CHUM

CHUM

.

Who would have thought that my death would be owed to my friend of a lifetime?

Tied to the mast of a boat that is sinking, abysmally bound?

Feast for a shark that is circling beneath reflections of dimmed sky?

~

Shuffling the memories dealt to me, frantic for meaning from God, “Please!”

Double-crossed!  Spitting down blood to my shadow on legions of sea waves!

~

Seeing those waves, as they pass like the years of my life in my grade school;

Seeing them, when was I only those nine elementary years old?

Yes.  It was friendship we made in our wood-crafting class time together.

Was it Felipe who dared me to carve ourselves two “assault rifles”?

~

Sent to the Principal we were arraigned by our teacher and sent home.

~

Spending the rest of that day with a newfound alliance while swimming.

There in Felipe’s new family pool was a dowry to seal any marriage.

“But,” he warned, “If you try peeing in our pool the water turns purple!”

~

So it began just like all foremost friendships of youth: with some bullshit.

Dream turns to Lie, not like fairy tales televised under the moon’s face.

Dark sides of animals search for a light in the struggle to grow up.

~

Worshiping rock ‘n’ roll bands in our stone age, we sacrificed virgins.

I was expected to get a real job after college diversions.

Feral himself, Felipe was heir to his family’s horse ranch.

Yet we were “bruthas” from different “muthas”, Felipe would tell me.

~

We shared the long march of youth and the uprising freedom of ourselves.

~

One day Felipe returned home to Mexico, “Adios,” to me.

That day our odyssey ended but we didn’t really believe it.

Even when I joined the DEA I didn’t feel different.

~

So I was justified one day when I saw reports of drug trade.

Listing of dealers involved in the West coast supply pegged Felipe!

Next report said that the West coast connections were all being removed.

One at a time they were prey to a take-over bid by El Papo,

Swallowed by Satan himself, the elusive El Papo drug cartel.

~

I had to find how to rescue Felipe since no one gave a shit:

“Let them all kill one another and we’ll yank ‘Pendejo Last Standing’.”

~

I had a plan since we knew how El Papo would set up his victims.

“Victims are hit by their last link supplier who’s ‘owned’ by El Papo.”

“Let me just bring in Felipe from out of the heat and turn witness.”

“Yes.  He is still my old friend from our childhood together, I just know.”

“No, I do not need a wire.  Just let me go in undercover.”

~

Calling Felipe’s old cell number I got his old message voice mail.

“Por favor, dígame como ayudar el uno al otro.”

(“Please, tell me how to help each other.”)

~

I said, “Felipe, my dude, it is ‘mio’, your ‘brutha’ from ‘mutha’.”

“Where are you horsing around these days?”  DEA knew it was Long Beach.

“I’m headin’ Calif’orn’ya, my bracero, Felipe, to farm pot.”

“If you still live on the Left Coast then maybe we’ll meet for cervesa.”

“I’ll bring Maria my Juana along just to show what I do now.”

~

After a while I received a short text asking, [Back from the dead, bro’?]

Texting my answer, sent, [Hell is a bore without you there, my brutha’]

The replies: [I am an absentee landlord, my tenant, so sorry]

[Meet me instead in San Pedro.  We’ll fish from my boat and we’ll catch up]

~

Setting the date I was hoping I wouldn’t catch Hell on this moon shot.

~

Hugging our greeting I thought, Holy Hell, was Felipe’s boat primo!

Nodding, Felipe said, “Papa would take me out fishing the West Coast.”

“Papa just loved the old classic sport fishing fleet just like this ‘DYER’.”

~

Passing the breakwater barrier, soon we were rolling the main sea.

All there turn pirates who aren’t really seamen, and I was no different:

“Ahr, matey, where bound ye, Phlegm Beard the Pirate, the Scourge of the Maidens?”

~

Playing along, said Felipe, “I say with a scimitar smile, ‘Ahr’!”

“Out to that fog bank erasing the western sea’s edge and horizon.”

~

Asking him, “Fishing is good there along that grey wall of cold mist, yes?”

Answered Felipe, “Ah, Yes, but there’s more payoff inside the fog bank.”

~

Inside that vault was a phantasm world at the edge of what’s certain.

Boundless horizon retreated outside the cathedral of the fog.

~

I opened beers for us, uncapping how I would broach my deception,

Hoping Felipe would find that my lying was justified tough love.

Coming to take care of business, El Papo used hostile maneuvers.

I could arrange for Felipe a Witness Protection concealment.

~

Suddenly water was boiling up close to our vessel and rocked us.

I yelled, “A whale!”, and Felipe laughed, “White whale blows, matey!  For Pop-eye!”

~

Rising: a mini-sub (“narco-sub”) transporter; cargo of “white blow”.

Just like the lectures described it.  But this had been totally submerged.

Very improved over previous subs that were partially exposed,

Men and the motor all needing fresh air from the surface for breathing.

~

“What do you think of my sea horse?” Felipe asked, narrowing his eyes.

“Wouldn’t you like to be riding with me and not digging in the dirt?”

“What do you know about working ‘Maria la Juana’s’ weed garden?”

~

“You are a smuggler?!” I faked my surprise as a voice from the sub hailed.

“Verga mojado, arriba con tuyo,” it cryptically said.

(“Wet dick, up with you.”)

Answered Felipe, “Encuentre agujero en océano”

(“Find hole in ocean”)

~

That must have coded the “call” and the “answer”: “All clear” without radio.

Reading my mind, said Felipe, “…and track with fake fish-sounding sonar.”

~

Wanting to hear more, I couldn’t when two men appeared on the sub’s deck.

