Mint Tea & Golden Coins

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In her dream, Many Paths happened upon a patch of spearmint that stretched forever near the bubbling stream. She stooped down and plucked one of the dark green plants. She had always loved the smell of mint. She peered closely at the leaf. Something was wrong. Tiny black snails covered the leaf. Upon closer inspection, she saw them all over the stem as well. This is strange, she thought. Snails don’t eat mint. Nor had she ever seen so many. Were they really snails, she wondered. She turned to pluck another plant but they had grown nearly as tall as she was. Every leaf and stem was covered with tiny black — dots — snails. The snails were turning red in front of her eyes, contrasting wildly with the deep green. This is impossible, she thought. I must be dreaming. The snails don’t like the smell or else they don’t like the feel of these teeny hairs everywhere. They eat almost everything but snails don’t eat mint! 

Shadow Walker stroked her silky hair and said, “Thanks for the tip. I’ll be sure not to feed them any. But as for you…I think you were dreaming, love.” 

He smiled at Many Paths, brushing her hair as though removing the cobwebs of sleep. He held out a cup of mint tea. It smelled delicious and she could see the wisps of steam dancing in the slants of morning sun. Many Paths returned the smile, brought the cup to her lips and inhaled the refreshing smell. “I take it there were no snails on the leaves?” 

Shadow Walker chuckled. “No. But if you fancy some, I’m sure I can find some for you somewhere. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any on mint, come to think of it.” 

“Nor I. But in my dream, the mint was covered with them. They were tiny and they turned red. Anyway, look at the steam. What does that tell you?” 

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“That — the tea is hot?” The look on her face told him this was not the answer she had been looking for.

“It means, Shadow Walker, that the cabin has holes between the slats. They need to be fixed before winter. Sooner would be better than later because it also helps keep out the biting bugs.”

“Yes. Well, Many, we are soon to meet with our friends to plan….”

“I know. I know. I just…it seems I just got you back. I hate to see you going off to that hateful place again. Especially now that we know about Killing Sticks. If we had them too…”

“Many Paths, if we had Killing Sticks, we might have three more dead among the Veritas right now.” 

“Yes. I know. But we are learning. They should only be used in war, not available to settle small quarrels. I wish we could speak more with Cat Eyes about whether she saw them misused in ROI.” 

“Misused? If you ask me, they are always misused. What kind of honor accrues from killing an enemy without even touching them? Anyway, I think the people are beginning to realize the dangers. Many spoke at our last council fire about how dangerous real ones would be for those with a quick tongue.” He smiled at her again. “Drink your tea while it’s still hot. I’ve also got….What’s that?” 

Shadow Walker stood, turned quickly grabbing his sword and peered out the door. Drums were signaling the arrival of strangers. Could it be that Cat Eyes, Jaccim, and others had already returned with some of the Veritas over the Twin Peaks? No. No. These approaching people were all strangers. They were ROI! Only four of them. On foot? He glanced back at Many Paths who was already dressing. 

Many Paths nodded at him. “Let’s prepare to meet these ROI. I guess I don’t need to tell you to be careful. Last time they appeared, they pretended to trade with us and their real goal was to steal children and set our camp on fire! I wish Cat Eyes were here to translate.”

Shadow Walker added, “You prepare. I’ll find Tu-Swift. Your brother is the best substitute we have. He’s been learning as well as he can with the materials we have, the game Cat Eyes got and the marked leaves. And, he spent considerable time talking with Cat Eyes before she left.” He left. 

Many Paths watched the leather door flap ripple for a moment before settling still into place. He left, she thought. And soon, too soon, he may be leaving again. She shook her head, took a deep breath, and prepared to meet the strangers. 

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By the time the four strangers arrived, nearly the entire village turned out. Sentries were still posted around the outer perimeter in case these four were merely sacrificial distractions from a much larger attack. The four strangers themselves were being carefully guarded. At last, the four came to the place of the council fire. As they slung off their packs, many bows were tightened in case killing sticks or other weapons were hidden within those packs. The leader of the four began to speak and Tu-Swift translated. Although he spoke directly to Many Paths, he spoke loudly enough that all the Veritas within the Center Place could hear his voice. 

Many Paths felt pride that her brother’s voice proved loud and steady. His voice rang out clear, without a hint of fear or of hatred. 

“Greetings from the Z-Lotz. We bring you gifts. We wish peace between our people. Here we offer you some glass and some steel from the ancient ones.” 

Upon a large gray blanket, the leader laid out a variety of shiny objects. As he did so, Many Paths noticed that the hands of the leader seemed misshapen, perhaps from a badly healed war wound. Among the shiny objects lay another set of leaves with marks, such as the one that Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer had brought back from the village of the Z-Lotz. 

Many Paths glanced at Tu-Swift and began her answer for him to translate. “Greetings from the Veritas. Thank you for the gifts. We will arrange for gifts in return. We did not know you were coming. But soon we will have gifts. You say you are Z-Lotz but — and, your speech marks you as ROI.”

After the translation, the leader nodded. “Yes. We were born ROI. Our village is no more. We have had a long friendship with the Z-Lotz and now we are all Z-Lotz. The ROI are no more. We all are Z-Lotz. We were sent here by our leader, NUT-PI to form a stronger alliance. With you. Soon. Some day. For now, we only bring gifts. You need not give gifts in return. Perhaps soon, you can come visit NUT-PI and offer gifts. But for now, we simply offer gifts to show we want peace. NUT-PI only wants peace. This is from NUT-PI.” 

The leader drew out of an inner pocket a number of shiny gold coins. He tossed them casually on the blanket as well. 

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“As you can see, the image of NUT-PI is on each of these coins of gold.” 

Tu-Swift shrugged as he tried to translate this last part, saying to Many Paths and the other Veritas, “He refers to these circles as ‘coins’ and that they are made of something called ‘gold’ but I don’t know these words of ROI.” 

Many Paths looked at the gifts arrayed before her. There were three kinds of gifts, each quite different, but each one shiny in its own way. She asked Eagle Eyes to fetch a basket of spices.

“Thank you for your generosity. Will you stay with us for a time? At least have a meal here. And we will give you a basket of spices. Perhaps, we will find more suitable gifts later and we may indeed send a delegation to visit with NUT-PI. This will take some time. Meanwhile, you will stay for a time?” 

Tu-Swift translated the words of Many Paths and the answer of the leader who said, “We must return at once with news that you also wish to have peace. That you will visit NUT-PI soon. You will discuss our alliance then, but meanwhile, you may enjoy these gifts.”

Eagle Eyes returned with a beautifully made basket filled with aromatic spices. She bowed and laid the basket in front of the leader on the edge of the blanket nearest him. As she stooped down, she picked up one of the gold coins and turned it over. One one side a profile of NUT-PI appeared and on the other side a full faced picture. She looked at the leader and said, “What an interesting and beautiful thing! Does this really look like NUT-PI? Does he always wear such an unusual hat?” 

