DADDY’S DOLL HOUSE

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DADDY’S DOLL HOUSE

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        I am Melissa.

        I am this many years old.

        Today is Daddy’s Day.

        I made my Daddy this doll house just for him.

        My Daddy is sad.

        My Mommy is at the hopstable.

        Daddy says that Mommy is talking with the Angels.

        Daddy says Mommy might go to live with them.

        I don’t want Mommy to go live with the Angels.

        I asked Daddy if the Angels can live with us.

        My Daddy cried.

        He said an Angel already lives with us and he kissed me.

        But I made Daddy’s Doll House so the Angels can live in it.

        Then they can talk to Mommy every day.

        My Mommy and my Daddy used to play with my doll house on my bed with me.

        Now just my Daddy plays with me.

        But he doesn’t play very long.

        My Daddy gets tired and he sleeps on the floor right there by my bed.

        When it is dark I hear my Daddy whisper to the Angels.

        He says, “Please.  Please.”

        I don’t hear the Angels.

        See Daddy’s Doll House?

        This is the Mommy and she is up in the room where we can’t go and she can talk to the Angels.

        This is the Daddy and he is in the kitchen.

        This is me.

        This Daddy is making me cereal.

        He is talking on his phone.

        The Grandma wants to come.

        This Grandma is the Mommy’s Mommy.

        The Daddy says he won’t go to work until the Mommy is finished talking to the Angels.

        Then the Grandpa says he is coming too.

        The Grandma wants to talk to me.

        She just says, Melissa, Melissa.

        So I just say, “I am making a house for the Angels so Mommy can stay here.”

        But she is crying and she just says, Melissa, Melissa.

        This Daddy is so sad.

        He misses the Mommy.

        He is down on the floor and he is looking.

        And now he says, Where is God?

        He can’t find the God.

        Get up, sad Daddy.

        This Grandma tells him, God is not in the dust.

        Do you want to play, too?

        You can be the God, OK?

        You can say, I am right here, sad Daddy, OK?

        Uh-oh.

        My Daddy is shouting.

        He is talking on his phone.

        Grandma is shouting.

        Grandpa is shouting.

        My Daddy is leaving!

        Wait, Daddy, wait!

        My Grandma is calling me to come, hurry.

        I need to go now.

        Bye, Jesus.

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MARTHA AND ELMER

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MARTHA AND ELMER

        It is around midnight here at this cheap “No-Tell-Motel”. My room is illuminated by streetlights from Main Street below. The walls are thin. I’m trying to sleep but I can hear the older couple in the next room:

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                        [“Martha”]

        I can’t stay here.

                        [“Elmer”] (drowsy)

        Huh? What?

                        [“Martha”]

        No. I feel funny now.

                        [“Elmer”]

        It’s the middle of the night. Hey, what’s wrong?

                        [“Martha”]

        I don’t like this anymore. Your “Don’t touch me, I’m tired”. “Don’t, it itches.” You’re playing too many games.

                        [“Elmer”]

        I’ve got some kind of rash! I’ve got to be up early tomorrow. I…”

                        [“Martha”]

        I don’t care. All I do is “bother” you. I can’t stay here.

                        [“Elmer”]

        Hey! Where are you going?

                        [“Martha”]

        Home.

                        [“Elmer”]

        You’re delirious. What’s wrong?

[The sound of drawers opening and closing and the chime of clothes hangers]

                        [“Martha”]

        No. It’s my own fault. I knew how you felt. This is better.

                        [“Elmer”]

        You are being a brat! What is the matter with you?

[The sound of bed creaking]

                        [“Elmer”]

        You are either one extreme or the other!

                        [“Martha”]

        I can’t just do this with you once a month.

                        [“Elmer”]

        Once a month?

                        [“Martha”]

        You want me to move on. I know it. Everything you say gives me that feeling. You’re insulting. You’re a…a… grump!

                        [“Elmer”]

        So you either have to live with me or never see me again?

[A long hissing exhalation].

                        [“Elmer”]

        I thought we already went through this on the phone a couple weeks ago.

                        [“Martha”]

        Now don’t get upset. I’ll ring for your nurse.

                        [“Elmer”]

        For chrissake! Look: You can’t go back home. I mean, right now? Your car isn’t running right. There’ll be no stations open. You’re crazy. At least stay ‘til morning…

                        [“Martha”]

        You do not tell me what to do! Look, this is for the best. I know.

                        [“Elmer”] (muffled, under a blanket?)

        Aw, go. Go!!

[A door squeaks open. The Door shuts]

[A car is heard starting after several times turning over]

                        [“Elmer”]

        Oh, man! GOOD! I hate these little scenes. She’s right. I like being alone. Who needs her shit? Ah, I tried. I… need…sleep…hmmmmm.

[A soft rap on their door]

                        [“Elmer”]

        What now?!

[Their door opens]

                        [“Martha”]

        My car is making funny noises. Can I stay here until morning?

                        [“Elmer”]

        Sure. But you’re not going to lean there above my head while I sleep.

                        [“Martha”] (can’t help laughing)

        Why not? OK. I’ll sit in the chair over there.

                        [“Elmer”] (very fed up)

        Do what you want. I don’t care. Good night.

                        [“Martha”]

        I still feel funny. You don’t want me here.

[The sound of the bed creaking]

                        [“Martha”]

        Why didn’t you let me go this afternoon when I wanted to?

                        [“Elmer”]

        Mmmm.

                        [“Martha”]

        We’re both a couple of spoiled brats. We’re too much alike.

                        [“Elmer”]

        You said it. C’mere.

[The sound of commotion in the bed. Springs creak. Tune in tomorrow night for more convalescent humor with Martha and Elmer]

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FLASH DRIVE

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FLASH DRIVE

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          Bob from Sales booms, “AR-VIN!  Haw, y’all!  Good morning!”

          Arvin Haimisch flinches and withers imperceptibly as he shuffles into the maze of cubicles and cabinets.  Arvin is in charge of Information Technology, IT, for the office.  Ahead in his path is a clowder of women.  They are all purring at the new girl, Gina Marchetti.