Both of them held a machine gun.  Then one of them climbed on our boat’s deck.

Then, said Felipe, “I need to go next door and ‘sign off some papers’.”

Climbing across to the sub’s hull Felipe descended below deck.

~

I was left here with that submarine crewman.  I smiled and he didn’t.

Looking away, all the fog seemed to swirl as if warning me.  Too late!

Red sky fill eyes fall with stars boiling ocean of pain tasting salt blood.

~

Waking to pounding behind both my eyeballs, I’m hearing a man sing.

“Lindo pescado no quieres salir a jugar con amigo?”

(Pretty fish, won’t you come out and play with a friend?)

Submarine Crewman is slashing to pieces a fish that is thrashing.

Into a bucket of blood and intestines and bones go the fish heads.

~

Naked, I’m tied to the mast by wire fishing lines; hooks in my torn flesh.

~

“Are.  You… El Papo?” I mumble in pain to the submarine crewman.

Singing, he laughs and he throws in my face a fish carcass and cuts me.

Placing the buckets of viscera squirming and shivering, he stands.

Over the side in an arching expulsion he smears on the swells gore.

~

Then do I recognize slowly our boat has been settling and sinking!

Scuttled!  Felipe! This can’t be the end of it all for you and me!

~

Submarine Crewman is climbing across to the sub and his partner.

“Lindo pescado no quieres salir a jugar con amigo?”

(Pretty fish, won’t you come out and play with a friend?)

Submarine crewman now points as he sings and I see the first shark fin.

Swells are beginning to lap on the gunwale as bloody foam splashes.

~

Suddenly there is Felipe who’s peering above the sub’s hatchway.

Crying, “Felipe!” I‘m totally stunned when Felipe waves ‘buh-bye’.

“I am El Papo, my DEA friend, which spells ‘DEAD’.”  And they submerge!

~

Who would have thought that my death would be owed to my friend of a lifetime?

Tied to the mast of a boat that is sinking, abysmally bound?

Feast for a shark that is circling beneath reflections of dimmed sky?

~

Suddenly water is boiling up close to this vessel and rocks me.

Nothing describes all my tears of last hope as Felipe returns here.

Suddenly there is Felipe who’s peering above the sub’s hatchway.

“You are now dead,” says Felipe, “So rise again, live as my partner?”

~

What else can I, were you me, ever do in this same situation?

.

#

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~~~~~~~~~~~~^~~~~~~~~~

 

 

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NIBLOSH

 

baby mouse

NIBLOSH

.

“Who is my favorite Little Girl?
Are you ready for a story?”

#

 

Niblosh was a mouse.

He lived underneath our house.

Behind our rosebush

Niblosh met his friends.

They talked of all odds and ends

‘Neath the high crow’s tush.

.

Bumba was a bee

She, in camaraderie,

Told the latest buzz

To Niblosh, saying,

“You won’t want to be staying.”

Niblosh asked, “Because?”

.

“Because,” Bumba hummed,

“You are going to be bummed.”

Niblosh begged, “Please, say!”

Bumba then complied,

“Little Girl who lives inside…”

“Has to go away…”

.

“From me?!” Niblosh wept,

“Cookie crumbs were all I kept.”

“What did I do wrong?”

“Little Girl loves me!”

Bumba asked, “Does she really…?”

“…A love is lifelong….”

.

“Little Girls grow old.”

“Then your name will be untold.”

Niblosh cried out, “No!”

Bumba said, “No tears!”

“You will count days, months, then years.”

“Now will be ago.”

.

Little Girl came by.

Bumba said, “I’ve got to fly.”

Little Girl called out,

“Niblosh, can you hear?”

“I have to tell you that…we’re,…”

“…now please do not pout,…”

.

“…Leaving from this place.”

“Don’t have a sad face.”

“YOU WILL LIKE THE NEW PLACE TOO!”

And so Niblosh squeaked

And up the rosebush he streaked

To Little Girl’s view.

.

He jumped in her purse

For better not for the worse

To find she loved him.

But please don’t bother

To repeat unto Father

Her innocent whim.

 

#

“Yes, my favorite Little Girl, I know this tale should be true.
My imaginary daughter, so too should you.”

 

.

#

.

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~~~~~~~~~~~~^~~~~~~~~~

 

OUR MOMBIE

zombie-mom-pink-dress-drawing

OUR MOMBIE

.

        Our mommy came home from the hospital.

She was in a bed.

She wanted to be here at home with me and my sister Ruby when she meeted Jesus.

I am Scarlette.

        That is Sir, our step-dad.

When Mommy went to the hospital, Sir said he was supposed to take care of me and my sister.

We don’t need any help.

We don’t like him trying to undress us and dress us.

I bit him once and he hit me.

Now he doesn’t try.

But he takes Ruby into our bedroom and locks the door.

I hear him yelling and Ruby crying.

I’m going to tell Mommy when she gets out of that bed.

        We live where it’s pretty where there used to be a pig farm.

But we’re Cooters, cousins of Daws, and this is Daws County.

        Mommy was in a bed in our living room.

        Ruby and I were brushing Mommy’s teeth ‘cos she was real weak.

She opened her eyes and she whispered, “I’m sorry, babies”.

        I won’t tell her yet what Sir does.

        When Mommy got sick we needed money ‘cos she couldn’t work and Sir worked just sometimes, so Sir, now he sells little bags to strangers for money out back of the house

Before Mommy got sick she and Sir would have those little bags and laugh like stupid.

And Sir said don’t worry that he will take care of all of us.

        Daddy would have been real mad if he had been here, I just know it, ‘cos they were acting stupid if you ask me.