Many Paths wondered at her friend’s question which seemed oddly out of bounds, but then she reminded herself that Eagle Eyes saw things others did not so she nodded almost imperceptibly to Tu-Swift who translated the question. 

The leader nodded and spoke, “That looks just like him. That ‘hat’ is made of gold. It is called a ‘crown’ and he wears it all day. Every day. Thank you for your kind offer to stay, but we must go. When do you think you may visit NUT-PI and seal the friendship between the Veritas and the Z-Lotz? Ah, yes. And here, among these gifts, is the most important of all. This book is the book of truth and tells you what to believe to become a true Z-Lotz. Please be sure to believe this before you come. That will make for a much better meeting with NUT-PI. So, when can you come?” 

The mind of Many Paths now raced ahead calculating many different answers, none of which were without danger. “Thank you again for your gifts. The weather is good. We could travel soon. But — this thing you call a book — we have no idea what is in that or how to come to believe what is in it or how to know what is in it. How long will that take? How long does it take you to come to believe it?” 

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Once this was translated, the leader looked puzzled. He muttered briefly to his companions and then said aloud. “It is best to believe it. Later, you can discover what it says. We have many teachers in our village who could help you. First, believe it because it is the truth. Then after you visit, we will help you learn it.” 

“I understand. Thank you for your offer. Please give our regards to NUT-PI and our thanks for his offer of peace. We must hold our own council and determine who among us would be worthy enough to come to visit you — and NUT-PI.” 

The leader of the Z-Lotz delegation listened to the translation and immediately began speaking. “I am sorry about — there is no need to choose. It must be you yourself who comes — and alone. Of course, you may have companions up to the gates of their village. Our village. But then, NUT-PI and you must have a private meeting.” 

As Many Paths listened to Tu-Swift’s translation, her eyes were suddenly distracted by Shadow Walker whose face showed such hatred and anger that she was momentarily alarmed that he might strangle all the strangers immediately. She looked at him and willed him not to do it. 

“That sounds delightful then. We will arrange this as soon as possible. Certainly, peace is in everyone’s interest. And, by the way, please give my regards to your own leader, BRA-BRILL.”

Many Paths and Eagle Eyes both watched the leader intently. Even before the translation, they both noticed a dark blank face become set upon the face of the delegation leader when the name ‘BRA-BRILL’ was spoken aloud. Many Paths glanced at Eagle Eyes and could see that she too could see many calculations going on behind the eyes of the delegation leader. He was trying to decide, it seemed to Many Paths, which lie to tell. 

At last, the leader nodded solemnly, and said, “I will give him your regards. Thank you. He too now accepts NUT-PI as the leader of us all.” 

“Good. Thank you again for your gifts. I wish you could stay, but I understand you must have other tasks. Our guards will be happy to help you find your way back to the edge of the lands we call home. Safe journey to you all. I hope to see you again sooner even than you imagine possible.” 

Many Paths studied all four faces. She hoped Tu-Swift was able to translate this phrase since she had chosen it carefully. She couldn’t be sure, but a flicker of confusion and doubt seemed to flicker on each face at the end of the translation. Seeds of doubt appeared to be sown now. Perhaps conversation among the four of them would help them grow on their journey home. 

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As the foursome turned to leave, Many Paths said, “Oh, one more thing. You are famous for riding horses. Why are you not on horses?” 

The leader turned back. He listened for Tu-Swift’s translation and said, “We set the horses free. We have no more need of them.” 

“Safe journey,” said Many Paths. She stared at the backs of the envoys until they diminished to black dots on the horizon, followed by their escorts. At last, she turned back to her people. Few of them had left for their daily activities. She stared at the gifts. The people awaited her decisions for the gifts. She walked over and picked up the book first. She handed it to Tu-Swift. “See what you can make of this, Tu-Swift.” 

She motioned for Stone Chipper to come over and asked him to try to understand what to make of the shiny objects of — what did they call it? Steel? 

Next there was the ‘glass’ but she had a bad feeling about this stuff. “Does anyone want some of this “glass”? Several came forward to touch it, and hold it and turn it about. A few seemed particularly intrigued. She nodded as they silently asked her whether they could have some. Gold coins. Each had a picture of NUT-PI. Eagle Eyes held one and studied it closely, turning from one side to the other. 

She smiled at Many Paths. “This,” she said, holding up the coin to shine it in the sunlight, “may prove extremely valuable.” 

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——————————————————-

Author Page on Amazon

Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

Table of Contents for the Second Book of the Veritas

Index for 2019 Essays on America 

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration  

Wristwatch

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What is this?

A gift. 

A wristband watch.

How convenient.

For someone.

For me?

I wonder…

It’s a kind of a band

(A bit like a slave band)

A bit of a rift,

Between me and me

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If you see; 

Get my drift.

It’s kind of sand

In my shoe

Keeping me from other things

And it rings

In my ear

That a land

Where all that stands

Is the least pernicious example

Is but a silly sweet example

Of things to come.

“Hurry to the hippodrome!

Never mind the cost.”

Never mind what’s lost

Never mind what land

We conquer to expand

The land that … sorry….

Didn’t mean to mention that…

The land of the free…

I hope that is an okay phrase,

An acceptable phrase.

Because the thing that worries me

Is not forty-five per se, 

Oh, 

No.  

I know.

No.

What bothers me is this:

That a part of me says, “hiss”

On cue.

And then I say “Boo!”

And either way, 

It’s Putin’s day. 

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Oh, yes.  We are quite the quintessential conquestadoro.

Les hommes mucho macho

Let’s salsify the nacho

Let’s wolf down some state or other.

Sorry, meant to say steak or other…

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Slyly, slyly, you may perceive

That I, 

Much like our current reality,

Make no sense.  

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Granted, 

But I have no pretensions of being

Chiseled into Mount Rushtoomuchmore

Just because I gave away 

The U S A 

To those who hanker-danker for oil.

“Oil.”

Isn’t that a lovely word?

I like the sound.

Silky, deep, and dark. 

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“Oil.”

I love the stuff. 

Titusville, Pennsylvania as I recall

Was the happening place to be.

Nearly, West Virginia and Ohio 

Came to blows over it.

But we got over it.

Clear over the rainbow.

All the way to where the sun don’t shine

To where instead monkeyshines

Rule the day,

And check 

And slay.

Say! 

My watch alarm now is screaming: 

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“Way past time to play! 

All hands on deck! 

You’re making a wreck

Of every day! 

Your addictive greed

Grew a wicked weed!

Thoughts flash between sulcus and gyrus

Showing us how to beat the virus,

We must hunker down and work as one

For just this once until it’s done.

Then, we go and green this globe 

Let’s use once more that frontal lobe!”

