Myths of the Veritas: All that Glitters …

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Over the next several days, Shadow Walker’s memory and thinking improved. That proved to be a good thing because otherwise, even though he asked, indeed insisted that Tree Vines tell him in excruciating detail everything he saw from a number of public executions, he himself would have become hopeless. But Veritas were trained from an early age to push away hopelessness and instead to plan. Of course, this did not make them impervious to circumstances. Understanding the reality of one’s circumstances, even if unpleasant, always proved crucial to maximizing one’s chances for survival. 

 

As Shadow Walker and Tree Vines reviewed the killings together, Shadow Walker probed for more and more detail. Veritas early memory training, it became clear to them both, proceeded along similar lines and had similar benefits on both sides of the Twin Peaks. Tree Vines had learned more of the Z-Lotz and ROI languages than Shadow Walker. He explained to Shadow Walker that his friend Eagle Eyes, if she had survived, would likely be in prison not too far away. Rumors were that NUT-PI had planned some sort of giant celebration with lots of torture and killing to take his people’s attention away from a rampant plague that was killing scores of people. Apparently, NUT-PI had at first refused to believe there even was a horrible disease among the Z-Lotz, and then he claimed it was only the impure in spirit or those who were disobedient to him or his interpretations of the Great Sky Bear’s law who had anything to fear. Many from among the most devout of the Z-Lotz had also died. 

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Food and water were scarce. On the one hand, Shadow Walker felt the need to conserve his energy for an escape attempt that might require every ounce of energy. On the other hand, he also needed to keep his bones and muscles strong. So, he exercised for short periods of time, but very vigorously and he encouraged Tree Vines to do the same. The exercises themselves helped them from slipping into a vague and vacant hopelessness. Shadow Walker encouraged the other prisoners to follow suit. At first, only a few joined in, but when the other saw the obvious improvement in mood, they began to join in. 

Shadow Walker avoided dwelling on those aspects of his current reality that most distressed him but he did need to note them. Most disconcerting of all were the uncertainty about Eagle Eyes and the fact that his pouch containing his six Rings of Empathy was missing. He assumed someone had stolen in when he had been clubbed on the head. Somehow, playing with the rings always made him feel closer to Many Paths. Now, he had to be satisfied with closing his eyes and imagining he had the rings. 

Another disconcerting thing was the weight and discomfort of the large extended collar that hung around his neck and then opened up into a kind of chest covering. It seemed to be made of the same stuff as the strange metal door that he had encountered on his first visit to the Z-Lotz and the sword that he had taken in the burnt forrest. All the prisoners had these strange shiny collars. These collars seemed impossible to remove and each prisoner’s had some of the strange marks that Tu-Swift had begun to decode. Every few hours, Shadow Walker’s mind returned to the idea of somehow using these collars as weapons. They should be useful. They were made of the same strange stuff as the swords … but how could they be used when they were so tightly attached? The puzzle maddened him and Tree Vines shared his intuition about their potential value, but other than trying to smash a guard with the chest plate, they couldn’t work out how to remove the blasted thing.

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On sunny mornings, which predominated in the summer, a bright shaft of light streamed into the otherwise dank and cheerless cell. Tree Vines smiled one morning as he sat in this shaft of light and said to Shadow Walker, “Watch this.” At night, a fair number of rats stole into their cell searching for bits of food the prisoners had dropped or overlooked. The prisoners generally shooed them away. Tree Vines used the sun’s reflection off of his metal shirt to chase the rats away. Shadow Walker chuckled appreciatively. “At least, these damned things are good for something.” 

One morning about a week after Shadow Walker’s capture, everyone in the cell awoke early because of a great commotion and chatter among the guards. The prisoners could also hear the hum of activity outside. Their only window was too high up to see anything except sky, but they could tell that a great many people seemed to be gathering and chatting excitedly about something. Soon, the prisoners themselves were speculating, mostly in Z-Lotz, about what was up. The door to the prison cell slid open and many warriors entered along with the guards. For a moment, Shadow Walker considered trying to run out the open door, but there were too many warriors and they were too concentrated. They had swords and clubs and their demeanor made it clear that they would brook no nonsense. They strung a long chain through a hole at the back of the collar. The guards held the ends of the chain and ushered the group outside. 

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They were greeted by a beautiful summer day. They were led over to a long bench. The prisoners needed to squint against the sun which was now high in the sky behind the throne on which NUT-PI sat in his golden crown. Shadow Walker strained to lean forward so he could better look to the left and right. He could see Eagle Eyes! He tried to catch the eye of Tree Vines but with his neck constrained and three people between them, it proved impossible. Shadow Walker caught a glimpse of the man’s face. A worried smile seemed to play over his features like a summer day with racing shadows from passing clouds. Shadow Walker glanced up. There were no clouds today. Only a circling flock of birds high above. 

Shadow Walker craned his neck forward and backward trying vainly to whisper to Tree Vines. He saw that the female prisoners had all been outfitted as well with the same metal collars which, in the case of the women and girls, covered their ribs and stomachs but not their breasts. Suddenly, a loud gong sounded and reverberated through the stone walls of the Z-Lotz city. A man with a very loud voice stood next to NUT-PI intoning: “SILENCE! You may cheer when the rape and torture begins. First, let us hear from our great leader. If you talk while he talks, you will miss the entertainment. You will become part of the entertainment.” 

NUT-PI stood and a thick fake smile spread across his lips as he spoke. “Thank you so much for your attention. Our great city has suffered a plague brought by strangers to our fair land. Luckily, because of my leadership, we have defeated this enemy as we defeat all enemies — with strength of purpose and fierce loyalty to me and the words of the Great Sky Bear told through me! Now, that we have defeated this plague, it is time for some much deserved entertainment. First, on offer, we have three score young women and girls. I don’t want to spoil the surprise ending but for starters, they will all be brought before me and forced to look at me.  I can watch them look at my eyes while they are raped. Then, I can watch the life drain out of them as they are slowly strangled. Or not, as is my fancy. Then, we will do the man as well. But first, they can watch their wives and daughters be raped. Guards, bring them one by one over here for my pleasure. Start with the youngest.”

Despite the threat of death, some of the women began to scream and beg for mercy. One voice rang out above the rest. It was the voice of Eagle Eyes. She was not begging for mercy but singing some weird toneless, loud, and long scream. What was she doing, wondered Shadow Walker. She’ll get herself killed right away! He heard a distant echo of her scream from the … no, it wasn’t really an echo, he realized. The pitch was higher. What — ? Then the motion caught his eyes and they reflexively shot upwards. He saw a score of eagles diving toward NUT-PI. A moment later, he saw them them too. At first, his mouth stood agape, but then, he grabbed his nearby Killing Stick and took aim at them. All at once a host of … bees or butterflies flew around his face. He fired the Killing Stick. So far as Shadow Walker could tell, he missed all the eagles, but several of the nearby Z-Lotz screamed and fell. 

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Shadow Walker shook his head. He couldn’t believe that someone had trained bees or butterflies to … no, no… he realized suddenly that they were not bees of butterflies. Those are reflections, he said to himself. Eagle Eyes and many of the women were adjusting their shiny collars to reflect the sun into the eyes of NUT-PI so that he couldn’t see clearly. Forgetting the guards warnings, he shouted to Tree Vines. “Focus the reflection of your collar and chest plate onto NUT-PI’s face. Tell the others to do the same!” 

At first, a host of reflections scattered around NUT-PI, the gong, and the throne. NUT-PI waved his hands at them as though he were scattering a swarm of bees. Then, a thin and piteous scream emerged from his lips as more and more of the reflections converged on his face. He dropped the Killing Stick as he tore at his eyes and tried to cover his face with his hands. The back of his hands began to burn. The smell of burning flesh seemed to antagonize the eagles who now pecked at the squirming writhing NUT-PI. Blood began to pour from various places. NUT-PI screamed out, “Kill them! Kill them!” 

His guards looked at each other, wondering who it was they were supposed to kill. Prisoners? Eagles? The Z-Lotz? No-one wanted to be responsible for misinterpreting an order. They were still wondering what to follow as NUT-PI collapsed and fell silent. The voice of Eagle Eyes rung out loud and clear. “Your King NUT-PI is King no more. He dead. He defeated by messenger from the Great Sky Bear. Shadow Walker! Guards! Unchain new King. Unchain Shadow Walker! Fulfill the great prophesy of Great Sky Bear! He has used the power of the Great Sky Bear to become new king!” 

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Shadow Walker felt even more confused than when he had been banged on the head and awakened in prison. He squinted and frowned at Eagle Eyes. He vaguely felt the chain being slid out of his collar and the guards did something to unlock it. He had constructed numerous example plans for escape but none of them looked anything like this! Eagle Eyes had her own plan apparently. He walked toward the throne, his mind racing about how to embrace and amplify her plan. A conversation with Cat Eyes sprung into his head. Many of the Z-Lotz did not even believe anything about their religion, but they all acted as though they did. If that were true, maybe he could convince them that he was their new king. No, he corrected himself. He didn’t need to convince them. He only needed to act as though he were king and they would accept it. They had accepted NUT-PI as their ruler — clearly a deranged and cruel leader who cared almost nothing about his own people. He had been a coward at the battle of the three roads and he was a coward in ruling and a coward in death. 

Play the part, Shadow Walker told himself. Play the part. Slowly and with as much dignity as he could summon, he strode to the throne. The birds jumped away for a moment as he neared and he noticed among the wreckage of NUT-PI’s finery, the leather pouch which held his Rings of Empathy. He snatched it up. He looked out at his audience of prisoners, ROI, and Z-Lotz. He could see that many were still sick, swaying feverishly and covered with ugly red dots on their faces and hands. This was NUT-PI’s idea of “conquering” the plague? No time for that. People expected him to be leader, so that’s what he needed to be, at least for now. He glanced at Eagle Eyes and allowed the slightest flicker of a smile to cross his face. 

Shadow Walker turned to face the crowd. He wished he could speak more fluent ROI or Z-Lotz, but he didn’t. So he used sign language to enhance communication. He forced himself to speak in a strong steady voice.