        Mommy told us she tried to be happy that Daddy was with Jesus but she wasn’t strong like me and Ruby; that we were like Daddy.

        Sir said that this house was perfect for a business.

He said to me and Ruby that there would always be a place for us here but I didn’t like the way he said it.

        One night Sir went away to meet someone.

        I said, “I like it better when it’s just us, Mommy.”

        Mommy whispered for me and Ruby to please stay next to her, ‘cos she thought Jesus might be coming tonight and she wanted to ask a favor from Jesus, and she wanted us to meet Jesus.

I could tell Mommy was crying.

Her face was shiny in the moonlight.

        Ruby was combing Mommy’s hair.

I was singing the silly song that Mommy used to sing to me and Ruby.

I’ll eat you, I’ll drink you

Yum yum yum yum yum.

I’ll drink you, I’ll drink you

Slip slop slippy slippy slop.

 

I’ll bite you, I’ll chew you

Yum yum yum yum yum.

I’ll gulp you, I’ll slurp you

Slip slop slippy slippy slop.

 

I like you, I love you

Yum yum yum yum yum.

I smell you, I taste you

Slip slop slippy slippy slop.

 

I touch you, I feel you

Yum yum yum yum yum.

I pat you, I rub you

Slip slop slippy slippy slop.

 

Well, I’ll eat you and you’ll eat me

And I’ll eat you and you’ll eat me

Sody pop, ice cream, sugar in my tea

1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3.

Ho ho ho ha ha hee,

And I’m a-gonna eat you up.

I’m a-gonna drink you down.

I’m gonna eat you up.

I’m gonna drink you down.

 

        Ruby asked, “Mommy?”

        The way Ruby asked her, I looked in Mommy’s face.

Something was different, “Mommy?”

        Mommy breathed out long and slowly and was real peaceful.

        “Mommy?”

        Ruby asked, “Mommy’s sleeping?”

        I watched Mommy’s eyelids open slow.

I watched her eyes dry in the moonlight.

        Ruby whined, “Scarlette.”

        I hugged her, saying, “Mommy sees Jesus…”

        Ruby cried to Mommy, “You didn’t let us see…”

        I hugged Ruby and we couldn’t stand up.

We sat on the floor beside Mommy’s bed and we cried.

        We woke up on the floor, still hugging.

It was still moonlight and quiet.

We were alone.

I thought about Sir and I got real scared.

        I woke up Ruby and I unhugged from her.

        Ruby was startled, “What’s wrong?”

        I said, “Nothin’.  I’m going to get something important and I’m coming right back.”

        Ruby moaned, “I’m afraid.”

        So I said, “Come with me quick.”

        We stood up and looked at Mommy.

        Then went into the pantry and I climbed up and felt the top shelf.

There was the oilcloth.

        Under the cloth was Daddy’s hand gun.

Mommy had never moved it and she never told Sir about it.

        Ruby and I walked real careful back to Mommy and we sat down together again.

I looked at the gun and Ruby didn’t say anything.

Daddy had showed me the gun and I could feel that it was loaded.

I slid it under Mommy’s bed real close.

        The front door banged open.

Sir bumped inside cursing.

In the moonlight we saw him go unsteady to the lamp.

He turned on the lamp and covered his eyes.

Then he saw us sitting on the floor by Mommy’s bed, “What the, you scared the, what the, are you girls doing up like this?”

        Ruby blurted, “Its Mommy.  She saw Jesus.”

        Sir came over and looked at Mommy’s face.

Then he looked down at us, “Your ‘Mommy’s’ work on earth is done.

And now, she wanted me to care for you two and don’t you worry.

I will help you.”

        I looked down and I said, “We don’t need help.”

        Sir asked, “What did you say?

No damn matter.

Both of you are going to be a lot nicer and…

damn grateful to me,” and he snatched up Ruby, saying, “Time for bed.”

        Ruby yelled and struggled.

        I jumped up and yelled, “Leave her be.”

        Sir was laughing and spanking Ruby’s legs.

He sounded crazy.

Then he grabbed Ruby’s ankle and he lifted her upside down and Ruby shrieked and he started singing Mommy’s song.

 

I touch you, I feel you

Yum yum yum yum yum.

I pat you, I rub you

Slip slop slippy slippy slop.

 

        Then I could hear Daddy in my head.

I dropped down to his gun there.

I held it at Sir with both hands.

I yelled, “Quit it!”

 

I’ll bite you, I’ll chew you

Yum yum yum yum yum.

I’ll gulp you, I’ll slurp you

Slip slop slippy slippy slop.

 

        Then I squeezed the gun the way Daddy taught me.

        Sir he spun around and he dropped Ruby and the lamp bulb popped and Sir dropped in the moonlight onto the rug.

        Ruby hopped shrieking to me.

I put the gun down and I hugged Ruby.

Sir was moaning.

        We both cried.

We were rocking back and fore and I think we must have fell asleep.

        I opened my eyes and I saw Mommy.

Her back was to us and she was standing.

She was standing over Sir who was still moaning.

Mommy wasn’t standing steady.

I called, “Mommy!”

        Ruby opened her eyes and cried, “Mommy!”

        Mommy started to turn her head to us and her voice was awful and dry and creaky, “You girls go to your room.”

And we started to see her face and for a second it looked all shrively.

But then the moonlight was on her face and her face was the face of Mommy like when we were little girls.

She was pretty and happy.

        Ruby yelled, “Mommy you got all better.”

        And Mommy’s voice was her sweet young voice, “Girls, now go to your room, please.  I have to fix this.”

        And Ruby and I left the room still holding each other.

And we saw Mommy kneel over Sir and she undid his pants.

Then she laid her head on his tummy and we heard a crunch like a carrot and Sir screamed and then he cried softly under Mommy’s hand put over his mouth.

        In the morning Ruby and I woke up and thought we just had a dream.

        I stood in front of the dressing mirror that Daddy had bought us.

I could still see Daddy smiling behind me and Ruby when we used to dressed in Mommy’s clothes.

        But when we ran into the living room we saw Mommy sitting on the couch in the morning shade and our front door was open.

        We didn’t see Sir but I saw the dark stain on the rug.

        We ran to Mommy, “We’re so happy you’re back!”

        Mommy said, “I’m still tired, my sweet girls.”

But Ruby and I were looking into Mommy’s face and it seemed like Mommy’s voice was in our heads but not in our ears.

Her face seemed bright and she was young and she was happy.

But Mommy moved slow.

        I asked, frowny, “Where is Sir?”

        Mommy smiled, “He’s out in the pig roaster barrel, dears.”

        I said, “OK, Mommy.”

        Ruby said, “OK, Mommy.”

        We heard a creak and Ruby and I turned to the open front door.

On the carpet of morning sunlight we saw it was just an ol’ crow looking in at us.

        Ruby laughed, “Look, Mommy, a crow wants to come in!”

        Mommy said, “Stop foolin’.  You girls show Lenore your manners.”

        Ruby asked, “The crow’s got a name?”

        I asked, “Mommy, wasn’t ‘Lenore’ our godmother’s name?”

        Mommy said, “Of course it is.”

        Suddenly the crow flew to Mommy’s shoulder.

Me and Ruby yelled afraid.

But Mommy raised her shaky hand and said, “Shhh, shhh, little babies.”

And the crow started to pull strands of Mommy’s messy hair!

        Mommy said, “Now, can you sweet babies clean up and fix up this messy living room.

We will be having a visitor, sure enough.

Ruby?

Will you bring me my Sunday hat with the veil, please.

And Scarlette?

I’d like to be wearing my coat for company.”

        I said, “I wish our godmother was here real.”

        The crow made a creaking croaking sound and tipped its head back at me, I swear.

        A hour later Mommy had me standing with Daddy’s gun behind the front door, peeking through the butt of the door, and Ruby was in the kitchen.

Mommy had sat again on the couch, still in the shadows, facing the open front door.

        Mommy looked pretty in her Sunday hat with the veil and with her coat for company.

        The crow made a creaky sound from the back of the living room.

        One of Sir’s crummy “friends” walked up to the open front door and looked in.

He said, “Hi, Ma’am.  Is your husband in?”

        Mommy said, “He’s away but I will take care of you.”

        Sir’s crummy friend nodded, saying, “You are looking much better.  That’s good.  That’s good.”

        Mommy asked, “What did you expect?”

        Sir’s crummy friend stuttered, “I thought…, I mean you came home from the hospital…, to be with your family…”

        Mommy asked again, “What did you expect to buy?”

        Sir’s crummy friend was real fidgety and he said, “Oh.  Oh… I thought you meant… Well, I was told one bag is going for a ‘Benjamin’.”

        Mommy called to Ruby who was in the kitchen, “One bag, baby.”

        Sir’s crummy friend said quick, “Oh, no.  Sorry.  I need three.  Three bags.  I got three ‘Benjamins’ here,” and he held out cash.

        Mommy called to Ruby, “Three bags all told, baby.”

        And that is how me and Ruby got money to live on so we could run to the store.

After a couple days we sold all of Sir’s bags.

Mommy didn’t eat much during then that I saw at all.

But she had a glow except she was still skinny.

        Then Mommy said she was hungry and she went out to the pig roaster barrel.

        Ruby and I went to our room.

        But something wasn’t good.

Ruby said, “The house always smells now and there are always flies now.”

        Just then a fly landed on our dressing mirror, a big noisy fly, and Ruby said it was making her sick.

I reached out quick and I smushed the fly right on our dressing mirror.

        Ruby cried out, “Ewww, yucky gross!”

        And we both heard a stifled cry and then we heard buzzing from all over the house.

        I heard the crow squawk.

        Mommy appeared in our door and startled us and she said, “What have you done?!”

        And her face was like it glowed blurry and was wrinkled.

She was hissy and raspy, “What have you done?!”

        Mommy was real mad and Ruby and I were real scared.

Mommy grabbed for us and I screamed.

        Ruby cried out, “We just only smushed a fly!  Why are you mad, Mommy?”

        Then Mommy seemed to try to keep her temper.

I could see her face again.

Mommy said, “You… made a mess.  You must not do that ever again.”

        Mommy turned to go out of our room and I saw her in our dressing mirror.

I saw her like a skeleton with flies for skin!

        I screamed, “Mommy, the mirror!”

        Mommy turned to the mirror and I saw Mommy’s face but in our dressing mirror it was a scary face.

Ruby screamed.

        But Mommy was like hypnotized looking.

She stood in front of the mirror and raised her hand but she wouldn’t touch the glass and she turned her head side to side slow.

        I peed my pants.

        I saw Ruby was in a ball on the floor covering her face.

        Then I saw Daddy in the mirror like I could in my mind but this was different.

Daddy in the mirror reached his hand to Mommy and Mommy touched Daddy’s hand in the mirror.

        Then Mommy fell to the floor in front of the mirror.

Now in the mirror was both Daddy and Mommy and they were young and happy!

Mommy touched her heart and waved at us and Daddy wagged his finger at us and he smiled.

        Then the mirror was empty except for Ruby and me.