          Arvin’s eyes lick irresistibly at Gina’s image.

          She stands with a cocky (Is that the right word?  It isn’t ‘pussy’); it is definitely a cocky attitude.

          Arvin’s eyes ascend from her bare legs upward, caressing her short skirt, rolling on those undulations over that bone-tight blouse which so softly mounds and steeply descends again to her throat.

          Her neck, that neck, is long and her head is round and a little small, but it is like an accent to her physique.  Her nose is pointed and a little long, but it draws so much attention to those full lips.  Those must be such soft lips.  What am I thinking?!  But her eyes are narrow and there is something weary and angry behind those eyes. 

          The women deliberately stand their ground to make Arvin uncomfortable and thus so to see him squirm as he surely will stutter his request to pass.  But while pretending not to see Arvin approach they are surprised askance to notice that Arvin appears to be rising erect, taller somehow, as he shuffles right up to this new girl.

          Oh, god, oh, god she smells like orange blossoms in November.

          Gina is saying, “…I don’t know what kind of tattoo I’m going to get.”

          Arvin is stricken by the flash image of a dagger dipped in ink penetrating that radiant skin and he blurts out point-blank, “No!  Don’t do that,” and the women turn their heads and throw their gazes at him like spears.

          Gina is wryly amused and she says down to him, “And you are…?”

          “I, I am Arvin, Arvin Haimisch.”

          The women guffaw in unison, “AR-VIN!”, but this time he penetrates their derision and drives onward, “You, you are so, so beautiful!  Why would you defile such, such beautiful skin?” and then, unbelievably:

          “That should be my job.”

          Gina’s eyes flash like episcopes in the viewslits of an Italian tank.  Arvin’s surprise blitzkrieg continues to advance, “My, my mother is Italian.”

          Gina suddenly feels vulnerable, beset, and fires a derision in Italian to baffle Arvin’s bravata, “Pretendi Colpo di Fulmine (Are you claiming the Thunderbolt of Love)?

          Arvin replies without hesitation, without thinking, recalling his mother’s words, “Si, come il cacio sui maccheroni (Yes, like cheese on macaroni).”

          Gina’s defenses fall in a burst of laughter.  The other women fall back in disarray.

          Arvin states the terms of surrender, “There is an Italian Baroque concert this weekend, if you would like to accompany me, Gina.”

          Gina submits to the terms which she could not have imagined a minute ago, and to which she long had sworn she never would submit again, “Sure, what the hell, Arvin.  Mi sento come una paglia bambola (I feel like a straw doll).”

          The apparition of the office’s former Arvin Haimisch replies, “Put your straw onto my fire.”

          Gina covers her eyes and laughs freely once again at last.

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TWILIGHT IN PARIS

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TWILIGHT IN PARIS

          By the April of this year Anno Domini 937 it has already been a long season of drought unpromising to the village of Paris.  The Seine River has disavowed the Island of the Village, which is the archaic appellation of the Île de la Cité, and now it travels furtively past in veins of sandy banks.

          Twilight has come for this day ending.  Sister Alyssa emerges from the Couvent du Vaisseau Saint convent, crossing from that tomb of angels on toward the tumult of men.  The nascent evening cooking fires are redeeming the pungent exhale of the village.  Sister Alyssa walks carefully and gently as if balancing herself traversing that village of Paris and then she passes on down toward the desolation of the Seine River.

          She touches the crucifix of lead suspended upon the hide strip around her neck.  Sister Alyssa wears the habit of un-dyed lamb’s wool.  She carries a small sack woven of rough cloth.  Turning in the twilight she looks back toward the convent.  Seeing no one, Sister Alyssa removes her coif to free her roughly shorn hair and then turns her face away from the convent once again.  She now steps with intent toward the block of marble uncovered by the receding Seine near the edge of one small channel.

          This block of marble is the remains of a Roman altar, as she has deduced during the previous evening pursuant the few archaic Latin figures exposed and eroding, “Romulus et Remus.”  She seats herself upon those pagan remains and gazes upstream toward the forests of the Langres plateau, the dark womb of the Seine River.

          Sister Alyssa is petite but her mind is grande.  Flowing back to her youthful decision to become a nun, she remembers the suppliant men.  She could never have given her mind in slavery to any such rough husband.  But by that inability she was then left with only one other destiny in her humble and poor life: she married the Church to have protection and some solace.  But the Church has proven to be a rough husband.  Within the convent is the hierarchy ruled by women from the wealthy families.  And the knowledge provided is carefully sieved by the Church hierarchy.  It has become a distasteful diet to Sister Alyssa.

          She places the rough cloth sack upon her lap and unfolds it.  Thereupon are a small loaf of bread and a portion of roasted lamb tongue.  It is because of the drought that the villagers are sacrificing their starving livestock in an ongoing pyrrhic festival and donating portions to the convent.

          Sister Alyssa pinches a piece of the bread and purses her mouth and thinks without thinking, “Take, eat; this is My body.”  She peals a strip of lamb tongue, “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.”

          Chewing the lamb tongue, Sister Alyssa finally thinks, “I thirst”.  She arises, turning to set her repast upon the ruined altar.  She then approaches the water.  She lowers herself to both knees and bows onto her hands, closing her eyes for to sip, thinking, “The living water,” as her dangling crucifix dips unnoticed into the gentle vortex.

          Still on her hands and knees she slowly opens her eyes and contentedly raises her head, when suddenly she utters, “But what is that?”, having spied a four-legged silhouette far up the sandy shore.  She thinks without thinking, “A dog joins me.”

          Out of the approaching silhouette now emerge two liquid yellow eyes that fix upon her.  Sister Alyssa sits back stricken by a bolt of fear and clutches her damp dangling crucifix.

          It is a black wolf.

          Sister Alyssa’s mind observes through a frost of fear that the black wolf is thin and its coat is disheveled with hunger and thirst.  It has followed the river down from the forest in desperation.