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“Greetings, brave and strong people of the Z-Lotz and ROI. I have bested your king. I am now king. That is your way. Our way. The way of the Great Bear in the Sky. The Great Sky Bear told me to come here. The Great Sky Bear said that the Z-Lotz need new King. Old King did not help you cure your plague. Old King was cruel. Old King hated families. Old King liked killing. Great Sky Bear does not like killing for no reason. Great Bear of the Sky loves you. Great Sky Bear loves all things that swim, fly, and walk. Great Bear of the Sky does not love Killing Sticks. Shadow Walker swallowed hard. He wasn’t sure what would happen if he tried to break the Killing Stick. Perhaps it would kill him first. He considered taking it and throwing it in a lake or burying it, but destroying it immediately would be far more dramatic…and far less safe. He noticed where people had been hurt. The Killing Stick was pointed toward them like a spear or an arrow. So, he made sure that part of the Killing Stick was pointed away from him as he smashed it against the stones behind the throne. 

After he did that, he heard a cheer. It was Eagle Eyes. But many joined her cheer. He did not want to lose that energy and have people begin to miss NUT-PI. So, he continued to speak. “I bring you great news from Great Sky Bear. No more are we to steal children. The Great Sky Bear loves families. The Great Sky Bear loves families together, not apart. Release the prisoners! The men had already released themselves, but now the guards released the women and girls as well. It seemed that nearly all prisoners were part of families. Shadow Walker reflected that all of these people had come to the middle of town to watch entertainment, so he’d better provide some and quickly, he reckoned. But what? What?

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The Creation Myth of the Veritas. 

The Myths of the Veritas: The Orange Man

The Myths of the Veritas: The Forgotten Field

The Myth of the Veritas: The First Ring of Empathy.

 Author Page on Amazon.

First of several stories about a child sociopath. 

Three poems about a pandemic: 

The Truth Train

The Pandemic Anti-Academic

     The Watershed Virus

Trumpism is a new religion. 

 

Red Death Plague Rage Assuaged

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Tu-Swift busied himself for days walking to the river for water in order to help She Who Saves Many Lives with her ministrations to the many Veritas who had fallen ill. The most recent victim was Suze. Tu-Swift helped her imbibe some of the special healing tea that the elder Shaman prepared. But no matter what, he couldn’t seem to bring the fever down. At one point, as he sat on the ground beside her, holding her hand, and resting, he noticed that his knee was not bothering him. Tu-Swift found this a little surprising because he had been walking so much to help assuage the sick. He wondered whether the walking could actually somehow help mend his knee. He looked over at Suze. He thought about the first time he had ever noticed her. One of the things he found attractive about her, aside from her wonderful scent, was her beautiful smooth skin. Now she smelled of stale sweat and her skin had erupted into a mountain range of red dots. He found it odd that her current state did nothing to diminish her love for her. In fact, he felt closer to her than ever. 

Tu-Swift paid no conscious attention to anything beyond Suze. Yet, his experiences kept a part of his mind attuned to the outside world. He felt, more than heard, the growing buzz of excitement outside. He pulled open the flap of Suze’s cabin and saw many of the Veritas pointing and talking excitedly. His eyes followed he pointing and there seemed to be some commotion on the hillside on the border of the Center Place. It was hard to make out faces, but he immediately recognized the garb of Lion Slayer and Hudah Salah. Tu-Swift swallowed hard and his heart began to beat hard. He loved Suze, but he missed Cat Eyes so much! He hadn’t realized till this moment how much he missed her. He forgot about his hurt knee entirely and loped toward the commotion. He spotted Trunk of Tree next — hard to miss his big frame — and he smiled to recognize Fleet of Foot. And, he nodded as he saw Jaccim. What was going on? Why were they shouting at each other? Where was Cat Eyes? 

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That must be her, he thought, but even as he thought it, he realized, no, she could have changed that much. Now, he began to fear something horrible had happened. He drew even closer. There were guards shouting at Trunk of Tree and he was shouting back. 

Tu-Swift stopped and got no closer. Even at his age, he recognized that when there is a shouting match, adding more people, generally doesn’t improve the situation. At last, he began to “get” what was happening. This was indeed the party returning from the attempt to visit the Veritas beyond the Twin Peaks, but the Veritas guards here had been told to keep the party away from the central village. Tu-Swift wondered whether his sister, Many Paths had given that order or if it had been She Who Saves Many Lives. Many Paths was fairly well recovered but not quite. Just then, he notice She Who Saves Many Lives stride past him and walk toward the shouting match. 

Tu-Swift wondered how such an ancient lady had caught up with him so quickly. He smiled as he recalled his sister remarking on several occasions that it seemed as though She Who Sees Many Lives had an almost magical intuition to know where she was most needed and appear there. So, thought Tu-Swift, this is what she was talking about. He smiled. 

As She Who Saves Many Lives approached she shot her right hand out holding her staff and said, “SILENCE!” 

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And silence ensued. And then, her voice rang out loud and true.

“Now, listen to me. It is I who ordered the guards to stop you here. We welcome you back and we are all eager to learn of your travels. But you must listen! We have a plague here. Many of us are sick! Some have died. Many Paths herself is just now recovering. This sickness covers you with ugly red dots and gives you a high fever. It is just like mold on fruit or the white powder flies on leaves. It goes from one person to another. We don’t know yet whether all of us will get sick or just some of us. It’s possible — not likely but possible — that everyone here will die. In that case, for the people not to die, you must stay away from us for a time. I know you are all eager to see us and as I said, we are just as eager to see you! But you cannot come any closer right now.” 

The returning Veritas murmured but they all nodded their heads to signal their understanding — all save Trunk of Tree who bellowed, “I live here! This is my village. It is not up to you, I say with great respect — it is not up to you.” 

The strong voice of She Who Saves Many Lives sung out, “You may well wonder where and how this plague came upon us. I will tell you. We had visitors from the Z-Lotz and we believe we got it from them. In fact, we think they did it on purpose. They also gave us a gift of something they call “glass” which has caused grievous wounds and sickness in Stone Chipper and his son, Sees Horses. Now, for the sake of the Great Bear in the Sky, tell us whether there really are Veritas beyond the Twin Peaks. And, now, I see that you have brought the answer with you, if I am not mistaken.”

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She Who Saves Many Lives nodded and put her hand out toward Flowing Waters and said in a softer, but still carrying tone, “Welcome sister. I am called She Who Saves Many Lives though I am afraid it is a bit of a misnomer. It is the people themselves who save lives because they learn much, and they help each other out, and when they disagree they talk things out until they do or make arrangements not to interfere with each other. I can see by your face that you understand me, so you must be from our cousins over the Twin Peaks. I’m sorry we have to keep you away until we stop getting sick over here. Are you kin to Cat Eyes?”

“I understand, She Who Saves Many Lives. I am called by the name “Flowing Waters” because somehow, what I see flows like water out of my fingers and into paintings. I am indeed from the Veritas beyond the Twin Peaks as you say. Though we had a legend that you were the Veritas beyond the Twin Peaks.” She smiled and paused. 

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She Who Saves Many Lives laughed aloud and most of the Veritas joined in. Lion Slayer and Hudah Salah joined in. Jaccim looked from one face to another and could not understand why everyone was laughing.

She Who Saves Many Lives continued, “Trunk of Tree. You were in charge of this expedition and I see that you were successful! Congratulations! Believe me, we want you to come and celebrate as is our way as soon as we possibly can. It would be a fine way to repay your wisdom and courage to give some dread disease that might kill you, right? What would Eagle Eyes think of us all when she returns here. Can you imagine that conversation? She would say, ‘Look, we brought back a killing stick. What of Trunk of Tree? Was he also successful? I want to see him!’ And, then I would say, ‘Oh, yes he was successful. I can show you where his body is buried.’ And then she would say, ‘How did he die?’ And, then, I would say, ‘Oh, yes, well everyone in the village was deathly ill so we had him come in and catch the disease and die rather than having him keep a safe distance for a time. I hope we did the right thing. He very much wanted to get in the village.’ And, though no-one can predict the future with certainty, I imagine that she would say something like, ‘How stupid!’ and I think she would be correct. And she would be very sad to know you were dead and that rather than dying as a hero in battle fighting to protect your village, instead you died of red pimple disease because you couldn’t be bothered camping at a safe distance. I cannot have that on my head. And, by he way, she wouldn’t just blame me; she would blame the whole of the Veritas. How could a village be so stupid as to let one of her mightiest and bravest warriors needlessly die? And she would be right to blame the whole village. Including you. Enough of this though, tell us your exciting news. Are all the Veritas on the other side of the Twin Mountains as charming and comely as Flowing Waters and Cat Eyes? And where is Cat Eyes, though I suspect I know. And, how did you get there? We want to hear the whole story, but for now, the essence will do.” 

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Trunk of Tree tried to organize things in his head. What to say first? Most important, the Veritas. “Yes, there are Veritas — many of them — on the other side of the Twin Peaks. They have no interaction with other tribes except for the predations of the ROI and the Z-Lotz. Cat Eyes — she had hoped to see her parents, but they had left to try to find her and were never heard from again. And… and … oh, yes so she is staying there with her people. I think she really likes the mint tea they serve there. And, we went through a tunnel but not a dirt tunnel. It was more like a … well, I guess what Cat Eyes called a ‘City’ Smooth. Dark. But lights. Then, we came back.” 

She Who Saves Many Lives blinked a few times. “Thank you, Trunk of Tree. This is exciting news you bring, indeed. Again, Congratulations. Anyone else have any observations?” 

Fleet of Foot glanced at Trunk of Tree, then added, “The Veritas have a leader named ‘Gentle Talons.’ They had a prophesy for someone such as Cat Eyes to return and bring a great truth. And, as it turns out, she did — exactly that! You see, our cousins over the Mountains had excavated a huge underground pantry. But instead of food for the body in the pantry, this giant pantry — which, it turns out, is called a ‘library’, contains thousands of what they call ‘books.’ They had no idea what those things were! They knew they were filled with marks. But no-one knew what those marks meant. Then, Cat Eyes appears, and — because of what she and Tu-Swift had discovered, they could begin to decode every one of these books! They are filled with important knowledge! It was so lucky that Cat Eyes came here — and that she and Tu-Swift were friends! Now, we can all find out so much more about the world. She needs to stay there for now because she is by far the fastest and best decoder they have. And, oh, by the way, Tu-Swift, I have two books for you on training birds. She also wrote a small book just for you personally, but — but — well, I eventually need to see you about it in person.”