#

 

        And that is all what we told Sheriff Arvin Biggs and his men.  But they didn’t want to believe us at all.  They said we were shocked.  That we had been mawl-sted.  Trom-tized.  They didn’t want to ask us too much more what happened at all.

        I know you understand.

        But, Lenore, you will still come and see us, won’t you?  And make sure we go to church and praise Jesus, won’t you?

.

#

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~~~~~~~~~~~~^~~~~~~~~~

 

“I’ll Eat You, I’ll Drink You” by Woody Guthrie

DEAD RINGERS

dead ringers

DEAD RINGERS

.

        The church bell broke the morning, the broken church bell of the broken village.  In this Serbian village of the cross-roads, this village of Raskrsnica, wherein their first grave was dug amidst the 6th century, now rings this war of rebellion that had arched heavenly, the jet planes, the rockets, the artillery shells falling to earth, scorching the village.

        This broken church bell, briefly its flaring mouth clamored for divine retribution, for the surviving villagers, petitioning the heavens.

        The villagers halted their labors and turned their faces toward this declaration from the church, the church crowning the hilltop, defaced.

        Marinko and his wife, Josipa, startled, together raised their eyes.

        Josipa whimpered, raising a knuckle to her lip, saying, “He is coming.”

        Marinko stepped beside his wife to comfort her, whispering, “I know you want to believe.  I want to believe.  Hope is the last to die.”

        Marinko and Josipa descried the figure emerging from the church’s eminence.

        From the hilltop descended the humble Bishop Sava, his eyes heavy, weighted with his witnessing yet his lips gentle, uplifted with hope.

        Bishop Sava bore tidings once again for villagers.

        Marinko and Josipa both dreaded and yearned for those tidings of Bishop Sava.

        Josipa trembled with the anxiety, “I can have no peace.  Perhaps Bishop Sava has no word for us.  Maybe he has words that are only words…”

        Marinko interposed, “…of faith.  Only words of faith.”

        Josipa rested her head against Marinko’s shoulder, saying softly, “Faith is everything.”

        Down the path through the village trod Bishop Sava.  In nearly every house that he passed, in the window was a living triptych of a watching husband, a watching wife, and the reflection of Bishop Sava.

        Bishop Sava turned toward the home of Marinko and Josipa.  Bishop Sava held his hands, left hand over his right hand, against the waist of his flowing cassock.

        Marinko and Josipa opened their door without Bishop Sava announcing his presence.

        Marinko nodded, “Your Grace,” and he reached for the right hand of Bishop Sava.  Bishop Sava extended what remained of his right hand which bore only the ring finger.  Marinko kissed the wounded hand.

        Josipa glanced away downward and expelled a quick breath, “Your Grace,” reaching for the scarred hand of Bishop Sava.

        Bishop Sava softly commented, “My dear, you fear I cannot make the ancient sign of the cross, without a trinity made of three fingers.  I assure you I feel all my invisible fingers as if they remain with me.”

        Marinko said, “Please, Your Grace, sit with us.”

        Josipa offered, “Your Grace, would you like coffee?”

        Bishop Sava smiled, “Thank you, dear,” and he sat at the kitchen table.

        Josipa set the small cup of thick strong coffee before Bishop Sava who then absent-mindedly wrapped the lone finger of his right hand about the cup. He sat stirring thoughts without sipping.

        Marinko suddenly stepped forward, offering, “Bishop Sava, would you like this glass of plum wine?”

        Bishop Sava smiled in gratitude.  He took long swallows of the wine and then Marinko filled his glass again.

        Marinko and Josipa sat down together with Bishop Sava at the kitchen table.

        Finally, Bishop Sava spoke, “Last night Sister Yelena came to me with your daughter, with your Jasna.”

        Josipa stifled herself, repeating, “Jasna.”

        Marinko took her hand.

        Bishop Sava soothed Josipa, saying, “My dear, Jasna is well in Sister Yelena’s care.  Have faith, for I am responsible for her.”

        Marinko next asked, when Josipa could not, “Your Grace.  Bishop Sava.  What does Jasna say?”

        Bishop Sava smiled, “Jasna wanted me to tell you that she was very excited about going to the meadows today with Sister Yelena and all the other children.  She herself said to have faith for she loves you.  Oh, and she asked me to assure you that she can see you from the church.”

        Josipa whimpered yet she smiled.

        Marinko took Bishop Sava’s right hand again and kissed it, then saying to him with lowered eyes, “Bishop Sava, your tidings are blessings to both of us,” then Marinko glanced at Josipa and he added, “Please tell Jasna we are missing her and that we want her back home here with us again soon.”

        Bishop Sava rose up to depart and he added, “Jasna said that you must believe that her thoughts are always with you.”

        Then Bishop Sava went calmly on down the path through the village, stopping before other homes where the doors opened without his announcement.

        In the late afternoon, Bishop Sava was climbing the path back up to the church, when he noticed an odd figure standing beside the entrance.  In the shadow it looked like a scarecrow, an effigy to deter birds, yet its scraggly silhouette indicated a covering of tattered fur or perhaps vegetation, a pagan spirit of the forest.

        Bishop Sava, undaunted, called out with amusement, “Tutelary spirit, do you wish to confess and be saved?  Or are you a whiff of smoke in my face?”

        The creature that stepped forward was a man, a soldier in camouflage.  He answered, “I confess that I am Death the moment most are made aware of me.  I am a sniper.  I was passing over these hills to this place of eminence, to surveil the village below.  Were your losses great here?”

        “Sniper, none were truly lost.  Death merely limits our suffering here as well as death limits the sin that can be committed here.  I believe it to be God’s wisdom.”

        Sniper snorted, “I believe in death”.  He shook the rifle that he bore.  “I have waded through mass graves to get this far.”

        Bishop Sava answered as if in a liturgy, “As did our Lord.”  Bishop Sava gestured with a glance toward the porch to invite Sniper into the maimed, defiant church.

        “You are welcome in there, Sniper.”

        Sniper answered wryly, “It looks like hell, but then I do pass here to find Muslim devils.”

        “There is one Devil reflected in all warring sides.  Sit with me awhile in Sanctuary.  Sister Yelena and the children will be with us in the Tabernacle.”

        Sniper assumed that the young children of the village were taken to this church for safety and protection when the storm of battles began to slip overhead

        Inside the church, passing behind the Sacred Beautiful Gate of the Sanctuary, where should have been the Altar of the Tabernacle, the sniper saw that there was now only a fused mass of salt and soil and debris.  “And the children,” Sniper suddenly understood, making the gesture of the ancient cross.

        A thermal missile had struck this place.  Now the heavens peered through the hole in the ceiling of the Tabernacle

        Bishop Sava “That damage was not an intentional crime, I want to believe.  How could it have been?”

        Sniper cursed, “What matter if intentional, misguided, or wild?  This is havoc.”

        Bishop Sava sat upon his Bishop’s Chair before the fused mass of salt and soil and debris and explained, “Sister Yelena comforted the children and tended them.  They remain my responsibility.  They will be here soon.  During the battle in the heavens Sister Yelena took the children behind this Altar to pray. I went outside to stand watch and to witness.  Suddenly there was a roar and light and heat…I could not find my fingers”

        Sniper stared at Bishop Sava.

        Bishop Sava’s eyes glistened.

        Doves now began to fly into the tabernacle ruins.  One of the doves landed unafraid at Bishop Sava’s feet and peered up at him.

        Bishop Sava spoke to the dove, asking, “Ah, Sister Yelena, did the children enjoy their playtime in the meadows?”

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The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE DOG NAMED PUSSY…::

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Chapter 7 – The Outlaw Honey Moses and

 

THE DOG NAMED PUSSY

 

 

          The Vinegaroon Saloon was a hornets’ nest right in the middle of that town of Passover.  A big swarm of troubles was buzzing around the whole territory ever since the banks’ land speculation failures.  The saloon was located right across the street from the Passover Territory Bank.

          Honey Moses, disguised in her ruffled skirt and lace bonnet, stood at the far end of the bar near the entrance with her head bowed to shade her glancing golden eyes.  She sipped a haymaker’s punch.  She studied Rex Ramsey as he stood near the card game where sat the bank’s hired security, Jubilee Dunbar, Clifford Austin, and Deuce Taylor.  Honey then looked over at a far table where sat Kate Grody raising a big glass of what looked to be cactus wine.  Kate was leaning ‘way back in her chair to drain that mixture of tequila and peyote tea.   Kate’s raised elbow was stretching her man’s-shirt across her cupid’s kettle drums.  Honey watched the drum roll of glances from men, and some women.  Even the cool sly Jubilee Dunbar got snared and hesitated almost imperceptibly as he played a card.

          Honey’s plan was working so far.

          Just then, Honey felt a damp prod at her ankle.  She looked down, and there was a dusty little red miniature pinscher with uncut ears.  The dog danced backwards and sat and trembled and looked up at Honey with moist pleading eyes.  Honey figured the little guy was thirsty so she knelt down and let him lap her haymaker’s punch; besides the water, the punch’s molasses, cider vinegar, and fresh ginger would give the little guy strength.

          A bearded old fellow was walking in and laughed to Honey, “Lady, better feed your kitty outside.  He’s liable to get stepped on.”  The little dog growled.

          The bartender spoke up, “Don’t feed him, Miss Lady.  He ain’t supposed to come in here.  He keeps coming inside.  I seen him in the alleyways.  He got separated from Dr. H. Moe’s Traveling Medicine Show.  I’m surprised some crow ain’t eaten him already.”  The little dog growled.

          Honey put a coin on the bar, still averting her golden eyes, “Here, Mister.  Now he’s a paying customer.  Another haymaker’s punch, please.”

          Honey thought to herself, What am I doing?  I guess it can’t hurt to get the little guy back on his feet.  She was recollecting herself long ago as the child wandering, orphaned, blind and lost, in from out of that wicked dust storm right into Rex Ramsey’s arms.

          Across the room, Kate Grody stood up and went over to the upright piano in the corner.   She sat down at the piano bench trailing the great curiosity of her furtive admirers, including Jubilee Dunbar.  Kate took a deep rounding breath as she flexed her long strong fingers.  Suddenly, she struck downward to playing from Schubert’s Impromptu in A-flat Major.  I’ll bet you didn’t think we girls at the Whisper Glory knew of such things.  Well, Kate came to us just full of surprises.  Anyway, the whole Vinegaroon Saloon hushed in astonishment.  Soon the doorway darkened with curiosity seekers.

          Jubilee Dunbar arose from the card game.   The dealer was sitting like a statue, mid-deal, and just staring over at Kate Grody.  Right through the middle of that still-life crowd Jubilee glided like a snake over to Kate’s side and coiled there, listening.

          When Kate abruptly ceased playing, musica interruptus, the whole saloon was suspended in silence like a fly in amber.  Then it shattered into whoops and whistles and hurrahs.

          Jubilee Dunbar breathed into Kate’s ear, “My God, that was breathtaking as are you, my dear.  Who are you?  Where did you ever learn?”

          Kate bowed her head without looking at Jubilee, “Thank you.  You are too kind.  I haven’t practiced in a long while, as you can tell.”

          “Not at all.”

