Well, I have now paid property taxes for 2019, exhausting all the money I have earned by substitute teaching this school year. I am not broke exactly, but all the money I still have is now already spent. There are more days in almost every month than I have funds to actually pay for them. I am not broke, but I am breaking.
And Washington is debating giving us money to help us make it through trying times. But I don’t anticipate “us” actually includes “me”. “Us” is mostly a matter of rich folks when they use that word in Washington.
But I have been busy. I continue to write away on A Field Guide to Fauns which is basically a book about naked people… specifically about sad naked people and the happy naked people who try to cheer them up. It is about nudists in a nudist park in Texas, I have also been walking the dog, which means bagging poop and yanking on the leash whenever she wants to run out in front of cars and Bubba-trucks and get squished under Bubba’s tires. And I have been talking by phone with relatives in Iowa and Missouri.
The Princess and I, while delivering the tax payment to the drop-box, noticed that Braums’ Ice Cream store had their dining room open for a number of patrons. Most of the food businesses are doing drive-up orders only. But, apparently, somebody has to feed the stupid people of Texas. After all, how else are they gonna spread viruses and kill off all those danged kale-eating liberals and old people?
You have to get rid of us somehow, right? And that “us” definitely includes me, even though I hate kale.
But there is no “normal life” anymore. Was there ever any? I am legitimately asking. I was a teacher my whole life, so I had to get used to “abnormal” and “chaotic” long ago.
So, what if it is true that the future begins with the story-teller? Smart phones are obviously descendants of the communicators and tricorders and computers that Gene Roddenberry introduced to us in the original Star Trek series. George Orwell gave us timely predictions and warnings of the rise of fascism and authoritarianism in his novel, 1984.
If we truly wish to be a force for good, we have to take the evil bull by the horns and turn its momentum away from the future we seek to protect. Like Solzhenitsyn we may be gored in that bull-fight and end up spending time in the gulag. But those of us who choose to be writers, especially story-tellers, must take on that responsibility. What if ours is the story that changes the mind of a nation, like when the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn took on slavery and the unjust treatment of others who think that, because they are white, or have money, or are somehow smarter than everyone else, they have the right to abuse, take advantage, or even kill other people? What if ours is the story that turns the rich into selfish engines of greed as Atlas Shrugged obviously did?
It is a tremendous responsibility. It is a power we must not wield unwisely, even if our talent level is only that of the disastrously lazy Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
What sort of a story-teller will I be?
What sort will you be?
Where will I lead my readers (If indeed there ever are any)?
And where will you lead yours?
If any questions are important now during these days of self-reflection, isolation, and Coronavirus, it will surely be these. So, tell me what you think.
We have been isolated and quarantined for 12 days now, and the world around us continues to get weirder and weirder. The dog killed a squirrel in the yard two days ago. We are running out of bread and meat and potatoes thanks to hoarders, and we may need to find alternatives to toilet paper. But as long as we have love, not unlike the dog and cat in the illustration above, we will be alright.
One has to wonder, though, what they are using all that toilet paper for, those hoarders who are apparently eating it in massive quantities to give them more fiber in their diet.
Or, maybe, they know something about the virus that we don’t. Maybe it causes loose bowels and the toilet-paper-consuming condition of Montezuma’s Revenge.
Or maybe there are lots of toilet-paper mummies now roaming the nights looking for pretty girls who resemble dead Egyptian princesses?
But with the virus lurking out there, waiting to pounce on me and my weak, diabetes-ravaged immune system, there are some good things about being home-bound and fortified with solitude. For one thing, the girl who had to go see the nurse during that last substitute-teaching job I had did not turn out to have Coronavirus. In fact, it is now past the date by more than two weeks that I would’ve come down with the type of flu she did test positive for. So I don’t have that either.
Since the four of us are basically confined to our rooms for the majority of the day, it is a great time for reading in the nude. I benefit from that because I have psoriasis in places that itch less if kept dry, naked, and in front of the fan, but aren’t exactly safe for public places. And I don’t even have to offend my family with my naked self to do it. I am also pretty sure you are grateful that I didn’t use my own picture to illustrate this goofy notion.
We have done things together as a family too. Making masked visits to the grocery store or Walmart only to find there is still no toilet paper is one. Using up the gingerbread house kit that didn’t get used at Christmas is another.