Tu-Swift brightened at that. He was glad that Suze was back in the cabin. Then, he realized he would have turned even brighter still and she would have seen it. I need to see her! he thought.  I miss Cat Eyes! I could take Suze. I have to wait though till no-one is sick. We don’t want to take our disease to the Veritas on the other side of the Twin Peaks. Imagine! I go see Cat Eyes and get her entire tribe of cousins sick. What a great friend I would be! 

It proved frustrating, not only for Trunk of Tree, but for everyone not to be able to clasp hands, hug, and have these information exchanges and congratulations be much more intimate and extended. But, even the sweetest nuts have a hard shell. All of the Veritas knew that. It there were not a hard shell, that might seem more convenient for the moment you are trying to open it. But, of course, a moment more of thought would reveal that the nuts would likely never survive to reach a human hand or a human mouth. Nuts without any such shell would be eaten by the small beast that were out all the time looking for food. 

The exchanges lasted until sundown whereupon the returning exploration party made camp on the outskirts. After much dialogue, they decided that the “gift books” would be put some ways from their campsite and left there overnight. Tu-Swift and others would only collect their books tomorrow evening.

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Tu-Swift, despite having talked himself hoarse, found his head still swirling with so many additional questions. He went in to check on Suze. He had already decided that he would wait until she was fully recovered before broaching the subject of visiting the … visiting the library. That was the way to put it so that she would want to go. Suze was as exciting as anyone about this writing and reading. Although she needed her rest, he could not keep from her the news about the library! “Suze! Suze! Wake up! I’ve got something amazing to tell you. Suze!” 

His voice dropped to a plea. “Suze?”

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The Myths of the Veritas: The Orange Man

The Myths of the Veritas: The Forgotten Field

The Myth of the Veritas: The First Ring of Empathy

Author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/truthtable

Essays on America: Unmasked

Essays on America: Happy Talk Lies

The Watershed Virus

The Pandemic Anti-Academic

The Truth Train 

Unmasked

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Unmasked

A mask.

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It’s uncomfortable.

It’s sweaty.

It makes you realize how bad your own breath smells.

Not wearing a mask may set you apart from your master, Vladimir Putin and his puppy, Donald J. Trump. After all, they don’t wear masks.

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A mask reminds you of the outlaws in the Old West. A mask marks you as someone who reads. A mask marks you as someone who listens to science.

And science is hard. You maybe didn’t do too well in science. Or, maybe you’re just fed up with science because it tells you that Cheetos and beer is not a well-balanced and healthy diet. Or, maybe you’re fed up with science because it tells you that if we keep paying no attention to our carbon footprint, we will end up destroying a lot of the ecosystem we rely on to survive. We are melting the polar ice caps. We are killing the forests. We are killing the bees. We are killing all the fish. We are destroying the Coral Reefs. We will have more and more pandemics in the future. People living on seacoasts will be under water. Salt water. Meanwhile, potable drinking water supplies are shrinking.

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Why? It’s the fault of science, damn it! If we didn’t have science, we wouldn’t know those things! If we didn’t test people for COVID19, we wouldn’t have any cases! If we didn’t do X-rays, we wouldn’t have any broken bones! If it weren’t for science, you couldn’t be electrocuted! If it weren’t for science, which says we need to breathe air, people wouldn’t drown! If it weren’t for science, people could jump off cliffs and fall 500 feet onto hard rocks and they wouldn’t even get scratched!

Bullshit. 

And you know it’s bullshit.

If Trump tells you that “his gut tells him” it’s okay for you to jump off a cliff because gravity is a liberal hoax, are you going to jump?

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Science doesn’t cause gravity. Science doesn’t cause human ills like Global Climate Change. It allows us to understand things at a deeper level so that we can take appropriate action. Science isn’t the reason you need to wear a mask to help prevent the spread of the deadly pandemic. The reason has to do with the nature of the novel coronavirus and the nature of human life. We breathe. We must breathe to live. We breathe air in — and as we do so, germs come in with the air. We breathe out. As we do so, germs come out. 

That has been true since life forms climbed out of the ocean onto the land 500 million years ago. It didn’t start being true once we developed science. 

But there’s some good news! Properly wearing a mask will work to protect you — even if you don’t like science. A mask will work to protect your family, even if you don’t like science. Properly wearing a mask will work to protect your friends — even if you don’t like science. Wearing a mask will help prevent the spread of the virus and allow us to minimize the economic impact — even if you don’t believe in science. Conversely, not wearing a mask will help the pandemic spread costing more American lives and losing more American jobs even if you believe the pandemic is a liberal hoax. The virus doesn’t give a damn about your politics.

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Are you the sort of person who yells and screams and insists that you have a right to defecate in public? To walk naked? To have intercourse in public? To throw rocks at people who walk by you, provided you’re throwing the rocks from your own property or on public property? How about a flame thrower? That might be fun! Stand in your front yard and toast people who walk by. You should be allowed to do that! Right? So long as you and the flame thrower are on your own property. Do you have the right to try to build a nuclear reactor so long as it’s on your own property? Do you have the right to burn poison ivy vines in your own back yard and let the toxic smoke drift into your neighbor’s yard?

If you’re wearing a mask when you’re close to others, you are sending a message.

The message is not: “I hate Trump.”

The message is not: “I am a democrat.”

The message is simply this: “I care about my health and the health of my family, friends, and fellow Americans.” That’s it. That’s the message.

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Of course, you can add more messages if you like. You can wear a mask that says something additional. You can put hearts on it or pictures of cute kittens or put photos of the coronavirus on it. But the main message is the same: “I care about human life.”

And, if you don’t wear a mask in situations where it’s appropriate, it also sends a message.

The message says, “I care more about my momentary comfort than I care about your life.” Just remember, if you want to walk around in public wearing that message, you can expect people to respond accordingly.

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Let’s suppose someone has been very careful for months. They rarely go out. They go to the grocery store once every two weeks, wear a mask, wash their hands frequently. So far as they know, they have come in contact with no-one who’s sick. One day they go the grocery store and meet YOU. And YOU decide that YOUR comfort is more important than anyone else’s life so you don’t wear a mask. The shopper goes home and two weeks later, his parents both get COVID19. Two weeks after that, they both die. One of the shopper’s kids had just finished chemotherapy for leukemia. That child got sick with COVID19 and died as well. The shopper could not be with any of his or her loved ones in their last moments.

How do you think they will react when they go back to the store and see you again — and once again, you’re without a mask?

How would you react if your loved ones were killed by COVID19 and you could trace it back to someone not wearing a mask in a place where it was required?

Would you say, “Oh, well. Everyone should be free to do what they want. After all, everyone dies eventually anyway. At least, people can go to the beauty parlor and go bar-hopping. Who cares if kids fighting cancer or grandparents die?”

Character is revealed by choices under pressure.

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What choices are you making? What messages are you sending to your fellow Americans? You can choose to do whatever “Der Fooler” tells you to do. You can choose to believe whatever “Der Fooler” tells you to believe. If you do, then, you may as well buy a Trumputin mask and wear it 24×7. Because your face, your individuality, your identify no longer means anything. To you, your life means nothing, because it means nothing to Trump and Putin. To you, the lives of your loved ones mean nothing, because you are going along with actions dictated by Putin and Trump — and those actions are predicated on the lives of Americans meaning nothing.

Trump is unmasked as a puppy of Putin.

You are unmasked as a puppy of Trump. 

You are not a “freedom fighter” because you refuse to wear a mask any more than a tramp who defecates in the path on a public park is a “freedom fighter.”

You will have zero freedom under a Trumputin dictatorship. 

You will have zero freedom when you’re lying face down in a semi-coma with a ventilator stuck down your throat.  

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Trumpism is a New Religion

You bet your life!

It’s just Tommy being Tommy

Myths of the Veritas: The Orange Man

The Truth Train

The Anti-Academic Pandemic

The Watershed Virus

The Happy Talk Lies
                            

Essays on America: Happy Talk Lies

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You do not actually have a generic right to impinge on the rights of others. 

If someone is trying to convince you that you do — they are peddling you Happy Talk Lies and trying either:

  1. to make a buck or gain power by playing to your “angels” — and not the better ones — or, 
  2. trying to destroy our civil society.

    Let’s consider just a few common examples. You can go into your house and play music. And you can play music not at all, or you can play it 24 x 7. You can listen only to Mozart or only to Philip Glass or leave the radio on all day or play CD’s. You have a huge range of freedoms. This huge range of freedoms that you enjoy, by the way, depends partly on government; it also depends on science. Without science, you would, as a practical matter be far more limited in your freedom.

What you cannot do is play your music so loud that it disturbs others. How loud is too loud? It depends on context. If you are living in a thin-walled apartment complex, you might start to disturb others even when the music is played softly. On the other hand, if you live in the middle of nowhere, you can crank your amps up so far you’ll destroy your own hearing. In some cases, there may be some objective standard about noise levels, but generally it’s a question of having people complain. If one person complains about the noise, the police generally don’t do anything. But if several people complain, they will come and tell people to stop partying so loud. This isn’t “communism” or “socialism” or “Big Bad Government” — this is just people getting along with each other. You don’t have the freedom to impinge on others just because you feel like it. 

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That may seem like a pain in the neck. But you have to realize that other people don’t have the right to impinge on your rights either. And, that is much more valuable to you than whatever inconvenience you have from not being able to impinge on the rights of others. Why? Because there are many more others than there are of you. And, regardless of laws, regulations, customs, power, eventually, if you try to impinge on the rights of others, they will eventually get together and impinge on yours — big time. Guillotine sized big time.

The area of what you can do without infringing on the rights of others typically gets smaller as population becomes more dense. I suspect this may be one reason why people from the wide open spaces feel more as though wearing a mask is an unnecessary inconvenience as compared to city dwellers. City dwellers are much more used to curtailing their rights so as not to infringe on the rights of others than are people in the rural areas. You literally cannot even walk down the sidewalk in a busy city without “negotiating space” with all those around you. 

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I believe there is also a difference in the quality of how people in rural and urban areas see rights interacting and potentially infringing. To city folks, it makes a lot of sense to enforce speed limits, noise ordinances and mandatory mask wearing. On the other hand, it generally makes no sense to urbanites to try to enforce restrictions on other people’s sexual preferences. Why would you want to massively restrict the freedom of others to avoid a temporary feeling of discomfort in yourself? Who cares whether Bob Jones in Des Moines marries Maria Santos or Mario Santos? That’s the sentiment I agree with. I think people from small towns view it much more personally.