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———————————————-

Author Page on Amazon

Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

Table of Contents for the Second Book of the Veritas

Table of Contents for Essays on America 

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration  

 

Jennifer’s Invitation

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When I grew up in Northeastern Ohio, my birthday came in the spring —  real spring. This business about three months of spring is absurd. In Ohio, spring lasts about three weeks — the time from the first onion grass, crocuses, and daffodils shoot green through bare black dirt, through the greening of the willow switches, the white exploding dogwoods and cherry blossoms, till at last, every tree’s gold and red has turned dark green — that takes three weeks. And, square in the middle of nature’s renewal comes my birthday. At the age of nine — now more than sixty-five years ago — it seemed so lucky — yet, so right that this my birthday fell in the springtime! Perfect.

The only thing more perfect would be having Jennifer come to my birthday party. Jennifer! Her family, Gunnerson, was from Scandinavia and she looked it. Long, light blond hair, deep sky blue eyes, pale white skin. Best of all, she liked me — kind of. I lived nearly a world away from her — three blocks — but luckily she lived on the way to David Hill Elementary School so I could walk part-way to school with her. We could continue up residential Davies Street, littered with maple-seed helicopters, or cut over to Archwood. Urbane Archwood Street held the branch public library and even a filling station.

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Mom had promised me a party this birthday and I could invite whoever I wanted. Or, so she said. Actually, her friend from the bridge club had two daughters that I definitely did not want to come to my party, but my mother, of all things, had promised that they could come. Really! Imagine! I never told her she had to invite Jennifer’s mother to her bridge club! Actually, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea, but I didn’t think of it at the time.

No matter, so long as I could get Jennifer to my party. The tricky part was — how to get her there. Of course, you might think: “Well, hey, why not ask her?”

You might think that if you were born in New York or California or have forgotten what it’s like to be a nine year old boy totally overwhelmed by the goddess beauty of a nine year old girl. No, just walking up and asking her was definitely not an option.

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Instead, I hit on a brilliant idea, bound to succeed. I made a newspaper. It had three or four articles on the front page and three or four more articles on the back page. It only took me one week-end to make. And there, right on the back of page two, in the lower right hand corner was the story of my upcoming birthday party, complete with a list of invitees. That list included Jennifer!

Now, for part two of my foolproof plan! The very next day, I contrived to walk home from school in front of Jennifer. I slowed down till she was only twenty paces behind me and “accidentally” dropped my newspaper. I continued to walk, but held my breath, heart racing. Soon, I heard the soft, bell-tones of her voice call out that I had dropped my paper. Yes! She handed it to me. I dully muttered “thanks,” as I stared into those infinite blue eyes for a clue.

Nothing.

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Hadn’t she read it? Hadn’t she seen her name right there on page two? Was she blind, and I didn’t know?

I scurried on ahead. Maybe she just hadn’t noticed. I dropped my paper again. Again, I heard her call out my name! She had seen me drop the paper. I waited for her to catch up with me. She handed me the paper. I swallowed hard. I looked in her eyes. She looked at me. I said, “Well…did you read it?”

“Oh, no!” she said. “I wouldn’t do that.”

“Oh,” I said, and turned, crimson glowing hot on my cheeks.

I thought about dropping my paper a third time, but what was the point? She took it as an invasion of privacy to read my private paper. I’d have to come up with something else.

I did.

I got pneumonia and the party was canceled. I did get a record and a book as presents from my mother’s friend’s two daughters but I didn’t read the book or listen to the record. It wouldn’t be … right.

The next year, my parents moved to a new house and a new school district and I never saw Jennifer again. Except in dreams. Where her blond hair is still blond and her young smooth skin is still flawless. And, spring — spring lasts forever.

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Author Page on Amazon

Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

Table of Contents for the Second Book of the Veritas

Table of Contents for Essays on America 

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration 

The Mysterious American “Continental Breakfast”

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{Part of staying healthy is to eat right!

Another part of staying healthy is to laugh. Hopefully, this poem may remind you about good nutrition and cause a laugh — or at least a smile.

Social Distance! Wash your hands!}

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You could call it “cheap.” Now, that’s okay by me.
Just don’t call it “Continental.” Don’t call it “Breakfast.”
No-one from Barents to Biscay breakfasts thus;
No-one from Lisbon to Odessa eats like us.

Meetings mainly manifest mush mundanities;
Hard enought to keep sagging eyelids parted
Among the Poppy-seeds of Powerpoint and Platitude.
Without a caffiene/cake sugar crash; how rude!

I/ve been to Brussels and to gay Paris;
I’ve been to Amsterdam and Zurich too;
Flown to Vienna; seen Den Hague;
Milano, Ivrea, Helsinki and Copenhag’

Variations on a theme – there are many.
On one thing they unanimously agree:
A breakfast is not a breakfast worthy of you
Unless there is food included on the menu too .

Beans and greens and grains and eggs;
Fruit and cheese and bread and tea;
Meat and tomatoes as well as jams and jellies —
These fill morning European bellies.

So, please agenda setters, meeting planners,
Hear my call to call a spade a spade, and call
Those pathetic servings of coffee and sweets
Just what they truly are: “Cheap Eats.”

 


Author Page on Amazon

https://petersironwood.com/2017/07/20/pies-on-offer-rhubarb-mincemeat/

https://petersironwood.com/2017/05/11/family-matters-part-two-garlic-cloves-and-puffer-fish/

Cars that Lock too Much

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{Now, for something completely different, a chapter about “Intelligent Agents” and attempts to do “too much” for the user. If you’ve had similar experiences, please comment! Thanks.}

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At last, we arrive in Kauai, the Garden Island. The rental car we’ve chosen is a bit on the luxurious side (Mercury Marquis), but it’s one of the few with a trunk large enough to hold our golf club traveling bags.  W. has been waiting curbside with our bags while I got the rental car and now I pull up beside her to load up. The policeman motioning for me to keep moving can’t be serious, not like a New York police officer. After all, this is Hawaii, the Aloha State.  I get out of the car and explain, we will just be a second loading up. He looks at me and then at my rental car and then back to me with a skeptical scowl.  He shrugs ever so slightly which I take to mean an assent. “Thanks.” W. wants to throw her purse in the back seat before the heavy lifting starts. She jerks on the handle. The door is locked.  

“Why didn’t you unlock the door” she asks, with just a hint of annoyance in her voice.  After all, it has been a very long day since we arose before the crack of dawn and drove to JFK in order to spend the day flying here.  

“I did unlock the door,” I counter.  

“Well, it’s locked now.” She counters my counter. 

I can’t deny that, so I walk back around to the driver’s side, and unlock the door with my key and then push the UNLOCK button which so nicely unlocks all the doors.  

The police officer steps over, “I thought you said, you’d just be a second.”

“Sorry, officer”, I reply.  “We just need to get these bags in.  We’ll be on our way.” 

Click.

W. tries the door handle.  The door is locked again.  “I thought you went to unlock the door,” she sighs.

“I did unlock the door.  Again.  Look, I’ll unlock the door and right away, open it.”  I go back to the driver’s side and use my key to unlock the door.  Then I push the UNLOCK button, but W’s just a tad too early with her handle action and the door doesn’t unlock. So, I tell her to wait a second.  