And, of course, eating the gingerbread house was also something we did together. The Princess and Number Two Son both ate lion’s shares in order to save me from being weak and eating too much of it myself with my miserable diabetes. I say, “miserable diabetes” not because it is out of control and making me ill or susceptible to comas, but because I get to eat less of things like gingerbread houses, and that makes me miserable.
But the evil, moron, criminal president says that too much quarantine time will make us kill ourselves. So, he intends to end our time in isolation by Easter. We have to go out of the house, spend more money that could end up in his pockets, and get back to work to make the economy stronger so he can be re-elected on a strong economy. Even if we have to sacrifice our lives to the virus to do it. After all, what’s more important? Staying alive longer? Or helping an evil, moron, criminal president get re-elected?
Canto 83 – Star Nomads Revealed (The Silver Thread)
Artran Blastarr, the eight-year-old son of space pirates, and Tiki Astro, the robot-boy, stood holding hands on the docking bay floor next to the somewhat unreliable yet amazingly effective Bill the Postman (Scarpigo Snarcs in his current secret identity).
From the portal opposite, on the far side of the docking bay, three gigantic humanoid figures dressed in metallic armor of some kind emerged.
“Who… who are those?” gasped Artran.
“Those are Star Nomads. If I don’t miss my best guess, it is the Black Knight, the Dark Traveler, and the Magnificent Wanderer,” said Bill.
They slowly approached, each a massive figure in armor that completely covered their entire bodies, completely obscuring even their faces, no matter what race or configuration they actually represented. The Black Knight was all in gleaming black armor with a razor-edged hook for a crest on his faceless helmet. The Dark Traveler was all decked out in metallic green armor. And the Magnificent Wanderer, as Bill pointed out, was armored entirely in gleaming silver.
Drawing close enough to speak, the Magnificent Wanderer’s voice boomed out like a thunderclap on a rainy planet. “So, you have brought us the chosen one, Scarpigo Snarcs.”
“Yes, oh Magnificent One. But please refrain from using my real name in front of those who might not be stupid enough to misremember it.”
“I will never fully understand why demi-humans like this one insist on their comic prevarications the way this one does,” said the Dark Traveler.
“Indeed,” said the Wanderer. The Black Knight remained silent.
“Who is this chosen one?” asked Tiki Astro meekly.
“The human child born on the planet known as Outpost.” The Traveler nodded at Artran.
“Me?” squeaked Artran.
“Of course, you,” said the Wanderer. “We need an authentic discoverer of worlds for our purpose.”
“…And you know the boy thinks that’s the silliest thing he ever heard,” said Bill.
“Of course, he does. We pulled him out of the time stream well before he was ready to set foot on his first planet. Who better to use for the purpose, than the one fated to it?”
“Yes, you are right,” admitted Bill quickly. “You are always right.” Bill rolled his eyes when the Wanderer’s featureless face was turned away.
“So, Tiki and I are supposed to be here? This wasn’t just an accident?”
“The robotic child-construct is fated to be elsewhere. You alone are the chosen one, Artran Blastarr.” The Wanderer pointed his armored finger at Artran’s breastbone.
“No! I won’t go anywhere without my friend Tiki!” Artran began to leak emotion-induced wetness from his childish eyes. Of course, the Star Nomads would never give in to any such emotional nonsense.
“The Metaloid boy belongs to the White Spider,” said the Black Knight in what can only be described as a dark black voice. “He must be there when the critical time comes. The universe decrees it.”
“You can count on me,” said Bill, not actually adding, “because I must be some sort of human abacus.”
“You are not actually human,” said the Wanderer, apparently answering Scarpigo’s thoughts.
“What if I don’t agree to go to this White Spider?” asked Tiki.
“Then we invoke protocol alpha in your programming,” said the Wanderer.
“Oh. Sorry, Artran. I have to be going. It’s a robot thing.”
By this time Artran was beside himself with misery. “Bye, Tiki. I love you.”
The real boy and the robot boy briefly hugged before Bill (Scarpigo) the Postman led Tiki Astro back to the X-boat.
Artran looked up at the Wanderer with tear-filled eyes.
“So, are you gonna eat me now?” he said in a fully resigned voice.
“We no longer consume food of any sort. We will now take you to civilized planets that you will learn about and then give to the newly-formed alliance that is to become the New Star League.”
The title is taken directly from the poet Dylan Thomas. He was thinking about the death of his father. But, even though my father cannot last much longer either, it is my own mortality that has been weighing heavily on my mind.