          The relentless stare of those yellow eyes is suddenly averted and the wolf turns toward the water and bows to lap greedily at the water.  His long fangs gleam under his curling lip.  Sister Alyssa thaws her fear enough to rise cautiously and she steps backwards toward the exposed ruins of the pagan altar.  She realizes now that she is clutching her dangling crucifix with one hand and a river stone with the other and her lips are fluttering in prayer.

          The wolf has slaked the thirst but not the hunger and he lifts his head back toward Sister Alyssa.  His lutescent gaze presses into her eyes as he approaches.  She believes that she actually can feel his animal desires.  With another jolt of fear she has the sensation of, of…surrender!  Her mind is crying out for panic but she stands.  She releases the river stone and then feels behind herself for the roasted lamb tongue.  Touching upon the lamb’s tongue her fingers embrace it and her arm casts it toward the black wolf.

          The wolf reacts with a frighteningly sanguinary skill and captures the lamb’s tongue in its jaws.  With three chomps he has swallowed the offering.  Sister Alyssa imagines that she can feel that carnivorous lust, hot, wet and like a dagger penetrating her own flesh.  She wanes faint.

          But the wolf abruptly turns back to the darkness up the river and departs.  Sister Alyssa cannot see the motion of his silhouette any longer when suddenly the candles of those two yellow eyes alight back toward her one last time.  After that she can no longer feel his presence at all.  She closes her eyes as her fear shudders away.

          Sister Alyssa replaces her coif and returns through the living darkness, proceeding up the bank toward her convent.  A man’s voice calls to her and she turns.  It is the young Reynard, on sentry duty for the Paris marshalcy.  Sister Alyssa sees him as lofty and sinewy for a moment before she sacrifices forbidden perceptions.

          Reynard speaks, “Sister, it is not safe to be down at the river in darkness.”

          Alyssa answers, “Yes.  You have told me before, jeune homme,” and she smiles.

          Reynard smiles briefly and then puts back his professional façade of gravity, sternly saying, “Even a nun is not safe, Alyssa… Sister Alyssa.”

          Alyssa juts her chin in mock defiance, “Sinner, do you not believe that the Lord will protect me?”

          Reynard responds, “Sister Alyssa, I believe that we must carry Providence upon our own shoulders.  But I am not much of a theologian…”

          Sister Alyssa laughs involuntarily and touches Reynard’s elbow, “God’s Witness, Ma Dame Berthildis says the same of me.”

          Reynard nods, “I shall accompany you to the parvis of Couvent du Vaisseau Saint.”

          They walk slower than necessary together and Sister Alyssa thinks of the suppliant young men she once deflected.  Arriving at the convent Reynard bows to her and then he continues jauntily on his patrol of the village.

          Entering the candlelit parvis Sister Alyssa is startled to encounter Sister Superior Ma Dame Berthildis. Sister Alyssa bows and then trembles with an unrealized guilt.

          Ma Dame Berthildis narrows her eyes, “Where have you been this evening, Sister Alyssa?  And why are you blushing?”

          Sister Alyssa speaks quickly, “Ma Dame Berthildis, I took my supper near the river so that I might pray for an end to this terrible drought.  And a walk in the evening air can be invigorating.”

          Ma Dame Berthildis says ominously, “Many things out in that sinful world can be invigorating, Sister Alyssa.  Do not be concerned with appeasing your flesh.  As for this drought, it is certainly God’s judgment upon Paris.  Therefore be certain that you pray instead for your Compréhension, my dear, dear Sister Alyssa.  And in so doing, ma novice impudent, leave to me and the other Sister Superiors the salvation of Paris.  Sister Alyssa, know this also: I have been watching you.”

          Sister Alyssa asks defensively, “Ma Dame Berthildis, what do you mean?”

          Ma Dame Berthildis replies, “Why should you fear my watching you?”

          Sister Alyssa qualifies, “Ma Dame Berthildis, no, it is not that I fear… I mean…”

          Ma Dame Berthildis says with finality, “Sister Alyssa, you will not be the first wayward young nun I have cast back to her true desires.  Compréhension, my dear, dear Sister Alyssa, Compréhension, yes?”

          Sister Alyssa bows very deeply, saying, “Ma Dame Berthildis, I assure you it shall be as you wish, I mean as God wishes … but of course as you wish as well…”

          Ma Dame Berthildis says with exasperation, “Good night, Sister Alyssa.”

          And yet that same night upon her hard bed Sister Alyssa helplessly makes a vow to go to the pagan altar again upon the very next evening twilight.

          And so it comes to be that she does this as if enchanted, retracing her steps and manners, assuring herself that she is unobserved in this profane rendezvous, telling herself again and again that only a fool wishing to dance with death would fain conjure a resurrection of the evening before, you foolish relapsing nun, and yet she does carry her communion of bread and meat.

          Sister Alyssa seats herself again upon the ruined pagan altar.  She listens for any sound above the furtive river, she impales the darkness with her eyes, and with her fingers shaking she uncovers her bread and roasted tongue of lamb.  Thus she begins her twilight communion.

          After a while Sister Alyssa whispers to herself, “Nothing good will come of this,” and at that moment she thinks she sees a ripple in the far darkness.

          At the crepuscular threshold suddenly two yellow eyes ignite and Sister Alyssa gasps unintentionally.  The black wolf is approaching her.  She becomes fearful and flushed at the same time with vertiginous bewilderment, moaning softly, “What have I done?” then calling out in the face of the approaching beast, “What have I done!?”

          But the black wolf halts instead and sits on his haunches merely a matter of steps away, his gaze unbroken into Sister Alyssa’s eyes.  With trembling hands Sister Alyssa tosses the lamb’s tongue toward the beast and again the offering appears drawn into the agile jaws of the black wolf.  He chomps three times with clashing teeth and he swallows.  Yet the black wolf remains near as he was, with untamed patience.

          Sister Alyssa is exhaling rapidly as she breaks the loaf of bread in half and tosses one ragged fragment to the black wolf.  He receives it mid-air and gnashes it repeatedly until he takes a final swallow.

          Sister Alyssa then holds her breath as she holds out the other half of the bread toward the black wolf.  The black wolf slowly arises and takes a few steps, stops, and then stretches out his muzzle to gently grasp the remaining offering from the upheld palm of Sister Alyssa.