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“What?”  This luxury car is scientifically engineered not to let any outside sounds disturb the driver or passenger.  Unfortunately, this same sophisticated acoustic engineering also prevents any sounds that the driver might be making from escaping into the warm Hawaiian air. I push the UNLOCK button again.  Wendy looks at me puzzled.

I see dead people in my future if we don’t get the car loaded soon. For a moment, the police officer is busy elsewhere, but begins to stroll back toward us. I rush around the car and grab at the rear door handle on the passenger side. 

But just a little too late.  

“Okay,” I say in an even, controlled voice.  “Let’s just put the bags in the trunk.  Then we’ll deal with the rest of our stuff.” 

The police officer is beginning to change color now, chameleon like, into something like a hibiscus flower. “Look,” he growls. “Get this car out of here.”

“Right.” I have no idea how we are going to coordinate this. Am I going to have to park and drag all our stuff or what? Anyway, I go to the driver’s side and see that someone has left the keys in the ignition but locked the car door; actually, all the car doors. A terrifying thought flashes into my mind. Could this car have been named after the “Marquis de Sade?” That hadn’t occurred to me before. 

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Now, I have to say right off the bat that my father was an engineer and some of my best friends are engineers. And, I know that the engineer who designed the safety locking features of this car had our welfare in mind. I know, without a doubt, that our best interests were uppermost. He or she was thinking of the following kind of scenario. 

“Suppose this teenage couple is out parking and they get attacked by the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Wouldn’t it be cool if the doors locked just a split second after they got in. Those saved milliseconds could be crucial.”

Well, it’s a nice thought, I grant you, but first of all, teenage couples don’t bother to “park” any more. And, second, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is equally dated, not to mention dead. In the course of our two weeks in Hawaii, our car locked itself on 48 separate, unnecessary and totally annoying occasions.  

And, I wouldn’t mind so much our $100 ticket and the inconvenience at the airport if it were only misguided car locks. But, you and I both know that it isn’t just misguided car locks. No, we are beginning to be bombarded with “smart technology” that is typically really stupid. 

man in black suit sitting on chair beside buildings

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As another case in point, as I type this manuscript, the editor or sadistitor or whatever it is tries to help me by scrolling the page up and down in a seemingly random fashion so that I am looking at the words I’m typing just HERE when quite unexpectedly and suddenly they appear HERE. (Well, I know this is hard to explain without hand gestures; you’ll have to trust me that it’s highly annoying.) This is the same “editor” or “assistant” or whatever that allowed me to center the title and author’s names. Fine. On to the second page. Well, I don’t want the rest of the document centered so I choose the icon for left justified. That seems plausible enough. So far, so good. Then, I happen to look back up to the author’s names. They are also left-justified. Why?  

Somehow, this intelligent software must have figured, “Well, hey, if the writer wants this text he’s about to type to be left-justified, I’ll just bet that he or she meant to left-justify what was just typed as well.” Thanks, but no thanks. I went back and centered the author’s names. And then inserted a page break and went to write the text of this book.  But, guess what? It’s centered. No, I don’t want the whole book centered, so I click on the icon for left-justification again. And, again, my brilliant little friend behind the scenes left-justifies the author’s names. I’m starting to wonder whether this program is named (using a hash code) for the Marquis de Sade.  

On the other hand, in places where you’d think the software might eventually “get a clue” about my intentions, it never does. For example, whenever I open up a “certain program,” it always begins as a default about 4 levels up in the hierarchy of the directory chain. It never seems to notice that I never do anything but dive 4 levels down and open up files there. Ah, well. This situation came about in the first place because somehow this machine figures that “My Computer” and “My hard-drive” are SUB-sets of “My Documents.” What?  

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Did I mention another “Intelligent Agent?”…Let us just call him “Staple.” At first, “Staple” did not seem so annoying. Just a few absurd and totally out of context suggestions down in the corner of the page. But then, I guess because he felt ignored, he began to become grumpier. And, more obnoxious. Now, he’s gotten into the following habit. Whenever I begin to prepare a presentation….you have to understand the context. 

In case you haven’t noticed, American “productivity” is way up. What does that really mean? It means that fewer and fewer people are left doing the jobs that more and more people used to do. In other words, it means that whenever I am working on a presentation, I have no time for jokes. I’m not in the mood. Generally, I get e-mail insisting that I summarize a lifetime of work in 2-3 foils for an unspecified audience and an unspecified purpose but with the undertone that if I don’t do a great job, I’ll be on the bread line. A typical e-mail request might be like this:

“Classification: URGENT.

“Date: June 4th, 2002.

“Subject: Bible

“Please summarize the Bible in two foils. We need this as soon as possible but no later than June 3rd, 2002. Include business proposition, headcount, overall costs, anticipated benefits and all major technical issues. By the way, travel expenses have been limited to reimbursement for hitchhiking gear.”

Okay, I am beginning to get an inkling that the word “Urgent” has begun to get over-applied. If someone is choking to death, that is “urgent.” If a plane is about to smash into a highly populated area, that is “urgent.” If a pandemic is about to sweep the country, that is “urgent.” If some executive is trying to get a raise by showing his boss how smart he is, I’m sorry, but that might be “important” or perhaps “useful” but it is sure as heck not “urgent.”  

All right. Now, you understand that inane suggestions, in this context, are not really all that appreciated. In a different era, with a different economic climate, in an English Pub after a couple of pints of McKewan’s or McSorely’s, or Guinness, after a couple of dart games, I might be in the mood for idiotic interruptions. But not here, not now, not in this actual and extremely material world.

So, imagine my reaction to the following scenario. I’m attempting to summarize the Bible in two foils and up pops Mr. “Staple” with a question. “Do you want me to show you how to install the driver for an external projector?” Uh, no thanks. I have to admit that the first time this little annoyance appeared, I had zero temptation to drive my fist through the flat panel display. I just clicked NO and the DON’T SHOW ME THIS HINT AGAIN. And, soon I was back to the urgent job of summarizing the Bible in two foils. 

About 1.414 days later, I got another “urgent” request.

“You must fill out form AZ-78666 on-line and prepare a justification presentation (no more than 2 foils). Please do not respond to this e-mail as it was sent from a disconnected service machine. If you have any questions, please call the following [uninstalled] number: 222-111-9999.”  

Sure, I’m used to this by now. But when I open up the application, what do I see? You guessed it. A happy smiley little “Staple” with a question: 

“Do you want me to show you how to install the driver for an external projector?” 

“No,” I mutter to myself, “and I’m pretty sure we already had this conversation. I click on NO THANKS. And I DON’T WANT TO SEE THIS HINT AGAIN. (But of course, the “intelligent agent,” in its infinite wisdom, knows that secretly, it’s my life’s ambition to see this hint again and again and again).  

A friend of mine did something to my word processing program. I don’t know what. Nor does she. But now, whenever I begin a file, rather than having a large space in which to type and a small space off to the left for outlining, I have a large space for outlining and a teeny space to type. No-one has been able to figure this out. But, I’m sure that in some curious way, the software has intuited (as has the reader) that I need much more time spent on organization and less time (and space) devoted to what I actually say. (Chalk a “correct” up for the IA. As they say, “Even a blind tiger sometimes eats a poacher.” or whatever the expression is.)

