, except in the shower and the bedroom behind closed doors. And being naked outdoors, though it always used to be good for my health, now is a problem with my increased susceptibility to the return of skin cancer, and the fact that my psoriasis sores, in addition to being ghastly to look at, get dry, cracked, and bloody with a chance of infection far easier than they ever used to. And I have more of them.
If I am being honest, I am not really a literal nudist anymore. I don’t get naked much at all anymore. I do correspond via Twitter with other nudists, especially other nudist authors and cartoonists. But that has its down sides too. Twitter followers who are evangelical Christians un-follow me instantly when they actually see a nudist-friendly post or comment from me. Nudists are apparently among the vast multitudes of sinners destined for Hell. And being part of the Twitter-nudist community also seems to attract unwanted attention from those who love pornography, as well as those who wish to exploit the “prurient interests” of others (which, in my humble experience, is not the interests of real nudists.)
I have always found it challenging to be an actual nudist. I do the best I can, but, as I have repeatedly written in other posts about the subject, I was sexually assaulted by an older boy when I was ten. I spent years overcoming an aversion to ever being seen naked by others.
That aversion prevented me from embracing a positive body image of myself for the rest of my childhood and well into my young adulthood. I was deprived of the joys of skinny-dipping in the Iowa River and being comfortable in my own skin. That was a definite drawback when it came to showers in school after P.E. Class, or showers after football, basketball, or track practice. I was robbed of my sense of naked childhood innocence. I felt like I had a terrible secret to keep, and I was secretly a monster for having naked feelings.
So, in order to be more like a valid, real person, Mickey, as a nudist, has committed himself to being a Spiritual Nudist. A Spiritual Nudist doesn’t hide anything by wearing clothing. A Spiritual Nudist is honest, and tells the naked truth. And a Spiritual Nudist doesn’t have to be actually naked to be Spiritually nude.
I may not now fit the definition of an actual, literal nudist anymore. But I can think like a nudist, tell nudist stories, and draw naked people (in a non-pornographic way). And like a real nudist, I no longer worry about what other people think. The naked truth is still the truth. And maybe even more-so than when people wear their clothes as if it were a disguise.
My blog on WordPress, Catch a Falling Star, now has 1,900 followers for the very first time.
You may have noticed that my blog is about surrealist art, fantasy fiction for young adults, and a somewhat strange idea of what humor is all about.