          Sister Alyssa exhales, feeling close to tears of relief, when abruptly the black wolf bares his terrible fangs and rumbles his chest with a chilling growl.  Sister Alyssa cries out at once, almost tumbling backwards, and then realizes that the black wolf is staring over her shoulder toward the slope of the Island of the Village.  She quickly stands, snaps her head around in that direction, sees nothing, and then turns her face back to the black wolf.  Sister Alyssa now realizes that she is breathing rapidly through her mouth.

          The black wolf blinks several times and licks his fangs but he is calmly returning to his haunches.

          Sister Alyssa sits down again upon the ruined altar and dares to extend her bare hand toward the black wolf.  The black wolf hesitates, turns his head to one side, and then leans toward Sister Alyssa and miraculously merely licks her hand with a gentle intensity as if she is his pup.  Sister Alyssa is suddenly giddy.  She gently touches his muzzle and strokes it slowly.  It is not unpleasant.  The black wolf closes his eyes but there is a soft growl from his belly.  Sister Alyssa closes her eyes.

          With a shock Sister Alyssa opens her eyes and the black wolf is not to be seen though she scours the darkness.  She hurriedly replaces her coif and bustles up the slope back toward the night fires of Paris.  Those lights have never seemed so harmonious with the stars above.  Yet Sister Alyssa herself burns with a peculiar shame.

          Arriving at the top of the slope Sister Alyssa looks up and is startled by the sudden confrontation by Ma Dame Berthildis.  Behind Ma Dame Berthildis is a menacing regiment of the Paris marshalcy.

          Ma Dame Berthildis cries unto the sudden inability of Sister Alyssa to act, “Capture her!  She is a witch!  I swear and attest that I have witnessed her sorcery!”

          Sister Alyssa is roughly seized and cries, “Ma Dame Berthildis, you have misconstrued me!”

          Ma Dame Berthildis cries, “She confesses!  So, you damned witch, we have caught you in a perverse consortium with that demon!  So much is explained!  I knew you were vexing but I did not know that you are evil!  So evil!  Know this, you foul witch: I shall open the mouth of Hell for you!  You are going to burn!”

          The deputy leader of the Paris marshalcy says, “Ma Dame Berthildis, I doubted you and would not believe your words and so you must forgive me!  I am horrified at what my eyes have seen this night!”

          Ma Dame Berthildis cries, “We must put an end to this demonic bargain immediately!”

          The surrounding members of the marshalcy shout acquiescence.  But Sister Alyssa then descries young Reynard, his eyes wide and his teeth clenched, and she cries, “Help me!”

          Ma Dame Berthildis contorts at Sister Alyssa with vicious hatred chanting, “Burn!  Burn!  BURN!”

          Sister Alyssa cries, “I have done nothing but befriend a wild animal!  He was weak and starving!  Is he too not one of God’s creatures!?”

          Ma Dame Berthildis asks in reply, “Witch, do you offer your veiled bestiality as a venal acquittal for blasphemy?!”

          Sister Alyssa now hears her Reynard’s voice cry out along with all the surrounding members of the marshalcy, “Burn!  Burn!  Burn!”

          She plunges into despair.

          Sister Alyssa’s wrists are then roughly bound together with a hide leash and she is yanked forward by the assigned deputy Reynard himself, who holds the leash over his shoulder, himself sickened by her alleged betrayal and newly fearful for his own alleged soul.  Sister Alyssa begins to plead, over and over, louder and louder as this godlessly cruel fate inundates her mind with Compréhension.

          Then like a stroke of lightning from dark heavens above the terrifying black wolf pounces upon Reynard, landing onto his shoulders, toppling Reynard forward while tearing out his throat in one mass of gore.  The black wolf then leaps backwards in a snarling rage, dancing in a deadly perimeter around Sister Alyssa.  The distress sends the marshalcy stumbling hindward, leaving Ma Dame Berthildis exposed, alone and in the grip of the most unholy horror, unable to command her fleeing mind, unable to summon a scream!

          The black wolf astonishingly arises onto his hind legs and balances unsteadily, his slavering jaws holding inches from the face of Ma Dame Berthildis.  Her mind has gone.  The black wolf lunges, taking her entire neck into his mouth and with a violent series of shakes severs her head from her collapsing body.  That severed head spews blood and rolls with opened eyes toward the rallying marshalcy.  And so the regiment finally collapses as they all whirl about and hurtle away shrieking into the streets of the village of Paris.

          The black wolf subsides to four legs and now turns slowly to Sister Alyssa.  Blood still drips from his fangs.  She has no will.  She has only eyes with which to witness.

          But the black wolf bows to take the loose end of her hide leash into his mouth tenderly and then he leads Sister Alyssa down the slope of the Island of the Village, into the sandy banks, toward the pagan altar and beyond into the darkness along the river, upstream into the unseen forest.

          Comes the sound of distant thunder as the wind swiftly smells of rain.

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WALK THE YARD

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WALK THE YARD

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          Hesutu was a man of the Native American Indian Miwok tribe.  Hesutu was known as “Mike” by those who had not lived in these lands 50,000 years.  Hesutu had killed a rival in a bar fight.  Hesutu now stood and faced his first day of Life Without Parole.  He began to walk in the exercise yard.  The gangs of white, black, and brown inmates had his scent already.

          A year ago Hesutu and his rival Honon had argued in the Molimo bar about the disputed Tribal Election to decide power over the Miwok Gold Resort and Casino.

          Honon, whose name means “bear”, pounded the bar, asking Hesutu, “Who then is rightfully Miwok?”

          Hesutu, whose name means “yellow jacket nest rising out of the ground”, replied bitterly, “You have expelled dozens of my friends from the tribe, saying they had never been Miwok but you and your followers do not care who is rightfully Miwok!  It is just that you do not want to share Casino profits with so many others!”

          Honon finished his drink and turned to Hesutu, “You call me a liar?”

          Honon’s entourage rose menacingly from their tables.  Hesutu’s friends rose in kind.

          Honon challenged, “Do you end this ‘mediation’, Hesutu?”

          Hesutu stood three feet away from Honon.  Hesutu could have ended the dispute by taking two steps and embracing Honon.  But Honon had his hand on his hunting knife and Hesutu’s mind was a hornet’s nest.  Hesutu clenched his beer bottle and shattered it in Honon’s face.  Honon, stunned, drew his knife and slashed at Hesutu, and both groups charged each other and began to fight.  Hesutu thrust the broken beer bottle into Honon’s wrist and Honon screamed, opening his palm as if to offer Hesutu the knife.  In a self-righteous fury, Hesutu took the knife and plunged it into Honon’s chest.

          Because it was a case of murder, the trial was held by Federal Court under the Major Crimes Act and not by Tribal Council.  Hesutu received Life Without Parole because he was judged to have created the deadly situation and knew his action was likely to result in death.

          The violent disputes continued among the Tribe.

          Hesutu was startled from his bitter reverie as he walked the yard.  An arm had been thrown around his shoulder.  But it was another Native American, an old man.

          The old man was grim but his voice was gentle, “Son, I am Cheveyo, ‘Spirit Warrior’, but these others call me Pastor Chevy.  I am not a pastor.  You must understand me quickly.  The white, black, and brown gangs are danger to us.  But no one will touch a devout Christian here.  You must join us.  You will learn quickly.  However, the gangs will test your knowledge and if you are just hiding without knowledge you will be alone and fair game for their cruelty.  I will teach you everything quickly.  Request to go to the chapel as soon as you can.  I will be there.”

          Hesutu blinked at this onslaught of revelation, “How…?  Why…?”

          Cheveyo pointed quickly above without looking, “I saw your Spirit Bird circling over you.  He has gone to the oak tree there beyond the fence,” and Cheveyo pointed quickly again, “He is waiting for you.  He told me to help you,” Cheveyo winked without smiling.

          Hesutu could only say to Cheveyo, “I am called ‘Mike’, but my name is Hesutu.”

          Cheveyo pointed and said cryptically as he walked away, “Your name is Hesutu, but you are the White Crow.”

          Hesutu turned and gazed at the distant oak tree and there he discerned a white bird in the foliage.

          Hesutu was soon granted permission to attend the prison chapel services.  As soon as he entered, Hesutu liked this room that was so softly colored by the stained glass partitions.  He was struck suddenly that up front, oddly, in the peaceful center was a bloodied warrior hanging, with arms outstretched, upon a cross.

          The services were supervised by Pastor Wesley, who said to Hesutu, “Welcome to wisdom, Mike,” then Pastor Wesley turned to Cheveyo and said, “Thank you, as always, Chris”.  Cheveyo winked surreptitiously at Hesutu.

          There were always several others attending the services, white, black, and brown.  There were also three other Native Americans at various times.  Hesutu, with Chevoyo’s constant interpretation, learned about the ancient tribes called Hebrews.

          Hesutu memorized the Spirit Fathers, “Avraham, Yitzchak, Jaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Eliyahu…”

          Hesutu learned mostly about the Great Spirit Warrior, “Yeshua…,” but Hesutu had trouble understanding how his bloody defeat and disgrace upon that wooden cross was a cause for joy.

          Pastor Wesley patiently and happily tried to explain, “True joy is something deeper, quieter, more lasting, than this fleeting, exciting, deceptive thing which we call enjoyment or pleasure. It is that peace of the soul, that contentment of heart, that deep enduring satisfaction which comes to us only because of Yeshua.”

          Cheveyo helped, “Hesutu, Yeshua chose death because the Great Spirit made a bargain with him, promising that when he died all his people could choose to live in peace.  He was the Great Spirit Warrior and he died like a hero going home.”

          Pastor Wesley was accepting, “Well, if that helps…”

          Hesutu dutifully memorized everything so that he could repeat it and not die at the hands of the prison gangs like a rabbit.

          One day as he walked the exercise yard, Hesutu began to feel agitated.  There was lightning in his stomach.  Hesutu could no longer stand the sensation and he felt like he had to run.  He began to jog around the yard weaving between the clots of gang members.

          “What the fuck is up, Tonto?” growled one inmate.

          “Hey, fucker, where’s the warpath?” taunted another inmate as he tried to trip Hesutu.

          Hesutu jogged faster and faster, around and around.  The guards in the towers became nervous.  A loudspeaker commanded, “No running in the yard.”

          Hesutu suddenly saw the White Crow alight upon the barbed wire atop the towering chain-link fence at the other end of the yard.  Hesutu was not thinking, he just knew, and he dashed for the other end of the yard as fast as he could run.  He then impulsively held his arms outstretched.  When he hit the fence he began to claw his way up to the White Crow crying, “Tupi! (Pull me up!)”.  There was now uproar in the yard.  A siren wailed.

          The lightning left his stomach and it pulled Hesutu into the sky.

          Hesutu came to himself again, blinking, but he was at the Molimo bar and Honon was asking him, “Who then is rightfully Miwok?

          Hesutu was hearing himself say, “You have expelled dozens of my friends from the tribe, saying they had never been Miwok but you and your followers do not care who is rightfully Miwok!  It is just that you do not want to share Casino profits with so many others!”

          Honon finished his drink and turned to Hesutu, “You call me a liar?”

          Honon had his hand on his hunting knife.  Honon challenged, “Do you end this ‘mediation’, Hesutu?”

          Hesutu’s mind was a hornet’s nest, but this time his watching Spirit was calm and knew what to do without thinking.

          Hesutu stood three feet away from Honon.  Hesutu, still holding his beer bottle, stretched out his arms and took the two steps, one yard, toward Honan to embrace him, saying, “I love you, my brother,” but Honon was alarmed and he drew his knife and thrust it up into Hesutu’s side.

          The sound of the world stopped.  Both feuding factions in the bar froze.  Hesutu turned and stumbled out the door without a word.  He made it a few more yards and then he collapsed onto his back.  In a brilliant painless awareness he saw above himself upon the highest tree branch the White Crow.

          From that highest tree branch Hesutu was then looking down at himself and watching all the brothers of his Tribe gather around together as Hesutu died inside a peaceful smile.

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CAMINO BARBACOA

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CAMINO BARBACOA

        Ten-year old Quentin did not intentionally ruin the barbecue.

        Quentin’s divorced father Barry had told his son Quentin to bring the charcoal and the can of lighter fluid from the garage.

        Barry had then loaded the charcoal into the grill and doused the charcoal with what he thought was the lighter fluid.

        Barry’s new girlfriend Barbara (“Barbie”) stood close by Barry for the lighting of the barbecue.

        When Barry lit the charcoal it exploded. Quentin had brought his father a can of kerosene instead of lighter fluid. The cans were similar in size and in shape.

        Quentin, Barry, and Barbie were showered with flaming charcoal and kerosene.

        Barry’s eyebrows and hair were scorched and smoldering.

        Barbie’s new summer dress was on fire in a dozen places.

        Quentin, slapping the cinders out of his own hair, noticed a halo of smoke around Barbie’s head and he cried, “Your hair is on fire!”

        Barbie screamed and ran to the table and doused her head with a pitcher of lemonade.

        Barry turned to Quentin, blinking and staggering and swinging his barbecue tongs, raging, “What the fuck did you do?!”

        Quentin cried, “I didn’t do nuthin’!”

        Barbie cried to Barry, “See?! He hates me! I told you!”

        Barry lurched toward Barbie to comfort and assure her and he embraced her.

        They both then screamed and pushed each other away. The burning spots on their clothes had pressed into each other’s skin.

        Barbie stumbled backwards and grabbed at the table, but the tablecloth slid in her grip as she toppled. The platter of shrimp then fell onto the smoldering Barbie as she tumbled flat.

        Barry was shuffling backwards slapping the embers in his clothing when he was hit in the face with a handful of saucy shrimp that Barbie had thrown at him, wailing in rage, “I’m burned!”

        Quentin hopped in terror at this end of civilization as he knew it, this Destruction of Pompeii before him. Quentin was shouting, “Call 911! Call 911!”

        Barry yelled, “I am not paying for an ambulance! Get in the truck. We’re going to the hospital!”

        Barry then tried to support Barbie who allowed his help for a moment but then slapped his arm away, and limping she made it to the truck in the driveway where Quentin held the door open.

        Barbie screamed back at the lagging Barry, “What are you waiting for?!”

        Barry rubbed his eyes beneath his singed eyebrows and growled, “My eyes must have been scorched. My sight is blurry, Goddammit. I can’t drive the truck!”

        Barbie screamed at Barry, “Well I don’t know how to drive your damn giant truck!”

        Barry hollered to Quentin, “Quentin, you’ll have to drive us!”

        Barbie screamed at Barry, “What?!! Barry, you call 911 right now!!”

        Barry shouted back, “I’m not paying for an ambulance!”

        Barbie sobbed, “You cheap asshole! I don’t mean anything to you!”

        Quentin cried, “Dad, I only drove in parking lots!”

        Barry shook his fist at Quentin, “You shut up and drive!”

        With no choice left to her Barbie climbed into the back seat of the truck’s extended cab, sobbing, “I’m going to die.” When Barry tried to follow her she kicked at him with her heels, screaming “Stay away from me FOREVER!”

        Quentin braced himself with manly resolve and clambered into the driver’s seat. Barry slumped into the passenger seat beside him and dug out the truck keys and held them out to Quentin.

        Quentin shoved the keys into the ignition and turned the key but the engine only clicked once and then was silent. Quentin turned to his father, “Dad…?”

        Barbie cried, “See?! He hates me!”

        Barry yelled, “There’s a flat spot in the ignition. Goddammit, you know that! Turn the key and hold it!”

        Quentin turned the key again and he began to sob, “It’s not my fault! I didn’t do nuthin’!”

        The engine suddenly roared, loudly from too much gas. Quentin was pressing the accelerator to the floor.

        Barry hollered, “Ease up!”

        Quentin raised his foot and put the truck into gear. The truck jostled jerkily down the driveway and onto their neighborhood street, Camino Barbacoa.

        Barbie wailed and covered her face dramatically.

        Quentin stomped on the brake and everyone was flung forward.

        Barry yelled, “What the fuck…!”

        Quentin wailed, “Everyone stop yelling at me!”

        Barbie cursed at Barry, “You never really loved me at all.”

        Barry grabbed Quentin’s arm and said through clenched teeth, “Just fucking drive,” and Barry slapped on the truck’s emergency blinkers to warn other drivers.

        They wound down the hill from the house. There was no traffic but because it was a holiday the streets were lined with parked cars, making the two-lane road nearly as narrow as one lane. Quentin did his best but he soon side-swiped a parked car. All three of them shouted “Oh!”

        Quentin stopped the truck and began to cry.

        Barry shouted, “Don’t stop! Keep driving!! Go!!”

        Quentin bawled, “I’m sorry. I told you I only drove in empty parking lots,” and his tears did not improve his downhill driving ability as he side-swiped another car, “Oh!” and another car, “Oh, Jesus!!” and another car, “Oh!!”

        Quentin cried each time, “I didn’t do nuthin’!”

        When they finally arrived at the stop-sign before the highway, Barbie suddenly yanked the extended cab door open and jumped out of the truck.

        “Barbie!” yelled Barry and he yanked his door handle to go after her but Quentin was beginning his turn onto the highway, oblivious, saturated with recalling driving instructions.

        Barry hung onto the passenger door as it swung open with the truck’s halting forward motion and he shouted, “Stop! Fucking stop! Put it in park, Goddammit!”

        Barbie was fleeing down the street waving her arms and crying, “Help! Help me! Help!”

        Barry yelled, “Barbie! Come back!”

        Oncoming traffic honked and veered and slammed on their screeching brakes as Barry’s truck stopped halfway onto the highway.

        A firetruck was coming up the other way, siren rising.

        Barry saw Barbie flailing like a chicken toward the oncoming firetruck, stepping from the curb into traffic, trying to cross to the other side. It was only because Barry’s halted truck had slowed traffic that Barbie was not run over as more vehicles honked and veered and slammed on their screeching brakes.

        The firetruck, suddenly seeking to turn up the very street down which Barry, Barbie, and Quentin had fled, found itself blocked by the vehicles stopped for Barry’s truck.

        Barbie now jumped onto the firetruck door step and hung on to the door handle, crying to the startled firemen inside. The vehicles in the way of the firetruck slowly broke their gridlock, moving like a Rubik’s Cube, to make way for the firetruck.

        The firemen gazed in wide-eyed wonder as the charred Barry jumped onto the truck beside the smudged Barbie who instantly began flailing her free fist upon Barry as she still clutched the door handle with her other hand.

        At last, and without stopping to shed Barry or Barbie, the firetruck sped up the hill on Camino Barbacoa.

        Quentin got out of the truck into the crowd of other motorists who had exited their vehicles and now looked up the hill toward the house with the burning rooftop.

        Yes, of course it was Barry and Quentin’s house.

        Quentin bawled, “I didn’t do nuthin’!”

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Based upon a

NEW JERSEY BOARD of BAR EXAMINERS

Bar Examination Sample Q&A – February 2007

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THE BEAST OF TIN CAN BEACH

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 THE BEAST OF TIN CAN BEACH

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          Back then in 1956 we all called it Tin Can Beach.  It was a wilderness stretch of sand on the ocean side of the two-lane Pacific Coast Highway, California’s Highway One.  On the shoreward side of Pacific Coast Highway at that point there were tidal wetlands.  Tin Can Beach got its name from the no-man’s land of debris, mostly flattened crumpled rusted tin beverage cans that bordered the highway and extended onto the beach sand for several yards in a tinny tarmac.  It might as well have been a border of jagged cactus for it kept out most of the self-respecting beach-bound residents and tourists who just moved along farther south, past all the oil derricks lining the shoreward side of Huntington Beach, down to quaint Newport Beach and then finally on down to the little artist’s colony called Laguna Beach.

          I was living with my sister at our maternal grandmother’s beach bungalow in Belmont Shore, a town north of Tin Can Beach that was itself 200 million cubic yards of mud dredged from the bay and developed in the 1920’s.  When I was just three and my sister was just ten our mother had left us and my father had lost his mind and couldn’t take care of us.  Grandma and Grandpa took us in but then Grandpa had a stroke so now Grandma was the boss.  And finally there was my best friend, Grandma’s dog Skippy, the little white terrier with a black face and a black tail.  Grandma told me I used to curl up in his dog bed with him and sleep.  I guess Grandma could have told me just about anything, except that she was a simple honest New Englander who had come out West when our Mom and Dad had honey-mooned in Southern California and found out about good jobs with the oil companies.

          One day Grandma was going to the Veteran’s Hospital to visit Grandpa and bring him “Ma’s Gingerbread” which would make him light up in a smile.

          My sister Janine was then fourteen years old and she was put in charge of me and Skippy for the day.

          “Now, Janine, there are to be no boys here while I’m gone.  You can take your brother and Skippy down to the park,” She smiled, “They both like to look at the whale skeleton display.”

          Janine whined, “Oh, gawd, Gran-MA.  What am I supposed to do while they’re both chewing on the whale bones?”

          Grandma said simply, “Earn your fifty cents an hour.”

          Janine looked like a real girly-girl with her long wavy blonde hair and pretty face but she was really a tom-boy.  She liked to play baseball and she would tease me ominously because I didn’t.  She was even a surfer when who ever heard of a girl surfer?  And despite that, or maybe even because of that, boys were always following her home.

          Grandma had only just driven away when a boy in a red and white Chevrolet Bel Air showed up (ever since I was a toddler I could identify cars).

          Janine ordered me, “Come on, Poindexter, we’re all going for a nice ride.”  She always mocked me with that hopelessly awkward Poindexter character from the cartoon show Felix the Cat.

          The bushy bleached-blonde boy behind the wheel looked at us with a sour glower and asked Janine, “What’s going on?”

          Janine answered, “They’re my chaperones,” while she was securing her surfboard next to the boy’s surfboard on the roof rack and then holding the passenger door open so Skippy and I could get into the back seat, saying to us, “Chaperones, this is James,” and Skippy gave James a friendly bark.  I swear James growled back or maybe he just revved the engine.

          I knew that James would not object to anything that Janine wanted to do.  I never saw any of her boy friends object.  What was wrong with all of them?  She flashed a smile at James as she got in and pulled the door shut and then she changed the radio station to a song that she preferred to hear and finally she stared straight ahead, saying, “Let’s go.  Time’s a’ wastin’.”

          James was quietly unhappy for awhile, hanging his left arm out the window and pretending to care about what was passing him by outside in the neighborhood as we headed toward Pacific Coast Highway.  He was obviously thinking about what was passing him by inside the car.  Soon enough he turned and offered Janine a cigarette.  I never saw her smoke before but I knew she would smoke because it was cool and Grandma wouldn’t find out.  I was thinking, “I should tell,” but I liked the smell of freshly lit cigarettes.  It made it smell like our house used to smell when our Mom and Dad would have parties.

          Then James started casually to ask Janine stuff that was instantly so boring to me that I just turned to watch the waves and the seagulls along with Skippy (but not with Skippy’s trembling enthusiasm).

          I did finally hear Janine say, “Sure.  How ‘bout some fries, extra ketchup?  Let’s stop at the new Jack In The Box up here… Oh, shit, James, look at that.”

          I scooted across the vinyl back seat with Skippy toward the opposite window as our car rapidly slowed down, asking, “What?  What?”

          We were about to pass an accident scene that had occurred in the northbound oncoming traffic lane.  A Ford Fairlane and a Plymouth Belvedere had collided head-on across from the new Jack In The Box.  In the open window of the Belvedere was a raised arm with a woman’s hand.  There was a streak of blood running down the outside of the door.  Motorists had stopped and gathered around.  Highway Patrol would come along eventually.  We drove slowly past without a word.  We didn’t stop for any fries with extra ketchup.