Well, I shrunk the region for outlining and expanded the region for typing and guess what? You guessed it! Another intelligent agent decided to “change my font.” So, now, instead of the font I’m used to … which is still listed in the toolbar the same way, 12 point, Times New Roman … I have a font which actually looks more like 16 point. And at long last, the Intelligent Agent pops up with a question I can relate to! “Would you like me to install someone competent in the Putin misadminstration?”

What do you know? “Even a blind tiger sometimes eats a poacher.”

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Author Page on Amazon

Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

Table of Contents for the Second Book of the Veritas

Table of Contents for Essays on America 

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration  

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

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Cat Eyes looked back at the entrance in time to see the door close out the last sliver of distant yellow daylight. She turned back toward the group, now bathed in dim silver-blue light. She cautiously approached one of the artificial “moons” (as she thought of them) that continued to light their path. She put her hand up toward the light but felt no heat whatsoever coming from the strange circular disk. She turned back toward the others. As she turned her head, she noticed that the light flickered slightly. 

Cat Eyes tried to speak. Only a short deep-throated cry emerged. 

Easy Tears asked her, “Are you all right, Cat Eyes?” 

Cat Eyes swallowed hard. She took a long slow breath to calm herself and found her voice again. “Yes. It’s nothing. Just — a memory. I’ll put it aside to explore later.” Indeed, she pushed away the memory, the terror she had felt. She had seen these odd lights before and she felt a bruising in her ribs as she had felt so many years ago when she was strapped on the back of a horse and stolen from her family. It had to be a hard push, but it worked. 

“These lights have no heat. What … have you seen anything like this before?” 

Lion Slayer said, “They are like moonlight. Dim light but no heat.” 

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Easy Tears added, “I’ve never seen anything like this entire … thing. It’s much like the tunnels of ants or moles. But I have never seen such a huge tunnel. As though the giant sloths made a tunnel like that of moles. But the lights? How can this be?” 

Trunk of Tree spoke. “We must go back at once and try to open the door before it’s too late!” 

Cat Eyes shook her head. “I think we should keep going. Jaccim said this tunnel leads to the Veritas. Leads to my original home. Let me confirm.” 

She spoke to Jaccim, who led the horses on leads, in ROI, “Are you sure there is another way out?” 

“Oh, yes. Quite sure. It’s been many years. I suppose it could be broken. But there is another exit. There should be, at least.” 

She nodded and spoke to the rest in Veritas. “He says there is another exit up ahead. We should be able to open it when we get there.” 

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Trunk of Tree glanced ahead and saw a seemingly endless stream of dim blue lights disappearing around a gentle curve. He could see the strange smooth floor. He glanced back the way they had come. More dim blue lights, but they ended in darkness at their entry door.

“I think we should go back. I am the leader. I say we should go back.”

Salah Hudah glanced at Cat Eyes and the others. She walked over to her husband and took his arm in her hands. She looked up into his strong, handsome face. She spoke quietly, still with an accent, though her command of Veritas still grew daily. 

“Trunk of Tree, you are our leader, right? Many Paths appointed you? Is that right?” 

Trunk of Tree seemed to grow an inch or two. He held his chin high and said, “That’s right! She did!.” 

“To do what?” asked Salah. 

“What? What do you mean?” asked Trunk of Tree.

Easy Tears said, “She means what were you asked to lead us to do?” 

“I am to … I am to lead us … to the Veritas beyond the Twin Peaks.“ Trunk of Tree’s voice trailed off. He ground his teeth. He looked at the group. He hoped that they would not see his cheeks redden in the dim blue light. They were all staring at him. He felt as trapped in the logic as he was in this tunnel. The truth was that he was terrified to be trapped like this under the ground. It felt very wrong to him. But he could barely admit that to himself, let alone to the others. 

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Cat Eyes swallowed hard. She didn’t want to speak of it or think of it, but she plunged ahead. “I have been through this tunnel myself. There are two ends. Of that I am certain. I came through here as a small child. I survived as a small child. We are all adults now. Surely, we are brave enough to stay a bit longer. We have provisions. If we get to the end, and we cannot open that door, we may have to retrace our steps and try the door we came through. We won’t starve so long as we can eventually get at least one door open.” 

Lion Slayer smiled at Trunk of Tree and pounded him on the shoulder. “Let’s go! We’re not going to be less brave than a small child, are we? How about you, Fleet of Foot?” 

“I’m for it. But if you are too tired to go on, Trunk of Tree, I could run ahead and run back. I could just leave my pack here. I could report back on how it looks at the other end. This path is so smooth. Now that my eyes are adjusted, I can see enough to run up and back if that is the wish of the group.” 

Trunk of Tree sighed. In some way he couldn’t quite put his finger on, control of the group was slipping away from him, but he couldn’t see how to stop it. Then, he had an inspiration and spoke. “Listen, we came her to find the Veritas beyond the Twin Peaks. That’s what we’re going to do. Let’s all go to the end. We are plenty strong enough to walk back if need be. We have provisions. None of us in injured. Let’s explore and continue. No need to send Fleet of Foot on ahead. Let’s go together. Also, this could still be a trap. So we should stick together. Let’s go.” 

Easy Tears stifled a smile and said in a serious tone, “Good idea, Trunk of Tree. Let’s stick together. I am actually pretty eager to see what’s at the other end.” Easy Tears thought back to the time Many Paths had offered up the Seven Rings of Empathy for Trunk of Tree to borrow. They had saved his pride then too. What goes on inside Trunk of Tree, she wondered, that makes him so … unable to learn? He seems to think that being big and being able to bellow loudly means he should be a leader. She Who Saves Many Lives must have seen through to his underlying character.

Trunk of Tree took the lead on their march since there was no need for Jaccim to “choose” the right path. Cat Eyes hung back in order to speak with Jaccim. First, she had to bring herself under control. She had put aside the fact that he was a stealer of children. But now, somehow the flashing moon-lights and the smell of horses had triggered a rage in her. She saw herself strangling him from behind. Such rage was not good. She might not ever be able to forgive and forget, but she wanted some answers. 

The group walked at a steady pace, marveling at the continuous stream of images and markings on the sides of the tunnel. She pushed her mind back to her village as she had often tried to do before, but this time, when her mind got to the white clouds that kept her from seeing more, she walked through. In her imagination or memory — she wasn’t sure which — she looked up at the giant warm and smiling face of her mother singing to her. It was only a single flash of memory, but it was more than she had ever been able to achieve before. It made her happy. It made her cry. She did it silently. 

Even in the dim blue light, Jaccim could see that something was wrong. He spoke softly in ROI, at least, to the extent that it was possible to speak softly in ROI. He asked her what was wrong. 

She stopped in her tracks and whirled about staring at him and pursing her lips tight together, not trusting herself to speak. 

