BEDTIME STORY

I used to tell my sister stories to help her go to sleep, back when she was little. One story I told her I remember like it was yesterday. The summer evenings back home were warm, but not hot like they are in California. Mom and dad were both out for the night, and Lizzie—that’s my sister’s name. Well, it’s actually Elizabeth, but that’s what I call her. Anyway, Lizzie was having trouble going to sleep as usual. I had tried music, I had tried lying down with her, I had tried making warm milk for her, I had even tried calling mom, though there was no answer, as I expected. So, now that all else had failed, I decided to tell her a story.

“Lizzie” I said, leaning against the doorframe of her room, “do you want to hear a story?” She turned to me with a huge smile on her face. Her eyes sparkled and her hands clenched together tight.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” She said, bouncing with every cry to emphasize her excitement.

“Then you have to get in bed silly.” She hastily tossed her toys in a pile and jumped into bed. I grabbed the blue plastic chair from her drawing desk and pulled it over to her bed, then turned the lights out and took a seat. We sat there in silence for a few moments, while I gathered my thoughts. I could hear her short, excited breaths as she waited. In through her mouth, then out through her nose. I took a deep breath, and leaned forward, with my elbows on my knees. My hands hung together loosely between my legs.

“Ok, this story is one is about you, but it’s about a you that’s in a different universe, so you have to picture it for me, ok?”

“Ok,” she whispered.

“Ok, so picture yourself, in a boat on a river,” I must digress, I pulled the setting slightly from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, “the sky is a blistering orange color, because the sun is setting, the edges of the night are creeping in. The river you are running down is large and strong, but you aren’t worried. You lay back in your boat, which is really more of a kayak now that I think about it, and look up at the clouds above you. They look inviting and happy. You see hummingbirds fly over you and can hear the little tweets of some unknown birds in the trees.

“You take a deep breath and feel at peace, but instead of drifting off to sleep you are compelled to sit up, and smell the fresh watery air. You look down the river and see it is leading you into a cave inside a mountain, but there’s no need to fear—this is where you were headed all this time. As you grow closer, the river slows your course, and you see the gaping opening of the cave, like the mouth of some primordial beast, stuck in time the moment before it swallowed its prey.

“You cross into the darkness of the cave—your eyes take a moment to adjust before you can see clearly. You pull a lantern from your bag, and a small box of matches. Your first two strikes prove fruitless, but on the third the match erupts into flame. Using your other hand, you shield the match from them wind, then slip it inside the lantern. When the wick has been lit, you carefully extract the match, and wave it out in the air. The smoke of the match trails off into the darkness, and you toss the remains into the river. You—”

“But that’s littering!” Lizzie intervenes. The pout on her face is clear from the sound of her voice, though there’s a yawn in her voice. She was on her way out— her protest a last defiance before sleep overtakes her.

“Hold on, let me finish. Ok, so what I meant to say was you were about to throw the remains into the water, but then thought better of it. Instead, you ground the extinguished match out on the side of your boat. You raise the lantern onto the pole in your boat, to give a dim light to the cave. The river has slowed your boat to a crawl, and you can see that it seems to stop ahead of you. Strange. Where did the water go. Ahead, there is a shore, and when the water approaches ankle deep, you hop out and pull your boat to shore. The water is cool, but not cold. Your boots slosh in the water, and stick to the sandy floor with each step. Once your boat is secure, you pull out your bag and look at the floor. Fatigue pulls at your eyelids, and you decide to set up camp. You wave your lantern around, to observe the area around you. To your surprise, there’s a pile of wood, sitting as if for a campfire just for you. You set your things down, and light the fire. The wood takes to the fire immediately, and you are warmed. You lie down, and feel the weight of your day pass over your shoulders, the heat of the fire licking at your backside. You feel comfortable, despite your loneliness, and you drift off to sleep.”

I leaned back in my chair, and took another deep breath. The moment of truth. Was Lizzie asleep? I paused and waited. Silence. She was out cold.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #23 – OCEANS

The idea of love is infinite.

We’ve written sonnets, and ballads, and yet

We’ve made but a small drop in the ocean.

Like the sea, love is ever in motion—

A twisting and turning of great waters

Aloof from the laws of human matters.

Like love, the sea looks smooth from far away,

But up close it can turn into a fray.

Gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning.

A swirling vortex of hunger turning—

Be too kind, and find a knife at your throat;

Too callous and find you can’t stay afloat.

Too solemn and find yourself left alone,

Too lustful and find the pain you have sown.

But if you cast off to the wind with care,

You might not find yourself left quite so bare.

You might find yourself sitting on a boat,

Next to someone with features you have wrote

Into your memory like a career—

Except that they are the one you hold most dear.

 

And this is what I believe to be true:

That moments were crafted for me and you;

The moments I’ll cherish for forever

Are those when you and I are together.

Just you and I sitting under the sun

On our boat where nothing can be undone.

——

 

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HOT CHOCOLATE AND STORMS

Close your eyes and open your mind

Never forget that you’re one of a kind

 

That’s what mama used to tell me

On rainy days, while we watched TV.

I’d ask her why one guy would say a phrase

That put their enemies into a daze.

 

And she’d tell me to figure it out

Otherwise all the questions I spout

Would cause a storm, like the one outside

And I shouldn’t expect the world to provide.

 

I’d sit in wonder and sip my hot chocolate

And my consciousness would move off it.