          “My mother used to say, ‘One day without practice and you yourself can tell the difference, two days without practice and then the critics can tell, three days without practice and then the audience can tell’.  I was…, I am Katyana.  Katyana Grodonovsky.  My mother taught piano.”

          “Not in this territory!” said Jubilee incredulously.

          “No.  In Chicago.  Long ago.”

          “I knew you were a most extraordinary woman when I saw you walk in here,” Jubilee looked around and then whispered, “I would surely like to continue our conversation.  I have a suite at the The Pharaoh.  It would be my honor to offer you an invitation for dinner this evening, if you please.  You are travelling… alone?”

          Kate hesitated just long enough, “Well, that would be interesting, I am sure, thank you.  My niece and I are staying at The Pharaoh as well.”

          Jubilee furrowed his brow at the mention of a niece, but Kate said, “My niece will be spending the evening reading her Bible.”

          Jubilee bowed briefly from the waist under the weight of that satisfied smile.  He turned back to his men at the card table and raised his chin toward the door.  The men arose, Clifford Austin, Deuce Taylor, along with the bearded old fellow who had teased Honey about the little dog, and two other wiry dust devils.  They departed into the slow vortex of people coming and going into the Vinegaroon Saloon.  Jubilee Dunbar then wove over toward Rex Ramsey whom Jubilee had recognized back when Rex first walked in.

          “What are you doing here?” Jubilee asked without ceremony.

          Rex played the simple straight-shooter, “I need a job.”

          “From me?  I thought you were too good for us, Mister Rex Ramsey, former U.S. Marshal.”

          “Had a change in philosophy you might say.”

          “Having no job will do just that for you, won’t it?” scoffed Jubilee, “Can’t afford to be so high-and-mighty when that happens.”

          “I’ve looked around.  You could use me right now.  You know what I can do.”

          “Yes, yes.”  Jubilee stroked his lips as he spied Kate leave.  She took the arm of her “niece” who was at the end of the bar dressed in a bonnet and ruffled dress.  He watched the niece bend over, pick up, and hold out to Kate what looked to be a puppy.  Kate let the animal lick her face.  Jubilee licked his lips.

          “Okay, Ramsey.  We can talk, but not here.  Follow me.”

          Meanwhile, Kate and Honey had to check into their hotel.  The Pharaoh always held one room for us girls from the Whisper Glory.  The hotel clerk, Marten Bêcheur, was a regular of ours.  He was a bespectacled little badger of a man, never married, and “will never have to be” he would always joke to us in the parlor.  He nodded discretely to Kate, whom he knew as well as any man can know a woman.

          Marten asked professionally, “Two of you this evening, ma’am?”

          “Yes, my very good fellow,” smiled Kate.

          “Business or pleasure?” asked Marten with a gleam in his glasses.

          Kate pouted for Marten’s sake, “Business, I am afraid.  A couple of days at least.”

          As Kate wrote their names into the hotel ledger, Katyana G. and niece Honey M., Marten leaned forward and whispered at breast-level, “Then you will owe me a Rainy Day.”

          “The weather should change in a day or so,” replied Kate as if making polite conversation.

          Marten smiled and nodded to Honey.  Then he noticed the miniature red pinscher for the first time, “Will ‘Miss Kitty’ be staying with you as well, my dear?” he laughed.  The dog growled.

          Up in the hotel room they had a view of the main street.  The street was a river of rippling commotion.  They could see the roof of the Passover Territory Bank.  There were men and activities on that roof besides the hired guns looking down.

          Honey set the little dog on the big bed, “Maybe we should name you ‘Kitty’, you poor little orphan,” she teased in baby-talk.  The dog growled and bared his tiny fangs.  “Yeah, that’s a sure way to make you tough out there in that mean ol’ world, isn’t it?” Honey giggled.

          Honey then turned back to the window and stood seriously awhile, trying to figure out what was transpiring on the roof of that bank.

          Kate Grody finally set herself down on the plush chair beside the bed to pull off her boots.  As she raised a knee to her chin, the miniature pinscher jumped off of the bed and dove right between her legs and buried his cold nose.  Kate whooped and picked up the little dog, raising him above her head, “Forget about naming you ‘Kitty’!”  The squirming dog yipped twice and licked downward trying to reach her face.  “I know now what your name is going to be!”  The little dog went limp and cocked his head.

 

 

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The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE PASSOVER BANK……

__The Outlaw Honey Moses - COVER_120312a

 

Chapter 6 – The Outlaw Honey Moses and

 

THE PASSOVER BANK

 

          When Honey Moses and Kate Grody and Rex Ramsey arrived in the town of Passover there was already big trouble.  They could see the dust of turmoil from a mile out.  The wagons that were still arriving from all of the territory banks were being pelted by the gauntlet of angry townspeople.  Some wagons arrived with bullet holes.  One arrived with the top burned black.  One arrived with a wounded man slumped riding shotgun.

          With their cargoes of people’s money that “didn’t exist anymore” due to the banks’ land speculation failures, the wagons gathered at the Passover Territory Bank.  It was beginning to look like the bankers’ Alamo.

          The poorest townspeople who had “lost” everything just stayed in the streets, men raging, women cursing, children crying.  Children threw rocks with their parent’s blessing.  Women shook fists and men shook rifles.  Most citizens were still too civilized to do much more.  Yet.

          The wagoners were just citizens of the territory who had been contracted to haul the “assets”.  It was a job “to be thankful for” they couldn’t help thinking.  Those wagoners stood nervously by their wagons, watching their fellow citizens as the cargo of mostly paper cash and some gold and some silver was unloaded into the Passover Territory Bank.  It was the biggest and the sturdiest building in Passover, supposedly representing the security and stability of the banking system.