Jaccim also stopped, staring at her. He frowned. He looked at the others who marched steadily onward. He began to speak in ROI. “I did steal children. You don’t like me. I did it. I was told to do it and I did it and ….” He balled up his fist and struck the side of his temple with the side of his fist. Then, he pointed to the steal-healing scabs on his face where he had been dragged. “It all hurts.” 

He hung his head and shook it. Then he said in a soft voice, using his broken Veritas, “Stealing is bad. Stealing you hurt here.” He thumped his chest. “Sorry me. So sorry me. Now you go home. I help.” 

Cat Eyes looked at him. Her fierce gaze began to soften. She turned and began to walk quickly to catch up with the others and to hide her face. After she had walked for a few minutes, it occurred to Cat Eyes that in all the time she had lived with the Z-Lotz and the ROI, she had never heard anyone say that they were sorry for something they did. The closest expression she recalled were someone saying, “Bad luck!” People sometimes would say that when someone they knew got hurt or failed at a task. But taking blame upon themselves? She couldn’t think of a single instance. How odd, she thought. 

After some minutes, she thought she had relinquished her anger enough to pose a question to Jaccim. “Do you recognize these moon colored lights?” 

“Oh, yes,” said Jaccim, in ROI, “they are here in the tunnel, but as you know, they used to be everywhere.” 

What? What are you talking about? Everywhere? I have never seen lights like this anywhere else.” 

“Nor I, Cat Eyes. I am not that old! But in the stories you read about the olden times, there were many descriptions of such lights. You remember?” Jaccim glanced at her quizzically. 

Just then, she heard the deep voice of Trunk of Tree proudly bellow out, “I found the other door!” 

Cat Eyes left her conversation with Jaccim and began to run to get to the door. Even as she ran, she smiled. Just like Trunk of Tree! After being the only one in their tiny group who wanted to go back, he had been manipulated into going forward. He followed the only path to the end, and now claimed he had “found” the door. Oh, well, at least he brightened my mood. She glanced sidelong back at Jaccim, still a few paces behind. His grim look had been replaced with a smile. Perhaps, she thought, he is a good-hearted person who never learned to look beyond his “orders.” That is more or less what Tu-Swift had told her. 

This door looked very similar to the first one, but they saw no groove. Fleet of Foot and Trunk of Tree began running their hands over the surface, while the rest began searching the nearby walls and floor for more of those bright jewels. 

Jaccim said to Cat Eyes, “What is everyone doing? Don’t you want to go out the door?” 

“Yes, of course! They’re looking for a handle or … something to make the door open. The light is so dim, they can’t find the handle. Do you remember where it is, Jaccim?”

Jaccim frowned and tilted his head. “Handle? There is no handle on the inside of these doors. Why?” 

Now the entire group was looking at Jaccim. Even though they couldn’t follow the ROI conversation, they knew something was wrong. They all realized, he was the one who should have known where the handle was. 

Trunk of Tree spun around, “You led us in here and there’s no door handle of any kind!? It is a trap! I knew it!”

Jaccim knew something was amiss, but he didn’t know what. He looked at Cat Eyes and asked in ROI, “What is wrong?” 

Cat Eyes rolled her eyes and said in ROI, “What is wrong!? Jaccim, you led us in here with no way out!”

Jaccim stared at her for a moment. “There is a way out. Of course there is. This tunnel works like all those of the ancients.” Jaccim looked at her but she looked at him blankly. Then, he added, “Oh, but say it in ROI of course.” 

Cat Eyes stared at Jaccim as though he had gone completely mad. He shrugged his shoulders. He stepped forward a few steps and, in ROI, said, “Open the Door.” 

——————————————————————————-

Author Page on Amazon

Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

Table of Contents for the Second Book of the Veritas

Table of Contents for Essays on America 

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration  

Maybe It Needs a New Starter

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Maybe it is the bulb itself that needs to be replaced.
Or, maybe it needs a new starter.
Whatever the cause,
It is flickering again,
That kitchen cylinder of Noble Gas.

And, my wife — she much prefers
To have no light at all.
The on-again, off-again
Bothers her that much.

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In truth, visitors are the same,
Commenting with a wince:
“Did you notice there’s something wrong with your light?”

Perhaps I kind of like some variability in this indoor world, our new universe —

This universe of manufactured items,
Rolled off the assembly line
Somewhere — I don’t know where,
Pittsburg, Brussels, or Bombay —
Who can tell?

blue plastic pail

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Is something so wrong with a light
That glows with a twilight dimness
Humming, droning, for lazy minutes,
Then flashes white hot brilliance — and
Then finds contentment yet again with a dull orange glow?

Yes, I suppose it shall have to be replaced.
Ending its life in a landfill somewhere far from home
Or maybe in my own back yard.
But meanwhile, I wonder why no-one but me
Ever seems to wonder why it brightens now?
What causes it to flicker so?
Cosmic rays? Voltage fluctuations?
And, in either case, isn’t this sparkly tiny tube
Quite a rather remarkable little instrument indeed?
Registering either:
The Big Bang that began it all
Or
Summarizing the million little habits of my unseen fellow citizens
As they turn on and off their electric shavers, hair dryers, and stovetops?

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It shall have to be replaced, of course,

(Someday, when we are out and about again) —

(And shelves are brimming full again) —

But meanwhile:
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

birch tree photography

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Author Page on Amazon

Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

Table of Contents for the Second Book of the Veritas

Table of Contents for Essays on America

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration 

 

The Truth Train

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The Truth, a fateful brakeless train, 

Has run amok and kills 

Both brain and brainless; 

Spine and spineless;

Sifts and shifts and swills

The blood of many lies

Upon the tracks of time.

Because there is no time

To cover up and paint our orange face.

It is — or was at least — a race.  

And once that banging gun

Announced the start of all this fun

Instead of pushing off against the blocks, 

With all our mighty might

And sprinting down the field in flight

Arms and heart together pumping

Like an Usain Bolt from the blue…

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Instead of sprinting to and through the tape

We waved our hands and shook our locks

And called this deadly fight:

“A friendly little spat — 

Well, that’s that then, I guess.”

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So now we face a hapless mess. 

This baseless face; this faceless base

As frivolous as a rape; 

As friendly as a shark

Who loves to leave his mark

By chopping off an arm or two

And leave you bleeding red in blue. 

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And when all is said and done, 

How did we ever think that this was all for fun? 

How did we think a clown would do

When what we needed was a bolt of blue?  

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An ocean of lies has made us all dimmer; 

And each of us is now a lonely swimmer

In a murky sea of unseen sharks and death.

I may see you on the other side of breath. 

Now, we must hold hands across the space

That binds us all; blinds us all; and all without a touch.

The mask is unmasked and beneath the face 

We find there’s nothing’s there. It’s all devoid and bare. 

We left so much on the gilded legless table 

Pretending the genius really was quite stable. 

 

One last chance, we have to care. 

One last chance, we have to dare

To call a spade a spade; to say what’s true.