          After a few more miles we performed what we used to think was the risky maneuver on this trip: we pulled over parallel to Pacific Coast Highway and halted on the tin can carpet leading to Tin Can Beach.  The southbound traffic still whooshed past at a whole 40 miles-per-hour a few feet away from us.

          Janine turned to me and Skippy saying, “Watch where you step and carry Skippy until we’re on the sand, got it?”

          I made a sour face behind her back, saying, “Yeah, yeah.”

          But Janine whipped her head around and caught me, saying, “And you don’t tell Grandma about that accident.  Or any of this, got it?”

          I sighed, “Yes, your majesty.”

          James was surreptitiously lamenting to Janine, “I packed a blanket and a pillow and an umbrella and an ice-chest with… drinks.”

          Janine said nonchalantly, “Bring it.”

          I started taking bounding hops with Skippy in my arms across the tin can wasteland in the sandals that Janine had brought me from Mexico.  They had soles made from tires.  Skippy was yipping excitedly at each jostle.  Janine scolded, “Take it easy, Poindexter.  If you fall on your face you’ll slice it right off.  And I’ll feed it to Skippy.”

          James carried his surfboard under one arm and the metal ice-chest with the blanket rolled on top of it under the other arm.  Janine carried her surfboard and the umbrella similarly with ease.

          We had the beach to ourselves this morning.  James dutifully arranged the blanket and ice-chest and umbrella while glancing repeatedly at Janine who was impatiently posturing with her surfboard and nagging me, saying, “Just dig for seashells or whatever you do.  There’s a rip tide here, so don’t make me have to save you.  Maybe I won’t bother.”

          I said hesitantly, “There’s no rip tide here.  You’re just saying that.”

          Janine took a step toward me, “You want to find out?”

          I backed up, “No, no.”

          I was not a good swimmer.

          A big wave slapped the sand.  The waterline was steeply slanted from storm erosion and the foam charged hissing up the incline toward us but suddenly it fainted and slid backwards.

          Skippy barked at the foam and chased the sandpipers as they tried to probe into the bubbling little dens of all the sand crabs.  I was grabbing and sluicing handfuls of wet sand looking for cool little seashells that I would put into a pail.  I even found some baby abalone shells!  I would look up once and awhile and see Janine catching waves and riding them for a long ways, switching back and forth, up and down to catch momentum.  Janine and James were riding farther and farther down the shore.  Finally I saw them come out of the water far away.  I saw James wrap his arm around her and kiss her.  I automatically mumbled, “I am telling Grandma.”

          Suddenly Skippy was barking and growling at something behind me.  I turned and there were two boys with long greased-back hair walking with a little girl.  The shorter one held the little girl’s hand.  The really tall pimply one looked down at the little girl, asking, “Is this the guy who stole your pail?”

          The little girl looked scared and she tentatively nodded.  The short kid grinned maliciously.

          I said quickly, “I didn’t take her pail.  This is my pail.  You can ask…,” and I turned around but I couldn’t see Janine or James.  My eyes filled with tears in a flash.  I could hear Skippy barking more viciously than I had ever heard the little guy bark.  I turned back around, saying, “This is my pail.”

          The short kid said, “I don’t like your dog.  I’m gonna shut him up,” and he ran toward Skippy.  Skippy was startled and bounded backwards but he bared every inch of his fangs.

          I cried, “Leave him alone!”

          The short kid was growling back at Skippy, chasing him around and around, flailing his arms menacingly.  The little girl pressed her arms under her chin and looked at me and began to sob.

          The pimply kid shook his fist at me, “So you think it’s ok to pick on a little girl?”

          I howled, “I’m not doing anything.”

          The pimply kid lunged and grabbed my arm.  I screamed.  He dragged me down to the hissing surf.  I was screaming, “Stop!  I can’t swim.”  Then he flung me into the broken waves.

          Because I was a little kid panicking I was rolled under by the turmoil of spent waves.  I completely lost my sense of which way was up as I rolled in the murky surf.  I hardly had any air because I had been screaming.  I was in terror.

          Suddenly something clamped onto my arm and in my childish hysteria I thought a shark was taking me out to sea to eat me.  I screamed one final time underwater and began choking but I was being dragged up the incline onto the shore.  Janine dropped me in the sand and rocketed toward the tall pimply kid who was not afraid of a girl, sneering to Janine, “What’re you gonna do?”

          When Janine was literally a foot from the tall pimply kid she lashed out with her foot and struck him between the legs.  He collapsed forward in gasping agony.  Before he hit the ground Janine had grabbed his hair and was pulling him downward, accelerating the impact of his head onto the sand.  Then she bounced his head several times and finally yanked his head back and shoved a handful of sand into his mouth and then viciously rubbed a handful of sand into his eyes.  The pimply kid was screaming and gagging and crying and crawling and vomiting sand.

          James finally arrived running and saw the carnage Janine had wrought, asking somewhat fearfully, “Are you ok?  Jesus, Janine.”

          The other short kid had stopped chasing Skippy in order to witness the thrill of bullying and the agony of revenge and now trembled turning about to run and he abandoned the little girl as well as his defeated friend.

          Janine hollered like a banshee, “Come back here, you little shit, and get this little girl.”  Janine was twitching with aggression.

          James figured it out, saying, “Janine, let’s go.  That kid isn’t coming near us.  Let’s go,” and then James, exuding his best surfer mellowness, propped up the beaten weeping pimply kid onto his feet and asked the little girl to take the pimply kid’s hand to lead him to the fleeing short kid.  That little girl quietly obeyed but the short kid did not come forward, waiting for the little girl to lead the pimply kid all the way to him.  James called out with a final, “Better get your friend into the surf to wash out his eyes.”

          Skippy ran furiously to me and I picked him up.  We slowly trudged back to our umbrella oasis with a quietly seething Janine in the lead who was saying for my benefit, “Stay here.  We’ve got to go back and get our boards.”  I was humbled and grateful but James and I were both a little scared of Janine, the both of us glancing at each other and James saying softly to me, “Your sister is the Beast of Tin Can Beach,” knowing I would not tell, and me smiling.

          Janine turned back to us and gave us both The Finger.

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