          But now, along with that damned notion of speculation credit, the banking system had turned into straw and was blowing away eastward with the dust.  The Big Bad Wolf was at the vault and the Little Piggy banker men were going wee-wee-wee in their pants from inside the Passover Territory Bank.  The Dunbar, Austin, & Taylor Security Company kept a semblance of order around the bank with the intimidation supplied by armed men, hired citizens, on the rooftop.  The pot was being stirred with a gun to keep it from boiling over.  So far.

          The “assets that didn’t exist anymore” were going to be hauled east to the Main Branch of the  Eastern Sovereign Bank.  The U.S. Government had refused to provide the U.S. Army to transport those “assets”.  The President’s advisors knew that there would be big trouble for sure and they did not want the national newspapers full of civilians being shot by soldiers.  Instead, the Dunbar, Austin, & Taylor Security Company had been contracted to deliver.  Any civilian deaths would come out of their commission.

          Honey Moses observed, “Dunbar, Austin, & Taylor must have one hell of a plan to make it out of here.”

          Rex Ramsey said, “Honey, you know, you may be right, they just might be convinced that they need to hire me after all.”

          For the first time Honey Moses replied a little unsure, looking at all the angry citizens, “This is going to be riskier than I thought, Rex.”  Her golden eyes waxed and waned.

          Kate Grody growled, “C’mon, let’s get us some spiritous drinks and calm down.  We can figure out how to approach Dunbar once the dust is out of our mouths.  That saloon there is packed.  Someone will know something.”

          Honey, Rex, and Kate left their horses boarded at Jacob’s Livery Stable and then stepped apart at different paces through the currents of people, on toward The Vinegarroon Saloon.  Honey Moses’ plan had begun.

          The The Vinegarroon Saloon was big, dark, and crowded, but as soon as his eyes adjusted Rex Ramsey recognized Jubilee Dunbar, Clifford Austin, and Deuce Taylor sitting playing cards with three strangers.  Dunbar, Austin, and Taylor were dressed incognito for their own safety, and for overhearing just exactly what the people of Passover were saying and maybe planning.  They were incognito to everyone except Rex Ramsey.

          Rex Ramsey stood quietly adjacent to the poker table, waiting for his chance to speak surreptitiously to Jubilee Dunbar, the brains of Dunbar, Austin, & Taylor.  If Jubilee had recognized Rex he never let on.  Jubilee Dunbar was sly.   

          Rex could see that they were playing that new kind of poker they called Texas Hold ’Em.  Jubilee had taught the game to Rex a time ago, in fact on their pursuit of the renegade shaman woman Chonkusha.  Rex knew that in Texas Hold ’Em the two cards you held face-down were the only cards that set you apart from the other players.  Face-up cards were community cards.  You needed to know what those cards could mean to your rivals as well as what they mean to you.  You especially needed to keep your eyes open for your rivals’ straight and flush chances.

          Rex looked up to see Kate Grody walking in.  Now, Kate Grody was a big boned gal and when she went riding she wore men’s clothes that got stretched in all the right places.  And so now she kind of stretched out the men’s eyes, and some women’s eyes too, as she walked right on through to a table in the far corner.

          Honey Moses, ruffle-skirted and with a fine lace bonnet, glided in the vacuum of attention that Kate Grody had caused.  Barely noticed, she hid her flashing gold eyes under a demurely averted gaze.

 

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The Outlaw Honey Moses and JUBILEE DUNBAR…..

__The Outlaw Honey Moses - COVER_120312a

 

Chapter 5 – The Outlaw Honey Moses and

 

JUBILEE DUNBAR

 

          Jubilee Dunbar was a bastard and a mulatto.

          His momma had told him that his father was Earl Dunbar the rich and famous “Earl of Industry”.  And it’s true that Jubilee’s momma had actually worked for a time in Earl Dunbar’s mansion.  But she was supposedly let-go for stealing.  She always claimed that she was let go because she was pregnant.  That was her story and no one could prove it or disprove it.  But Jubilee Dunbar grew up in a family where the main income was from the wash his momma took in, so he clung to the notion he was the illegitimate son of a rich white man.  In his mind he had been cheated.

          When he was a boy his momma would read to him at night.  She told Jubilee that he could be a lawyer like Frederick Douglas some day.  But he soon figured out that the pennies his momma tried to set aside would never pay for law school.  So, to get where he wanted to go, he “used his industry” to assemble a gang of young “entrepreneurs” that called themselves the Street Hounds Income Trust.  They laughed about that, but they swore loyalty to each other with blood.  What they couldn’t steal they sold “security” for.

          Since he was a mulatto who could pass for a white man, he was quick to assume a manner and to favor a debonair appearance in fine clothes in fine restaurants in fine hotels.  He had no guilt about assuming “that which was his due”, including the good name of Dunbar.

          For a while he even charmed an eccentric society widow into taking care of him while he took care of her, to put it politely.  That’s a whole other story in itself.  She eventually used her influence to get him appointed as a Deputy U. S. Marshal.

          I already told you about the time Jubilee Dunbar worked with Rex Ramsey. In those days, Jubilee Dunbar had been a ruthless Deputy U. S. Marshal and now, with that pretense crumpled in the dirt behind him, he was a ruthless Range Detective with a share in his own security company, securing for Jubilee Dunbar, you can bet on that.

          What was that you said?  Well, I heard all this right here at the Whisper Glory from Kate Grody herself after she carried out Honey Moses’ plan.  You can ask Kate yourself when you’re up there, if you feel like paying for talk.

 

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Search “Honey Moses” on this site.

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