What happens next is up to me — and up to you.

Open the shutters and throw up the sash!

Sing to each other — for each is a brother!

Don’t sweat the cash & don’t sweat the crash.

Focus on love — and love one another!  

——————————————

The Declaration of Interdependence

Who are you really? 

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What I am Doing to Stay Healthy & Prevent Spreading the Virus.

 

Sunless Sunday of Faith

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Sunless, damp, and drizzly day —

Today;

Grimy slush pockets in a lifeless woods;

Yesterday’s clear path

Overgrown with treacherous bramble bushes.

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Where is my faith? Where is my faith?

A whistling wraith. Where can I find my faith,

Today, on this sunless Sunday?

 

The Supremes are singing novel tunes today;

A completely different style with a sanctimonious smile.

Today’s Chevy at the levy is a thousand pounds too heavy,

Dripping blood and oil from the bubbling boil of its cranky crankcase.

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A hole in the ground, today: A Holy hole;

And, all around I hear the desperate screams;

See the people scrambling; feel the flames;

Taste the broken dreams awash in a salty sea.

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And, so off we go again, half-cocked 

On yet another Crusade and once again

The children bear the brunt; 

The children feel the flame;

The leaders claim the fame.

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“The shot heard ‘round the world” has transmogrified:

“The shots heard all around the world.”

The New Centurions run roughshod

All around the world just because we can.

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All my eggs were not in one basket.

But, today, even the baskets are unravelled —

Shredded reeds scattered all about the floor

Eggs splattered against the open door. 

Where is my faith? Where is my faith?

A whistling wraith. Where can I find my faith

On a sunless Sunday, a damp, and drizzly winter day — 

Today?

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Cardinals, singing, robins, crows;

Scampering squirrels. 

Onion grass, the red florets on maple twigs —

These are my counselors; these are my coaches –

Ministers to my soul, healers of my heart.

Not the famous, complicit in the illicit;

Distracting the base and baseless base

That has become our sad and hollow home.

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Life grows; life knows.

Summers always melt the snows.

And endless greed is yet a sterile seed

That sows its own demise,

While wisdom, ah, sweet wisdom

Will find and mind the wise.

I imagine, John. I imagine still.

I imagine, John. And I always will.

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———————————————-

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Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

Table of Contents for the Second Book of the Veritas

Table of Contents for Essays on America 

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration 

Choosing the Path More Traveled By

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The path chosen by Jaccim entered a thick hemlock forest and became naught but a deer trail that twisted and turned through the seemingly endless grove. Cat Eyes relished the smell of the hemlocks which somehow reminded her of home though she did not recognize this particular path at all. Sunlight slanted through the forest ahead of her and soon, they exited the hemlocks and came around a bend with sheer granite cliffs on one side and a swift river on the other. Ahead, a high cliff shot straight up for a considerable height. It appeared too sheer and high to climb. She scanned the face for a path but saw none. She turned back to the others. 

“It appears we have come into a box canyon with no way out. At least, I see no way out.” 

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“I knew it!” shouted Trunk of Tree. “We’ve been led into a trap!” He spun around and pointed at Jaccim. “You did this! Where are the ROI hiding? Speak now or never speak again!” 

Jaccim could not understand the yelling of Trunk of Tree. He looked to Cat Eyes and shrugged. 

Cat Eyes sighed and put her hands out in what she hoped was a calming gesture to Trunk of Tree. “I sense no danger here, Trunk of Tree. Jaccim has no idea what you are saying when you scream loudly. Let me translate for you.” 

Trunk of Tree drew out his war club and scanned the surroundings for enemies. He repeated his question to Jaccim still more loudly and rapidly. 

Cat Eyes tilted her head and looked at Trunk of Tree. “Jaccim will understand you no better if you scream more loudly. I can barely understand you when you scream thus. Let me ask him whether he made a wrong turn. Please. Relax. If we are walking into an ambush, why scream out an announcement?” 

Trunk of Tree grumbled something incoherent, but held his tongue for a moment. Cat Eyes queried Jaccim in ROI and then turned back to the group. 

“Jaccim says we are on the right path. He understands it looks like a box canyon with no exit, but it’s an illusion. He claims that there is a giant door up there what will allow us to go beyond the wall.” After a moment, she added, “I believe him. Think back. He is not a guileful person. At least, I don’t think so. Nor did Tu-Swift. Nor, obviously, did Many Paths. Let’s proceed. With caution, just in case. But let’s proceed. I have a sense we are closer than ever to my homeland.” 

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The group exchanged glances. All concurred, except Trunk of Tree. “I don’t agree. I think it’s a trap. I’m surrounded by people I don’t know! I don’t trust any of you!” 

Fleet of Foot spoke, looking directly at Trunk of Tree. “We’ve known each other for many winters, Trunk of Tree. I see no trap. But, let us take your advice and proceed cautiously. We will soon discover if there is a door.” 

Before Trunk of Tree could respond, Easy Tears added, “We have also known each other for our whole lives, Trunk of Tree. You know me to be an open person. Perhaps I am too open. But you know that you are too valuable a warrior for Many Paths to put you in danger. Let us see what to make of this door, if it exists. We may need your strength to open it. Perhaps it is like the door that the rescuers had to open to find their way to Tu-Swift.” 

Trunk of Tree frowned. He reached back and touched the bump on his head. It still hurt when he touched it. He felt as though something here did not fit. It was unnatural, somehow. But maybe it was just the sheer size of the cliff before them. They could not cross the raging river. And far above the trees on the far side of the river, he could see the first of the twin peaks. This path into the box canyon seemed directly away from their ultimate goal. His head still felt confused though. He decided to go along with the group for now, but keep his guard up. 

Within minutes, Jaccim had led them to a smooth wall of gray rock with a strange and primitive drawing. He turned back to Cat Eyes and said in excited ROI (or, at least, in as excited as ROI ever got), “We’re here! It’s just as I remember!” 

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Cat Eyes stared at Jaccim. She turned and slowly “translated” for the group. “He says…he says, we are still on track. I guess this is the door. But I see no handle.” 

Then, to Jaccim, she said, “What are you talking about, Jaccim. You’ve led us to a solid wall of rock.”

Jaccim paced and peered, clearly looking for something. “I know. I know. It looks that way, but I think that’s why we use these portals from the ancients. People can’t follow us because it looks like nothing. Somewhere near here…ah, here! Watch this.” Jaccim went over to what appeared to be a tree trunk, used his hand to clear away some dirt and brush. A flat top to the “trunk” was adorned with a series of inlaid square stones of some sort. He turned to the group and said in thickly accented Veritas, “Watchit!” He pushed on the stones. 

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Nothing happened. 

He pushed on them again. 

Nothing. 

Jaccim frowned. 

He mumbled in ROI, “It seems to be broken. Sorry, Cat Eyes. We might be able to make it open with strength. One cannot possibly do it, or even two strong men, but with all of us, and horses, we might. I think we can.” 