I have been thinking a lot about death of late. I am now three years farther along into my retirement than I believed I would be when I retired in 2014. I honestly believed I would not live beyond 2017 with my six incurable diseases. Especially when Banco Americo sued me over medical bills and won, forcing me into bankruptcy, and leaving me to be unable to pay for insulin for my diabetes or mental health services for family members who needed them as a matter of life or death.
So, I suppose I can be forgiven for reading a lot of life-or-death stories lately, especially the kind that don’t have a happy ending.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 post-apocalyptic novel, ripped a good half to three quarters of my soul out. It is about two characters making their way along a road after some unnamed disaster has blasted away most of life on Earth, and that which is left is dying. There is no miracle nor any life-saving solution at the end of the novel. The only grace the reader is allowed is that the character who dies at the end lived for as long as was possible motivated only by love, and by dying, allowed the beloved other character to live beyond him. It is a hard, terrible story to read. But it achieves its goal. It touches your hopeless heart in ways only an award-winning novel can.
The book I just finished reading was a story I originally had to read for an Iowa State University class on Existentialism in Literature. The Nobel-Prize-winning author, Albert Camus’s book, The Stranger, is no easier to read than The Road. In fact, it may be even more depressing and dark than the first novel I mentioned. The main character lives as a stranger in a meaningless world and basically is sentenced to death by a jury because he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral. The story devastates your compassionate heart and shakes your belief in a benevolent God. And I read it the first time long before I was an atheist who believes in a different form of god. The story is itself cruel. But in the long view, it grants you a certain melancholy sort of peace that can only be had by coming to terms with your place in all of existence.
So, I admit it. I have been obsessing about the end of life far too much. The current pandemic that has us all on the ropes in the boxing match of life has brought me to grips with the fact that, even though the end of life is far closer to now than its beginning, living life is what still matters. I have been spending my shut-in days writing novels about life and love and laughter. I have also been talking to relatives by phone and connecting with people through social media, all of which can be done without risk of viral infection. Well… maybe a computer virus.
But I am alive now. And I am living in every manner I can still manage. For now. Because I can. And because it is the right thing to do.
I am a high-risk individual since I have diabetes, hypertension, a family history of heart problems, and a compromised immune system. This pestilence is probably going to be the end of me. I have not come down with it yet, and I am probably not exposed at this point. But the only person who could’ve done the grocery shopping for me is exposed and quarantined. And hoarding has caused grocery store shelves to be empty. Not all shelves. But specific basic needs. Cleaning supplies are disappearing as soon as they are placed on the shelves. Toilet paper is not available, or possibly invisible. Meat products are practically non-existent. I was able to buy some food, but not as much as we usually buy in a week. And not cheaply enough to sustain us within a limited budget. I am going to have to make these trips too frequently. Sooner or later, the disease catches up to me.
When I was still in college, I had a dream that impressed me as being a prophecy. Other dreams I had like this one, and they felt like this one, have come to pass, in ways that are not predictable, granted, but true never-the-less. This dream found me ill sitting in an armchair in my Grandma Beyer’s house, a corner house on the city block with windows that looked out over a yard shaded by multiple trees. The air outside was glowing grayish yellow. A winged angel came through the front door and said, “Michael, it is over now. Come with me.”
The house I am now sitting in is a corner house on the city block with windows that look out over a yard shaded by multiple trees. The air outside is glowing yellow on an overcast day.
I am not afraid to die. I accept that life is finite, and I have had a good one. But this disaster is not going to wreak its worst on me. The innocent, the young, and those with the creativity and the will to live that it takes to solve major problems for the whole world need to be protected and need to survive. It is not going well. We have to come back from this. I have to believe that if this is the end of me, it is not the end of everything.
So, I shall fear no evil… Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me…
But I recognize that now is not the time for fear. Not the time for acting out of fear. We must help each other. We must act in the best interests of not just ourselves. We must keep doing what we know is right, what we know God made us to do. And if we are coming to the end of our personal path, take heart. The world is capable of going on without us. The universe is unfolding as it should.
The Coronavirus Isolation has put a lot of new limitations on our lives. But, I happened to have an unused Gingerbread House kit. So, for Art Day, the Princess and I decided to put it all together with supplies we already had on hand. Here, then, is the Beyer Family Gingerbread House 2020.
But, it wasn’t a total disaster. We can use our inherent craftiness to rescue it at least a little bit from total wicked-witch-housiness. Though I am sure Hansel and Gretel would still eat it.