Let’s posit that any hint of homosexuality in certain communities has always been viewed with shame and suspicion. Of course, a large part of this probably stems from people repressing the complexity of their own feelings. They feel safe when homosexuality is criminalized because that way they know they themselves won’t be tempted (or at least, as tempted). Now, if the Federal Government mandates that you cannot any longer be wantonly cruel to people or fire them because they’re gay, what do such people think? 

Some of them are in a real panic. Felix thinks, maybe my male friend Oscar, whom I dearly love, secretly has a crush on me and wants to have sex?  Worse, what if I … the government shouldn’t be forcing us to adopt this gay lifestyle! That’s what I think! Have them mind their own business and if they want to fill up New York and San Francisco and DC with gays, let them have at it. But not out here in our town. Since gays have always been ostracized here, they believe, in a strange way, that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it! The government, is in effect, forcing them to face the fact that homosexuality actually does exist.

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Original drawing by Pierce Morgan

Looked at from this perspective, there’s a commonality with the dangerous idea that testing causes COVID19 rather than reveals it. Not testing is a close cousin to the Happy Talk Lies that Trump has peddled since day one of the pandemic. He doesn’t care whether he actually kills Americans. What he wants is for his base to feel better because he talks to them and gives a lame excuse for his actions which are actually killing them. They don’t want to think about the economic devastation or the likelihood that they or someone they love is going to die. Trump acts, for them, as a kind of “anti-therapist.” Instead of attempting to show someone the benefits of taking a more honest look at life, the Anti-Therapist colludes in the fantasies of the Id. Since he talks to the infant in the base, it isn’t necessary to provide an adult rationale. In fact, doing so would be counter-productive. Such a move would “wake up” the adult in the heads of his audience and they might start asking themselves questions such as —

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Is this guy telling the truth? Is there any evidence for that? Does that really correspond with what I already know about the world? Doesn’t this directly contradict what he just said ten minutes ago? Is this making any sense at all?

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Why would Trump want his audience to ask any of those questions? He wouldn’t. Instead, he wants to keep their inner infant enthralled. He will play “Patty-Cake” with his audience. (Trump is not the first politician to do this). Leading them in hate chants is essentially playing Patty-Cake. The words can’t be complex. And they don’t have to relate to reality. When he says, “Who’s going to pay for the wall?” and the audience all chants, “Mexico!” it doesn’t mean that they are going to keep tabs on whether that turns out to be true. But the infant does want reassurance. So, Trump will give some idiotic lie or excuse that no rational person would buy. But he’s not talking to the adult in these people. He’s talking to the infant. And the infant (or Id, or inner child) in all of us is superficial and hungry for something right now! 

Similarly, when Trump tells his base that COVID19 is a liberal hoax or that it’s all going away in the warm weather, it makes the base feel good for a moment. But, there’s a catch. They can only feel better if they believe his lies. If they hear his pronouncement that the virus is going away in the warm weather and think:

“Really? That’s weird. Because all the scientists are saying they don’t know. And some places where it is already warm weather, the pandemic is growing uncontrollably.” 

No. That’s no good. That doesn’t make the person feel better at that moment. Indeed, it makes them feel worse. Not only is COVID19 possibly going to kill them, the President of the United States is lying! So, we must understand, it’s much more comfortable to believe everything he says. His lies are always designed to make his audience feel better at that moment if and only if they believe his lies. Like many other drugs — heroine, cocaine, alcohol — it will take more and more over time to get the same high.

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Believing the Happy Talk Lies is addictive. And, from Trump’s point of view, it’s much better than telling the truth. Telling the truth would take work and he feels work is beneath him. So, there’s that. In addition, he can always say something that will make the base feel better — not just when there actually is good news. And — understand — when the actual news is bad news — a pandemic that’s killed 125,000 Americans, most of them needlessly; or the worst economic downturn in history; or Trump’s own evident treason — guess what? When the actual news is bad news, his lies are even more effective as an addictive drug.

Imagine for a moment that you are a Trump fan. You have believed almost everything he’s said up to this point. Robert Mueller comes out with a report that shows how the Russians interfered with our election to help Donald Trump. How does it make you feel to think that Donald Trump is a traitor and that our country is now beholden to Putin!? Good? I think not! You will feel terrible! You voted for the man, for God’s sake! Now it turns out he’s a traitor! That’s a horrible thing to bear. But wait — Trump himself — or Bilious Barr can provide a Happy  Talk Lie instead. “The report shows there was no collusion. It’s no big deal.” Whew! Thank you! That was close! For a moment there, it looked as though I was going to be extremely uncomfortable. Thank goodness Trump and his spokes-liars gave an alternative view. Now I feel better again. 

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The reason for Trump’s tweeting is not so much the chance to spew forth fear and hate and best of all — redemption for the believers in the lies — though, that is useful and fun. More importantly, it seeds a community of like-minded believers. Heroine alleys, opium dens, local bars where the cheap drinks are plentiful share the same purpose as on-line groups based on reinforcing each other for addictive behavior. If you’re high all the time, “ordinary people” begin to give you grief. “Have you thought about what this is doing to your life and the lives of those around you?” If everyone in your life said that, you might well have to confront the fact that the addiction was not good for you. Instead, it’s so much nicer to have a group who understands; that is to say, they’ve made the same decision to forgo their life and responsibilities in order to satisfy their momentary pleasures that you have. So, you agree not to challenge them. And, they agree not to challenge you. Instead, you will work together to repeat and spread the lies of  the addicted. In the case of support groups for Trump, people repeat and spread the lies of “Der Fooler” and doing so gives another nice little hit of endorphins.

Now, in June of 2020, these little hits of endorphins are not just coming from hearing “Happy Talk” lies, or repeating them. Now, the base are all being encouraged to go out and spread the coronavirus. And they are. And, I have to guess that they feel good doing it even though they themselves could sicken and die; even though they could be the cause of their best friend dying, or their child, or their parent. Because they feel as though they are part of a “feel good” movement and everyone else is just a party pooper. Everyone who thinks 125,000 dead Americans is a horrible tragedy is just trying to rain on the parade, a real Debbie Downer, Eeyore, Sad Sack, a wallflower.

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What do you do in a society when perhaps one third of the voting age population is addicted to Happy Talk Lies? Maybe a few of them will spontaneously quit. Perhaps some will take up tennis and become addicted to that instead. What else? An addiction is always hard to break — and that’s even if the person wants to. 

It may seem hopeless, but I don’t think it is. As a society, we used to have many more people addicted to nicotine than we do today. And the tobacco companies fought like a wounded warthog to keep enough people addicted to keep the tobacco barons rolling in dough. So, I”m still hopeful that we can evolve beyond Happy Talk Addiction. If we do, then, we have a real shot at keeping the American death total below a million, not to mention keeping us away from the abyss of Nazism. People will be willing to not only look at the truth but take actions that are consistent with the truth such as only going out when necessary and using a mask. People will reject the notion that they have and should exercise unlimited license to do what they feel like regardless of the impact on others. In other words, people will grow up and fulfill their responsibility to vote as an adult, not as a small child might. 

But it won’t be easy. Because it means giving up the addiction to Happy Talk Lies.

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Trumpism is a New Religion 

You Bet Your Life

Rejecting Adulthood

Wednesday (Cognitive Dissonance discussion)

The Truth Train

The Pandemic Anti-Academic

The Watershed Virus

Author Page on Amazon

 

Donnie Lets his Brother take the Fall.

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“Good God you’re stupid, Donnie. I thought I was a bad student. Look at these grades? What’s wrong with you!” The longer Donnie Boy’s dad Fred screamed, the purpler his face became. His voice grew steadily louder and less intelligible; his gestures grew wilder and more erratic.

Donnie held his head appropriately low and his eyes were on the floor. He pretended to be mortified, but let’s take a peek inside Donnie Boy’s head and see what kinds of semi-thoughts slither around in there.

Donnie Boy gritted his teeth and thought: Like I really give a flying fruck what you think. He squeezed his hand extra hard to put a grim and sorrowful look on his face, but not enough to cause real pain. If he showed a tear, he would bet a righteous beating. “Yes, Daddy” said Donnie boy as he thought silently, Some day I’m going to bury you. Bury you. Bury you. Like Khrushcheat Hah. So there!

Now, Fred had reached the dangerous stage of throwing random crap around the kitchen. On he ranted, “I told you Idiot Boy, [an ash tray shattered against the fridge; Donnie Boy flinched] the more you learn, the easier it is to fool other people! [a crystal wine goblet shattered against the floor; Donnie Boy flinched] Who the hell are you going to be able to con, if you can’t sound educated when you need to? You going to be stuck all your life with two-bit cons? [To prove his point, Fred flung a frying pan through the kitchen window; Donnie Boy flinched}.  

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The front door swung open and Mommy twittered into the kitchen. One look at the expression on her husband’s face told her that it was going to be one of those nights. “Hello, dear. Would you like me to make your dinner now? I got some nice —- “

“Where the F### have you been, B####? Why isn’t my dinner on the table NOW? This piece of crap apparently got your genes in the smarts department! Look! Look at his report card! If you know how to read it. Can you read a report card, dummy? He’s hardly worth the trouble to even whip. Here. You do it for once. I’m going out.” At this point, Fred slipped his belt out from the loops of his pants and doubled it up. He sprang at his wife and drew his arm back. He saw his wife flinch and that made him laugh. “Don’t worry, idiot. I’m not going to hit you. Not now. But when I get back, I’d better see 20 lashes on that boy’s butt or you or going to get double. And those other two as well. And, beat some sense into him while you’re at it.” 

Fred slammed his way out the door. Mary walked over to her son shaking her head, “I’m sorry Donnie Boy, but you know what I have to do. You heard him. I’m not going to beat Maryann and Junior because of your laziness. Turn around now, like a good boy and drop your drawers.”

Donnie Boy flinched, “But Mommy! I didn’t do anything bad! The teacher just doesn’t like me! I know it all! Ask me anything. I know everything! I deserved all A’s but she failed me because I wouldn’t show her my thingie.” 

“Donald, I think you’re just trying to get out of a beating. Now let your pants down.” 

“But Mommy! It wasn’t me! It was Fred! It was Fred. I didn’t want to say. I was trying to protect him!” 

“What are you talking about? You failed and got a D. It doesn’t have anything to do with Fred.” 