Trunk of Tree felt anger rise in him again, “I told you it was a trap! I told you! We’ll be attacked any moment! Look around!” 

Cat Eyes stood close in front of Trunk of Tree and said, “Relax, Trunk of Tree. He thinks we can open it. He’s looking for the … edge of the door.” 

All of the little search party were now looking around the strange looking rock. Easy Tears found a nearby flat rock which glinted strangely beneath the branches of a fallen tree. Its roots were still in the ground — but barely. It was a wild cherry and its branches covered the strange flat rock. “Look here. This tree has decided it must hurry and fruit though its time to do so has not yet come.” 

Trunk of Tree whirled quickly. “Who cares! This is a trap, I tell you! I’m the leader.” 

Easy Tears said, “Yes, of course you are, but we are looking for the edge of the door to push on. We will need your strength, but first we need to — what is this?”  

She had finished pushing the fallen branches away from the top of the flat rock and beneath was a smooth blue surface. Soon, the entire group had come over to stare at this strange surface. Blue rectangles were made up of smaller rectangles. Between the rectangles were gray … lines. Everything was shiny, almost like water. It glinted in the sunlight. Fleet of Foot was the first to touch it. He turned to the others, “It’s smooth, like a crystal.” 

Cat Eyes felt it as well. She turned to Jaccim and spoke in ROI. “What is this?” 

Jaccim answered, “We don’t know. I remember it from before. It was not covered before. I have never touched it. We were trained not to touch anything we didn’t understand from the ancient ones.” 

fresh red cherries

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Cat Eyes quickly translated and turned back to Jaccim, “What ancient ones? What legend are you referring to?” 

Jaccim frowned. “The Z-Lotz never told us really. They told us a story to make us remember to touch only what we needed to do our jobs. Otherwise, we might grow sick and die. Do you remember their stories?” 

Cat Eyes didn’t like thinking back to her days being a slave in an ROI household, but thinking back had helped her work with the others to decode the game and the strange markings so she forced herself to try. After a time, she shook her head. “No, I don’t recall anything except what you already said — not to touch anything except what was permitted or I could get badly hurt. But I don’t recall any stories about ancient ones. Anyway, this is a mystery for another time. Let’s find the edge as you suggested and try to push this door, if it even is a door, open at last. I want to find my people!” 

The group asked her to translate and she accommodated. Lion Slayer ran his hands along the vertical rock face and found a long shallow groove. “Is this the edge?” 

Jaccim walked over to the place where he saw Lion Slayer pulling on the rock and put his own fingers into the shallow groove. He gestured to the others. “Here! Here! Pull!” 

Soon all seven had found a place to put their fingers and they pulled, but nothing budged. They tried over and over. 

Trunk of Tree had been straining mightily and the tips of his fingers bled. He stepped back, hunkered over and put his hands on his knees. When he had caught his breath, he said, “This is absurd. There is no way in. I still say,” and he paused to take another breath, “it could be a trap.” 

Cat Eyes shook her head, “It’s not a trap, Trunk of Tree. I don’t believe that, and what’s more, I don’t think you really believe it either.” She turned to Jaccim and said in ROI, “Do you have any other ideas?” 

Jaccim said, “Somehow, we need to use the horses. Last time I was here, long ago, there was a handle and we could tie the rope around it, but now, I see no handle.” 

horse near trees

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Meanwhile, Hudah Salah had walked over to the tree trunk with the inlaid jewels. She idly felt them. They felt cool to the touch, like crystal. She noticed that they were of different colors, though quite faded. She touched one that looked as though it had once been green like the top side of hemlock needles. 

She jumped back as a thunderous rumble came from deep within the grey slate rock. The ground shook slightly and all seven felt slightly sick. They stared wordlessly as the great slate rock began to move. 

Jaccim pointed to the widening gap. He said in excited, broken Veritas. “Opens! Opens! How works, is supposed to. Path! Path!” The Veritas and the Nomads of the Southern Desert were both familiar with doors but the doors that had used were always small, meant to accommodate one person at a time. Cat Eyes and Lion Slayer had seen larger doors in the ROI city, but the door that opened before them now grew wider and wider. The door slide to reveal a gaping hole, as tall as four or five warriors. The rumbling continued for a time. At last, the door stopped and beyond lay a deep cave. 

The group slowly approached the entrance. Jaccim held the ropes that hung about the horses necks and spoke to them in a low, gentle, reassuring voice. The mare readily drew near but the young colt balked. He flared his nostrils and whinnied. 

Most of the human travelers were reluctant to approach as well. They came to the entrance and peered inside. The inner cave seemed to disappear into blackness after a few feet. No-one could tell initially whether there was another wall, a deep chasm, a giant cave bear, a snake pit, or something worse. After a few moments, Cat Eyes turned to Jaccim, “Is this the path you remember, Jaccim?” 

He nodded vigorously. “Yes. Yes. This goes beneath the mountain to the Veritas beyond. This is the path.” 

Trunk of Tree grunted. “I am not going into pure blackness. How do we know there’s a path in there?” 

Cat Eyes laughed, “Look, Trunk of Tree. Use your eyes. There’s the path. Right there.” 

Lion Slayer and Hudah Salah exchanged looks. Lion Slayer said, “We don’t see a path either. I see solid ground for a little while. Then, it’s just darkness.” 

Fleet of Foot and Easy Tears agreed. 

Cat Eyes groaned. “What? Can’t you see the lights? Can’t you see the path?” 

Reluctantly, the group moved beyond the edge of darkness into the cavity. They looked up and could barely make out the high ceiling. As they stepped in a few more steps they felt swallowed in darkness, as though ingested by some giant stone being. As their eyes begin to adjust to the dim light, they shuffled farther into the space. After a few minutes, they began to see what Cat Eyes had been talking about. Before they lay a gently curving path of a darkish and continuous rock. And indeed all along the massive walls were a large number of dim lights. Encouraged, fearful, yet curious, they strode in even farther. Jaccim had managed to calm the horses enough to have them as well. 

Easy Tears spoke. “I don’t like this. I think it’s amazing. But it still scares me. Should one of us stay behind to warn others in case…in case, no one ever comes back?” 

Cat Eyes asked Jaccim whether it was safe. He nodded enthusiastically. “I used this. I have heard of others using it. It’s a … safe path.” 

Cat Eyes translated for the others though they sensed that he genuinely believed it safe.   

After a few more minutes, they crept further in and their eyes adjusted still more to the semi-darkness. Now, they began to noticed the markings on the sides of the great cave. They included pictures but also the markings that they had been decoding back at the Veritas camp. Everyone continued and no-one offered to stay outside in case of disaster. Even Trunk of Tree forgot his misgivings as he walked into a world so different from everything he had seen or heard described. 

nature france rocks caves

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Behind them, they heard a distant rumble. Too late, they realized the door behind them shut completely. 

———————————————————-

 

Author Page on Amazon

Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

Table of Contents for the Second Book of the Veritas

Table of Contents for Essays on America 

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration