PRUDENCE FERRY

old lady crossing guard3

PRUDENCE FERRY

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        I am strolling down my neighborhood sidewalk toward the main road.  It is little misty this morning.  Ahead at the intersection I see that someone different is performing as the crossing guard.  She is a diminutive older black lady.

        I can hear her laugh.

        As I approach the corner I see that the crossing guard is chatting pleasantly with occupants of the neighborhood cars and mini-vans as they wait for the green light in order to turn onto the main road.

        A group of children is gathered next to the crossing guard.  The children are waiting to cross upon the green light and head onward to the elementary school.  As traffic lights turn to yellow the crossing guard directs her attention upon the group of children.  Suddenly she says something to the children and they laugh.  The crossing guard suddenly raises her hand-held paddle-shaped red stop sign.

        The children cry out gleefully, “The Lollypop Lady!”

        When the approaching traffic on the main road has halted in front of the crossing walk, the crossing guard steps from the corner and she waves for the children to pay attention to her while crossing.

        The crossing guard eyes intently the cars yet approaching at a distance from the red light.

        At the half-way point in the crossing walk the crossing guard judges that all traffic has halted, most of the automobile occupants glancing at her, and the crossing guard turns around to return to her street corner leaving the children set safely on a course toward the opposite side and onward to the elementary school.

        The crossing guard returns toward her corner to meet me coming to a halt as the lights turn red against my intent to cross.

        I joke, “Aw, too late.  You see me.”

        The crossing guard’s eyes sparkle, “Not if your name is ‘Jay’.”

        At first I make a comedic sour face and answer, “Oh, a jaywalker.  I never hear that one before…,” then I get flustered, “Wait, did you actually know my name is really ‘Jay’?  How did you know my name is ‘Jay’?  My name is Jay.”

        The little lady laughs heartily and offers her hand in greeting, “Hello, Mister Jay.  I’m Prudence,” then proudly, “Prudence Ferry.”

        I ask politely, “You’re new?”

        Prudence smiles, “I’m 94.  I’m hardly new.”

        She got me smiling too, and I say, “By God, you are certainly ‘way ahead of me today.”

        Prudence chuckles and wags her finger at me, saying, “Now, don’t you go getting behind me crossing, neither.”

        I laugh, “Oh, I promise, ma’am,” then I remember my question, “Prudence, really, did you know my name?”

        Prudence confides, “As you were approaching, some of your neighbors were talking about you to me.”

        I ask wryly, “I hope they weren’t ‘tellin’ the truth on me’.”

        Prudence said gently, “They all had very nice words about you.  And I ‘ain’t heared’ someone say ‘tellin’ the truth on me’ since I was a girl myself.  I’ll bet you learned that hearin’ your mama.”

        I raise my eyebrows, “As a matter of fact I did learn that from my ma.. my mother.”

        Prudence bowed her head briefly, “Rest her soul”.

        I ask softly, “Did you just assume she was… she died?”

        Prudence says, “I can just tell.”

        I raise my head and gaze above.  After a moment, I say, “The fog seems really to be gathering.

        Prudence says, “The light is turning yellow.”

        I don’t see any traffic.  I glance behind myself to confirm that no more children are joining us.  I presume that people have gotten to work and that the elementary school is starting.

        Prudence says, “Good thing, in this thickening fog.”

        I say, “What?”

        Prudence makes for me a comically serious face as she raises her stop sign, “Now, Jay, don’t get ahead of me and don’t get behind me.  You might not hear trouble the way I’m used to it.”

        It seems as if we are nearly half way across the main road and it is very difficult to see the green light ahead or even the yellow lines demarking the crossing path from the black asphalt.

        Prudence says, “I tell the children that a road is like a black river and you get across as fast as you safely can.”

        I glance at Prudence and her yellow vest seems to be glowing.

        I say suddenly, “I am glad you are here for me, Prudence.  I can barely see a thing.”

        Prudence says softly, “Open your eyes, Jay.”

        Suddenly, I see.

        There is no fog.

        I can see.

        All is radiant.

        I am dead.

        I died in my house.

        Prudence reaches up and pulls my head down to kiss me, “You are safe on the other side, Jay.”

 

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The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE DUNBAR, AUSTIN, & TAYLOR SECURITY COMPANY….

__The Outlaw Honey Moses - COVER_120312a

Chapter 4 – The Outlaw Honey Moses and

THE DUNBAR, AUSTIN, & TAYLOR SECURITY COMPANY

 

          Honey Moses wore Rex Ramsey’s hat as she rehearsed her best ‘Kate Grody’ act.  Rex Ramsey sat watching her from the edge of the bed and he wore only his wrinkled shirt.  Honey listened as Rex told her about the upcoming removal of everyone’s money from the Passover Bank.  “They’ve hired The Dunbar, Austin, & Taylor Security Company to move the money back East.”

          Honey stopped twirling the braided leather reata, “Weren’t those the names of your deputy Marshals?  The ones that betrayed you?”

          “The same.  They quit as dishonorable deputy U. S. Marshals and went together into the protection business.  It adds up.”

          “Yeah.  ‘Former U. S. Marshals’ should sell real good.”

          “Now they’re calling themselves ‘Range Detectives’ but I’ve heard they’ve done hired killing.  Honey, I know these bastards.  They’re vicious.  Taking that money would be like stealing a cub from a mama grizzly.  It’s too dangerous.”

          Honey Moses slung the reata over Rex Ramsey’s shoulders and her gold eyes shined in contemplation.  Honey finally spoke, “You know these men, right?”

          “I am sorry to say that I do.”

          “Could you figure a way to get hired by them?”

          Rex Ramsey was startled.  “What are you talking about?”

          “Could you cozy your way into getting hired, or do they hate you?”

          Rex grimaced, “They think I’m a spittoon, all shiny and letting myself get used.”

          “What if you ‘saw the light’ and wanted to join their business?  They know you got good instincts, right?”

          “I just wouldn’t fit in.  Why would they need me?”

          “You got a reputation as a tracker and a shooter, even if you aren’t a killer.  They might just figure you’d bring in more business,” Honey knelt between Rex Ramsey’s legs and purred, “It sure wouldn’t hurt to bring it up, now would it?”

          Rex shuddered as he let Honey have her way.  Later he was asleep dreaming, dreaming of Paradise, maybe.  But The Dunbar, Austin, & Taylor Security Company was there in the back of his mind, coiled around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

.chapter 4 dunbar etc

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SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 21, Dust to Dust

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SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 21

Dust to Dust

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          I turned to Esmeralda and I saw Lucas shielding her from the falling earth.  The shaking stopped but the dust kept roiling.  The lantern glow turned red and the bright orb of each lantern flickered and grew dim.

          “We’re going to suffocate” screamed one of the workers.  I heard sobbing.  Everyone was coughing.

          “It’s the dust” shouted Rita, “Cover your mouth and nose with your prayer cloths!”

          Rita held her cell phone above her head and turned on its piercing blue light.  In the hellish dim she looked like the Statue of Liberty.  “Quickly.  Use your cell phones and make sure each other is OK.  Line up in your workgroups.  I’m going to call roll and then we’re getting out of here all together!”

          The camera man turned his video lights back on and swept the room like a searchlight dispersing in murky fog.  That was helpful, but I realized he was filming.

          I saw Esmeralda push herself from Lucas’ embrace, “Help the others, Lucas.  I’m OK.”

          Pastor Maximón yelled at the camera man, “Keep the light on the people so they can muster!”

          Rita knew the workgroups by heart, “Marcos’ group: Miguel”, (Here), “Rico”, (Here), “Diana” (Here)…

          The Video Director hollered to his camera man, “Over here, Bobby.  I can’t open the stairway door.”  The video light revealed the Director with his T-shirt pulled up over his nose and mouth, facing the metal door.  The door bulged inward in the fanciful shape of a forehead with horns.  There were several screams.

          I shuffled with Lucas and Esmeralda to Professor Maximón’s side.  Lucas said, “Boulders have shifted into the stairwell from the earthquake.”

          Professor Maximón lowered the prayer cloth from his mouth and I heard him say grimly, “That was no earthquake.”

          “How do we get out of here, sir?”

          “I can’t see!” shouted a worker.  Then another.  And another.  I rubbed my eyes with my dirty hands.  I was going blind with everyone else.  “It must be the dust!” said Esmeralda.  I watched Esmeralda fade from my vision.

          It was like dying.

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THE AWFULLY BIG WISH

wish

THE AWFULLY BIG WISH

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        Panji had a wish.

        Panji turned on the gas stove, he turned on the gas room-heater, but not a single one of the pilot lights was burning.

        Panji had cleaned and organized his room, putting shirts and pants that he no longer wanted into an old suitcase to give away to the Indian Charity.

        He had a wish, Panji did.

        Panji had put on an old music album.  He had selected the third song.  He stood by the music player and sang I Found Out.  When the song was over Panji turned off the music player.  Panji turned on the radio, dialing past all the stations, cursing and ridiculing them.

        A Public Service Announcement:  free organic fertilizer will be given away by Circus Vargas.  Just show up with a shovel and a truck, behind the performance areas, and you can take all you want.

        Panji thought of his only wish.

        Panji then drank another cup of tea, standing face to face with the Big Screen TV.  Popeye and Religion and Basketball.  This might not be a good day to die.

        Panji tried not to think of his wish.

        Panji straightened-up the couch cushions whereupon he would sleep.

        Panji went to the refrigerator.  The freezer section was so iced-up that the door wouldn’t close tightly and water was dripping and pooling on the kitchen floor.  Panji took out a piece of cake.  He returned to the couch and he reclined.

        The Temple bells outside clanged noon.

        Panji now was having trouble remembering his single wish.

        The gas from the stove and the heater was filling Panji’s brain.  It made him a little numb.  Very relaxed.  He started not to care about his problems, one, by one, by one.  As they fell away in his mind he began to see a shape… a pattern… that was also a feeling… a feeling very deep and very…Panji knew that he was about to understand something important.

        Then all at once, in a clear bath of innocence, the solution was revealed, the answer to his wish was granted.  The knowledge clicked in his brain and there it made a little spark.

        The little spark set-off the gas permeating his brain.  The explosion ripped through his mind, out into the room air, down the gas pipes, out under the street.  The blast and fire destroyed an entire block on both sides of the street.

        Panji’s wish now wafted in the wind, miles away, waiting to be breathed by her.

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The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE ONE BAD HABIT OF REX RAMSEY…

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Chapter 3 – The Outlaw Honey Moses and

THE ONE BAD HABIT OF REX RAMSEY

 

          Former U. S. Marshal Rex Ramsey finished pulling on his boots and he went out into the hallway of the Whisper Glory.  Honey Moses was down the hall talking with Kate Grody.  Rex went on downstairs and outside to his horse.

          He mounted up and sat there for a moment.  Pulling on his boots had made him recall the shaman woman Chonkusha.  Rex closed his eyes and waited for an omen.  A shadow fell upon his face and he opened his eyes.  He watched the hawk spiraling beside the sun.  The hawk then flew away to the southern hills.  Rex nudged his horse in that direction and he rode out of Bad Weather.

          When he had been a U. S. Marshal he had tracked the shaman woman Chonkusha.  The government wanted her for riling up the tribes.  Rex Ramsey was a sharp-shooter and a tracker and they had put him in charge of three Deputy Marshals –  Jubilee Dunbar, Clifford Austin, and Deuce Taylor – with orders to stop Chonkusha.  Chonkusha knew like Rex knew that animals are hunted by their habits.  Chonkusha eluded him and his Deputy Marshals for months.

          Still watching the hawk, Rex Ramsey rode and he would not stop until he found an auspicious campsite for the night.  He judiciously avoided habits.  He had enemies and that was one sure thing.  He owned the Whisper Glory with me and that was the second sure thing about him.  Otherwise he lived like a coyote – well, that isn’t true because a coyote has a home – he lived like the wind I suppose you might say.  He came from a direction and he went in a direction.

          Anyway, he found the shaman woman Chonkusha one day by the damnedest wisp of what we would call luck.  He saw a single glint of sunlight from some distant hills.  He ordered his deputies to stay put while he rode around those hills and then up the backside.  When he got near where he had seen the glint of sunlight he tied up his horse and he took off his boots and he walked.  Some would say he surprised Chonkusha in that cave, but not Rex Ramsey.  The way he tells it she was sitting there as calm as you please and smiled at him saying only, “Welcome, my Death”.  She gave him no fight.  And she was a fighter.