“Well, it is Mommy it is. But please don’t make me tell you. Please. Fred will kill me if he finds out I told you.” Even at his tender age, Donnie had learned delaying tactics that gave him time to make up a lie. He thought: This will be better. It’s one kid against another. They would believe the teacher, but whether it’s me or Fred? Who knows? I’ll just keep lying and at least they will doubt whether it’s true.

Donald, you’d better explain and explain good or I’ll whip you twice as hard. You know I don’t want to, but I get tired of your lies! Now how is it your brother’s fault that you have bad grades.” 

“OK, Mommy, I’ll tell you but please, please, don’t let Fred find out I told you. He’ll kill me. Well, maybe he won’t, but those bad friends of his will.” 

What bad friends? What are you talking about?” 

“Well, Mommy, I had to skip so many classes because I had to go earn money to help Fred pay back all those gambling loans to those bad people and I was afraid — well, Fred said not to tell anybody because both of us could go to jail and I didn’t do anything illegal. I was just trying to help my brother! Fred said if we didn’t get the money and we didn’t want to ask Daddy or you because really that wouldn’t be fair. Even Fred and I agreed on that. We wanted to solve our own problem. Isn’t that what you said we should do? Isn’t it Mommy?” 

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“Of course, Donald, but what gambling? What friends? What are you talking about? Where is your brother? It’s dinner time.”

“I know. I mean, I know he should be here. I hope he’s okay. I think tomorrow was the day he really needed the money for. But those bad people…they might not wait. I don’t know. Maybe we should go try to find him? I mean, before it’s too late. Anyway, I know if we solve this problem of the money for Fred, I can easily get my grades up! It’s not like I don’t know the material. I know it! Oh, I know it! But I missed some test. If Fred just had like $500, we could pay them off — he swears he’ll never gamble again! But I — all that time I worked I only made $5.”

“Donald, are you making this up? Tell me honestly.”

“Oh, Mommy, it’s true. And, you know I love to talk with you but … I’m worried about Fred. He should be home. You’d better let me take him the money. I can run faster and you … Mommy … so beautiful a young lady would … the only women who are there after dark … well, I know it like the back of my gigantic hands. I think it’s the only thing we can do — and then we won’t have to tell Daddy. He would kill Fred! You know he would! Let’s keep it to ourselves. Okay?” 

“All right, Donald. Are you sure you’ll be all right?”

“Oh, I’ll be all right, Mommy! Don’t you worry. But let’s just never talk about it again. Okay?” 

“All right, Donald. I’ll be right back. You stay there.” 

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Mary went into the bedroom and went to her side of her closet, knelt down and pulled out a shoe box. In the shoe box was the money she had saved for herself — for a rainy day — sometimes, she fantasized about using the money to skip town. But then, she thought about Fred Senior tracking her down. It would be worse — much worse — than the usual beatings and rapes. So. What better way to use it than to save my son’s life.”

Meanwhile, Donnie Boy peered through the crack of the door and saw the secret hiding place for Mommy’s Cash. He had long suspected that she had such a treasure and now he knew for sure and he knew where. He slowly shuffled back to where he had been. 

Donald stood with a pleasant but serious look on his face as his mother handed him the envelope. 

“Be careful, Donald. Are you sure you’ll be safe?”

“I swear, Mommy, I won’t put myself in any danger. I should go!” 

Donald tucked the envelope into his pocket, turned on his heel and shuffled to the door and closed it behind him. He walked to the corner, turned right and went about half a block were there was a bus stop. He knew Fred would soon pass by here on his way home from the library. He had asked Donald to tell their folks that he’d be home at 7pm sharp. Of course, Donald said no such thing and had not planned on it, even if he hadn’t gotten in trouble for his report card.

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Donald shivered slightly in the damp air and pounded his shoulders with his teeny hands. A few moments later, he recognized the form of his older brother. “Hey Fred! How’s it going?”

“Hey, Shrimp. What are you doing here?” 

“I thought I’d come give you a heads up about what’s going on at home.” 

“Oh? Why, Shrimp, is anything wrong.” 

“Well, Fred, Mommy didn’t have dinner ready and you weren’t there and Dad got all made and stomped out. He broke some stuff and we need to clean it up. Meanwhile, Mommy’s not in a very good mood, as you might imagine. Probably best not to say much to her tonight. Then, we should go to bed early and pretend to be asleep. Maybe Daddy will be too drunk to beat anybody. I don’t know. We can hope. Just don’t say much to Mom.” 

“All right. Thanks, Donald. You’re all right. Thanks for the heads up.”

“Sure thing, Fred. That’s what brothers are for!”

No-one in the family ever mentioned the $500 ever again. Donnie Boy used it for his own purposes — purposes that are beyond the boundaries of the sensibilities of the vast majority of people to even wish to read about. 

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Donnie Plays Bull-Dazzle Man
Donnie Gets a Hamster

Donnie Visits Granny

Donnie Learns Golf

Donnie Takes a Blue Ribbon for Spelling

Donnie Boy Plays Doctor

Donnie Boy Plays Soldier Man

Donnie Boy Plays Captain Man

Donnie Gets his Name on a Tennis Trophy

The Myths of the Veritas: The Orange Man

Author Page on Amazon

Wake Up!

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Shadow Walker couldn’t understand where the bright light was. It seemed to be everywhere and nowhere. The noise overwhelmed him, seemed to jar his bones and make his teeth chatter.  Breathe, he told himself. Breathe. Disgusting. Sour. Rotten. He was spinning. The bright lights changed to blue and then red and back to blue. “I can’t think straight,” he mumbled aloud. Shadow Walker slowed his breathing. The word “inventory” came to mind. He slowly and carefully took stock of his body, part by part. It was all there; sore, but no broken bones. He moved his hand to his head. Apparently, a tree burl had grown on his head. But that cannot be, he thought. I must have fallen. I’m in a hole. He blinked and listened to the roar. 

Not a roar. Those are voices. Whose voices? Many voices. They were speaking gibberish. Gibberish he had heard before. ROI and Z-Lotz. Why were people speaking those languages? A picture came to mind — a beautiful young woman bathing. Then, she was speaking. They were pointing to some vines high up in a tree. Another image: crawling through the grass. He drew close to the beautiful woman. Her scent was nice. Not like now. Who was she? She was not the only woman though. There was another. If only the pain were less, I could think better. 

The light at least had grown dimmer. He could now make out mountains and in this vast landscape, no plants grew. He closed his eyes and saw the image of another beautiful woman with eyes like those of a cougar. He mumbled aloud, “I wish Cougar Eyes were here. She could translate this sea of words into something I could understand. Where the hell am I?”

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He stared back onto the giant landscape. Something was very wrong with it. He blinked a few times and suddenly realized that he was not staring at a giant landscape at all. He stared at a dirt floor a few inches in front of his face. He was lying on his side. He tilted his head to take in the room. 

I am in a prison, he thought. But why? He pushed himself up to a sitting position. A single shaft of sunlight struck the floor near where he had just been lying. He closed his eyes and nearly fainted. He sat alone on one side of this prison room, he realized. The other three sides showed a few dozen others hunched against the other three sides. They reacted to him — his sitting up — by pointing and jabbering — but he only caught an occasional word that made any sense: “death” “NUT-PI” “ceremony” “yesterday” or “tomorrow” — he couldn’t be sure which. Again he said and said aloud, “If only Cougar Eyes were here.” Across the room, a thin, frail, long-bearded man arose and hobbled toward him slowly. He stood directly in front of Shadow Walker and then awkwardly sat down in front of him and began speaking — in Veritas!

“Excuse me, Sir. My name is Tree Vines. Did you say ‘Cougar Eyes’ just now?” 

“Tree Vines! You speak Veritas!” 

“I do. Yes. I am Veritas. But I don’t recognize you. I suppose you have grown quite a bit since I last saw you. But did you say ‘Cougar Eyes.’?” 

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“Yes. I don’t recognize you either. I am Shadow Walker. Cougar… that’s not right. Tiger Eyes. No. Something. Her name escapes me. I have been struck hard on the head. I don’t know how I got here. Where are we?” 

“You are in a place called Hopeless because all who come here, die here, or — or out in the public square. NUT-PI mostly lets us die of slow starvation, but sometimes, he likes to put on a show. I am afraid that is likely your fate. According to what I overheard from the guards, you came here two days ago with a woman. Was this woman by any chance called ‘Cat Eyes’?”

“Cat Eyes! Yes. No. I mean, I do know a woman named Cat Eyes. But that is not the woman I came here with. She’s — her name is — also something to do with cats or eyes or fish. But no. Cat Eyes — not Cougar Eyes — she — I found her in the village of the ROI. Like you, she speaks Veritas, but she also — but I cannot recall how I came to be here. I cannot…my mind is not working properly. I’m sorry. But you speak Veritas. Yet, I don’t recognize you.”

“Nor do I recognize you. Though I have been among the Z-Lotz for a long time now. I set out long ago on a journey to find my daughter, Cat Eyes, and was captured and used as a slave here in their city. My master became deathly ill ….”

Shadow Walker interrupted, “What? Wait. Cat Eyes is your daughter?” 

“Yes. Yes. Her irises are shaped like those of a cat. And you know her? Is she well?” 

“Tree Vines, the last time I saw her, she was well. She led … several of my tribe went to try to reach the Veritas beyond the Twin Peaks. She went with them. She said that’s where she was from.” 

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“That’s right! But how — I don’t think they could get there. She was stolen from us when she was young. She was taken by these people who steal children. My wife and I set out to follow the trail and try to find her. Several of our tribe accompanied us. But we came to a sheer cliff. No-one could find a way in or around. The others turned back, convinced there was no way over the mountain. My wife and I stayed and at last, a huge hole appeared in the side of the mountain itself…a kind of giant door. We could see nothing but we were desperate and slowly approached this hole hoping it might lead to her. Before our eyes had adjusted to the strange dim light inside, a troop of horsemen came riding out. They struck us with clubs and I woke up in the City of the Z-Lotz. I was chained and beaten and made to understand that I was their slave. I was never allowed outside my master’s house. I am not sure whether my wife…sometimes other slaves came and I tried to ask about my wife, but we could never talk long. I gave up on life. I poisoned my master, not to kill, but to make him ill, and they found out or rather guessed — and put me in here. But only the ROI and the Z-Lotz know the secret of the giant hole in the mountain. I don’t think she could get through. But why are you here?” 