But deep down my mind would be turning

To find the answer for which I’d been yearning.

 

And my mind would spin ’til I was dizzy

And I’d worked myself all up into a tizzy.

Then I’d pass out for a minute or two

Seduced to sleep by the warmth of the brew

 

And in my dreams I’d be lucky to find

An answer that was indeed one of a kind.

 

And from that message I’ve brought this to you

A reminder that if, to yourself, you stay true

The storms outside won’t be quite so scary

And a night by the fire will make you more merry.

——

 

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THE SEER

“It was a dark and stormy ni—”

“Nobody starts a scary story like that anymore daddy!” my daughter giggled, “I want a real really scary story!” I wiped the sleep from my eyes. I felt so much more tired than normal—like something had sucked the life out of me. It had been a long day

“Alright, alright, I can tell you a real scary story. It happened to my cousin.”

“Uncle Ricky?”

“No, my cousin. Now hush up or you aren’t getting a story at all.” My daughter settled into her bed and pulled the blanket up a little. I set the book I was holding on her nightstand and turned the light in her room down.

“This story was told to me by my aunt Stephanie. Her son—my cousin— Mort, lived in the high mountains in Colorado. One year, for his birthday, Stephanie went to go visit him. It get’s quite cold in Colorado around the time of Mort’s birthday, especially in the mountains. This year there was a heavy snow, and Mort’s house was so far off the beaten path that they couldn’t safely leave his house. She said the winds were so strong that even the big trees would bend against them.

“One night, the winds were incredibly strong. They had locked up the whole house, and shut the windows good and tight, but they could still hear the windows rattling. The fire would flicker nearly out every once in a while when a strong wind caught in the chute. She said they sounded like wolves snarling. Anyways, Mort and Stephanie decided to pass the time telling stories. You see, there were no computers back then, and with the storm the television and phone lines were out. So they took turns telling stories. Stephanie told a couple from Chaucer, and Mort told a few that he knew from his studies at school. Mort complained for most of the night that he felt tired, but Stephanie kept him talking.

“Mort finally got around to telling a story about The Seer, which was a scary story told out at his college. The Seer is a man that went insane studying about immortality. According to Stephanie, The Seer had his wish for immortality granted, but at the cost of his body. He became a spirit in the night, invading the bodies of people, and making them do terrible things. One man murdered his wife and children. Another woman drowned a passerby in the lake. The only way to escape The Seer was to kill the person he had invaded in a very specific way.”

“How did they find that out?” My daughter interrupted.

“Well, you see, people had tried stabbing their assailants, breaking their necks, and so on, and the body kept coming for them. But on one very stormy night, not unlike the night Stephanie and Mort were telling stories, The Seer invaded a man asleep in his bed, and set him off to kill his wife. When the seer invades a body, he acts, talks, and looks the same, but there’s almost always something slightly different, like the color in their eyes is too bright. For the wife, the happy glow of her husband was gone, and, panic-stricken, she grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed out his eyes. Blinded, The Seer had to abandon the body and recover far away. You see, the eyes are the gateway to the soul, and from their The Seer enters.

“Mort finished this same story and went they each went to bed. That night, Stephanie could hear the wind howling at her window, like something was trying to get in. But eventually, she fell asleep. Stephanie woke a few hours later to a crash in the living room, like a vase shattering. She slipped into her nightgown, and walked out into the living room. ‘Mort?’ she whispered. ‘Mort was that you?’ Mort walked around the corner from the kitchen. ‘Oh, thank God it’s just you. Something—” but she stopped short. You see, it was at this time that Stephanie noticed that Mort had a thick butcher knife in his hand. ‘Mort, what are you doing?’ she said with horror. Mort slinked closer to her, and raised his arm high above his head. ‘Mort no!’ she cried out. He brought the knife down, but she just barely avoided the fatal strike. Instead, he cut deep into her arm. She ran for the kitchen, and grabbed a huge pot from a drawer.

“She could hear Mort behind her, and she flung the pot at him. He avoided it and looked at her. She could see that his eyes were a deep red, like something possessed. She realized with horror what had happened. She grabbed a slightly smaller pot, and this time hit his wrist with it. He dropped the knife in shock. Stephanie picked it up and stabbed into his left eye. He screamed in pain and fell to the floor. Stephanie stepped back and dropped the knife. Tears came unbidden to her eyes. She turned back to the counter and cried. Then suddenly she heard a noise, and she spun around. Mort was back on his feet. ‘Why mother?’ he said with a hoarse voice ‘Why did you do this to me.’ She froze, her vision blurry from her tears. She started to brush them away, to apologize, then suddenly felt a cold pain in her stomach. Horrified, she looked into Mort’s right eye, and saw it there, unblinking, and red. He stabbed her two, three, four more times, then let her slide to the floor. Then Mort’s body too sunk to the floor, and a wisp of air rush out of the house as the spirit left. The Seer had struck again.”

“Wait wait wait. You said that your aunt told you this story. How could she do that if she were dead?” My daughter giggled, “that wasn’t a real story!” She laughed, and I laughed to.

“Oh yeah, I forgot. You remember that scientist I told you about? The one that became The Seer? Well, some character traits die-hard. For him, it was vanity. He always felt like he had to remind people about who he was. He loved to tell people his story.”

“Wait so then how do you know the story daddy?” She asked.

“Well you see,” I paused and looked her dead in the eyes, “I am The Seer.”