          Well, his deputies had disobeyed him and they hadn’t stayed put and they showed up soon enough.  They held their guns drawn on Chonkusha who said nothing but kept looking over at Rex.  They found her horse and they put her up on it with only her wrists tied.  On the way out Rex Ramsey rode in front with Chonkusha behind him and the three deputies behind her.

          Rex heard the pace of one of the deputy’s horses pick up and he turned to look just as Dunbar whipped the hind end of Chonkusha’s horse and made it bolt.  Austin and Taylor already had their guns drawn and shouted “Stop!  We’ll shoot!”.  Rex swears that Chonkusha was grinning as her horse fled past him.  And the deputies shot Chonkusha in the back.

          They told Rex that they had separate Presidential orders to make sure that Chonkusha would never be a problem again.  And they said the President knew that Rex Ramsey had a reputation for not shooting fugitives even if he was the best at tracking them.  When Rex confirmed those separate Presidential orders he quit the U. S. Marshals.

          Now, I knew Rex Ramsey near as well as anybody and I knew he had only one bad habit: he was in love with Honey Moses.

chapter 3 one bad habit

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SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 20, Blessed is Nothing

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SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 20

Blessed is Nothing

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            Pastor Maximón opened his mouth and he spoke to the camera:

            “Science gives us the Meaning of Life.  Religion gives us the Purpose of Life.

            What is the Meaning of Life?  What is the Purpose of Life?  The two are not the same question.

            The Meaning of Life or ‘What Does All This Signify?’ is answered by the Science of Physics with the phrase ‘dynamic equilibrium’.  Hear me, beloved ones: anything is permitted in physical reality as long as it comes into existence balanced by its precise opposite.

            The Science of Physics tells us that sub-atomic particles come into existence, and can only come into existence, ‘holding hands’ you might say, as particle and anti-particle, spinning in opposite ways.  But they must instantly ‘let go of each other’s hand’ and fly apart to continue what we call ‘existence’.  When they meet again, or ‘join hands’ again, they truly vanish.  They once again become ‘empty space’, ‘nothingness’.  Or ‘No Thing-ness’, as someone once explained it to me.

            Hear me, beloved ones: This creation and destruction is happening all the time on the sub-atomic level and the sub-atomic level is the canvas upon which we are all painted.

            In the Science of Mathematics there is no difference between the phrase ‘add positive-x and negative-x‘ and the term ‘zero’.

            In other words, anything is possible in physical reality as long as it adds up to zero, to nothing.  Hear me, beloved ones:  physically we all add-up to nothing.

            So there it is: the elegant Meaning of Life.

            But why should Life exist at all?  ‘Because it can’, Science would answer.  And that is the only answer Science is allowed to give.  But Religion, the opposite of Science, now speaks to us.

            What is the Purpose of Life, the Purpose of All This?  Toward what End is All This moving?  Toward Nothingness?  Science has demonstrated that we don’t need a ‘Purpose’ to move to Nothingness.

            Is our Purpose just to survive?  Again, Science has demonstrated that we don’t need a ‘Purpose’ to survive.

            So, beloved ones, is there no Purpose?  Can we make of All This anything we want?  Our ‘Modern World’ is based on such a premise, isn’t it?  Anything goes?  ‘Do your Own Thing’ before it becomes a No-Thing?  A No-Thing along with all those magnificent, mindless, sub-atomic particles?

            When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the Passover the crowds greeted him saying ‘Hosanna’ which means ‘Liberate Us”.  They believed that he was the Messiah, come to rescue them from Roman tyranny.  But, beloved ones, I say to you that he came to liberate all of us from the mindless tyranny of a Life Without Purpose.

            And the Purpose that Jesus gave us was…”

            Suddenly the catacombs shook.  Blinding dust exhaled from between all the stones.  The lantern light shuddered on the walls like the flames of Hell.  Dirt rained down upon our heads.  There arose wails of terror.

            “Esmeralda!” I cried.

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The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE INDISCRETIONS OF KATE GRODY..