“Tree Vines, it is good to hear someone speak Veritas again. And, it was helped me recall some things, but I am still not — I don’t know why I am here or — we came — there is something here that we need. I came with — a different woman because she was here before and she sees — yes! She is called ‘Eagle Eyes.’ She can see really well. But not well enough to keep us from being captured — or killed.”

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“I’m sorry to say so, Shadow Walker, but they are going to kill you. By the light on the floor, I see it is nigh on to the Summer Solstice and they have … festivities planned … in fact, I would do the mercy of killing you, but we must find a way to kill each other or they will have me take your place. They make everyone — even the slaves and prisoners — go and watch the torture death. It would be better to die here.” Tree Vines, shook his head slowly from side to side. “It’s very bad. I’m sorry.” 

“Everyone dies eventually. But I am going to kill as many as I can. Meanwhile, tell me as much as you can about this ceremonial death so I can find my best chance of escape, Tree Vines.” 

“I will, but what else can you say about my daughter? Please. Tell me. What sort of person is she?” 

“Your daughter is strong, beautiful, and very smart. I will give you the short version and if fortune looks favorably on us, I will tell you all you want to know later.” 

“Fair enough, Shadow Walker, but — this prison is called ‘Hopeless’ for a reason. NUT-PI uses a special rod to wound people and torture them. No-one has ever come close to escaping.” 

“Killing sticks! Yes! That is why we came here. To find out more about them and possibly steal one. My young brother in law, Tu-Swift, was also taken by the People Who Steal Children. We followed the trail and eventually I found him. He was living as a slave among the ROI and they were using him to train horses. We escaped with Tu-Swift, but the ROI followed us and used fire arrows to attack us, but the fire spread by the wind back to their own village and burned it to the ground. Most of them abandoned the wreckage of that village. But beneath the burned armory, we found a wounded ROI man named Jaccim. Your daughter was tending to him. She is a very good and kind person. And, as I said, very smart. She helped Tu-Swift learn to decode markings so that messages may be sent without the sender of the message being present.” 

“So, Cat Eyes was not hurt or injured or tortured?” 

Shadow Walker sighed. “The ROI…the Z-Lotz…I don’t know for certain. She looks to be unhurt on the outside. But her heart — that I cannot say. She avoids talking much about her time in captivity. But she was very excited to learn that Jaccim knew a way through the mountains. And, we sent a small party to try to connect with the Veritas who live beyond the Twin Peaks.” 

Tree Vines chewed nervously on his lips. “You let her go with one of the people who steals children?” 

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“Jaccim actually seems like a decent person. Your daughter cared for him and I brought him medicine. And, he spent a fair amount of time with us. Tu-Swift vouches for him. What we discovered — actually mostly Cat Eyes — is that the ROI do not seem to even question what they are asked to do. If it’s effective and efficient, they are happy even if it something like stealing children. I don’t think on his own, he is likely to do bad things. Anyway, it wasn’t just the two of them. One of our strongest warriors, Trunk of Tree went as well as Fleet of Foot and two of our friends from the Nomads of the South. Your daughter is very resourceful. She spoke once of poisoning her captors as well. But she didn’t get caught.” 

Here, Shadow Walker tried carefully to study the face of Tree Vines to see whether he regarded this as a reproach since he had been caught. There was a frown, but Shadow Walker didn’t think it was from reproach. 

“I am — I am glad to know she is alive. But now, I am worried all over again. You let her go with one from among The People Who Steal Children. She is still a child herself. She — you have no idea how she is. And, now, it seems unlikely either of us will ever find out.” 

Now, Shadow Walker frowned. “Your daughter is very much a young woman now. She definitely has a mind of her own. She insisted that she wanted to go. We dialogued about the pros and cons, but all of us, most especially your daughter insisted on going — she mainly wanted to see you — and her mother. But what do you mean, none of us will ever know?” 

“Shadow Walker of the Veritas Center Place, there is a reason that this prison is called Hopeless. No-one can escape.” 

“Tree Vines of the Veritas Beyond the Twin Peaks, I know well why they call the prison Hopeless. It is precisely so no-one will even try to escape. It is a label they chose. They mean to demoralize us. We will find a way out and you, I believe, will yet be reunited with your daughter. She is very resourceful. I told you she helped Tu-Swift decode the marks of the Z-Lotz.” 

Tree Vines tilted his head and tightened his lips. “You mentioned these marks before. Do you remember what any of them look like? I wonder…. No, it couldn’t be.” 

“Oh, I remember them all! Once Tu-Swift realized that each mark is like a stick figure drawing of someone making a sign, you see, and then your daughter and Tu-Swift together realized that each mark was only the initial sound of the word that the hand signs signify, we were able to decode the entire birchbark collection that Eagle Eyes … managed to take from here.” 

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“Did my daughter, Cat Eyes, ever mention the work of the Veritas beyond the Twin Peaks to understand the ancient artifacts we discovered?” 

“No. No. Not that I recall.” 

Shadow Walker glanced around the prison. He noted that none of the others were talking. Each seemed to be cocooned in their own private prison of hopelessness, they all sat, backs to the wall, arms wrapped around their knees, heads down. Perhaps they had sent their souls into another place since this one was so … filled with death. Each of them sees the others act hopeless so they do too. It’s perpetuated from one prisoner to the next. The name — hopelessness — and the expectation — those are better guards, I think, than any of the human ones out there. 

“Listen.” Shadow Walker drew closer and began whispering. “I intend to break out of this prison. But I may need the help of others. Do you know which of these men is to be trusted? Is it possible there is a spy?” 

Tree Vines inhaled deeply. He had become inured to the stench. “People in here don’t talk much. I’m not sure I’d really trust any of them. On the one hand, they are probably not great fans of NUT-PI. After all, they’re in prison. On the other hand, if they heard of your plans they might inform the guards in the hope of securing better treatment. That’s how NUT-PI operates. He betrays everyone but has everyone believing that they will he lucky exception. Anyway, plans are hopeless. You only have a day — perhaps two — before they will use you for entertainment.” 

“What sort of — entertainment?” 

Tree Vines drew still closer. “Are you sure you want to know?” 

Shadow Walker, despite his body still being wracked with pain, felt a small smile on the right side of his mouth. “Oh, yes. I definitely want to know.”

Tree Vines said, “If you want my advice, spend your last days thinking of something good, not dwelling on the horror that lies ahead.”

Shadow Walker’s smile spread. “I assure you that I will spend very little time dreading. I will spend my time planning, imagining, trying alternatives, imagining consequences, imagining alternative consequences, like a tree growing limbs from trunk, and twigs from limbs and leaves from twigs. I will find a way out as surely as I found a way in.” Shadow Walker paused for a moment and then looked into the eyes of the other man. “And you are coming with us.”

“You really think you can do it?”

“Either that or die trying. I’m not going to spend my days … underground. Now, tell me about how they imagine that they will use my death to provide entertainment?”

“All right. Well, the first thing is that it is always different. But variations on a theme. There will be some sort of sexual perversion involved. You can count on that. And there will be a lot of pain involved. And, the audience of — well, different people are in different positions but everyone is there — even the prisoners. It is our only entertainment — and — you will think me sick — a despicable man — but we all cheer, even though the person being tortured to death is one of us. Crazy when you think about it.”

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“Okay, thank you Tree Vines. But I need you to be much, much more specific. What weapons of torture? Where is the person relative to the audience. Where are the prisoners?  I realize it may all be different, but there will be patterns and if I can understand those patterns, I can see the weaknesses, the cracks in those patterns, that will always be there regardless of specifics. I already know what some of the cracks are because they are flaws of NUT-PI himself and will always limit his thinking. For instance, he is a colossal coward. And, he assumes (without knowing that he does so) that everyone else is the same. So that colors his predictions. He rules largely through other cowards because he can use fear to manipulate them. But it also means that very few, if any, are truly loyal to him. Even if there are such people, he will never be able to trust anyone. He will not be able to tell who are the few who truly want what he wants or think he is a god from those who will simply act that way to curry temporary favor or avoid punishment. These are general patterns of weakness, but there are many more for a system such as NUT-PI and the Z-Lotz have set up. But I also need to understand their cruelty in great detail so I can see the weakness patterns there as well.”

Tree Vines had a grim look on his face. It was painful to reveal some of the many possible tortures, but guilt tripled his pain. He along with all his fellow prisoners had cheered and he kept asking himself why. “All right, Shadow Walker. First of all, they always have the person restrained in some way. Perhaps his hands will be tied behind his back. Perhaps he’ll be suspended from a pole. Perhaps he’ll have one leg in a chain with a heavy ball attached.”

Tree Vines paused. “Do you want me to go on?”

“Yes. But take yourself back. Instead of saying, ‘sometimes this, sometimes that’ tell me of one particular torture from beginning to end; everything you saw, you heard, you smelled, you felt. Everything. Just like I was watching right beside you.” 

Tree Vines paused. He actually found himself smiling. He had been taught this skill at a young age, but he hadn’t used it in years. For the first time in an endless string of gray days in Hopeless Prison, Tree Vines felt hope. 

——————————————————————

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The Watershed Virus

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The virus splits us

How many tears are left?

One from another. Every day bereft.

Divides us. Stable genius.

One from another. Teeny tiny 

They may call it: Pity party for the party

“Social Distancing” Of the absurd & no true word

But we already — We’ve been flipped; chipped

Distanced ourselves from others.

In the evil oil dipped — baptized anew.

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We divided the world into countries,

How do we distribute goods?

Countries into regions,

Who deserves another raise? 

Regions into cities,

Those who own the town? 

Cities into neighborhoods.

Whom to blame & whom, to praise? 

We speak different languages.

We all meet & greet; hate defeat.

We wear different clothes.

We all have garb for different moods.

We eat different foods.

We eat & dance & move our feet.

We hear different stories.

So we believe differently.

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But when we die,

How does that turn out?

As it turns out,

The same for everyone?

We are all dead when we die.

When did we start to doubt?

Not breathing kills us all.

As sure as a gun (but not as much fun).

In every land, I see tears.

For the ungrateful dead.

In every land, I feel fears;

For the future tense, unsaid.

Heroes fight to save each other;

Thank you, sister; Thank you, brother. 

Heroes work to keep it together.

Sibling by another mother.

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Worldwide we face a hidden killer

It hides beneath falsehood & lies

And nearly all of us are trying

Greedy people make us fear.

To find a way to keep us all from dying.