__The Outlaw Honey Moses - COVER_120312a

Chapter 2 – The Outlaw Honey Moses and

THE INDISCRETIONS OF KATE GRODY

 

          Honey Moses left her room while former U.S. Marshal Rex Ramsey was still pulling on his boots and thinking about her plan for the bank in Passover.  She went down the hallway of the Whisper Glory and gave the secret knock to Kate Grody’s door.

          The door opened an eye’s-width and there stood Kate Grody, tall, big-boned and handsome, with her full curly blond hair hanging down to her belly.  She was naked except for a cowboy hat and boots with spurs.  Between Kate’s legs Honey Moses could see a man behind Kate on the floor on his side with his back toward her, tied up like a calf ready for branding and glistening in sweat.  Honey recognized the back of the Mayor’s head.  Kate’s men – and women – mostly liked it rough.  When business was slow she took care of us girls too.

          “Hi there, Missy Moses,” smiled Kate Grody.  She looked at Honey questioningly.

          “We need to talk when you’re done, Kate.”

          “Sure enough,” and the door closed again.  Honey shook her head.

          Kate Grody had come to Bad Weather from Chicago where we heard she had short hair and wore men’s clothing.  She worked at the slaughter houses.  The story is that one night while she was cleaning up, two men who figured out what she was attacked her.  She killed them both with a knife and then sawed them in half and hung their bodies up like sides of beef.  We figure Kate Grody isn’t her real name.

          Honey Moses figured she could use a woman like Kate Grody in her plan for the bank in Passover.

chapter 2 kate

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SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 19, The Sermon in the Basement

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SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 19

The Sermon in the Basement

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            In the evening all of us workers and several of the apprentice pastors were gathered together into the cloister of the orphanage.  I stayed close to Esmeralda.  So did Lucas.  We were led by Rita who was the senior apprentice pastor into a hallway and then down into a very large circular stone basement.  It was illuminated by the light of many lanterns.  I counted twelve corridors leading away from the large basement room.  We were in the back of the crowd.  There were swirls of gentle breezes, but the air smelled of moist earth.

            Esmeralda told me, “This is where Arturo’s statue of Jesus was kept before it was given to that first church, over 400 years ago.”

            Rita clapped and spoke up, “Attention, everyone.  Please.  Attention.  Pastor Maximón will join us in a moment for his sermon on this eve of Palm Sunday.  You will be interested to know that this ‘basement’ is actually the catacombs of the old estate.”

            There arose an uneasy murmur.

            Rita said quickly, “It is really a fascinating historical site which we can tour later if we so desire.”

            The girls said “Eww”, the guys said “Awright”.

            I don’t know what made me say aloud, “What about an earthquake?”

            In the ensuing silence I could hear the rustle of all the heads turning toward me.  Esmeralda looked at me with a pained expression.  I heard Lucas swear “Jesus.”

            Rita was ready for this, “People, people.  This catacomb was built to last a thousand years.  Look around you.  There has been no damage even after the most recent terrible earthquake.  In fact, this may be the safest place to be for a hundred miles around.”

            In the ensuing murmur many eyes flashed at me in the lantern light and they reminded me of the fireflies I was seeing after Garra punched my head.

            I was “saved” when the camera crew backed out of one of the tunnels while filming Pastor Maximón riding in on his motorized wheelchair.  For some reason I thought of a bullring with Pastor Maximón as the matador.  “I guess that makes you the bull,” came a thought into my head.  I looked around.  I saw the back of one head turning away from me.

            Pastor Maximón stopped upon a carpet of palm leaves and olive branches.  The camera crew stopped filming for a moment.  The director pointed the assistant forward.  The assistant placed a light behind the wheelchair for an effect of radiance.  The intricate colors and shadows of the old stone walls made an attractive back-drop.  Upon the wall directly behind Pastor Maximón was a cross made of twisted palm branches.  The director gave a thumbs-up sign and they started filming again.

            “Beloved ones,” began Pastor Maximón, “we are filming this sermon for broadcast tomorrow, Palm Sunday.  Rita will lead us in a prayer before I begin.”

            Rita bowed her head and others did the same.  Not me.  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of our Lord.  Speak to us through our Pastor Maximón this evening.  Guide his words.”  Then Rita opened one eye and caught me watching unhumbled, “Guide our hearing.  Let your message be received by all who await in faith and let it be imposed upon all who need chastising.  Amen.”

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