Greedy people in a gentle guise —

Our days grow quieter and stiller.

Tell us only to like those just like us dear. 

Bravery is everywhere; in every land

Even if not-leader leads the band.

We zoom a virtual meeting,

Even if he cowers from his role. 

We play a virtual band

Even as his cruelty is his only lonely goal.  

We wave a heartfelt greeting.

He snivels, swivels in this land. 

And in this time of utmost need,

The time of hating passes and we

A very few show outsized greed

Can see once more our unity.

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They lie and cheat and steal each dime;

We know again we will one. 

Use the crisis to spread their slime.

All we’ve been since we’ve begun.

Yet there is nothing worth that snort of power

They get from what could have been their finest hour; 

Instead, letting every opportunity turn sick and sour;

They sneak & hide and lie and glower and cower. 

 

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Heel spurs would never ever brave a bullet. 

Not even a grown chicken; he’s just a pullet.

Afraid to fire people face to face. 

Afraid to run a fair, untainted race.

At last, the vast majority will see their worth

We all will know the very roundness of this earth.

We all at last will laugh at tyranny’s yoke,

And shrug it off like a tired orange joke. 

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We’ll work together you and me and all of all 

We’ll mend life’s spinning precious ball.

We’ll only let true leaders head our bands.

We’ll only let the truthful lead our lands. 

Seven billion souls will not be slaves, 

However loud the loveless liar raves.

Life is for the living and we will find

Ways to grow our vast collective mind.

Heart to heart, we’ll dance new ways

To show our love and show our care. 

Heart to heart, we’ll green our days;

We’ll build a world for all to share.

A world where fair is fair is fair.

Liars lie in muck and mire;

If you care, put out the fire.

Raise your voice in loving song.

Love, you see, is strongest strong,

Will conquer all this sickly wrong;

You and I can get along

Just fine without a tyrant king.

It’s love — just love — of which we sing.

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Myth of the Veritas: The First Ring of Empathy

Cancer Always Loses in the End

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Donnie Gets his Name on Tennis Trophy! 

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Fred slammed the black phone down onto its cradle and swore. “Damn, damn, damn!!” 

Fred looked up and glared at his three children. His face wore that dangerous mottled red and yellow pallor that often foretold that someone would get a beating. The kids dare not walk away, but none of them wanted to be the one to incur his wrath. They stared down at the floor, avoiding his eyes and each other’s.

“F###ing doctors! F###ing hospitals! They’re keeping your mother for more tests! Well?! Do you have anything to say for yourselves?! Dolts!” 

At last, Junior chanced a response, “I’m sorry, Dad, will she be okay?” 

Fred stared at Junior as though he had spinach caught between his ears. “Who the hell knows? But it means she won’t be here to take care of you! I’m no f###ing babysitter! What the hell does she think I’m going to do with you for another damned day? F###! I’ve got marks to make. Patsies to take. All right, look, Mary, go to your room and read till dinner time. Junior, take Donnie Boy to the club and have him pick up balls while you have a tennis lesson. I’ll pay for all day, so long as he keeps you two out of trouble. GO!! Get your stuff and go! GO!!” 

The three children obediently went off. Mary liked to read but she wondered vaguely as she climbed the stairs what was wrong with her mom.  Fred Junior was silent but inwardly grumbled because his younger brother always spoiled his fun. Donnie Boy was wondering how he could horn in on Junior’s lesson.

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While the boys gathered their tennis clothes, shoes, and racquets, Fred Senior made a quick call to the club. “Listen, Joe, Junior’s coming down for a lesson. Donny’s tagging along. Clear your calendar. I want you to keep them out there all day. Kind of a family emergency. Mom’s in the hospital. I need you to keep those two out of trouble till dinner time. I’ve got a big deal coming up. So, I don’t want to see or hear from them till after 6 pm tonight. Got it? Okay, good. They’ll be there in about half an hour. What? What other commitment? I just told you! It’s an emergency! Cancel the lesson for Missy Fancy Panties. She can come another time. What? I don’t care! Jesus. You’re a smart man. Just make something up. Tell her your hemorrhoids are bothering you. Tell her your cousin from Florida just came to visit. Tell her you broke your arm. I don’t care. Just lie. It’s not rocket science!” 

The boys arrived and soon enough went to court one where Joe had a large basket of balls. The sun shone through a hazy August sky. It was hot and humid and the three of them were all sweating even before the lesson began. “Okay, Fred, go to the service line and let’s warm up a little — like we need to warm up today. He chuckled at his own joke.

Donnie Boy said, “What about me? Where should I go?” 

Joe, who was quite familiar with the whole family, and especially tiny-handed Donnie Boy, thought to himself that a visit in hell might do him good. But he had been promised a substantial tip from Fred Senior if he kept them occupied the whole day, so he bit his tongue and said, “You stand over there Donnie and just watch the ball and watch how I hit it for a while. Pick up the balls that go astray and put them in the basket. Keep it filled. Then, when your brother gets tired, we’ll see whether we can teach you something.” 

“I already know how to play! I just want to get better! I want my name on a trophy! Today!” 

Joe laughed in spite of himself. “Donnie, no-one gets a trophy the first day they play. You need to earn it.”

Donnie Boy thought to himself: Oh yeah? We’ll see about that. Aloud, he said, “I told you. I already know how to play. I watched it on TV one time. It’s really easy.”

 

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Joe shook his head, glared a little more fiercely than he meant to at the scrawny awkward kid. He decided not to pursue that line of thought and instead concentrated on Junior.  “Here you go. Yes. Nice.” Fred Junior proved to be half-way decent, with good form. “No, bend your knees on those low ones. Don’t bend over. Get your butt down.”

Donnie shouted, “If I don’t get to play, I’m going to tell Daddy you said the word ‘butt’!” 

Donnie wondered whether it would rain later. He didn’t think so. Not till they got home. He didn’t want it to rain, so it probably wouldn’t rain. He practiced making it not rain. It didn’t always work, but sometimes it did. It’s because I’m a genius, Donnie Boy thought to himself. He became vaguely aware that play had stopped. Why? 

Joe spoke loudly but did not yell. “See anything missing from our tennis game, Donnie Boy?” 

Donnie Boy blinked. “Well, when I watched tennis on TV, there were lots of fans screaming. Nobody’s watching us play tennis. Nobody at all.” 

Joe shook his head. “Donnie Boy. What do you need to play tennis?” 

Donnie Boy brightened. “Rackets! My dad loves rackets!” 

Joe sighed. “Right, but what else do you need?” 

Donnie frowned. “A court?” 

Joe continued, “Right. A court. And what else do you need to play tennis?” 

Donnie stared at Joe. He glanced at his brother who seemed to mouth the word, ‘Paul’s’ but he didn’t know which ‘Paul’ his brother was talking about. He said, “Paul’s! You need Paul’s!” 

“Paul’s? What are you talking about Donnie Boy? Who’s Paul?” Joe was visibly annoyed now despite his attempts not to let it show. “What were you supposed to be doing while you were watching your brother, Donnie Boy?”

Donnie stared at Joe. “Watching.” He glanced at his big brother again but Junior was just shaking his head. “Donnie Boy, you were supposed to be fetching the balls for us and putting them back in the basket!” 

Donnie gritted his teeth. He hated the word “fetch.” That was for dogs and dark-skinned people, not for the likes of him. “Okay, okay. But when do I get a turn?” 

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“You’ll get a turn when I say you do, and that will happen much sooner if you help by picking up the stray balls and putting them back in the basket! Just like I asked you to.” 

“Okay, Joe. I’ll get them.” Donnie Boy ran to one spot and picked up a ball and carried it back to the basket and put it in. Then, he went to gather another ball and put that in. Finally, when there were five balls in the basket, Joe asked Junior to go to the baseline and practice backhands. Fred had progressed a lot this summer, but the five balls were gone just as Donnie Boy put a sixth one in the basket.

Fred yelled to his younger brother. “Donnie Boy! For God’s sake, don’t just put the balls in one at a time. You should be able to hold five or six — even in your teeny hands. Take the basket with you so you can put them in quickly. Are you thinking?” 

Oh, I’m thinking brother, he thought. Count on it. Aloud, Donnie said, “Yes, Fred. I’ll get them all. Thank you for your suggestion.” Don’t want him to be on guard here.

Donald put his mouth into the shape of a smile and said to Joe, “I’m going to watch from back here, Joe. I want to see how to hit from the back.” Donnie Boy found that he could only hold three in teeny hands, but he could jam a few more into his shorts.

Joe ignored Donnie Boy but shouted to Junior. “Recover! Hit and recover. That’s it! If you are way over there you need to move back quickly to cover the cross-court shot. There you go. Faster next time.”

Junior was hitting pretty well now and watching the ball intently. He was executing a pattern so obvious that even Donnie Boy could see it. And when the coach hit to Junior way out near the alley, Donnie put four balls in his teeny hands and slid all four onto Junior’s path just as he was sprinting back to just past the middle of the court. 

Fred Junior stepped directly onto one of the stray balls and his right ankle rolled and he fell on his elbow and shoulder. “CRAP!” he screamed.

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Joe sprinted directly to Junior, easily hurdling the net in the process. Crap indeed, thought Joe. Now I have to fill out a frigging report and maybe Fred Senior won’t give me that promised tip after all. Crap. Although, half the time, he doesn’t keep his promises anyway. He’ll just deny he ever made the promise. What proof do I have. Anyway, injuries are crap for the club.” 

Joe helped Fred over to the stands and had him sit down. He could see that the ankle was already swelling. He got an ice pack and put it on Fred’s swollen ankle. He looked at Donnie Boy and wondered how someone could be so inept.

Still hoping for the promised tip, Joe kept his face neutral as he said, “Okay, Donnie Boy. Your turn. Show me your stroke.” 

What?! I’m not doing that in front of you! You pervert!” Donnie put his face into a look of horror and revulsion. 

“What? What the — what are you talking about? Show me your tennis stroke, Donny.” 

Donnie pretended to gain some insight. “Oh, okay. Like this!” As he said the word ‘this’ Donnie slapped the racquet through the air as hard as he could.

Joe sighed. “This is going to be a long afternoon”, he mumbled under his breath. “More slowly, Donnie. Ac-cele-rate through the shot. Never mind. Just don’t try to kill it.” Joe hit an easy shot over the net to where he thought Donnie’s racquet head might go. Donnie swung with all his might and hit the tennis ball onto an adjoining court. 

“I win!” shouted Donnie Boy. 

“Donnie,” explained Joe patiently, “it’s not a contest to see how far you can hit it. You have to make it land inside these white lines. That’s the court. It has to land in the court or it’s my point.”

Joe fed another easy ball to Donnie who swung as hard as he could and this time hit the ball onto a nearby fairway. “I WIN!” shouted Donnie.

“No, Donnie Boy. I told you. It has to land in the court. Inside these lines. Or on the line. But not over the fence.” 

“My shot was IN!” shouted Donne Boy. 

“It wasn’t even close! You have to think about where you want the ball to go, Donnie.” 

“MY SHOT WAS IN!!” shouted Donnie. 

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“It was not in. We not even playing for points, Donnie. I’m just trying to get you to hit a better stroke.” 

“It was too in! You just don’t like me! That’s why you said it was out. You don’t want me to win! You won’t let me win! You don’t like me!” 

The pain in Fred’s ankle was still increasing despite the ice. “Donnie, the ball was way out! Surely you can see that. Anyway, it’s not a match! He’s a professional! You’re a beginner! We’re here to learn! 

“It was IN! insisted Donnie Boy. “You say it wasn’t in, Junior, because you don’t like me either! 

“Of course I like you, Donnie. You’re my brother.” Fred Junior tried to make this sound sincere, but he really couldn’t quite muster it. It sounded thin and hollow as though he were reading it off a teleprompter without understanding any of the words. “The ball is either in or out. It has nothing to do with whether we like you.” 

“So people’s eyes never play tricks on them? People always see just perfectly, I suppose?”

Joe said, “Of course, when it’s close, sometimes people are mistaken. Your shots were not close. Not even close to close. They were way out, Donnie.” 

“No, you don’t like me. Anyway, show me how to play tennis. That’s what Daddy’s paying you for.” 

Joe sighed. He amazed himself by suddenly picturing himself sprinting over to Donnie and smashing that thick skull of his with Donny’s own racquet. He shook his head and dismissed the image. At long last, the worst hour of Joe’s teaching career was over and it was time for a short break and lunch. Joe helped Fred Junior hobble inside while Donnie got his bag from the locker room and then stood in front of the club trophy case; stared longingly at the display of cups, plates, and statues. At last, he walked over to Joe and said, “Hey, Joe, I think it would help motivate me better if I could see what one of those trophies really looks like up close. So close, I could grab it by the pedestal! Do you think I could see one?” 

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Joe frowned. It was definitely an unusual request, but hell, why not. If it would keep Donnie off his back for a moment. “Okay, sure.” He took out his keys and opened the trophy case and took out one of the large shiny trophies and handed it to Donnie, saying, “This is the Club Championship Trophy. Be careful, by the way.”

“Oh, I will, Joe. I will be very careful!” Donnie Boy made his face look sincere. 

Soon, the three had ordered. “Joe and Fred Junior talked about some tennis people Donnie had never heard of. Suddenly he leapt to his feet! “Uh-oh! Can you guys watch my trophy for a second? I’ll be right back.” Without waiting, Donnie strode into the kitchen. Joe glanced after him, but turned back to the conversation. In a few moments, Donnie returned and sat. Joe and Fred Junior stared at him. “Oh, I had to change my order. I forgot I want a cheeseburger, not just a hamberder.” 

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They talked for a few moments when Donnie called out, “LOOK!” He leapt up, pointing toward the kitchen. Thick white smoke was coming out. The fire alarm shrieked at them mercilessly. The sprinklers soaked them. The quiet chatter of the dining room shattered into cacophony like a dropped stack of dishes. No-one noticed Donnie Boy slip the Trophy into his gym bag. 

The fire damage to the Club was only a few thousand dollars. No-one in the kitchen had any idea how the fire had started. The Head Chef was, nonetheless handed a pink slip. Joe was reprimanded for Junior’s injury. He never received the promised tip. Indeed, Fred Senior had instead threatened to sue the instructor “for every f###ing penny he had” unless he agreed to give a summer’s worth of free lessons to both boys. He rumbled and grumbled before he crumbled.

A few weeks later, Donnie Boy came by to practice his putting and chipping on the practice green. When he checked in, he opened up a pocket in his golf bag and handed a large trophy to what’s his face — the freckled guy with red hair — who often checked people in. Luckily, he had a name tag: WALLACE. “Wally, could you please do me a favor and get this trophy back into the trophy case. Joe was showing it to me when the kitchen caught fire. Wanting to protect it, I shoved it into my gym bag. Well, of course, here it is now, safe and sound.” 

“Oh, you were here when they had that fire! Wow! That was something.” 

“Yes, Wally! It was scary. Nobody knows how it started, right?” 

“No sir. Weird. The cook said someone had apparently spilled cooking oil all over one of the stovetops. No-one remembers doing it or seeing it. Anyway, I’ll make sure it gets back where it belongs.” 

“Thank you so much, Wally.” 

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Neither Wallace nor the receptionist noticed that the name of last year’s club champion had been replaced. Donny Boy had scratched the original tag beyond recognition and then had taken it to a jeweler. Donny explained that he had been mad at his Dad and scratched his Dad’s name off of the trophy plaque. Donny clenched his nails into his fist until tears appeared. He explained that Dad would black and blue him if he found out. The jeweler swore it as a low price for the new engraving, but Donny Boy had to pay ten dollars of his own money that he had stolen from his sister’s purse. But it was worth it. Every time he walked through the club lobby, he glanced over at the Club Championship Trophy and it made him feel how special he was. 

Months later, the actual champion, who had since moved to California, returned to play a match with an old buddy of his. He wanted to remind his buddy about his skill and on the way out to court six, pointed to the Trophy in the display case. “Oh, look. What do you know. There I am,” he drawled jokingly. 

His friend glanced in. “Yeah, yeah. Well today…What the—?” He couldn’t believe his eyes. He pointed at the Trophy Case wordlessly.

The champion stepped slowly toward the glass case. He stopped only when his nose touched the glass. His mouth fell open. His name was gone. Donny Boy had instead had his own name engraved. “Who the hell is this?” He seemed to be addressing the question to the universe, but if he was, the universe didn’t answer. 

At least not in so many words.

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Author Page on Amazon

Other stories of the mythical and completely fictional child sociopath, Donny Boy. 

Donnie Boy Plays Bull-Dazzle Man

Donnie Learns Golf

Donnie Visits Granny!

Donnie Gets a Hamster

Donnie Boy Plays Soldier Man

Donnie Plays Captain Man

Donnie takes a Blue Ribbon in Spelling

 

Answers to Your Many Questions

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Answers to Your Many Questions

The light was green?
The light was red?
The road was dry?
The road was wet?

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Isa black?
Isa white?
Isa yellow?
Isa red?

Hasa lotta money?
Hasa lotta nothing?
Hasa lotta plastic?

pile of gold round coins

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Isa patient.
Isa headtrauma?
Isa kidney?
Isa quad?

Hasa lotta care?
Hasa lotta not?
Hasa lotta hair?

Hasa correct diagnosis?
Hasa good prognosis?
Hasa signed release?
Will the screaming ever cease?

abstract barbed wire black white black and white

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Wasa person?
Wasa wreck?
Severed spine?
Broken neck?

The room was white?
The room was green?
The uniforms were white?
The uniforms were green?
The forms were black and white.
And read all over?

health workers wearing face mask

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The glass was sharp.
The road was hard.
The graph was flat.
The spark was gone.

What else mattered?

A life was shattered.

 

 

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Blood Red Blood 

Mirror, Mirror

Author page on Amazon

Overheard Conversations of Fiction

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“Nyet, nyet, Puppy. I told you. Polls mean nothing. You just stick to your strength: Cruelty.”

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“If you say so, Poppa Putey Bear. But it’s hard. You know? Everyone’s out to get me.”

“I told you before. Don’t listen to anyone who disagrees with you.” 

“I know. I know. But it’s so hard to be Dick-tater. Maybe, I should have more rallies. But we still have the damned CHINA virus. If I have a rally, a rally it might kill some of the people who’d vote for me. Maybe none. Maybe all. Maybe some. Who knows? We’ll see.” 

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“Da! Da! Hold a rally! Great idea. Just have them sign a waiver. They won’t read it! They’ll just sign it. Make a joke about it. Blame it on the lawyers. They’ll laugh with you. And, you’ll be safe from lawsuits. A few hundred of your followers dying is a good thing. Powerful. It shows how much you value their lives — not at all. And that will make all the others realize that you are super-powerful because you can get folks to kill themselves! Another day, another step toward Dictator.”

“I hate being President. I want to be Dick-Tater!”

“You will be. Just be patient.”

“But what if they wake up and realize I haven’t actually done anything to make their life better. Not in three years.”

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“They don’t care! They only care about what you tell them to care about. Tell them — this is a good one — tell them you would have made their world perfect but you just don’t have enough power. Tell them you need absolute power to make their world perfect. Just keep telling them how great it’s going to be and how great they have it now. Just keep telling them there is no virus. And even if they do get sick, tell them they can take a bogus drug or drink bleach.”

“But what if one of them dies from taking the drug?” 

“Now, Puppy, we’ve talked about this before. What do you always say?” 

“It’s not my fault. It’s Obama. It’s China. It’s WHO. It’s a liberal hoax. It’s the fake media. It’s Hillary’s fault. It’s the CDC’s fault. It’s George Soros’s fault. It’s Muslims. It’s Black People. It’s NATO’s fault. It’s the UN’s fault. It’s the governor’s fault. It’s the mayor’s fault. It’s the ANTIFA! It’s the Mexicans. It’s the immigrants. It’s the Deep State. It’s the anti-conspiracy theory conspiracy!”

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“Okay, okay, Puppy. I can only stand so much of your BS. I have things to do, Puppy. Don’t call until you have something important to say. Understand?”

“Yes, Poppy Putey Bear.” 

“Good boy. Now go kick Billious Barr or Missy Lindsey to make yourself feel better.” 

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Series of Fictional Stories that are meant to illustrate how the mind of a fictional child sociopath works.

Donnie Plays Bull-dazzle Man!

Donnie Plays Soldier Man!

Donnie Plays Doctor Man!

Donnie Learns Golf!

Donnie Visits Granny!

Donnie Gets a Hamster!

Donnie Boy Plays Captain Man

Donnie Takes a Blue Ribbon for Spelling